One Former Australian Bank Official accuses the Elderly of using $100 Notes in Massive Welfare Fraud

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 29th, 2012

Week in Review

What’s the biggest problem of a welfare state?  Fraud.  Which large piles of money always seems to attract.  As well as changing personal behavior.  Some are even saying it’s turning the elderly into the greatest fraudsters in all of Australia (see Pensioners fume at welfare fraud claims by Henrietta Cook posted 9/25/2012 on The Sydney Morning Herald).

Former senior Reserve Bank official Peter Mair said elderly Australians were committing welfare fraud on a massive scale and are behind the extraordinarily high number of $100 notes in circulation…

Yesterday, BusinessDay revealed there are now 10 $100 notes in circulation for each Australian, far more than the more commonly seen $20 notes…

In a letter to the Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, dated July 4, Mr Mair laid the blame squarely on elderly people wanting to get the pension and hiding their income in cash to ensure they qualified for the means-tested benefit.

If you have too much income or too much money in the bank you could have too much wealth to qualify for a means-tested pension.  So the former senior Reserve Bank official is suggesting that people close to retirement are withdrawing their money from the bank to draw down their bank accounts to more easily qualify for those means-tested pensions.  And those $100 bills make it easy to hide piles of cash in a pensioner’s house.  Perhaps needing only one well hid suitcase full of $100 bills to hold all of those bank withdrawals.  At least, that is what the former senior Reserve Bank official is suggesting.

Finance Minister Penny Wong has warned elderly pensioners to properly declare their incomes. Senator Wong said today she had “not been looking looking under pensioners’ beds lately”.

“But I would say we have a system of means testing for access to the pension and people are required to declare their assets and their income in order to access them,” she told reporters in Canberra…

Mr Mair said that in 1996 when the green plastic $100 note replaced the grey paper note, the Martin Place headquarters of the Reserve received regular visits from retirees wanting to withdraw large quantities of the new notes. He said the commercial banks had sent them to the Reserve because they did not have enough $100 notes on hand.

Mr Mair said the return for an Australian close to getting the pension who held $10,000 in cash, rather than declaring it, was “enormous”.

“If putting it under the bed or in a cupboard means you qualify for the pensioner card, you get discounted council rates, discounted car registration, discounted phone rental – in percentage terms the return is enormous,” he said.

So there is a clear advantage to hiding your wealth.  Which the high denomination bills allow one to do.  So the obvious solution to this alleged welfare fraud would be to eliminate those high denomination bills.

His letter to the governor proposes phasing out the $100 and $50 denominations.

“Cards and the internet have delivered a body blow to high-denomination bank notes. They are redundant,” he said. “There is no longer any point in issuing them except to facilitate tax dodging. The authorities would announce that from, say, June 2015 every $100 and $50 note could be redeemed but no new notes would be issued. After June 2017 every note could only be redeemed at an annual discount of 10 per cent. It would mean that, after two years, each $100 note could only be redeemed for $80, and so on.”

Or perhaps they could lower tax rates.  If they are using these $100 bills for tax evasion perhaps taxes are just too high.  Apparently there is an underground cash economy solely to evade or mitigate taxes like the GST and the carbon tax.  It would appear they could come out further ahead if they just cut taxes instead of having all of these taxes (and tax enforcement) for a welfare state that people may be gaming.  It would be so much cheaper for people to pay their own way and not provide for everyone else (as well as the environment) through these excessive taxes that people aggressively try to evade.

The events happening in Australia provide an answer to the commonly asked question.  Are we taxed too much?  A question the Australians are clearly answering in the affirmative.  As most people feel who have a GST as well as a carbon tax.

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Sweden goes Conservative and Deficit Free

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 22nd, 2012

Week in Review

So far the Keynesian advice has been consistent to get us out of these financial difficult times.  And wrong.  If you want proof look at Sweden.  When the Keynesians said stimulus the Swedes did instead something wholly anathema to Keynesians.  They cut taxes.  And guess what?  They don’t have a debt crisis.  How about that?  But wait.  It gets better.  They no longer have a deficit (see Sweden’s Finance Minister Helped Cut The Deficit — By Cutting Taxes by Adam Taylor posted 4/20/2012 on Business Insider).

With the Swedish deficit wiped out last year (and Borg’s Conservatives voted back into power) the decision is now looking increase wise.

“Everybody was told “stimulus, stimulus, stimulus”,” he tells Fraser. “It was surprising that Europe, given what we experienced in the 1970s and 80s with structural unemployment, believed that short-term Keynesianism could solve the problem.” Non-economists, he says, “might have a tendency to fall for those kinds of messages”.

Instead, Borg cut taxes in a bid to lure entrepreneurs, and lowered benefits to make up the difference. Entrepreneurs “are the source of job creation,” says Borg.

The history is all there to see.  Keynesian economics failed in the Seventies.  Absolutely.  But those who thought like Anders Borg, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, did what he did in the Eighties.  Thatcher turned the UK around.  And Reagan turned the U.S. around.  Pity no one remembers history these days.  Other than Sweden’s Finance Minister. 

A conservative in Sweden?  Who would of thunk it?  If only Europe and the United States would follow Sweden’s lead then they, too, could have smaller deficits.  And more prosperous economies.  But, alas, they simply can’t put their people before their politics.  Apparently.

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LESSONS LEARNED #82: “Too much debt is always a bad thing.” – Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 8th, 2011

Thomas Jefferson hated Alexander Hamilton for his Assumption and Funding Plans 

Thomas Jefferson hated Alexander Hamilton.  For a variety of reasons.  He thought he was too cozy with the British.  And too anti-French.  He also thought Hamilton was too cozy with the merchant class and bankers.  Jefferson hated them, too.  For he thought honest Americans farmed.  Not buy and sell things other people made.  Or loaned money.

But Hamilton was not a bad guy.  And he was right.  George Washington, too.  America’s future was tied to the British.  Trade within their empire benefited the fledging American economy.  And the Royal Navy protected that trade.  For they ruled the seas.  They couldn’t get that from France.  Especially with a France waging war against everyone.

But there was something especially that Jefferson hated Hamilton for.  Assumption.  And funding.  The new nation’s finances were a mess.  No one could figure them out.  There was pre-war debt.  And war debt.  State debt.  And national debt.  The Americans owed their allies.  Neutral nations.  And the former enemy they just won their independence from.  Getting their hands around what they owed was difficult.  But important.  Because they needed to borrow more.  And without getting their finances in order, that wasn’t going to happen.

Thomas Jefferson Understood that a Permanent Debt gave a Government Power 

Hamilton was good with numbers.  And he put America’s financial house in order.  A little too well for Jefferson.  The new federal government assumed the states’ debts (assumption).  And serviced it (funding).  Giving great money and power to the federal government.  Far more than Jefferson believed the Constitution granted.  And this really stuck in his craw.  Because this was the source of all the mischief in the Old World.  Money and power.  The Old World capitals were both the seats of political power.  And the centers of commerce and banking.

Jefferson understood that a permanent debt gave a government a lot of power.  Because debt had to be serviced.  And you serviced debt with taxes.  The bigger the debt the greater the taxes.  Which didn’t sit well with this revolutionary.  I mean, excessive taxation was the cause for rebellion.  Taxes are bad.  And lead to political corruption.  Because the more taxes the government collects the more it can spend on political favors.  Patronage (good paying government jobs for political allies).  Giving rise to a politically-connected ruling class.  Like the Old World aristocracies.  Government grows.  As does their control over the private sector economy.

It’s a process that once started moves in only one direction.  Greater and greater debts.  Paid for by greater and greater taxes.  Until the debt becomes unsustainable.  Like in Revolutionary France.  In present day Greece.  And even in the United States.  Who, in 2011, saw its sovereign debt rating downgraded for the first time in American history.  Because of record deficits.  And record debt.  Caused by excessive spending.  Everything that Jefferson feared would happen.  If government had a permanent debt.

Baseline Budgeting guarantees Permanent Growth in Government Spending

Big Government spending took off in America in the Sixties.  Historically government receipts averaged 17.8% of GDP.  During the Fifties and the Sixties, GDP grew while debt remained flat.  Of course, if GDP grew then so did tax dollars coming into Washington.  For 17.8% of an expanding GDP produced an expanding pile of cash in the government’s coffers.

Liking the taste of this money, government kept spending.  So much so that they adopted baseline budgeting in 1974.  Where current spending is automatically added to for next year’s spending.  Guaranteeing permanent growth in government spending.  To pay for LBJ‘s Great Society.  The Vietnam WarApollo.  And other spending programs.  The spending was so out of control that the debt started to creep up.  And what they didn’t borrow they printed.  Leading to the Nixon Shock.

The Nixon Shock (ending the quasi gold standard) unleashed inflation.  Which Paul Volcker and Ronald Reagan defeated.  With inflation tamed and the Reagan tax cuts, the Eighties saw solid GDP growth.  And record deficits.  The Democrats liked all that cash coming into Washington.  And they spent it faster than it came in.  But to reduce the deficit they made a deal.  For each dollar in new taxes the Democrats would cut three dollars in spending.  Of course they lied.  Because Democrats don’t cut taxes.  They got their new taxes.  But Reagan didn’t get any spending cuts.  In fact, the deal went the other way.  For every dollar in new taxes there were three dollars in new spending.  The deficit grew bigger.  And for the first time the debt grew at a greater rate than GDP.  As shown here:

(Source:  GDP, Debt, Receipts)

The Obama Stimulus gave us Record Deficits and Record Debt

After the 1994 midterm elections, Bill Clinton and the new Republican House compromised.  They reined in spending.  Implemented welfare reform.  And rode the dot-com bubble on the good side.  Before it burst.  It was capital gains galore.  Put all of this together and GDP rose and flooded Washington with tax receipts.  While debt remained flat.  In fact, there were budget surpluses forecast.  But then that dot-com bubble burst.

George W. Bush started his presidency with recession.  A couple of tax cuts later and GDP was tracking up again.  But 9/11 changed things.  And gave us two costly wars (Iraq and Afghanistan).  On top of an expensive Medicare drug program.  Record deficits took debt to new heights.  Then the Housing Bubble burst.  Followed by the subprime mortgage crisis.  And President Obama used this crisis to advance a dormant Democrat agenda.

It was an $800 billion stimulus.  Something he promised would have no pork or earmarks.  Nothing but shovel-ready projects.  Of course, it was nothing but pork and earmarks.  And those shovel-ready projects?  There’s no such thing.  So the stimulus didn’t stimulate anything.  Other than record deficits (surpassing Bush’s).  And record debt.  Debt increasing at a greater rate than GDP.  And equal to or greater than GDP in dollars.  Not seen since World War II.

Hamilton and Jefferson would have United in Opposition against Barack Obama

Debt fell as a percentage of GDP following World War II.  It fell from above 90% to below 40% around the end of the Sixties.  GDP was rising during this period while debt remained flat.  So the flat debt became a smaller and smaller percentage of a growing GDP.  The ‘growing your way out of debt’ phenomenon.  But that process stopped and reversed itself during the Seventies.  When Congress spent with a fury.  As noted above.  Debt grew.  Back to the level of GDP it was during a world war.  Only now there is no world war.  And we’re not spending to save democracy.  We’re spending to end democracy.

(Source:  GDP, Debt $, Debt %)

It is what Jefferson feared most.  Out of control government spending.  Racking up massive debt.  The kind that is impossible to pay off.  And is permanent.  And it was being done not for a war to save democracy from fascism.  But to change America.  To make it a different kind of nation.  No longer one of limited government.  But Big Government.  One with a ruling class.  A ruling class that now has a claim on 100% of GDP.  To pay for everything they gave us.  Where there is no choice but fair-share sacrifice.  Where everyone pays their ‘fair share’ of taxes.  Which is government-speak for raising taxes on everyone.  To flood government coffers with more private sector wealth.

The country is not what it was.  And it will never be what it once was again.  Not with this level of spending.   This is the kind of spending nations see in their decline.  It’s what toppled Louis XVI.  It’s what roiled Greece in riots.  It’s what downgraded U.S. sovereign debt.  For the first time.  Even Alexander Hamilton wouldn’t approve of this.  For his Big Government idea was all about making the nation an economic superpower.  Not bringing back feudalism.

So if you’re not a fan of Barack Obama, here’s something you can credit him for.  His policies would have reconciled two of our most beloved Founding Fathers.  For Hamilton and Jefferson may have hated each other.  But they would have united in opposition against Barack Obama.

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Obama’s Economic Policies have Failed because they’re Keynesian Economic Policies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 2nd, 2011

Government Spending and Easy Monetary Policy haven’t created any Jobs 

The new jobs report is in.  It’s not good.  Surprise, surprise (see ‘No confidence’ sparks rush to safety by Blake Ellis posted 9/2/2011 on CNNMoney).

The Labor Department reported that the economy added no jobs in August, while the unemployment rate remained at 9.1%. That was the worst reading since September 2010, when the economy lost 27,000 jobs.

Economists had been expecting a weak report given the recent debt ceiling gridlock, plunging consumer confidence and the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating in August. But what they got was even worse than expected.

These Keynesian economists have been predicting every kind of wonderful they could with every new Keynesian policy.  But government spending and easy monetary policy haven’t created any jobs.  If they did we’d have them.  Jobs.  But we don’t have them.  After close to 3 years of trying.  I mean, the economy is so bad that oil prices are falling.

Since a healthy economy typically spurs demand for oil, fears that another recession is around the corner are causing traders to worry about waning demand, said Flynn.

“Crude oil is looking at demand destruction right now,” he said. “With a lack of people going back to work and economic data as a whole as it is, it’s just not a supportive environment for higher prices.”

So the Obama administration has spent the U.S. to record deficits.  And record debt.  But because so many people are unemployed demand for oil is destructing.  What a terrible tradeoff for cheaper oil.

Oil is the lifeblood of a healthy economy.  So you know an economy is not healthy when people aren’t buying oil.  In a country where chronically insufficient domestic supplies once raised the price of gasoline to over $4/gallon.  Now any spikes in gas prices seem to have more to do with a depreciating dollar (thanks to all that easy monetary policy) than demand.

Keynesians see no Downside to Excessive Government Spending or Inflation

Still there are some who say the problem is not excessive spending.  But spending that was not excessive enough (see Fatal Distraction by Paul Krugman posted 9/2/2011 on The New York Times).

Zero job growth, with unemployment still at nosebleed levels. Meanwhile, the interest rate on 10-year US bonds is down to 2.04%, and it’s negative on inflation-protected securities.

Aren’t you glad we pivoted from jobs to deficits a year and a half ago?

Krugman is a Keynesian.  So by ‘jobs’ he means government spending.  And by ‘deficits’ he means responsible government.  He sees no downside to excessive government spending.  Or inflation.  As if the 1970s never happened.

A lot of People hate the Rich and Successful, especially Ivy League Elitists

But the 1970s did happen.  And we had double-digit inflation at the end of that decade.  Didn’t help.  It didn’t make a dent in the unemployment numbers.  Yet there are those who want to take that very dangerous road again (see View: Inflation Is Easy to Free, Hard to Control by the Editors posted 9/1/2011 on Bloomberg).

…But now, a growing number of voices, mainly on the left wing of the Democratic Party but also in the Federal Reserve, are calling for what is in effect default in slow motion. It goes by the name of inflation.

Inflation decreases the value of debts, like the $14 trillion owed by the federal government to lenders such as the government of China (and a lot of ordinary American savers, too), and it increases the value of assets, like houses. Thus it helps all debtors, from the federal government to individual homeowners who can’t pay their mortgages. Inflation has been running at an average of 2.4 percent over the past decade. After a couple of years of, say, 6 percent inflation, that $14 trillion would be worth closer to $12 trillion in current dollars. A $400,000 mortgage would be worth about $350,000.

Some may say, shrinks debt?  Increases asset value?  Well where’s the problem with that? 

We call it class warfare.  Of the worse kind.  Creditors versus debtors.  The poor versus the rich.  The poor hate the rich because they have to borrow from them to buy a house.  And they would love to not pay them back.  But if you start doing this eventually the rich won’t loan their money anymore.  So there will eventually be no more home ownership.  Except for the rich. 

It’s a story as old as time.  And the U.S.  The states were passing debtor laws.  Favoring debtors.  Harming creditors.  And destroying legal contracts in the process.   Which a nation built on the rule of law could not have.  For if there are no contracts there is only force.  Where the most powerful get what they want.  And those not powerful enough to fight them off simply lose what they have. 

This is one of the reasons why the Founding Fathers called for the Philadelphia Convention in 1787.  To save what they just fought 8 years to get.  A nation where no man is above the law.  And contracts are legal binding.  Still, there are a lot of people who hate the rich and successful.  Who think contracts are merely suggestions.  Especially Ivy League elitists who have no ability but arrogance and condescension.  Who could never become rich and successful on their own.  Preferring privilege over hard work.  And have no problem trampling over people’s contract rights.  Or Constitutional rights, for that matter.  But that’s another story.  For another time.

As it happens, a couple of years of 6 percent inflation is exactly what the leading economist advocating this approach — Kenneth Rogoff at Harvard — recommends. He is joined by Paul Krugman and by a growing number of economic journalists and commentators. Some of these people have been saying that inflation is no threat worth worrying about, because it has not appeared despite circumstances that ordinarily would have produced it. Now they say inflation is no threat because a little of it would actually be a good thing.

At Bloomberg View, we think that doing anything to encourage increased inflation is a very bad idea. People who advocate it are either too young or too old to remember our last adventure with inflation, in 1979 and 1980…

You can’t easily pencil in two years of 6 percent inflation and then go on your merry way. Inflation is self-feeding and takes on a life of its own. And it works only by surprise. If lenders all know that the government is going to induce or at least tolerate something like 6 percent inflation, they will demand something like 8 percent interest from borrowers. There goes the grease on the wheels. And it’s not just lenders: Labor negotiators will have their backs stiffened if they know that any dollar figure they negotiate will buy less and less. Manufacturers who know their inputs are going to be getting more expensive, in dollar terms, will raise their prices in anticipation, thus making inflation a self-fulfilling prophecy. Long-term planning becomes difficult to impossible.

This is what happened in the Seventies.  It’s why there were double-digit interest rates.  Inflation was depreciating the dollar so fast that it took near usury rates before anyone would loan money.  It was great for people with money to loan.  But horrible for people who had to borrow.

There is no Record of increasing Taxation and Regulation increasing Economic Activity

This is not just a condemnation of the Obama economic policies.  This is a condemnation of Keynesian economics as a whole.  They only lead to a bloated federal government.  That grows at the expense of the job-producing private sector (see Needed: A Reagan Moment To Stop Our Decline by Lawrence Kudlow posted 9/2/2011 on Investors).

During the Bush years, the federal government increased from 18% of GDP to 21%. The debt went up $2.5 trillion, from roughly 32% of GDP to 40%. And now, during the Obama period, spending has moved even higher to at least 24% of the economy, while total federal debt has ballooned near 100% of GDP.

It’s almost a mirror image: The expansion of the public sector and the decline of the private sector. This is completely inimical to the American peacetime experience…

And all while jobs, the economy and stocks slumped over the past 10 years, the dollar dropped 37% and gold increased by nearly 500%, from $250 to nearly $1,900 an ounce.

We don’t have the kind of inflation today that we experienced in the 1970s. But it is certainly worth noting that a collapsing currency and a skyrocketing gold price are key barometers of a loss of confidence in the American economic story.

But the Keynesians aren’t worried.  Mr. Paul Krugman belittles those ‘responsible’ people who worry about phantom demons like inflation.  When it comes to spending, their constant refrain is to flame on.  And only worry when inflation is burning white hot.  Then they can simply tap their monetary breaks and make everything good again.  Or so they think.

But there is a bigger problem.  This ‘limited’ government of the Founding Fathers is growing into a leviathan. 

My key thought is that the U.S. in the last decade has adopted a wrongheaded policy of government expansion — primarily spending and regulating — financed by ultra-easy monetary policy and rock-bottom interest rates.

Tax rates haven’t moved much. But the whole tax system is badly in need of pro-growth flat-tax reform and simplification. However, the expansion of spending and regulating is robbing the private sector of its entrepreneurial vitality. Here’s the new fear: More big-government spending stimulus from Obama’s jobs plan. More EPA. More NLRB. More Dodd-Frank. More ObamaCare.

And as the policy mantle for growth has swung to Federal Reserve stimulus, we are learning once again what Milton Friedman taught us 40 years ago: The central bank can produce new money, but there is no permanent production of jobs and growth from that pump-priming.

Big government financed by easy money is a lethal economic combination. It must be reversed. We should be reducing the regulatory and spending state while keeping money predictably stable (and even re-linked to gold).

The supply-side nostrum that worked so well for 20 years, beginning with Ronald Reagan, was low tax rates, light regulation, limited government, and a hard dollar. Gold collapsed between 1980 and 2000 as stocks, jobs, and the economy roared. The last ten years? We’ve gotten the policy mix completely backwards. The results show it.

And that’s something that the Keynesians can’t point to.  When they had full legislative power (as they had since the Democrats won the House and Senate back in 2006), they can’t point to a historical record of success.  Like the tax-cutting supply-siders can. 

JFK cut taxes and saw economic growth.  Reagan cut taxes and saw economic growth.  George W. Bush cut taxes and saw economic growth.  But there is no record of increasing taxation and regulation increasing economic activity.  You know why?  Because it doesn’t.  If it did the economy would be booming now because the government has never spent or regulated more.

Let’s hope the Keynesians Concede Failure while there is still an Economy to Save

How many bad economic reports will it take before the Keynesians will finally concede failure?  When will the Ivy League elitists stop hating people who are more talented and successful than they are?  And when will the people that put them into power see that it’s only the power they’re interested in?  Not the economy.  Or our well being?

I hope these people come to their senses soon.  While there is still an economy to save.

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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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Small Businesses create the Jobs but Wall Street provides the Campaign Cash

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 13th, 2011

Small Companies drive Economic Recoveries 

Jobs.  They’re everything.  Without jobs there is no economic recovery.  And jobs don’t come from the big corporations or Wall Street banks.  They come from small business owners.  And things have been looking pretty bleak for them for awhile now (see Small businesses, crucial to growth, face challenges by Scott Patterson posted 6/13/2011 on USA Today).

Through the 12 months ended in March of last year, 505,473 new businesses started up in the U.S., according to the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the weakest growth since the bureau started tracking the data in the early 1990s. It’s down sharply from the record 667,341 new businesses added in the 12 months that ended in March 2006.

Weak start-up growth has dire implications for jobs because small and midsize businesses have driven employment gains in the U.S. for years. Between the recession that ended in late 2001 and the start of the most recent recession in late 2007, businesses that employed fewer than 500 workers added nearly 7 million employees, according to data collected by payroll provider ADP, which tracks employment trends.

Meanwhile, businesses that employed 500 or more cut nearly a million positions over the same period, often because they sent jobs overseas. Smaller companies — think local restaurants, gas stations and mom-and-pop grocery stores — are far less likely to send jobs abroad. That’s why they are crucial to the recovery, economists say.

Small companies drive recoveries.  A lot of which are LLCs or S Corporations.  Which don’t pay corporate income taxes.  Earnings pass through to the owners.  Who report these earnings on their personal income tax returns.  Even if they leave their earnings in their business for a future rainy day.  Or a future investment into the business.  So these owners ‘earn’ a lot of money.  But probably leave most of their earnings in their businesses to grow them.

When people talk about raising the taxes on the wealthy, those earning over $200,000, it increases the taxes on people who aren’t necessarily wealthy.  Such as these small business owners.  Increasing their taxes only hinders their economic growth and job creation.  Fewer jobs mean decreased economic activity.  And prolonged economic recoveries.  So raising taxes on those who make $200,000 or more is never a good thing to do during bad economic times.  You want to cut taxes then.  Not raise them.

A huge concern for small businesses, says the NFIB’s Dunkelberg, is lack of clarity about what will happen in the next year in Washington. With another round of elections coming up and rancorous debate on Capitol Hill, businesses are unsure about what policies will be enacted by the government.

“There’s just a huge amount of uncertainty. And when you’re uncertain, you don’t make bets,” he says.

Small businesses don’t have big budgets.  Or piles of cash.  So they’re very conservative with their capital.  And one thing conservatives hate is uncertainty.  Because decisions they make today will have lasting consequences years later.  Meaning decisions today may require a lot of cash tomorrow.  If they are uncertain how much employee costs will be next year they are reluctant to hire this year.  If they are uncertain what regulatory laws they’ll see next year they will be reluctant to expand their business this year.  Etc.  Increasing uncertainty only hinders their economic growth and job creation.  Fewer jobs mean decreased economic activity.  And prolonged economic recoveries.  So you don’t want an activist government changing regulations and policies during bad economic times.  You want limited government with a ‘hands-off’ approach to the economy.  Where ‘less is more’ should be the government’s mantra.

Bad Government Policies cause Deflationary Spirals

Cuts in the tax rates help because they provide a recurring benefit.  It’s not a one-time tax credit.  A cut in the tax rate decreases uncertainty.  Something business owners like.  And can use to make decisions that can have long-term consequences (see Summers calls for new boost to U.S. economy by Jeff Mason and Caren Bohan, Reuters, posted 6/13/2011 on The Globe and Mail).

Former White House aide Larry Summers on Sunday urged expanded tax cuts on U.S. workers’ wages, warning that America’s economy was at risk of years of Japan-style stagnation without a further boost…

“Fiscal support should be continued and indeed expanded by providing the payroll tax cut to employers as well as employees,” Mr. Summers wrote.

“Raising the share of the payroll tax cut from 2 per cent to 3 per cent would be desirable as well.”

During the 1980s Americans feared Japan.  The Japanese government was partnering with business.  It had a name.  Japan Inc.  And there was huge economic growth.  Democrats pointed to the Japanese and argued that the U.S. needed to reverse Reaganomics and do what the Japanese were doing.  Make an America Inc.  Have more government involved in business.  For when the Japanese did their economy took off to the stratosphere.  They were buying landmark properties in the U.S.  National Lampoon magazine featured a cover with a Japanese CEO who was presiding over the United States of America, noted as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Honda Motor Company.  If America didn’t follow her lead soon there would be no America left.

The Big Government people in America were having a serious case of Big Government envy.  But then the Japanese crash came.  The growth wasn’t real.  It was a bubble.  And what do bubbles do?  They pop.  As it did in Japan.  Where they suffered a deflationary spiral during the 1990s. 

Mr. Summers and former White House economist Christina Romer were in the camp arguing that the recession that followed the financial markets meltdown of 2008-2009 was a unique event that required aggressive stimulus to avoid a long period of stagnation similar to Japan’s “lost decade” of the 1990s.

Former White House budget director Peter Orszag was among those who cautioned against a further big stimulus that was not coupled with deficit reduction in later years, as he warned of the danger of ballooning debt and deficits.

The secret to a healthy U.S. economy had always been home ownership.  So government policies tried to put as many people into homes as possible.  Easy financing and subprime mortgages made the dream come true to anyone who wanted it. And they bid housing prices up into the stratosphere.  Then the dream turned into a nightmare.  The housing bubble popped.  Housing values plummeted.  And they still are.  Many are under water in their mortgages.  Or are going through foreclosure.  So there are parallels with Japan’s Lost Decade.  Including their ballooning debt and deficits.  For the U.S. debt and deficits (as a percentage of GDP) are almost as bad as hers.  And soon will surpass hers.  Making the parallels to the lost decade eerie to say the least.

In the interview, Mr. Summers listed several factors that contributed to the slowdown: the fallout on the global economy from Japan’s earthquake, concerns in European debt markets, high oil prices and a deceleration in China’s rate of growth.

But he also said the U.S. economy is in a “cycle that has some of the characteristics of what happened in Japan” following the bursting of its asset bubble and that’s why it has struggled to regain its stride.

“The economy isn’t as strong as I expected last winter,” Mr. Summers. He said that in post-bubble recessions, such as Japan’s in the 1990s and the Great Depression of the 1930s, there is a tendency to assume any pickup in growth means a return to normal growth but recoveries in those cases take much longer.

Come to think of it, there are some eerie parallels between the current U.S. crisis and the Great Depression.  Another wicked deflationary spiral.  And record long-term unemployment.  You’d think with a couple of wicked deflationary spirals on the books the Americans would have learned a thing or two about monetary policy and government intervention.  But no.  Guess something else even more important must be on their minds.

Obama’s Number One Priority

But we know the president cares.  He has said so.  And is on top of it.  He is working hard with a laser-like focus on job creation.  As we enter our second Recovery Summer with record long-term unemployment.  But the White House is a flurry of activity.  With all that activity focused on the number one priority on the president’s agenda (see Obama Seeks to Win Back Wall St. Cash by Nicholas Confessore posted 6/12/2011 on The New York Times).

A few weeks before announcing his re-election campaign, President Obama convened two dozen Wall Street executives, many of them longtime donors, in the White House’s Blue Room.

Mr. Obama, who enraged many financial industry executives a year and a half ago by labeling them “fat cats” and criticizing their bonuses, followed up the meeting with phone calls to those who could not attend.

The event, organized by the Democratic National Committee, kicked off an aggressive push by Mr. Obama to win back the allegiance of one of his most vital sources of campaign cash — in part by trying to convince Wall Street that his policies, far from undercutting the investor class, have helped bring banks and financial markets back to health.

Yes.  Campaign cash.  His number one priority.  But not just any cash.  Wall Street cash.  Because small business owners just don’t have that kind of cash to buy favors with.  So it’s Wall Street that will get Obama’s attention.  Because they’re important.  Not small business.  The job creators.

Still, there is skepticism. One Democratic financier invited to this month’s dinner, who asked for anonymity because he did not want to anger the White House, said it was ironic that the same president who once criticized bankers as “fat cats” would now invite them to dine at Daniel, where the six-course tasting menu runs to $195 a person.

The donor declined the invitation.

With record long-term ‘Great Depression’ unemployment, it’s nice to know somebody can afford $195 a person six-course tasting menu.  It’s good to know that the worst economy since the Great Depression isn’t so bad everywhere.

Obama’s Policies favor Wall Street, not Small Business

Small business owners are facing uncertainty that is paralyzing them.  While the U.S. is going through a deflationary spiral similar to the lost decade in Japan.  And the Great Depression.  While suffering through record long-term unemployment.  Meanwhile the White House is cozying up with Wall Street again for campaign cash for 2012.  The same people they blame for the subprime mortgage crisis, giving us the worst recession since the Great Depression.  But then bailed them out.  The only people who benefited from QE2.  When Wall Street investors did well investing money they borrowed for ‘free’ from the Fed.  To say this administration is sending mixed messages is the understatement of the year.

And the message to small business owners?  Besides blaming them for the continued recession (for not borrowing money to hire new people)?  We want to raise your taxes.  Nothing mixed about that message.  It’s coming through loud and clear.  Which is why new business startups are the weakest since record keeping started in the early 1990s.  And the worst recession since the Great Depression lingers on.

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LESSONS LEARNED #62: “The government’s great dilemma is that the middle class has both the money and the votes.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 21st, 2011

We’re Moving on Up

Those on the Left see the world through zero-sum eyes.  Especially taxes.  For example, let’s look at the taxes of a group of 100 people.  These one hundred can be broken down into three groups.  Poor (20), middle class (79) and rich (1).  With the following annual salaries.  Poor ($15,000), middle class ($50,000) and rich ($1,000,000).  Based on the 2008 tax tables (with a top marginal tax rate of 35%), they each pay $4,600, $17,000 and $454,000, respectfully.  The total each group pays, then, is $91,000 (poor), $1,342,000 (middle class) and $454,000 (rich).  Which is 4.8%, 71% and 24%, respectfully, of the total tax paid.  The largest group of people pays the largest percentage of the total tax burden.  The middle class.  (All numbers are approximate.)

Now, let’s do a little zero-sum analysis.  And figure out how to make the rich pay a larger share of the taxes.  Hmmm.  How about we raise the tax rate on the rich?  If we raise the top marginal tax rate to 45%, the taxes the one rich person pays goes from 24% to 28%.  And the taxes the middle class pay goes from 71% to 68%.  So, to reduce the tax burden on the middle class, we simply have to raise the top marginal tax rates.  Simple, right?  Wrong.  Because what happens in reality is the opposite of what most would think.  As you raise the tax rate on the rich, the total tax burden shifts from the rich to the poor and middle class.  Why?  Because of one fundamental flaw in their analysis.  Which is this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9y4iXAso4I

Life is not zero-sum.  People don’t always stay in the same economic class.  They work hard.  Earn money through the years.  Some even save enough money to open a business.  And some of these do become rich.  And when they do, they pay a lot more taxes than they did when they were poor or middle class.  And this is the very thing that high marginal tax rates discourage.  Upward economic movement.  As the poor move into the middle class.  And the middle class move into the rich class.  This is why low, not high, tax rates shifts the tax burden from the poor and middle class to the rich.  Because low tax rates make more rich people to tax.

The Roaring Twenties were Kicked off by Tax Cuts

Andrew Mellon was a rich banker.  Who understood business.  Warren G. Harding tapped him to be his Secretary of the Treasury.  World War I was over.  And there was a huge war debt to pay off.  Taxes were high.  And the progressives wanted to raise them higher.  But Mellon was a conservative.  And he knew that you just didn’t stimulate economic activity with high taxes.  And that’s what paid the bills.  Economic activity.  People gainfully employed and paying taxes.  So he cut taxes.  They cut the top marginal tax rate from 77% to 25% (a cut of 68%).  Which gave us the Roaring Twenties.  Electricity, appliances, radio, you name it, the modern age had come.  Everyone was working.  And buying stuff.  Times were good.

Sure, you’re saying, but at what cost?  The economy took off into the stratosphere but the rich got a free ride.  With their tax rate cut of 200%, the poor and middle class must have been stuck with the tax bill.  Right?  Wrong.  With the lower tax rates, the rich found it cheaper and easier to pay taxes than to shelter it.  Also, the lower rates encouraged innovation (i.e., the modern age).  Lots of people got rich.  There was a lot of upward movement through the economic classes.  So there were more rich people paying taxes.  In 1920, the very rich paid approximately 30% of all federal income taxes.  That number jumped up to 62% by 1929.  That’s an increase of 108%. 

If the name of the game is funding government, you got to like what happened in the Twenties.  Because the government got fat on tax receipts.  And the richest of the rich were paying about twice the amount of taxes they were at the beginning of the decade.  That is a huge transfer of the tax burden from the poor/middle class to the rich.  And the federal debt?  It fell from about $26 billion to $17 billion.  That’s a decrease of about 35%.  Lower tax rates, tax burden transferred to the rich and a lower debt.  Wow.  Mellon was right.  Cutting tax rates on the rich works.  And it works very well.

The Eighties Economic Boom was Kicked off by Tax Cuts

Ronald Reagan was another conservative who understood business.  He defeated Jimmy Carter who was trying to win a second term.  But the malaise and stagflation of the Jimmy Carter years made him a one-term president.  To lift the nation out of recession, Reagan did like Andrew Mellon.  And cut taxes.  The top marginal rate dropped from 70% to 28% (a 60% cut).  And economic activity exploded.  Especially in Silicon Valley.  And the world went high-tech.  Electronics and computers entered our lives.  A new modern age had come.  Everyone was working.  And buying stuff.  Times were good.  Again.

At the beginning of the Reagan years the top 1% paid about 19% of all income taxes.  At the end of his second term they were paying about 27.5%.  That’s an increase of 44%.  Once again, tax cutsfor the rich transferred the tax burden from the poor/middle class to the rich.  As in the Twenties, the rich found it easier to pay their taxes rather than trying to shelter it.  Also, the lower rates encouraged a lot of entrepreneurial innovation.  We used the first cell phones and personal computers in the Eighties.  A lot of this innovation started small in someone’s garage.  And ended in an IPO on Wall Street as they took their companies public.  Lots of people got rich.  Creating a surge of upward movement through the economic classes.  Making many more rich people to tax. 

The Reagan years were an economic juggernaut.  A lot of people got rich.  But at what cost?  The debt exploded under Reagan.  So those on the Left jumped on this.  They say his tax cuts mortgaged our future.  Impoverished our children.  By not paying our bills along the way.  To that I say, “Nice try.”  That debt had nothing to do with the Reagan tax cuts.  It was a spending problem.  Federal tax receipts in 1980 were $517 billion.  After Reagan’s tax rate cuts, they jumped to $909 billion in 1988.  That’s an increase of about 76%.  Lower tax rates, tax burden transferred to the rich and a 75% increase in federal tax receipts?  Wow.  Reagan was right.  Cutting tax rates on the rich works.  And it works very well.

Conservative Policies Favor the Poor and Middle Class

So there are two great economic booms created by tax cuts.  Both periods lifted the country to a new modern age.  People’s standard of living improved across all economic classes.  And a lot people moved up through the economic classes.  Which is key to the success of tax cuts.  And the reason why those on the Left ignore this and focus instead on zero-sum policies.  Why?

Because the Left knows their economic policies don’t work.  But that’s okay with them.  For their policies aren’t about the economy.  Or your well being.  They are about political power.  There are more poor and middle class people than rich.  No matter how far you slash the top marginal tax rate.  So that’s where the votes are.  And a good way to get those votes is with class warfare.  The rich have an unfair advantage.  And with your vote, they will right that wrong.  Sounds good.  Especially if you’re not rich.  Or don’t know the history of high marginal tax rates.  Of how they transfer the tax burden from the rich to the poor and middle class.

Of course, there’s a problem with this strategy.  It transfers more and more of the tax burden to the people you need votes from.  And the more you choke off economic activity by taxing the rich, the more you starve the treasury of tax dollars from the rich.  Which means you have to come up with more and more clever ways to bleed the middle class.  And they don’t have a problem with this either.  What they have a problem with is that the middle class may figure this out one day.  And vote conservative.  Whose policies actually favor the poor/middle class.

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Wisconsin Takes a Step Forward, the UK Takes a Step Back

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 9th, 2011

 A Foul Stench Wafts across the Rheine

Empires come and go.  But one truly transformed the world.  And still is today.  The British Empire.  Their representative government, property rights and economic policies unleashed unimaginable growth and prosperity.  They gave us the Industrial Revolution.  And we’ve never looked back.  Great nations started as British seedlings.  Canada.  Australia.  India.  New Zealand.  To name a few.  And, of course, the United States.

Sadly, the UK strayed in the 20th century.  As many nations did.  Including the US.  Thanks to a foul stench that wafted across the Rheine.  Karl MarxFriedrich Engels.  They wrote a book.  The Communist Manifesto.  And their goal was to replace capitalism with socialism.  And then replace socialism with communism.  The ultimate welfare state.

The British government exploded in the 20th century.  They nationalized industries.  Raised taxes.  And empowered unions to the point that the nation was at their mercy.  If they didn’t get the pay raise they wanted you didn’t have any electricity.  Their strikes were notorious.  People called them the British Disease in the Seventies.  But help was on its way.

Thatcher and Reagan cut Taxes to Economic Prosperity

Margaret Thatcher was prime minister during the Eighties.  And she started turning the UK around.  Like her counterpart did in the US.  Ronald Reagan.  Both cut taxes.  And nearly doubled their tax receipts (see High income tax will cost the country dear by Telegraph View posted 3/9/2011 on the UK’s Telegraph).

Between 1979 and 2009, UK corporation tax rates fell by half, even as the revenue from the tax rose by half – hard evidence that lower taxes encourage economic activity and boost Treasury receipts.

People deride ‘trickle-down’ Reaganomics in the US but it worked.  And it worked in the UK, too.  Because jobs are everything.  If you don’t have jobs your economy goes into the toilet.  If you have jobs your economy soars.  It just doesn’t get simpler than that.  And how do you create jobs?  You give people a reason to be brilliant.  Give entrepreneurs an incentive to create something.  Let businesses be profitable and they will take every opportunity to grow their businesses.  To be even more profitable.  All the while creating jobs.  Every step of the way.  The more they grow the more jobs they create.  And the better life gets for everyone.

Of course, remove that incentive and it’s the opposite.  If you raise taxes you reduce profits.  And that removes incentive.  Well, they are raising taxes again in the UK.  And what will the genius entrepreneurs do?  Well, what would you do?

Behavioural changes prompted by the higher rate – with entrepreneurs departing for more benign tax regimes or devising ways of avoiding the new tax – are set to flatten economic growth and lead to a collapse in tax revenues. The think tank estimates that the cost to the Treasury over a decade could be as much as £350 billion… Why should wealth-creators stay here when almost two thirds of their income is taken from them? The answer is that they won’t.

History has shown that higher tax rates rarely bring in the money the government expects.  While lower tax rates bring in more money than any of the naysayers ever dreamed.  So why, then, do they keep raising taxes?  Politics.

The Deed is Done in Wisconsin

Big Government needs supporters.  With the wane of private sector unionization, it’s getting harder and harder to get people to support Big Government.  Because people who work and enjoy life have no need for government help.  So they need to find people who do.  Or create them.

Enter the public sector unions.  These people beg for high taxes.  Because they are paid with tax dollars.  So the more people in the public sector, the more people there are to support big government spending.  It’s a little of the old you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.  And to sweeten the deal, public sector workers not only get pretty decent pay, they get outrageous benefits.  All paid for courtesy of the taxpayer.

And this is what is at issue in Wisconsin.  The union was ready to cave on everything but the collective bargaining.  Because that’s how they pass the full cost of their benefits onto the taxpayer.  Without the taxpayer having any say in the matter.  Until now, that is (see G.O.P. Tactic Ends Stalemate in Wisconsin Union Fight by Monica Davey posted 3/9/2011 on The New York Times).

The bill makes significant changes to most public sector unions, limiting collective bargaining to matters of wages only and limiting raises to the Consumer Price Index unless the public approves higher raises in a referendum. It requires most unions to hold votes annually to determine whether most workers still wish to be members. And it ends the state’s collection of union dues from paychecks.

So now if they want a raise larger than the Consumer Price Index (as a lot of raises are determined in the private sector for COLA raises), they have to ask the taxpayer to approve the raise.  And you can see why they are against this.  They want to keep getting big raises without the people paying them having any say in the manner.

And the whole choice thing about staying in the union?  And making people write checks for their union dues?  Why, if people do that, some are not going to stay in the union.  Not all union members vote Democrat.  But nearly all union dues go to Democrat candidates.  So, of course, the unions don’t want any of these changes to come to pass.  Or government.  Because the little arrangement they had was a nice way to dump bushels of taxpayers’ money into Democrat pockets.  Often against their will.  Or without their knowledge.

Public Sector Union – A Vehicle to Steal Money from the Private Sector

Everyone knows what we need for economic prosperity.  Thatcher and Reagan showed how to do it in the Eighties.  And they turned around nations that were in a pretty sorry state.  Tax cuts spurred that economic activity.  And filled government coffers.  However, Thatcher cured the British Disease.  And Reagan fired the air traffic controllers.  They stood up to the unions.  And that choked off a lot of money funneled (i.e., laundered) to the opposition parties.

And this is what the Left fears in Wisconsin.  That responsible government beholden to the taxpayer may waft out from Wisconsin and infect other states.  Thus turning off the great spigot of coerced political contributions.

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The Obama Recovery is no Reagan Recovery

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 4th, 2011

No New Jobs but the Unemployment Rate Falls.  Strange.

Unemployment fell a huge 0.4 percent.  All by adding 36,000 jobs (see Santelli Slams CNBC Panelists for Spinning Jobs Report by Julia A. Seymour posted 2/4/2011 on Business & Media Institute).

Jobs are heading up and down at the same time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the morning of Feb. 4 that only 36,000 jobs were added in the month of January, but the unemployment rate dropped from 9.4 percent to 9.0 percent.

To be frank, there is no way 36,000 new jobs could move the unemployment rate 0.4 percent.  So this official unemployment rate (U3) is not giving the full picture.  It only measures the number of people without jobs who’ve looked for work within the past four weeks.  U6 would give a better measure of the economy.  This unemployment rate includes U3 plus those underemployed (i.e., working somewhere where they are overqualified) and those who have quit looking.  Because the economy is just in the toilet.  This number (U6) also went down.  But only from 16.7% to 16.1%.  Which means that the real unemployment out there is almost twice the actual number the government is reporting.

Cooking the Books on Unemployment

So how can they report the ‘official’ unemployment rate so much lower than actual unemployment?  Easy.  You just don’t count as many unemployed people (see Missing Workers: 4.9 Million Out Of Work And Forgotten by Lila Shapiro posted 2/4/2011 on The Huffington Post).

Over the last three years, nearly 5 million U.S. workers have effectively gone missing.

You won’t find their photos on the backs of milk cartons. The Coast Guard isn’t out looking for them. No missing-persons reports have been filed. These are jobless Americans who have grown so discouraged by their unsuccessful searches for work that they have simply given up the hunt. They are no longer counted among the 14.5 million Americans officially considered unemployed as of the end of last year, according to the Department of Labor.

You see, if you want to have a lower unemployment number, all you have to do is exclude a lot of the unemployed from the equation.  Of course, the question everyone must be asking is why?  Why would the government do this?  Well, there is a presidential election in less than 2 years.  And presidents find it very difficult to win reelection if you have an unemployment rate greater than 8%.  Especially when you spent a lot of money on bailouts and stimulus spending to keep the unemployment rate under 8%.  And the unemployment rate goes up instead of down.

The Ronald Reagan way was the Better Way

The Obama administration took a shellacking at the 2010 midterm elections.  Everything they’ve done to fix the economy has failed.  So Obama has been trying to go Ronald Reagan.  To make that connection to the American people.  So he can win reelection and keep pushing the same failing policies.

The urge to become a Ronald Reagan is understandable.  He was great.  And when you’re not it’s natural to aspire to be someone who is.  The problem is, President Obama is no Ronald Reagan (see Morning Bell: The Reagan Recovery vs The Obama Recovery by Conn Carroll posted 2/4/2011 on Heritage’s The Foundry).

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, our most recent recession began in December 2007, lasted 18 months, and ended in June 2009. The last recession that lasted this long began in July 1981, lasted 16 months, and ended in November 1982. In his 1983 State of the Union Address, President Reagan described an economic situation that mirrored our own today: “The problems we inherited were far worse than most inside and out of government had expected; the recession was deeper than most inside and out of government had predicted. Curing those problems has taken more time and a higher toll than any of us wanted. Unemployment is far too high.” But where President Obama responded to an economic recession with a bigger than $2 trillion expansion of government (more than $1 trillion on health care and almost $1 trillion in economic stimulus), President Reagan passed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which cut marginal income tax rates across the board permanently. And the differences don’t end there.

Where President Obama promised government action that was “bold and swift,” President Reagan said: “The permanent recovery in employment, production, and investment we seek won’t come in a sharp, short spurt.” Where President Obama used tax credits, subsidies, and bailouts to perpetuate industries in need of adjustment, President Reagan said: “Quick fixes and artificial stimulants repeatedly applied over decades are what brought us the inflationary disorders that we’ve now paid such a heavy price to cure.”

Reagan cut taxes.  Obama spent money.  And how do these actions compare?

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, our most recent recession ended in June 2009, which means we are now in month 19 of the Obama Recovery. Today’s 9 percent unemployment rate marks the 21st consecutive month of unemployment at or above 9 percent, a post–World War II record. Unemployment is only 0.4 percentage points lower today than when the Obama Recovery began. Contrast those results with the Reagan recovery: 19 months into the Reagan recovery, in June 1984, unemployment stood at 7.2 percent. That is a full 3.6 points lower than when the Reagan Recovery began.

Well, the solution to our economic woes is simple.  Stop being Barack Obama.  And start being Ronald Reagan.  Because Reagan knew that government wasn’t the solution.  It was the problem.  And the sooner Obama learns this the better our economy will be.  And this isn’t theory.  It’s just history.

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Financial Crises: The Fed Giveth and the Fed Taketh Away

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 3rd, 2010

Great Depression vs. Great Recession

Ben Bernanke is a genius.  I guess.  That’s what they keep saying at least. 

The chairman of the Federal Reserve is a student of the Great Depression, that great lesson of how NOT to implement monetary policy.  And because of his knowledge of this past great Federal Reserve boondoggle, who better to fix the present great Federal Reserve boondoggle?  What we affectionately call the Great Recession.

There are similarities between the two.  Government caused both.  But there are differences.  Bad fiscal policy brought on a recession in the 1920s.  Then bad monetary policy exasperated the problem into the Great Depression. 

Bad monetary policy played a more prominent role in the present crisis.  It was a combination of cheap money and aggressive government policy to put people into houses they couldn’t afford that set off an international debt bomb.  Thanks to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buying highly risky mortgages and selling them as ‘safe’ yet high-yield investments.  Those rascally things we call derivatives.

The Great Depression suffered massive bank failures because the lender of last resort (the Fed) didn’t lend.  In fact, they made it more difficult to borrow money when banks needed money most.  Why did they do this?  They thought rich people were using cheap money to invest in the stock market.  So they made money more expensive to borrow to prevent this ‘speculation’.

The Great Recession suffered massive bank failures because people took on great debt in ideal times (low interest rates and increasing home values).  When the ‘ideal’ became real (rising interest rates and falling home values), surprise surprise, these people couldn’t pay their mortgages anymore.  And all those derivatives became worthless. 

The Great Depression:  Lessons Learned.  And not Learned.

Warren G. Harding appointed Andrew Mellon as his Secretary of the Treasury.  A brilliant appointment.  The Harding administration cut taxes.  The economy surged.  Lesson learned?  Lower taxes stimulate the economy.  And brings more money into the treasury.

The Progressives in Washington, though, needed to buy votes.  So they tinkered.  They tried to protect American farmers from their own productivity.  And American manufacturers.  Also from their own productivity.  Their protectionist policies led to tariffs and an international trade war.  Lesson not learned?  When government tinkers bad things happen to the economy.

Then the Fed stepped in.  They saw economic activity.  And a weakening dollar (low interest rates were feeding the economic expansion).  So they strengthened the dollar.  To keep people from ‘speculating’ in the stock money with borrowed money.  And to meet international exchange rate requirements.  This led to bank failures and the Great Depression.  Lesson not learned?   When government tinkers bad things happen to the economy.

Easy Money Begets Bad Debt which Begets Financial Crisis

It would appear that Ben Bernanke et al learned only some of the lessons of the Great Depression.  In particular, the one about the Fed’s huge mistake in tightening the money supply.  No.  They would never do that again.  Next time, they would open the flood gates (see Fed aid in financial crisis went beyond U.S. banks to industry, foreign firms by Jia Lynn Yang, Neil Irwin and David S. Hilzenrath posted 12/2/2010 on The Washington Post).

The financial crisis stretched even farther across the economy than many had realized, as new disclosures show the Federal Reserve rushed trillions of dollars in emergency aid not just to Wall Street but also to motorcycle makers, telecom firms and foreign-owned banks in 2008 and 2009.

The Fed’s efforts to prop up the financial sector reached across a broad spectrum of the economy, benefiting stalwarts of American industry including General Electric and Caterpillar and household-name companies such as Verizon, Harley-Davidson and Toyota. The central bank’s aid programs also supported U.S. subsidiaries of banks based in East Asia, Europe and Canada while rescuing money-market mutual funds held by millions of Americans.

The Fed learned its lesson.  Their easy money gave us all that bad debt.  And we all learned just how bad ‘bad debt’ can be.  They wouldn’t make that mistake again.

The data also demonstrate how the Fed, in its scramble to keep the financial system afloat, eventually lowered its standards for the kind of collateral it allowed participating banks to post. From Citigroup, for instance, it accepted $156 million in triple-C collateral or lower – grades that indicate that the assets carried the greatest risk of default.

Well, maybe next time.

You Don’t Stop a Run by Starting a Run

With the cat out of the bag, people want to know who got these loans.  And how much each got.  But the Fed is not telling (see Fed ID’s companies that used crisis aid programs by Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer, posted 12/1/2010 on Yahoo! News).

The Fed didn’t take part in that appeal. What the court case could require — but the Fed isn’t providing Wednesday — are the names of commercial banks that got low-cost emergency loans from the Fed’s “discount window” during the crisis.

The Fed has long acted as a lender of last resort, offering commercial banks loans through its discount window when they couldn’t obtain financing elsewhere. The Fed has kept secret the identities of such borrowers. It’s expressed fear that naming such a bank could cause a run on it, defeating the purpose of the program.

I can’t argue with that.  For this was an important lesson of the Great Depression.  When you’re trying to stop bank runs, you don’t advertise which banks are having financial problems.  A bank can survive a run.  If everyone doesn’t try to withdraw their money at the same time.  Which they may if the Fed advertises that a bank is going through difficult times.

When Fiscal Responsibility Fails, Try Extortion

Why does government always tinker and get themselves into trouble?  Because they like to spend money.  And control things.  No matter what the lessons of history have taught us.

Cutting taxes stimulate the economy.  But it doesn’t buy votes.  You need people to be dependent on government for that.  So no matter what mess government makes, they NEVER fix their mess by shrinking government or cutting taxes.  Even at the city level. 

When over budget what does a city do?  Why, they go to a favored tactic.  Threaten our personal safety (see Camden City Council Approves Massive Police And Fire Layoffs Reported by David Madden, KYW Newsradio 1060, posted 12/2/2010 on philadelphia.cbslocal.com).

Camden City Council, as expected, voted Thursday to lay off almost 400 workers, half of them police officers and firefighters, to bridge a $26.5 million deficit.

There’s a word for this.  And it’s not fiscal responsibility.  Some would call it extortion.

It’s never the pay and benefits of the other city workers.  It’s always the cops and firefighters.  Why?  Because cutting the pay and benefits of a bloated bureaucracy doesn’t put the fear of God into anyone.

Here we go Again

We never learn.  And you know what George Santayana said.  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  And here we are.  Living in the past.  Again.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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