U.S. leaders must spend surplus responsibly

As the presidential race continues, political posturing naturally ensues. Gore appeases democratic dreams of successful federal projects, and Bush outlines generous tax cuts. Now, after discovering an unexpected surplus, the government seems poised to deliver on its promises. The presidential hopefuls can scrap their original estimates and envision large-scale tax cuts and projects. The truth, however, is that the money is smaller than the initial superficial $3 trillion estimates. Politicians, anxious to please voters, must remember that both federal projects and tax cuts can change trajectory over time, inflating in cost well beyond their original budget.
The government originally committed the $2.3 trillion Social Security surplus to aiding the elderly and aging U.S. population. More recently, however, Republicans and Democrats wisely agreed that part of the Social Security surplus should be used to pay off the national debt. The debate over the remaining money, estimated at $800 billion, seems to be up for grabs between presidential candidates, each eager to allocate the funding for Democratic or Republican proposals.
The economy-fueled budget surplus is certainly encouraging, but some experts still warn the market could cool off. Meanwhile, many expert accounts indicate that government spending is growing. Both political parties agreed to override the 1997 balanced budget caps and either increase spending or lower taxes significantly.
With a surplus, the candidates might feel tempted to dole out the favors: Gore implementing new government projects and Bush swiftly cutting taxes. Both will, no doubt, cite the booming economy and growing surplus as justification for their actions, claiming they can only make things better for the future. Fortunately, the massive Social Security surplus has already been allocated toward a worthy and fiscally conservative project. Unlike federal projects and tax cuts, the national debt has a clear point of resolution. Democrats and Republicans can forever squabble over high taxes or expensive public funding, but now both parties can begin making definite progress toward a discernible goal.
For these reasons, the cooperation between major parties — so unexpected during the tumultuous election year — deserves praise. Some opponents of the debt-reduction plan claim that Democrat support for paying off the debt is simply an excuse to deny future tax cuts proposed by Republicans. However, the two parties did agree to allocate the Social Security surplus to paying off the debt. Still, the leftover $800 billion remains vulnerable to hasty spending. In the new surplus era of government spending, Republicans will successfully cut taxes and Democrats will implement federal projects, but how much of the surplus money is spent remains to be seen. With the economy coasting along so well on its own accord, some things can wait. We are not engulfed in a crisis. The next president must allocate funds with fiscal responsibility in mind.