Should we spend the surplus on the national debt?

A viewer asked this question on 3/26/2000:

In preparing for a debate, I am finding it difficult to find information on what will be covered. If you could give me some websites in particular which would be of assistance I would be greatly appreciated. I would also like your opinion about what would be the pros and cons of using the budget surplus for national debt?

budgetanalyst gave this response on 3/26/2000:

I have collected a series of relevant links at my web site, I have a page,, which explains the links pages.

The page has a link to the Washington Post special report on major budget issues, which deals with the debt. I highly recommend reading this material; it is clear and short. (If you are short of time, this is the one place you should visit.)

For a good analysis of the current budget debate, not obfuscated by political posturing, you should visit The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities does an excellent, objective analysis of the numbers in the budget. (At URL, link also at my site.)

The page has a series of links to the Federal budget documents as well as information on the debt. You will find that four or five of the links lead to the materials you are looking for.

As far as the use of the surplus to pay down the national debt is concerned, I personally see only one use: Pay it down. The reason is that most of the surplus is the Social Security surplus, and the S. S. trust funds are government debt. When S. S. will need the money, the government will have to borrow it to pay back the bonds it issued to S. S., so the lower the national debt the easier it will be to do this. I cannot think of a better, or more moral, use of this part of the surplus. (In fact, I think it would immoral to use it for other purposes. This is the issue that President Clinton is talking about when he says that the surplus should not be used for tax cuts.) You can figure out the other side of this argument - using this current surplus for tax cuts or other purposes would be at the expense of Social Security.

The smaller part of the surplus, the non-Social Security one, is small and mostly fake. It is based on the assumption that Congress will dramatically cut the expenses of the government below what they were in the past. This will never happen - they failed to do this for 2000, and it is clear that they will fail to do this for 2001. The reason it will never happen is that the government does have some jobs to do, and pretending that it does not and that the resources don't have to be provided is sheer fantasy. So this part of the surplus is also fantasy and not worth serious consideration by sane people.

Hope this answers you questions, and remember that experts like to have their work rated.

A viewer rated this answer:

I was very impressed by not only the content, but also the amount of incredible and relative information given. Thank you doesn't begin to say enough, but thank you.

JesseGordon responded:


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