The federal budget deficit could hit $1 trillion this year with more tax dollars going to bail out failed financial institutions. Very little of that money is going to help the average American. Those tax dollars should be reinvested into the economy to stimulate growth. In particular, the government (including local and state) should spend on rebuilding our dilapidated infrastructure which would increase employment thus stimulating the economy. Also more of those funds should go to help homeowners late paying their mortgages due to no fault of their own. As for Wall St. and the banks, they should get loans with strings attached. No bailouts. The goal must be economic growth. You can't get the economy going by creating more unemployment. Any government program/bailout should be for the purpose of stimulating economic growth not saving individual corporations or financial institutions.
The federal government's ledger has gone from a surplus just seven years ago to facing a prospect of a $1 trillion deficit next year.
Given those dire financial straits, President-elect Barack Obama said at a news conference Tuesday, "Budget reform is not an option. It's a necessity."
But unlike his predecessor President George W. Bush, who in better economic times talked about returning to surpluses by 2012, "balanced budgets" were not in Obama's vocabulary.
The government's first obligation, he said, was to spark an economic recovery and put people back to work. To do that, the Democratic-led Congress is expected to have a new stimulus package, costing in the $500 billion range, ready to go when Obama takes office in January.
That's on top of the hundreds of billions already spent or committed by Treasury and the Federal Reserve to revive the moribund financial markets. On Tuesday the government announced two new programs providing $800 billion to help unfreeze the market for consumer debt and to make mortgage loans cheaper and more available.
All that, in the short term, will send the deficit into the stratosphere.
Budget hawks were stunned when the federal deficit hit a record $455 billion in fiscal 2008, which ended Sept. 30, more than double the previous year's deficit. But now, even the fiscally conservative say another doubling, to $1 trillion or more, may be inevitable if the economy is to be rescued.
James Horney, director for federal fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said it was "pretty likely" that this year's deficit will approach $1 trillion. Big deficits can't be helped in bad times, he said, as the government is required to spend more to help the needy and stimulate the economy even as tax revenues decline.
"The question, of course, is what's the alternative?" Horney said. If the government doesn't move to stimulate the economy, "the outcome could be much worse."
Obama made clear Tuesday that he will take a hard look at the budget once the economic ship is righted.
"We can't sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of politicians, lobbyists or interest groups. We simply can't afford it.
"This isn't about big government or small government. It's about building a smarter government that focuses on what works," he said.