STEPHEN OHLEMACHER | 08/ 3/09 06:37 PM |
WASHINGTON — The recession is starving the government of tax revenue, just as the president and Congress are piling a major expansion of health care and other programs on the nation’s plate and struggling to find money to pay the tab.
The numbers could hardly be more stark: Tax receipts are on pace to drop 18 percent this year, the biggest single-year decline since the Great Depression, while the federal deficit balloons to a record $1.8 trillion.
Other figures in an Associated Press analysis underscore the recession’s impact: Individual income tax receipts are down 22 percent from a year ago. Corporate income taxes are down 57 percent. Social Security tax receipts could drop for only the second time since 1940, and Medicare taxes are on pace to drop for only the third time ever.
The last time the government’s revenues were this bleak, the year was 1932 in the midst of the Depression.
“Our tax system is already inadequate to support the promises our government has made,” said Eugene Steuerle, a former Treasury Department official in the Reagan administration who is now vice president of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
“This just adds to the problem.”
While much of Washington is focused on how to pay for new programs such as overhauling health care – at a cost of $1 trillion over the next decade – existing programs are feeling the pinch, too.
Social Security is in danger of running out of money earlier than the government projected just a few month ago. Highway, mass transit and airport projects are at risk because fuel and industry taxes are declining.