Deficit Feed

Tell Congress what you think as brazenly as you wish

There's a lot of talk about the Beltway Bubble, the phenomenon where the nation's capital exists in an atmosphere insulated from the real lives the rest of us lead. One Representative, however, recently tried to burst it. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) saw the latest surveys revealing that public approval of Congress has plummeted to its lowest level ever and he wanted to make sure his House colleagues knew about the lack of esteem in which they are held. Grayson attempted to use a special House rule that allows members to address harms to the "dignity" of the House. Yes, I... Read more →


What do we like more than Congress. Apparently, just about everything. But there is a silver lining to our disgust with Representatives and Senators. It might finally force federal lawmakers to rethink their so-called governing strategies. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders have put together a proposal to extend for six weeks the debt ceiling, which is the maximum amount the United States can borrow to pay already incurred bills. They've met with President Obama, who reportedly said he would make a deal, but only if it also went beyond the debt ceiling and cleared the way... Read more →


A lot of attention has been paid, rightfully, to the federal workers who are on furlough or working for free until Capitol Hill agrees on a fiscal 2014 budget. Among those sitting out the political stalemate are around 86,000 Internal Revenue Service rank and file workers. But as the shutdown approached, there also were some changes -- or not -- at the IRS' executive level. Werfel remains, for a while: First, the top guy's status. Daniel Werfel stepped in as Acting IRS Commissioner (his title was tweaked for administrative reasons in June) after word broke, and Congressional hearings began, on... Read more →


"I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets." That's the prediction by Florida Republican Rep. Ted Yoho of what will happen if Congress doesn't raise America's debt ceiling by Oct. 17 and lets the country default on what it owes. Yoho already is no stranger to outrageous statements. You might remember when he called the 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services racist. But the Tea Party darling's assessment of what might happen if the United States breaches the impending debt ceiling is being called the scariest, dumbest and stupidest thing said so far during this latest... Read more →


Nearly 800,000 federal employees are off their jobs. Those who are still working won't get actual money when their paydays arrive. They are working on a promise (also made to furloughed workers by a House vote Saturday afternoon) that they'll get what they are owed when Congress finally agrees on a budget plan for the 2014 fiscal year. Some agencies are offering their working-for-free employees a form letter explaining the financial situation that workers can show or send to creditors in lieu of the money they don't have. That might convince the electric or phone companies not to cut off... Read more →


Oct. 1, the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year, is more than half over. The stalemate between Congressional Republicans and Democrats over a stopgap spending bill is far from over. The biggest stumbling block is the continuing stubbornness insistence of House conservatives to tie Uncle Sam's operational costs to the president's signature health care law. The resistors, most of them recently elected thanks to Tea Party support, want Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act is popularly known, either defunded or at least delayed for a year. That ship, folks, has sailed. The health care reform law's insurance coverage exchanges opened... Read more →


While Capitol Hill lawmakers are screwing around considering ways to deal with the country's impending financial deadlines, Congress' independent budget analysts announced some good fiscal news. The U.S. Treasury picked up $284 billion in August. That added revenue, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), means Uncle Sam's budget deficit at the end of last month was $411 billion smaller than at the comparable period last year. That sizable reduction, making the budget deficit around $753 billion for the first 11 months of the 2013 fiscal year, is noteworthy. At this point in 2012, the budget deficit was $1.164 trillion.... Read more →


Looking for something to do this weekend? If you pay estimated taxes on earnings that aren't subject to withholding, then you can work on your third 1040-ES filing for the 2013 tax year. Click image to access the PDF version of Form 1040-ES, including all vouchers and instructions. In case you haven't yet encountered estimated taxes, these four extra payments are for such taxable income as investment and self-employment earnings, as well as unexpected income like prizes, gambling winnings or a lottery jackpot. Estimated taxes are the way to meet the tax code's pay-as-you-earn system that's covered for most wage... Read more →


The richest 20 percent of Americans enjoy more than half of the benefits from 10 major tax breaks. That's the analysis of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in its report, "The Distribution of Major Tax Expenditures in the Individual Income Tax System," released last week. The tax breaks -- or expenditures as they are known in legislative circles -- include tax deductions, tax credits, preferential tax rates for certain types of income and income that is excluded from taxes. The CBO grouped the expenditures into four categories: Exclusions from taxable income, which includes employer-sponsored health insurance, net pension contributions and... Read more →


Did you take a quick trip over the Memorial Day long weekend? If so, you probably drove. But when it comes to longer vacation jaunts this summer, many of us will fly. Yes, despite current boarding hassles and new charges for in-flight amenities, air travel still is preferred for longer excursions. And adding more fiscal injury to those flying insults is the possibility that we soon could be paying more for our airline tickets. President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget includes an increase in the aviation security fee, generally known as the passenger security tax that supports the Transportation Security... Read more →


The federal debt is at more than $16.8 trillion and counting. In less than two weeks, the amount of money that Uncle Sam can borrow to pay his (our) bills will need to be increased. The Treasury Department has said it can take "extraordinary measures" to cover the federal debt, giving us a bit more time beyond May 19 when we technically hit the debt ceiling. But the debt ceiling debate is heating up. Debt fight resumes: The Republican-controlled House this week may take up the Full Faith and Credit Act. This measure would allow the Treasury to take on... Read more →


Donating money to help reduce the federal debt is one of the more unusual charitable tax deductions. It's also today's Daily Tax Tip. Long-time readers know I have blogged about this before, but the federal deficit is getting more attention nowadays, thanks in large part to a group of Senators and Representatives for whom stanching the flow of the country's red ink is paramount. These members of Congress don't want the federal government to raise taxes to help reduce the ever-growing national debt, which as I type is $16,784,854,240,304. Check out USDebtClock.org to see how much it has already increased.... Read more →


The wide ranging federal budget cuts known as sequestration have been in place for a month now and some folks definitely are starting to feel the effects. It's possible that Congress could come up with a budget that would ameliorate some of the $85 billlion in sequester pain being felt across the country. But don't expect it to be an easy process. Several fiscal year 2014 budget proposals have been released so far, including the Republican version from the House (Rep. Paul Ryan's "The Path to Prosperity") and the Democratic proposal out of the Senate (Sen. Patty Murray's "Foundation for... Read more →


President Obama's been making the rounds on Capitol Hill, trying to woo supporters for a grand bargain, a bipartisan agreement to reduce the deficit. The problem is that both Democrats and Republicans are still entrenched in their traditional approaches to dealing with the country's finances. The GOP wants to take an almost total spending reduction route. Dems want to add some new revenue, aka taxes, to the mix. As part of his effort to get the loyal opposition at least talking, Obama visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday (March 13) and met with the House Republican Conference. Seven GOP Representatives got... Read more →


Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate today unveiled their budgets for Fiscal Year 2014, which begins Oct. 1. Each side declared the other's proposal dead on arrival. The president was supposed to have, by law, delivered his budget on the first Monday in February. In case you don't have a calendar handy, that was Feb. 4. But the White House now says it will have its financial wish list ready on April 8. That date is significant because it's the day that Congress returns to work after its spring break. Capitol Hill watchers speculate that the Administration's... Read more →


'Obama' explains sequester effects on Saturday Night Live

We're starting our first full week of sequestration 2013. Before the $85 billion in spending cuts kicked in on March 1, the White House issued fact sheets detailing what sequester might mean to each state. For folks who haven't read those predictions yet, Saturday Night Live's Obama, portrayed by Jay Pharoah, boils down what areas might suffer in this weekend's opening skit. Now I dare you to try to make it through the rest of the day without the Village People's "YMCA" playing on a continuous loop in your head! You also might find these items of interest: Despite sequester,... Read more →


Actually, tax reform will be H.R. 1. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has reserved that numerical designation for rewriting the tax code, according to The Hill newspaper's On the Money blog. Boehner has dibs on the first 10 bill numbers for the 113th Congress, but H.R. 1 generally is reserved for a signature legislative issue by the party that controls the House. "Reforming our tax code to get our economy going again and create jobs is a top priority for House Republicans,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told blogger Bernie Becker. Talking tax reform: It seems that tax reform, or at least... Read more →


President Obama is working on his annual budget, but we know one thing that he won't be asking Congress to approve: construction of a Death Star. Death Star by Krischan at Blitz Research Planet Creator forum The main reason is because building a "Star Wars" style space station/super weapon would cost an estimated $850,000,000,000,000,000. The Lehigh University students who arrived at that spectacular amount say it is roughly 13,000 times the world's gross domestic product and is for just the steel needed to complete the project. $850 quadrillion (yes, I looked up the name for 15 zeros) also is this... Read more →


Assume crash positions, people. We are going over the fiscal cliff. The Senate is still working on a proposal to deal with the expiring/expired tax provisions that are part of the fiscal cliff. The House, however, has called it a day. Regardless of what the Senate might do later today, the House will vote on it tomorrow at the earliest. So technically, we're all part of the Wyle E. Coyote cartoon family, dropping helplessly into a financial canyon. Cliff jump courtesy surfbunny.tumblr.com.. Realistically speaking, it won't matter that much if the final tax deal is done at 11:59 p.m. tonight... Read more →


You've got to give House Speaker John Boehner credit. He's united a diverse group of lawmakers, lobbyists and policy groups in their disdain for his fiscal cliff Plan B solution. House Speaker John Boehner making a fiscal cliff point on the House floor, Dec. 13, 2012. Photo courtesy the Speaker's office. So what's got folks shaking their heads? Among the proposals highlighted on the Speaker's web page are: Permanently extend the current income tax rates -- 10 percent to 35 percent -- for everyone making less than $1 million; for millionaires and more, the top rate would be the 39.6... Read more →