Volume 7 Issue 26a_Sun Bay Paper

The Sun Bay Paper Page 10 April 8, 2022 - April 14, 2022 A Bad Dream Budget, and More Bad News It’s budget time and President Biden delivered his 2023 budget proposal a few days ago, two months late. My review of the proposal disclosed that its ne’er-do-well assumptions and computations would qualify as a “great wonder of the modern world.” Total spending is $5.8 trillion, 31% higher than the 2019 federal budget. Over the next 10 years, expenditures are projected to total $73 trillion. ......... Think about that. The proposal is full of speculative assumptions and rosy projections. CPI is assumed to flatten after 2023 at just over 2.3%. Inflation is assumed to reduce significantly, and the budget is loaded with tax increases. The national debt in 2032 is projected at $45 trillion. It’s hard to believe anything like that could be approved. Now, about that other bad news. The national debt seems to be growing at the speed of light. In March of 2020, just as COVID was building a head of steam, the national debt was a “mere” $23.5 trillion. Shocking at the time, for sure. But if that sounds modest to you, it’s because after a short and painful two years, that number has grown by almost 30% to approximately $30.5 trillion. COVID stimulus payments account for much of this. Some democrat politicians insist on separating the elements of the “budget/spending/tax/ borrowing” continuum.” They want spending and debt limit decisions to be separated. Quite the contrary, responsible fiscal management demands that the debt limit act as a direct check on spending. Here’s how these elements work together: Government programs create spending requests. Spending decisions naturally lead to tax and borrowing decisions. Net borrowing requirements result in deficits, often followed by a need to increase the national debt. And that’s when the inevitable partisan congressional infighting begins. While that’s not good news, it isn’t what I consider the really bad news. Periodically, I like to remind myself and others that “national debt” comprises only a small portion of total U.S. obligations. The missing amounts are referred to quite simply as “unfunded liabilities.” These obligations have a cash flow impact just as real as the repayment of our “national debt.” The main difference is that the national amount represents money we’ve already borrowed to pay for past expenditures. You and I are most familiar with these obligations in the form of U.S. Treasury bonds, Treasury notes, and Treasury bills. Examples of unfunded liabilities include Social Security, Medicare, federal employee benefits, veterans’ benefits, and several other programs. The projected obligations include amounts for current program participants only, not future participants. Some pundits point out that those programs are supported by dedicated trust funds for paying future obligations, Social Security and government employee retirement plans for example. But those trust balances are primarily IOUs from the federal government, not cash or deposits. The federal government has borrowed and spent those funds and will have to increase taxes or create new obligations, i.e., increase national debt, to repay those IOUs. Corporations regulated by a government agency such as the SEC must measure and report those obligations on their financial statements. Omitting that information would result in charges of issuing fraudulent financial statements, and other transgressions. The government, however, escapes such scrutiny and I’m unaware of any official tracking of these unfunded liabilities. I’ve been reviewing estimates of unfunded liabilities for over a decade and am comfortable with $220 trillion as a reasonable current estimate of total U.S. obligations. This includes both “national debt” and as well as “unfunded liabilities.” That total is what worries me most. Some would solve this problem by simply taxing the richest Americans. But if we confiscated all the wealth of the top 1% of U.S. households, we could pay off the national debt, but after doing so, however, the entire unfunded liability of almost $200 trillion would remain. Thirty percent of our national wealth would have disappeared, and we couldn’t look to those rich folks for taxes or investment capital. If the President’s budget request is indicative of the left-wing plan for future spending, we can expect a huge fiscal nightmare very soon. We need to do all we can to “stand athwart” this process, as instructed by the late William F. Buckley Jr. myslantonthings.com Steve Bakke, Fort Myers Proper Method To Lay Decking Wood Dear James: I am building a large new L-shaped deck. I am not sure about how to position and attach the decking boards because of the L shape. Do you have any tips? -- Greg S. Dear Greg: Fitting and attaching the decking boards is usually the easiest part of a deck building project. An Lshaped deck makes it a bit more complicated, but still doable. Locating the posts and the joists properly is particularly important for a strong, stable deck with no sagging. Once you have the posts and joists installed, protect them from rot and insect damage prior to laying the decking. Even though the lumber for the joists should be pressure-treated, the pressure treatment may not have fully penetrated the wood. This is often true with lumber made from fir. The nails or screws, which attach the deck boards, slightly split the top of the joists and this allows moisture to enter deep into the wood. In order to protect the joists from this potential moisture damage, cut plastic film into long, narrow strips. The strips should be wide enough to cover the top of the joists. Three inches wide is a good target. Staple these strips over the top of the joists before installing the decking boards. For the best appearance, select the proper length decking boards for the specific deck. If the deck is short enough so that one decking board can span it, use single boards that are at least one inch longer than the deck. This will provide some overhang for a smooth trim-cut edge. In your case, with a large deck, you will need several boards to span the entire length. Don't just buy the longest boards possible and then use shorter pieces to finish the span. Select a variety of board lengths to create a random pattern of joints and don't make any of them too short. Just use your judgment as to what combination of lengths looks good. You have two options of where to start laying the boards: either at the house wall or the deck rim. Starting at the rim is easier because you do not have to plan the location of each board. If there is space for only a narrow board at the house, it will be supported well and won't look bad. On the other hand, if you start at the house, plan the spacing of the boards. You don't want to attach all the boards and then find you have room for only a very narrow board at the outer rim. This board will be difficult to attach securely, and it will look bad. At the rim edge, snap a chalk line across the joists at the location of the edge of the first board plus 1/4 inch. This extra quarter inch allows you to see the line when you are laying the first row of boards. Attach them at every fifth joist and then check to make sure everything is straight and even. When you are satisfied, screw them in with two screws to every joist. Space the screws the same distance from each edge of each board for a symmetric fastener pattern. Use spacer blocks for uniform spacing between the boards. James Dulley