Monday, March 20, 2006

Congress Spends

In the WSJ ($):
"And guess what? Every Democrat in the Senate joined with eight Republicans to kill an amendment by GOP Senators Jim DeMint and Mike Crapo that would have stopped the Bonnie and Clyde budgeting. The vote was 53-46, and on the list of those voting to continue the Social Security raid is every potential 2008 Democratic Presidential aspirant in the Senate, including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Biden. Worse, the list also includes Republicans Conrad Burns (Montana), Jim Talent (Missouri) and Gordon Smith (Oregon), who are running for re-election this year.

Apparently, these Senators want the money stored in a lock box, but only on the condition that they know how to pick the lock. The DeMint-Crapo proposal would deposit surplus payroll tax dollars in personalized bank accounts for each U.S. worker. This would in effect have created more than 100 million personalized lock boxes -- and as taxpayers' private property, well out of the reach of the politicians.

We're talking big dollars here. The payroll tax will collect some $80 billion more in taxes next year, and $436 billion more over the next five years, than Social Security will pay out to current retirees. Under today's law, Congress simply keeps that cash to spend itself. Under the DeMint-Crapo idea, the average young worker would be able to accumulate roughly $40,000 in tax-free wealth for retirement based on eight years of surplus tax payments and 30 years of interest.

And if you want to know why Members of Congress want to keep this annual spending raid going, all you have to do is look at the budget outline for Fiscal 2007 that this ostensibly Republican Senate passed last week. Gone was President Bush's proposal to reduce runaway entitlement spending by a modest $65 billion over five years. Gone, too, was the White House proposal to expand health-savings accounts, as a way to reduce the number of uninsured and reduce health-care costs. Making the 2003 tax cuts permanent? Not a chance.

Instead, the $2.8 trillion budget outline increased spending by $16 billion more than Mr. Bush requested. Some $7 billion of that was passed in an amendment by Senator Arlen Specter (R., Pa.), who has mastered the art of what are called 'advanced appropriations,' which means shifting spending items between fiscal years to evade even modest budget limits. 'It's not sort of a gimmick. It is a gimmick,' Mr. Specter was quoted in the Journal regarding this ruse. The vote on his amendment was 73-27, and a majority of Senate Republicans joined Democrats to pass it."
When it comes to the national government's budget, debate in the public square frequently points to the President as responsible for spending. This can be unfortunate because Congress actually controls the power to tax and spend.

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