How will this be spun?
By the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2012, the new debt accumulated in this fiscal year by the federal government had already exceeded $1 trillion, making this fiscal year the fifth straight in which the federal government has increased its debt by more than a trillion dollars, according to official debt numbers published by the U.S. Treasury.
Prior to fiscal 2008, the federal government had never increased its debt by as much as $1 trillion in a single fiscal year. From fiscal 2008 onward, however, the federal government has increased its debt by at least $1 trillion each and every fiscal year.
Bu … bu … but he has spent less money and created less debt than any president since Eisenhower.
E. J. Dionne, naturally, makes an effort today in the WaPo to do exactly that. Speaking of Obama and Democrats in Ohio and Colorado, he talks indirectly about the auto bailout:
None of this surprises Sen. Brown, a proud pro-union liberal who campaigned with Obama in Ohio last week. Brown notes that Obama has gained ground in his state both by being tough in enforcing trade rules on behalf of American companies and by pursuing a “high-end manufacturing strategy” that appeals to the nation’s “historical pride in manufacturing, and in making things.”
For Brown, who faces reelection this year, one of the voters he keeps in mind is the “guy in Zanesville who made big things with his hands and now has gone from $17 an hour to $11 an hour.”
The candidate who speaks to voters like Brown’s Zanesville worker — and to his white-collar equivalent in Colorado — is likely to win the election. Mitt Romney hopes the national unemployment rate will get them to vote Republican. Obama’s challenge is to offer an economics of national pride and renewal that answers the sense of betrayal these voters began feeling long before he took office.
That outlines some of the problem the Obama record has. Of course, unspoken here is the auto bailout and how that effected workers. The implication is the bailout was a net positive. Of course Obama, et al, think that workers will reward him for that move.
But the entire record of the auto bailout on the left has been one of spin. And most of that spin has been about as disingenuous as one can imagine. Even Dionne creeps around it by mentioning that the workers took a haircut in average salary (well, at least for new workers).
However, the assumption is that’s the worst that happened (hey, at least they still have a job) and workers will be grateful. Or, business as usual, a politician used taxpayer money and debt to buy votes, you have a problem with that?
Well yes, I do.
In fact, the auto bailout is a case study in crony capitalism. It is a situation where government interfered and overruled normal bankruptcy procedures, reorganized the payback priorities so debt holders were stiffed, bought up the majority of the stock in the new company (GM) and handed much of the control to a favored constituency (labor).
Then they told an absolute lie (GM has paid back its debt) and have consistently pretended that all is well with the company when it is not. This is the real result of the bailout:
General Motors (GM) shares fell to a fresh 2012 closing low of 19.57 on Monday. The stock hit 19 in mid-December, the lowest since the auto giant came public at $33 in November 2010 following its June 2009 bankruptcy.
Normally you might say, tough luck investors. But this is Government Motors. The Treasury still owns 26.5% of GM, or 500 million shares. Taxpayers are still out $26.4 billion in direct aid. Shares would have to hit $53 for the government to break even.
Those shares were worth about $9.8 billion as of Monday. That would leave taxpayers with a loss of $16.6 billion.
But that’s not the full tally. Obama let GM keep $45 billion in past losses to offset future profits. Those are usually wiped out or slashed, along with debts, in bankruptcy. But the administration essentially gifted $45 billion in write-offs (book value $18 billion) to GM. So when GM earned a $7.6 billion profit in 2011 (more on that below), it paid no taxes.
Include that $18 billion gift, and taxpayers’ true loss climbs to nearly $35 billion.
So that’s ground truth on where GM stands today. But that’s not helpful to Obama, is it? So how can Obama and company make this picture seem a little brighter? Well good old crony capitalism, that’s how. We have the end of the 2nd quarter nearing and it is critical to the spin of how well GM is doing to see good 2nd quarter results, no?
The upcoming earnings announcement by GM is, politically, the most important to date. The pressure is on Government Motors to appear financially strong as this may be the last earnings report before November elections and sets the stage for how "successful" GM is.
Well guess who is buying GM vehicles in huge quantities (HT: Steve)?
We now learn that government purchases of GM vehicles rose a whopping 79% in June.
The discovery of the pick-up in government fleet purchases at the taxpayers’ expense comes just weeks before GM announces its second quarter earnings. Overall fleet sales (which are typically less profitable than retail sales) at Government Motors rose a full 36% for the month, helping to drive decent sales improvements year over year.
Wow. What a surprise. Add a few accounting gimmicks:
One of GM’s past tricks to help fudge earnings numbers has been to stuff truck inventory channels. Old habits die hard at GM. According to a Bloomberg report, "GM said inventory of its full-size pickups, which will be refreshed next year, climbed to 238,194 at the end of June, a 135 days supply, up from 116 days at the end of May." 135 days supply is huge, the accepted norm is a 60 day supply. The trick here is that GM records revenue when vehicles go into dealership inventories, not when actually sold to consumers.
And you’re likely to see a “good” earnings report even when the stock is at an all time low, inventories are huge and crony capitalism instead of real sales is the means of spinning the news in a positive direction.
Remember that when you hear the GM “success story”.
And, of course, I say that facetiously. As it stands now, it has fostered more government regulation, more bureaucrats and more intrusion in epic proportion:
"There’s already 13,000 pages of regulations, and they’re not even done yet," Rehberg said.
"It’s a delegation of extensive authority from Congress to the Department of Health and Human Services and a lot of boards and commissions and bureaus throughout the bureaucracy," Matt Spalding of the Heritage Foundation said. "We counted about 180 or so."
So, minimally (we all know they’re not nearly done) 13,000 new pages of regulation, 180+ boards, commissions and bureaus and, of course, scads of bureaucrats to fill them.
Then there are the new broad powers granted HHS and the IRS.
Yes, friends, that’s right, this is how you make health care less expensive and better, not to mention making government less intrusive.
Probably the funniest thing, in a sad and ironic way, is the fact that there are still millions of people out there who believe the propaganda that sold this crap sandwich to the public. Someone among them I’m sure will someday be able to explain how adding costly regulations and layers upon layers of bureaucracy somehow helps reduce the cost of health care delivery.
According to James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, federal powers will include designing insurance plans, telling people where they can go for coverage and how much insurers are allowed to charge.
"Really, how doctors and hospitals are supposed to practice medicine," he said.
Wait, wasn’t one of the primary problems with the old system, per the Democrats, a problem of insurance companies telling doctors how to practice medicine?
See, solved by government, right?
In fact, one master has been replaced by another one, the newest master being the most inept, inefficient and corrupt of the two. And, of course, no one has yet explained how all of this is going to ensure people have better access to a doctor. Why? Because, quite simply, having insurance doesn’t guarantee care. And with the disincentives provided by massive increases in regulation (and the increase that will cost for compliance) and oversight via these board, commissions and bureaus, my guess is there will be fewer doctors in the future.
So prepare to enjoy the dawning of the age of ObamaCare and the attendant disappointment, shock and anger it will eventually engender among the public. There are some things that one shouldn’t mess with, and people’s health care is one of them.
A new study from CATO has found that despite trillions in spending, the poverty rate hasn’t moved much:
“[S]ince President Obama took office [in January 2009], federal welfare spending has increased by 41 percent, more than $193 billion per year,” the study says.
Federal welfare spending in fiscal year 2011 totaled $668 billion, spread out over 126 programs, while the poverty rate that remains high at 15.1 percent, roughly where it was in 1965, when President Johnson declared a federal War on Poverty.
In 1966, the first year after Johnson declared war on poverty, the national poverty rate was 14.7 percent, according to Census Bureau figures. Over time, the poverty rate has fluctuated in a narrow range between 11 and 15 percent, only falling into the 11 percent range for a few years in the late 1970’s.
The federal poverty rate is the percentage of the population below the federal poverty threshold, which varies based on family size.
A point that needs to be raised here is the poverty rate isn’t going to change no matter how much we spend because revisions to the threshold will always be such that about 15% of the population will be considered poor.
And, in a relative terms, they are indeed “poorer” than the other 85%.
The question is, are they really “poor” in real terms?
It depends on how you measure poverty, doesn’t it? You can’t spend taxpayer money on poverty unless “poverty” exists, right? But how many of our “poor” are truly poor?
Well, I’m not sure and neither is anyone else. That’s because of the way poverty is measured in the US. Essentially it is based solely on income.
The official poverty measure counts only monetary income. It considers antipoverty programs such as food stamps, housing assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid and school lunches, among others, “in-kind benefits” — and hence not income. So, despite everything these programs do to relieve poverty, they aren’t counted as income when Washington measures the poverty rate.
So guess what remains the same? The poverty rate. If “in-kind benefits” were included in income calculations for those receiving them, a lot fewer of them would be considered “poor”. And since it’s only based on income, many elderly who receive retirement incomes below the “poverty” threshold are considered to be poor despite the fact that they own paid off assets like houses and cars and live comfortably on that retirement income. But they pad the stats and help to continue to justify the programs and expenditures.
Do any of us have a problem with giving those who are down a hand up?
I don’t. But, I want a fair and reasonable determination of who really needs it before I extend that hand.
That’s something we’ve never, ever gotten since the beginning of the War on Poverty.
Are there real poor in this country. Yes, there probably are – but not 15%.
I know CATO’s study emphasized a lack of progress. It has nothing to do with “progress” against poverty – as noted, there will never be any progress made given the constant upward revision of the poverty level and the absurd way poverty is calculated in this country.
As with most programs the government runs, this is one in dire need of a complete and total overhaul.
And CATO’s study is useful in pointing that out – again.
Not that anything is likely to actually happen to address the problem or anything.
Yesterday, this came out (and, most surprisingly, on Ezra Klein’s blog, although not by Ezra Klein):
What’s the real harm of a massive government deficit? Carmen Reinhart, Vincent Reinhart, and Kenneth Rogoff find that high public debt is associated with a significantly lower level of GDP in the long run.
In a new paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, the researchers examined the historical incidence of high government debt levels in advanced economies since 1800, examining 26 different “debt overhang episodes” when public debt levels were above 90 percent for at least five years.
And what do you suppose they found?
The debt episodes included everything from Netherlands’ Napoleonic War debts and the Japan banking crisis of the 1990s to Greece’s current fiscal crisis. On average, the researchers found that growth during these periods of high debt were 1.2 percent lower on average, consistent with Reinhart and Rogoff’s findings in 2010. What they also found, however, was these episodes of high debt and lower growth were quite lengthy, averaging 23 years. And the accompanying long-term drag on GDP was substantial. “By the end of the median episode, the level of output is nearly a quarter below that predicted by the trend in lower-debt periods,” they explain.
Japan’s “lost decade” has lasted much more than a decade, hasn’t it?
And the policies being pursued by this president seem to be offering up an attempt to see if this country can’t move that average beyond 23 years.
Need a picture?
We’re at 101% of debt/GDP so, according to these folks, we’ll actually perform below the red line.
But hey, more spending please. Because, you know, we need more government jobs (the private sector is doing fine).
Forward (into economic oblivion)!
Are you wearing a cotton shirt? Undies? Neal Boortz is wondering:
Now while you’re sitting there surrounded by all that cottony comfort, I thought you might like to hear about the $20 million dollars that was spent last year by the Cotton Council International. Spent where? Spent in India, that’s where. Spent on what? Well …how about a reality show? Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? $20 million for an Indian reality show.
Not much right? But here’s the point. This is something repeated over and over and over again through unnecessary programs such as this using your tax dollars. Crony capitalism. The Cotton Council International needs your tax money like you need a hole in your head. They have members, let them finance the Cotton Council International. My bet is you wouldn’t see money spent like that.
Want to cut waste? Here’s a perfect example of where to begin cutting. As Boortz emphasizes:
Oh … and the $20 million? That came from YOU. It’s taxpayer money. Part of the Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program.
Now just remember that $20 million. That $20 million represents the entire federal income tax liability of about 2000 American families. That money is money taken from these families that could have been used to pay some past-due bills, get a home out of foreclosure, pay for a family vacation, or put that new roof on the house. But those families didn’t have that money to spend. They didn’t have it because some sharp lobbyist for the Cotton Council managed to talk some political types to seize that money instead and send it to India to swath some Indian babes in brightly colored sarongs for an Indian TV reality show.
Then there’s this little beauty for you to consider.
Amtrak, the heavily government subsidized and controlled passenger rail system, sent out this email to its customers:
Yes, it says exactly what you think it says. If you join a lobbying group that works to increase Amtrak subsidies, you will get a discount. Those who don’t join the lobbying group will pay full fare (such that it is). Or as the recipient of this email says:
Whatever you think of government funding for train travel in the United States, is it problematic that a government corporation will give people discounts if they pay to join an organization that will lobby the government for more subsidies?
Put another way, Americans who pay to support more subsidies get charged less to travel on subsidized trains than those who oppose the subsidies. Two classes of citizens, based on political beliefs, when riding the train?
Apparently that’s fine.
But remember, any cuts we make in spending will lay off police, teachers and fireman. Because everything else that’s being spent right now is both critical and necessary.
Tell me if you know which Republican Congressman said this:
"President Obama and others in Washington need to realize that we cannot spend our way to prosperity and that to in order to create jobs," … "We need to address unfair trade deals that ship jobs overseas and enact policies that allow us to take advantage of our vast natural resources such as coal and natural gas in a safe and responsible manner which will lower energy costs and create jobs and approving the Keystone XL Pipeline would be a good first step."
House Speaker Boehner? Paul Ryan? Eric Cantor?
Uh, no … it wasn’t a Republican at all. It was Rep. Mark Critz, D-PA. The guy who represents most of John Murtha’s old district. Does this sound like a guy who is wanting the president anywhere near his district as he runs for re-election?
Meanwhile the President gave a “major speech” yesterday in Ohio that was 54 minutes long and could be boiled down into one sentence – No change: more spending, more taxes, same old failed economic policies and blame Bush.
President Obama’s much-anticipated speech Thursday on the economy didn’t lay out any new initiatives or make any new arguments. It often sounded like a recap of his first three years, or another version of the familiar "how we got here" blamefest.
Meanwhile, going back to part of Rep. Critz criticism, the Keystone XL pipeline, something which would mean jobs for this country and a big step toward increasing our energy security, is indeed proceeding – toward China or elsewhere:
While Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, said in an interview that the United States would remain Canada’s “most important customer,” billions of barrels of oil that would have been refined and used in the United States are now poised to head elsewhere. Expansion of Canada’s fast-growing oil-sands industry will be restricted by the lack of pipeline capacity before the decade’s end, he said, which “adds to the urgency of building them so that the resources will not be stranded.”
Three new pipeline network proposals — two that call for heading west and the other east — have been put forward.
If ever there were a blunder of historic proportions, Obama’s petulant and politically motivated disapproval of the pipeline rank up in the top.
The scale of this blunder, which the President made ostensibly on environmental grounds, is compounded by the fact that there is no putting the genie back in the bottle. Once a new pipeline is built, Canada has no reason to return to selling its oil products solely to the U.S. at a reduced price. The decision not to approve Keystone XL makes Solyndra look like a stroke of genius.
Oh and finally, can anyone guess what was required to attend the President’s Ohio speech?
Yeah, that’s right – a photo ID.
The indispensible e21 goes after what it calls “the government sector of the economy canard”.
A recurring theme of commentary appearing in the New York Times and elsewhere is that the government is shrinking as a share of the economy. According to Floyd Norris, “the government sector of the American economy has shrunk during the first three years of a presidential administration” for the first time since the 1960s. This dangerous decline in government spending is thought by Norris and others to be responsible for the slow growth since the recovery officially began in July 2009.
The most straightforward way to assess the burden of government is by comparing total government outlays to gross domestic product (GDP). By this standard, the federal government is currently larger than at any point in post-War history. Between fiscal years 2009 and 2012, federal outlays averaged 24.4% of GDP, the highest government-to-GDP ratio since 1946 and 22% (4.4 percentage points) larger than the average size of government since the military demobilization following World War II of 20.0%.
The politics of the Norris approach is to make the canard seem to be reality in an attempt to portray the last three years as a conservative approach to our economic problems by the Obama administration:
Rather than measure actual government spending, which is at record levels, Norris instead focuses on the “government sector of the economy,” which is different conceptually from the actual size of government. Each dollar of government spending does not automatically contribute to GDP. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) only counts direct government purchases of goods and services or investments in capital equipment or infrastructure in the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA). When the government buys an airplane from Boeing, for example, it counts the same in the GDP as if the aircraft were purchased by United Airlines. The same accounting generally works for employee salaries, as government purchases of services provided by Commerce Department employees, for example, count as government consumption spending in GDP.
The difference between government spending and the government contribution to GDP is largely attributable to transfer payments, entitlements, and subsidies. In recent years, transfer payments have exploded upwards. As of March 2012, transfer payments were running at a $2.3 trillion annualized rate, or 15.2% of GDP. Over the past four years, transfer payments have grown at a compound annualized rate of 9.1%, or about 3.5-times faster than the economy. Since passage of the Obama Administration stimulus, transfer payments have accounted for more than 18% of household income. As the composition of government spending has shifted away from capital investments and towards transfers, the “government sector” of the economy has fallen even as government spending has reached record highs.
e21 then does a further analysis of the Norris claims and says while it would be easy to dismiss the Norris critique out of hand, it does have some resonance.
Norris’ talk of the decline in the “government sector” provides insight into the changing role of government – specifically as provider of infrastructure to one of enabling transfer payments:
As e21 explained previously, the growth in state and local government has come with no corresponding increase in public goods like infrastructure to show for it.
Not all spending cuts are the same:
Spending cuts for sequestration aimed at defense, for example, will reduce GDP on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Spending cuts on transfer payments and subsidies only reduce GDP to the extent that the dollar would have been spent or not otherwise earned. A dollar devoted to unemployment insurance that lengthens the duration of unemployment, for example, may actually reduce GDP.
Finally, given those explanations, why did the stimulus bomb?
President Obama’s stimulus was very poorly constructed. In 2009, Republicans criticized the stimulus as a “spending bill.” The President responded that increased government spending was the “whole point” of a stimulus. But based on the analysis of Norris and other commentators, the spending increase was obviously too oriented towards transfers instead of real purchases of goods and services. An effective stimulus based on government spending would have looked like the plan advocated by Martin Feldstein, which would have increased government purchases of military equipment and hardware. While left-leaning economists often lament the size of the President’s stimulus (i.e. wishing that it was even bigger), the composition or relative share of the type of spending was likely a much bigger problem.
It gives further credence to the assertion than economically, Mr. Obama is out of his element. He and Krugman (and most of the left) talk about the size of the stimulus. In fact, what it is spent on is more important than the size.
Meanwhile we’re headed into sequestration where precisely what would help the GDP on the government size of the ledger is on the chopping block (military equipment spending, etc.).
Couple that with "taxmageddon” and you can imagine the economic carnage possible in January.
One of the more persistent memes coming out of Wisconsin is the Democrats were badly outspent by the Republicans in the Wisconsin recall elections. Various ratios of 6, 7 or 8 to 1 have been tossed around.
But is that the case?
Altogether, at least $77.1 million surged into Wisconsin campaigns and political groups between Jan. 1, 2011 — two days before Walker took office — and April 23 of this year, according to campaign finance statements filed with the state Government Accountability Board.
The period covers the first 16 months of Walker’s tenure, including his controversial measure to effectively eliminate public sector collective bargaining, which turned the state into a national battleground and sparked 15 recall elections.
The bulk of that money — $71.9 million — was split about in half between Democratic candidates and affiliated organizations, and Republican candidates and their affiliated groups.
What some of those tossing around the ratios mentioned will do when pinned down about their numbers is then claim the ratio represents the amount spent by the Walker campaign as opposed to Tom Barrett’s campaign. Barrett, of course, entered the race at a fairly late date (primary), so certainly Walker, who had been under the recall gun for a while, had obviously raised and probably spent much more than Barrett was able to do.
But is that a fair point? Not really.
Katherine Cramer Walsh, a UW-Madison associate professor of political science, said the relative parity in fundraising was surprising, especially in light of a provision in state law that allows the targets of a recall to raise unlimited money between the time a recall drive is initiated and the time an election is called. That provision helped Walker raise millions more than he could otherwise. Through April, his campaign had raised at least $22.8 million, smothering his Democratic rivals.
“The perception out there is that the Republicans are much more flush with cash, and that isn’t supported here,” Cramer Walsh said.
Why? Because the vast majority of the money on the left went to other organizations instead of candidates and was spent during the entire time of the recall by these organizations, just as Walker was forced to do:
The State Journal’s analysis found that at least $35 million went to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Democratic candidates in recall elections and union groups including the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, Wisconsin Education Association Council and others.
On the right:
On the other side, at least $36.9 million flowed into the Walker campaign, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, pro-Walker groups and GOP officeholders tagged for recall, the analysis showed.
In the real world, that’s pretty much dead even on the money side of things (about $5.2 million in contributions went to third parties.)
Regardless though, it is soothing to the leftist ego to believe that their righteous cause was smothered by massive spending by the other side. It fits their ideology to a tee. So expect it to continue to be the excuse du jure coming out of Wisconsin and the main reason they will dismiss the results as a portent of national disaster and blame “outside corporate money” for all the evils in the world.
Frankly I hope they do continue to believe that to be true. It reminds me of their eternal belief that there’s nothing wrong with their message, it’s just the packaging and delivery that are faulty. Let’s add “massively outspent” to the false litany of woe for the left.
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)?