Health Care Economics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 20th, 2014

Economics 101

Because Obamacare Insurance pays for everything Under the Sun it is anything but Insurance

Do you know what the problem is with health care?  Insurance plans that give away free flu shots.  Not that flu shots are bad.  They’re not.  And it’s a good thing for everyone to get one every year at the onset of the flu season.  For it does seem to limit the spread of the flu virus.  It’s because we get a flu shot every year is why insurance shouldn’t pay for it.  Because we know about this expense.  And we can budget for it.  Just like we can budget for our monthly cellular bill.  Which is in most cases more than ten times the cost of one annual flu shot.

When Lloyds of London started selling marine insurance at that coffee shop they were selling insurance.  Not welfare.  Losing a ship at sea caused a huge financial loss.  And shippers wanted to mitigate that risk.  So every shipper paid a SMALL premium to protect against a LARGE loss.  A POTENTIAL sinking and loss of cargo.  Not every ship sank, though.  In fact, most ships did not.  Which is why that little bit from everyone was able to pay the financial loss of the few shippers that lost their ship and cargo.  But that’s all that Lloyd’s of London paid for.  They didn’t pay a dime to shippers whose ships didn’t sink.  No, those shippers paid every cent they incurred (crew, food, rum, etc.) to ship things across those perilous oceans.  Because they could expect those costs.  And they could budget for them.

This is how insurance works.  Which isn’t how our current health insurance system works.  No.  Today people don’t want to pay for anything out-of-pocket.  Not the unexpected catastrophic costs.  Or the EXPECTED small costs that everyone can budget for in their personal lives.  Like an annual flu shot.  Childhood vaccinations.  Annual checkups.  Childbirth.  Etc.  Even the unexpected things that aren’t that expensive.  Like the stitches required when a child falls off of a bike.  Things that would cost less than someone’s monthly cellular bill.  Or things that people can plan and save for.  Like a house.  A car.  Or a child.  Which is why Obamacare insurance is not insurance.  It pays for way too many expected costs that we can budget for.  And because it does it only increases the cost of our health insurance policies.  Which are now anything but insurance.

Free Market Forces and Insurance for Catastrophic Costs will Fix any Problems in our Health Care System

When we pay these things out-of-pocket there are market forces in play.  For a doctor is not going to charge someone they’ve been seeing for years as much as he will charge a faceless insurance company.  Even today some doctors will waive some fees to help some of their long-time patients during a time of financial hardship.  Because there is a relationship between doctor and patient.  And they want to help.  Which is why they sometimes overcharge insurance companies to recover costs they can’t recover in full from other patients.  (Which is why insurance companies are vigilant in denying overbillings).  Especially those things government pays for.  Medicaid.  And Medicare.  Which the government discounts.  Leaving health care providers little choice but to overbill others to pay for what the government does not.

When we pay out-of-pocket doctors can’t charge as much.  Because they need patients.  If they charge too much their patients may find another good doctor that charges a little less.  Perhaps a younger one trying to establish a practice.  These are market forces.  Just like there are everywhere else in the economy.  Even a cancer patient requiring an expensive miracle drug benefits from market forces.  If there was true insurance in our health care system, that is.  Cancer is an unexpected and catastrophic cost.  But not everyone gets cancer.  Just as every ship does not sink.  Everyone would pay a small fee to insure against a financial loss that can result from cancer.  Where that little bit from everyone buying a catastrophic health insurance policy was able to pay the financial loss of the unfortunate few that require cancer treatment.  Even one including a costly miracle drug.  Because only a few from a large pool would incur these financial losses insurers would compete against other insurers for this business.  Just like they do to insure houses.  And ships crossing perilous oceans.

Health care would work better in the free market.  It doesn’t today because government changed that.  Starting with FDR putting a ceiling on wages.  Which forced employers to offer generous benefits to get the best workers to work for them when they couldn’t offer them more pay.  This was the beginning.  Now the health insurance industry is so bastardized that it doesn’t even resemble insurance anymore.  It’s just a massive cost transfer from one group of people to another.  Instead of a pooling of money to insure against financial risk.  For the few unexpected and catastrophic costs we cannot afford or budget for to pay out-of-pocket.

Because our Health Care System is the Most Expensive in the World it is the Best in the World

The American health care system is the finest in the world.  When you have a serious health care issue and you have the wherewithal there’s only one place you’re going for your medical care.  The United States.  And the best costs.  And it’s because it is so costly that people enter into the health care industry to do wonderful things.  Such as pharmaceutical companies.  Who many rail against for charging so much for the miracle drugs only they produce.  It’s a free country.  Anyone could have created that miracle drug.  All they had to do was to spend a boatload of money for years on other drugs that were losers.  Until they finally found one that wasn’t a loser.  That’s all you had to do.  Yet few do it.  Why?

Because creating miracle drugs is an extremely expensive and often futile endeavor.  Which is why we award patents to the few who do.  Which is the only reason they pour hundreds of millions of dollars into research and development and pay massive liability insurance premiums for taking a huge risk to put a drug onto the market that may harm or kill people.  They do this on the CHANCE that they may develop at least one successful drug that will pay for all of the costs incurred to develop this one drug, the costs for the countless drugs that failed AND provide a profit for their investors.  Who took a huge risk in paying their employees over the many years it took to come up with at least one drug that wasn’t a loser.  Their investors do this only because of the CHANCE that this pharmaceutical will develop that miracle drug that everyone wants.  But most don’t.  And investors just lose their investment.  But it’s the only way miracle drugs become available to us.  Because of rich investors who were willing to risk losing huge amounts of money.

This is what the profit incentive gives us.  The best health care system in the world.  Why the countries based on free market capitalism have the finest health care systems in the world.  And why North Korea, Cuba, the former East Germany, the former Soviet Union, Venezuela, etc., have never given us miracle drugs.  There never was an economic incentive throughout the economy to do so.  Like there is in countries with free market capitalism.  Where everyone at every level pursues profits that result overall in a pharmaceutical industry that produces these miracle drugs.

There is an expression that says you get what you pay for.  Our health care system is the most expensive in the world.  And because it is it is the best in the world.  Trying to inhibit the profit incentive for research and development and forcing medical providers to work for less (steeper Medicaid, Medicare and now Obamacare discounts) will change that.  Because you do get what you pay for.  And those who live/have lived in North Korea, Cuba, the former East Germany, the former Soviet Union, Venezuela, etc., can attest to.

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The Petulant President scolds Republicans, Conservatives and Anyone Else who dares to Oppose Obamaism

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 17th, 2013

Politics 101

The government shutdown is over. And we avoided defaulting on the national debt  Or so they say.  So who won and who lost?  Well, at this point in time it looks like the Democrats lost less than the Republicans.  But it is the American people who lost.  For they are stuck with Obamacare for the time being.  And President Obama can raise the national debt to a new record high.  But it gets worse.  This morning the president gave a petulant, God-awful speech scolding the Republicans, the Tea Party, talk radio, the blogosphere and pretty much anyone else who dares to oppose Obamaism (see Transcript of Obama Remarks on End of Standoff posted 10/17/2013 on The Wall Street Journal).

Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.

Well, last night, I signed legislation to reopen our government and pay America’s bills.  Because Democrats and responsible Republicans came together, the first government shutdown in 17 years is now over.  The first default in more than 200 years will not happen.  These twin threats to our economy have now been lifted.  And I want to thank those Democrats and Republicans for getting together and ultimately getting this job done.

There was never a risk of default.  With $2.45 trillion in annual revenue coming into the treasury from the taxpayers there was never a risk of the $415.7 billion annual interest payment on the debt going unpaid.  Lying about it just helped a petulant child get his way.  Waaa.

Now, there’s been a lot of discussion lately of the politics of this shutdown.  But let’s be clear:  There are no winners here.  These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy.  We don’t know yet the full scope of the damage, but every analyst out there believes it slowed our growth.

What growth?  Since coming to office the president’s policies have lost approximately 9,966,000 jobs through the September jobs report.  That’s just shy of 10 million jobs he’s lost.  So what recovery?  Or is he just setting the stage to blame the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression on this 16 day shutdown?  And not the lost economic activity from those 10 million or so lost jobs?  Of course he is.  Because what are 10 million jobs when he can stick it to the Republicans?

We know that families have gone without paychecks or services they depend on.  We know that potential homebuyers have gotten fewer mortgages, and small business loans have been put on hold.  We know that consumers have cut back on spending, and that half of all CEOs say that the shutdown and the threat of shutdown set back their plans to hire over the next six months.  We know that just the threat of default — of America not paying all the bills that we owe on time — increased our borrowing costs, which adds to our deficit.

Yes, pity the government bureaucrats who had to go 16 days without reporting to work.  Even though they will be paid for those 16 days they missed.  Yes, pity the government bureaucrats.  And not the 10 million who have disappeared from the labor force since President Obama assumed office.  I mean, what are 5 years without a paycheck compared to missing 16 days of work?  Which the taxpayers will still pay them for?

Businesses cut back on spending and hiring because of the great uncertainty of a 16-day shutdown?  Are you sure it wasn’t the regulatory requirements of Obamacare that is forcing employers with close to 30 ‘full time’ employees (30 hours or more per week) to not hire any more workers?  Even pushing full-time workers to part time?  Are you sure this isn’t the reason why they’re not hiring?  Especially with the cost of health insurance going through the roof now that it must cover everything under the sun (such as pediatric care for a couple whose children are now grown adults) as well as pre-existing conditions?  Where someone can walk in off the street who was just diagnosed with cancer and buy an insurance policy for the first time in their life?  Are you absolutely sure it’s the 16-day shutdown and not Obamacare?   If so someone needs to attend a high school economics class to learn the first thing about economics.

And, of course, we know that the American people’s frustration with what goes on in this town has never been higher. That’s not a surprise that the American people are completely fed up with Washington.  At a moment when our economic recovery demands more jobs, more momentum, we’ve got yet another self-inflicted crisis that set our economy back.  And for what?

Again, are you sure it was the 16-day shutdown and not the 4 years or so of Obamacare?

There was no economic rationale for all of this.  Over the past four years, our economy has been growing, our businesses have been creating jobs, and our deficits have been cut in half. We hear some members who pushed for the shutdown say they were doing it to save the American economy — but nothing has done more to undermine our economy these past three years than the kind of tactics that create these manufactured crises.

The last fiscal year ending deficit while George W. Bush was president was $498.37 billion (adjusted for inflation).  At the end of the first fiscal year with President Obama in office the deficit soared to $1.539.22 trillion.  An increase of 208.9%.  It is this deficit number that he cut in half.  The one he exploded with his near trillion dollar stimulus that did not stimulate anything but unions and the president’s cronies on Wall Street and in Big Business.  Especially Big Green Business.

And the president had something else preventing him from spending as much as he did during his first term.  Sequestration.  Which the Democrats hate with a passion and want to get rid of.  So they can turn on the spending spigot once again.  Like they did during his first term.

And you don’t have to take my word for it.  The agency that put America’s credit rating on watch the other day explicitly cited all of this, saying that our economy “remains more dynamic and resilient” than other advanced economies, and that the only thing putting us at risk is — and I’m quoting here — “repeated brinksmanship.”  That’s what the credit rating agency said.  That wasn’t a political statement; that was an analysis of what’s hurting our economy by people whose job it is to analyze these things.

Really?  Brinkmanship?  You don’t think adding $6.2 trillion to the national debt during your presidency had anything to do with the credit rating agency’s concern about our debt paying ability?  A high school economics student can understand that the greater your debt is the greater your debt-paying problem.  Funny how you don’t, Mr. President.

That also happens to be the view of our diplomats who’ve been hearing from their counterparts internationally.  Some of the same folks who pushed for the shutdown and threatened default claim their actions were needed to get America back on the right track, to make sure we’re strong.  But probably nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility in the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle that we’ve seen these past several weeks.  It’s encouraged our enemies.  It’s emboldened our competitors.  And it’s depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership.

I thought it would have been your bad foreign policy that did all those things.  Starting with the Green Revolution in Iran.  An uprising of the people against the Islamist and oppressive government of Iran.  The precursor to the Arab Spring.  Where you did nothing.  Leaving the good Iranian people with that oppressive Islamist government.  Which is currently working to produce a nuclear bomb.  Then there was the Arab Spring and you telling our friend and ally and anchor to peace and stability in the Middle East, Hosni Mubarak, that he had to go.  Turning Egypt over to the anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood.  And then there was Libya.  Another ally in the War on Terror, Muammar Gaddafi (who joined the fight against terrorism after our invasion of Iraq), that he had to go.  Turning Libya over to radical Islamists.  Who killed four Americans in Benghazi.  Then there was the red line fiasco with Syria.  If you cross that red line I will hem and haw and stammer.  Then I might say something else.  Then Vladimir Putin steps in and saves the day for their Syrian ally.  Russia.  Who suspended all adoptions to Americans to spite America.  Who are also helping the Iranians with their nuclear program.  All the while laughing at President Obama who they see as weak.  Who couldn’t get one nation to join him for military strikes against Syria.  If you want to talk about our prestige on the world stage you gave that up long ago.  For today no one fears the wrath of the United States these days.  With some nations seeing the United States becoming irrelevant in the world.  Especially Russia and China.  As well as radical Islam.

Now, the good news is we’ll bounce back from this.  We always do.  America is the bedrock of the global economy for a reason.  We are the indispensable nation that the rest of the world looks to as the safest and most reliable place to invest — something that’s made it easier for generations of Americans to invest in their own futures.  We have earned that responsibility over more than two centuries because of the dynamism of our economy and our entrepreneurs, the productivity of our workers, but also because we keep our word and we meet our obligations.  That’s what full faith and credit means — you can count on us.

And today, I want our people and our businesses and the rest of the world to know that the full faith and credit of the United States remains unquestioned.

There is a difference between economic investment and buying our bonds.  Any money that buys government bonds is money pulled out of the economy.  Investing in government bonds doesn’t create economic activity.  It actually destroys economic activity.  And the only worry the rest of the world had was what you were going to do, Mr. President.  Would you not pay the interest on the national debt out of spite to attack the Republicans?  That’s what they were worried about.  For even they knew we had the money to pay our debt without new borrowing.  They just don’t trust you.

But to all my friends in Congress, understand that how business is done in this town has to change.  Because we’ve all got a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people — and that includes the hard work of regaining their trust.  Our system of self-government doesn’t function without it.  And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy; create good jobs; strengthen the middle class; educate our kids; lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul.  That’s why we’re here.  That should be our focus.

Strong words coming from a professional activist.  For he was a community organizer.  And taught activism.  Funny how there are two types of activism.  The good kind in his world.  When it advances a liberal agenda.  And the bad kind in his world.  The kind based in conservatism.  The president hates conservative activism, otherwise known as a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and believes it should be silenced and replaced with one-party rule.

Now, that won’t be easy.  We all know that we have divided government right now.  There’s a lot of noise out there, and the pressure from the extremes affect how a lot of members of Congress see the day-to-day work that’s supposed to be done here. And let’s face it, the American people don’t see every issue the same way.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress.  And when we disagree, we don’t have to suggest that the other side doesn’t love this country or believe in free enterprise, or all the other rhetoric that seems to get worse every single year.  If we disagree on something, we can move on and focus on the things we agree on, and get some stuff done.

And the Democrats calling the political opposition terrorists, arsonists, hostage takers, the Taliban, etc., how is that coming together to focus on the things we agree on?  To get some stuff done?  Well, Mr. President, it is obvious you believe compromise is the Republicans caving and becoming your bitch.  This is not a government of the people, by the people and for the people.  This is a government of, by and for you.

Let me be specific about three places where I believe we can make progress right now.  First, in the coming days and weeks, we should sit down and pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget, a budget that grows our economy faster and shrinks our long-term deficits further.

At the beginning of this year, that’s what both Democrats and Republicans committed to doing.  The Senate passed a budget; House passed a budget; they were supposed to come together and negotiate.  And had one side not decided to pursue a strategy of brinksmanship, each side could have gotten together and figured out, how do we shape a budget that provides certainty to businesses and people who rely on government, provides certainty to investors in our economy, and we’d be growing faster right now.

The last time we did this little dance it was the same.  You want to raise taxes and cut no spending.  That’s your idea of a balanced approach.  Oh, you’ll promise spending cuts after we raise some taxes.  But those spending cuts will never come.  Democrats just don’t cut spending.  Unless they get themselves stuck in a sequester.  And that’s not even real spending cuts.  It’s only smaller increases in future spending.

Now, the good news is the legislation I signed yesterday now requires Congress to do exactly that — what it could have been doing all along.

And we shouldn’t approach this process of creating a budget as an ideological exercise — just cutting for the sake of cutting.  The issue is not growth versus fiscal responsibility — we need both.  We need a budget that deals with the issues that most Americans are focused on:  creating more good jobs that pay better wages.

Can the nation afford anymore of your job creation?  After losing some 10 million jobs we should just cut our losses.  And refuse anymore of your ‘help’ with the economy.

Cutting for the sake of cutting?  What, we don’t have a debt crisis that requires our debt ceiling to be raised again and again?  We’re spending too much.  Hence the need to keep raising our debt ceiling.  And Obamacare only makes this worse.  A lot worse.  Hence that 16-day government shutdown.  Or did he miss that?

And remember, the deficit is getting smaller, not bigger.  It’s going down faster than it has in the last 50 years. The challenges we have right now are not short-term deficits; it’s the long-term obligations that we have around things like Medicare and Social Security.  We want to make sure those are there for future generations.

Oh, you are devious, Mr. President.  The deficit is going down faster than in the last 50 years only because you raised it to record highs in your first year in office.  Your smallest deficit is still larger than George W. Bush’s last deficit.

Medicare?  You cut Medicare spending so you can spend that money on Obamacare.  And Social Security?  The Social Security Trust Fund has no cash in it.  It’s stuffed with government IOUs.  Because the government is spending so much money that they have to raid the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for it.  And even that’s not enough to prevent deficit spending.  So they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.  This out of control spending is why Medicare and Social Security may not be there for future generations.

So the key now is a budget that cuts out the things that we don’t need, closes corporate tax loopholes that don’t help create jobs, and frees up resources for the things that do help us grow — like education and infrastructure and research.  And these things historically have not been partisan.  And this shouldn’t be as difficult as it’s been in past years because we already spend less than we did a few years ago.  Our deficits are half of what they were a few years ago.  The debt problems we have now are long term, and we can address them without shortchanging our kids, or shortchanging our grandkids, or weakening the security that current generations have earned from their hard work.

More on education?  That’s to shore up the teachers’ underfunded pensions.  Infrastructure?  That’s just pork-barrel spending.  Building airports where no one wants to fly.  Or high-speed rail that requires constant government subsidies.  Money that buys votes in Congress to pass huge spending bills.  Like Obamacare.  Which passed only by buying off Democrats with the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, the Florida Flim Flam, etc.

So that’s number one.  Number two, we should finish fixing the job of — let me say that again.  Number two, we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system.

There’s already a broad coalition across America that’s behind this effort of comprehensive immigration reform — from business leaders to faith leaders to law enforcement.  In fact, the Senate has already passed a bill with strong bipartisan support that would make the biggest commitment to border security in our history; would modernize our legal immigration system; make sure everyone plays by the same rules, makes sure that folks who came here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, meet their responsibilities.  That bill has already passed the Senate. And economists estimate that if that bill becomes law, our economy would be 5 percent larger two decades from now.  That’s $1.4 trillion in new economic growth.

There’s a reason why people hire illegal aliens.  So they can pay them less than legal citizens.  So once these illegals become legal they’re not going to work for illegal wages anymore.  So it will raise labor costs.  Forcing businesses to lay off some workers.  Creating no net economic benefit.  But the Democrats don’t care.  Because it’s not about the economy.  It’s about all those new Democrat voters.  To turn the nation, like they turned California, Democrat.

The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do.  And it’s sitting there waiting for the House to pass it.  Now, if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear them.  Let’s start the negotiations.  But let’s not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years.  This can and should get done by the end of this year.

Really?  A majority of people want immigration reform?  And because of that we should pass it?  Well, the majority of people want to repeal Obamacare.  So perhaps this is a negotiation the Republicans and Democrats can agree on.  To please the majority of people.  Exchange immigration reform for the repealing of Obamacare.

Number three, we should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers and ranchers can depend on; one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need; one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the long-term certainty that they deserve.

You know, it was a farm bill that helped precipitate the Great Depression.  Price parity.  Increasing the price of farm goods so they were closer to the price of nonfarm goods.  In response to their increased productivity due to the mechanization of the farm that produced bumper crops.  Increasing supply beyond demand.  Causing the price of farm goods to fall.  So Hoover passed legislation raising the price of food.  Making it harder to put food on the table for the average American.  An example of the unintended consequences of government intervention.  Such as requiring gasoline to include a portion of the corn crop.  Thus raising the price of corn.  And everything in the food chain downstream from corn.  Like beef, chicken, milk, eggs, etc.  No, the last thing consumers need who are trying to put food on the table is another farm bill.

Again, the Senate has already passed a solid bipartisan bill.  It’s got support from Democrats and Republicans.  It’s sitting in the House waiting for passage.  If House Republicans have ideas that they think would improve the farm bill, let’s see them.  Let’s negotiate.  What are we waiting for?  Let’s get this done.

So, passing a budget; immigration reform; farm bill.  Those are three specific things that would make a huge difference in our economy right now.  And we could get them done by the end of the year if our focus is on what’s good for the American people. And that’s just the big stuff.  There are all kinds of other things that we could be doing that don’t get as much attention.

I understand we will not suddenly agree on everything now that the cloud of crisis has passed.  Democrats and Republicans are far apart on a lot of issues.  And I recognize there are folks on the other side who think that my policies are misguided — that’s putting it mildly.  That’s okay.  That’s democracy.  That’s how it works.  We can debate those differences vigorously, passionately, in good faith, through the normal democratic process.

And sometimes, we’ll be just too far apart to forge an agreement.  But that should not hold back our efforts in areas where we do agree.  We shouldn’t fail to act on areas that we do agree or could agree just because we don’t think it’s good politics; just because the extremes in our party don’t like the word “compromise.”

When the Republicans wanted to add tax breaks for small business in the stimulus bill President Obama refused to listen.  Because he won the election.  And elections have consequences, he said.  And to the winner goes the spoils.  When the Democrats had the House, Senate and the White House they had no interest in compromise.  And didn’t.  But when they don’t have all the power they expect the other side to compromise.  And give them what they want.  That’s their idea of compromise.  Unconditional surrender.

I will look for willing partners wherever I can to get important work done.  And there’s no good reason why we can’t govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis.  In fact, one of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out smart, effective government is important.  It matters.  I think the American people during this shutdown had a chance to get some idea of all the things, large and small, that government does that make a difference in people’s lives.

We hear all the time about how government is the problem.  Well, it turns out we rely on it in a whole lot of ways.  Not only does it keep us strong through our military and our law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our businesses with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries.  It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe.  It helps folks rebuild after a storm.  It conserves our natural resources.  It finances startups.  It helps to sell our products overseas.  It provides security to our diplomats abroad.

Really?  You want to go there?  Security of our diplomats?  The administration that let 4 Americans die in Benghazi on its watch?  Despite ample warnings?  Warnings so serious that the British pulled out of Benghazi?  Before our four diplomats were killed?  But there was an election, wasn’t there?  And we just couldn’t have trouble with terrorists during an election, could we?  Not for the president that won the War on Terror with the killing of Osama bin Laden.

So let’s work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse.  That’s not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government.  You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position.  Go out there and win an election.  Push to change it. But don’t break it.  Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building.  That’s not being faithful to what this country is about.

The Founding Fathers created LIMITED government.  What we have today is far from limited.  The progressives/liberals have destroyed what the Founding Fathers gave us.  Today we have a big, fat, bloated bureaucracy.  And the Republicans would like to change it by winning elections.  Which isn’t that easy when the Obama administration suppresses the vote by turning the IRS loose on the Tea Party.  Limiting their fundraising ability.  Causing their turnout to be less than it was in the 2010 midterm election.  When the Tea Party stirred the people to vote the House of Representatives back to the Republicans.  Which they weren’t going to let happen in 2012.  Hence using the IRS to suppress the Republican vote.

And that brings me to one last point.  I’ve got a simple message for all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who’ve either worked without pay or been forced off the job without pay these past few weeks, including most of my own staff: Thank you.  Thanks for your service.  Welcome back.  What you do is important.  It matters.

You defend our country overseas.  You deliver benefits to our troops who’ve earned them when they come home.  You guard our borders.  You protect our civil rights.  You help businesses grow and gain footholds in overseas markets.  You protect the air we breathe and the water our children drink.  And you push the boundaries of science and space, and you guide hundreds of thousands of people each day through the glories of this country. Thank you.  What you do is important.  And don’t let anybody else tell you different.  Especially the young people who come to this city to serve — believe that it matters.  Well, you know what, you’re right.  It does.

And those of us who have the privilege to serve this country have an obligation to do our job as best we can.  We come from different parties, but we are Americans first.  And that’s why disagreement cannot mean dysfunction.  It can’t degenerate into hatred.  The American people’s hopes and dreams are what matters, not ours.  Our obligations are to them.  Our regard for them compels us all, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise, and act in the best interests of our nation –- one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Thanks very much.

The majority of people want to repeal Obamacare.  But the president doesn’t care about these American people.  Because they don’t share his vision of expanding government power in our lives.  People who would prefer to keep the health insurance they have.  And the doctors they have.  As well as not paying more for their health insurance.  But what they want isn’t as important to President Obama as what he wants.  So there is no compromise.  No cooperation.  Or acting in the best interest of the United States.  For this may be one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.  Where all Americans are equal.  Only some are more equal than others.  Like those who share President Obama’s vision.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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The Opportunity Cost of Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2013

Economics 101

Housing Sales drive the Economy because almost Everything for Sale is for the Household

Once upon a time the rule of thumb was to buy the most expensive house we could possibly afford.  We saved 20% for a down payment on a conventional mortgage.  We lived on a shoestring budget and paid our mortgage no matter what.  Even if we had to live on meatloaf and macaroni and cheese for the next five years.  Or longer.  We did this because we would be paying that mortgage payment for 30 years.  And though tough at first during those 30 years we advanced in our careers.  And made more money along the way.  Making that mortgage payment easier to pay as time went by.

So that was the way it used to be.  And it was that way for a long time.  Until the Federal Reserve started playing with interest rates to stimulate economic activity.  Altering the banking system forever.  Instead of encouraging people to save their money so banks could loan money to homebuyers they printed money.  Flooded the market with it.  Ignited inflation.  And caused housing bubbles.  Then the government took it up a notch.

Housing sales drive the economy.  Almost everything for sale is for the household.  Furniture and appliances.  Beds and ceiling fans.  Tile and paint.  Cleaning supplies and groceries.  Dishes and cutlery.  Pots and pans.  Towels and linen.  Lawnmowers and weed-whackers.  Decks and patio furniture.  When people buy a house they start buying all of these things.  And more.  Creating a lot of economic activity with every house sold.  So the government did everything they could to encourage home ownership.  And few governments did more than the Clinton administration.  By applying pressure on lenders to qualify the unqualified for mortgages.  Which gave us the subprime mortgage crisis.

Lenders used Subprime Lending to Qualify the Unqualified to Comply with the Clinton Administration

People in poor neighbors tended to be poor.  And unable to qualify for a mortgage because they couldn’t afford the house payments.  When these poor people happened to be black the Clinton administration said the banks were racist.  They were redlining.  And advised these lenders that if they don’t start qualifying these people who couldn’t afford a house that the full weight of the government will make things difficult for them to remain in the lending business.  So they complied with the Clinton administration.  Using subprime lending to put people into homes they couldn’t afford.

The main reason why people can’t afford to buy a house is the size of the mortgage payment.  Which can be pretty high if they can’t afford much of a down payment.  So these lenders used special mortgages to bring that monthly payment down.  The adjustable rate mortgage (ARM).  Which had a lower interest rate than conventional mortgages.  Because they could raise it later if interest rates rose.  Zero-down mortgages.  Which eliminated the need for a down payment.  Coupled with an ARM when interest rates were low could put a poor person into a good sized house.  No-documentation loans.  Which removed the trouble of having to document your earnings to prove you will be able to make your house payment.  Making it easier to approve applicants when you don’t have to question what they write on their application.  Interest-only loans where you only had to pay the interest for, say, 5 years.  Greatly reducing the size of the monthly payment.  But after those 5 years you had to pay that loan back in full with a new mortgage for the full value of the house.  Which may be more costly in 5 years.

So these lenders were able to meet the Clinton administration directive.  They were putting people into homes they couldn’t afford.  Just barely.  These people had house payments they could just barely afford.  Thanks to the low interest rate of their ARM.  But then interest rates rose.  Making those mortgage payments unaffordable.  With zero-down they had little to lose by walking away.  And a lot of them did.

The Interest on the Debt is so large we have to Borrow Money to Pay for the Cost of Borrowing Money

Buying a house is a huge investment.  One that we finance.  That is, we borrow money.  Sometimes a lot of it.  Because we don’t want to wait and save money for a down payment.  And because we want so much right now we buy as much as we can with those borrowings.  Doing whatever we can to lower the monthly payment.  With little regard to long-term costs.  For example, assume a fixed 30-year interest rate of 4.5%.  And we finance a $150,000 house with zero down.  Because we have saved nothing.  The monthly payment will be $790.03.  But if we waited until we saved enough for a 10% down payment that monthly payment will only be $684.03.  And if we saved enough for 20% down the monthly payment will only be $608.02.  That’s $182.01 less each month.  The total interest paid over the life of this mortgage for zero down, 10% down and 20% down is $123,610.07, $111,249.06 and $98,888.05, respectively.  Adding that to the price of the house brings the total cost for that house to $273,010.07, $246,249.06 and $218,888.05, respectively.  So if we wait until we save a 20% down payment we will be able to buy a $150,000 house and $54,723.02 of other stuff during those 30 years.  This is the opportunity cost of debt.

We are better off the less we finance.  Because long-term debts are with us for a long time.  And they don’t go away if we lose our job.  Or if interest rates go up.  Like with an ARM.  A large driver of the subprime mortgage crisis.  Let’s see what was happening before the housing bubble burst.  Let’s say we could buy that $150,000 house with a zero down mortgage with an adjustable interest rate of 2%.  Giving us a monthly payment of $554.43.  Very affordable.  Which helped get a lot of people into houses they couldn’t afford.  But then the interest rate went up.  And what did that do to someone who could just barely pay their house payment when it was $554.43?  Well, if it reset to 4% that payment increased to $716.12 ($161.69 more per month).  If it reset to 6% that payment increased to $899.33 ($344.90 more per month).  Bringing the total cost of the house to $323,757.28 ($150,000 principle + 173,757.28 interest).  Which is why a lot of these people walked away from these houses.  There was just no way they could afford them at these higher interest rates.

Interest payments on long-term debt at high interest rates can overwhelm a borrower.  Making the Clinton administration’s Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending insidious.  It destroyed people’s lives.  Putting them into houses they couldn’t afford with subprime lending.  But if you think that’s bad consider the national debt.  These are long-term obligations just like mortgages.  And currently we owe $16,738,533,025,135.63 (as of 9/13/2013).  At an interest rate of 3.9% the annual interest we must pay on this debt comes to $652,802,787,980.29.  That’s $652.8 billion.  Which is more than we spend on welfare ($430.4 billion).  Almost what we spend on Social Security ($866.3 billion).  And more than half of the federal deficit ($972.9 billion).  This is the opportunity cost of debt.  It limits what we can spend elsewhere.  On welfare.  Social Security.  Etc.  The interest on the debt has grown so large that we even have to borrow money to pay for the cost of borrowing money.  And there is only one way this can end.  Just like the subprime mortgage crisis.  Only worse.

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FT187: “It’s odd how we can never afford a tax cut but we can always afford new spending.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 13th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The Democrats’ idea of Bipartisanship is Republican Capitulation

It’s that time of the year again.  Summer is winding down.  The weather is starting to cool.  The harvest is coming in.  The stores are already stocking their shelves with Halloween decorations.  Yes, it’s the end of the government’s fiscal year.  The time the government will run out of money unless Congress passes a new budget.  Or what passes for budgets these days.  Continuing resolutions.

This that magical time of year when Republicans and Democrats come together to negotiate the government’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.  The give and take process where they sit down and work with each other.  Civilly.  Saying things like, “Yes, that is too costly.  We need to spend less there.”  And, “You’re right, that is important to the people and we should spend more there.”  And the occasional, “I agree.  That program is no longer needed and we can remove it from the budget entirely.”

I am, of course, lying.  These are things that are rarely, if ever, said to each other.  For when it comes to these budget battles it is always the same.  The Republicans try to be responsible and cut spending.  The Democrats then call them greedy corporate toady Nazis.  The Republicans will then suffer a general emasculation and give the Democrats their spending hikes.  And perhaps a tax hike or two.  While asking them to please like them and invite them to the cool parties.  And the Democrats will then commend the Republicans’ bipartisanship.  What others would call capitulation.  Happy that things are once again right in the world.  With the Republicans once again the Democrats’ bitch.

Entitlement Spending creates a Permanent Underclass that keeps the Privileged Class in Power

John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, known more simply as Lord Acton, said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men.”  And boy was he on to something there.  For something happens when some good conservatives go to Washington.  They enter a world like no other.  Nothing they could ever have dreamed of.  A world that once belonged only to the nobility and the aristocracy.  Those things Americans fought for their independence from.  And here they are.  After winning an election to rein in the kind of government spending that makes this living possible.  And they say, “What, end all of this?  Are you mad?”

So many cross over to the dark side.  Sell their souls.  Forsake their constituents.   Do great dishonor to our Founding Fathers.  All because they like the money and the power.  Especially the power.  Some resist.  Those from the Tea Party seem more immune than most when it comes to the corrupting influences of Washington.  But these people who stand on principle?  Those who serve their constituents honorably?  The left will fling every invective upon them.  A figuratively flinging of excrement.  To try to beat them down and break them.  To get them, too, to forsake their constituents.  And to join them as they drop trou and defecate on the Constitution.  Figuratively, too, of course.  At least I hope so.

So this is what makes the budget process so adversarial.  You have those who are trying to do the right thing for the people.  And those on the other side who want to corrupt these people.  To get them to quit fighting against them and to join them.  So they can maintain their privileged class.  This is what all that entitlement spending is all about.  It’s nothing but alms.  To keep the people content enough so they don’t rise up.  But not too content that they don’t fear that those greedy corporate toady Nazis may take away their meager alms.  And once they get someone to think like that they have a voter for life.

There comes a Point when Raises in Tax Rates actually Reduce Tax Revenue

The key, then, is keeping people poor.  For the whole privileged class thing those in Washington have doesn’t work unless they have poor people who need them.  Which is why they spend so much time reminding the poor how much they need them.  The Democrats in Congress.  Who are always there fighting for them.  Keeping their alms flowing.  But also keeping them poor.  Which a welfare state does well.  Because if you have enough to subsist lethargy will do the rest and destroy the spirit.  Getting the poor to accept their place as a permanent underclass.  That needs a permanent privileged class taking care of them.

There is only one problem.  This destroys lives.  People in this permanent underclass may have gone on and done great things.  They may have been doctors.  They may have been engineers.  They may have been entrepreneurs.  But they will never be those things because the left sacrificed them to maintain their privileged class.  Forever consigning them to the underclass.  So the privileged class has someone to take care of.  No matter how costly it gets to maintain this entitlement culture.  No matter how great the deficits get.  Or how great the national debt grows.

So there is another problem. As you convert taxpayers into tax-consumers you have to keep raising taxes on those remaining in the tax base.  But as you raise tax rates you put the brakes on economic expansion.  And with reduced economic activity there is reduced tax revenue.  There comes a point when raises in tax rates actually reduce tax revenue.  And we’ve passed that point.  Which is why we have record deficits.  A record national debt.  And the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  Because we are spending, taxing and regulating too much.  Which is why uncorrupted conservatives want to cut taxes, defund Obamacare, roll back other costly regulations and reduce spending.  Things the left bitterly opposes.  For doing so means we don’t need them as much as they need us to need them.

So as the budget battle commences you will hear the usual refrain from the left.  We can’t afford tax cuts.  As they equate tax cuts with government spending.  But we can always afford new government spending.  So the left will call for bipartisanship.  That is, capitulation.  And eventually make the Republicans their bitch.  Again.  And increase the national debt.  Again.  Putting the nation on the path to bankruptcy.  What the left considers a small price to pay to maintain their privileged class.  As long as that bankruptcy comes after they’re dead and buried.  After they enjoyed their time in the privileged class.  Which is why the left is also less likely to believe in God and life after death.  For it is easier to be bad when there is nothing to fear after a bad life.

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Baseline Budgeting, Sequestration and Lies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 21st, 2013

Politics 101

The Sequester Automatic Spending Cuts equal about 2% of Current Federal Spending

If you heard the president speak recently we’re all doomed.  The automatic spending cuts in the sequestration he proposed and signed into law will take food away from children.  And lead to the collapse of society as we know it.  Ushering in the end of the world.  For he warned…

Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

President Obama gave this speech in front of some first responders.  Police officers.  And firefighters.  Always the first they threaten with layoffs when the government can’t raise taxes.

Amazing what $85 billion can buy today.  And if it can buy all that you’d think we wouldn’t have to spend $3.8 trillion at the federal level.  For if we can get all of that for a little over 2% of all federal spending it makes you wonder what else that 98% is buying.  What’s even more remarkable is that the federal government doesn’t even pay police officers, fire fighters or teachers.  We pay for these with property taxes.  At the city and county level.  Which the federal government cannot cut.  Because they don’t pay for these.  Yet the president says the sequester will even cut these.  Remarkable.

The Important Thing to understand about Baseline Budgeting is that Spending Cuts don’t Cut Spending

To understand sequestration you have to first understand baseline budgeting.  Which goes back to the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.  When we stopped being responsible.  And set government outlays to forever increase.  The baseline is the starting point for the following year’s budget.  And the baseline is last year’s outlays.  This year’s spending will be last year’s spending plus an additional amount based on inflation and population growth.

So spending always increases from year to year.  Automatically.  No one has to request an increase in appropriations.  And no one has to cut spending elsewhere for new spending someplace else.  Because all of last year’s spending is approved.  No matter how wasteful and pointless it may have been.  And on top of that spending there is new spending.  Always.  Guaranteeing that federal spending will always grow greater.  There will always be deficits.  And always a growing federal debt.

Now the important thing to understand about baseline budgeting is the meaning of ‘spending cuts’.  In a household if a family decides to cancel the family vacation because things are a little tight that is a spending cut in the real world.  Because it results in less spending.  But a cut in baseline budgeting doesn’t result in less spending.  For the only thing they cut is the amount they will increase future spending by.  For example, if spending for ‘X’ is scheduled to increase by $100 million but will only increase by $75 million that is a $25 million spending cut.  Even though spending will still increase by $75 million.

The President’s Sole Objective now is to destroy the Republican Party

President Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971.  Taking American off the gold standard.  Unleashing the inflation monster.  Allowing government to spend more.  As they paid for that additional spending by printing money.  And with the addition of baseline budgeting added in 1974 they spent more.  A lot more.  Total federal outlays from 1974 to 2008 increased on average 7.5% each year.  Total federal outlays in 2012 were approximately $3.8 trillion.  So the scheduled increase in spending (thanks to baseline budgeting) for 2013 is approximately $284.7 billion.

The spending cuts of the sequester are $85 billion.  Which President Obama says will usher in the end of the world as we know it.  But these ‘cuts’ are not cuts per se.  They are not like the cuts a household makes when they cancel the family vacation.  These are cuts that reduce the increase in future spending.  So instead of increasing future spending by $284.7 billion they will only increase by $199.7 billion.  Which is 2.3 times greater than the amount of the sequester.  Now President Obama said the sequester cuts would be the end of the world as we know it.  Even though total federal outlays will actually increase by an amount 2.3 times the sequester.  So one cannot but ask the question how will this sequester usher in the end of the world as we know it when we are actually increasing spending?

Because it is not the end of the world.  The president is lying.  Everything that we can pay for today we can still have after the sequester.  Because there are no real spending cuts.  We’re just increasing spending less than the original baseline projection.  Which means all the jobs we will lose will be future jobs.  But talking about losing future jobs doesn’t put the fear of God into people like telling them they won’t have any police or fire protection anymore.  Or telling them that their children’s teachers will lose their jobs.  You see, the president’s sole objective now is to destroy the Republican Party.  The only thing standing between the country and the liberal agenda he wants to impose on the country is the Republican opposition.  Which is why the sequester that he proposed and signed into law is now the fault of the Republicans.  This is the reason for all of this theater.  To get people to hate Republicans.  For why else would the president call a spending increase a spending cut?  If it wasn’t to demonize the people who keep demanding spending cuts?

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Off-Budget Social Security Surplus

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 18th, 2013

Economics 101

Because we have Limited Income we Prioritize our Expenses

We all want more than we can afford.  We may want to drive a brand new Lincoln MKT but can only afford a used Focus.  So we drive a used Focus.  We may want to live on the beach in Southern California but can only afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Pasadena.  So we live in a 2-bedroom apartment in Pasadena.  We may want to dine on filet mignon and champagne every night but can only afford Hamburger Helper and a store-brand soda.  So we dine on Hamburger Helper and store-brand soda.

In life we have to make choices.  And live within our means.  So we budget our money. We list all our income.  And all of our expenses.  Breaking down the expenses in order of importance.  Rent is more important than cable television.  The electric bill is more important than stopping at Starbucks every morning for a Venti Caramel Macchiato.  The gas bill is more important than unlimited texting.  Because we have limited income we prioritize our expenses.  Those most important we budget to pay first.  Those less important we enjoy when we have some disposable income left over.  After paying everything that is more important first.

This is responsible living.  Which a lot of people do.  Live responsibly.  While some don’t.  And use credit cards to buy things they can’t afford.  Or they do a little work on the side ‘under the table’ for some extra spending cash.  Money they don’t report as income so they don’t have to pay income taxes on it.  Because like Billy Joel said you can pay Uncle Sam for the overtime.  Or not.  And a lot of people choose not.  Interestingly, a lot who do are die-hard Democrats who want to raise tax rates on the rich.  But when it comes to their hard-earned money they want to hide it from Uncle Sam.  But I digress.

Social Security Taxes are Dedicated for One Thing—Social Security Benefits

We can call money we earn on the side off-budget money.  We don’t add this money to our household budget.  It’s special money to spend on things we enjoy.  For if a husband does some plumbing work on the side his wife may want to use that money to pay down a credit card balance.  Or spend it on new window treatments.  While he may have other ideas for that money.  Maybe some new fishing equipment.  Or a new power tool.  Or maybe using it to go tailgating with the boys.  That money could buy a lot of food to barbecue.  And a lot of beer.  Things that are a lot of fun.  While paying down a credit card balance is not.  Just as window treatments are not.

So by keeping this money off-budget he can use it for what he originally intended it for.  Him having fun.  Keeping the money off the family budget prevents anyone from using those targeted funds for some other unintended purpose.  Preventing out of control spending growth on other less important things.  He is actually doing the family a favor by hiding this money.  Or so he rationalizes.  Because hiding it prevents his family from spending too much money.  For let’s face it if you have that additional money you’re going to budget it on something.  You may even commit to some long-term spending obligation.  Like buying a new Lincoln MKT.  Which will be a problem if the husband throws out his back doing all of those side jobs and goes on disability.

Another example of off-budget money is Social Security.  Specifically, the Social Security surplus.  Contrary to the government calling it a retirement investment it is not an investment.  The government collects Social Security tax revenue.  And pays Social Security benefits from that tax revenue.  What’s left over is the Social Security surplus.  (Until it becomes the Social Security deficit.)  And they put it into the Social Security Trust Fund.  Outside of the regular budget.  So they can’t spend it on other things.  And any budget negotiations won’t affect it.  For employers and employees pay into Social Security.  And this is the money we get back in benefits.  Those benefits are not budget items paid from all the other taxes the government collects.  That pay for things from defense spending to food stamps.  No.  Social Security taxes are dedicated for one thing.  Social Security benefits.  Which is why they moved it off-budget.

If the Deficit is Consistently Understated there will be no Money to Redeem the Securities in the Social Security Trust Fund

But that doesn’t stop the government from spending that money.  Just like so many unions have underfunded pension plans so, too, government can’t resist the allure of a great big pile of money.  Because it’s just sitting there.  Not being spent.  Something that just pains a politician to no end.  Unspent money.  But because it’s off-budget they just can’t spend it.  They have to borrow it first.  So the money goes into the Social Security Trust Fund.  They then remove the money from Social Security Trust Fund.  And leave behind an IOU.  Treasury securities.  Backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.

So even though that money is dedicated for Social Security benefits and is strictly hands-off for other spending the government spends it on other things.  And it works out pretty well for the government.  Not only do they get a little extra money to spend it helps conceal the extent of their other spending.  For this off-budget money decreases the budget deficit.  Caused by all of that on-budget spending.  That far exceeds their ability to pay for it.  To illustrate that see the following table.  This is a very simplified fictional federal budget.  We have tax receipts.  And federal outlays.  Broken down into two general categories.  Guns and butter.  That’s defense spending.  And everything else.  Note how if they leave the Social Security surplus alone (without) there is a deficit of 47%.  But if they borrow that money (with) it reduces the deficit to 10%.

Social Security Surplus Off-Budget

When they talk about the budget deficit it includes the Social Security surplus.  That money is dedicated for one thing.  Social Security benefits.  They’re not suppose to use it for anything else.  So they shouldn’t count this revenue in the budget that pays for everything else.  When they do they understate the true budget deficit.  Worse, the money in the Social Security Trust Fund does not earn a return on investment.  Like with a 401(k).  Yes, there are Treasury securities in the trust fund.  But a government that is consistently understating their true deficit will never have the money to redeem those securities.  So they will do the only thing they can.  Print money.  Which is what they mean by the full faith and credit of the United States.  Print money.  Causing inflation.  And raising prices.  Making that meager Social Security benefit buy less.  Not to mention that Social Security itself will soon be insolvent.  Thanks to the growth in all of that other spending.  That is growing so great that they continually need to raid the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for it.

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Guns vs. Butter

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 11th, 2013

Economics 101

When Children get their Allowance their Faces light up as they Think of all that Spending they’ll Do

Parents try to teach their kids to be responsible.  And to understand that they are not rock stars.  They can’t have “everything all the time.”  Because if you can you get bored.  And look for new ways to kill that boredom.  Like developing a coke habit.  (“There were lines on the mirror, lines on her face.”  Life in the Fast Lane.  The Eagles.)  Which is bad.  Very, very bad.  So this is where a weekly allowance comes in.  It teaches kids to be responsible.  And to budget their wants.  To make choices.  If they want more of one thing they learn they have to have less of another.  This is economic reality.  And the sooner they learn it the better off they will be.

So what does a kid want?  Food, candy, games, toys, comic books, going to the movies and consuming a lot of concession food and drinks.  And other stuff.  What does a parent want?  Their kids not to want so much of these things.  And not to whine.  Especially that.  They also want them to learn the importance of saving money.  To spend less and save more.  So later in life should they lose their job they will have savings to live on while they look for another job.  Without having to move back home.  So they may give a child an allowance of $100 a week.  Telling that child it’s for those things they want.  And for putting a little in the bank every week.  So they can have some money for later.  During a time they really need it.  And when the child gets that $100 his face lights up.  Thinking of all that spending he’s going to do.  While thinking nothing about saving.

Kids Allowance and Budget

The parent watches with proud satisfaction as their child budgets his wants.  For 5 weeks he pays for his school lunch.  Spends a fixed weekly amount on candy.  When he wanted to spend more on games, toys and comic books he cut back spending on movie night.  Even not going to the movies at all in Week 4 because he chose instead to buy an expensive game.  The parents are happy to see their child live within his budget.  But are disappointed that he spent all of his allowance without putting any of it in the bank.

With this Easy Credit he soon realizes that he can have Everything all the Time

Then the parents divorce.  The mother remarries.  The new stepdad really wants his stepson to like him.  While he is bitter about his parents’ divorce.  The stepdad keeps the same allowance structure in place.  But in a desperate attempt to get him to like him he is more than willing to make advances on his allowance.  Loaning money easily.  But charging interest.  To continue the lesson of responsibility.

Kids Allowance and Budget with Deficits

With easy credit and wanting more toys the stepson borrows money in Week 2.  $10.  And buys more games and toys.  Paying $1.10 for the allowance advance.  Liking the ability to buy more at the toy store he goes back for another loan in Week 3.  This time $20.  Paying $3.42 in total interest charges at the end of the week.  Losing the lesson of living on an allowance he goes back to borrow more.  This time $30.  Paying $7.10 in total interest.  With this easy credit he soon realizes that he can have everything all of the time.  And in Week 5 he borrows $40.  With his interest on the outstanding balance adding up to $12.28.  Which is almost enough to buy his school lunches for a week.

At the end of Week 5 he owes $100 in allowance advances.  Which he will have to eventually pay back.  Seeing how irresponsible the child got the stepdad refuses future allowance advances.  Upset the kid starts whining.  A lot.  Annoyed the stepdad calls in the loan.  He gives the child his $100 weekly allowance.  And then takes it back.  The child whines more.  For he can’t buy anything that week.  Not even school lunch.  Having to brown-bag it.  A peanut butter sandwich and an apple.  Making pizza day a living hell.  For he has no savings to live on during this difficult time.  As he was a spendthrift with his money.  Ignoring the sage advice of his parents to save for a rainy day.  So he suffers the most painful time of his life.  Extreme austerity for a week.

When they can’t reduce Defense Spending anymore they simply Borrow Money to keep Spending

This example is similar to how the federal government works.  The taxpayers are the kids.  And the stepdad are the politicians in the federal government trying to make taxpayers like them.  So they keep voting for them.  Only the politicians don’t want the people to learn to be responsible.  To budget their wants.  To understand that if they want more of one thing that they have to have less of another.  No.  They want them to believe they can have everything all of the time.  If only they vote for them.  How can they do this?  Unlike a parent the federal government can print money.  Making it the best stepdad in the world.

One of the reasons the Founding Fathers created the federal government was to provide for a common defense.  After winning their Independence they couldn’t get the British to leave our soil.  Or prevent the Barbary pirates from capturing our merchant ships and selling our sailors into slavery.  The new federal government was to provide a military force to protect Americans.  The Founding Fathers wrote this into the Constitution.  What they didn’t write into it was all the social spending we see today.  Often at the expense of defense spending.  The great political debate of how to divvy up spending between defense and the social stuff we see today is the guns vs. butter debate.  Where strict constructionists wanting to keep spending per the intent of the Founding Fathers.  All guns and no butter.  The ‘butter’ being an issue for state governments.  While progressives and liberals want all butter and no guns.  Because they hate the military.  And think they can talk to our enemies and make them like us.  Most other people want something in between.  As shown by  this graph.

Gunds vs Butter

If you spend 80% on guns that only leaves 20% for butter.  If you spend 50% on guns that leaves 50% for butter.  If you only spend 20% on guns that leaves 80% for butter.  And so on.  Progressives and liberals want to move as far to the left on this graph as possible.  Because the farther left they go the more they please their stepchildren.  Who become accustomed to all that spending.  And show their appreciation by continuing to vote for their stepdad.  Of course they can’t reduce defense spending to 0% because there are people out there who hate us and want to hurt us.  So when they can’t reduce defense spending anymore they simply borrow money to keep spending.  So they can keep spoiling their stepchildren.  Whose faces light up when they think about all the spending they are going to do.  With the added benefit that they will never have to repay that spending.  Or learn economic reality.  Until, that is, the government gets so overextended they have to implement a little austerity of their own.  Only it won’t last a week like it did for that spoiled child.  Instead it will be more like it was in Greece.  It will last years.  And include some rioting.

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As NHS Budget Deficits balloon Britain tries to Privatize Parts of the NHS to rein in Costs and improve Quality

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 4th, 2012

Week in Review

The proponents of Obamacare admire Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).  But they settled for Obamacare.  Which stopped short of providing national health care (though it put them on the path towards a national health care by making private health insurance either unaffordable or unavailable).  Because the nation wasn’t ready yet.  Not to mention the fact that most Americans want to repeal Obamacare. 

But they still look to the far side of the Atlantic and dream of having what they have.  Paradise.  At least, what they define as paradise.  Government control of 17.6% of the US economy (based on 2009 numbers) in addition to non-health care spending they already control.  Yeah, to them, this is what paradise is.  But, surprisingly, Britain has this now.  And is trying to move away from it (see NHS changes unavoidable and urgent, says David Cameron posted 3/3/2012 on BBC News UK Politics).

Under the NHS plans, GPs and other clinicians will be given much more responsibility for spending the health service budget in England, while greater competition with the private sector will be encouraged.

Mr Cameron said it would have been easier not to address an “invisible crisis” in the National Health Service in England.

“We could have just protected the NHS from the cuts, as we have, we could have just put in the extra £12.5bn, as we have, and we could have just left it there.

Did you catch that obscene amount of additional money the NHS needs?  £12.5 billion?  Based on the current exchange rate that’s $19.8 billion!  That’s not the budget.  That’s just the budget shortfall.  And if my math is correct that’s about a 12% budget deficit on a $167.8 billion dollar budget.  Worse, the total NHS annual budget is about 3/4 of Britain’s total annual budget deficit.  Meaning the NHS consumes approximately 75% all UK borrowings.

The NHS is bleeding.  And drowning the UK in debt.  No wonder they’re trying to privatize parts of it.  This is an economic model that cannot survive.  Especially with an aging population.  Which will only consume more health services in the future.  And make these deficit numbers grow worse. 

Here’s a lesson the US would do well in learning.  Lest they condemn themselves to making the same mistake.  Oh, wait a minute, that’s exactly what Obamacare is doing.  Repeating this same, horrible mistake.  Even though it is clear that this road they’re on will lead to disaster.  But that’s fine for the Obama administration.  Because at least they will have achieved paradise.  Control of over 17.6% of the US economy.

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LESSONS LEARNED #76: “You know they’re governing against the will of the people when they play with the meaning of words to fool the people.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 28th, 2011

When is a Spending Cut an Increase in Spending? 

I have a riddle for you.  When is a spending cut an increase in spending?  “Well, that’s when…, hey, wait minute,” you say.  “That’s not a riddle.  That’s a paradox.  It’s like saying draw a square circle.  Or a name an objective journalist.  You just can’t do these things.  Just as a ‘cut’ can’t be an ‘increase’.  They are the very opposite of each other.”

Yeah, you would think.  Not that much of a riddle, then, is it?  For a true riddle is solvable.  Or should be.  Like, say, I have two coins that add up to thirty cents.  One of them isn’t a nickel.  What are they?  You’re a bit stymied, aren’t you.  Because a quarter and a nickel are the only two coins that add up to thirty cents.  So what’s the answer?  A quarter and a nickel.  “But you said one of them wasn’t a nickel,” you say.  “Right,” I say.  “One of them isn’t a nickel.  But the other one is.”

Now that’s a riddle.  Clever.  But solvable.  So now back to my first riddle.  When is a spending cut an increase in spending?  The answer is when you use baseline budgeting.

The Power of Baseline Budgeting

Politicians lie.  And they love to spend our money.  Put the two together and what do you get?  Baseline budgeting.   Which in a nutshell is government spending on autopilot.  Next year’s spending is this year’s spending plus a little extra.  That ‘little extra’ is the amount in all budget negotiations. 

For example, let’s say there is an item in the budget with a billion dollar budget amount this year.  That’s the baseline.  That’s where we start budgeting for next year.  Next year’s budget will be one billion dollars plus or minus that ‘extra amount’.

Typically they set this ‘extra amount’ to be equal to or greater than the rate of inflation.  And/or changes in legislation for that budgetary item.  Let’s say there is no change in the program legislation.  And they set the program’s budget so that next year’s budget equals this year’s budget plus 10%.  So this budget item will be $1 billion this year.  And $1.1 billion next year.  Projecting this out for 10 years, this will automatically add $1.36 billion to this budgetary item.

In Baseline Budgeting a Spending Cut is an Increase in Spending

A couple of things should jump out at you.  For one you see why government programs never die.  Once they add them to the budget they stay in the budget.  And grow.  Always.  Forever.  And the bigger the starting budget amount the bigger the program will grow over time.  Again, automatically.  So you can see why baseline budgeting has been a godsend to Big Government.  It guarantees the growth of government.  Now.  And forever.

Now let’s look at a spending cut.  Let’s say spending is getting out of control.  Deficits are growing.  (As hard as that is to imagine.)  So there’s a budget deal to ‘cut’ the budget by 2%.  But this is a 2% cut in baseline budgeting.  So we’re not reducing the budget amount.  We’re only reducing the amount above the baseline.  Spending was going to increase 10% the following year.  But with this 2% cut, that 10% increase becomes only an 8% increase. 

This is where the language play comes in.  The budget is increased by 8%.  But in baseline budgeting it is a 2% decrease.  Instead of increasing the budget by $100 million, they only increase it by $80 million.  The budget is increased by $80 million but they count it as a $20 million cut.  Because future spending was cut $20 million.  So it’s a cut even though no spending was actually cut.  Spending still increases.  Just not as much as previously budgeted.  And that’s the wonderful world of baseline budgeting.  Where a spending cut increases spending.

The Government Shutdown of 1995 and 1996 

When CBO takes these projections out to 10 years it makes these spending ‘cuts’ look draconian.  As originally budgeted, this item would have been increased by $1.36 billion over 10 years.  Because of the reduction in the size of future spending, it will only increase $1 billion over 10 years.  But instead of calling this a $1 billion increase (which it is), they will call it a draconian cut of $359 million (which it isn’t).  Instead of saying this budget item will increase by 99.9% (which it will), they say it will be cut by 26.4% (which it obviously won’t).  Now politicians understand this baseline doublespeak.  But the average American doesn’t.  They hear ‘26.4%’ cut in some program for single mothers or hungry children and think what vicious, heartless bastards Republicans are.

And this was the stage for the government shutdown of 1995 and 1996Bill Clinton campaigned as a moderate in the 1992 presidential election.  After winning, though, he governed as a tax and spend liberal.  The people expressed their disapproval and gave both houses of Congress to the Republicans in the 1994 midterm electionsNewt Gingrich became Speaker of the House.  Gingrich and the Republicans saw their election as a mandate to stop the out of control government spending.  And that’s what they were trying to do in the budget battles beginning in 1995.

The Republicans were trying to reduce the rate of growth of government spending per the will of the people.  Spending would still increase.  But at a slower rate.  Clinton, though, fought against the will of the people.  Using baseline budgeting newspeak to mislead the people.  Clinton called these reductions in growth rates draconian spending cuts.  Even though there were no real cuts in spending.  But being a tax and spend liberal, he wasn’t about to cut the rate of growth.  So they squared off in budget battle.  It all came to a head when the government hit its borrowing limit.  The Republicans tried to get some spending cuts in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling.  Clinton refused.  Unable to pay its bills, the government shutdown.  And the United States collapsed.

Baseline Budgeting helps you Govern against the Will of the People

Not really.  Few people even noticed the shutdown.  Everyone still went to work.  Collected their pay (unless you worked in a national park).  And life went on.  Social Security checks went out.  Interest on the national debt was paid.  The credit rating on U.S. sovereign debt remained AAA.  So there was little damage.  Clinton came out okay from the crisis.  Newt Gingrich not so well.  Many believe that this helped Clinton’s reelection in 1996.  Of course a lot of that had to do with Dick Morris.  Who pulled Clinton to the center.  And became the moderate the people thought they elected.

Clinton may have won reelection, but he paid a price.   Republicans still held both houses of Congress.  Who ultimately won in the long-run.  Their Balanced Budget Act of 1997 did cut the growth rate of government spending.  And then the dot-com boom of the late Nineties produced a windfall of tax revenue that, with the ‘spending cuts’ of the Balanced Budget Act, actually balanced the budget.  For a few years.  But it turned out that the dot-com boom was actually a dot-com bubble.  Thanks to a lot of irrational exuberance.  And the bubble popped.  With the resulting recession tax revenue fell.  And those balanced budgets were no more.

Unwilling to concede to the will of the people, Clinton played with the meaning of words.  Called a spending increase a spending cut.  Because he knew the average American didn’t understand baseline budgeting.  And politicians continue to this day scaring people about draconian spending cuts where there are no spending cuts.  Not in the world of baseline budgeting.  Which makes it easy for them to continue to govern against the will of the people.  As they continue to do.  As they always have done.  Because nothing is more important than growing government.  And spending as much of our money as possible before we get a chance to spend it ourselves.

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A Debt Default and ‘no Social Security Checks’ only Scare Tactics in the Budget Debate to Raise the Debt Limit

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 25th, 2011

A Summary of the Budget Debate to Raise the Debt Limit

One day making tracks in the prairie of Prax came a tax-raising Zax.  A tax-raising Zax.  And a spending-cuts Zax.  A tax-raising Zax.  And a spending-cuts Zax.  And it happened that both of them came to a place where they… *boom*  There they stood foot to foot.  Face to face.

“Look here, now,” the tax-raising Zax said.  “I say, you are blocking my path.  You are right in my way.  I’m a tax-raising Zax and I always raise taxes.  Get out of my way, now, and let me raise taxes.”

“Who’s in whose way?” snapped the spending-cuts Zax.  “I always cut spending making spending-cuts tracks.  So you’re in my way and I ask you to move and let me cut spending in my spending-cuts groove.”

Then the tax-raising Zax said with tax-raising pride, “I never have taken a step to one side.  And I’ll prove to you that I won’t change my ways if I have to keep standing here 59 days.”

“And I’ll prove to you,” yelled the spending-cuts Zax.  “That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax for 59 years.  For I live by a rule that I learned as a boy back in spending-cuts school.  Never budge that’s my rule, never budge in the least.  Not an inch to the west, not an inch to the east.  I’ll stay here not budging, I can and I will.  If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still.”

(The Zax, from The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss, slightly modified)

Spending worries most Americans

If neither Zax is moving, at least there’s no spending.  And it appears that it is the spending that worries most Americans.  Based on the polling.  Which shows the spending-cuts Zax gaining support (see GOP has 10-point edge on Democrats in public trust on economic issues in latest Rasmussen Reports national survey by Mark Tapscott posted 7/24/2011 The Washington Examiner).

Republicans have gained a 10 point lead over Democrats in Rasmussen Reports latest national survey on who the public most trusts to deal effectively with economic issues.

The 10 point lead is the widest margin held by either party in months and has opened up in recent weeks as President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have become the central players in the debate over how to deal with the approaching debt-ceiling crisis.

It seems pretty clear.  The people want the tax-raising Zax to take a step to the spending-cuts side.

You can’t Fool the Bond Market

And while one Zax stands foot to foot with the other Zax, not budging, the bond market is not all that worried.  Which is kind of odd being that they hold the debt that Obama, Geithner, Pelosi, Reid, etc., warn they may default on (see U.S. bond market: Watching and waiting by Ben Rooney posted 7/25/2011 on CNN Money).

As policymakers in Washington continue to butt heads over the debt ceiling, the response in the bond market Monday was relatively subdued…

…many bond market watchers suggested that stocks are more vulnerable to the ongoing debt ceiling drama. By contrast, some say Treasuries could actually benefit from a flight to safety if the debt ceiling isn’t raised.

This seems counterintuitive.  Especially with all of the dire predictions coming out of Washington.  But it turns out that you can’t fool the bond market.

Another reason why Treasuries have held their ground is that a default would not necessarily result in huge losses for holders of U.S. debt. Treasury would probably have to furlough workers and make other adjustments if the debt ceiling is not raised, but analysts do not expect it to immediately miss interest payments on the federal debt.

The money is there.  Some money.  Tax revenue is still making it to Washington.  Almost $200 billion each month.  The bond market knows this.  They’ll get their interest payment.  Still, there could be some fallout from a downgrading of U.S. debt. 

…many institutional investors, including money market funds and pensions, are required to hold only AAA-rated securities. If the U.S. government is downgraded, those funds may be forced to dump billions worth of U.S. paper.

This could wreak a little havoc.  But probably no more than a downgrade due to the lack of resolve to restrain out of control spending which is the root cause of all these budget problems.  One way or another, we have to cut spending to ultimately calm the bond rating agencies.

Businesses are more Worried about the Tax Code

And they aren’t that worried in corporate America either (see Analysis: CEOs count on cash to cushion default risk by Scott Malone posted 7/25/2011 on Reuters).

Bankruptcy attorney Martin Bienenstock, of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, said it seemed like most business people were dismissing the likelihood of a default

“People still don’t think there is going to be an actual default,” Bienenstock said. “There doesn’t seem to be any domino effect brewing yet with the concept of ‘rates will rise and companies on the brink will fail and things like that.'”

If the U.S. runs out of money it is more likely that there will be a partial government shutdown.  Not a default.  And, to be frank, there isn’t a lot these businesses need from government.  Other than a simplified tax code.

While businesses would balk at paying higher taxes, CEOs have said that what they want right now is to have the tax debate settled so they know what they will be paying in taxes.

A government unable to pay its bills won’t affect them.  But not knowing what their taxes will be will.  Because the government shakes them down for a lot of money.  And they have to plan accordingly.  Like having a forklift and other heavy-lifting equipment available to lift those vast sums of cash.

Social Security Checks will go out Regardless

It would appear that most aren’t falling for the scare tactics of Obama and the Democrats.  But what about the seniors?  Will they get their Social Security checks?  Team Obama has been playing this card every chance someone places a microphone in front of them.  So what about Social Security?  Should seniors worry about not getting their checks?  As it turns out, no (see Contrary to the President, Social Security Checks Are Not At Risk by Michael McConnell posted 7/23/2011 on Advancing a Free Society).

The Social Security trust fund holds about $2.4 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds, which its trustees are legally entitled to redeem whenever Social Security is running a current account deficit. Thus, if we reach the debt ceiling…, this is what will happen. The Social Security trust fund will go to Treasury and cash in some of its securities, using the proceeds to send checks to recipients. Each dollar of debt that is redeemed will lower the outstanding public debt by a dollar. That enables the Treasury to borrow another dollar, without violating the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is not a prohibition on borrowing new money; it is a prohibition on increasing the total level of public indebtedness. If Social Security cashes in some of its bonds, the Treasury can borrow that same amount of money from someone else…

President Obama is therefore wrong when he says that failure to raise the debt ceiling might result in not sending out Social Security checks. Many bad things might happen, but not that.

Interesting.  So Social Security checks will go out.  Automatically.  Even if the current account is in deficit.  Because of that glorious trust fund stuffed with treasury securities.  In fact, the only way checks won’t go out is if Obama prevents this automatic mechanism to score some political points by falsely blaming Republicans.  Which will be risky.  Because people will eventually learn the truth.  If they don’t know it already.

The Tax-Raising Zax needs to Step to the Spending-Cuts Side

The tax-raising Zax had better learn to swallow his tax-raising pride and however reluctantly he should now take that first step to the spending-cuts side. 

For the people and the bond market and businesses agree.  The problem is spending.  Much too much spending as you must by now plainly see.

And leave our seniors alone and frighten them not with horrors of checks that won’t come their way.  For the trust fund is brimming with securities aplenty that can be cashed to pay all promises made without delay.

Unless Social Security has been a big Ponzi scheme all along.

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