Just what does a $3.5 trillion spending package mean?

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The Politicus
Oct 02, 2021 11:25 PM 0 Answers
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We are now two days into October 2021; and two days into the new federal fiscal year, FY2022. It seems like a good time to take stock.

We've got the President's complete, authentic online version of the FY2022 budget available digitally from the OMB. And the government is temporarily funded (till December 3rd). So the shutdown has been averted for now. And the usdebtclock is still ticking away.

Note: As of this writing, that debt clock says the US FEDERAL SPENDING (OFFICIAL) is about $6.87T, and the FEDERAL BUDGET DEFICIT (OFFICIAL) is about $3.0T. These figures may be helpful for comparison. We don't actually need to discuss the debt to answer my question.

(It appears that "OFFICIAL" means these two figures are sourced from the U.S. Treasury. Are these annualized figures as opposed to the "actual" figures listed on the same page? Surely we haven't spent trillions of dollars in the first few days of the fiscal year.)

But there are Democrats in Congress still arguing about a 3.5 trillion dollar package! So my question is, at a high level, what does that $3.5T figure mean? ( Let's assume the package gets passed through both houses and signed by the President.)

  • Is the $3.5T already in the President's budget; or
  • Is it an additional one-time $3.5T expenditure in FY2022; or
  • How long does it take to spend the $3.5T; and
  • How long does he plan to take in paying off the borrowing necessary to spend the $3.5T?
  • Are the answers in his budget or somewhere else?

Fact & Opinion & Separation of Powers

I've asked for a factual response to the seemingly simple question about the fiscal topics so much in the political news recently. I can certainly up the ante with a bounty on the question to gain more eyes on the subject. But, before I do, I want to establish the ground rules...

  1. Please do not use comments on this question to express opinions on the topic raised. Instead, a chat room should be set up for that purpose.

  2. It's a factual question, seeking documented facts citing someone with legal authority to make such statements. In other words, please don't quote a newspaper editorial unless it cites someone with legal authority, like the head of the Office of Management and Budget.

  3. If the initial 3.5 trillion dollar example is too hard to support, try the earlier 1.2? trillion in dollar "infrastructure" bill. That at least must have a definition somewhere, as the Senate already passed it.

  4. The numerical amounts in some official financial statements don't have to match the political numbers to count. I fully expect that politicians will slant numbers, the question becomes by how much.

@Fizz's comment that "only a few people understand how that's calculated" may be true, it's certainly not an acceptable answer, but it well states the problem. But without proof that such rare people really understand it and have the authority to make fiscal claims for the US, a reasonable but unproven assumption would be that default has already occurred. A classic default on the obligations of the US is clearly within reasonable possibility in the immediate future.

I'm not saying the posit of default is proper but trying to apply the scientific method. A hypothesis that should in principle be disprovable with factual evidence. Answers to the above questions, supported with facts, might prove a foundation for proving my broader hypothesis wrong.

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  • October 2, 2021