Free Markets, Free People
It’s worse than you thought and, of course, worse than they projected. Here’s the updated deficit spending chart:
Check out the gray “actual” numbers for the last two years. There is nothing trending down. Reminds one of the promises about unemployment and the “stimulus”, doesn’t it?
As for your part, well, nothing unexpected there – you’re and your kids and their kids are on the hook for a lot more than projected as well:
Yup, let’s give him 4 more years, shall we? I’m sure his administration could change the direction of this chart as well. We could “unexpectedly” owe $40,000 each by the time that term finished up.
Obviously it must be me, because I cannot figure out why anyone would contemplate giving such an abject failure another 4 yearshot at making their lives even worse. It’s time for a little accountability.
Seriously – I believe in second chances, however I don’t believe everyone deserves one. Barack Obama is one of those who doesn’t deserve a second chance.
I tend to be more optimistic than Dale about the near-to-intermediate future for the economy and for the culture. This may be unusual for a libertarian, but I’m heartened by many of the ways in which our opponents’ system is unsustainable.
Let me start by saying that, given a certain size of central government, libertarians could do worse than spending almost two-thirds of the budget on a few wealth transfer programs (Social Security and Medicare, both mostly funded by flat taxes, plus Medicaid, which gets much of its funding from the states) and a military like ours. Imagine if that money was spent employing domestic police and busybodies.
But even that government is fiscally unsustainable, so we expect our government to eventually be forced to give up some of its “responsibilities.” Assuming the country avoids a sovereign debt crisis, that adjustment might not be so bad for libertarians. Continue reading
Pete DuPont does a little analysis of what should be major issues in the upcoming election. They don’t bode well for the current administration if, in fact, Republicans can get the media to actually pay attention and address them:
• Taxes. Big tax hikes coming in January will serve as dampers on economic growth.ObamaCare imposes a new 3.8% tax on investment income. On top of that, if the Bush tax [rates] aren’t extended, the top income tax rates will rise to 23.8% from 15% on capital gains and to 43.4% from 15% on dividends.
But beyond the economic impact, the Obama administration’s focus on class warfare fuels the nation’s dissatisfaction and plays on an unwise resentment towards successful businesspeople. Mr. Obama continues to push for higher taxes and does so in a way that is an attack on those who are successful–demanding that higher-income taxpayers pay their "fair share," when they already pay more than that.
The economic impact shouldn’t be waved off. When and if both capital gains and dividend incomes are taxed at a higher rate, they will effect both investment and retirement incomes. Don’t forget those” rich folks” whose retirement income is structured to depend on dividends from blue chip stocks they’ve methodically bought in small quantities over their working years. It obviously doesn’t matter that their incomes really don’t reach the “rich” threshold that the Democrats want you to envy, their retirement incomes will take an almost 200% tax increase hit regardless if the current rates aren’t extended. Apparently to collect less than a trillion dollars over 10 years taxing the “rich” (so they’ll pay their “fair share”) vs. spending $46 trillion Democrats are happy to sacrifice those folks.
As for investments, there’ll be a recalculation given the increase on capital gains and it will dampen investments, thus business expansion and finally job growth.
• Energy. The American people hear Mr. Obama talk about a broad energy strategy, but they see an administration that has attacked the coal industry with onerous regulations, done little or nothing to assist the natural gas boom, done what it can to slow down oil production, and wasted money on other initiatives that please green supporters but don’t lower the cost of energy.
This administration’s energy policy is a joke, but unfortunately it’s a very expensive joke. Its priorities are completely backward, but purposefully so. To call what they are doing a “policy” is simply absurd. This is agenda fulfillment with the people’s money on pie-in-the-sky projects that have yet to yield (nor do they even promise to yield) the energy required to make them viable. Meanwhile they’ve done everything humanly possible to retard the fossil fuel industry’s growth at a critical time for our economy. On the issue of energy, this administration gets an F-.
• Health care. Although ObamaCare remains unpopular, the Supreme Court ruling upholding it means that a 17% transfer of our economy from the marketplace to the control of the federal government is coming unless Congress and a President Romney can stop it. At a time when our nation needs lower taxes and more flexibility in health-care decisions, ObamaCare has increased taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars and allowed government to regulate most of our health care decisions.
The secretary of health and human services can now set rules that constrain doctors and hospitals and mandate prices. Mr. Obama once promised us all that if you were happy with your current health plan, you’d be able to keep it. The more we learn about ObamaCare, the unlikelier that looks–and the more the government will intrude in the relationship between doctor and patient.
Despite the disapproval of a majority of Americans, Democrats and this President rammed the legislation through anyway. That should tell most Americans what they really think of their opinion. It is a classic “we know what’s best for you” elitist move.
The second paragraph gives a hint though to the powers this legislation has given an unaccountable government bureaucrat. The Secretary of HHS now has tremendous power to make unilateral decisions that will effect everyone’s health care. Of course, that’s been discussed by some on the right, but for the most part the level of intrusion these powers will confer won’t really begin to be felt until, conveniently, after the election.
• Spending. Federal expenditures under Mr. Obama is both unparalleled and unsustainable. As National Review’s Jonah Goldberg notes, from the end of World War II until the end of the George W. Bush administration, federal spending never exceeded 23.5% of GDP, and the Bush years’ average was around 20%. The Obama spending rates have stayed above 23.5% in every year of his presidency. In the past four years, America has added $5 trillion in federal debt, and around $4 trillion of that was from Obama policies, according to The Wall Street Journal. Federal debt held by the public was 40.5% of gross domestic product in 2008. It’s now 74.2% and rising.
Despite the attempts by Democrats using fudged numbers and trying to spin it so Bush gets the blame, the spending by this administration is, as DuPont points out, “both unparalleled and unsustainable”. And, don’t forget, the President hasn’t signed a budget in over 1,000 days because the Democratic Senate has refused to pass one, despite the Constitutional requirement it do so.
Those are the things we ought to be talking about. Not whether or not Romney pissed off the Palestinians (who doesn’t piss off the Palestinians when they take a principled stand on Israel? How is this even news?).
These are where Obama’s skeleton’s are to be found. He’d prefer to keep this closet door firmly closed. The media, for the most part, seems content to help in that endeavor.
This election isn’t about anything but his administration’s abysmal record. Spending time talking anything else is simply a distraction. Unfortunately, given its unprecedented level of economic intrusion, we’re going to live or die economically with the policies that government applies. Talking about whether a candidate may or may not have insulted the London Olympics isn’t going to change that fact one iota. But it sure does distract from examining the previous administration’s record, doesn’t it?
Oh, my … the White House is on the offensive trying to save the middle class, or something:
The White House has launched a new offensive in its fight with congressional Republicans over taxes, arguing 114 million middle-class families will see their taxes rise without action by Congress.
A report from President Obama’s National Economic Council released Monday contends the families would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,600 if the George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire as scheduled at the end of the year.
A) they’re not tax cuts, they’ve been the tax rate for years.
B) Republicans have already made an offer. They said they are willing to extend the rates for all so it is obviously not a tax increase the middle class must suffer.
Of course, that’s where the rub is, because the Democratic Senate and the White House want to raise taxes on a certain level of income earner. They’ve staked their class warfare gig on it.
Because, you see, they’re trying to convince everyone that’s only “fair” and to further imply it will solve the insolvency problem. Well they’re wrong, as usual, on both counts.
Here, take a look at this. Even those who don’t count economics as their strong suit should be able to figure out what this means:
That’s right, the problem isn’t revenue. The problem has nothing to do with high income earners and their “fair share”. It has to do with out of control spending which has accelerated dramatically under this president. And, oh by the way, the increase in taxes on the wealthy would be a mere drop in the bucket of red ink Obama has charted out for the next 10 years.
So while he whines about a $1,600 tax per family if no action is taken, ask him what he’s adding in debt per family with a 10 year plan to spend $46.9 trillion dollars we don’t have, okay?
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)!