NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Government's Obesity Crisis

January 20, 2011

The question that will haunt America for the next several months is whether the new 112th Congress has the will to trim back the unsustainable excesses to which Washington has become accustomed or if it will fall back into old, unhealthy habits.  The first test will be raising the statutory limit on the amount of money the government can borrow, says the Independent Institute.  

  • Since World War I, when the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 placed a statutory limit on government borrowing, Congress has increased the debt ceiling more than 70 times.
  • Each increase has made it more difficult to stop and has helped hide the fact that we face ruin if the overindulgence continues.

Economist Craig Eyermann recently examined the economic burden government spending has placed on American families.  In his brief study, "Aim at the Zero Deficit Line," Eyermann found that during the years 1967 through 2001 median household income and government spending increased at approximately the same rate.  As a result, during that nearly 35-year period, Washington could have balanced the federal budget by reducing federal spending a mere $570.75 per household per year.

  • After 2001, however, the gap between median household incomes and government spending widened -- with incomes more or less stagnant, while government spending soared.
  • By 2009, Eyermann found, the government would have had to lower spending approximately $8,991 per household to balance the budget.
  • In fiscal 2000, President Clinton's final full year in office, the federal budget was $1.8 trillion; in fiscal 2008 it was $2.9 trillion; in fiscal year 2010 it was $3.6 trillion.

Like all gluttons struggling to reform, politicians and presidential advisers will provide plenty of excuses for increasing the debt limit -- just this once.  But if 70 previous increases weren't enough, why will this increase be different? 

Source:  Emily C. Skarbek, "Government's Obesity Crisis," Independent Institute, January 13, 2011.

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