Debt Limit Talks just Theatre, Obama Determined to Emulate Greek Spending and Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 18th, 2011

The Debt Limit hasn’t Stopped the Debt from Growing

The bond ratings agencies are getting nervous.  About the inevitable default of Greece.  And the possibility that the U.S. won’t be able to accumulate the unsustainable debt like the Greeks have (see Moody’s suggests U.S. eliminate debt ceiling by Walter Brandimarte posted 7/18/2011 on Reuters).

Ratings agency Moody’s on Monday suggested the United States should eliminate its statutory limit on government debt to reduce uncertainty among bond holders…

“We would reduce our assessment of event risk if the government changed its framework for managing government debt to lessen or eliminate that uncertainty,” Moody’s analyst Steven Hess wrote in the report…

In the United States, Moody’s said the debt limit had not effectively curbed the rise in government debt because lawmakers regularly raise it and because that limit is not related to the level of expenditures approved by Congress.

They have a point.  The Economist noted (see Down to the wire posted 7/18/2011 on The Economist) “Congress has acted a total of 91 times since June 1940 to either raise, extend or alter the definition of the debt limit…”  So it would seem that the debt limit is a limit in name only.  It hasn’t stopped the debt from growing.  As their little chart shows.  So why have it?

A Debt Default will be Bad, so will continued Out of Control Spending

Because, apart from World War II, the public debt hasn’t exceeded 100% of the GDP (see The Economist chart referenced above).  George W. Bush took it close to World War II heights to pay for two costly wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) and an expensive Medicare drug plan.  Obama has taken it beyond World War II levels.  At about 140% of GDP.  And Obama wants to borrow more, taking it to 150% of GDP.  Or beyond.  The European Central Bank is forecasting Greek debt to peak at 161% of GDP.  So you can see why having a debt limit is a little more important now.  Which makes the Moody’s recommendation a bit puzzling considering their concerns over Greece (see Senate Throws Obama a Debt Lifeline by Chris Stirewalt posted 7/18/2011 on FOX NEWS).

The bond-rating agencies have spelled out the two scenarios that would result in a downgrading of U.S. creditworthiness: either an unconditional increase to federal borrowing that shows Washington sprinting toward the fiscal abyss or an unbreakable stalemate on the debt ceiling.

A debt default will be bad.  But so will be continued out of control spending.  So it makes little sense solving one problem by making another problem bigger.  Besides, the U.S. has the money to service its debt.  The only question is will Obama service it?

But, here again, Obama is the one in charge of deciding who gets paid in the event of a shortfall. While his administration might send scare letters to senior citizens as a bargaining tactic with Republicans, it’s unlikely that the president would tell pensioners that they can’t have the money they paid into the system during their working lives.

Imagine the president keeping open national parks or green energy stimulus projects while telling America’s oldsters that they aren’t getting checks. Not going to happen.

Yes, if Social Security checks don’t go out to seniors, it will be because Obama chose not to send them.  And speaking of Social Security, this brings up another point.  That it’s a Ponzi scheme. 

The money we paid into the Social Security isn’t sitting in some lockbox collecting interest.  Like those Social Security statements we get imply.  The government spends that money, our money, as soon as they get it.  Which is why they viciously attack any plans to privatize Social Security.  They want your money now.  While you’re living.  And after you die.  For if we privatize Social Security, our heirs would get our unspent retirement money.  Not the government.  As the system is now designed.

This is just another good reason not to give the government more money.  They’re just going to blow irresponsibly.  Like using our retirement money deducted from our paychecks to pay for national parks.  Or green energy.

Obama and the Democrats don’t want Deficit Reduction

Washington can’t curb it’s appetite to spend.  Doesn’t want to.  And they don’t try to hide this fact (see Obama officially threatens to veto ‘Cut, Cap and Balance’ by Sam Youngman posted 7/18/2011 on THE HILL).

The White House on Monday warned President Obama will veto GOP legislation to “Cut, Cap and Balance” spending and the budget…

The administration lambasted the “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal as setting out “a false and unacceptable choice between the federal government defaulting on its obligations now or, alternatively, passing a Balanced Budget Amendment that, in the years ahead, will likely leave the nation unable to meet its core commitment of ensuring dignity in retirement.”

The White House also blasted some of the cuts Republicans have suggested, saying the proposal would “undercut the federal government’s ability to meet its core commitments to seniors, middle-class families and the most vulnerable, while reducing our ability to invest in our future.

“[The bill] would set unrealistic spending caps that could result in significant cuts to education, research and development and other programs critical to growing our economy and winning the future,” the SAP said. “It could also lead to severe cuts in Medicare and Social Security, which are growing to accommodate the retirement of the baby boomers, and put at risk the retirement security for tens of millions of Americans.”

Business as usual.  Scare the old people.  So they can spend more.  This is an admission that there will be no deficit reduction.  Obama and the Democrats don’t want it.  It’s all just theatre.  To amuse the public.  And buy time.  For they plan to spend, spend and spend.  On programs that are ‘critical’ to winning the future.  Despite the fortune we’ve spent already on these programs that have won jack squat so far.

The American Taxpayer paying for Irresponsible Governments Here and Abroad

So it’s on to Athens.  Push that debt up to 160% of GDP.  I mean, what really can happen that’s so bad (see Gloomy Forecast for Europe’s Banks by Jack Willoughby published 7/16/2011 on BARRON’S)?

Sean Egan, co-founder and president [Egan-Jones Ratings], has a stunning prediction for Barron’s readers: Forget about things getting better in Europe, he says; they will actually get worse. And who might be one of the patsies in all this? The American taxpayer, who could feasibly be stung as the Federal Reserve aids an ailing European Central Bank already depleted by too many bailouts. The big question: Will Europe, worn down by bailout after bailout, finally be forced to bail out the bailer—the ECB?

Oh.  As bad as things are in Europe they’re going to get worse?  And the American taxpayer may ultimately pay for these bailouts?  Lovely.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse.  Not only will the American taxpayer pay for their own irresponsible government.  But Europe’s as well.

Atlas can’t Shoulder the Weight of the World Anymore

That debt limit seems more important than ever.  This out of control spending has to stop.  Before it’s too late.  Because we can’t afford our debt and Europe’s debt.   America can’t be Atlas and shoulder the weight of the world on its shoulders.  At least, not anymore.  Not with the Obama administration running things.

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The State of the Union Address Ignores the 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room: Old People.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 26th, 2011

Old People:  God Love them but they’re Killing Us

The State of the Union Address was very similar to the one last year.  And a lot of Obama’s campaign speeches.  He still wants to invest (i.e., spend).  Even though record spending to date hasn’t helped anything.  We have record debt.  And deficits.  The nation is broke.  And yet he still wants to spend.  I mean, ‘invest’.

But we can’t ‘invest’ anymore.  We don’t have the money.  We can’t borrow anymore.  Or print anymore.  Without creating problems we can’t walk away from.  We have to reduce the deficit.  For real.  Can’t just talk about it.  And we can’t keep raising taxes.  Because that would stall the economic recovery.  If there was any economic recovery to stall.  No, we can’t indulge in these fantasies anymore (see How Obama’s speech muddied the budget debate by Robert J. Samuelson posted 1/27/2011 on The Washington Post).

What we got were empty platitudes. We won’t be “buried under a mountain of debt,” Obama declared. Heck, we’re already buried. We will “win the future.” Not by deluding ourselves, we won’t. Americans think deficits are someone else’s problem that can be cured by taxing the rich (say liberals) or ending wasteful spending (conservatives). Obama indulged these fantasies.

If deficits stemmed mainly from the recession, this wouldn’t matter. They would shrink as the economy recovered; tax collections would rise and spending (on unemployment insurance, food stamps) would fall. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In fiscal 2010, the deficit – the gap between government spending and revenue – was $1.3 trillion. Of that, about $725 billion was a “structural” deficit, says Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics. That is, it would exist even if the economy were at full employment (5.75 percent by Zandi’s estimate).

Ouch.  Even Reagan’s tax cuts of the Eighties couldn’t fix this.  There’s a problem on the spending side.  A huge problem.  We have to address this problem.  If we don’t, nothing we do on the revenue side will amount to a hill of beans.

The real issue isn’t the deficit. It’s the exploding spending on the elderly – for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – which automatically expands the size of government. If we ended deficits with tax increases, we would simply exchange one problem (high deficits) for another (high taxes). Either would weaken the economy, and sharply higher taxes would represent an undesirable transfer to retirees from younger taxpayers.

And there it is.  Old people.  God love them but they’re killing us. 

So How do we Reduce the Deficit and Care for the Elderly?

Old people are killing us.  There’s no getting around that.  But we just can’t abandon them in their retirement.  But we have to do something with Social Security and Medicare before they bankrupt the country.

The first thing we need to do is the easiest thing.  Repeal Obamacare.  If we don’t, it’s just going to be Medicare writ large.  We haven’t suckered anyone into dependence yet.  So just end it.  Before we do.  This will eliminate a future problem.  So we can address the current ones.

Defined benefit pension plans are a thing of the past.  They’re chronically underfunded.  And mismanaged.  Just look at our biggest cities.  Those public sector pension plans are bankrupting them.  Meanwhile, most businesses have moved away from them.  Instead, they use 401(k) plans.  Or other plans where the employee is in charge.  Not the employer.  Best thing about these?  They’re portable.  You contribute.  And the money is yours.  No matter how long you work at a company.  The government needs to move in this direction.  They need to make a transition from a defined benefit pension plan (i.e., Social Security) to a personal retirement plan (i.e., a 401(k), an IRA, etc.).  The oldest people will be more in the Social Security system as we know it.  The younger people will be in a personal retirement plan.  And don’t start bitching about the risk of putting our retirement money into the stock market.  First of all, stocks are cyclical.  They usually climb after they fall.  Second, Social Security is going belly up.  Once it does, you ain’t getting anything out of it anyway.  So it’s a moot point.  At least with the stock market, we have a chance to retire.

The government has to get out of health care.  It’s a very complex thing.  And the most unqualified people shouldn’t run complex things.  Like pensions, we need to put people in charge of their health care.  We need to transition to private health insurance.  And remove the obstacles in the health insurance industry (restriction of competing across state lines, tort reform, etc.).  We have to move away from Medicare.  People need to buy their own private health insurance policies.  The oldest people in the system can get vouchers to help them.  The younger ones just need to learn NOW that they will have to take care of themselves.  The best thing about this?  Your health insurance will be portable.  You’ll never have to work again at a place you hate because of their health insurance benefit.  You can do whatever the hell you want to.  Because you will be paying for your own health insurance.  And you’ll take the same insurance with you no matter how many times you change your job.  Your days of bitching about a change in your prescription coverage will be over.  Because you will be getting exactly what you choose to buy.

Now, doing the above is going to cost.  Because there is no such thing as a Social Security trust fund.  Or Medicare insurance.  It’s all pay as you go.  Today’s taxes pay for today’s beneficiaries.  So when the young transfer out of the existing systems, there will be a huge funding shortfall for these systems.  We will have to borrow to cover this transition period.  But we will have to show that this borrowing is a temporary thing.  So that our creditors won’t fear that we’ll be dancing with default.  And how do we do that?  By making huge tax cuts. And by making sweeping rollbacks in regulation.  You make the United States so business friendly that jobs come running back to this country.  Because business owners will see that if you want to be profitable in business, you have to locate your business in the United States.  Sure, there will be some revenue shortfalls in the beginning of the transition.  But in the long run, the economic expansion will shower Washington in tax revenue.  Even at lower tax rates.  And because businesses are being so profitable, they’ll be bidding up labor rates to get the best employees.  Because they’ll have to.  You see, in a bustling economy with portable retirement and health insurance plans, no one will have to work where they don’t want to.  Everybody wins.  Employers.  Employees.  Even government.  Because they will finally escape the huge costs of Social Security and Medicare.

Getting back to the Founding Fathers

So there you have it.  A simple and doable plan.  In bullet form, the plan is:

  • Repeal Obamacare
  • Privatize Social Security
  • Privatize Medicare
  • Cut taxes and rollback regulation
  • Live happily ever after

Simple.  And the transition pains will hurt far less than bankruptcy.  Of course, there is a downside to this simple plan.  At least for Big Government liberals.  Because this plan gives us limited government.  Like the Founding Fathers wanted.  Which isn’t all that bad for liberals.  Because in this plan they’ll lose their jobs in a booming economy where there will be other jobs available for them.  Unlike being laid off when the Great Recession turns into another Great Depression.

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