2 13 The Budget: The Politics of Taxing and Spending Dealing with the budget is one of the most intractable issues of American government, but also one of the most important. Here Wall Street traders watch as the stock market plunged after Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating in response to the inability of Congress and the president to agree on a plan to meet the government’s financial obligations.
3 13Video: The Big PictureIs the federal budget as out of control as it seems? Author George C. Edwards III weighs the merits of two opposing sides: the Tea Party's insistence that the budget must be lowered no matter what, versus the opposing view that the government should increase the deficit to stimulate the economy.TO THE INSTRUCTOR: To access the videos in this chapter, please enter your Pearson or MyPoliSciLab username and password after clicking on the link on the slide.
4 13Learning ObjectivesIn this chapter we will learn where the federal government gets its money and how it decides how to spend it. We’ll begin by looking at tax revenue and borrowing, and their implications for the national debt. Next will will consider spending and discover why the federal budget grows. Then we will analyze the complex budgetary process and assess the impact of politics on taxes and spending.Describe the sources of funding for the federal government and assess the consequences of tax expenditures and borrowing13.1Analyze federal expenditures and the growth of the budget13.2
5 13Learning ObjectivesOutline the budgetary process and explain the role that politics plays13.3Assess the impact of democratic politics on budgetary growth and of the budget on scope of government13.4
6 13Video: The BasicsHow does the government decide what to spend your tax dollars on? This video reveals who is involved in the budgetary process, where the U.S. government gets its money, where the money goes, and why federal debt is growing.
7 Federal Revenue and Borrowing 13.1Federal Revenue and BorrowingJustice Holmes famously said that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. He did not mind paying taxes for this reason. But most Americans today do not share his view. There is much grumbling that taxes are too high but there is even more complaint when it comes to cutting the programs that taxes fund. Americans, it seems, want something for nothing. We expect a lot from the federal government but we are not willing to pay for it.The federal government collects several different types of taxes, including personal and corporate income taxes, social insurance taxes, and excise taxes. It also borrows a lot of money.Personal and Corporate Income TaxSocial Insurance TaxesBorrowingTaxes and Public Policy
8 13.1 FIGURE 13.1: The federal budget: An overview Let’s look at this diagram. The federal budget consists of revenues and expenditures. When expenditures exceed revenues, the budget runs a deficit. The accumulation of debt over time creates the national debt. Data are estimates for fiscal year 2013.
9 Personal and Corporate Income Tax 13.1Personal and CorporateIncome TaxWhen Congress first attempted to levy a small income tax in 1894, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution, explicitly permitting Congress to establish an income tax. The Internal Revenue Service was created to collect and process tax payments.Today, it receives over 140 million individual tax returns each year. The federal income tax is generally progressive, that is, higher incomes are taxed at a higher rate. Current tax rates range from 10-35%, much lower than in the past.Sixteenth Amendment (1913)IRS140 million individual income tax returnsIncome tax is progressive10-35% current tax rates
10 Personal and Corporate Income Tax 13.1Personal and CorporateIncome TaxWho pays income tax? In 2009, 42% of filers made so little money that they were not required to pay any taxes at all. The richest 1% provided 37% of all tax revenue, and the richest 10% provided 70%. The bottom 50% provided only 2% of all tax revenue that year. Corporate income taxes provide about 10% of tax revenue, compared to 47% from individual income taxes.Some people have proposed getting rid of the progressive income tax and instituting a flat tax, where everyone, regardless of income, pays the same tax rate. What financial impact would a flat tax have?Who pays taxes?42% paid no taxes1% paid 37%10% paid 70%Bottom 50% paid 2%The flat tax
11 13.1 FIGURE 13.2: Federal revenues What type of tax makes up the largest portion of federal revenues?
12 Explore the Budget: How High Are Your Taxes? 13.1Explore the Budget: How High Are Your Taxes?Federal revenue comes from taxes. Your tax rate depends on your income type. Do you know how much you pay in taxes? Let’s find out in this exercise.
13 Social Insurance Taxes 13.1Social Insurance TaxesSocial Security and Medicare taxes are withheld from your paycheck and matched by your employer. Today they account for about one third of federal revenue.Social SecurityMedicareBoth matched by employersProvide 1/3 of federal revenue
14 Borrowing 13.1 Tax revenue does not cover expenditures Bonds Tax revenue does not cover federal expenditures so the government borrows money. The Treasury Department sells bonds, agreeing to pay interest to the bondholders.The federal government borrows money from itself, such as by taking money from Social Security funds to pay military pensions or farm subsidies. This borrowing creates intragovernmental debt.Tax revenue does not cover expendituresBondsSold by Treasury DepartmentBorrowing from itselfIntra governmental debt
15 Borrowing 13.1 National debt = $17.5 trillion The national debt stands at $17.5 trillion and is growing every minute. In fact, 6% of federal spending is interest on this debt. Congress imposes a debt ceiling, which is a limit on how much money the government can borrow. When the president asks Congress to raise the debt ceiling, they can make it conditional on concessions in various policy areas. Thus, the debt ceiling is a powerful bargaining chip for Congress.If your income decreases, you have to cut your expenses. For the federal government, when tax revenue decreases it is usually because of an economic downturn. But then more people are in need of government services, such as unemployment benefits and food stamps, that form the social safety net. The government may also spend money to stimulate the economy or bail out important industries. Thus, the government usually has to spend more money when its revenue declines.National debt = $17.5 trillion6% of federal spending = interest paymentsDebt ceilingSpending increases when revenue declines
16 13.1 FIGURE 13.3: Total national debt Let’s look at the events in this graph that have caused the national debt to rise sharply.
17 Video: In the Real World 13.1Video: In the Real WorldWhy did Congress vote to raise the debt ceiling and was it the right thing to do? This video looks at the causes and consequences of that decision, and real people voice their opinions on the long-term impact of the debt crisis.
18 Taxes and Public Policy 13.1Taxes and Public PolicyTax expenditures represent tax revenue that is lost due to exemptions. For example, taxpayers can deduct charitable contributions and mortgage interest payments from their taxable income, and businesses can deduct expenses for new equipment and facilities. Tax exemptions benefit the wealthy and businesses more than the majority of Americans. Can you see why?Tax cuts are always popular with voters – who doesn’t want to retain more of their paycheck or get a fatter tax return check? Tax reductions score political points with voters but they raise the deficit because it is much harder to cut expenses. Tax cuts also disproportionately benefit the wealthy because they generally only affect income taxes, not excise taxes.Tax expendituresCharitable contributionsMortgage interestBusiness equipmentBenefit the wealthy and businessesTax reductionPopular with votersBenefits the wealthy
19 13.1TABLE 13.1: Tax expenditures: The money government does not collectTax expenditures are exemptions from taxes that people and businesses would normally have to pay, so they represent lost revenue for the federal government.
20 13.113.1 What percentage of federal spending is simply interest payments on the national debt?Before we continue, I want to test your understanding of the national debt and the interest the government pays on it with this brief question.6%3%11%None20
21 13.113.1 What percentage of federal spending is simply interest payments on the national debt?Six percent of annual federal spending goes to servicing the national debt. These interest payments are not optional, and this money is unavailable for education or health care or other federal endeavors.6%3%11%None21
22 Explore the Simulation: You Are the President During a Budget Crisis 13.1Explore the Simulation: You Are the President During a Budget CrisisFor many years, the national government has run up large annual budget deficits because government expenditure has exceeded revenue. In this simulation, you will learn about the sources of federal revenue facing a budget crisis as the President of the United States.
23 Federal Expenditures 13.2 Big Governments, Big Budgets Federal expenditures have grown rapidly since the 1930s, both in terms of actual dollars and in the variety of categories of spending. Why does the government spend so much? Why do federal expenditures keep rising? Where does the money go? We will explore these questions in this section.Big Governments, Big BudgetsRise of the National Security StateRise of the Social Service StateIncrementalism“Uncontrollable” Expenditures
24 13.2 FIGURE 13.4: Federal expenditures In this stacked graph, the difference between the lines indicates the amount spent in each category. What is the biggest category of federal spending?
25 Big Governments, Big Budgets 13.2Big Governments, Big BudgetsThe bigger the government, the bigger the expenses. Today, federal government expenditures represent one quarter of GDP.Why has government grown so big? The simple answer is that it has grown in response to public demand. Changes in the economy after the Industrial Revolution, and changes in social conditions after urbanization and industrialization, have increased demand for government services. Economic downturns also increase this demand, as do negative economic externalities like pollution.Big government needs big money¼ of GDP is govt. spendingWhy has government grown?Public demandChanges in economyChanges in social conditionsEconomic downturnsUrbanizationPollution
26 Rise of the National Security State 13.2Rise of the National Security StateDefense spending increased during the first and second world wars. The Cold War that began after the end of World War II kept military expenses from declining after the end of the war. In fact, they grew substantially. During the 50s and 60s, the Department of Defense received over half of the federal budget. This era also saw the growth of the military-industrial complex, which has done its best to keep military spending high.But despite the power of the military-industrial complex, defense spending did decline after the end of the Cold War. It increased after 9/11, but it receives about 1/5 of the federal budget today.Much of the defense budget pays for employees and pensions, the purchase of military hardware, and cost overruns.Permanent military establishmentCold WarMilitary-industrial complexDoD spending half of federal budget during Cold WarDecreased until 9/111/5 of federal budget todayMilitary expenses7 million pensionsProcurementCost overruns
27 13.2 FIGURE 13.5: Trends in national defense spending This graph shows how defense spending has risen and fallen based on our involvement in recent wars.
28 13.2Stealth bomberThis stealth bomber plane cost over $2 billion dollars. Yes, $2 billion per plane. That explains a lot about the defense budget, doesn’t it?
29 Rise of the Social Service State 13.2Rise of the Social Service StateThe biggest slice of today’s budget pie goes to income security programs, the so-called social safety net. Social Security was created by FDR in 1935 to reduce poverty among the elderly. In the 1950s, disability insurance was added to the program. In 1965, as part of President Johnson’s Great Society programs, a health insurance program for the elderly, called Medicare, was launched. Coverage for prescription drugs was added to this program in 2003.Where does the money for Social Security and Medicare come from? It is deducted from your paycheck. The money collected from today’s workers pays current retirees. When today’s workers become old enough to collect, the workers of that era will be paying their benefits. In this manner Social Security forms an intergenerational contract. It works perfectly in theory. The only problem is that as birth rates decline and the elderly live longer, the ratio of workers to beneficiaries is changing. In 1940, there were about 40 workers for each retiree; today there are 3. Medicare faces a similar problem. What can be done to solve it?Income security expendituresSocial SecurityMedicareIntergenerational contractMore beneficiaries than workers
30 13.2Much of the federal budget goes to providing Social Security and Medicare for the elderly. These programs have been very successful in reducing poverty among the elderly but are the biggest contributors to rising deficits.
31 13.2 FIGURE 13.6: Trends in social service spending Social service spending on health, education, and income security has risen steeply since the Great Society programs were initiated.
32 Video: Thinking Like a Political Scientist 13.2Video: Thinking Like a Political ScientistUncover some of the major points of discovery in the study of economic policy in the United States. Wagner College political scientist Abraham Unger identifies some of the trends that have been discussed by political scientists in the last decade.
33 13.2IncrementalismThe term incrementalism simply means that the best predictor of this year’s budget is last year’s budget. There is little flexibility for the president and Congress in the budget process. Each year, agencies expect to get a little more money than they did the previous year – an incremental increase.There are exceptions, of course. When the government shifts priorities it may drastically cut the budget of an agency. NASA’s budget grew rapidly when the space program was launched then plummeted when it was discontinued. But the general trend is slow but steady growth each year.Best predictor of this year’s budget is last year’sIncremental increase for each agencyExceptions
34 “Uncontrollable” Expenditures 13.2“Uncontrollable” ExpendituresEach year, the president proposes the budget and Congress approves it – or not. The budget is too large to review in its entirety each year, but it would seem that cuts could be made if they were desired. So why then do we say the budget is uncontrollable?We say the budget is uncontrollable is because about two thirds of it is automatic; it is not a fixed or lump sum that Congress can adjust downward it fi choose to.Interest on the debt, for example, must be paid. Congress has no discretion to allocate less money to interest payments next year.Why is the budget uncontrollable?2/3 of budget automaticInterest
35 “Uncontrollable” Expenditures 13.2“Uncontrollable” ExpendituresIt is the same with entitlements, which make up the bulk of the federal budget. Everyone over 65 is entitled to Medicare. Social Security and veterans’ benefits must also be paid to everyone who is eligible.The only way Congress could change entitlement allocations would be to pass laws altering the programs.For example, Congress could raise the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 70. But such changes are not popular with voters, and Congressmen want to keep their jobs.2/3 of budget automaticInterestEntitlements
36 13.213.2 Why does the federal government have so little discretion over its own budget?Now that you know where 2/3 of the budget is going, you should be able to answer this question.Federal law forbids Congress from tampering with president’s budgetThe president is obliged by the Constitution to sign whatever budget bill Congress sends himEntitlements create uncontrollable obligationsAll of the above36
37 13.213.2 Why does the federal government have so little discretion over its own budget?Entitlement payments are determined by eligibility rules, not lump sum budget allocations.Federal law forbids Congress from tampering with president’s budgetThe president is obliged by the Constitution to sign whatever budget bill Congress sends himEntitlements create uncontrollable obligationsAll of the above37
38 13.2Video: In ContextExplore the ways that economics drives American politics. In this video, Wagner College political scientist Abraham Unger talks about how economic policy has evolved in the last century and how the United States operates on a continuum of free enterprise.
39 The Budgetary Process 13.3 Budgetary Politics The President’s Budget The budgetary process begins and ends with the president, but the role that Congress plays in the middle is critical. Some of the fiercest political battles in Washington are waged over the annual federal budget.Budgetary PoliticsThe President’s BudgetCongress and the Budget
40 Budgetary Politics 13.3 Stakes and strategies Players Budgets determine who gets what, when, and how. Everyone has a stake in the budget. Each political actor adopts a strategy in the budget game. Agencies, for example, emphasize how their programs benefit a senator’s state or representative’s district. Agencies always pad their budget requests, assuming they won’t get all the money they ask for.The main actors in the budgetary process include:• interest groups• agencies• OMB• the president• Congressional committees and subcommittees on budget, taxation, authorization, and appropriations• the CBO• the GAO• and Congress as a whole.The budget process happens every year, and the part of each political actor is carefully scripted.Stakes and strategies“Who gets what, when, and how”Actors adopt strategiesPlayersLarge castRoles carefully scripted
41 13.3Government shutdownIn 1995, Congress and the president could not reach agreement on the federal budget and non-essential government services were temporarily shut down.
42 13.3 FIGURE 13.7: The players in the budgetary process This graph shows the main players in the federal budget process. Why is Congress at the center?
43 The President’s Budget 13.3The President’s BudgetPrior to the passage of the Budget and Accounting Act in 1921, the president did not prepare and submit a budget to Congress. Agencies made their requests directly to Congress and the president had a very limited role in the budgetary process.Now, the president’s Office of Management and Budget prepares the annual budget and submits it to the president for approval. Once approved, it goes to Congress.The budget is due to Congress the first Monday in February but preparations begin a year in advance as OMB begins soliciting budget requests from agencies. Guidelines, policies, priorities, and targets all have to be established. Agency heads usually threaten to go directly to the president if their priorities are not met by OMB. The jockeying and negotiations can continue until the last minute, with the budget being rushed to the printers hours before it is due on Capitol Hill.Presidents used to play limited roleBudget and Accounting ActPrepares budget with help of OMBBudget scheduleDue first Monday in FebruaryProcess begins a year in advance
44 Congress and the Budget 13.3Congress and the BudgetAs you know already, the Constitution gives Congress the power to authorize federal appropriations.Expenditures must be linked to expected revenues. Yes, we know the government spends more than it takes in, but there is some consideration of revenue. Each April Congress must pass a budget resolution which binds Congress to a total expenditure level. Part of this process is reconciliation, that is, changes to laws and authorizations that will enable Congress to stick to its budget ceiling. The second part of this process is the passage of authorization bills that establish or change government programs.Later, Congress must pass appropriations bills to fund programs established by authorization bills. Congress cannot appropriate more money than is authorized, but it can give the program less money, or none at all.More often than not recently, Congress has been unable to resolve its political dickering and reach agreement on appropriations bills. To keep the government functioning, Congress has to pass continuing resolutions, which are laws that allow agencies to spend at last year’s levels.Power of the purseBudget resolutionReconciliationAuthorization billsAppropriations billsContinuing resolutions
45 13.3 FIGURE 13.8: The budget process Why do we say that the biggest predictor of this year’s budget is last year’s budget?
46 13.3 FIGURE 13.9: Fluctuating deficits The deficit grew under Reagan, disappeared under Clinton, then grew under Bush. The fiscal crisis has kept it growing rapidly under Obama.
47 13.3 What type of bill must follow an authorization bill? Now that we know the steps to a budget resolution, you should be able to tell me the answer to this question.Continuing resolutionReconciliation billAppropriations billNone of the above47
48 13.3 What type of bill must follow an authorization bill? After Congress authorizes a new program, such as a program to build highways, it must appropriate the money for the program in a separate bill.Continuing resolutionReconciliation billAppropriations billNone of the above48
49 Understanding Budgeting 13.4Understanding BudgetingThe budgeting process is central to modern government. This was not always the case but as government has gotten bigger, it spends most of its time debating how to spend money.Democracy and BudgetingThe Budget and the Scope of Government
50 Democracy and Budgeting 13.4Democracy and BudgetingGrowth in government tied to democracyDo elites oppose big government?BailoutsContracts and subsidiesInterest groups want their piece, tooAmericans tax and spend lessAmericans want lower taxes but more porkDeficits resultAlthough Americans complain about the size and scope of government, both are closely tied to democracy. Each citizen, rich or poor, has one vote. Since the poor outnumber the rich, and the old outnumber the young (in terms of voting), public policy skews in favor of social welfare programs that help the poor and the elderly, like Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.Do elites oppose big government? No, they simply favor different types of programs. Corporations want bailouts, government contracts, and subsidies.Interest groups want government to help them, too. Zoologists, for example, want aid from the National Science Foundation.Despite the demands from voters that have caused government to grow, the American government taxes and spends far less than the governments of other wealthy democracies.One of the most common criticisms of the federal government is that it cannot balance its budget. But consider how members of Congress are rewarded by voters: If they cut taxes, they are re-elected. If they cut programs and benefits to their constituents, they are defeated. If they bring pork barrel projects home to their states and districts, they get re-elected. The inevitable result of these incentives is deficits.
51 13.4Arches National ParkAmericans have contradictory demands on public policy. They want public services, such as national parks, but they do not want to be taxed to pay for them.As long as voters have contradictory demands for public policy, their elected representatives are unlikely to easily resolve basic decisions about taxing and spending.
52 The Budget and the Scope of Government 13.4The Budget and the Scope of GovernmentIn many ways, the budget represents the scope of government. The bigger the budget, the bigger the government, and vice versa. When people see a need, such as reducing poverty among the elderly or defending the nation’s borders or preventing poor children from starting the school day without breakfast, the government finds a way to pay for it.But the politics of budgeting are also the politics of scarcity because there is never enough money to meet all the demands for government activity and funding. Tough choices have to be made each year in the budget process.The budget is the scope of governmentWhen country has need, govt. paysPolitics of scarcityNever enough funds
53 13.4 What feature of American government tends to promote its growth? As we have just covered, growth in government is tied to one of these choices. Which is it?RepublicanismFederalismDemocracyAll of the above53
54 13.4 What feature of American government tends to promote its growth? Democracy tends to lead to expansion of the government because it enables citizens to make demands on it and reward or punish officials as these needs are met or not met.RepublicanismFederalismDemocracyAll of the above54
55 13Discussion QuestionWhy is the federal budget process so highly politicized? Who are the main stakeholders in budget decision-making? Why does the federal budget tend to increase each year?
56 13Video: So What?How does the government have enough money to enact policies, while still taxing all of its citizens fairly? Author George C. Edwards III delves into this fundamental question of taxing and spending, and illustrates why the government is only as powerful and as effective as the amount of money it has in its budget.
57 13 Further Review: On MyPoliSciLab Listen to the Chapter Study and Review the FlashcardsStudy and Review the Practice Tests