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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Deficit and Debt

Phillip L. Swagel, CBO’s Director:
In our projections, which incorporate the assumption that current laws governing taxes and spending generally remain unchanged, the federal budget deficit is $1.0 trillion this year and averages $1.3 trillion per year between 2021 and 2030. Measured as a percentage of economic output, the deficit widens from 4.6 percent of GDP in 2020 to 5.4 percent in 2030. Over the past 50 years, the average annual deficit equaled 3.0 percent of GDP, and it was generally much smaller when the economy was strong.
Revenues will grow in our expanding economy. If current laws did not change, federal revenues would rise from 16.4 percent of GDP in 2020 to 18.0 percent of GDP in 2030. Those projections reflect a scheduled increase in individual income taxes at the end of 2025, among other things.
Spending is projected to grow more than revenues, widening the gap between the two. In our projections, federal outlays climb from 21.0 percent of GDP to 23.4 percent over the next decade. That growth has two sources: increased spending for mandatory programs and interest on federal debt.
The increase in mandatory outlays over the decade—from 12.9 percent of GDP to 15.2 percent—is attributable partly to the aging of the population. Another major factor is the growth of health care costs, which has slowed in recent years but is still projected to be faster than economic growth. Those two long-term trends affect Social Security and Medicare in particular, and they are expected to persist beyond 2030.
As for the increase in interest spending, one of its causes is the large deficits, which lead the federal government to borrow more each year in our projections. Another cause is rising interest rates over the next decade. All in all, the federal government’s net interest outlays are projected to increase from 1.7 percent of GDP in 2020 to 2.6 percent in 2030.
As a result of the persistently large deficits, federal debt held by the public is projected to rise to $31.4 trillion at the end of 2030—an amount equal to 98 percent of GDP. At that point, debt would be higher as a percentage of GDP than at any point since just after World War II and more than double what it has averaged over the past 50 years. We project that the gap between spending and revenues would continue to widen over the following two decades and that debt would reach 180 percent of GDP by 2050, well above the highest percentage ever recorded in the United States. And it would be headed still higher.

Federal Debt Held by Public as Percent GDP:


Monday, January 27, 2020

Impeachment Trial Rules

James Wallner at
When the Senate is sitting on an impeachment trial, the motions that senators may make are derived, explicitly and implicitly, from its standing Impeachment Rules. For example, Rule V stipulates that senators may approve “orders, mandates, writs, and precepts…and…make and enforce such other regulations and orders in the premises as the Senate may authorize or provide.”
Rule XIX also acknowledges senators’ ability to make motions during an impeachment trial. It requires them to put all questions for witnesses, managers, and counsel, as well as all motions and orders, in writing before sending it to the presiding officer. (Note: Motions to adjourn are exempted from this requirement.)
Rule VI authorizes the Senate to “enforce obedience to its orders, mandates, writs, precepts, and judgments, to preserve order, and to punish in a summary way contempt’s of, and disobedience to, its authority, orders, mandates, writs, precepts, or judgments, and to make all lawful orders, rules, and regulations which it may deem essential or conducive to the ends of justice.” The rule empowers the Sergeant at Arms to “employ such aid and assistance as may be necessary to enforce, execute, and carry into effect the lawful orders, mandates, writs, and precepts of the Senate.”

Rule XIII sets the schedule for all impeachment trials. It stipulates, “The hour of the day at which the Senate shall sit upon the trial of an impeachment shall be (unless otherwise ordered) 12 o’clock pm.” The provision “unless otherwise ordered” references senators’ ability to make motions to adjust the schedule. Similarly, Rule XXVI clarifies that “the Senate may, by any order adopted without debate, fix a day and hour for resuming such consideration.”
A simple-majority decides all of these motions. The Impeachment Rules do not allow senators to debate during open sessions of a trial. However, Rule XX allows any senator to make a motion to go into closed session. Once the Senate is in a closed session, the rules allow senators to participate in limited debate. Yet even in closed session, all motions decided by a simple majority.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

America and Ukraine

Ambassador William Taylor:
For the last seven months, I represented the United States in Ukraine and regularly visited the front line of the military conflict. After its occupation of Crimea, Russia sent its army, security forces, undercover agents, weapons, funding and political instruction into Ukraine’s southeastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, a region known as the Donbas. The 280-mile line of contact between Russian-led forces and Ukrainian forces has stabilized but has not gone quiet.
To the contrary, the front line in the Donbas region marks the only shooting war in Europe. Every week Russian-led forces kill Ukrainian soldiers — and take casualties in return. During the 12 hours of my last visit, in November, a Ukrainian soldier was killed and another wounded. Since the Russians invaded in 2014, 14,000 Ukrainians have died in this war.

The United States and our allies support Ukraine in this war by providing the Ukrainian armed forces with weapons, training and support. American security assistance to Ukraine regularly receives broad, bipartisan support in Congress; the importance of that assistance to Ukraine — and to U.S. national security — is not at issue.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Comparative Corruption

From Transparency International:
The United States has received its lowest score in eight years on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released today by Transparency International, dropping two points to score 69 out of 100. The Index draws from over a dozen independent expert assessments and surveys to measure perceptions of public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories. Scores on the CPI range from zero (very corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt).
Read the report

Gary Kalman, Director of the new U.S. office of Transparency International, said the following:
Weaknesses in our laws are being exploited by a growing list of bad actors at home and abroad. From foreign despots to terror networks, drug cartels to human traffickers, some of the world’s most destructive forces are benefitting from gaps in U.S. law. Multiple corruption scandals in the last year alone have shown that transnational corruption is often facilitated, enabled, or perpetuated by countries toward the top of the Index, including the United States. Fortunately, bipartisan legislation currently before Congress, the ILLICIT CASH Act and the Corporate Transparency Act, would go a long way toward stopping these interests from using the U.S. as a laundromat for their dirty cash.”

Friday, January 24, 2020

Media Trust and Distrust

From Pew:
As the U.S. enters a heated 2020 presidential election year, a new Pew Research Center report finds that Republicans and Democrats place their trust in two nearly inverse news media environments.

Overall, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents view many heavily relied on sources across a range of platforms as untrustworthy. At the same time, Democrats and independents who lean Democratic see most of those sources as credible and rely on them to a far greater degree, according to the survey of 12,043 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 29–Nov. 11, 2019, on Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.
These divides are even more pronounced between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.
Moreover, evidence suggests that partisan polarization in the use and trust of media sources has widened in the past five years. A comparison to a similar study by the Center of web-using U.S. adults in 2014 finds that Republicans have grown increasingly alienated from most of the more established sources, while Democrats’ confidence in them remains stable, and in some cases, has strengthened.

The study asked about use of, trust in, and distrust of 30 different news sources for political and election news. While it is impossible to represent the entire crowded media space, the outlets, which range from network television news to Rush Limbaugh to the New York Times to the Washington Examiner to HuffPost, were selected to represent popular media brands across a range of platforms.
Greater portions of Republicans express distrust than express trust of 20 of the 30 sources asked about. Only seven outlets generate more trust than distrust among Republicans – including Fox News and the talk radio programs of hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
For Democrats, the numbers are almost reversed. Greater portions of Democrats express trust than express distrust in 22 of the 30 sources asked about. Only eight generate more distrust than trust – including Fox News, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Knowing About the Holocaust

From Pew:
Most U.S. adults know what the Holocaust was and approximately when it happened, but fewer than half can correctly answer multiple-choice questions about the number of Jews who were murdered or the way Adolf Hitler came to power, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
When asked to describe in their own words what the Holocaust was, more than eight-in-ten Americans mention the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people or other related topics, such as concentration or death camps, Hitler, or the Nazis. Seven-in-ten know that the Holocaust happened between 1930 and 1950. And close to two-thirds know that Nazi-created ghettos were parts of a city or town where Jews were forced to live.

Fewer than half of Americans (43%), however, know that Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany through a democratic political process. And a similar share (45%) know that approximately 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Nearly three-in-ten Americans say they are not sure how many Jews died during the Holocaust, while one-in-ten overestimate the death toll, and 15% say that 3 million or fewer Jews were killed.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Child Opportunity

New research shows that children’s access to neighborhood conditions that promote their health and development varies widely across the United States. The research also shows that a child’s race or ethnicity strongly predicts whether he or she lives in a place with access to good schools, healthy foods, parks and playgrounds, and living-wage jobs. Brandeis University’s updated Child Opportunity Index (COI 2.0) shows that black children are 7.6 times more likely than white children to live in neighborhoods with substantially lower opportunity to grow up healthy, and Hispanic children are 5.3 times more likely than white children to live in neighborhoods with lower opportunity. In contrast, the majority of white and Asian/Pacific Islander children live in higher-opportunity neighborhoods.
The data rank neighborhoods by level of child opportunity from very low to very high in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, where two-thirds of children live. The COI shows vast inequities not only metro-by-metro, but also within metros. Children who live only short distances apart often experience completely different worlds of neighborhood opportunity that can influence how they develop and even how long they will live.
“The COI is unique because it provides for every U.S. neighborhood a consistent and current metric of whether children have what it takes to grow up healthy,” says lead researcher Dr. Dolores Acevedo-Garcia of Brandeis University. “This matters because the index gives us the ability to use contemporary data to identify child opportunity gaps and inform policy change that is needed to create more equitable neighborhood conditions so that all children can thrive.”
The COI 2.0 quantifies, maps, and compares neighborhood opportunity by looking at 29 neighborhood conditions—such as proximity to and enrollment in early care and education centers, high school graduation rates, high-skill employment, health insurance coverage, housing vacancy rates, and poverty levels—that matter for children. The data, which cover conditions within three areas: education, health and environment, and social and economic, are used to compare metros by their level of opportunity and to see whether children have equal access to neighborhood opportunity by race and ethnicity.
Key Findings
  • There are vast differences in child opportunity across the United States. Madison, Wisconsin, ranked first among all U.S. metros for neighborhood opportunity (Child Opportunity Score of 83). Virtually no children of any race live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods there.
  • Bakersfield, California, ranked last of all U.S. metros for the opportunities that it affords children (Child Opportunity Score of 20); Fifty-one percent of children live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods. The report provides a Child Opportunity Score for each of the 100 largest metros. Please see the end of the press release for lists of the best and worst opportunity metros for white, black, and Hispanic children.
  • With few exceptions, metros in the southern portion of the country have notably lower opportunity scores than those in the northern portion. The highest opportunity metros are in the Plains states and in New England; California’s Central Valley and a couple of metros in Texas have some of the lowest-opportunity neighborhoods for children.
  • The report also found low neighborhood opportunity is associated with lower life expectancy and lower economic mobility. In fact, across all metros, there is a seven-year difference in life expectancy at birth between very low-opportunity neighborhoods (75 years) and very high-opportunity neighborhoods (82 years). In some metros, the gap in life expectancy between very low- and very high-opportunity neighborhoods is even more extreme. For example, in Dayton, Ohio, the life expectancy gap is 10 years.
  • Even in metros with high overall opportunity, the Child Opportunity Scores for black and Hispanic children are substantially lower than for white and Asian/Pacific Islander children, showing a deep racial/ethnic divide in children’s access to neighborhood opportunity. Nationally, about 60 percent of both black and Hispanic kids live in low- or very low-opportunity neighborhoods compared to about 20 percent of white and Asian/Pacific Islander children.
  • Neighborhood opportunity for children is associated with economic mobility as an adult. Household income at age 35 for children who grew up in poor families ranges from $29,000 in very low-opportunity neighborhoods to $45,000 in very high-opportunity neighborhoods.
  • Children’s race and ethnicity are strong predictors of access to opportunity