Saturday, July 30, 2011

IDEA: Government Efficiency Standards Modeled on Fuel Standards

"... what [is] good for the country [is] good for General Motors, and vice versa." -- Charles E. Wilson, former President of General Motors and Secretary of Defense in the Eisenhower Administration.

The White House recently mandated new fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks sold in the United States. Presently, the U.S. fuel standard is 28.3 miles per gallon. The new standard mandates 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, just fifteen short years from now.

This new government standard mandates a 93% improvement, saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Cars and trucks sold in 2025 must be nearly TWICE as efficient as they are now. New cars could travel the same distance burning only half as much fuel. Imagine the power of the government's mandate!

Okay, now imagine if U.S. citizens placed similar mandates on the federal government. By 2025, we could have a similar-sized federal government that burns only half as much money.

Currently, the U.S. federal government borrows about $0.42 of ever $1.00 that it spends. If we could improve government efficiency at delivering necessary services, we could reduce our enormous budget deficits and reduce the national debt.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Growth in USA Public Debt (2001 to 2021)

The following chart shows the U.S. public debt from 2001 to 2021. The data from January, 20001 through June, 2011 uses the latest public debt data available directly from the U.S. Treasury. The values from 2012 through 2012 use public debt data (Table 1-4) from the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) January 2011 baseline projections. Adjacent to segments of the data is the growth rate in the debt. You can see that the debt from 2009 through 2011 greatly exceeds the historical growth rate. For example, the growth rate in the debt from 2002-2008 was about $505 BILLION per year. The growth rate from 2009-2011 jumped to about $1.2 TRILLION per year, or over two TIMES the previous growth rate.

The chart also lists the political leaders of the United States during this period, including the President, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Speaker of the House. Lastly, the chart shows the political party that controlled the Congress at large.

(click to enlarge)
President George W. Bush was inaugurated in January, 2001 and his Presidency lasted until Barack Obama was inaugurated President in January, 2009. The Bush Administration saw a tremendous amount of political and financial turmoil.
  • The crash of the telecom/Dot-Com bubble in 2000 until 2001. The resulting recession of March through November 2001, the Republican-dominated Congress passed the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA)--the first part of the Bush Tax Cuts.
  • The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 targeting the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and an additional attack thwarted by passengers that crashed in Pennsylvania.
  • The Afghanistan War beginning in October, 2001, a response to the World Trade Center attack. Congress granted authority to use force on September 14, 2001, signed by President Bush a week after the 9/11 attacks.
  • The second Iraq War beginning in March, 2003. Congress had previously granted authority to use force in October 2002.
  • In September, 2003, the Bush Administration asked for significant oversight reform of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Congress did not act.
  • In 2005, Senator Chuck Hagel introduced reform legislation over government-sponsored home mortgage enterprises. The legislation died in committee.
  • Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf States in August 2005. The damage wrought by Katrina made it the costliest in U.S. history and the deadliest in recent history.
  • Medicare Part D, passed in 2003, went into effect in 2006.
  • The subprime mortgage/housing bubble in 2006 through 2008.
  • The collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, 2008.
  • The government seizure of semi-governmental Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also September, 2008.
  • The passage of the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP), a bank rescue program, in October 2008.
  • Due to the economic turmoil in the banking and real-estate sectors, a number of major banking institutions failed and were consolidated into healthier banks.
  • Mass layoffs and a rising unemployment rate.
Republic President George W. Bush enjoyed a Republican-majority Congress during 4.5 of his eight years in office. Due to the deteriorating economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Republicans lost control of both Houses of Congress in the 2006 election cycle. Democrats controlled both Houses from 2007 until 2011, when Republicans regained the House. Despite having a divided Congress in the latter party of his second term, President Bush rarely exercised his veto power over Congress or its spending.

In an historic election, Barack Obama became the country's first African-American President. Although President Obama inherited economic turmoil, the Obama Administration and Congress embarked on its own spending programs. President Obama also inherited a significantly larger debt to pay for the TARP bank bailouts, some of which has since been repaid. President Obama enjoyed a solid nearly veto-proof majorities in both Houses of Congress from 2009 until the Republicans reclaimed the House in 2011.
  • Soon after Barack Obama's inauguration, the Congress passed a $787 billion economic stimulus package called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
  • The federal government rescued failing automobile manufacturers General Motors (GM) and Chrysler. The federal government became a majority shareholder in GM and sold a majority of Chrysler to Italy's Fiat.
  • The Congress passed a $3B "Cash for Clunkers" program to spur auto sales.
  • A further escalation of the Afghan conflict in December, 2009, including air attacks from drones in Pakistan.
  • The Congress re-authorized the expiring Bush Tax Cuts in December, 2010 for another two years. The "Great Recession" of December, 2007 through June, 2009 still held sway over the United States economy.
  • A new military conflict began in Libya in March 2011, in an attempt to sway the ongoing civil war.
  • Due to high levels of unemployment, the Congress extended the time allowed for long-term unemployment benefits.
  • Due to changes in the tax code and the weak economy, about 46% of taxpayers will pay no federal income taxes or will receive a net refund in 2011.