The Supercommittee Succeeds in Preventing Deficit Reduction without Raising Taxes

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 27th, 2011

Week in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If Taxing the Rich won’t Reduce the Deficit then it’s not Tax Reform, it’s Class Warfare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 25th, 2011

The Rich are Paying Far More in Taxes than People like Warren Buffet’s Secretary

It’s tax reform.  It’s not tax reform.  They may not have their story straight.  But this much we know.  Obama’s Warren Buffett tax will do nothing for deficit reduction.  But it sure will fan the flames of class warfare (see WH self-contradicts, admits tax hikes arent reform by Joel Gehrke posted 9/25/2011 on The Washington Examiner).

President Obama and White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe have adopted contradictory rhetoric regarding  President Obama’s proposed tax increases, which the president has touted as “tax reform…”

Plouffe responded that “the president would like to do tax reform . . . But absent tax reform,  the president believes the right way to get our fiscal house in order is to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share.”

So according to Plouffe, raising taxes isn’t tax reform.  It’s to punish the rich.  That’s what making them ‘pay their fair share’ means.  Even though, right now, they’re paying more than their fair share.  Far more.  (More on that later.)  Obama, though, sees it differently.  And the way he sees it punishing the rich is reforming the tax code.

When two people can’t get their story street it typically means one thing.  They’re lying.  And can’t keep their stories straight.

Now, the Republicans say they’re in favor of tax reform.  Let’s go.  Let’s reform this tax code.  And let’s reform it based on a very simple principle:  Warren Buffett’s secretary should not be paying a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. It’s a simple principle.

Why not?  Warren Buffett is still paying more tax dollars.  The rich are paying far more in taxes than people like Warren Buffet’s secretary.  So why keep saying this?  Can be for only one reason.  To punish the rich.  And to show the people that you want to vote for you that you’re punishing the rich.

Wallace pointed out to Plouffe that “the top 10 percent pay 70 percent of federal income taxes. Meanwhile, 46 percent of households pay no federal income tax at all.” Plouffe countered that “you can manipulate the statistics in any way you want,” and also said that “they are making a ton of money” while “we have inequities,” presumably in the tax code. And then Plouffe offered what would qualify as an argument for tax reform, except that Plouffe is admittedly not pushing for tax reform:

The American people are screaming out saying it’s unfair that the wealthiest, the largest corporations who can afford the best attorneys, the best accountants, take advantage of these special tax treatments that the lobbyist have, along with lawmakers, have cooked in the books here. So, the question is: how are we going to move forward as a country?

Wallace interjected, “Because 70% isn’t enough?”

For tax revenue?  Yes.  That 70% should be enough.  Perhaps too much.  But for class warfare?  No.  Because there’s a lot more money they can take from the rich.  And the more they take the more votes they gain from that 46% that doesn’t pay any federal income taxes.

It’s not that the President is Losing White Independents.  It’s just that Blacks Refuse to Give Up on Obama.

So why the class warfare?  Because it’s election time.  And when you don’t have a good record you don’t win reelections running on that record.  So you don’t.  Instead, you go class warfare.  Pit one group against the other.  Find narrow slices of the population that you can turn against your political opposition.  And, if you get enough of these slivers, you may just have a chance at reelection.  Despite your horrible record while in office (see Obama 2012 campaign’s Operation Vote focuses on ethnic minorities, core liberals by Peter Wallsten posted 9/25/2011 on The Washington Post).

President Obama’s campaign is developing an aggressive new program to expand support from ethnic minority groups and other traditional Democratic voters as his team studies an increasingly narrow path to victory in next year’s reelection effort.

The program, called “Operation Vote,” underscores how the tide has turned for Obama, whose 2008 brand was built on calls to unite “red and blue America.” Then, he presented himself as a politician who could transcend traditional partisan divisions, and many white centrists were drawn to the coalition that helped elect the country’s first black president.

The problem is that Obama is about as partisan as they come.  That’s why the tide has turned against him.  A lot of people hated George W. Bush.  And thought Obama was going to bring in the love.  Make the country as a whole link arms and sing Kumbaya.  But that hasn’t happened.

He spent more than George W. Bush.  Giving us record deficits.  And he keeps blaming his spending on the rich not paying their fair share of taxes.  The people see what’s going on, though.  They’re not blind.  It’s his spending.  Not a lack of taxes.  And all that spending hasn’t done a thing to help the economy.  The economy was, after all, far better under George W. Bush.  So they’re seeing the same old tax and spend liberal.  Not the candidate that was going to get us all to link arms and sing Kumbaya.

But not everyone is turning against this president.  The blacks haven’t turn on him.  They would have but for one reason.  He’s black.  The black community is furious with him.  But they still can’t abandon him.  As the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Maxine Waters, said in Detroit.  “If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us. When you tell us it’s all right and you unleash us and you’re ready to have this conversation, we’re ready to have the conversation,” Waters said.

Today, the political realities of a sputtering economy, a more polarized Washington and fast-sinking presidential job approval ratings, particularly among white independents, are forcing the Obama campaign to adjust its tactics.

Operation Vote will function as a large, centralized department in the Chicago campaign office for reaching ethnic, religious and other voter groups. It will coordinate recruitment of an ethnic volunteer base and push out targeted messages online and through the media to groups such as blacks, Hispanics, Jews, women, seniors, young people, gays and Asian Americans.

It’s not that the president is losing white independents.  It’s just that blacks refuse to give up on Obama and join the exodus from him.

When you’ve been a poor president.  When your policies have made things worse.  There’s only one thing you can do.  You do everything to divide the American people.  Drive wedges.  Find reasons.  Why blacks should hate Republicans.  Why Hispanics should hate Republicans.  Why women should hate Republicans.  Why seniors should hate Republicans.  Why young people should hate Republicans.  Why gays should hate Republicans.  Why Asians should hate Republicans.

When you have failed you become what you said you weren’t.  Or stop pretending to be something you never were.  And you incite hatred.  Fan the fires of class warfare.  You pursue policies that further divide the American people.  Even if those policies hinder the economic recovery.

The campaign officials say they have not given up on wooing independents, and the 2012 presidential election will certainly involve a fierce fight for the college-educated whites and suburbanites who were more likely to back Obama in 2008 than the working-class whites who have always been more skeptical.

By ‘college-educated’ they mean ‘favorably-educated’.  Universities lean left.  Continuing the work of the public school teachers.  Both of who depend on government funding.  And growing tax rates.  So they need government to grow.  And will always vote for the party that will grow government.  And will ‘teach’ their young students to do the same.

Working-class people, on the other hand, have spent more time in the real world.  They’ve had a chance to get deprogrammed from their public school indoctrination.  That’s why it’s harder to fool the working-class.

When you’ve ‘Jimmy Cartered’ the Economy you can’t Run on your Record

It’s election season.  Little more than a year to go before the 2012 election.  So candidate Obama is back.  Running like he wasn’t the president for the last 3 years or so.  Somehow trying to explain to his most loyal base that he’s made things better than his predecessor.  George W. Bush.

But he hasn’t.  However you measure it.  GDP.  Unemployment rate.  Consumer confidence.  Whatever.  And the kicker is that the cause for the Subprime Mortgage Crisis that started under Bush wasn’t caused by Bush.  Putting people into houses they couldn’t afford was a liberal Democrat policy.  So housing wasn’t exclusive to only those who could afford a house.  Policies the Obama administration favors.  And policies that they want to implement again.  Despite having just suffered the Subprime Mortgage Crisis because of those policies.  Why?  Because it gets you more votes at election time.

So when you’ve ‘Jimmy Cartered‘ the economy you can’t run on your record.  The best you can hope for is to paint your political opponent as being everything the slivers of your most loyal base hate.  Attack the rich.  And promise more free stuff to that 46% that doesn’t pay any federal income taxes.

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

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 8th, 2011

Thomas Jefferson hated Alexander Hamilton for his Assumption and Funding Plans 

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

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

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

Thomas Jefferson Understood that a Permanent Debt gave a Government Power 

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

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

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

Baseline Budgeting guarantees Permanent Growth in Government Spending

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

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

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

(Source:  GDP, Debt, Receipts)

The Obama Stimulus gave us Record Deficits and Record Debt

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

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

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

Hamilton and Jefferson would have United in Opposition against Barack Obama

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

(Source:  GDP, Debt $, Debt %)

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

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

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

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LESSONS LEARNED #80: “A nation’s government spends too much when its spending increases at a rate greater than its population growth.” – Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 25th, 2011

Exchanging Dollars for Gold at $35/ounce was a Strong Incentive not to Depreciate the Dollar

It’s no secret.  Government spending is growing out of control.  It’s producing record deficits.  That caused S&P to downgrade America’s AAA sovereign debt rating.  No one denies that it’s a problem.  This spending.  Those on the Right want to address this via spending cuts.  Those on the Left just want to keep raising taxes.

LBJ exploded government spending with his Great Society in the Sixties.  Back then the U.S. was still on a quasi gold standard.  The U.S. honored an exchange of dollars for gold.  The point of this was to prevent the government from printing too much money.  Print too much and you depreciate the dollar.  So when you promise to exchange dollars for gold at $35/ounce you have an incentive not to depreciate the dollar.  Because as that $35 will buy less and less everywhere else, it will always buy an ounce of U.S. gold.

Well, with the Vietnam War and the Great Society, President Nixon had an unpleasant decision to make.  Unpleasant for a politician.  Either cut spending.  Or print money.  Politicians don’t like cutting spending.  So he printed money.  Which depreciated the dollar.  And countries were taking those cheap dollars and exchanging them for lots and lots of U.S. gold.  There was so much gold flying out of the country that Nixon did something shocking.  We call it the Nixon Shock.  He said the U.S. would no longer honor the dollars for gold exchange.  That was in August of 1971.  And prices have never been the same since.

The Growth of the CPI took off following the Nixon Shock

Keynesian economists were happy to see the end of the gold standard.  Because they like printing money.  And they’ve been advising governments to do just that.  To put an end to the business cycle.  And recessions as we know it.  For when the signs of recession are apparent, the government can pump a lot of dollars into the economy.  Thus avoiding a recession.  This was the policy since the adoption of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913.  Which put the nation’s best and brightest in charge of the American economy.  Who were unable to prevent numerous recessions.  A Great Recession.  And a Great Depression.

So the Keynesians have failed in preventing recessions.  Of all sizes.  Worse, their inflationary policies of freely printing and spending money has increased prices.  Caused a sharp increase in the growth rate of the Consumer Price Index (an inflation indicator).  As you can see in the following chart.  Where we graph government spending (outlays) and the CPI.  Dollar amounts are in billions of constant 2005 dollars.  Data is plotted in 10 year intervals.

 

(Sources:  Outlays, CPI)

You can see that the rate of growth in the CPI took off following the Nixon Shock.  That was the price for government printing money to keep spending beyond its means.  To make everything cost more in real dollars for us.  The consumers.  This shrinking of our paychecks put an end to the single wage-earner as we knew it.  Today the norm is that it takes two incomes to raise a family.  The exception is when one can do it.

Even before the Nixon Shock you could see that government was spending beyond its means.  Increasing its spending greater than the rate of inflation.  That means the size and number of government benefits was growing.  And it continued to grow until the Nineties.  When a Republican House forced a liberal president to the center.  After the Republicans won the 1994 midterm electionsBill Clinton‘s welfare reform decreased the growth rate of government.  For the first time after World War II.  But George W. Bush liked to spend the money.  Barack Obama, too.  Even more so.  Who took government spending to new highs with his $800 billion stimulus.  And his Obamacare.

The Number and Size of Benefits are growing Faster than the Population

Of course, you have to be careful not to let those benefits grow faster than the population.  Because government revenue comes from the taxpayers.  An increasing population means increasing tax revenue.  Because more people are paying taxes.  A decreasing population means declining tax revenue.  Because fewer people are paying taxes.

Likewise, spending that grows less than the population growth rate means a government is spending within its means.  Spending that grows greater than the population growth rate means a government is spending beyond its means.  And most probably running deficits.

We can see this if we graph population with government spending (outlays).  And we do that in the following chart.  Population is in numbers of people.  Outlays are in billions of constant 2005 dollars.  Data is plotted in 10 year intervals (to correspond with the decennial census).

 (Sources:  Population, Outlays)

Up until the Nineties, government spending increased at a greater rate than the population grew.  Clearly indicating that the number and size of benefits was growing relative to the population.  In particular, you can see an upward bend in outlays with the onset of the Great Society. 

This new growth rate remained consistent through the heyday of Keynesian economics.  The Seventies.  And through Reaganomics.  The Eighties.  Democrat Bill Clinton reduced the growth rate of government spending during his two terms in office.  Thanks to a Republican House.   But George W. Bush liked to spend the money.  For a couple of wars.  And a new Medicare prescription drug program.  And then Barack Obama became president.  And made George W. Bush look like a cheapskate when it came to government spending.

We are Spending Money at a Greater Rate than we’re Creating New Taxpayers 

Currently, the rate of government spending is increasing far greater than the population growth rate.  Meaning we are spending money at a greater rate than we’re creating new taxpayers.  Which can only mean one thing.  Record deficits.  Which we have.

We cannot sustain this spending.  It’s not a matter of insufficient tax revenue.  We’re just spending too much.  If we continue to spend at this rate there won’t be enough money to tax away from the private sector to pay for it.  Unless we have another baby boom.   Far greater than the last one.  But babies take time to grow up.  Before they become taxpayers.  Some twenty years or more before they pay any significant taxes.  So that’s a long-term solution at best.

But with the high cost of raising a family that isn’t likely.  Thanks to permanent inflation.  Courtesy of Keynesian economics.  With the way they (Keynesians) bent the CPI graph upward, big families are a thing of the past.  So that’s not an option.  That leaves one thing.  Spending cuts.  Significant spending cuts.  The very thing that would have preserved America’s AAA credit rating.

And you know how politicians love spending cuts.

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LESSONS LEARNED #48: “Government benefits aren’t from the government. They’re from the taxpayers.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 13th, 2011

Defense Spending is in the Constitution, Entitlements Aren’t – And it’s Entitlement Spending that’s Growing

People like to bitch about defense spending.  And I can understand why.  It’s a lot of money.  Just to kill people and break things.  People would rather see that money spent on education.  Health care.  Food assistance for the poor.  Entitlements.  Those nice, generous, government benefits.  The kinder, gentler side of government spending. 

People like the free stuff.  They want to get something for all those taxes other people are paying.  And it just kills them to see it spent on the military.  Because they’d rather see that money spent on them.  Of course if you read the Constitution, you’ll find defense spending in there.  It’s in the preamble (provide for the common defense).  You’ll find it in Article I.  In Article II, too.  Defense spending is pretty conspicuous in the Constitution.  Conspicuous by their absence, though, are entitlements.  Did the Founding Fathers overlook this?  No.  It was the whole point of federalism.  They designed the central government to do only those things that the states couldn’t.  To establish credit for the new nation, to treat with foreign nations, to coin money, etc.  And, of course, to provide and maintain a military force.  Alexander Hamilton wanted it to do more.  And he stretched the “necessary and proper” clause in Article I for some of the things he wanted the central government to do (to try and make the nation rich and powerful like Great Britain).  Pity, too.  For the Left has been stretching that clause ever since.

All right, defense spending is a constitutional requirement of the federal government.  Entitlements aren’t.  So how much are we spending on these?   In 1962, defense spending was 49% of all federal spending (see Federal Spending by the Numbers 2010).  Social Security and Medicare (the two biggest entitlements) were 13%.  Current baseline projections show that, in 2020, defense spending will drop to 14%.  And Social Security and Medicare will rise to 36%.  Medicare is the real cost driver here.  In the decade from 2000 to 2010, Medicare spending has jumped 81%.  It is outgrowing Social Security and Medicaid.  The runaway costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (the Big Three) are projected to equal total current tax revenues in the year 2020.  That means the total federal budget today will only pay for the Big Three in 2020.  Concerned?  You should be.  Especially if you’re a taxpayer.

You can pay Uncle Sam with the Overtime.  And will.

Taxpayer, beware.  The government is feeling especially generous.  With your money.  By 2020, Washington will be spending $35,604 per household.  That’ll take almost $5,000 in additional taxes per household for the Big Three alone.  That is projected to jump to $12,636 in 2050.  And that doesn’t include Obamacare.  When that is factored in, it’ll cost you as much as paying cash for a new car each and every year.  And a nice one, not a subcompact with a sewing machine for an engine.  Can you afford that?  I hope so.  Because you won’t have a choice.  You’ll be buying it.  But not for yourself.  No.  That nice beautiful car you’ll be buying each and every year?  You don’t get to drive it.  It will be for someone else.

The entitlement spending is getting so out of hand that we have record deficits.  Compounding this problem is the 2008 recession corresponding with a huge jump in entitlement spending.  It’s opened a rather large gap between revenue and spending.  And that gap isn’t going anywhere soon.  Unless they cut entitlements.  Or raise taxes.  And you know they won’t be cutting entitlements.  So, guess what?  You can pay Uncle Sam with the overtime.  Because that’s all you’ll get for your money (borrowed from Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)).  So get used to it.  Paying Uncle Sam.  Because Sam is going to raise your taxes.  He has no choice.  Because he won’t cut entitlements.

And they’ll have to raise taxes.  Because we’re running out of creditors to borrow from.  I mean, the Chinese only have so much money to lend.  And we can’t keep printing money.  They’ve been doing that.  Quantitative easing, they call it.  But they can’t keep doing it.  Anyone alive during the Seventies will know why.  Or anyone who has done some reading outside the public school curriculum.  In a word, stagflation.  That’s a phenomenon where you have both high inflation and high unemployment.  It’s usually one or the other.  The normal rules of economics don’t allow both to happen at the same time.  Unless you’re printing money like there’s no tomorrow.  Which they were in the late Sixties and Early Seventies.  To pay for the Vietnam War.  NASA’s Apollo program (to the moon and back).  And, of course, entitlement spending.  The biggest to date was a group of programs we called the Great Society.  Inflation was so bad that they joked about it on Saturday Night Live.  Dan Aykroyd played President Jimmy Carter, joking about the pleasure of owning a $400 suit.  And how easy it was to just call the treasury to have them print off another sheet of hundred dollar bills.  (Or something like that.)

The Reagan Deficits were Bad, but they Make the Obama Deficits look Good

The Seventies were a bad time.  Economically speaking.  Printing money was bad.  Quantitative easing was bad.  Easy money was bad.  So Paul Volcker started tightening monetary policy.  And Ronald Reagan cut taxes. And the Eighties were like a glorious spring following the bleakest of winters.  But you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  The liberal Democrats weren’t going to roll over and cry ‘uncle’.  For they knew there was more spending left that they could do. 

So the spending continued.  Reagan had a Democrat Congress.  They fought him tooth and nail.  But he spoke directly to the American people and got his tax cuts.  And Reagan’s tax cuts resulted in a windfall of revenue.  And the Dems in Congress couldn’t spend the money fast enough.  Actually, they could.  They spent it so fast that surpluses soon turned into deficits.  They blamed Reagan’s defense spending.  So he made a deal.  He agreed to increase taxes.  If they would cut some of their entitlement spending.  To get the deficits under control.  So they did.  Increased taxes.  But they never cut spending.  Which just goes to show you that you can’t trust liberal Democrats.

You youngsters probably have no memory of these times.  But Ronald Reagan was attacked more than George W. Bush.  Hell, he was attacked almost as much as Abraham Lincoln.  The Seventies were the high-water mark of liberalism.  Then it went head to head with Reagan’s limited government supply-side economics in the Eighties.  And lost.  The hatred for Reagan knew no bounds.  For he was the man that repudiated liberalism.  So they attacked him ruthlessly. Screamed about his defense spending.  And yet his deficits were only around $200 billion.  Obama’s, on the other hand, are around $1,500 billion.  But they’re okay with that.  It’s no big deal, they say.  Just raise the debt ceiling.

It’s Spending, not Tax Cuts, that’s Causing those Record Deficits

But they can’t just raise the debt ceiling to keep spending.  Because spending is the problem.  Our debt is approaching 100% of our GDP.  When you’re borrowing money at record levels, you’re doing this because you just can’t raise taxes anymore.  You put the two together and it’s destroying the economy.  Taxes kill economic activity.  And the interest on the debt is soaring.  It’s projected to be approximately $760 billion in 2020.   That’s more than 70% of the projected budget deficit.  That means that most of the money we’ll be borrowing will go to pay the interest on the money we’ll be borrowing.  At that rate we’ll never pay down our debt.

Revenue averaged 18.0% of GDP from 1960-2009.  During the same period, spending averaged 20.3% of GDP from 1960-2009.  Not good.  But not too bad.  That’s a small, somewhat manageable deficit.  But spending takes off in 2010.  It’s projected to rise to 26.5% of GDP.  Meanwhile, revenue is projected to rise only to 18.2% of GDP.  That’s a projected deficit of 8.3% of GDP.  That’s fricking huge.  And that’s all runaway spending causing this mammoth deficit.  It ain’t tax cuts causing this.  It’s those entitlements.  Those fat, generous government benefits.

By this time there won’t be anything left to cut from the defense budget.  So they will have to turn to the generosity of the taxpayers.  And hope they enjoy personal sacrifice.  Because they’re going to be doing a lot of that.  To pay for these generous benefits.  These benefits for other people.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #24: “You cannot lobby a politician unless he or she is for sale.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 27th, 2010

IT’S A PROFESSION as old as time.  Politics.  Prostitution, too.

Hooker:  Hey, baby, you got girlfriend Vietnam?

Joker:    Not just this minute.

Hooker:  Well, baby, me so horny. Me so horny. Me love you long time. You party?

Joker:    Yeah, we might party. How much?

Hooker:  Fifteen dolla.

Joker:    Fifteen dollars for both of us?

Hooker:  No. Each you fifteen dolla. Me love you long time. Me so horny.

Joker:    Fifteen dollar too boo-coo. Five dollars each.

Hooker:  Me suckee-suckee. Me love you too much.

Joker:    Five dollars is all my mom allows me to spend.

Hooker:  Okay! Ten dolla each.

Joker:    What do we get for ten dollars?

Hooker:  Every’ting you want.

Joker:    Everything?

Hooker:  Every’ting.

Joker:    Well, old buddy, feel like spending some of your hard-earned money?

(From the movie Full Metal Jacket, 1987.)

In the above scene from Full Metal Jacket, Private Joker (reporter for Stars and Stripes) and Private Rafterman (photographer for Stars and Stripes) are sitting at a table outside a cafe in Da Nang.  Minding their own business.  The hooker walks up to them.  She initiates the conversation.  She tells them that for a fee she’ll have sex with them.

Please note that it is the service provider that approached the two privates.  They did not go up to random women, offering them money in exchange for sex.  Why?  Because not all women are for sale.  They know this.  It would be a waste of their time to ask random women.   And it would be rather offensive to the laywoman in the street.  Now, Marines may be killers.  But they’re polite to the indigenous population.

When you’re selling favors, the onus is on the seller to find the buyers.  They have to put the word out that they are for sale (ultra-miniskirt, low-cut tops, high heels, heavy makeup, stand on a corner, flash their ‘wares’, etc.).  Or find someone who will broker these sales for them.  A pimp, if you will.  Or a brothel madam.  Or, mamasan, as she is called in Southeast Asia.  A prostitute must initiate the process with the ‘john’ (Hey, baby, you got girlfriend Vietnam?).  Or she goes to a place where other prostitutes ply their trade to a receptive clientele (such as a brothel).

A prostitute is often a victim of circumstance.  Few women seek this life.  They’re not shopping one day when a man walks up to them and says, “Wow.  I find you beautiful and would like to pay you to have sex with me.”   To which she replies, “okay” and leaves one life to start another.  It doesn’t happen like that.   Often it is some misfortune that forces them into the business.  And once there they have but one thing of value that they can sell for subsistence; a young attractive body.  For a limited time.

THEY WEREN’T PERFECT.  The Founding Fathers had their faults.  They knew the evils of a strong central government.  And they knew the dangers of a weak central government.  John Adams wanted to build ‘wooden walls’ (i.e., a navy) to protect America.  Jefferson opposed standing armies and expensive navies.  Washington was a nationalist.  Hamilton, too.  Madison and Jefferson were more states’ rights men.  Hamilton was a capitalist and wanted a national bank.  Jefferson hated capitalism, banks, cities and Hamilton.  It was a rocky start.  They had different views about what America should be.  But the administrations of the Founding Fathers (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Munroe) were for the most part honest.  There was partisan fighting, but political corruption was still gestating.   Our first Democratic administration would give it real life.

Government was growing.  There were more federal jobs to hand out.  And with property ownership no longer a requirement to vote, more and more voters had no skin in the game.  People were now voting to have a say in how to spend other people’s money.  You put the two together and you get political patronage and spoils.  Those who help to ‘get out the vote’ to get Democrats elected were rewarded with federal jobs.  The more you helped the better the job.  And when Andrew Jackson won the election in 1828, federal job seekers overran Washington.

It may have started with the Democrats, but soon everyone was using the spoils of an election victory to repay their most loyal supporters.  And government continued to grow.  Back then, it was just politics.  Egregious, but just politics.  Patronage and spoils turned into graft and kickbacks.  And the bigger government got, the more money poured into and out of Washington.

Soon, congressmen, senators and presidents steered legislation and/or policy in exchange for sweetheart mortgage deals, vacation junkets, campaign contributions, legal defense funds, retirement of campaign debt, libraries, etc.  They were now offering services for a fee.  And for a lot more than subsistence.  During a limited time.  Due to the circumstance of holding public office.  Now, they’re not saying “me love you long time,” but they are taking money and someone is getting screwed.  And it’s a pretty sweet deal.  The prostitute has to earn her money the hard way.  She has to put out.  A politician, on the other hand, doesn’t.  They get rich the easy way.  While the public takes it up the pooper.

PEOPLE HATE LOBBYISTS.  They hate their influence.  They hate Big Pharma, Big Agra, Big Oil, Big Finance and the other ‘Bigs’ that lobby Big Government.  But these ‘johns’ only exist because politicians are more than willing (and make it known) that they are for sale.  You gotta pay to play in Washington. 

Are we to believe that politicians are as pure as the wind-driven snow until a lobbyist corrupts them?  Yeah, right.   If you believe that be wary of anyone trying to sell you a bridge.  It’s a game.  And they write the rules.  And if you don’t play nice, they can make it pretty unpleasant for you.  Anti-business legislation, justice department probes, attorney general investigations, public attacks by administration officials, etc.  Nasty things for a business.  And costly.  Often the cost of avoiding these (i.e., playing the game) is a cheaper option.  The business that does not lobby, then, may find themselves under assault by Big Government or at a disadvantage against their competitors who do.  So they enter the fray, hedging their bets by throwing large sums of money on both sides of the aisle. 

And even though the Republican Party is supposed to be the party of Big Business, have you seen who Big Business often contributes to?  More times than not they’re in bed with the Democrats.  Who did General Electric endorse in the 2008 election?  Obama.  Why?  You tell me.  For I have no idea.  They make MRIs.  And electricity-generating windmills.  I’m not sure how they could benefit by an administration that was going to reform health care and promote green energy.  It just baffles the mind.

THE CORRUPTION CONTAGION knows no party lines.  Unabashed greed is universal.  Especially with other people’s money.  Washington has become what the Founding Fathers feared.  Big, powerful and awash in cash.  Even during record deficits.  The days of disinterested public service are long gone.  Getting to Washington has become the objective.  Not what you do when you get there.  Because if you make it to Washington, you leave it rich.  And live comfortably ever after.

And now I must apologize to prostitutes everywhere.  For they truly earn their money.  It is unfair and unjust to compare them to politicians.  And the ultimate injustice is the fact that politicians enjoy their services.  One of the perks of being in Washington.  High-priced call girls at your beckoned call.  Paid for, of course, by others.

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LESSONS LEARNED #19: “Philosophical debates can be effective but character assassination is more expedient, especially when no one agrees with your philosophy.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2010

THOMAS JEFFERSON HATED Alexander Hamilton.  So much so he hired Philip Freneau as a translator in his State Department in George Washington’s administration.  You see, Jefferson did not like confrontation.  So he needed a way to slander Hamilton, his policies and the Washington administration without getting his own hands dirty.  And that was what Freneau was supposed to do with the money he earned while working in the State Department.  Publish a newspaper (National Gazette) and attack Hamilton, his policies and the Washington administration.  Papers then were partisan.  More so than today.  Then, lies and libel were tools of the trade.  And they knew how to dig up the dirt.  Or make it up. 

Another scandalmonger, James Callender, was slinging dirt for Jefferson.  And he hit pay dirt.  Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds of Philadelphia had a lucrative business.  They were blackmailing Alexander Hamilton.  Mr. Reynolds had his wife seduce Hamilton.  Which she did.  And did well.  They had an affair.  And Mr. Reynolds then blackmailed him.  Jefferson pounced.  Or, rather, Callender did.  To keep Jefferson’s hands clean.  Hamilton, Callender said, was using his position at the Treasury Department for personal gain.  He was using public funds to pay the blackmailer.  They found no proof of this.  And they did look for it.  Hard.  But when they came up empty, Jefferson said that it just proved what a good thief Hamilton was.  He was so good that he didn’t leave any traces of his treachery behind.

Of course, when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.  And Jefferson’s association with Callender would come back and bite him in the ass.  In a big way.  Upset because Jefferson didn’t appropriately compensate him for all his loyal dirt slinging (he wanted the postmaster’s job in Richmond), he publicized the Sally Hemings rumors.  And after breaking the true story of the Hamilton affair, many would believe this scoop.  That Jefferson was having an affair with one of his slaves.  It was a dark cloud that would forever hang over Jefferson.  And his legacy.

Hamilton admitted to his affair.  Jefferson admitted to no affair.  Hamilton would never hold public office again and would later die in a duel with Jefferson’s one-time toady, Aaron Burr.  This duel resulted because Hamilton was doing whatever he could to keep the amoral and unscrupulous Burr from public office (in this case, it was the governorship of New York).  When the election of 1800 resulted in a tie between Jefferson and Burr, Hamilton urged the House to vote for Jefferson, his archenemy.   Despite what had appeared in the press, Hamilton did have morals and scruples.  Unlike some.  Speaking of which, Jefferson would go on to serve 2 terms as president.  And all of that angst about Hamiltonian policies?  They all went out the window with the Louisiana Purchase (which was unconstitutional, Big Government and Big Finance).

RONALD REAGAN WAS routinely called old, senile and out of touch by the entertainment community, the media and his political foes.  But he bested Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union, something Jimmy Carter never did.  He said ‘no’ at Reykjavik because he told the American people that he wouldn’t give up the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).  He knew the Soviet Union was bleeding.  Communism was a farce.  It inhibited human capital.  And impoverished her people.  SDI may have been science fiction in the 1980s, but capitalism wasn’t.  It could do it all.  Including SDI.  The Soviet Union was on the ropes and Reagan would give no quarter.  The days of living in fear of the mushroom cloud were over.  And capitalism would deliver the knockout punch.

Reaganomics, of course, made this all possible.  Supply-side economics.  Which follows the Austrian school.  Say’s Law.  ‘Supply creates demand’.  You don’t stimulate the economy by taxing one group of people so another group can spend.  You stimulate it by creating incentives for risk takers to take risks.  And when they do, they create jobs.  And wealth.

Tax and spend is a failed Keynesian, zero-sum economic policy.  When you take from the earners and give to the non-earners, we just transfer purchasing power.  We don’t create it.  For some to spend more, others must spend less.  Hence, zero-sum.  The net some of goods and services people are purchasing remains the same.  Different people are just doing the purchasing.

When Apple invented the Macintosh personal computer (PC), few were demanding a PC with a graphical user interface (GUI).  But Apple was innovative.  They created something they thought the people would want.  And they did.  They took a risk.  And the Macintosh with its mouse and GUI took off.  Apple manufacturing increased and added jobs.  Retail outlets for the Macintosh expanded and created jobs.  Software firms hired more engineers to write code.  And other firms hired more people to engineer and manufacture PC accessories.  There was a net increase in jobs and wealth.  Just as Say’s Law predicts.  Supply-side economics works.

Of course, the Left hates Reagan and attacked Reaganomics with a vengeance.  They attacked Reagan for being pro-rich.  For not caring about the poor.  And they revised history.  They say the only thing the Reagan tax cuts gave us were record deficits.  Of course, what those tax cuts gave us were record tax receipts.  The government never collected more money.  The House of Representatives (who spends the money), awash in cash, just spent that money faster than the treasury collected it.  The record shows Reaganomics worked.  Lower tax rates spurred economic activity.  More activity generated more jobs and more personal wealth.  Which resulted in more people paying more taxes.  More people paying taxes at a lower rate equaled more tax revenue in the aggregate.  It works.  And it works every time people try it. 

Because Reaganomics worked and showed the Left’s policies were failures, they had to attack Reagan.  To discredit him.  They had to destroy the man.  Except when they’re running for elected office.  Then they strive to show how much more Reagan-like they are than their conservative opponents.  Because they know Reaganomics worked.  And they know that we know Reaganomics worked.

GEORGE W. BUSH was routinely called an ‘idiot’ by the entertainment community, the media and his political foes.  Yet this ‘idiot’ seems to have outwitted the elite of the liberal Left time and time again.  I mean, if their policies were winning, they would be no reason to have attacked Bush in the first place.  The Left hated him with such vitriol that they said he blew up the Twin Towers on 9/11 as a justification for invading Iraq for her oil.  It was Big Oil’s lust for profit, after all, that was driving this Texan’s Big Oil policies.  And taking Iraq’s oil would increase Big Oil’s sales and give her even more obscene profits.

If Bush was an idiot, he must have been an idiot genius to come up with a plan like that.  Then again, gasoline prices crept to $4/gallon following the Iraq War.  Had all that oil gone on the market according to plan, that wouldn’t have happened.  Unless the plan was to keep that oil OFF of the market, thus, by rules of supply and demand, the price of oil (and the gasoline we make from it) would go up thus enriching Big Oil through higher prices resulting from a lower sales volume.  My god, what evil genius.  For an idiot.  Of course, gas taxes, numerous summer gas blends (required by the government’s environmental policies), an aging and over-taxed pipeline infrastructure and insufficient refinery capacity (the government’s environmental policies make it too punishing even to consider building a new refinery) to meet increasing demand (soaring in India and China) had nothing to do with the rise in gas prices.

IS THE POLITICAL Left evil?  Probably not.  Just amoral.  They have an agenda.  They survive on political spoils and patronage.  Old time politics.  Enrich themselves through cronyism.  If tribute is paid they’ll extend favorable treatment.  If tribute is not paid, they will release their wrath via hostile regulation, litigation, Congressional investigation and punitive taxation.  Just like they did to Big Tobacco (and, no, it wasn’t about our health.  They could have just made tobacco illegal.  But they didn’t.  Why?  It just brings in way too much money to the government.  Via sin taxes.  And federal lawsuits.  And with it being addictive, it’s a frickin cash piñata for them.)

They know few agree with their philosophy.  But they don’t care.  It’s not about national prosperity.  It’s about power.  And they want it.  That’s why they can’t debate the issues.  They know they can’t win.  So they attack the messenger.  Not the message.  If you don’t believe that, you can ask Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and just about any other Republican.  Well, you can’t ask Lincoln or Reagan.  But you can guess what they would say.

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