The Federal gov't spends $3 billion and $300 million every day, that it doesn't have. That comes out to a budget deficit of $1.2 trillion a year. The total debt that the U.S. gov't has accrued to date is approximately $16 1/2 trillion dollars. This represents an overhang of debt equivalent to about $53,000 for every man, woman and child in this country of Federal debt alone.
NY State debt is $63 billion and with about 20 million of us in this state, it comes to over $3,000 in debt per capita. I quote here from NY State's Comptroller, Thomas Dinapoli's office's website dated Jan 2013: New York’s outstanding debt averages $3,253 per state resident, almost three times the national median. New York’s state-funded debt totaled $63.3 billion as of March 31, second only to California and 80 percent higher than New Jersey, the state with the third highest level. This represents an increase of $24.3 billion, or 62.2 percent, from state fiscal year (SFY) 2002-03.
NY city owes roughly $100 billion in outstanding debt which comes to about $12,000 for every man, woman and child. So combining all three levels of debt, it means that per capita debt in NY city is $68,000. For a family of 4, that translates to $272k of debt which in many parts of this country would be enough to buy a house.
The sequestration cuts that we just were subjected to of $85 billion on an annual basis represents 2.3% of the Federal budget. This sounds like a good start to reduce the budget deficit and stop adding that much more to the debt, however in government speak, a cut doesn't really mean a cut. It just means a reduction in the amount of increase of spending with a "baseline" amount of increased spending already factored in. Therefore with government budgets, even after you've "cut" you're still increasing the budget!(Chumash is not the only thing for which we need Rashi type explanations.)
Aside from that is the problem that sequestration cuts aren't based on judgment calls or prioritized spending reductions. The Obama administration could have applied a flexible approach to these cuts, such as withdrawing a grant of $100,000 that was applied to a program of the National Endowment for the Arts which is to produce a video game of a superhero alien delivered to Earth to fight global warming. Another example of an expendable program is the project of "sensitivity training" by the Departments of Agriculture and Defense to sensitize personnel to the needs of minorities. These departments both together paid Dr. Betances $3.3 million to produce seminars on how racist the American government was and is and teaches that the Pilgrims were the original illegal aliens. Instead our President tries to scare us into believing that the only choices of sequestration cuts are such things as; first responders, agents for air traffic control, FBI, and border patrol, civilians working at the Pentagon and ship building for military bases.
The major items of the 2013 Federal budget are: Social Security - $820 billion, Medicare - $523 billion, Medicaid - $283 billion, Defense - $613 billion. So what is to be done about these big ticket items? The government is not addressing these with any significant long term strategy at this time.
However, in a recent Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, based on 2010 expenditures, it has been revealed that out of NY State's total Medicaid budget of $54 billion, as much as $15 billion of the program has been wasted. NY's Medicaid program is in fact the largest in the country with $2,700 spent per NY state resident, which is $1,500 more than the average per capita spending of the other states in the rest of the country. The Congressional committee cites poor oversight on the part of NY state and the federal government as the reason for NY's bloated Medicaid expenditures. The Defense Department is wasteful as well. With a budget of approximately $600 billion, it is estimated that as much as 4% or $25 billion of the budget is wasted.
When Medicare and Social Security were instituted, Social Security in 1940 and Medicare in 1965, life expectancy rates were quite different than they are today. In 1940, life expectancy for men was 60.8 and 65.2 for women. In 1965 - 66.8 for men and 73.7 for women. However according to a 2009 study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) the average life span for men was 73.5 yrs and for women - 86 yrs (aside from all of us who will live till 120!) .
Therefore, honest and reasonable people will conclude that today these programs must be viewed as insurance productsmuch as homeowner's and automobile policies are understood to be. As an insurance program, older seniors who are wealthy and not needy of these programs, should not partake of them fully. Yes, Medicare and Social Security should be means tested. Aside from the life expectancy issue, Medicare has another main difference from when it was instituted: Medical costs have skyrocketed because of extreme technological advances. Furthermore, if we follow the Torah's admonition Ushmartem M'ode Ess Nofshoseichem (You shall very much watch over your being or body) we
need to be careful with our diet and exercise at least 3 times a week, not to end up being like the 2/3 of Americans who are either overweight or obese as measured in the year of 2012! According to the National Center for Health Statistics, obesity rates have doubled since the 1970's and it is widely known that obesity greatly contributes to incidents of diabetes and heart disease.
On March 3, I attended the big Chazaq event in Forest Hills. My two guests and I were inspired by the message of the speakers. They spoke of doing for the needs of family and the community, having gratitude for those who have treated us exceptionally well and to aspire to the level of dedication of a Moshe Rabbeinu when he was ready to give up his own life to spare the lives of Am Yisroel (the Jewish Nation) when they worshipped the Egel Hazahav (Golden Calf).We need to emulate all spiritual leaders who teach and role model for us that fulfillment is in the doing for others. In this vein, I say, that parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, must think how to leave a better world for our youth - financially, spiritually and even environmentally.
In the Feb 28th issue of this newspaper, Asher Taub wrote an article about the religious community banding together to vote-in religious candidates for office. To be fair, religion and government should not mix per se but when values of right and right overlap between religion and government, which they often do, it makes perfect sense to seek such values in a candidate who has ethical values that were inspired by the Torah! We should all take seriously the lessons we learn every week, when we read the Parsha, to live a life in the real world that is consistent with Torah ethics.