At least that’s what Robert Samuelson sees for us. I can’t really dispute his numbers either:
For the past half-century, federal spending has averaged about 20 percent of GDP, federal taxes about 18 percent of GDP and the budget deficit 2 percent of GDP. The CBO’s projection for 2020 — which assumes the economy has returned to “full employment” — puts spending at 26 percent of GDP, taxes at a bit less than 19 percent of GDP and a deficit above 7 percent of GDP. Future spending and deficit figures continue to grow.
What this means is that balancing the budget in 2020 would require a tax increase of almost 50 percent from the last half-century’s average. Remember, that average was 18 percent of GDP. To get from there to 26 percent of GDP (spending in 2020) would require an additional 8 percentage points. In today’s dollars, that would be about $1.1 trillion, a 44 percent annual tax increase. Even these figures may be optimistic, because CBO’s projections for defense and “nondefense discretionary” spending may be unrealistically low. This last category covers much of what government does: environmental regulation, aid to education, highway construction, law enforcement, homeland security.
Now, this should come as no surprise, really, to anyone with a passing knowledge of accounting. When you increase spending without increasing revenue, you end up with a deficit. And what we’ve seen the government doing for decades is exactly that. Now it’s in the midst of piling up massive deficits and planning huge increases in government.
And it’s not all the politicians fault. After all the average American keeps returning the same fiscally irresponsible people to the same place where they can continue doing what they’ve been doing for decades – spending us into bankruptcy.
Because, as Samuelson notes, Americans like the benefits even if they don’t like the taxes. So the formula has been a little different for each party but the result has been precisely the same:
Republicans want to cut taxes without cutting spending. Democrats want to increase spending without increasing taxes, except on the rich. The differences between the parties are shades of gray. Hardly anyone asks the hard questions of who doesn’t need benefits, which programs are expendable and what taxes might cover remaining deficits.
In fact, much harder questions are routinely ignored, such as “why is government getting into _________ at all?” To me that is the key question that is never asked. Name your program and tell me when anyone asks why government is involving themselves in such things?
It all comes back to the fundamental question which, over the centuries, has seen the answer change radically – “What is the basic function of legitimate government?”
Few are going to be able to argue successfully that the answer in 1781 was the same as it is today, are they? And you don’t really have to be an economist to understand what this direction we seem to be intent upon taking means for our future. It should also be clear by now that those who’ve have gotten us into this mess have little incentive to change their ways and certainly no stomach for the sort of work it would entail:
There is little appetite for any of this, and so we face the consequences of much bigger government. Certainly higher taxes for future Americans. Probably a less robust economy. The CBO notes that elevated deficits would penalize saving, investment and income, while unprecedented tax burdens could “slow the growth of the economy, making the [government’s] spending burden harder to bear.” To such warnings, Americans’ collective response is: Go away.
You can go back to sleep now.
Surprisingly, one member of the Washington Post – Jackson Diehl – has noticed the double standard the OAS has applied when it comes to Honduras vs. Venezuela.
Venezuelan Antonio Ledezma is no gadfly or dissident; as the mayor of Caracas, he received almost as many votes in last November’s election (700,000) as Manuel Zelaya (915,000) did when he won the presidency of Honduras in 2005. Yet while the Organization of American States has been united in demanding Zelaya’s return to his post, and in suspending Honduras for violating the Inter-American Democratic Charter, it has studiously ignored the case of Ledezma — who, since his election, has been illegally driven from his office by a mob, stripped of most of his powers and budget, and subjected to criminal investigation by the regime of Hugo Chávez.
The reaction of the OAS? “None of our business”.
While championing Zelaya — whose attempt to illegally rewrite the constitution united Honduras’s Congress and Supreme Court against him — Insulza refused to interest himself in the case of Ledezma and other elected Venezuelan mayors and state governors who have been subjected to power-stripping and criminal prosecution by Chávez. The OAS “cannot be involved in issues of internal order of member states,” said a statement Insulza issued after a June meeting in Washington with Ledezma — a declaration he quickly contradicted once the pro-Chávez Zelaya was deposed.
The “Insulza” Diehl is referring too is OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza who has been absolutely uninterested in what has happened to the democratically elected mayor of Caracus or, for that matter, state governors and other mayors who’ve essentially enjoyed the same fate as Ledezma in Venezuela.
The reason? Simple – Insulza is counting on, in fact banking on, the support of Hugo Chavez for a second term as OAS GS. Insulza, who Diehl characterizes as a “Chilean socialist” knows he’s dead in the water without it. So he’s not at all inclined to rock the boat when it comes to Chavez’s illegal and unconstitutional moves in Venezuela.
Ledezma has courageously been pushing Insulza to acknowledge the problems in Venezuela:
Ledezma’s hunger strike eventually shamed Insulza into making a phone call in which he promised to meet with the Venezuelan mayors and governors in Washington, and to investigate their charges that Chávez had violated the democracy charter. But Insulza later repeated that “it is very difficult to determine how a country should organize itself internally.”
This is the face of the “new” OAS, which recently admitted the totalitarian dictatorship of Cuba into fold. It is now an organization which is driven by a socialist agenda that uses the veneer of ‘democracy’ as a way of legitimizing advancing its agenda throughout Latin America and as a weapon to thwart real democracy should it attempt to stop that agenda from successfully subverting a country.
But it obviously has no desire to really support democracy or investigate illegal and unconstitutional moves by despots in good ideological standing with the OAS leadership. That is reserved for those countries which haven’t yet converted to the socialist “Bolivar revolution” championed by Hugo Chavez – the defacto leader of the OAS. And, as Diehl points out, the OAS has been quite happy with the new administrations policies:
Such willful disregard of political repression was the prevailing policy among OAS members before the Honduran coup — including the Obama administration. Though Chávez launched his latest and most virulent campaign against elected opposition leaders and independent media shortly after Obama’s inauguration, the administration for months refused to publicly respond; instead, it agreed on a new exchange on ambassadors with Venezuela and repeatedly announced its hope to “work with” the caudillo.
My goodness, it sounds like Iran, doesn’t it?
Diehl holds out hope that the administration is figuring it out citing a recent Hillary Clinton interview with Globavision as proof. One interview, however, doesn’t prove that the administration has figured out it is being played like a fiddle or that it will take another look at how it has reacted to Honduras or the agenda of the OAS.
Diehl cites testimony before Congress the day after the interview and wonders what it means:
In testimony to Congress the next day, the State Department’s incoming assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere, Arturo Valenzuela, said that following the Honduras crisis, “it should be clear that the collective response of the hemisphere in support of democracy should not be limited to taking action simply when elected leaders are removed from office by force.” Does that mean the United States now will also push Insulza and the OAS to judge what is happening in Venezuela — and in Nicaragua, Ecuador and other states where freedom of the press and free elections have been under sustained attack? The administration’s high-profile effort to defend a hostile Honduran president has provided an opportunity to take the offensive against the hemisphere’s most dangerous anti-democratic actors.
Given what I’ve seen so far from this administration and its foreign policy, I’d have to guess the answer is a flat “no”.
Keith Hennesey does a fair job of fisking President Obama’s Washington Post editorial in which Obama tries to put a happy face on what his administration has done thus far to combat the recession. Hennesy included a chart by Don Marron that graphically takes Obama to task on one of his favorite claims, namely:
Nearly six months ago, my administration took office amid the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Now Obama’s claim is certainly close to being true, but by 1/10th of a percent, it isn’t quite there. And, it could be argued, the past 6 months of this administration’s policies has moved it closer to being what he claims than it was when he took office.
But when he talks about the gloom and doom of the “most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression”, remember this chart. He and the Democrats are and have been using that claim as a means of justifying all sorts of deficit spending. It is also the means to justify health care reform (claim: health care spending is going to “bankrupt us”) and cap-and-trade (claim: the route to fiscal health is “green jobs” and “green industry”).
The point here is to understand how overplayed the “most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression” really is. Yeah, it’s a nasty one, but in comparison to the Great Depression it simply doesn’t compare. In fact, it isn’t even close.
UPDATE: Here’s a perfect example of an exaggerated and, naturally, unfalsifiable claim by a politician.
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the health care bill that will presented on the House floor.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
Call in number: (718) 664-9614
Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.
Subject(s): Honduras/China, pending legislation on the environment (cap-and-trade) and health care and some of the “nuggets” to be found in there, the question of another stimulus and Obama’s claim this one is working just fine – and anything else we feel like talking about.
UPDATE [Dale]: Health care, too.
Why don’t they just shut up!
The science is settled! We have consensus.
Well, except for those 32,000 American scientists who have signed a petition saying they don’t agree that anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming is threatening society as we know it.
And now we have another one – another skeptical scientist who attempts to enlighten the cult of AGW as to how the science actually works. I’ll let him lay it out:
So why the fuss lately about man-made global warming? The melting Arctic? Do you know we’ve only been monitoring the extent of Arctic ice via satellites since 1979? And while Arctic ice coverage has declined, it’s actually been rising since 2006. And have you heard Antarctic sea ice has increased by nearly 14% since 1979?
The global warming crowd is quick to blame the release of carbon dioxide thru the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, gasoline, natural gas, and coal, for warming our climate and setting us on a path for doom.
Since before the industrial revolution the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been rising, up to around 385 parts per million by volume today. That amounts to a miniscule 0.0385% of the atmosphere. Increased CO2 levels are beneficial to plants since they require carbon dioxide to grow. In this experiment, plants exposed to CO2 levels of 1,090 parts per million by volume by far exhibited the most growth.
So, does carbon dioxide drive the climate? The answer is no!
Natural cycles play a much bigger role with the sun at the top of the list. A look at total solar irradiance since 1600 shows a distinct correlation to temperature readings. Readings are higher now than anytime in the past 400 years!
Then there’s El Nino Southern Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, the Arctic Oscillation, the Pacific-North American Teleconnection, Milankovitch forcing, ocean variations, and so on and so forth.
Is there any way to model all these variables? Again, the answer is no! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, has tried and failed!
Back in 2001 the IPCC released a suite of computer model solutions depicting the future state of the atmosphere. These reports by the IPCC are used repeatedly to drive policy around the world. But, if you look at what’s happened since then, global temperatures are actually on a downward trend, whether you look at actual thermometer readings across the world or satellite-derived temperatures. This when the IPCC models were predicting continued warming.
Can you believe it? Another one who insists models at least be able to model what is happening by using all the variables? And that the models be able to actually predict what is happening instead of modeling something that isn’t?
What’s up with demands like that?! We’ve heard from the oracle, he’s told us the earth has a fever and that’s that.
Gore said it, enough “scientists” believed it and that ends it!
Now let’s get that cap-and-trade bill through the Senate and save the planet.
I‘m so glad that the Democrats have settled on how to pay for their latest government boondoggle even if it is the same old formula:
House Democrats will ask the wealthiest Americans to help pay for overhauling the health care system with a $550 billion income tax increase, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee said Friday.
The proposal calls for a surtax on individuals earning at least $280,000 in adjusted gross income and couples earning more than $350,000, said the chairman, Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York.
It would generate about $550 billion over 10 years to pay about half the cost of the legislation, Mr. Rangel said. As the proposal envisions it, the rest of the cost would be covered by lower spending on Medicare, the government health plan for the elderly, and other health care savings.
Tax the rich and squeeze the health care industry with lower Medicare payments. Sounds like a very “healthy” and stable way of paying for “health care reform” doesn’t it? A perfectly sure way to accomplish the stated Obama priorities of “expanding health insurance coverage to virtually all Americans and curtailing the steep rise in the cost of medical care while improving patient outcomes.”
Expand coverage, cut payments and improve outcomes.
Yup – “I believe!”
For new readers, the title is what the shortened “QandO” stands for.
- I thought one of the things the Obama administration was promising it wouldn’t do was use signing statements to ignore the law? Apparently not.
- It would appear that a witch-hunt for “extremists” in the military is building. First we had the DHS warning claiming veterans might be recruited by right-wing extremist organizations. Then Alcee Hastings proposes law (a law already on the books, btw) to prohibit “extremists” from joining the military. Now the Southern Poverty Law Center is asking Congress to investigate the military based on a couple of postings it found on a suspect website. The premise, of course, is because we now have a black Democratic president, there is more of a threat from such extremists who might be in the military.
- Government’s attempt to regulate every aspect of your life takes another step in that direction, but in an unexpected area – licensing yoga teachers. Of course, government knows so much about yoga to begin with. In fact, all this will do is add cost and paperwork to something which is at the moment, self-regulated by the market. What it will do for yoga is present an government imposed bar to entry. And, of course, create another revenue stream where none previously existed.
- Electric cars? The panacea? Not according to the Government Accounting Office which claims, at best, they’d reduce CO2 emissions by 4 – 5% but would see that negated by increased travel because users would drive more believing their use isn’t a threat to the environment. And then there’s the lithium problem.
- Does it bother anyone else that Obama’s White House science adviser (John Holdren) has advocated forced abortions, involuntary sterilization, and government seizing the children of single mothers and giving them to couples to raise? And then there’s Ruth Bader Ginzburg.
- David Brooks sat through an entire dinner with a Republican Senator’s hand on his inner thigh? Really? Why? And what does that say about David Brooks?
- Corporations which have taken taxpayer money are on notice not to book meetings at fancy resorts. But government (which exists on nothing but taxpayer money)? No problem.
- Mark Steyn wonders if the era of “soft despotism” has begun here? It’s a good description of what is going on I think. For the record, Obama isn’t the initiator of it, he’s just an accelerant. The only problem with “soft despotism” is it usually turns to the garden-variety hard despotism after a while.
- Timing is everything, isn’t it? In the midst of the recession, the federal minimum wage is scheduled to increase by 70 cents an hour to $7.25 on July 24th. That’ll certainly help the recovery and create jobs, won’t it?
I’ll add more as I find them – check back throughout the day.
Obviously, as one with a severe bent towards freedom, I think it is always advisable to keep a close eye on what our government is doing. Especially when it comes to said government granting itself extraordinary powers over the conduct of our lives, and/or over our liberty, in light of particular opinions we might hold, or because of the people we hang around with. The danger in allowing the government latitude to impinge upon our liberty in such cases should be apparent. However, sometimes people start seeing a red under their bed, or a little yellow man in their head, and act just a wee bit paranoid about actions that the government has proposed.
… legislation quietly making its way through Congress would give the White House power to categorize political opponents as hate groups and even send Americans to detention centers on abandoned military bases.
Rep. Alcee Hastings – the impeached Florida judge Nancy Pelosi tried to install as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee until her own party members rebelled – introduced an amendment to the defense authorization bill that gives Attorney General Eric Holder sole discretion to label groups that oppose government policy on guns, abortion, immigration, states’ rights, or a host of other issues. In a June 25 speech on the House floor, Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ, blasted the idea: “This sounds an alarm for many of us because of the recent shocking and offensive report released by the Department of Homeland Security which labeled, arguably, a majority of Americans as ‘extremists.'”
Another Hastings bill (HR 645) authorizes $360 million in 2009 and 2010 to set up “not fewer than six national emergency centers on military installations” capable of housing “a large number of individuals affected by an emergency or major disaster.” But Section 2 (b) 4 allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to use the camps “to meet other appropriate needs” – none of which are specified. This is the kind of blank check that Congress should never, ever sign.
It’s not paranoid to be extremely wary of legislation that would give two unelected government officials power to legally declare someone a “domestic terrorist” and send them to a government-run camp.
In support of author Mark Tapscott’s ipse dixit argument that this isn’t paranoia, he points to the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. That’s a fair enough point (i.e. it has happened before here), but the analogy between Hastings’ amendment and the WWII internment camps is still pretty weak. For one thing, the internments were not done on the sly, as Tapscott suggests is being done now, and secondly, rounding up a relatively small number of people during WWII, is a lot more plausible than attempting to imprison half the country.
Ed Morrissey also pours some cold water on Tapscott’s theory:
To be fair on the second point, most legislation includes phrases similar to the “meet other appropriate needs” as a means of allowing flexibility in using facilities commissioned by Congress. Under unforeseen circumstances even apart from creating concentration camps for abortion opponents, the six national emergency centers might need to get some use other than housing military personnel or civilians evacuated from a disaster area. That language allows the Pentagon and Homeland Security leeway to adapt for other issues without having to worry that lawyers will descend upon them like locusts for not strictly limiting use to the statutes.
Nevertheless, I decided to delve into the Hastings amendment that Tapscott referred to, and which can be read in its entirety here (pdf). This is the pertinent language that woke some people up feelin’ kinda queer:
‘(2) DEFINITION OF HATE GROUP.—In this subsection, the terms ‘group associated with hate-related violence’ or ‘hate group’ mean the following: …
(G) Other groups or organizations that are determined by the Attorney General to be of a violent, extremist nature.
First of all, note the qualifier “violent” in that definition. Just being pro-life or anti-tax would not bring one under the aegis of this provision unless you also advocated violence in support of the cause.
The other part that seems to have been missed by some, is that this entire amendment is aimed at rooting out hate-group supporters from the military:
(1) PROHIBITION.—A person associated or affiliated with a group associated with hate-related violence against groups or persons or the United States Government, as determined by the Attorney General, may not be recruited, enlisted, or retained in the armed forces.
In other words, the worst thing that can happen as a result of this bill is that someone could be unfairly kept out of the military. I don’t want that any more than I expect anyone else does, but it’s sure a far cry from rounding up Republicans and throwing them in gulags.
That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with the amendment. As many of you probably already know, the military already has several provisions on the books prohibiting associations with extremist hate groups. Moreover, as Rep. Franks noted in arguing against the amendment, when viewed in light of the recent DHS report, allowing unelected and unaccountable officials to determine on their own who is an extremist or not seems like a pretty bad idea:
I take extreme offense that the federal government – through a report issued under the authority of a Cabinet-level official – would dare to categorize people who are “dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition or abortion or immigration” as “right-wing extremists” and it begs the question of whether the Attorney General, under Mr. Hastings’ Amendment, can look to the Napolitano report to decide who is an extremist, or can make the same categorization of the majority of Americans as extremists who may then be kept from joining the military, or who may be discharged.
The desire to risk one’s life on foreign soil for one’s country may well be considered “extreme.” To spill blood on a foreign battlefield in the name of freedom requires extreme devotion.
This amendment could have been written in a way that is more consistent with current DOD policy, which prohibits military personnel from participating in “organizations that espouse supremacist causes; or attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, or national origin…”
So, not only is Hastings’ amendment redundant, it’s also an undesirable (and perhaps unconstitutional) grant of power to the Attorney General. Clearly the amendment as drafted could use some work, and it should be watched and commented upon. However, none of it suggests that Hastings is planning on helping the Obama Administration to unilaterally declare “groups that oppose government policy on guns, abortion, immigration, states’ rights, or a host of other issues” hate groups and then have them carted off to Guantanamo-on-the-Mainland.
heck, even Franks didn’t go so far as to suggest that Democrats want to literally wall off their political rivals. Instead, he claimed that the real intentions of the House were not being reflected in the amendment:
The military has many laws and regulations in place to counter racism and the enlistment of racist militants. Recruits must be thoroughly vetted, and must even explain the symbolism behind their tattoos, body markings and writings. I understand that there is concern that the rules and regulations governing vetting of recruits are not being followed as vigilantly as they could be, and this is a legitimate cause for concern. At the same time, this is a call for better enforcement of the laws in place, rather than a sweeping categorization of persons as “extremists,” as we saw in Janet Napolitano’s agency’s report.
I want to state unequivocally that I believe that it is not the intent of this Congress to label pro-lifers, federalism proponents, and pro-immigration enforcement groups and their affiliates as extremists under the bill. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle should make a strong effort to assuage these concerns and make our intentions clear.
Is this an example of poor legislative drafting? Sure. Is the Hastings amendment really necessary in light of existing military rules and regulations? Probably not. Is it a good idea to give unaccountable officials the power to label groups of Americans as extremists simply because of some opinions that they might hold? No, no it isn’t. Does this amendment represent an empowerment of the federal government to intern a large swath of conservative America? Don’t be so paranoid.
Calling the government to account for straying outside it’s bounds of power is always a good idea, but being paranoid about it doesn’t help your cause, and may in fact hurt it. You’re blowing it all with paranoia. You may be feelin’ guilty, feelin’ scared, seeing hidden cameras everywhere, but you’ve got to Stop! Hold on. Stay in control.
‘Cuz paranoia is the destroyer.
It should be abundantly clear by now, to even the slowest among us, that the promise that 95% of Americans wouldn’t see their taxes raised by one dime during an Obama administration was a flat out lie.
Of course, given the promise of health care and the cap-and-tax proposal pushed by candidate and now President Obama, the 95% should have been able to figure out the lie well before the election. But they didn’t.
The Heritage Foundation has laid out the proposed taxes Congress is looking at to fund this 1.5 Trillion “Health Care Reform” legislation being proposed (note: consider this 1.5 Trillion estimate in light of the Medicare estimate back in the ’60s. It was a low ball load of blarney then and I have little doubt that this estimate is a low ball one as well).
Proposed tax hikes in this category[tax the rich – ed.] include: 1) capping the value of itemized deductions including gifts to charities; 2) a 3% surtax on households earning more than $250,000; and 3) a millionaires tax.
But the left is beginning to figure out that you can only squeeze so much revenue from class warfare taxation. So Congress is also considering a slew of other taxes that will, again, force Obama to break his not tax hike promise. These include: 1) a tax on soda; 2) a tax on beer; 3) an increase in employer and employee payroll taxes; 4) a flat tax on health insurance companies; 5) broaden the Medicare tax on investment income; 6) an employer mandate; and 7) a value added tax on everything but food, housing, and Medicare. And we’re sure we missed some.
There’s no other way to “save money on health care” than to tax the hell out of those who will be stuck with the system they cobble together.
Then add cap-and-trade’s impact (and taxes) to the mix and explain how an economy already reeling with a loss of 15 Trillion in wealth is going to recover when more and more of the private sector’s money (and wealth) goes to government?