Britain raising Retirement Ages to cope with an Exploding and Costly Aging Population

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 16th, 2013

Week in Review

When the actuaries first crunched the Social Security numbers do you know what they did?  They built a system that would start paying benefits to people who on average were already dead.  That is the retirement age was pretty close to the average life expectancy.  Which meant few people would live long into retirement.  So if you’re collecting taxes from everyone but only have to pay about half of them in retirement (as the other half would already be dead) it wasn’t that hard to keep Social Security solvent.  But then something happened.  We started living longer.  Which the actuaries never thought would happen.  Worse, people were having fewer babies.  So as more people lived longer into retirement there were fewer people entering the workforce to pay the taxes to pay for their long retirement.  Creating an aging population.  Something else the actuaries never thought would happen.

Put it all together and you have a financial mess.  With both Social Security and Medicare projecting to go bankrupt.  But it’s just not in the United States.  It’s everywhere (see Britain ‘woefully’ under-prepared for rising number of elderly people by Juliette Jowit posted 3/13/213 on the guardian).

Britain is “woefully under-prepared” to cope with an expected explosion of older people and ministers need to respond by raising the retirement age and tackle the costs by reviewing pensioner benefits, a House of Lords inquiry concluded.

A special committee of peers blamed successive governments for their failure to tackle policy issues generated by the ageing population, warned that the biggest threats are to already stretched health and social services, and proposed a raft of new policies to help people cope.

Led by Lord Filkin, the group did not put forward a specific timetable for increasing the state pension age – already set to rise from 60 for women and 65 for men, to 66 in 2020 and 68 by 2046 – but the body did cite recommendations made by Lord Turner, chairman of the pensions commission, who had said the threshold could rise to 70 by 2030…

The wide-ranging inquiry heard startling evidence about the scale of the demographic change coming. Between 2010 and 2030 there is expected to be a 50% increase in people aged 65 or older, and a doubling of people aged 85 or older.

The consequences are predicted to be a 50% increase in people with arthritis, coronary disease or strokes, and an 80% rise in people with dementia to nearly two million.

So the British are talking about raising retirement ages.  And means-testing their benefits.  One thing they don’t mention is their Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient.  To help the dying to die with dignity.  Though many call it a quasi death panel.  To help unburden the NHS with a lot of costly patients.  Helping them to stretch their limited resources to cover more people.  Obamacare includes something similar.  Some bureaucrat will make life and death decisions to determine whether medical care will have an acceptable cost-benefit ratio.  If not, well, there will be something similar to Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient in Obamacare.  For it will be the only way to cut costs with an aging population.  Unless you force health care workers to work at bargain discount pay rates.  Like they do in Cuba.  And North Korea.

This will be the future of Obamacare.  For it is the present of the NHS.  And we both have aging populations.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

LESSONS LEARNED #58: “Presidents with aggressive domestic agendas tend to have inept and naïve foreign policy.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 24th, 2011

Social Security:  A Fiscal Disaster just Waiting to Happen

FDR’s New Deal programs were an abject failure.  Nothing he tried ended the Great Depression.  Proof positive that Keynesian Economics doesn’t work.  But this Britain infatuated the world.  Many still cling to the teachings of Keynes.  Because he empowered Big Government.  And people in government love that.  But government is pretty inefficient.  And not very good at doing things.  Take Social Security, for example. 

It started as a payroll tax of 1%.  They argued it was a paltry price to pay to help the disabled and retired.  Of course, the actuaries never saw birth control and abortion coming.  So as the population aged, the birthrate declined.  With the boomers starting to retire, the great pyramid inverted.  More people are collecting than paying in.  Today the tax rate is 6.2%.  That’s 6.2 times the FDR rate.  Which is an increase of 520%.  The federal government has increased the rate 20 times to save the program from bankruptcy.  And, guess what?  It’s STILL going bankrupt.  It’s one fifth of the federal budget.  And it keeps getting bigger.  And it’s such a political third-rail that no one will touch it.  Taxpayers will have to pay so much in taxes that they will have to live a very austere life to pay for people they don’t even know who are collecting far more than they ever paid in.  Because, according to the actuaries, people were just living too long.  That’s another thing they never saw coming. 

In 1937, the average lifespan was 60 years.  The retirement age was 65.  So, in other words, the average social security beneficiary would be dead for approximately 5 years before they were eligible to collect Social Security.  Now that’s how you keep a program solvent.  Make sure that most of the people paying into it die before they have a chance to receive benefits.  Today the average lifespan is about 78 years.  The retirement age is 67.  So the average retiree will collect benefits for approximately 11 years BEFORE he or she dies.  The actuaries NEVER envisioned this.  Damn the American health care system and their miracle drugs.  We’ve never lived longer.  Or burdened the government more.

FDR was a domestic policy disaster.  He ruined this country.  Any objective analyst would agree.  But we still love him for getting us through the dark years of World War II.  Of course, much of the world doesn’t for his gift of the Cold War to these oppressed people.

FDR loved Joe Stalin, Joe Stalin walked all over FDR

In the 1930s, there was some serious government tinkering going on with economies.  FDR in the USA.  Hitler in Germany.  Mussolini in Italy.  And Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union.  FDR was on the same page, especially with Mussolini and his beloved Joseph Stalin.  He loved these guys.  Until they went rogue.  FDR had no problem hating Germany.  He was never a fan of the country.  But when Germany and the Soviet Union entered into a nonaggression pact to divide and conquer Poland, thus launching World War II, it broke his heart.  He and all his New Dealers were devastated.  Uncle Joe was the model they wanted to copy.  They loved this man.  And what he was doing in the Soviet Union.  Acting bold without a pesky Congress hindering him.  They loved him so much that they didn’t try all that hard to hunt down the Soviet spies within the FDR administration.  And there were plenty of them to hunt down.

But then God answered FDR’s prayers.  Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, a massive invasion of the Soviet Union.  This part of the war became hell on earth.  The Eastern Front.  There cruelty knew no bounds.  Scorched earth policies.  And genocide.  Hitler’s SS did most of these acts of barbarism.  And the dreaded Einsatzgruppen took systematic murder to new heights.  The Eastern Front saw the worst cruelty of man.  But there was a bright spot.  For FDR.  He could welcome Uncle Joe back into the fold.  And did. 

Roosevelt was a master diplomat.  He could charm the pants off of anyone.  He had a gift.  And it filled him with great pomposity and reckless arrogance.  People warned him about Stalin.  And Soviet Communism.  But FDR poo pooed them.  He said he could talk to Uncle Joe.  Reason with him.  Give a lot and ask for nothing.  And he did.  FDR thought Stalin would then ask for nothing more and work with him in establishing world peace.  Just like a typical progressive/liberal.  And how did that work out?  Not only did the Red Army NOT pull out of occupied countries, they tried to occupy more.  Soviet Communism took Eastern Europe, tried to take Turkey and Greece and pushed into Iran.  We pushed some of these pushes back.  But the Cold War was on.  FDR had given so much that the Soviets had control over huge populations, condemning them to the misery of life behind the Iron Curtain.  And suffer they would for 44 long years.

Despite the fiscal carnage and world misery FDR left in his wake, he is still loved and adored by those on the Left.  People as pompous, arrogant and naïve as he.  Who still want to do things the Roosevelt way.  Despite the unmitigated disaster the FDR way turned out to be. 

Mismanaging Medicare/Medicaid and the Vietnam War

We can best describe LBJ‘s Great Society as doubling down on FDR’s New Deal.  And it was as big a disaster as the New Deal was.  LBJ was going to end poverty and racial injustice.  And pour federal money into education to make it better.  He failed.  Based on the Left’s attacks on the Right, we’re still beset by poverty and racial injustice.  (Even though we elected a black president.  Go figure.)  And that the teacher unions are constantly going on strike to get more money.  For the kids, of course.  And if we still have these problems it can only mean one thing.  The Great Society failed.

Included in the Great Society were Medicare and Medicaid.  Health insurance for the elderly and the poor, respectfully.  Currently, this is another 1/5 of the total federal budget.  And it has the same problems as Social Security has.  A declining birthrate and a growing elderly population that is living longer.  The actuaries crunched their numbers before the explosion of birth control and abortion.  So their projections are just as bad as FDR’s were.  The tax rate went from 0.35% to 1.45%, and increase of 314%.  Unlike Social Security, the death rate never ran in the black for Medicare/Medicaid.  From the get-go people were living 3 years beyond the average retirement age, consuming health care benefits.  Now the average American is living 11 years into retirement.  And a lot of them aren’t doing that by a healthy diet and exercise.  They’re doing it by consuming vast amounts of health care benefits.   LBJ took the problems of the New Deal and multiplied them by ten.  The cumulative effect of these two programs crashed the economy into stagflation and misery in the 1970s.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, he pushed the nation close to civil war by his mismanagement of the Vietnam War.

JFK got us into Vietnam.  But Johnson expanded our involvement.  And tried to manage it from Washington.  With the Whiz Kids left over from JFK.  A bunch of poindexters who tried to run a war by looking at numbers in columns.  Body counts.  And restrictions on the rules of engagement.  It was a horrible way to run a war.  It just prolonged it.  Created more American casualties.  And empowered our enemy.  Can’t bomb the North.  Can’t bomb their supply routes (i.e., the Ho Chi Minh Trail).  We did everything we could to help the enemy by giving them safe sanctuaries up the ying-yang.  And when we had a chance to deliver a knockout punch after the failed Tet Offensive, we did NOTHING.  Partly because Walter Cronkite said the war was lost.  Partly because of the hippies protesting on our college campuses.  And, of course, the race riots.  LBJ couldn’t understand it.  He had given so much with his Great Society and yet people didn’t love him.  All because of that damn war in Vietnam.  JFK’s war.  How he wished they never went there.  It was a distraction to his beloved Great Society.  And it was a bitch to pay for. 

Bad Domestic Agendas, Bad Foreign Policy

Unlike FDR, LBJ could not win his war.  Of course, FDR didn’t have hippies who hated their country protesting against him.  Just a bunch of communists in his administration who were simpatico with his Big Government view.  Because of Vietnam, though, the Left would never have the same fond feelings for LBJ as they do for FDR. 

Their foreign policy has made the world a less safe place.  FDR gave us 44 years of Cold War.  And LBJ weakened the United States by his failure in Vietnam.  Made us a paper tiger.  Made our enemies not fear us anymore.  They started taking chances.   Doubting our will to respond to their aggression.  Or, if we did, they figured we would just cut and run after a few casualties.  And that has been their strategy since.  Not to win.  But to make us quit.  By making us bleed.

Following World War II we had great prosperity.  Peace.  And happiness.  The 1950s.  Following Vietnam, we had stagflation and misery.  High crime rates.  Drug infestation and abject poverty in our big cities.  Abortion and birth control.  The 1970s.  All this despite the programs of LBJ’s Great Society that were to end all those woes.  And with the declining birthrate, the fiscal problems would only get worse.

Their domestic programs are pushing the nation ever closer to bankruptcy.  There appears to be no solution to the damage they’ve done.  Or will do.  Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid will either bankrupt the country.  Or ignite civil unrest as benefits are slashed.  Neither will be good for the country.  But this is what we get from presidents with aggressive domestic agendas.  Fiscal crises.  Domestic unrest.  And an unsafe world.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LESSONS LEARNED #40: “Big Government is more efficient when old people die sooner.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 18th, 2010

Big Government is a Ponzi Scheme

When it comes to government funding, birthrates and death rates are key.  Think of government as a great Ponzi scheme.  Ponzi schemes work when more people pay into the scam than collect from the scam.  Like in a pyramid scheme.  Those collecting benefits are the few at the top.  Those paying in are the many at the base.

An increasing birthrate means more taxpayers for each successive generation.  This keeps the base of the pyramid growing.  A steady or increasing death rate keeps the top of the pyramid smaller than the base.  A declining death rate, on the other hand, will flip the pyramid upside down.  Because the population at the top will grow larger than the population at the bottom.

Big Government tries to keep as many people as possible dependent on government.  Lots of different programs attach lots of different people to the welfare state.  But when it comes to big numbers, old people can’t be beat.  The lion’s share of government assistance goes to them via Social Security and Medicare.  And they are the most politically active.  That means they vote.  And when they vote, they vote to keep their benefits.

Of course, this is a dual-edged sword.  Yes, old people can provide a loyal voting base to sustain Big Government.  But on the other hand, the cost of their benefits is growing so large that it is undermining the very foundations of Big Government.  How?  By the double whammy of a falling birthrate and a declining death rate.  For various reasons, fewer people are being born.  And old people are living longer.  This has flipped the pyramid in the great Ponzi scheme upside down.  The growth rate of those collecting benefits is greater than the growth rate of those paying into the scheme.

An Increasing Life Expectancy is Bankrupting Social Security

FDR signed Social Security into law in 1935.  The average life expectancy in 1930 was approximately 59 years.  The retirement age in the Social Security Act of 1935?  65.  That’s right, the average American would have been dead for 6 years before qualifying for Social Security retirement benefits.  That’s a 6 year cost cushion.  But not everyone died at 59, though.  So a lot of people lived to receive those benefits.  But one thing the actuaries were sure about then, this Ponzi scheme was going to be a big winner.  For Big Government.

The average life expectancy increased to approximately 70 years in 1960.  In other words, people were living approximately 11 years longer.  That 6 year cost cushion just became a 5 year cost exposure.  That’s a swing of 11 years.  The actuaries in 1930 never saw this coming.

Social Security had its first crisis in 1975.  To save the program, they increased payroll taxes and decreased benefits.  Another crisis came in 1983.  Now they started taxing some Social Security benefits.  Even taxed federal employees (who previously didn’t pay these payroll taxes).   And they would increase the retirement age for later retirees.

By 2000, the average life expectancy increased to approximately 77 years.  That’s another 7 years.  That’s a swing of 18 years from 1930.  A huge actuarial miscalculation.  The population was getting far older then the FDR administration ever guessed.  And, to make matters worse, the birthrate was declining.

A Declining Birthrate is Bankrupting Social Security

The birthrate (per thousand of population) had been declining from 1910 (30.1) to 1920 (27.1) to 1930 (21.3).  That’s about a 10% decline from 1910 to 1920.  And a 20% decline from 1920 to 1930.    Perhaps that’s the reason for the 6-year cost cushion they gave themselves.  They saw fewer babies being born.  Which meant fewer taxpayers would be paying for later retirees.

The birthrate fell to 19.4 in 1940.  Though it was falling, it wasn’t falling as much.  Only 9% from 1930 to 1940.  Then came the baby boom generation.  The birthrate in 1950 shot up to 24.1, a 24% increase from 1940.  More babies meant more taxpayers.  This birthrate held pretty steady in 1960.  No doubt the LBJ administration felt optimistic. 

LBJ exploded federal spending.  He added Medicare and Medicaid.  Made Social Security more generous.  And why not?  Things were looking up.  Birthrate-wise.

But it was short-lived.  The birthrate went from 23.7 in 1960 to 18.4 in 1970.  That’s a 22% decline.  The birthrate was 15.9 in 1980.  That was a 14% decline from 1970.  Or a 33% decline from 1960.  Birth control and abortion were taking their toll on the U.S. birthrate.  Fewer babies meant fewer future taxpayers.  And fewer taxpayers could pay for less government, not more.  The LBJ administration was wrong to feel optimistic.

The Selfish Baby Boomers Invert the Ponzi Scheme Pyramid

The baby boom generation has really thrown a wrench in the works.  The government used their spike in the birth rate as a baseline for future government spending.  But they screwed the government in the end.  Instead of being good little taxpayers by making even more little taxpayers, they stopped having babies.  They didn’t stop having sex.  They just stopped having babies.  It was the era of free love.  And ‘free love’ had no room for babies.

And it’s these baby boomers that are working themselves up to the top of the pyramid.  But being the selfish ingrates that they are, they’ve left no one to follow behind them to keep the Ponzi scheme going.  And to make matters worse, they’ll be living longer in retirement than anyone ever guessed.

It’s a perfect storm of sorts.  A declining death rate.  An even more declining birthrate.  And a huge chunk of the population about to go on the public dole.  But it gets even worse.  The boomers will be living longer in retirement because of huge outlays in Medicare spending to keep them alive.  In other words, the government is spending a fortune to make their financial problems worse.

Amnesty, Catholics and Dead Retirees May Save Social Security

They’re trying to fix things on the taxpayer side.  The Big Government legislators are desperate to give illegal aliens amnesty and citizenship.  To them it’s simple math.  More people equal more taxpayers.  And these taxpayers will be Catholic.  Catholics don’t use birth control and abortion like Americans currently do.  Their birthrate is less likely to decline.  (Approximately 1 in 5 of young children in the United States is Hispanic already.  They project that to increase to 1 in 4 within a few decades.)

On the benefit side, they’ve already raised the retirement age to 67.  And there’s talk about raising it to 69.  If more people die before they’re eligible to collect retirement, that’s a lot of benefits the government doesn’t have to pay.  They’re also talking about cutting the Medicare budget.  The less they spend, the more may die.  And dead people don’t consume Medicare benefits.

There’s no getting around the fact that old people are a huge drain on government.  Though they worked hard to get these people dependent on government, their continued living is becoming more of a burden than a benefit.  An increasing lifespan is anathema to Big Government.  Old retirees take more than they give.  Young workers, on the other hand, give more than they take.  The government needs more young workers.  And fewer old retirees.

(Social Security + Medicare) Spending = 2 X Defense Spending

To be efficient government has to minimize costs in relation to revenue (i.e., taxes).  And there’s an 800 pound gorilla in the room.  Old people.  Nothing can impact the budget more.  Even war.  Social Security and Medicare combined make up approximately 40% of the federal budget.  Defense spending is approximately 20%.  A blind man can see the gorilla.  Government needs these old people to hurry up and die.

And now add Obamacare to the equation.  Which will cover more people than Social Security.  The costs will be astronomical.  Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare will easily eclipse 60% of the total federal budget.  That kind of spending cannot be sustained.  Greece, France and Great Britain have proven this in the 21st century.

That’s some serious cost to contain.  And how do you contain that kind of cost?  You do what the Left says the private health insurers do.  Deny coverage to sick people.  And they will.  They’ll have to.  And with the power of life and death literally in their hands (i.e., death panels), they’ll be able to.  They’ll be able to maximize the number of young workers (by treating them).  Minimize the number of old retirees (by not treating them).  As well as minimize the number of undesirables who take more than they give (by not treating them).  Or even take more serious measures with those seriously ill or impaired (euthanasia).

Don’t think it can happen?  It’s happened in other Big Government states.  In fact, the Progressives even talked about the scientific benefits of eugenics and euthanasia here in the United States in the early 20th century.  To deal with undesirables.  So, yes, it could happen here.  Because it almost once did.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #40: “Big Government is more efficient when old people die sooner.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 16th, 2010

Revenues Must be Greater than Costs in Both Private Business and Government

Private business must make a profit.  That means the costs of their business can NOT exceed their revenues.  There may be times when costs do exceed revenue.  Such as during a recession.  Or when another business offers the same goods or services for less.  If these periods last too long, a business must act.  Find ways to increase their revenues.  Or cut costs.

Apple continues to innovate and create new products that people want.  This keeps their revenues greater than their costs.  GM, on the other hand, has not.  Their costs have exceeded their revenues.  So they have cut back on production.  And laid off people.  But, in the end, they still needed a government bailout to survive.

Government can tax and print money.  And run perpetual deficits.  So they don’t hold themselves to the same standards as private business.  But if they tax too much or print too much money, it can push the economy into recession and/or inflation.  So they try to make their revenues (taxes) cover as much of their costs (government spending) as possible. 

A Growing Population Can Fund Social Security and Big Government

If you go back 100 years, there was no Social Security.  No Medicare.  No big federal government.  That’s the way the Founding Fathers wanted it.  They minimized the money and reach of the federal government.  Because they were students of history.  They knew governments tended to oppress their people when they had money and power.

In the first century or so of our nation, it was easier to keep the size of government small.  Our population was small.  A big federal budget would require huge per capita taxes.  But that changed as the population grew.  Soon, it was possible to have big federal budgets from modest federal taxes.

We saw the growth of Big Government beginning around the turn of the 20th century.  First it was Woodrow Wilson and the Progressives.  Then came FDR.  He gave us Social Security.  Which was basically a Ponzi Scheme.  It worked at first as all Ponzi Schemes do.  As long as more people are entering into the scheme than collecting benefits, Social Security was sound as a pound.

Population Growth Rate and Big Government Peak and Crash in the 1970s

A growing population means a growing tax base.  The more babies are born, the more future taxpayers there will be.  And when FDR gave us Social Security, it wasn’t uncommon for a family to have 10 or more children.  That’s a lot of future federal taxes they could count on.

Then came LBJ.  He saw what FDR did.  Liked it.  Then tried to outdo him.  He gave us his Great Society (to end poverty and racial injustice).  And Medicare (health care for those 65 and older).  And other stuff.  But these programs were very, very expensive.  So he raised taxes.  A lot.

Then it all crashed in the 1970s.  The increase in taxes to pay for all that government spending stalled the economy.  When they tried to stimulate it with monetary policy, they unleashed inflation.  The U.S. dollar was convertible to gold then.  Which is a bad thing when you’re printing money.  For when you depreciate your currency, you increase the value of gold as measured by your currency; it takes a lot more devalued dollars to buy the same amount of gold.

Well, foreign governments exchanged their dollars for gold.  So much so that Nixon suspended the convertibility of dollars into gold in 1971.   Without the gold restraint on printing money, they printed even more.  We had both recession and inflation.  Stagflation.   Double digit inflation, interest rates and unemployment.  This malaise made Carter a one-term president.

Birth Control and Abortion – The Death Knell of Big Government

So what happened?  Where did it go all wrong?  It goes back to the number of taxpayers.  Something happened between FDR and the 1970s.  We weren’t having as many babies.

Instead of 10 or more children in families, many families were having only 2 or 3 kids.  Widespread use of birth control and abortion drastically reduced the population growth rate of the country.  Fewer taxpayers were being born than before.  Which meant that more people would be entering retirement than there would be new taxpayers entering the work force to pay for these retirees.

This is how Ponzi Schemes fail.  When there are more people drawing benefits than paying into the scheme, the whole house of cards collapses.  And this is a big problem for government.  To support their massive spending, they need more, not fewer, people entering the work force.

How can Government Save Social Security and Medicare?  Old People Just Need to Hurry Up and Die.

Well, there’s a couple of ways to address this problem.  First there’s the revenue side.  They can increase the taxes they collect.  By raising tax rates on individuals.  Or by simply creating more individuals to tax.  Such as amnesty for illegal aliens.  But both of these options are difficult to do without hurting your chances at getting reelected.

Then there’s the cost side.  They can cut benefits.  Increase the Social Security retirement age.  But these, too, have political consequences.  Because these old coots tend to vote more than any other demographic.  Which can make them a real pain in the behind.

Of course, if they would jut die before reaching retirement age, the government doesn’t have to pay them or their survivors.  And if they’re dead, they won’t be consuming any Medicare benefits.  You see, not only are they the most vocal group at election time, but they are also the most costly when it comes to government benefits.  The government could kill two birds with one stone if these old codgers would just hurry up and die.

One Way for Big Government to Cut Health Care Costs:  Death Panels

The government doesn’t see your mother or grandmother.  They’re looking at numbers in columns.  They are having trouble increasing the numbers in one column (tax revenue).  And are having trouble keeping the numbers in the other column from growing (benefits).  Because of old people.  Who don’t work anymore.  Or pay much in income taxes.  But they consume the lion’s share of the benefits.  They’re the biggest thorn in the government’s side.  If it wasn’t for them, their programs wouldn’t forever be facing bankruptcy.  You can see why they aren’t the government’s favorite people.

So they increase the retirement age.  In hopes more will die before reaching retirement.  And those who do reach retirement age, well, they’ll have fewer years left to enjoy their benefits.  And they make cuts in the Medicare program.  Disallow some reimbursements.  Maybe prod a few seniors to an earlier death.  Why?  Because these kinds of cost savings are the only cost savings that will have any impact in a government-managed system.

Then there’s the holy grail of Big Government.  Government-managed universal health care.  Obamacare, in its latest manifestation.  And, of course, it will end up just like Social Security and Medicare.  For the same reasons Social Security and Medicare ended up the way they did.  But Obamacare will have a new twist.

Government panels will determine who gets medical treatment.  And who doesn’t.  Based on a ‘return on investment’ analysis used to manage and optimize health care costs.  Will medical treatment result in more taxpaying years for the patient?  If yes, treatment approved.  If not, treatment not approved.  If anything, the government’s death panels will be a model of efficiency.  On paper.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LESSONS LEARNED #28: “Politicians love failure because no one ever asked government to fix something that was working.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 26th, 2010

THE TELEVISION SHOW Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. aired from 1964-1969.  It was a spinoff from the Andy Griffith Show.  Gomer, a naive country bumpkin who worked at Wally’s filling station, joined the Marines Corps.  And there was much mirth and merriment.  To the chagrin of Sergeant Carter, Pyle’s drill instructor (DI).  Think of Gunny Sergeant R. Lee Ermey’s Sergeant Hartman in the movie Full Metal Jacket only with no profanity or mature subject matter.  Sergeant Carter was a tough DI like Sergeant Hartman.  But more suitable for the family hour on prime time television.

Gunny sergeants are tough as nails.  And good leaders.  They take pride in this.  But sometimes a gunny starts to feel that he’s not himself anymore.  This was the subject of an episode.  And Gomer, seeing that Sergeant Carter was feeling down, wanted to help.  So he stuffed Sergeant Carter’s backpack with hay before a long march.  While the platoon was worn and tired, Sergeant Carter was not.  He was feeling good.  Like his old self.  Until he found out he was not carrying the same load his men were.  He asked Pyle, “why hay?”  He could understand rocks, but hay?  Because if he outlasted his men while carrying a heavier load, he would feel strong.  But knowing he had carried a lighter load only made him feel weak.

This is human nature.  People take pride in their achievements.  They don’t take pride in any achievement attained by an unfair advantage.  Self-esteem matters.  And you can’t feel good about yourself if you need help to do what others can do without help. 

AN OLD CHINESE proverb goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Let’s say I am a fisherman in a small village.  I catch fish to feed my family and sell/trade for other family needs.  There’s a man in my village who asks me for a fish each day so he can eat.  I’m a caring person.  So I give him a fish each day.  So a pattern develops.  Each day he shows up when I come in from my fishing.  He takes the fish and goes away.  It works out well for him.  He doesn’t have to work.  He can live off of my kind charity.  Then I move.  Without me being there to give him a fish each day, he no longer can eat.  And dies.  If I only had taught that man to fish. 

Kindness can lead to dependency.  And once dependent, you become lazy.  Why develop marketable skills to provide for yourself when someone else will provide for you?  The problem is, of course, what happens when that charity ends?  If you’re unable to provide for yourself and there is no longer someone providing for you, what do you do?  Steal?

Dependency and a lack of self-esteem are a dangerous combination.  And they feed off of each other.  This combination can lead to depression.  Behavioral problems.  Resentment.  Bitterness.  Envy.  Or a defeatist attitude.

These are often unintended consequences of government programs.  A failed program, then, has far reaching consequences beyond the initial economic costs of a program.

LIQUIDITY CRISES CAUSE a lot of economic damage.  If capital is not available for businesses to borrow, businesses can’t grow.  Or create jobs.  And we need jobs.  People have to work.  To support themselves.  And to pay taxes to fund the government.  So everyone is in favor of businesses growing to create jobs.  We all would like to see money being easy and cheap to borrow if it creates jobs.

But there is a downside to easy money.  Inflation.  Too much borrowing can create inflation.  By increasing the money supply (via fractional reserve banking).  More money means higher prices.  Because each additional dollar is worth a little less. This can lead to overvalued assets as prices are ‘bid’ up with less valuable dollars.  And higher prices can inflate business profits.  Looks good on paper.  But too much of this creates a bubble.  Because those high asset values and business profits are not real.  They’re inflated.  Like a bubble.  And just as fragile.  When bubbles burst, asset values and business profits drop.  To real values.  People are no longer ‘bidding’ up prices.  They stop buying until they think prices have sunk to their lowest.  We call this deflation.  A little bit of inflation or deflation is normal.  Too much can be painful economically.  Like in the Panic of 1907.

Without going into details, there was a speculative bubble that burst in 1907.  This led to a liquidity crisis as banks failed.  Defaults on loans left banks owing more money than they had (i.e., they became illiquid).  They tried to borrow money and recall loans to restore their liquidity.  Borrowers grew concerned that their bank may fail.  So they withdrew their money.  This compounded the banks problems.  This caused deflation.  Money was unavailable.  Causing bank runs.  And bank failures.  Business failures.  And unemployment grew. So government passed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.  The government gave the Federal Reserve System (the Fed) great powers to tweak the monetary system.  The smartest people at the time had figured out what had gone wrong in 1907.  And they created a system that made it impossible for it to happen again.

The worst liquidity crisis of all time happened from 1929-1933.  It’s part of what we call the Great Depression.  The 1920s had a booming economy.  Real income was rising.  Until the Fed took action.  Concerned that people were borrowing money for speculative purposes (in paper investments instead of labor, plant and material), they put on the brakes.  Made it harder and more expensive to borrow money.  Then a whole series of things happened along the way that turned a recession into a depression.  When people needed money, they made it harder to get it, causing a deflationary spiral.  The Great Depression was the result of bad decisions made by too few men with too much power.  It made a crisis far worse than the one in 1907.  And the Roosevelt administration made good use of this new crisis.  FDR exploded the size of government to respond to the unprecedented crisis they found themselves in.  The New Deal changed America from a nation of limited government to a country where Big Government reigns supreme.

ONE PROGRAM OF the New Deal was Social Security.  Unemployment in the 1930s ran at or above 14%.  This is for one whole decade.  Never before nor since has this happened.  Older workers generally earn more than younger ones.  Their experience commands a higher pay rate.  Which allows them to buy more things.  Resulting in more bills.  Therefore, the Great Depression hit older workers especially hard.  A decade of unemployment would have eaten through any life savings of even the most prudent savers.  And what does this get you?  A great crisis.

The government took a very atypical moment of history and changed the life of every American.  The government forced people to save for retirement.  In a very poor savings plan.  That paid poorly by comparison to private pensions or annuities.  And gave the government control over vast amounts of money.  It was a pervasive program.  They say FDR quipped, “Let them try to undo this.” 

With government taking care of you in retirement, more people stopped providing for themselves.  When they retired, they scrimped by on their ‘fixed’ incomes.  And because Social Security became law before widespread use of birth control and abortion, the actuaries of the day were very optimistic.  They used the birth rate then throughout their projections.  But with birth control and abortion came a huge baby bust.  The bottom fell out of the birth rate.  A baby bust generation followed a baby boom generation.  Actually, all succeeding generations were of the bust kind.  The trend is growing where fewer and fewer people pay for more and more people collecting benefits.  And these people were living longer.  To stay solvent, the system has to raise taxes on those working and reduce benefits on those who are not.  Or raise the retirement age.  All these factors have made it more difficult on our aged population.  Making them working longer than they planned.  Or by making that fixed income grow smaller.

FDR used a crisis to create Social Security.  Now our elderly people are dependent on that system.  It may suck when they compare it to private pensions or annuities, but it may be all they have.  If so, they’ll quake in their shoes anytime anyone mentions reforming Social Security.  Because of this it has become the 3rd rail of politics.  A politician does not touch it lest he or she wishes to die politically.  But it’s not all bad.  For the politician.  Because government forced the elderly to rely on them for their retirement, it has made the Social Security recipient dependent on government.  In particular, the party of government who favors Big Government.  The Democrats.  And with a declining birth rate and growing aged population, this has turned into a large and loyal voting bloc indeed.  Out of fear.

A PROGRAM THAT straddled the New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society was Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).  Its original New Deal purpose was to help widows take care of their children.  When program outlays peaked in the 1970s, the majority of recipients were unmarried women and divorced women.  Because this was a program based on need, the more need you had the more you got.  Hence more children meant more money.  It also reduced the importance of marriage as the government could replace the support typically provided by a husband/father.  Noted economist Dr. Thomas Sowell blames AFDC as greatly contributing to the breakdown of the black family (which has the highest incidence of single-parent households).

With the women’s liberation movement, women have come to depend less on men.  Some affluent women conceive and raise children without a husband.  Or they adopt.  And the affluent no doubt can provide all the material needs their children will ever need.  Without a husband.  Or a father for their children.  But is that enough?

The existence of ‘big brother’ programs would appear to prove otherwise.  Troubled children are often the products of broken families.  Mothers search for big brothers to mentor these fatherless sons.  To be role models.  To show an interest in these children’s lives.  To care.  When no such role models are available, some of these troubled children turn to other sources of acceptance and guidance.  Like gangs.

AFDC has compounded this problem by providing the environment that fosters fatherless children.  And another government program compounds that problem.  Public housing.

POOR HOUSING CONDITIONS hurt families.  They especially hurt broken families.  Without a working husband, these families are destined to live in the cheapest housing available.  These are often in the worst of neighborhoods.  This is an unfair advantage to the children raised in those families.  For it wasn’t their fault they were born into those conditions.  So, to solve that problem, government would build good public housing for these poorest of the poor to move into.  Problem solved.

Well, not exactly.  Public housing concentrates these broken families together.  Usually in large apartment buildings.  This, then, concentrates large numbers of troubled children together.  So, instead of having these children dispersed in a community, public housing gathers them together.  Where bad behavior reinforces bad behavior.  It becomes the rule, not the exception.  Making a mother’s job that much more difficult.  And because these children live together, they also go to school together.  And this extends the bad behavior problem to the school.  Is it any wonder that public housing (i.e., the projects) have the worst living conditions?  And some of the highest gang activity? 

Government didn’t plan it this way.  It’s just the unintended consequences of their actions.  And those consequences are devastating.  To the poor in general.  To the black family in particular.  AFDC and public housing enabled irresponsible/bad behavior.  That behavior destroyed families.  As well as a generation or two.  But it wasn’t all bad.  For the politicians.  It made a very large constituency dependent on government.

THERE ARE SO many more examples.  But the story is almost always the same.  Dependency and a lack of self-esteem will beat down a person’s will.  Like an addict, it will make the dependent accept poorer and poorer living standards in exchange for their fix of dependency.  Eventually, the dependency will reach the point where they will not know how to provide for themselves.  The dependency will become permanent.  As will the lack of self-esteem.  Conscious or not of their actions, Big Government benefits from the wretched state they give these constituencies.  With no choice but continued dependence, they vote for the party that promises to give the most.  Which is typically the Democrat Party.

But how can you fault these politicians?  They acted with the best of intentions.  And they can fix these new problems.  They’ll gather the brightest minds.  They’ll study these problems.  And they will produce the best programs to solve these problems.  All it will take is more government spending.  And how can you refuse?  When people are hungry.  Or homeless.  Or have children that they can’t care for.  How can anyone not want to help the children?  How can anyone not have compassion?

Well, compassion is one thing.  When the innocent suffer.  But when government manufactures that suffering, it’s a different story.  Planned or not the result is the same whenever government tries to fix things.  The cost is high.  The solution is typically worse than the original problem.  And the poorest of the poor are pawns.  To be used by Big Government in the name of compassion. 

Of course, if Big Government were successful in fixing these problems, they would fix themselves right out of existence.  So as long as they want to run Big Government programs, they’ll need a stock of wretched, suffering masses that need their help.  And, of course, lots of crises.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,