Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Deficits: Government and Oil

We're hearing a lot about the problem of deficit spending these days. It appears to have been taken on as the primary windmill with which the new House of Representatives has chosen to do combat. How much debt did the Federal Government incur last year?

$1,641,103,866,572.30 ($1,641 Billion)

No wonder people are concerned!

It's easy to find and track at Treasury Direct (I've put the link below) but there's another number that troubles me, too. It's what I call the oil deficit. People don't jump up and down and shout about it, but I think we should be concerned. Very concerned. That number, as of the last September 30, was:

$254,062,422,178.65 ($254 Billion)

Not as big, not as easy to track down, but very serious. This is the amount of money we (Americans) spent to purchase oil from abroad between October 1, 2009, and September 30 last year. It represents about 63% of the oil we use.

That money contributes mightily to our trade deficit, though it was only 15% of the Federal debt incurred in the same period . Let's compare it to a few other relevant figures:

  • $254B is nearly 7 times larger than the $38B budget cut enacted last week
  • $254B is nearly 170 times larger than the $1.5B cut from high speed rail
  • $254B is nearly 7 times larger than the $37B collected in Federal gas tax last year

Did you catch that? We send almost seven times as much money overseas for oil as we do to the Federal Government for highways and transit.

I'm told most Americans no longer believe in climate change, but even for that questionable majority, these figures should raise an alarm about our dependence on overseas oil:

  • $22B is what we sent to outright unfriendly countries for oil. During the same period, the Federal Government spent only $7B, about one-third as much, for public transit in this country.
  • $55B is what we sent to questionable allies. During the same period, the Federal Highway Trust Fund spent only $32B on highways in our own country.

No wonder there's so much pressure to cut back on spending for rail and transit: it's pretty clear who stands to gain, but it's not the American people. And it seems those who gain have ever-deepening pockets.

Am I the only one who finds something wrong with this picture?