Free Markets, Free People


Circling the drain

The NY Times has an article out saying that extended unemployment benefits are beginning to wind down.  Of course that’s in the face of at least 5 million still unemployed.   And while it obviously has to happen, i.e. the cut-off of extended unemployment benefits,  my guess is that Democrats are less likely to want it to happen than Republicans.

In case you haven’t heard there’s an election soon.

But, that said, it does take us to a number that should concern everyone:

49.1%: Percent of the population that lives in a household where at least one member received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2011.

Cutting government spending is no easy task, and it’s made more complicated by recent Census Bureau data showing that nearly half of the people in the U.S. live in a household that receives at least one government benefit, and many likely received more than one.

Yes, that number.  49.1%.  Why should we be concerned about it?  Well if I have to explain, you most likely won’t get it anyway.  Make this comparison:

The 49.1% of the population in a household that gets benefits is up from 30% in the early 1980s and 44.4% as recently as the third quarter of 2008.

That’s a very large increase from 1984.  It speaks, at least to me, of dependence.  Now I know the recession has somewhat skewed the numbers.  Got it.  And, as the unemployment benefits wind down, the number will probably drop.

But in reality it points to a trend in which more and more people depend on less and less working people to help pay their way (CBO says food stamp rolls will continue to grow through 2014).  What this points too is increased government spending (no matter how you slice it – those drawing money from the government is up and that means government is spending more) in an era we can’t afford it.

With increased government spending comes the need to pay for it, and if taxes aren’t going to increase that means deficits. Nearly three-quarters of Americans blame the U.S. budget deficit on spending too much money on federal programs, according to a Gallup poll last year, but when the conversation turns to which programs to cut, the majorities are harder to find. For example, 56% of respondents oppose making significant changes to Social Security or Medicare.

Why do you suppose that is? Why would 56% oppose making significant changes to Social Security or Medicare?

Because they have a vested financial interest in the two programs.  Government has, for decades, taken money out of their pay check, spent it on other things and over promised the benefits.  Or to simplify it for you, they’ve grossly mismanaged the two programs to the point that anyone in the private sector would be in jail.

And yet, the number of Americans getting benefits from government continues to trend upward.

Can you not spot the big red kangaroo here?

Why is it obvious to everyone but our politicians (yeah, that’s a rhetorical question for those wondering)?


Twitter: @McQandO

TARP IG blasts program

So much for administration spin about the effectiveness of TARP. Neil Barofsky, TARP’s special inspector general, deals the administration narrative a shot to the head. In effect, he tells Americans angry about the program they have a right to be:

…[M]any Americans to continue to view TARP with anger, cynicism, and mistrust. While some of that hostility may be misplaced, much of it is based on entirely legitimate concerns about the lack of transparency, program mismanagement and flawed decision-making processes that continue to plague the program.

Some specifics:

“When Treasury refuses for more than a year to require TARP recipients to account for the use of TARP funds, or claims that Capital Purchase Program participants were “healthy, viable” institutions knowing full well that some are not, or when it provides hundreds of billions of dollars in TARP assistance to institutions, and then relies on those same institutions to self-report any violations of their obligations to TARP, it damages the public’s trust to a degree that is difficult to repair.”

Ya think? And you remember all the rhetoric about forestalling foreclosure? Uh, FAIL:

[T]he most specific of TARP’s Main Street goals, “preserving homeownership,” has so far fallen woefully short, with TARP’s portion of the Administration’s mortgage modification program yielding only approximately 207,000 (out of a total of 467,000) ongoing permanent modifications since TARP’s inception, a number that stands in stark contrast to the 5.5 million homes receiving foreclosure filings and more than 1.7 million homes that have been lost to foreclosure since January 2009.

Now, I’m not agreeing that any of that should have been done – this is about claims the administration and Democrats made for spending the money.

Question: where has the money really gone?

Oh, and you remember “spurring lending” as a key reason for TARP? Not so much.  In fact, not much at all:

“TARP has failed to ‘increase lending,’ with small businesses in particular unable to secure badly needed credit. Indeed, even now, overall lending continues to contract, despite the hundreds of billions of TARP dollars provided to banks with the express purpose to increase lending.”

Meanwhile in the "moral hazard" department – success:

“…[I]ncreased moral hazard and concentration in the financial industry continue to be a TARP legacy. The biggest banks are bigger than ever, fueled by Government support and taxpayer-assisted mergers and acquisitions. And the repeated statements that the Government would stand by these banks during the financial crisis has given a significant advantage to the larger “too big to fail” banks, as reflected in their enhanced credit ratings borne from a market perception that the Government will still not let these institutions fail, although the impact of this cost may be blunted by recently enacted regulatory reform.”

Almost a trillion dollars and they really don’t know where it has gone. Additionally, they’ve not at all achieved the goals for which they tried to tell the public this money was so damned important.

Lack of transparency?  Mismanagement?  Flawed decision-making?  Why weren’t those things included in the administration’s spin. 

And we just let them take health care from us as well.