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Fiscal cliff positions 2013 as another ‘year of the increase’

Whether real or just claimed, alleged avoidance of the fiscal cliff is likely to be little more than technical legislation designed to give politicians cover while providing new fodder for disingenuous media and political class spin.  Nothing currently under discussion includes immediate, substantive reforms with significant spending cuts as a centerpiece.  As it’s hard to anticipate 2013 as anything but a revitalized “year of the increase” – increased taxes, spending, entitlements, debt, private sector unemployment/underemployment, public sector employee hiring, regulations and more – this seems a good time to review the numbers and magnitude of recent years’ notable increases.

  •  Federal disability insurance payments hit a record $135 billion in fiscal 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012).  November set a new record of 8,805,353 for the number of workers taking disability breaking the previous record of 8,803,335 set in October.  This roughly represents about one for each 13 full-time workers compared to one for each 51 full-time workers 44 years ago.  With an additional uptick of benefits collection by spouses and children of disabled workers, record totals of beneficiaries collecting disability as workers, spouses or children equals about one for each 10.6 people working full time.
  •  In 1960, about one-fifth of disability benefits went to those with mood disorders or musculoskeletal problems yet in 2011, nearly half of benefit recipients had such complaints.  Also in 2011, 15 percent of those disability insurance recipients were in their 30s or early 40s.
  •  September brought a new record for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with 47,710,324 participants noted, an increase of 607,559 from August numbers.  The numbers of SNAP-enrolled households also increased by 289,235.  Recent data shows average benefits of $134.29 per person, $278.89 per household.  With Texas, California, and Florida the top states with program recipients, the new numbers translate into an estimated one in 6.5 Americans on food stamps compared with one out of 50 in the 1970s.  Since 2001, the program’s spending has quadrupled while it has doubled in the last four years.
  •  Were Americans under the age of 18 required as a group to pay the entirety of the federal government’s debt in equal shares, each would need to pay about $218,676.  Compare this to the $130,468 average price tag for four years at a private college or the $173,100 median price for an existing single-family home.
  • The federal government borrows roughly $6 billion every day – equating to $239 million per hour, $4 million every minute.  In 2012, it spent $2.06 for every dollar of revenue brought in.  That is how a $16+ trillion debt is created – up nearly $6 trillion in the past four years.
  •  The student loan debt crisis is accelerating as default rates are now at 13.4 percent during the first three years of the debt repayment with more than one in 10 borrowers having already defaulted.  As total student loan debt exceeds $1 trillion (and total U.S. credit card debt) this financial liability coupled with policies adverse to economic recovery and employment opportunity will further fuel default rates.  This debt burden eventually being shifted to taxpayers is an unwelcome, but likely possibility.
  •  Of the 23.4 million Americans considered “underemployed” over the past year, 12.7 million of this group was officially unemployed; 8.2 million working part time but wanting full-time jobs; and 2.5 million desiring work but discouraged to a point of no longer looking for work.  Per the Economic Policy Institute, 41 percent (9.5 million) were 30 or under, far in excess of their labor force share of 27 percent.

Whatever this current fiscal cliff debate outcome, realities won’t be avoided for long.  It’s not about being a Republican or Democrat.  It’s about prudently defining productivity and need in a society.  It’s about numbers and upcoming demographics that can’t provide a fiscally responsible scenario in which our current or future American workforce can continue to support out-of-control government spending and a growing population with endless taxpayer expectations.  It’s about numbers that even when manipulated can’t mask the long-term prognosis for a society based upon irresponsible, unsustainable economic policies.

Reality and responsibility or resistance and reliance.  Either way, 2013 will be a year of increases.

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture. She is the Online Producer at www.EstateofDenial.com and a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity – Texas. Lou Ann may be contacted at info@EstateofDenial.com.

Lou Ann Anderson

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. As a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and Examiner Austin, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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