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

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 17th, 2013

Politics 101

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

Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks very much.

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

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The Greek Crisis is Now Threatening the Credit Rating of the Stronger Eurozone Members

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 29th, 2012

Week in Review

Since 2009 we’ve been hearing about the European sovereign debt crisis.  Also known as the Eurozone crisis.  And here we are in 2012.  Despite numerous rescue packages and recovery plans the crisis continues on.  Greece can’t borrow money in the credit markets because no one believes Greece will ever be able to pay them back.  For Greece has been running some pretty big deficits.  Which has accumulated an enormous pile of debt.  Resulting from their large spending obligations for public sector wages and pensions.  They don’t have the money.  They can’t borrow the money.  So a massive Greek default is likely.  Which because of the common currency will be felt throughout the Eurozone (see Germany’s AAA rating under threat after Moody’s cuts outlook by Jamie Dunkley posted 7/24/2012 on The Telegraph).

Moody’s warned the outlook for the ratings of Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands is negative because the threat of a Greek exit from the eurozone and the need for greater financial support for struggling eurozone countries from the strongest members of the bloc.

In a statement, issued after the close of the US markets, it added: “The level of uncertainty about the outlook for the area and the potential impact of plausible scenarios on member states, are no longer consistent with stable outlooks.”

Not some pleasant choices.  Have a Greek default damage your credit rating.  Or make your taxpayers pay for another nation’s debt.  Which begs the obvious question.  Or should.  How is having other people pay for spending you can’t afford going to solve your problem of spending more than you have?  If Greece doesn’t cut their spending nothing will change in the long run.  They will need another emergency bailout following this emergency bailout.  Because this emergency bailout doesn’t address the source of their trouble.  Excessive government spending.

Keynesians encourage excessive government spending because they think it’s stimulative.  That it creates economic activity.  In fact the Keynesian solution to the Greek crisis is more government spending to stimulate the economy.  Which begs the obvious question.  Or should.  If government spending does all of this why after all of their government spending is Greece on the precipice of bankruptcy?  Huh?  Answer that one smart Keynesian person.

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Keynesians say it’s No Problem to owe Money to Ourselves even though they’d be Miffed if we Defaulted

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 8th, 2012

Week in Review

Keynesians have all sorts of ways to justify deficit spending.  One of their favorites is to note that the additional amount of interest owed on new debt is so mall in the big picture that we’d be fools not to borrow more.  So the government can use that new debt to stimulate the economy.  Or so they say.

Another thing they love to say is that a high level a debt is not a problem because we owe it to ourselves.  And therefore it doesn’t really exist.  Because it’s just for all intents and purposes money moving from our left hand to our right hand (see We Refuse to Lend to Us by Don Boudreaux posted 1/2/2012 on Cafe Hayek).

Like the mid-20th-century economists whose reasoning in terms of unwisely chosen aggregates led them to argue that public debt owed “to ourselves” is not much of a problem…

All that today’s government need do when faced with the need to raise marginal tax rates today in order to pay off yeterday’s [sic] debts is to default.

Insofar as we owe the debt to ourselves, default simply means that we choose not to repay ourselves.  Right-hand owes left-hand; right-hand refuses to pay what it owes to left-hand – no big deal: the entity to which both hands are attached possesses the same amount of money with default as it would with payment.

If the Keynesians are right in their theory that owing money to ourselves is not a problem then they shouldn’t mind a default from the U.S. taxpayer.  But they would mind a default.  And wouldn’t allow one.  Which can mean only one thing.  Owing a large debt to ourselves is a big problem.

It’s not the same as borrowing from your savings account.  You can default on that.  You just have less in the bank.  And earn less interest.  Public debt is more like borrowing from a credit card.  The more you borrow the more you pay in interest.  And defaulting has consequences.  The difference?  In one we borrow from ourselves (our savings account).  The other we borrow from someone other than ourselves (the bank holding the credit card).  Who expects to get their money back.  Just like sovereign debt holders.

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No Economic Recovery, Crushing Debt and a Credit Downgrade, the U.S. inching closer to European-Style Crisis

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2011

The Unemployment Rate is Down even though more People are Unemployed

That stubbornly high unemployment rate that has been dogging the Obama recovery has finally dropped (see Jobs report: A pig in lipstick by Nin-Hai Tseng posted 8/5/2011 on CNN Money).

The unemployment rate in July fell slightly to 9.1% from 9.2%

But…

The unemployment rate might have fallen slightly but that’s mostly because the number of people actively looking for jobs fell back – signaling that perhaps workers are feeling less confident about entering the job market.

So the only reason why it dropped is that more people have just given up looking for a job.  And the smaller the group is that is looking for a job the smaller percentage this group is of the total working population.  Ergo, smaller unemployment rate.  So the actual employment picture isn’t better.  It’s worse.

In July, labor participation fell by 193,000.

What’s more, though the economy added 117,000 jobs, it falls short of the 125,000 jobs a month needed just to keep up with population growth and prevent the unemployment rate from trending higher. And it would take at least twice that many to rapidly reduce unemployment.

“The bigger picture, then, is that two years after the recession ended the labor market has not really recovered at all, and may even have gone backwards,” writes economist Paul Dales of Capital Economics.

The economy is worse.  Not better.  So just how much ‘not better’ is the economy?

The Real Economic Recovery not as good as the Made-up One

Apparently pretty ‘not better’ according to the people who count the numbers.  They revised their past numbers.  And the new numbers are even worse than the not-so-great numbers of numbers past (see Distress signal by R.A. posted 7/29/2011 on The Economist)

BEA revised its national accounts numbers back to 2007 for this release, and the picture revealed is far darker than anyone previously believed. From 2007 to 2010, real output declined by 0.3% per year on average. Previously, BEA had estimated annual growth of 0.1% over that period…

Projected growth rates were simply overstated, and current unemployment is exactly what we’d expect given such a feeble recovery. Those overly optimistic assessments of the likely impact of interventions, from fiscal stimulus to QE, also make much more sense now. Policymakers were fighting a fire far more intense than they recognised.

So I guess the Obama administration was a little premature with that Recovery Summer talk.  Or they are not good at reading economic numbers.  Or they are good at reading economic numbers but they were stretching the truth a bit for political purposes in hopes that the real economic recovery would catch up with the made up one.

All right, so the economy isn’t doing so well.  What do we do?

The dire economic situation undergirds this point: Washington should delay immediate fiscal cuts. Indeed, it ought to be spending more now and revisiting the possibility of a payroll tax cut.

Really?  After the recent budget debate to raise the debt ceiling to avoid default and a credit downgrade because of excessive spending and debt?  The same kind of excessive spending and debt that has put Europe in an even worse financial crisis?  Shouldn’t we take a lesson from the European Union sovereign debt crisis?  And not follow them into a similar sovereign debt crisis? 

I mean, it was going to be Armageddon if they lowered our bond rating.  Don’t we care about that anymore?  (By the way, S&P did lower their bond rating today.  So hello Armageddon.)

A Small Negative Return in the U.S. is Preferred over any Investment in the Eurozone

Apparently not.  At least investors appear to be more worried about the debt crisis in Europe.  They’re so worried, in fact, that they’re dumping their European holdings and running to the safe harbor of U.S. banks.  Despite that possible downgrade (which has since happened).  And Armageddon (see Thanks a lot, Europe by Cyrus Sanati posted 8/5/2011 on CNN Money).

The massive selloff in U.S. markets on Thursday appears rooted in Europe as fears of a sovereign debt default in Italy and Spain caused traders to panic and run for cover…

The European Central Bank attempted to ease the market’s fears, but it seemed to have only exacerbated the problem. European leaders are now scrambling to avoid an all-out run on the euro as the European sovereign debt crisis enters a possible terminal phase. They will need to act fast to restore market confidence or the current correction could turn to capitulation.

This crippling debt crisis may very well take down the European Central Bank.  With the fear of default, investors don’t want to buy anything in the Eurozone.  They fear anything they buy today may lose most of its value in the not so distant future.  So they’re pulling their cash out of Europe and parking it in the United States.

All this cash is being dumped into custodial banks in the U.S. This led the Bank of New York Mellon (BK), the largest custodial bank, to start charging its institutional clients a fee for depositing what they consider an “extraordinarily high” amount of cash — it has no place to invest it either, and higher cash levels mean higher FDIC fees.

You know it’s bad when even the banks don’t want your money.

Indeed it is.  So investors will pay a bank to hold their cash.  Because that’s the safe ‘investment’ right now.  A small negative return versus what could be a catastrophic negative return.

The Economy may not be able to Survive much more Government Help

Employment numbers are bad.  GDP is bad.  Talks of an economic recovery appear to have been hopelessly premature.  Debt crises have gripped Europe.  And S&P downgraded U.S. credit and pushed them towards Armageddon.  The Keynesians advice, though, is the same.  More government spending.  Only this can stimulate the economy back to recovery.  Even though it was excessive government spending that gave Europe and the U.S. their crises in the first place.

It’s like Ronald Reagan said.  Government isn’t the answer to our problems.  Government is the problem.  It needs to do the things it does best.  And leave the economy to the private sector.  Because the economy just may not be able to survive much more government help.

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Raising the Debt Ceiling may be Worse than Default

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 30th, 2011

Despite U.S. Debt Crisis, U.S. still the World’s Safe Asset of Choice

As Congress debates over the debt ceiling…blah blah blah…Armageddon.  Funny thing is, the U.S. debt problem is not that bad.  When compared to the debt problem in Europe (see Err, over here by Schumpeter posted 7/29/2011 on The Economist).

AS THE August 2nd deadline for a resolution of America’s debt-ceiling row approaches, other news is being drowned out. America’s debt debacle provokes rubber-necking fascination but the euro crisis is still the bigger threat to financial stability.

The chances (admittedly diminishing with time) are that America will get its house in order and avoid default; and that a ratings downgrade will happen but not threaten the pre-eminence of Treasuries as the world’s safe asset of choice. In contrast, the euro area’s crisis is already in full swing and policymakers, as this week’s issue of The Economist makes plain, have not found a way to stop it.

Things are worse in the European Union.  Especially the Eurozone.  And though Armageddon is at hand in the U.S., we’re still the “world’s safe asset of choice.”  So the end of the world as we know it may not be at hand.  But the out of control government spending and debt is fast approaching European levels.  So if we don’t cut our spending and reduce our deficits, we will follow lockstep behind Europe into fiscal ruin.  And then, of course, Armageddon.  

Partisan Democrats decry Republican Partisanship

So this Republican partisanship needs to end.  They need to be bipartisan.  Like the Democrats.  That is, when they’re not being partisan themselves (see For Reid, Durbin, and Obama, a (very) partisan record on debt ceiling by Byron York posted 7/30/2011 on The Washington Examiner).

A look at Reid’s record, however, shows that in the last decade his own voting on the issue of the debt ceiling is not only partisan but perfectly partisan. According to “The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases,” a January 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service, the Senate has passed ten increases to the debt limit since 2000.  Reid never voted to increase the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control of the Senate, and he always voted to increase the debt ceiling when Democrats were in control…

At look at Durbin’s record shows that he, too, has voted along absolutely partisan lines.  In the last decade, Durbin never voted to increase the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control and always voted to increase the debt ceiling when Democrats were in control.  As for Obama, there were four votes to raise the debt ceiling when he was in the Senate.  He missed two of them, voted no once when Republicans were in charge, and voted yes once when Democrats were in charge.

So the Democrats have a history of being just as partisan as the Republicans.  Even now, as they decry the Republican’s partisanship, they refuse to compromise at all on what they’ve always wanted.  More taxes.  And more borrowing.  So they can spend a lot more.

Democrats open to Compromise, as long as it’s the Republicans doing the Compromising

And they’ve drawn a line in the sand.  No meaningful cuts without new taxes (see Senate Kills Debt Bill, Bipartisan Talks on Hold by Steven T. Dennis posted 7/29/2011 on Roll Call).

“We’ve got a closet full of triggers,” he said. But, he added, “I came to the conclusion that we are negotiating with ourselves. The Republicans will not agree to any triggers that have any revenues in it.”

And Reid noted that Democrats have drawn a line in the sand against any cuts to entitlement programs without revenue.

The Republicans refuse to raise taxes because America is still wallowing in the Great Recession.  Democrats refuse to drop their request to raise taxes.  And flat out refuse to cut entitlements.  Like Social Security.  Medicare.  And the new Obamacare.  Because, though fiscally responsible, it’s not politically expedient.  Which is going to become a BIG problem soon.

Repeal Obamacare and all our Current Troubles go Away

Health care spending will take the U.S. to European levels of spending and debt (see CMS Projections Confirm Runaway Health Care Spending by Kathryn Nix posted 7/29/2011 on The Foundry).

As the economy recovers and the major provisions of Obamacare kick in, national health spending is projected to grow at quite a clip—increasing, on average, 5.8 percent each year. By 2020, the nation will spend $4.54 trillion on health care, or close to 20 percent of GDP. (For the sake of comparison: In 2010, federal tax revenue totaled 14.9 percent of GDP, and all federal spending combined amounted to 23.8 percent of GDP.)

Of course, every cloud has a silver lining.  An S&P report calls for real spending cuts of $4 trillion or more over 10 years to avoid the credit downgrade.  And look at this.  Obamacare will cost $4.54 trillion over some 10 years.  Imagine that.  Save the AAA bond rating.  Leave Social Security and Medicare intact.  And all you have to do is cut one program that no one is receiving any benefits from yet.  Repeal Obamacare.  And all our current troubles go away.

Or you can Devalue the Currency

Of course, that’s one way of solving the current crisis.  There appears to be another.  One that is a bit more destructive (see Answers to the 7 big “what-ifs” of debt default by Lauren Young posted 7/30/2011 on Reuters).

Traders say Asian central banks, among the world’s biggest dollar holders, have been steady buyers of alternatives to the dollar such as the Singapore dollar and other Asian currencies as well as the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand dollars. “Foreigners are at the vanguard of the drop in the dollar,” says Dan Dorrow, head of research at Faros Trading, a currency broker/dealer in Stamford, Connecticut. “I don’t think anyone expects a catastrophic U.S. default. But a downgrade will make them more aggressive in moving away from the dollar…”

The bottom line? It will be more expensive to travel overseas, drink French wine or buy Japanese cars.

A little trade war anyone?  A weak currency is like a tariff.  It makes imports so expensive that we stop buying them.  And buy American instead.  Thus increasing U.S. GDP.  And there is a corollary to this.  Can you guess what that is?  Here’s a hint.  It does something to our exports.  And our vacation market.

Fixing our Economy by Destroying other Economies

A weak currency not only makes your imports more expensive, it also makes your exports less expensive.  Which helps your export market.  And encourages people to vacation in your country because those stronger, foreign currencies can buy so much more (see U.S. Economy: Growth Trails Forecasts as Consumers Retrench by Shobhana Chandra posted 7/29/2011 on Bloomberg).

The improvement in the difference between imports and exports added another 0.6 point [of U.S. GDP].

Overseas sales will remain a backstop for factories. Dow Chemical Co. (DOW), the largest U.S. chemical maker, said demand is “strong” in markets abroad.

“We captured strong growth in Latin America, and the emerging geographies more broadly, while North America experienced moderate growth,” Andrew Liveris, chief executive officer, said on a July 27 conference call with analysts.

So perhaps this is the grand plan.  Increase spending to unsustainable levels.  Incur record debt.  This spending and debt triggers a downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt.  Which devalues the U.S. dollar.  Which places a de facto tariff on imports.  And provides a subsidy for our exports.  And it makes the U.S. a vacation destination.  Until our trading partners retaliate for fixing our economy by destroying their economies.  Like everyone is saying the Chinese are doing by keeping their own currency weak.

Repealing Obamacare would Please the Credit Rating Agencies

So the only bright spot in the U.S. economy is other economies.  Where they’re experiencing growth.  And can easily afford U.S. goods.  Which is about the only market buying them these days.  But for the world’s largest economy (for now) to rely solely on exports can be a bit risky.  Especially if it triggers a trade war.  Which, incidentally, helped trigger the Great Depression.

No, it would probably be more prudent to keep that AAA rating by cutting spending.  Before we spend ourselves to European ruin.  That’s the key to everything.  In particular cutting the fastest growing government expenditure.  Health care.  Which makes repealing Obamacare made to order.  No one is benefitting from it yet.  So no one will even notice this cut.  Other than the credit rating agencies.  Who will stand up and applaud this action. 

For just raising the debt ceiling doesn’t solve the real problem.  In fact, raising the debt ceiling without the $4 trillion in spending cuts will just push us closer to European ruin.

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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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Only Obama can make the U.S. Default on its Debt Obligations

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 15th, 2011

$172.4 Billion is a lot of Money

Still no closer to a budget agreement to raise the debt limit.  Obama wants more taxes and more borrowing.  The Republicans want a little fiscal sanity.  Because something is definitely wrong in Washington when $172.4 billion a month isn’t enough (see August Invoices Show U.S. Treasury’s Limited Choices by David Rapp posted 7/12/2011 on Bloomberg Government).

The U.S. government, whose legal authority to borrow money expires on or about Aug. 2, expects to take in $172.4 billion next month — enough to cover little more than half of its bills due then, according to a study for the Bipartisan Policy Center, a research organization.

The U.S. may not have to default on outstanding debts or withhold interest payments for that month; it may be able to cover $29 billion in anticipated interest due on Treasury securities with its cash receipts…

Jay Powell, undersecretary of the Treasury for Finance under President George H.W. Bush, calculated for the policy center that $306.7 billion in bills will come due after Aug. 2. They include Social Security benefits, defense vendor payments and military active duty pay, along with federal pay for every department and agency, in addition to the interest payments.

I think we’re missing the bigger picture here.  The government collects $172.4 billion but spends $306.7 billion.  That is, for every dollar it collects it spends $1.78.  In other words, the government’s spending is 78% over their cash budget.  Managers in the corporate world get fired for performances like this. 

That is either a big spending problem.  Or a big revenue problem.  So are taxes too low?  I don’t think so.  I mean, $172,400,000,000 is a lot of money.  How much?  It’ll buy 542 of the new Boeing 747-8 jetliners.  Or 149 Dallas Cowboys Stadiums.  Or 27 nuclear powered aircraft carriers.  It’ll even pay for the Apollo moon program with $41.3 billion left over.  $172.4 billion is an enormous amount of money.  You couldn’t spend this much money if you tried.  Even if you bought the best houses, cars, jewelry, clothes, island, etc.  And if you had the mother of all drug addictions.  It’s just a staggering amount of money.  And if you’re collecting in taxes more money than the cost of the Apollo moon program each month, guess what?  You don’t have a revenue problem.  You have a spending problem.

Bloomberg has a nifty little calculator on their website.  You can put checks on the things you want to pay.  And leave the things you don’t unchecked.  It’s an interesting list of bills coming due this month.  There’s a lot of stuff we can cut easily to save $47.1 billion.  Federal salaries & benefits ($14.2 billion).  Small Business Administration ($0.3 billion).  Education Department ($20.2 billion).  Department of Housing and Urban Development ($6.7 billion).  Energy Department ($3.5 billion).  Labor Department ($1.3 billion).  Environmental Protection Agency ($0.9 billion).  What taxpayer would miss any of these?  Cuts to Social Security and Medicare, on the other hand, will be a little more difficult.  For they actually do something.  And people will miss them.

Incidentally, interest on the debt is $29 billion.  Though a lot of money, it’s not too high for the $172.4 billion to cover.  So if the Obama administration doesn’t pay this and causes a downgrade in our credit rating, President Obama will have some ‘splaining to do.

Monthly Spending Equivalent to 1.3 Apollo Programs should be Enough

The president has no intention of cutting spending.  Their goal is to make Republicans look bad.  And to better position themselves for the 2012 election.  So the president will lie and spin misinformation in hopes that this stuff is just too complicated for the layperson to follow.  And that they only remember one thing.  That Republicans stopped Social Security checks going out because they’d rather give tax breaks to the rich.  And that they miss the fact that Obama and his Democrats gave us this crisis to begin with.  With the greatest spending orgy of any peacetime president.  So he threatens that if the Republicans don’t pay for his reckless spending, he’s going to tell everyone it’s their fault that the country defaulted (see Obama: Chance for ‘something big’ to calm economy by Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press, posted 7/15/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Obama urged Republican lawmakers to make tough calls, too. He attempted to turn their opposition to any tax increases back against them, warning that a government default caused by failure to raise the debt ceiling would increase interest rates, “effectively a tax increase for everybody.”

No, a failure to raise the debt ceiling won’t cause a government default.  Barack Obama will.  If and when he decides to pay something he thinks is more important than the interest on the debt.

Obama sternly rejected any plan of that size that did not include increases in tax revenue.

Apparently spending the equivalent of 1.3 Apollo programs a month just isn’t enough.  Obama gives new meaning to tax and spend liberal.  Pity Ted Kennedy didn’t live long enough to work with his kind of liberal in the White House.  Or see his pet cause, national health care, signed into law.  Then they both could have seen their policies destroy this country.  Don’t believe me?

Spending/Debt so bad it’s bringing back the Gold Standard

Then ask the Chinese communists.  Though their economy is rife with cronyism and will no doubt collapse as the Japanese economy did in the Nineties, they know too much debt when they see it (see Return of the Gold Standard as world order unravels by James Quinn and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard posted 7/16/2011 on The Telegraph).

Xia Bin, an adviser to China’s central bank, said in June that the country’s reserve strategy needs an “urgent” overhaul. Instead of buying paper IOU’s from a prostrate West, China should invest in strategic assets and accumulate gold by “buying the dips”.

Step by step, the world is edging towards a revived Gold Standard as it becomes clearer that Japan and the West have reached debt saturation. World Bank chief Robert Zoellick said it was time to “consider employing gold as an international reference point.” The Swiss parliament is to hold hearings on a parallel “Gold Franc”. Utah has recognised gold as legal tender for tax payments.

A new Gold Standard would probably be based on a variant of the ‘Bancor’ proposed by Keynes in the late 1940s. This was a basket of 30 commodities intended to be less deflationary than pure gold, which had compounded in the Great Depression. The idea was revived by China’s central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan two years ago as a way of curbing the “credit-based” excess.

So the Chinese, the World Bank, the Swiss, Utahans and a dead John Maynard Keynes agree that the U.S. has a spending problem.  A spending problem that is racking up debt to saturation.  So bad that the once invincible U.S. dollar should no longer serve as the world’s reserve currency.  A sad development indeed.  And painful to hear.  Especially coming from a commie.

Tax Hikes First, then Broken Spending Cuts Promises

And yet the president is in denial.  He doesn’t see a spending/debt problem.  He sees a revenue problem.  Because high taxes and high debt are okay in his world.  As long as they pay for liberal government spending.  That’s why he’s dead set against spending cuts only.  He wants those tax hikes.  He needs those tax hikes.  And will promise almost anything to get those tax hikes.  Because once he does, and mark these words well, he will break every spending cuts promise he made to get them.

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Learning nothing from Europe’s Financial Crises, Obama pushes hard to increase the Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 11th, 2011

No Economy is too Big to Fail

Having too much debt is a bad thing.  For one thing, you have to pay it back eventually.  And until you do, you have to service it.  Make interest payments.  Which can become very large if you have a lot of debt.

Greece has a lot of debt.  So much that they can’t sell any more.  And they can no longer service that debt.  Which is a big problem for the European Union (EU), in particular the Eurozone and its common currency the Euro.  Greece is small.  But the EU is big.  And Greece’s problem is now their problem because of that common currency (see Eurozone moves to stop Greek debt crisis by Gabriele Steinhauser, Associated Press, posted 7/11/2011 on USA Today).

Investors are concerned that the debt crisis, which has so far been contained to the small economies of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, could soon drag down bigger countries like highly indebted Italy and unemployment-ridden Spain. The mere size of their economies could easily overwhelm the rescue capacity of the rest of the eurozone…

“The fact that contagion is spreading marks the failure of politicians to draw a line under the Euro-crisis to date,” Rabobank analyst Jane Foley said. “As yields rise and debt financing costs become even more exaggerated the difficulties of containing the crisis become even bigger.”

The Europeans crated the EU and the Eurozone to counter the economic prowess of the United States.  And it has.  Their economies run shoulder to shoulder.  Which is why the U.S. should be worried about what is happening in Greece.  And how scared the EU is that their contagion may spread.  For no economy is too big to fail from an overload of debt.

Excessive Government Debt making Investors Nervous

If you’re looking for confirmation on the size and reach of the Greek debt crisis, look no further than the world’s financial markets (see Markets Tumble on Debt Crisis by The Associated Press posted 7/11/2011 on The New York Times).

Wall Street and global stocks slid further Monday because of renewed concerns about the euro zone’s debt crisis and after a dismal jobs report in the United States last week rekindled concerns about the recovery in the world’s largest economy…

The downbeat sentiment in markets was worsened by indications that Europe’s debt crisis might be spreading beyond the three countries that have already received rescue packages. There have been mounting concerns that after Greece, Ireland and Portugal, much-larger Italy and Spain could need bailouts to manage its tremendous debt load.

Investors are nervous.  Both about Greece and the EU.  And the United States.  They’re worried about excessive government spending.  And excessive government debt.  Because the higher the debt the higher the interest paid on the debt.  And interest paid on the debt is money spent that results in nothing beneficial.  It’s just a drag on the economy (i.e., higher taxes are required to pay it).  Or worse.  As in borrowing money to service the debt.  Which makes a bad problem (too much debt) worse (more debt).  Which is a further drag on the economy.

The Children refuse to Eat their Peas

And speaking of debt, there was no progress on the budget debate to increase the debt limit.  As if anyone was surprised by this (see WRAPUP 9-Obama, lawmakers fall short on US debt deal by Steve Holland and Thomas Ferraro posted 7/11/2011 on Reuters).

U.S. President Barack Obama and top U.S. lawmakers fell short on Monday of finding enough spending cuts for a deal to avoid an Aug. 2 debt default and Republicans came under fresh pressure to agree to tax hikes.

The two sides achieved no breakthrough in a roughly 90-minute meeting and scheduled a third straight day of talks for Tuesday. This came after Obama, at a news conference, declared it is time for both Republicans and Democrats to “pull off the Band-aid, eat our peas” and make sacrifices.

I’m a grownup.  And I like peas.  I think a lot of grownups like peas.  That’s probably why I see a lot of peas in grocery stores.  But one thing I don’t see is kids begging their mother to buy more peas.  No.  Mothers have to tell them to eat their peas even though kids don’t want to.  Because kids just don’t know what’s good for them.  And mothers, being mothers and not diplomats, don’t discuss this.  They just dictate terms to their children.  Which is what Obama appears to be doing.  Trying to dictate terms to the children on the other side of the aisle.  To get them to accept what’s best for them.  Because he knows best.  Like Mother.

The Treasury Department has warned it will run out of money to cover the country’s bills if Congress does not increase its borrowing authority by Aug. 2. Failure to act could push the United States back into recession, send shock waves through global markets and threaten the dollar’s reserve status.

This ‘running out of money’ line is very strange.  The government is currently collecting some $2 trillion plus in cash a year.  Which comes out to about $180 billion a month.  And as long as your employer is withholding taxes from your paycheck, there’s money flowing into Washington.  So how exactly are they running out of money?

Back into recession?  Didn’t know we ever came out of recession.

Boehner also took issue with Democrats’ suggestion that most of the spending cuts should be concentrated out into future years, rather than beginning right away.

Smart man that Boehner.  He knows Democrats lie.  “Raise taxes now and we’ll make spending cuts later.  Promise.  $3 in cuts tomorrow for every new dollar in taxes today.”  Ronald Reagan fell for it.  George H. W. Bush, too.  But tomorrow never came.  And neither did those spending cuts.  The Democrats had their new taxes.  So they said, “Screw you, Republicans.  Suckers.”

Obama used the latest in a series of White House news conferences to urge lawmakers on both sides to stop putting off the inevitable and agree to tax increases and cuts in popular entitlement programs, trying to persuade Americans he is the grownup in a bitter summer battle over spending and taxes…

Obama is seeking to cast himself as a centrist in the bitter debate. His 2012 re-election hopes hinge not only on reducing America’s 9.2 percent unemployment but on his appeal to independent voters who are increasingly turned off by partisan rancor in Washington and want tougher action to get the country’s fiscal house in order.

And that’s what this debate is all about.  The 2012 election.  If he comes out of this smelling like a centrist he wins.  Even if he loses the debate.  Because he can campaign as a centrist.  Even though he’s the biggest leftist to have ever entered the Whitehouse.  Who tripled the deficit.  And put the U.S. on the road to national health care.

So how much exactly are they looking to raise the debt limit by to save the country?

They said Obama’s view was that without tax increases, the package would at best be little more than $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, far short of the estimated $2 trillion needed to extend the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling through the end of 2012.

Hmmm, $2 trillion dollars.  Where can we find $2 trillion dollars?

You Repeal Obamacare and we’ll raise the Debt Limit by $2 Trillion

Here’s a thought.  How about repealing Obamacare?  If we need to live within our means and can’t muster the guts to reform entitlements, then Obamacare is a no-brainer.  It’s not an entitlement yet.  No one would miss it if they repeal it.  Because how can you miss something you don’t even have yet?  So how much money would this save?  Let’s take a look at some facts and figures from an interesting article (see Obamacare Tragedy Primed To Further Explode the Deficit by Peter Ferrara posted 7/6/2011 on The American Spectator)?

…close analysis of the CBO score and additional new data indicates that, quite to the contrary, Obamacare will likely add $4 to $6 trillion to the deficit over its first 20 years, and possibly more…

Of course, the deficit is not the biggest problem.  Even bigger is that regardless of the deficit, Obamacare involves trillions of increased government spending and taxes…

In the Wall Street Journal on June 8, Grace-Marie Turner, President of the Galen Institute, estimated based on the numbers in the McKinsey report that as many as 78 million Americans would lose their employer provided coverage.  If those workers ended up receiving the new Obamacare exchange handouts, the estimated costs for those subsidies in the first 6 years alone would soar by 4 times, adding nearly $2 trillion to the costs and deficits of Obamacare during that time…

Such draconian cuts in Medicare payments would create havoc and chaos in health care for seniors.  Doctors, hospitals, surgeons and specialists providing critical care to the elderly such as surgery for hip and knee replacements, sophisticated diagnostics through MRIs and CT scans, and even treatment for cancer and heart disease would shut down and disappear in much of the country, and others would stop serving Medicare patients.  If the government is not going to pay, then seniors are not going to get the health services, treatment and care they expect.

Yet, reversing these unworkable Medicare cuts would add $15 trillion to the future deficits caused by Obamacare.

So Obamacare isn’t going to reduce the deficit after all.  How about that?  You see, Boehner is right not to trust Democrats.  Because they lie.  And while they’re bitching and moaning about trying to raise the debt limit by $2 trillion Obamacare will add another $4 to $6 trillion, or more, to the deficit over its first twenty years.  And there’s a whole bunch of unpleasantness in addition to that.  78 million people losing their private insurance coverage.  And the gutting of Medicare that will destroy that program.  Which will add another $15 trillion to future deficits. 

This should be the Republican position.  This is the deal they should offer.  Raise the debt limit by $2 trillion.  And repeal Obamacare.  Final offer.  Take it or leave it.  Either eat your peas.  Or you, President Obama, can default on America’s debt obligations.  For it is your Obamacare that has put us in this position in the first place.

Too much Debt is a bad Thing

Having too much debt is a bad thing.  We see it in Europe.  The EU is worried about what’s happening in Greece spreading to larger countries in the Eurozone.  Markets are jittery about Europe’s financial crises.  Even on Wall Street.  Because too much debt is a bad thing.  And no economy is too big to fail from an overload of debt.

The whole world understands this.  That too much debt is a bad thing.  And yet what is the Obama administration doing?  Piling on to their debt.  And not in a little way.  They’re collecting some $2 trillion in cash each year but it’s not enough.  They need to borrow an additional $2 trillion this year to pay their bills.  I don’t know what’s going on in Washington but one thing for sure – it ain’t good governing.

Repeal Obamacare.  Solve a bunch of problems with one act of legislation.  And demonstrate some good governing for a change.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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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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Greece/EU/the Euro are not out of the Woods Yet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 30th, 2011

The Price for Greece to Avoid a Sovereign Default

Greece’s troubles ain’t over yet (see European Union talks on Greek debt as IMF flies in by Helena Smith posted 1/30/2011 on the Guardian).

The European Union is engaged in frantic behind the scenes talks to reduce Greece’s debt as international monitors fly into Athens this week. There is growing concern that the eurozone’s weakest state will be unable to end its worst crisis in decades, without a sovereign default.

A sovereign default?  Yikes.  That’s pretty bad.  That means things may be so bad that they may just have to start all over.  And just say ‘so sorry’ to all those debt holders.  Break that sacred obligation of a written contract.  Just like those written contracts with the public sector unions will be broken when they reorganize.

No nation wants to go down this path.  The Greeks certainly don’t.  So what will it take?  And can they do what it takes?

Economists also recognize that even if Athens enforced the fiscal consolidation programme demanded in exchange for the bailout to the letter, the country would have to generate a primary budget surplus of 5.5% just to keep up with debt repayments.

That, in turn, would not only require relentless austerity but years of sacrifice in a nation already racked by a widening gulf between rich and poor and the social tensions that unprecedented policies have brought.

The spectre of a Greek default has divided economists, with many arguing that it would trigger a chain reaction and have a catastrophic effect on Ireland, Portugal and Spain which are also struggling with heavy debts.

It is an uphill battle.  They got into this mess because of uncontrolled deficit spending.  They just couldn’t cut spending or raise taxes enough.  Now to prevent default, they will have to cut spending and raise taxes even more than they were willing to before.  Can the Greeks pull off this Herculean task?  Or should Ireland, Portugal and Spain be getting a little nervous?  Time will tell.

If East Germany could do it so can Greece

The Greeks have a friend in Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany.  Germany is the strong economy in the European Union.  And they have experience in bringing someone back from the brink.  The reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall was not easy.  West Germany was a prosperous nation with a strong currency.  East Germany was not.  Rescuing Greece will be similar.  Restoring financial health to a weaker nation.  While protecting a strong currency (the Euro) that is key in the rescue (see Merkel’s Defense of Euro Forged in East Germany by Jack Ewing and Katrin Bennhold posted 1/30/2011 on The New York Times).

There are also practical lessons for Europe. Like Greece and Portugal, the former East Germany suffered from a crippling competitiveness gap yet it was locked into a strong currency, the German mark.

Mrs. Merkel has witnessed the enormous political divisions that can arise when taxpayers from one region are compelled to rescue residents from another.

And how bad did it get?

About 14,000 businesses were shut down and four million jobs lost in the first five years after formal reunification in 1990. Unemployment eventually peaked at more than 20 percent in 2005.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, two million of the 16 million people living in the east have moved west. Long-term unemployment and wage depression bolstered xenophobic parties like the National Party of Germany, which holds seats in the state Parliament of Saxony.

It won’t be pretty.  But it can be done.  If the Greeks can handle “relentless austerity.”  If the other EU members are willing to rescue the Greeks.  And if the Greeks can resist xenophobic fears of those trying to help them.

And while the Greeks face this austere future, the rest of us should think about reducing our own deficits.  Before we find ourselves saying, well, if the Greeks could do it, then so can we.

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