Every once in awhile I have to talk my son off a cliff, even at the age of 22.
After getting his first paycheck at his summer job this year, he wanted to know where all the money went.
We’ve all been there before.
I explained about withholding taxes from the federal government and how he should get most of that back after filing his tax return in the spring. The rest was going to Social Security, I told him.
“That’s for your retirement,” I said proudly.
That’s when the rant started.
He screamed back there wasn’t going to be any Social Security for him when he retired, thanks to the way my generation had handled the country’s finances. He may have invoked an expletive or two as well.
He was right, of course.
This week was the 10th anniversary of the financial collapse of 2008, and if there is one thing that I truly fear, it is another financial calamity.
I’ve been through good times and bad times, but I’ve been lucky to always have had a job and seen my income steadily climb through my 20s and 30s.
This past week, the federal government reported it spent $895 billion more than it took in from taxes and other revenue sources during the past 11 months. That revenue showed a 33 percent decline from a year earlier because of this year’s big tax cut.
I’m no economic expert, but that doesn’t sound good.
What is unusual this year is that the budget deficit usually shrinks during strong economic times because there is less need for costly government programs — welfare, for instance — and tax revenues rise with low unemployment.
The Congressional Budget Office — these folks are nonpartisan and kind of like the federal government’s accountant — released updated 10-year projections for the economy this week as well. They predict relatively high economic growth for the next two years (about 3 percent) — but not as high as the president predicts — before leveling off at around 2 percent.
I’ve always been kind of frugal and it’s what I’ve admired most about the Republican Party — its fiscal conservatism. Unfortunately, we are not seeing that now.
What the tax cut was supposed to do was stimulate the economy and grow jobs so that it would pay for itself over the long term. The CBO projects unemployment could drop as low as 3.4 percent in 2019 before returning to around 4.8 percent in succeeding years.
The CBO also believes that the tax cuts will reduce deficits by about $150 billion over the next 10 years, but that is not enough to pay for the tax cuts.
By 2028, it predicts that debt will increase from 78 percent of gross domestic product to 95 percent. The deficit will increase from $665 billion in 2017 to $1.51 trillion in 2028.
There is plenty of blame to go around with how we got here, starting with the billions invested in security after 9/11, two long and expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the bailouts during the financial collapse.
Earlier this year, Forbes.com columnist Gary Davenport gave readers five reasons why they should worry about the federal debt.
Guess what the first one was?
Social Security and Medicare entitlements are at risk if the debt continues to grow. As it stands now, Social Security runs out in 2034 when my son is only 38. I can already hear him swearing.
You may be surprised to learn this is the key to the federal debt and the one issue no politician will address. Yeah, the tax cut and defense spending did not help things this year, but the tsunami of retiring Baby Boomers is the real problem. That accounts for nearly two-thirds of all federal spending.
All that debt will eventually make us a less attractive investment for other countries who buy our debt, bonds and stocks. No one knows how much debt is too much, but it definitely will make our economy less stable as it grows.
Davenport contends the debt will put our future national security in jeopardy — our current Director of National Security Dan Coats agrees with him — and that we all should be petrified that no politicians are doing anything to address it.
But here is the one my son will appreciate the most, and something you should consider as well.
Davenport wrote that, “Spending today and putting it on the tab of the next generation is immoral.”
I hope we still care about morality.
We are asking our children, who are already saddled with far more student debt than we ever paid, to pick up the Social Security and Medicare tab, fix our collapsing infrastructure and keep our national defense strong.
Consider this analogy:
It’s like if we all paid our mortgage with a credit card each month and just made the minimum credit card payment for the next 30 years. Then, when we died and our children inherited the house, they find out they owe $750,000 on the $100,000 house mom and dad left to them.
Tough luck, kid.
What I also told my son this summer might apply to the federal government as well.
The quickest way to financial stability is to stop spending.