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The Federal Budget and the National Debt

Congress and Fiscal Gridlock

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The federal government is running huge budget deficits; it is spending more money than it takes in through taxes. This means the government must borrow to pay for its programs.

With spending increasing during the past several years, the federal debt has soared and fiscal issues have come to the forefront in Washington. Budget experts warn that the federal debt, if not wrestled under control, eventually will lead to a fiscal crisis. Foreign nations and others that help pay for our programs by purchasing bonds and other financial instruments may simply refuse to purchase them because they are afraid that we won't be able to pay them off.

There is great division among policymakers about how to solve the debt problem. Generally, the debt problem can be solved in one of two ways: decreasing spending or raising taxes and user fees. A combination of these two approaches would work too.

The two major choices strike at the very heart of the philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans usually oppose tax increases and believe in a more limited federal government. Democrats usually believe that government should help people through programs and that taxes on more wealthy people and some big businesses should be increased.

Understanding the Federal Budget

The National Debt Limit
Explains what the debt limit is and why it is always the subject of controversy.

Entitlement Programs
Explains what entitlement programs are, why they are important in the federal budget and how they impact the national debt.

The Difference Between Authorization and Appropriations
Just because a federal program is authorized, doesn't mean it will be funded. This article explains the confusion.

Federal Budget Mess

Budget Deadlines: Made To Be Missed
Congress is not good at meeting the budget deadlines set in law, but no punishment is attached.

Suggested Fixes to the Federal Budget Process

The Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution
Explains what the Balanced Budget Amendment would do and the arguments for and against its implementation.

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