Friday, September 30, 2016

How Bad Is Illinois' Current General Fund Deficit? (from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability)

An interesting story in Thursday's Chicago Sun-Times, "Rauner, legislative panel have $2.4-billion deficit disagreement", highlighted just how different it is to calculate Illinois' current General Fund deficit.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) - the Illinois General Assembly's independent budget analysts projected that total state spending for the current fiscal year (FY2017) which began on July 1, will ultimately be $39.5 billion, but that revenue would only come in at $31.8 billion, leaving nearly a $7.8 billion deficit.  

On Wednesday, Rauner's administration disagreed maintaining the budget deficit would be $5.4 billion. Budget Director Tim Nuding said the commission didn't factor in several key sources of revenue, including the full amount of federal reimbursements to the state for Medicaid anticipated for FY2017.

What's really troubling is that both of these projections of the General Fund deficit only compare anticipated, year-in FY2017 spending to FY2017 revenues. Neither are factoring the accumulated deficit left over at the end of FY2016, and thus both COGFA and the Governor's Budget Office understate the true General Fund deficit in Illinois. (The "General Fund" is the part of the state budget that pays for the services that affect most people's education, healthcare, public safety, and human services.)


At the end of FY2015, the state's General Fund deficit was $5.97 billion. CTBA's analysis shows that the accumulated deficit grew by some $3.13 billion over the course of FY2016, to a total of $9.1 billion.

In other words, Illinois began FY2017 with $9.1 billion in unpaid bills. That means that even if we balanced this year's revenue with this year's expenses, we'd still have a $9.1 billion deficit.

Of course, that means both deficit projections quoted in the Sun-Times article understate the true accumulated deficit by $9.1 billion. After this carry forward deficit is included, the projected FY2017 General Fund deficit balloons to either $14.5 billion, using the Governor's estimates, or $16.9 billion using COGFA's.

Another way to look at the General Fund deficit is [to think of it] as a percentage of General Fund service appropriations. CTBA's analysis projects the state to spend $24.69 billion on General Fund services in FY2017. Using the Governor's projected FY2017 deficit figures, 58.7 percent of all General Fund service appropriations aren't paid for by FY2017 revenues. Since COGFA projects the FY2017 deficit to be even greater, using its numbers, that figure is 68.4 percent.

What does this all mean? The state's financial condition continues to deteriorate due to a lack of revenue. Whether the General Fund deficit is $14.5 billion or $16.9 billion, it's definitely unsustainable. Between 59 percent and 68 percent of FY2017 spending is deficit spending. And Illinois will continue on this deficit spending path until it increases revenue. But in order to do that, the state needs to fix its flawed tax policy in order to generate additional revenue (see "It Is All About Revenue: A Common Sense Solution for Illinois' Fiscal Solvency" for CTBA's suggestions to fix the state's revenue problems). Until then, the trend of growth in the accumulated deficit is likely to occur past FY2017.

-from Bobby Otter, CTBA Budget Director
September 30, 2016

My Commentary:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Donald Fallacious Trump

A Sample of Trump’s Fallacies:

Non Sequitur: Trump’s assertions or conclusions are not necessitated by any premise(s). Most of the time, there are no logical premises for an argument. Consider: “Excuse me. I will bring back jobs. You [Hillary Clinton] can’t bring back jobs… Well, I’m really calling for major jobs because the wealthy are going to create tremendous jobs… I have a great company. I have tremendous income, and the reason I say it is not a braggadocios way. It’s because it is about time that this country had somebody running it that has an idea about money… I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament” (First presidential debate, Sept. 26).

Name Calling: Trump often uses name calling to stigmatize his opponents’ points of view. “He has attacked every Republican candidate, including Hillary Clinton. He has called Clinton a ‘bigot’; he has attacked her as ‘brainwashed,’ ‘unhinged,’ ‘a monster,’ ‘the devil” (Olbermann). 

However, “nice” whiny Trump said at the end of the first presidential debate: “I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate; it’s not nice… But it’s certainly not a nice thing that she’s done. It’s hundreds of millions of ads, and the only gratifying thing is I saw the polls come in today and with all of that money, over two hundred million spent and I’m either winning or tied.”

Slogans: Trump’s short, catchy phrases are intended for general consumption and designed to terminate thought and promote action in favor of himself. “Make America Great Again” is meaningless. His favorite qualifiers To be honest with you” and “believe me” are signals for dishonesty. 

Fallacy Ad Hominem: Instead of addressing important issues, Trump will choose to attack a person’s character or physical attributes. We all remember when Trump ridiculed a disabled reporter.

Fallacy of Racism: Trump has repeatedly revealed false prejudices against a genetic class or ethnic group of human beings. He “attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel because he was of Mexican descent; he attacked Mexicans by calling them rapists who bring drugs and crime to America; he has proposed a wall along the Mexican border to keep out undocumented immigrants; he has proposed banning Muslims from entering this country as well…” (Olbermann). 

Fallacy of Prejudice: Trump's unwillingness to examine fairly any evidence and reasoning in behalf of a person or idea which is the object of his bias reveals his bigotry. (See examples from Fallacy of Racism).

Fallacy of Composition: Trump reasons improperly from a member of a group to a property of the group itself. (See also examples from Fallacy of Racism) 

Fallacy of Argument (ad nauseam): Trump’s claims are sustained by repetition, usually platitudes, rather than by reasoned proof of argument. “Make America Great Again…” 

Fallacy of Argument (ad antiquitam): Trump uses irrelevant, out-of-context appeals to a time past in order to justify a supposed better future without proof of argument. “I’m going to make America great again.”

Fallacy of Concurrency: Because some things exist or appear simultaneously, Trump claims that one is the cause of the other. He believes President Obama and Hillary Clinton created ISIS. He also said, “Our country is suffering because people like Secretary Clinton have made such bad decisions in terms of our jobs and in terms of what is going on…” (First presidential debate, Sept. 26).

Trump’s Appeal to Hatred (ad odium): He has “attacked Gold Star parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, and then juxtaposed their names with the phrase ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’; he has ‘offered to pay the legal fees of any supporter who becomes physically violent against a heckler; he has encouraged crowd members to harass and threaten a reporter, who he called out by name and who then needed Secret Service protection; he has proposed ‘ideological certification’ for immigrants; he has proposed worse than waterboarding while praising how Saddam Hussein, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-un handled protest and terrorism; he has proposed that American civilians be tried by military commissions at Gitmo; he has proposed killing the families of terrorists or suspected terrorists…” (Olbermann).

Trump’s Appeal to Fear (ad metum): He has proposed a wall along the Mexican border to keep out undocumented immigrants; he has said “we are a nation that is seriously troubled… [The Chinese] are taking our jobs… [Our] companies are leaving [our country]… I mean there are thousands of them… Our energy policies are a disaster…” (First presidential debate, Sept. 26).

Trump’s Appeal to Ridicule: He attempts to influence people to accept or reject a person or issue by poking fun at those who oppose the proposition. (We all remember the so-called Republican debates).

Argument by Innuendo: Trump uses derogatory suggestions; when arguing he also uses suggestions in place of evidence. He “attacked Megyn Kelly for having ‘blood coming out of her wherever’” (Olbermann).

Causal Oversimplification: Trump reasons improperly complex events through references to only one or two probable causes; whereas, many are responsible. In this case, and without stating any of the causes of the problems, he has claimed he will “fix the problems of African-Americans” (Olbermann).

Strawman Fallacy: Trump restates his opponent’s argument falsely and then exaggerates the consequences that may follow from his vulgarization. (the so-called Republican debates).

Tabloid Thinking: To think in tabloids is to over simplify a complex theory or set of circumstances. Trump prefers quick, short summaries. “The wealthy are going to do great things”; “it’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch…” and “We have a Fed that is doing political things. This Janet Yellen of the Fed is doing political by keeping interest rates at this level” (First presidential debate, Sept. 26).

Reductive Fallacy: Trump reduces complexity to simplicity while speaking about causal explanations. Trump stated: “Had we taken the oil [in Iraq], and we should have taken the oil, ISIS would not have been able to form…” By the way, this would also be illegal under international law. (First presidential debate, Sept. 26).

Selected Instances: Support is drawn for his positions by choosing only those cases or instances which back them up and disregarding those cases or instances which either contradict or do not support his positions. This is Trump's modus operandi.

Red Herring Fallacy: Trump often uses irrelevant points to divert attention from the main issues. Trump said to Clinton: “No wonder you’ve been fighting ISIS your entire adult life.” (Yes, most of us know ISIS formed in 2013) (First presidential debate, Sept. 26).

Unethical Quips (Though not considered fallacies; nevertheless, they are egregious remarks and quite revealing of his character): During the debate: On whether Trump has paid any federal taxes, his reply: “That makes me smart.” On people losing their homes and life savings during the recent recession and Trump profiting off their losses, his reply: “That’s called business, by the way.” For not paying a person he hired to do work, his reply: Maybe he didn't do a good job...” 

Begging the Question: Trump assumes as true what has yet to be proved. That applies to just about everything he says!

-Glen Brown

I used many of the above examples for Trump’s fallacies from 176 Reasons Why Trump Shouldn’t Become President by Keith Olbermann; I gleaned others from the first presidential debate.