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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The Supercommittee Succeeds in Preventing Deficit Reduction without Raising Taxes

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 27th, 2011

Week in Review

The supercommittee failed.  Deadlocked over higher taxes.  What a surprise.  And by surprise I mean it’s what everyone expected.  Because it never had anything to do with deficit reduction.  It was just yet another opportunity for Democrats to raise taxes.  And when they failed it was yet another opportunity to blame Republican intransigence.  While all the time refusing to budge from their demand for new taxes (see Supercommittee Failed, and Spending Is Still the Problem by Curtis Dubay posted 11/25/2011 on The Foundry).

Overspending, especially on entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is the cause of our debt problem.

Higher taxes are unnecessary because there is enough revenue flowing into Washington as long as Congress holds spending to historical levels. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), with all current tax policies, including the Bush tax cuts, tax revenue will surpass its historical average as a share of the economy in a decade. And should the economy break the shackles of growth-impeding Obama policies faster than CBO anticipates, tax revenues will exceed that mark much sooner.

On the other hand, in 2021 the federal government will spend 26 percent of the economy, well in excess of its historical average of 20 percent. And it will keep growing on this trajectory, primarily because of the growth in entitlements. The data is clear. We have a spending problem – not a taxing problem.

They’re forecasting tax revenue at record amounts.  Yet it’s not enough.  It’s never enough.  Why?  Because the government spends it faster than they can collect it.  And that’s the problem.

Advocates of raising taxes often resort to the argument that debt reduction requires spending cuts and tax increases. But they’re merely revealing their preference for bigger government. Higher taxes lead to bigger government because Congress always spends the extra revenue it raises. The new taxes never go to deficit reduction. That’s why any deal that offers spending cuts in exchange for tax hikes is fundamentally unbalanced – despite the president’s claims.

Higher taxes would go to pay for the spending increases that President Obama and his allies foisted upon the country – including stimulus spending, Obamacare, and a host of other big government programs. Unless they’re reformed, entitlement programs would also devour new tax revenue as more baby boomers retire.

Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush learned the tax-and-spend lesson the hard way. They agreed to deals that were supposed to cut spending and raise taxes. While the tax hikes became permanent law, succeeding Congresses were under no obligation to abide by the agreed-upon spending levels and quickly undid them. The same would be true today if Congress strikes a similar deal.

How to you get a deficit?  By spending more than you collect in taxes.  Note the word ‘spending’.  That’s key.  Because if you don’t spend more than you collect in taxes you don’t have deficits.  Record lows in tax revenue didn’t cause Barack Obama’s record deficits.  Record government spending caused those record deficits.  Again, spending is key.  Because you have to overspend to get a deficit.

This isn’t chicken and egg stuff.  Spending clearly came first.  Then deficits.  So the logical and rational way to deficit reduction is to cut spending.  Not to raise taxes.  Because raising taxes just supports further overspending.  And you know they will.  Because they always do.  Because you don’t buy votes with deficit reduction.  You buy votes with spending.

Which is why the supercommittee failed.  Because it was supposed to fail.  If the full House couldn’t agree to spending cuts neither could a supercommittee.  Because they all report to the same leadership.  This was just theater to raise the debt ceiling.  And a delaying tactic by the Democrats who hoped they could turn public opinion into favoring tax hikes.

So now what?  I’m guessing more lies.  And more theater.  At least until 2012.  When the curtain finally falls on this tragic comedy.

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President Obama uses Class Warfare to Increase Spending and Reward Political Cronies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 19th, 2011

They have Learned in the UK that Government can’t Pay for Everything

China may be subsidizing high-speed rail.  But in the UK, the government is moving the other way.  Because it is just too costly (see Arriva Trains: Fare rise in Wales 2% lower than England posted 9/19/2011 on the BBC News Wales).

The Welsh Government has told Arriva Trains Wales it can increase prices by 1% above the inflation rate.

Last month the UK government announced an average increase in England of 3% over inflation…

Tony Miles, from Modern Railways magazine, said the decision was good news for Welsh commuters but it would impact on the Welsh Government’s budget.

He said: “This is a policy decision by the Welsh Government, which is very much in line with their outlook that the burden of financing public transport should fall more on taxpayers centrally than on the individual passengers…

“The UK Government wants to shift the cost of the railways more away from taxpayers and towards users.

The UK went farther down the socialist road than the Americans.  They nationalized a lot of their industries.  Nationalized their health care.  And, of course, their transportation.  Now there are efforts to reverse this.  Continuing on the work of the great Margaret Thatcher.

There are some in the UK that have a novel idea.  To let people pay for a train ticket.  If they want a train ticket.  Imagine that.  Paying your own way.  How fair.  And rational.  But not all are keen on the idea.  For in Wales they want everyone to pitch in and pay for train tickets.  Even those who don’t ride on the train.

They have learned in the UK that government can’t pay for everything.  And some are now trying to undo years of government growth.  In transportation.  And elsewhere.  To unleash more free market capitalism.  That they were so kind to introduce to the Western World all those years ago.

Was the Great Depression the Worst Economy Ever before Obama Took Office?

In America, though, government continues to grow.  Even with election losses.  And economic malaise (see End of Recession Doesn’t Mean Good Times Return Right Away by David Johnson posted 9/19/2011 on Random Samplings).

Numbers just released by the Census Bureau, however, illustrate that while the recession may technically be over, household economic conditions did not improve…

During the 2010 calendar year, median household income was $49,445, 2.3 percent lower than in 2009 after adjusting for inflation.

The Obama administration’s Recovery Summer ended the Bush recession in 2010.  Or so they say.  The unemployment rate is still above 9%.  If you factor in the underemployed and those who’ve given up looking for a job it’s closer to 16%.  And real household income is down 2.3%.

But just imagine how bad things would have been if Obama didn’t end the Bush Recession with his Recovery Summer.  People would be saying that the Great Depression was the worst economy ever.  Until Obama took office.

To end the Bush recession Obama spent $800 billion in ‘stimulus’ spending.  Which failed.  Because he’s asking for another $450 billion stimulus package.  Despite the first one failing.  Well, it may have failed to stimulate the economy.  But it did stimulate government.

Only Union Jobs are Good Jobs in the Obama Admin because only Union Jobs Fill Democrat Coffers

So we know that their stimulus spending fails to stimulate the economy.  But why?  Is it because they don’t understand things economic?  Or is it because their stimulus has more political goals than economic?  Perhaps it’s both (see Illinois among worst states to do business: Survey by Ameet Sachdev posted 9/19/2011 on the Chicago Tribune).

Illinois ranked among the three worst states for business, according to a survey of U.S. corporate executives released Monday…

Taxes and high costs were among the factors that contributed to the state’s poor showing in the survey. California was deemed to have the worst business climate, followed by New York and Illinois.

So California, Illinois and New York have the worst business climates.  Because of taxes and high costs.  No surprise, really.  For these are big blue Democrat states.  With big blue Democrat cities.  And big public sector unions.  At both the state and municipal levels.  Which is why they have such high taxes and costs.  Those public sector pension and health care benefits are absolutely killing their economies with the high taxes required to fund them.

The Democrats can say what they want.  But they are not business-friendly.  They are only friendly to political allies.  Unions.  Teachers.  And public sector employees.  Which is why businesses want to leave these Democrat areas.  Not to exploit cheap labor.  But to stop their own exploitation by these Democrat strongholds.

Illinois recently increased its income tax rate, which has prompted several companies, including Chicago-based CME Group, to consider leaving the state.

Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina were viewed as having the best business climates, according to the survey.

Boeing built their new 787 Dreamliner plant in South Carolina.  But the Obama administration is trying to shut that plant down.  Why?  Because they don’t like South Carolina.  Or its people.

You see, all jobs are not good jobs.  As the Obama administration sees it.  And these new South Carolinian jobs are not good jobs.  Because they are nonunion jobs.  No union means no union dues.  And no money to flow into Democrat coffers.  So the Obama administration has nothing to gain politically.  And that’s why they are using the power of the National Labor Relations Board to shut that plant down.  And make Boeing expand production in Seattle.  Where the jobs will be union jobs.  And union money will flow into Democrat coffers.  Via union dues.

President Obama and the Democrats Prefer Crony Capitalism over Free Market Capitalism

We call this crony capitalism.  Some may even say extortion.

Crony capitalism is the opposite of free market capitalism.  Where merit wins the day.  In crony capitalism, though, it’s who you know.  And what kind of political power you have (see Obama administration ‘pressured Air Force general to change testimony’ by Toby Harnden posted 9/16/2011 on The Telegraph).

According to Republicans on Capitol Hill, General William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, told them in a closed session the White House urged him to alter his testimony about the Pentagon’s concerns about a new wireless project by a satellite broadband company…

LightSquared, based in Virginia, is funded by the multi-millionaire Philip Falcone, a frequent donor to Democrats. The satellite and broadband communications company plans to build a nationwide, 4G phone network that many generals believe would seriously hinder the effectiveness of high-precision GPS receiver systems used by the military…

The row over the allegedly improper intervention came as a Republican-controlled House of Representatives Committee investigated a federal loan guarantee to Solyndra, a solar firm also tied to a major Democratic contributor, which failed after receiving a half-billion US government loan guarantee.

A spokesman for Gen Shelton said that his testimony was “his own, supported by and focused purely on documented tested results”.

LightSquared insisted it had not sought to interfere with the properly regulatory process. The White House said reviewing congressional testimony was routine.

Interesting.  The White House says this is just routine.  Which it apparently is.  Whether you’re funneling tax dollars to a green energy company.  Connected to a rich Democrat donor.  Or trying to throw a contract to a communications company.  Also connected to a rich Democrat donor.  Even if it compromises national security.

It’s just business.  And our politicians are just business people.  In the business of rewarding political friends.  In return for generous campaign contributions.

So much for hope, change and transparency.

If You Confiscated all the Rich’s Income it would Wipe out Obama’s Deficit…for One Year

Crony capitalism.  A little extortion.  Mixed in with a generous helping of class warfare.  In other words, Obama politics (see Obama calls for broad tax increases by Stephen Dinan posted 9/18/2011 on The Washington Times).

President Obama on Monday proposed a deficit reduction plan that calls for about $3 in new tax increases for every dollar in additional spending cuts as he seeks to put his imprint on the ongoing talks with Congress over reducing the government’s staggering debt…

“This is not class warfare, it’s math,” Mr. Obama said in the White House’s Rose Garden as he laid out the outlines. “The money’s got to come from some place.”

Real incomes are down.  Unemployment is still above 9%.  If you count the underemployed and those who have given up looking for work the actual number is closer to 16%.  So how best to create more jobs to help people go back to work?  And boost those real incomes?  Well, if you’re a member of the Obama administration, you raise taxes.

But this won’t help the employment numbers.  So why do it?  Because it is class warfare.  Despite the president’s denial that it is.  For there is no other reason to do this.  It won’t help the economy.  And it won’t help reduce the debt.

If you took all income from those earning $200,000 or more you’ll be lucky to get $2 trillion.  At least this is all they had in 2008.

(Source:  SOI Tax Stats – Individual Income Tax Rates and Tax Shares)

See?  You can raise tax rates to 100% on the rich but it won’t help.  If you confiscated all their income you’d raise a lot of money, yes.  Enough to wipe out the Obama’s $1.6 trillion deficit.  For one year.  But it will be $1.6 trillion the following year.  Unless you cut spending.  Because you can take this money only once.  Unless these people agree to keep producing all this wealth as indentured servants.  Which I don’t see happening.

So Broke that We Must Raise Taxes but not too Broke that We can’t Throw $7 Billion to the USPS

So it is class warfare.  And cronyism.  Helping those who help them.  With taxpayer dollars.  Which is why they need to raise taxes.  Not to retire the debt.  But to help their political supporters (see President Obama deficit plans back ending Saturday mail by Ed O’Keefe posted 9/19/2011 on The Washington Post).

The White House is also calling on Congress to return $7 billion that USPS paid into a federal retirement fund to the delivery service to help pay for other retirement and health-care costs. Obama’s plans also would allow the Postal Service to raise stamp prices beyond the rate of inflation to better match the cost of delivery…

Though the Postal Service is a self-funding entity that doesn’t accept taxpayer dollars, it is a significant piece of the unified federal budget because its workers and retirees draw benefits from federal workers’ compensation, retirement and health-care accounts.

The country is so broke that it must raise taxes.  But it is not too broke that it can’t throw $7 billion to Obama’s friends in the USPS.

We are Regressing back to the Totalitarian Regimes of the Old World

All this talk about balance approach to deficit reduction?  And getting the rich to pay their fair share?  It’s all class warfare. To increase taxes.  To keep funding important political constituencies.  It has nothing to do with deficit reduction.  The numbers are just too large to be able to reduce the deficit with taxes alone.  You have to cut spending.

And this just isn’t going to happen with Democrats in power.  Because government spending is their lifeblood.  Their economic policies don’t work.  And they’re not designed to work.  They have but one purpose.  Politics.  Rewarding political favors.  With taxpayer dollars.

And they will sacrifice anything to keep spending.  The economy.  Our real incomes.  Our national security.  Even the American Dream.  Our liberty.  For we are regressing back to the totalitarian regimes of the Old World.  Where, if you’re not politically connected, you are fast becoming a second class citizen.

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Obama’s Millionaire Tax won’t Provide Serious Deficit Reduction

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 18th, 2011

Deficit Reduction is Important Enough to Raise Taxes but not Important Enough to Cut Spending

Hmmm, a Democrat deficit reduction package.  I wonder what that could mean. Spending cuts?  Or tax hikes?  Well liberal Democrats like to tax and spend.  And Barack Obama is a liberal Democrat.  So it must be tax hikes (see Obama to offer his own debt reduction package by Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press, posted 9/18/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Administration officials see the task of attending to deficits as necessary but not necessarily urgent, compared with the need to revive the economy and increase employment.

What do you know about that?  It’s tax hikes.  What a surprise.

Translation?  It’s important enough to raise taxes to cut the deficit.  But not important enough to cut spending.  In other words, it will be government as usual.  More Keynesian ‘stimulus’ spending.  Which is code for rewarding political friends and allies.  With taxpayer money.  And more class warfare.  Blaming the Obama recession on Republican tactics.  Namely, responsible governance.

The White House signaled its approach Saturday by highlighting a proposal in the president’s plan that would set a minimum tax rate for taxpayers earning more than $1 million.

The measure — Obama is going to call it the “Buffett Rule” for billionaire investor Warren Buffett — is designed to prevent millionaires from using tax-avoidance schemes to pay lower rates than middle-income taxpayers. Buffett has complained that he and other wealthy people have been “coddled long enough” and shouldn’t be paying a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than middle-class taxpayers.

Coddled?  You tell me if we’re coddling these people.

Compare the numbers.  A $60,000 middle class salary pays a current top marginal tax rate of 25%.  That’s somewhere around $11,000 in federal income taxes.  One of these coddled ‘Warren Buffet‘ millionaires may earn $40 million on a half billion dollar investment portfolio.  Taxed at 15% that’s a capital gains tax of $6 million dollars.  So one ‘coddled’ millionaire pays the equivalent of 3,636 middle class taxpayers.

If you look at it this way, rationally, without your head up your keister, you can only arrive at one conclusion.  You don’t want to raise tax rates on the wealthy.  You want to breed them.  With tax policy that encourages the making of more Warren Buffet-class millionaires.

For each new ‘coddled’ millionaire that’s another 3,636 middle class people that could receive significant tax relief.  How?  Lower tax rates across the board.  The middle class pay less.  And more millionaires pay more tax dollars.  The ultimate goal of tax policy.  If you’re not a liberal Democrat, that is.  Whose ultimate goal is, of course, class warfare.  So you can advance policy that is detrimental to the economy.  But beneficial to growing government.  And rewards political friends and allies.  With taxpayer money.

Business Owners Understand their Businesses and Fiscal Policy and are Tiring of being Cash Piñatas

If you’re of the older persuasion you’ve no doubt heard these arguments before.  And after hearing them all these years they don’t fool you anymore.  If you ever were in the first place.  Still, it doesn’t stop them from trying (see Sorry, But The Republican Arguments Against A “Millionaire’s Tax” Are Just Preposterous by Henry Blodget posted 9/18/2011 on Business Insider).

The rest of the Republican counter-arguments are just silly, self-serving, or obstructionist. Let’s take them one by one, ending with the one that seems most persuasive to reasonable people.

“Taxes are a form of theft.”  This is just ridiculous. It’s like arguing that paper money is illegal.

Government is a necessary evil.  Government takes money earned by others.  To pay for public goods.  Everyone understands this.  What people don’t understand is the bastardization of the meaning of public goods.

A public good is a thing that an individual can’t buy.  An individual can’t buy an army and navy to protect himself.  Or herself.  A private individual can’t buy a fresh water and sewage system for himself.  Or herself.  These are public goods.  We pay for these things with taxes.  Everyone pays a little to enjoy the benefits of these massive and costly things.

But we can feed ourselves.  Provide for our own retirement.  Pay for our own healthcare.  We can do these things.  It may be harder for some than others.  But it can be done.  So these things are not public goods.  But government today treats them as public goods.  Taxing us far more than they should.  So they can curry favor with voting groups.

So buying votes with tax dollars may be legal in the strictest sense.  But it is closer to theft than legitimate tax policy.  And printing paper money to fund even more of this spending is generational theft.  A millionaire tax just facilitates more government spending for things government shouldn’t be paying for.

Here is a list of the arguments Blodget says are typically made against raising taxes on millionaires.  Which he goes on to repute.  But I think the arguments speak for themselves.

  • Raising taxes on millionaires will kill their ambition and discourage them from working
  • Raising taxes on millionaires will punish successful people for being successful
  • Raising taxes is always a terrible idea–the problem is spending
  • Taxes are a form of theft: The government has no right to take our money away
  • Raising taxes in a weak economy will further weaken the economy

These are all true.  People like to point to that top marginal tax rate of 1950s when the economy was booming.  But no one paid it.  People hid their earnings in tax shelters to avoid that 90% rate.  Contrary to popular belief on the Left, they didn’t whistle a happy tune and pay it.  They fought it.  And won.  It was a joke.

High taxes do influence rich people.  They will redirect their wealth from income producing.  To wealth preservation.  When tax rates are high.  Just like middle class people do with their 401(k)s.  When they approach retirement.

If a small business earns $1+ million a year, and the owner “passes through” all this income and pays taxes on it, Obama’s “millionaire’s tax” will encourage this owner to do the following:

  • Pay him or herself less
  • Hire more people or otherwise reinvest the money in the business (so it won’t be taxed)

These moves, in turn, should do two things:

  • Help create new jobs (which will help the overall economy)
  • Help grow the owner’s business, thus increasing his or her net worth

Yeah, it could work out like that.  Or it could go another way.  The small business owner can look at this tax policy as a sign that government has no intention of cutting their irresponsible spending.  Which means deficits will only continue to grow.  Which means there will be more taxes in the future.  As there will have to be if they don’t cut spending.  And baseline budgeting keeps increasing that spending every year.  Not to mention all those off-budget spending obligations.

Now business owners live in the real world.  They have to pay payroll taxes with every payroll.  And deal with other taxes and regulatory costs on a daily basis.  They don’t have the luxury of sitting back and prognosticating how tax policy should make business owners behave.  Instead, they’re acting ahead of policy.  They’re listening to this debate and preparing for the worst.  Even before tax policy changes.  Because if they don’t it may be too late when it does.

So this kind of talk is already keeping them from hiring new people.  They are deleveraging left and right.  Because they, unlike government, understand their businesses.  And fiscal policy.  They see what they are to government.  Big, fat cash piñatas.  And they’re tired of being whacked.

They Need to Tax Millionaires because They’re Making Spending Commitments no Amount of Taxation can Sustain

A millionaire tax.  That’s where it starts.  But it’s not where it will end.

People need to understand why government ‘needs’ to tax millionaires.  It’s not because they haven’t been paying their fair share.  It’s because of record deficits.  And record debt.  Caused by record spending.  Just look at the numbers.

Adjusted for inflation, Ronald Reagan‘s largest deficit was $442.614 billion.  George W. Bush‘s largest deficit was $462.56 billion.  In Obama’s first year in office his deficit was $1,416 billion.  In his second year it was $1,294 billion.  They project it to be $1,650 billion in 2011.  And one thing we know about Barack Obama is that he’s not going into the history books as a tax cutter.  So these deficits aren’t from tax cuts.  They’re from spending.

Because of baseline budgeting this spending stays on the books.  And it will only grow.  And all those off-budget spending obligations are growing right along with it.  Such as the trillions the government owes to the Medicare and Social Security trust Funds.  And on top of all of that is Obamacare just waiting to add to our fiscal woes.  This is why they ‘need’ to tax millionaires.  Because the government is making spending commitments no amount of taxation can sustain.  So they will start with millionaires.  Work their way through the middle class.  Then they’ll have no choice but to start rationing benefits.  Followed by austerity.  Then the anarchy comes.  Like in Greece.

This is why we should not add a millionaire tax.  It will not address the spending problem.  And will only facilitate more spending.  Delaying the inevitable day of reckoning.  And making it ever more painful.

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Obama’s Choice – Cut Spending or Downgrade U.S. Sovereign Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 27th, 2011

The BIG Problem is the Excessive Spending, not the Debt Ceiling

I don’t know what’s more annoying in the budget debate to raise the debt limit.  The cries on the left for the Republicans to quit being partisan.  To instead propose a true bipartisan bill that has a chance of passing the Senate.  And by ‘bipartisan’ they mean one that gives the left everything they want.  Or is it the doom and gloom being bleated by the president, Congressional Democrats and the mainstream media if the debt ceiling isn’t raised (see Debt-ceiling threat has Wall Street scrambling by Nathaniel Popper and Jim Puzzanghera posted 7/27/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

Without a deal, the most feared scenario is that the U.S. will miss payments on its bonds and default — which financial experts say would be disastrous. While still considered unlikely, the prospect is popping up more in conversations…

No.  This can’t happen.  There’s enough money to pay interest on the debt.  And to issue Social Security checks.  But they will have to make cuts elsewhere in some nonessential areas.  Like in some cabinet departments (Education, Energy, EPA, etc.).  This is all fear peddling by the Obama administration to do one thing.  Raise the debt ceiling.  So they can keep spending.  And this is the BIG problem.

The more likely scenario that investors are preparing for is that a temporary deal is struck to lift the debt ceiling. But such a makeshift plan is unlikely to allow the U.S. to maintain its AAA grade with bond rating companies. Citigroup analysts say the odds are 50-50 that the U.S. will be demoted to an AA rating for the first time ever.

Such a downgrade could lead to a temporary market panic. In the longer term it could push interest rates up for everyone from bankers down to ordinary people taking out car loans, and weaken the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency.

Even if they raise the debt limit in time there is a far greater problem.  And yet few are talking about THIS problem.  The excessive spending that will ultimately cause the credit downgrade.

To Avoid Credit Downgrade will Require $4 Trillion in REAL Spending Cuts

And it’s no secret.  S&P was very explicit in their report of what would cause a credit downgrade.  Unrestrained government spending (see The Real S&P Warning: A $4 Trillion Deal or a Downgrade by Veronique de Rugy posted 7/19/2011 on National Review).

As the debt-ceiling showdown heads into its final stages, the political maneuvering has intensified. Yet I fear that we are losing sight of the only reason why the fight over the debt ceiling matters: It forces a discussion of the country’s real problem — unrestrained government spending and the tremendous fiscal imbalances that jeopardize our financial safety.

This is the real message in the July 14 S&P report.

First, S&P writes that unless there’s a credible $4 trillion deal within the next three months, they will downgrade us. By “credible,” S&P explains, they mean a plan that will actually be put into place (i.e., not one where the tax increases happen but not the spending cuts). Not $2 trillion, not $1 trillion,  but $4 trillion. And it has to be credible.

That means REAL spending cuts.  Not those ‘future’ kind that never happen.  Those that Democrats have promised time and again only to renege on those promises.  Or the base-line budgeting type of ‘cuts’ that still increase spending.  The onus is all on Obama and the Democrats.  Because they are the ones steadfast in their opposition to any real spending cuts.

The Electric Car – Typical Wasteful Government Spending

To get an idea of their voracious appetite to spend, consider the electric car.  What the economy of the future is based on.  Green energy.  The thing that’s going to make America rich and prosperous again (see California dials back its electric car credits by Eric Evarts posted 7/26/2011 on Consumer Reports).

In large part, EV appeal was greater in California due to a $5,000 state rebate that came on top of the $7,500 federal tax credit. With the tax credits, the price of an all-electric Nissan Leaf could be as low as $21,000, making it cheaper than a Toyota Prius and putting it on par with other small cars. (The Chevrolet Volt was not eligible for the state credit, although it does receive the $7,500 federal tax credit…)

While the price of electric cars is going up for California drivers, other factors still make the Golden State more attractive than most for electric cars: California uses no coal to generate electricity; its major electric utility companies have time-of-use rates and special power rates for electric cars, effectively lowering their energy costs; and perhaps most importantly, pure electric cars are still eligible to use carpool lanes on the state’s notoriously congested freeways with just a driver onboard. In addition, public charging infrastructure is on a faster track than it is elsewhere in the nation.

So that’s $5,000 from the state.  $7,500 from Washington.  That’s a discount of $12,500 (37.3%).  And yet the price of the Nissan Leaf is still $21,000.  But that still isn’t enough to make this car sell.  They need a subsidized electrical rate as well.  Government at all levels is paying a lot of our tax dollars to make a car no one wants to buy.  And this is the kind of spending that they just can’t cut.  Wasteful.  And this is only one example from the multitude.

Repeal Obamacare – Save Money, Please the People

Cutting $4 trillion over 10 years will not be easy.  But we can halve this number with one stroke of a pen (See By a Margin of 21 Points, Americans Favor Repeal by Jeffrey H. Anderson posted 7/27/2011 on the Weekly Standard).

While President Obama’s notion of a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction isn’t written down anywhere, it’s quite clear that it doesn’t involve repealing Obamacare (despite the fact that the health care overhaul would cost over $2 trillion in its real first decade, from 2014 to 2023). Polling, however, strongly suggests that it should. The latest Rasmussen poll of likely voters shows that, by a margin of 21 points (57 to 36 percent), Americans support the repeal of the centerpiece legislation of the Obama presidency.

Repealing Obamacare would be a step in the right direction.  It will save $2 trillion in spending that is pushing the U.S. toward a credit downgrade.  And the people don’t want it by a margin of 21 points.  Save money.  Please the people.  It’s a no-brainer for responsible government.  If only government was responsible.

The Choice – Cut Spending or Downgrade U.S. Sovereign Debt

The president said we need to live within our means.  And he’s right about that.  But living within our means doesn’t mean taxing and borrowing more to pay for out of control government spending.  Living within our means starts by NOT spending money we don’t have.  Not to spend first and figure out how to pay later. 

And just because other presidents raised the debt limit doesn’t mean we have to raise the debt limit.  You don’t justify bad behavior with bad behavior.  We’ve borrowed too much.  The credit rating agencies have spoken.  We need to cut spending.  And not get all professorial and lecture the American people that we need to be ‘responsible’ and raise taxes to pay for the government’s irresponsible spending binge.

We either cut spending.  Or Obama and his Democrats will downgrade U.S. sovereign debt for the first time in history.  Those are the choices.  And a good place to start would be to repeal Obamacare.  Because that’s all future spending.  All $2 trillion.  Not like Social Security or Medicare.  You can cut Obamacare.  And no one will miss it.

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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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A Neutered American Lapdog is Advancing Agenda, not Reporting News

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2011

Dirty Journalists keep Politicians Clean

Poor Rupert Murdoch.  He’s getting no love from the British Establishment over the phone hacking scandal.  Those who once courted the “feral beast” (British tabloids) are turning against it.  Probably because the other political party wooed them more successfully.  And if you’re in politics, you want them on your side.  Because they’re good at their jobs (see In Defense of Hacks by Toby Harnden posted 7/21/2011 on Foreign Policy).

Whereas our American counterparts have long viewed themselves as comparable to lawyers and doctors, we British hacks still see ourselves as practitioners of a grubbing craft rather than members of an upstanding profession. (The public, which views us as on a par with real estate agents, prostitutes and perhaps even criminals, tends to agree.)

Yes, they’re less Walter Cronkite and more Louie De Palma (a character on the American sitcom Taxi).  For a good journalist knows how to get dirty.  Like Louie, a good journalist is born dirty.

While the American press has certainly had its share of similar disgraces, it is true that American newspaper articles are in the main more accurate and better-researched than British ones; the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal was not wrong when it ventured that Fleet Street has “long had a well-earned global reputation for the blind-quote, single-sourced story that may or may not be true.” But stories in the American press also tend to be tedious, overly long, and academic, written for the benefit of po-faced editors and Pulitzer panels rather than readers. There’s a reason a country with a population one-fifth the size of that of the United States buys millions more newspapers each week.

For all their faults, British “rags” are more vibrant, entertaining, opinionated, and competitive than American newspapers. We break more stories, upset more people, and have greater political impact.

That’s the way American journalism was before the Political Class co-opted it.  And why ordinary Americans once read newspapers.  To keep an eye on the scoundrels we put into elected office.  It was one of the few things that kept our elected officials somewhat honest.  Or, at least, honest enough not to lose the next election.

In fact, for the British press, the most damaging revelation of the phone-hacking scandal is the degree to which it shows that journalists — or, to be more precise, News International executives — breached the inner sanctums of the British Establishment. A breed that had always taken pride in being made up of grubby outsiders was allowed in and made the most of the opportunity.

In the United States, journalists are already on the inside: Witness President Barack Obama’s private chats with op-ed columnists, the Washington Post and Time magazine types who effortlessly segue into White House press secretaries and the cozy consensus of Washington’s political-journalism-industrial complex. All too often, American editors, perhaps mindful of their future cocktail party invitations, would prefer their reporters stroke rather than stick it to authority. British journalistic excesses can rightly be condemned, but the American media could use a few more of them. It took the National Enquirer to bring Senator John Edwards to book — and Fleet Street would not have stood for the credulous U.S. reporting on the Bush administration that characterized the run-up to the Iraq war.

That’s the last thing you want.  Your journalists getting all warm and cozy with the people they’re supposed to keep honest.  You don’t want the media to be an adjunct of one party, following orders to advance an agenda while launching personal attacks on the other party.  A good journalist should hate all political authority equally.  And show no favoritism when destroying political careers.  

It is the very politicians who used every opportunity to ingratiate themselves with Murdoch and his acolytes who are now those calling for News International to be broken up — and for the media as a whole to be called to account. Their aim? A regulation system — probably headed up by new a government-appointed “independent” body — that produces a neutered press close to the American model. Having visited Washington and seen reporters stand up when the American president enters the room (British hacks do no such thing for the prime minister) and ask respectful, earnest three-part questions, no wonder our politicians would want more of the same.

The danger of the fevered atmosphere in Britain — where justified outrage over tabloid tactics is fast leading to a hasty public inquisition, with 10 official inquiries or investigations underway at last count — is that what Prime Minister Tony Blair once termed the “feral beast” of the media might be tamed and muzzled. Perhaps the worst outcome of all would be for it to be turned into an American-style lapdog.

If you want to learn about American politics (or journalism) read a British newspaper.  The British Establishment hates and fears them.  Because they do their job.  Whereas in America, the Political Class only hates and fears FOX NEWS and talk radio (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etc.).  Which tells you where to go to get your news.  Because if you want objective reporting, you have to go where they dare to be unflattering.  Unlike the sycophants in the ‘mainstream’ media.  For an unneutered feral beast is the only thing that will go for the political jugular.  And restrain the excess of our elected scoundrels.  I mean representatives.

And sometimes you need to get dirty.  Because getting dirty is sometimes the only way to keep politicians clean.

Good Journalism is more Reporting and less Stroke

If you watch FOX NEWS or listen to talk radio you’ll hear a different ‘version’ of the news than that on the mainstream media.  For example, the mainstream media has reported repeatedly polls citing that Americans want the Republicans to stop being intransigent and raise taxes already so the budget deal to raise the debt limit can move ahead.  Interesting how that ‘report’ meshes perfectly with the Obama administration policy agenda.  And yet Rasmussen reports a completely contrary poll finding (see Most Voters Fear Debt Deal Will Raise Taxes Too Much, Cut Spending Too Little posted 7/22/2011 on Rasmussen Reports).

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 62% of Likely U.S. Voters are worried more that Congress and President Obama will raise taxes too much rather than too little in any deal to end the debt ceiling debate. Just 26% fear they’ll raise taxes too little. Twelve percent (12%) aren’t sure. (To see survey question wording, click here…)

There’s a wide difference of opinion, however, between the Political Class and Mainstream voters. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Political Class is worried the deal will cut spending too much, while 63% of Mainstream voters fear it won’t cut spending enough. Those in the Mainstream worry more than Political Class voters by a near two-to-one margin – 70% to 37% – that the debt deal also will raise taxes too much.

It sounds like ordinary Americans don’t want higher taxes and more spending.  In fact, they are worried that any deal may raise taxes too much or cut spending too little.  Now this opposes the Obama administration policy agenda.  So I wonder which journalism is more reporting and less stroke?  And which is truer?

Entitlement Spending is the Cause of all our Budget Woes

Americans should be worried about raising taxes instead of cutting spending.  Because there is a much bigger problem out there (see Missing the Debt by Yuval Levin posted 7/21/2011 on The Corner).

…starting in the 2050s, CBO projects that health-care spending will be greater than all other non-interest spending combined, and the federal government will basically be a health insurer with some unusual side ventures like an army and a navy.

…health-care entitlement spending is basically 100 percent of our medium and long-term debt problem.

That thing that Obama and the Democrats refuse to put on the table?  Entitlement reform?  Especially all the health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid and now Obamacare)?  They’re the cause of all our budget woes.  Ignoring this fact makes the budget debate pointless.  It’s just political theatre.  Fiddling while America burns.  Pity we don’t have an unneutered feral beast to put this issue front and center.  Besides FOX NEWS and talk radio, that is.

FOX NEWS will Report what the Political Class rather you not Hear

Interestingly, FOX NEWS is part of the Rupert Murdoch Empire.  And those on the left viciously belittle it as not being ‘real’ news.  But they sure incur the wrath of the Political Class.  Which should tell you a thing or two.  Because when it comes to news organizations, they only hate those who report things they’d rather you not hear.

Of course there is a chance that the FOX NEWS isn’t a legitimate news organization.  And that they are only reporting inflammatory pieces to make a buck.  And that the Political Class is pure and innocent as the winter’s snow.  That everything they do is for our own best interests.  Being the honest public servants that they are.

Yeah, right.  Pull the other.

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LESSONS LEARNED #75: “Lower income tax rates generate more tax revenue by making more rich people who pay more income taxes.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 21st, 2011

Inflation is a Bitch

The top marginal tax rate during the Eisenhower administration peaked at 92%.  When it wasn’t at 92% it was at 91%.  This was post-war America.  A happy time.  They even named a TV series after this time.  Happy Days.  Life was good.  There were jobs aplenty.  And lots of baby making.  Everyone lived happily ever after.  Until the war-devastated economies rebuilt themselves and didn’t need American manufacturing anymore.

Things started to change in the Sixties.  Sure, a top marginal tax rate of 92% was high.  But few paid it.  Creative accounting and useful tax shelters avoided that punishing rate.  But government was still fat and happy with the money it was collecting.  Until the Vietnam War came along.  Johnson‘s Great Society.  And let’s not forget the Apollo moon program.  With renewed competition for American manufacturing, trouble in the oil-rich Middle East and rising inflation, the Seventies weren’t going to be happy.

And they weren’t.  Oil shockNixon shockStagflationMiseryKeynesian economics says to tax and spend to tweak the economy back to health.  When you can’t tax enough, you borrow.  When you can’t borrow, you print.  Nothing is more important than creating demand where no demand exists.  Give consumers more money to spend and ignore the debt, deficit and inflation.  The problem is, inflation is a bitch.

Reaganomics increased GDP 82.9%

Ronald Reagan routed Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.  Carter’s economic numbers were some of the worst in history.  Double digit interest rates, unemployment and inflation.  All being flamed by an expansionary Keynesian monetary policy.  Until Paul Volcker took over the Fed during Carter’s last year or so in office.  And there really is only one way to cure a bad inflation.  With a bad recession.  And the Reagan recession of the early 1980s was one of the more severe ones.

Reagan was from the Austrian school of economics.  Supply-side.  His Reaganomics embraced the following tenets: cut spending, cut taxes, cut regulation and cut inflation.  In 1980 the top marginal tax rate was 70%.  When he left office it was 28%.  During his 8 years in office he took GDP from $2,788.1 billion to $5,100.4 billion (an increase of 82.9%).

The Reagan critics will note this explosive economic growth and say, “Yeah, but at what cost?  Record deficits.”  True, Reagan had some of the highest deficits up to his time.  But those deficits had nothing to do with his tax cuts.  For Reagan increased tax revenue from $798.7 billion to $1,502.4 billion (an increase of 88.1%).  Those deficits weren’t from a lack of revenue.  They were from an excess of spending.  And, therefore, not the fault of the Reagan tax cuts.

A Downward Trend in Prices is like an Upward Trend in Wages

And the Reagan critic will counter this with, “Sure, the economy grew.  But the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.”  Yes, his income and capital gains tax cuts made a lot of rich people.  But they also transferred the tax burden from the poor to the rich.  In 1980, the top 1% of earners paid 19.1% of all federal income taxes.  By the time he left office that number grew to 27.6% (an increase of 44.8%).  Meanwhile the bottom 50% of earners paid less.  Their share fell from 7.1% to 5.7% (a decrease of 18.9%).

Of course, the Reagan critic will then note that Reagan slashed domestic spending to pay for his military spending.  Well, yes, Reagan did spend a lot.  He increased spending from $846.5 billion to $1,623.6 billion (or an increase of 91.8%).  But he made a tax deal with Congress.  For every new $1 in taxes Congress would cut $3 in spending.  Those spending cuts never came.  Hence Reagan’s monstrous $200 billion deficits.  That’s a lot of money for both guns and butter.

But the greatest thing he did for low-income people was curbing inflation.  High inflation makes everything cost more, leaving low-income people with less to live on.  In 1980, inflation was at 13.5%.  When Reagan left office he had lowered it to 4.1% (a decrease of 69.6%).  No one benefited more from this reduction in inflation than low-income people.  A downward trend in prices is like an upward trend in wages.

The Reagan Economy was Better than the Clinton Economy

The Reagan critic likes to point to the Clinton years as a better economic period with better economic (and fairer) policies.  The Nineties were a period of economic growth.  But even with the dot-com bubble near the end of that period the Clinton GDP growth of 56.9% was less than Reagan’s 82.9%.   

Whereas Reagan achieved spectacular GDP growth while fighting inflation, the Clinton growth did not have to slay the inflation beast.  In fact, inflation rose from 3.0% to 3.4% during his two terms, indicting the GDP growth was not as real as Reagan’s.  Reagan’s was measured with a strengthening dollar.  Clinton’s was measured with a weakening dollar.  Also, real prices fell under Reagan.  While they rose under Clinton.  Making life more expensive for low-income people under Clinton than under Reagan.

Thanks to the dot-com boom, though, Clinton continued to transfer the tax burden to the rich.  He experienced a wind-fall of capital gains tax revenue when all those rich dot-com people cashed in their stock options.  In 1992, the top 1% of earners paid 27.4% of all federal income taxes.  By the time he left office that number grew to 37.4%.  This was an increase of 35.9% (compared to Reagan’s 44.8%).  Meanwhile the bottom 50% of earners paid less, too.  Their share fell from 5.1% to 3.9%.  This was a decrease of 22.7% (compared to Reagan’s 18.9%). 

Over all, though, Clinton’s policies increased tax revenue 69.8% compared to Reagan’s 88.1%.  And this was with the dot-com boom thrown in.  Had there been no dot-com bubble (that burst after he left office) no doubt his GDP and tax revenue would have been less.  Some of this economic dampening perhaps being caused by his increase of the top marginal tax rate from 31% to 39.6%. 

Both Reagan and Clinton made more Rich People

Reagan’s tax cuts led to an economic boom.  He cut inflation making life more affordable for lower-income people.  And he transferred the tax burden to the rich.

Clinton increased taxes.  His economic boom was good but not great.  A big part of his GDP growth and tax revenue was due more to irrational exuberance than real economic growth. 

But both Reagan and Clinton made more rich people.  And these rich people paid more taxes.  And because they did low-income people paid less.  Which would seem to prove that the best way to increase tax revenue (and make the tax system more progressive) would be to create more rich people.  And yet the very people who want to do this advance policies that work against these objectives.  Why?

Politics.  Sure, the Austrian school of economics has a proven track record over the Keynesian school.  But Austrian school economics has a terrible side affect.  It doesn’t grow government.  And all the economic growth and tax revenue doesn’t mean a thing if you lose your comfy federal job.  At least to a Big Government politician.

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Debt Crises are Far Greater than Many choose to Believe

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2011

Was it the Plan to Bankrupt the Nation?

The IMF is worried about a technical default on U.S. debt.  But it’s the budget deficits that really concerns the IMF.  In the U.S.  And in Europe.  For the entitlement spending of these welfare states has proven to be beyond unsustainable.  They’re downright dangerous.  And if unchecked, it will destroy these nations (see IMF cuts U.S. growth forecast, warns of crisis by Luciana Lopez posted 6/17/2011 on Reuters).

The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for U.S. economic growth on Friday and warned Washington and debt-ridden European countries that they are “playing with fire” unless they take immediate steps to reduce their budget deficits.

They’re not saying that the U.S. had better raise their debt limit.  They’re saying that they better reduce their deficit.  Either by raising taxes.  Or cutting spending.  And with the IMF cutting their forecast for U.S. economic growth, that pretty much means they’re leaning towards cutting spending.  Because higher taxes don’t stimulate economic growth.  And the U.S., and all countries with huge budget deficits, needs as much economic growth as possible.  For ‘economic growth’ means ‘tax revenue’ growth.  And that’s what they need.  Tax revenue.  Add to that spending cuts and you start making headway in reducing those deficits. 

Meanwhile, Greece has edged closer to default as euro zone officials disagree on a possible second aid package for the indebted country. With strikes and protests around the country, political turmoil has added to uncertainty, stoking fears that the government will not be able to tighten its belt enough to reduce crippling deficits.

“If you make a list of the countries in the world that have the biggest homework in restoring their public finances to a reasonable situation in terms of debt levels, you find four countries: Greece, Ireland, Japan and the United States,” Vinals said.

With strikes and protests over austerity measures to reduce their deficit, it doesn’t look good in Greece.  They’re getting closer and closer to a default on their debt.  And not a technical default as in being late on an interest payment.  But an all out default as in making their bonds worthless.  What’s worse is that the U.S. made it to the short list of nations with the absolute worst public finances.  And that’s before Obamacare adds another trillion dollars or so of federal spending.

You know this didn’t happen overnight.  We knew about the crushing weight of U.S. entitlement spending for decades.  Even Ronald Reagan raised taxes to save these programs.  So it wasn’t a secret.  And for the Obama administration to spend to the tune of a $1.4 trillion deficit was ill advised to say the least.  Unless the plan was to bankrupt the nation.  If that was the plan then kudos to them.  They may actually have something work as planned yet.

Overheating Economies are a Bitch on the Downside

Greece may be beyond saving.  Worse, when she goes under she may drag others with her (see IMF warns of increased risks to the world economy posted 6/17/2011 on the BBC).

Many analysts believe Greece will not be able to pay back all the money it has borrowed.

“I don’t think there is a question over whether Greece is going to default, it is just a question of whether it is an orderly or disorderly one,” says George Magnus, senior economic adviser at UBS.

The IMF warned that if Greece was unable to pay its debts, other countries such as Spain or Portugal may also be affected.

A cascading electrical blackout is a lot like bank failures.  The North American electrical grid is interconnected.  Power plants attach locally but their power can be sent almost anywhere on the grid depending on demand.  Back in the Northeast Blackout of 2003, downed high voltage power lines triggered a sequence of events.  With some power disconnected from the grid, more power flowed from other sources to make up for the loss.  Higher currents caused these lines to sag and eventually they, too, failed.  Other lines then surged with higher currents to make up for the loss supply and then they failed.  As lines failed power plants disconnected from the grid.  Those still attached tried to make up for the lost supply.  Until they exceeded their safe limits and then disconnected from the grid to protect themselves.  And this continued until a large part of Northeast North America lost all electrical power.

Now think of governments as power stations.  Government spending as high currents in power lines.  The economy as the electric grid.  And Greece as the first failure.  Right now the European Union and the European Central Bank are trying to minimize the cascading damage.  Before financial trouble spreads further and stresses other governments.  Causing additional stresses on the European banking system.  But it doesn’t look good.  All that spending has only overheated those ‘power lines’.  But the problem is still attached to the grid.  Greek spending.  Unable to stop their spending (i.e., commit to their austerity plans), that ‘power station’ will fail.  And then the cascading will begin.

Outside Europe, the fund said it expected economic growth in developing countries to remain strong.

This, in turn, presents a risk of overheating – where economies grow too fast leading to a rapid contraction later.

Like in Japan in the 1980s (Japan Inc).  The U.S. in the 1990s (the dot-com bubble).  And the U.S. again in 2007 (the housing bubble and the subprime mortgage crisis).  Overheating economies can be a whole lot of fun on the upside.  But they’re a bitch on the downside.  Not to mention the economic impact on the rest of the world economy.  And it’s the rest of this world economy that’s scaring the IMF.  For it’s these growing economies that are buying what little manufacturing there is in the older established economies.

It’s going to Suck Worse before it gets Better

There’s no relief for the American consumer.  But the stock market is doing well.  In a normal economic recovery this would benefit the consumer.  But this isn’t a normal economic recovery (see U.S. Confidence Out of Sync With Stock Gains by Bob Willis and Alex Tanzi posted 6/17/2011 on Bloomberg).

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index has stalled near its recession average as the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen 83 percent from a 12-year low in March 2009. A tight correlation between the index and Dow that lasted more than two decades has broken down as joblessness above 9 percent, stagnant wages and near $4-a-gallon gasoline outweigh the benefits of higher share prices, even after a 6.6 percent retreat in the Dow since the end of April.

“Consumers are fairly depressed, yet the stock market continues to improve,” Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, said in an interview. “It’s foreign demand that is really pushing corporate profitability. Consumer confidence is pretty constrained by the labor market.”

U.S. manufacturers in particular have profited from faster growth in emerging economies, including Colombia and Indonesia, where expanding middle classes are demanding more roads and utilities, as well as higher-protein foods and more consumer goods. Deere & Co. (DE), the world’s largest farm-equipment maker, raised its fiscal 2011 earnings forecast on May 18 to $2.65 billion from $2.5 billion, citing increased demand for farm and construction machinery outside the U.S, along with growth in America.

If it wasn’t for these emerging economies there would probably be no corporate profitability.  High unemployment, stagnant wages and $4-a-gallon gasoline is leaving the American consumer little disposable cash to stimulate anything.  That’s why they’re depressed.  Because it sucks out there.

U.S. corporations have gotten “a pickup in sales growth, but they’re not responding with a big pickup in wages and labor growth,” said Rob Carnell, chief international economist at ING Bank in London. “This is helping them to keep their margins intact in the backdrop of rising commodity prices…”

The 18-month recession shaved 4.1 percentage points off gross domestic product before ending in June 2009, making it the deepest downturn since the 1930s. Growth has averaged about 2.8 percent since then, enough to restore only 1.8 million of the 8.8 million jobs lost as a result of the slump.

And now inflation is raising commodity prices.  That means corporations, small businesses and consumers all have less disposable cash.  Which means there will be no job creation.  Because there is no new demand they need to hire people to meet.  Which means it’s going to suck worse out there before it gets better.  Which makes it hard to believe that the recession ended in June of 2009.  High unemployment.  Low economic growth.  Stagnant wages.  If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we’re probably still in a recession.  The worst one since the Great Depression.  And if things continue as they are we may have to call the Great Depression the worst economic downturn before the Great Recession that started in 2007.

Making the easy Difficult

Things are looking bleak for Greece.  And the other three nations that have spending problems as bad as theirs.  Ireland, Japan and the United States.  Boy.  I’d sure hate to be in our shoes.

We know what caused their problems.  Excessive government spending.  So you’d think it’d be easy to fix their problems.  Just stop spending so much.  But when you get people used to that government spending.  And politicians get used to the votes that spending buys, it makes the easy difficult.  So they continue to spend.  Ask for bailouts.  And plead to Congress to raise the debt ceiling so they can spend some more.

The politicians either don’t believe in the magnitude of the problem.  Or they are counting on being dead before they have to pay the piper.  But someone will eventually pay the piper.  And it’s going to hurt.  And the longer we wait to pay the more it’s going to hurt.

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Should the U.S. Monetary System return to the Gold Standard?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 11th, 2011

The Gold Standard versus Government Spending

One time presidential candidate Steve Forbes thinks the U.S. may be ready to  return to the gold standard.  Like it was before Nixon took us off of the gold standard.  Back then dollars were worth gold.  And government spending wasn’t that easy (see Forbes Predicts U.S. Gold Standard Within 5 Years by Paul Dykewicz posted 5/11/2011 on Human Events).

Such a move would help to stabilize the value of the dollar, restore confidence among foreign investors in U.S. government bonds, and discourage reckless federal spending, the media mogul and former presidential candidate said.  The United States used gold as the basis for valuing the U.S. dollar successfully for roughly 180 years before President Richard Nixon embarked upon an experiment to end the practice in the 1970s that has contributed to a number of woes that the country is suffering from now, Forbes added.

When President Nixon entered office the U.S. Government promised to exchange U.S. dollars for gold at an exchange rate of $35 per ounce.  Such a ‘gold standard’ made governments responsible.  Because if a government printed too much money, they would devalue the dollar.  But not the gold.  If they doubled the amount of money in circulation, the market exchange rate would be about $70 per ounce.  Yet the U.S., if they honored their promised exchange rate, would still have to exchange gold for dollars at $35 an ounce.  A responsible government would not do this.  Because this would make U.S. gold a bargain.  And it would fly out of the U.S. treasury in the ultimate fire sale. 

This is what happened.  The Vietnam War and the Great Society cost the U.S. government dearly.  When Nixon took over, he did not want to cut spending on either.  So as costs went up, he printed more money.  Creating that great gold fire sale.  So, before the U.S. lost all of its gold, Nixon stopped honoring the $35 per ounce exchange rate, decoupling the dollar from gold.  Solved one problem.  The gold flow stopped.  But without anything preventing them from printing more money, they printed more money.  Which gave the U.S. double digit inflation and interest rates.  Because their money was worth less and less as they printed more and more.

When Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold he said we were all Keynesians now.  The government was going to try and fix the country’s economic troubles with government spending.  It didn’t work.  The treasury secretary under the Carter administration, Paul Volcker, started the turn around to responsible monetary policy.  Ronald Reagan continued it.  Even wanted to return the country to the gold standard.  But that was something spend-happy politicians could never have.  So they didn’t.  And remain on a fiat money system to this day.  And continue to print more money to continue reckless and irresponsible spending.

If the gold standard had been in place in recent years, the value of the U.S. dollar would not have weakened as it has and excessive federal spending would have been curbed, Forbes told HUMAN EVENTS.  The constantly changing value of the U.S. dollar leads to marketplace uncertainty and consequently spurs speculation in commodity investing as a hedge against inflation.

I don’t know about that.  It didn’t work in the Seventies.

With a stable currency, it is “much harder” for governments to borrow excessively, Forbes said.  Without lax Federal Reserve System monetary policies that led to the printing of too much money, the housing bubble would not have been nearly as severe, he added.

Which is, of course, why we had lax monetary policy.  Government policies since World War II encouraged home ownership.  Because home ownership drove the economy.  It takes economic activity to build houses.  And it takes economic activity to furnish houses.  No other crushing debt that you can saddle on a person can have such economic benefits.

The problem is that some just thought more was better.  Regardless of the possible consequences.  Fast forward to 2008 and we see what happens with the ‘more is better’ philosophy.  When we put so many people into homes they couldn’t afford for the sake of making them home owners.  When the ideal circumstances (i.e., low ARM interest rates) went away, so did their ability to pay their mortgage.  Bankruptcies soared thanks to these subprime loans.   And housing values plummeted thanks to all of these bankruptcies.  And when people were putting zero down and their mortgage just became greater than the market value of their house, guess what?  They walked away.  Only possible in the era of the subprime mortgage.  Because people don’t walk away after a 20% down payment.

“If the dollar was as good as gold, other countries would want to buy it.”

Yes, they would.  They would want our money.  But not our exports.  Because a strong dollar makes them more expensive to export markets.  That’s why the Chinese are keeping their currency devalued.  To make sure those things stamped ‘made in China’ are cheaper than the things stamped ‘made in the USA’ in U.S. stores.

A Weak Dollar is a Strong Economic Tool

If the U.S. had a gold standard it would probably not have trillion dollar deficits.  It’s just too hard to spend that kind of money with a gold standard because there are consequences to such irresponsibility.  Which would probably mean we would have already had the entitlement reform debate.  And probably would have fixed the problem before it got so expensive to fix.

Of course, this is the reason why politicians are so against having a gold standard.  It takes all the fun out of being a politician.  By making it harder to buy votes.  And one of the best ways of getting people to vote for you is having an uptick in economic activity before an election.  At election time politicians are always looking short term.  They don’t care about the long term.  And the short-term effect of a weak dollar is a boost in economic activity.  Our products are cheaper than imported products.  And our exports are cheaper than their domestic market competitors.  Which will improve the economic numbers.  The inflation it causes will be further down the road.  And harder for people to understand what caused it.  The short-term benefits of a weak dollar.

Entitlement Reform probably an Easier Debate

There is so much political opposition to a return to the gold standard that it is unlikely ever to happen.  Even the great Milton Friedman was against it.  And he makes some good responsible arguments against gold.  Another worry is what happens if Russia and/or China discover huge gold deposits in their countries?  That part of the world is rich in natural resources.  It could happen.  And a gold standard would then give them a huge economic advantage over the world’s economies.

It’s not going to be an easy debate.  Perhaps this is the reason Reagan gave up on it so easily.  Because it makes entitlement reform look easy in comparison.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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