By Jim Hillibish
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May is happy month in Washington. The Treasury is basking in new tax dollars. The figures are in, and this year, Treasury collected a $114 billion surplus, the largest since 2008.
Higher taxes, lower federal spending and a slightly improving economy powered the 2013 results. Personal tax collections climbed 7 percent and business taxes 15 percent. Federal spending, despite all the sequestration bluster, declined only 2 percent. The public is bearing the brunt on the long road to federal solvency.
Out here in the hinterlands, things still are not so idyllic. People are talking about having less money to spend on much higher costs for food and energy. Our unemployment rate seems stuck.
Many payrolls remain stagnant. The percentage of people able to work who are not working is way too high.
The Department of Health and Human Services has released the first blush on the cost of Obamacare. Enrollees age 50 are averaging $5,220 a year in health insurance costs nationally. This doesnít include deductibles, which cost up to $5,000 for the lower-premium plans. Anthem Blue Cross estimates out-of-pocket deductibles for out-of-network providers at up to $15,000 for individuals and $30,000 for families. Thatís money coming out of family budgets. The Obamacare killer is the deductibles, something not mentioned by our president.
HHS warns of increases coming. Soon we will be writing about people who refused to buy health insurance. Obamacare will fine them $60 per person this year, rising to $695 by 2016. The U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation estimates 6 million non-insured will be fined this year. The Congressional Budget Office says that total will climb by 2 million people a year in future years, but nobody knows for sure.
Despite well-publicized cuts, our federal government still is spending money it doesnít have. Its deficit for the first seven months of this fiscal year is $301 billion, but thatís $187 billion lower than for the same period last year.
Obviously, we cannot depend on cuts in federal spending and higher taxes to eliminate the deficit. The monster eating 66 percent of the budget is entitlements. A solvent budget now seems impossible without strong cuts here, but they amount to political suicide.
Social Security is costing 5 percent more than last year, and Medicaid is up 9 percent, unsustainable expenses according to the Congressional Budget Office. Something must give, and we all know what that means: Pay more, get less or both.
Itís simple math: We cannot afford last yearís 14 percent total rise, especially since it will climb just as fast or faster in years to come as our population ages.
We should be more worried about next year. The CBO projects the deficit will balloon to $492 billion, or 2.7 percent of the nationís entire economic output. The only way to address that is with more tax dollars and more spending cuts and a realistic control of entitlements.
Itís a bitter pill for all of us, but we now know that lower government spending alone cannot erase it. The budget is being consumed by mandatory payments.
Contact Jim Hillibish at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @jhillibishREP.
Jim Hillibish: Guess who pays as nation struggles back to solvency
By Jim Hillibish