The Inevitable Derailment of the Federal Gravy Train

Martin Heinrich and Mick Rich, meet Susan J. Irving.

Her official title is “Senior Advisor to the Comptroller General, Debt and Fiscal Issues.” Ms. Irving recently oversaw the production of “The Nation’s Fiscal Health: Action Is Needed to Address the Federal Government’s Fiscal Future.” The 60-page Government Accountability Office report to Congress noted that:

* the fiscal year 2017 budget deficit “increased to $666 billion,” marking the “second consecutive year that the budget deficit increased — up from $587 billion for fiscal year 2016 and $439 billion for fiscal year 2015”

* the national debt, which consists of federal securities held by the public as well debt “held by the federal government itself,” increased to “$20.4 trillion during fiscal year 2017”

* “federal spending on health care programs and interest on debt held by the public … are the key drivers of growing spending in the long term”

* additional “fiscal risks” include the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s unfunded liabilities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the U.S. Postal Service’s “poor financial condition,” insufficient premiums collected by the National Flood Insurance Program, and the Pentagon’s “overseas contingency operations” in the Middle East

* improper payments “have consistently been a government-wide issue,” with a taxpayer price tag of $1.4 trillion since the 2003 fiscal year

* without “policy changes, the federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal path”

Washington’s finances are an appalling mess, but you wouldn’t know that from the campaigns being run by Heinrich and Rich. New Mexico’s junior senator is pushing to “raise the value of Pell Grants from their current value of a little more than $6,000 up to $10,000 a year and ensure that almost all families who need help paying for college receive the full Pell Grant,” demanding that Amtrak “uphold its side of a longstanding public-private partnership to maintain the Southwest Chief passenger train and long-distance passenger service,” and bragging about securing “a total of $959,500 in grants from the National Endowment of the Arts … for arts programs throughout New Mexico.”

As for Rich, while he can’t match the real-world profligacy of the incumbent, the challenger recently issued an email whining that New Mexico has “lost jobs at our national labs and Air Force bases” due to “Mr. Heinrich’s incompetence and neglect.” Other gripes by the GOP’s nominee include the “potential loss of $75 million in federal funding for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit … bus line project” and the prospect of Los Alamos National Laboratory losing “a project to produce plutonium pits to South Carolina.”

Bringing home the bacon has “worked” for New Mexico’s fedpols for a long time. But as Irving’s report exhaustively confirms, fiscal reality is on its way to America. When it arrives, things are likely to get very ugly in the Land of Enchantment. D.C.’s goodies — or at least, a great many of them — are going to go away. For good.

When a veteran of the Mondale-Ferraro campaign offers a warning about the nation’s fiscal health, it’s time to listen. Errors of Enchantment will let readers know if Heinrich or Rich releases a detailed description of the federal departments, offices, services, administrations, commissions, agencies, and programs that must be cut in order to save the nation from insolvency.

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2 Replies to “The Inevitable Derailment of the Federal Gravy Train”

  1. New Mexico has been suckling on the federal spending breast since 1931. One would assume that 87 years is a sufficient amount of time to wean oneself. Not only has this not happened, but our federal dependency is actually increasing. To quote Margaret Thatcher, what happens when you run out of other people’s money to spend?

  2. While the national debt and spending on national health care and social security programs will take a while to unwind, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the U.S. Postal Service and the National Flood Insurance Programs could be abolished fairly quickly, and should be.

    There is no excuse for not taking action on these latter five programs now. The taxpayer should not be required to support these. And a plan for phasing out the former three programs should be started immediately.

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