Progressive and Regressive Taxes and Marginal Tax rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 6th, 2014

Economics 101

(Originally published July 9th, 2012)

The Beatles fled Britain to Escape a Confiscatory Top Marginal Tax Rate of 95%

George Harrison wrote Taxman.  The song appeared on the 1966 Beatles album Revolver.  It was an angry protest song.  For George Harrison was furious when he learned what exactly the progressive tax system was in Britain.  In the song the British taxman is laying down the tax law.

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

That’s one for you, Mr. Harrison.  And nineteen for us.  The government.  Meaning that for every £20 the Beatles earned they got to keep only £1.  This is a 95% top marginal tax rate.  A supertax on the super rich imposed by Harold Wilson’s Labour government.  So if the Beatles earned £1 million because of their incredible talent and hard work touring in concert, working on new albums in the studio and making movies, of that £1 million they got to keep only about £50,000.  While the government got £950,000.  If they earned £10 million they got to keep about £500,000.  While the government got £9,500,000.  As you can see 5% is a very small percentage.  Which is why George Harrison got so angry.  The harder they worked the less of their earnings they were able to keep.

Is this fair?  George didn’t think so.  Nor did his fellow Beatles.  For they fled Britain.  Moved to another country.  Becoming tax exiles.  For they were little more than court minstrels.  Who the government forced to entertain them.  Earning a lot of money so they could take it away.  To help pay for an explosion in social spending Harold Wilson unleashed on Britain.  Socializing the UK like never before.  And all those social benefits required a lot of taxes.  Hence the progressive tax system.  And marginal tax rates.  Where the super rich, like the Beatles, paid confiscatory tax rates of 95%.

The Top Marginal Tax Rate was around 70% under President Carter and around 28% under President Reagan

As social spending took off in the Sixties and Seventies governments thought they could just increase tax rates to generate greater amounts of tax revenue.  For governments looked at the economy as being static.  That whatever they did would result in their desired outcome without influencing the behavior of those paying these higher tax rates.  But the economy is not static.  It’s dynamic.  And changes in the tax rates do influence taxpayer behavior.  Just ask the Beatles.  And every other tax exile escaping the confiscatory tax rates of their government.  Because of this dynamic behavior of the taxpayers excessively high tax rates rarely brings in the tax revenue governments expect them to.

Even when it comes to sin taxes government still believes that the economy is static.  Even though they publicly state that taxes on alcohol and tobacco are to dissuade people from consuming alcohol and tobacco.  (The U.S. funded children’s health care with cigarette taxes clearly showing the government did not believe these taxes would stop people from smoking).  Perhaps some in government look at sin taxes as a way to discourage harmful habits.  But the taxman sees something altogether different when they look at sin taxes.  Addiction.  Knowing that few people will give up these items no matter how much they tax them.  And that means tax revenue.  But unlike the progressive income tax this tax is a regressive tax.  Those who can least afford to pay higher taxes pay a higher percentage of their income to pay these taxes.  For sin taxes increase prices.  And higher prices make smaller paychecks buy less.  Leaving less money for groceries and other essentials.

Most income taxes, on the other hand, are progressive.  Your income is broken up into brackets.  The lowest bracket has the lowest income tax rate.  Often times the lowest income bracket pays no income taxes.  The next bracket up has a small income tax rate.  The next bracket up has a larger income tax rate.  And so on.  Until you get to the high income threshold.  Where all income at and above this rate has the highest income tax rate.  This top marginal tax rate was around 70% under President Carter.  Around 28% under President Reagan.  And 95% under Harold Wilson’s Labour government in Britain.  An exceptionally high rate that led to great efforts to avoid paying income taxes.  Or simply encouraged people to renounce their citizenship and move to a more tax-friendly country.

When the Critical Mass of People turn from Taxpayers to Benefit Recipients it will Herald the End of the Republic

Progressive taxes are supposed to be fair.  By transferring the tax burden onto those who can most afford to pay these taxes.  But the more progressive the tax rates are the less tax revenue they generate.  What typically happens is you have a growing amount of low-income earners paying no income taxes but consuming the lion’s share of government benefits.  The super rich shelter their higher incomes and pay far less in taxes than those high marginal tax rates call for.  They still pay a lot, paying the majority of income taxes.  But it’s still not enough.  So the middle class gets soaked, too.  They pay less than the rich but the tax bite out of their paychecks hurts a lot more than it does for the rich.  Because the middle class has to make sacrifices in their lives whenever their tax rates go up.

As social spending increases governments will use class warfare to increase taxes on the rich.  And they will redefine the rich to include parts of the middle class.  To make ‘the rich’ pay their ‘fair’ share.  And they will increase their tax rates.  But it won’t generate much tax revenue.  For no matter how much they tax the rich governments with high levels of spending on social programs all run deficits.  Because there just aren’t enough rich people to tax.  Which is why the government taxes everything under the sun to help pay for their excessive spending.

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

This is where excessive government spending leads to.  Excessive taxation.  And confiscatory tax rates.  Taking as much from the wealth creators as possible to fund the welfare state.  And as progressive tax systems fail to generate the desired tax revenue they will turn to every other tax they can.  Until there is no more wealth to tax.  Or to confiscate.  When the wealth creators finally say enough is enough.  And refuse to create any more wealth for the government to tax or to confiscate.  Leaving the government unable to meet their spending obligations.  As the critical mass of people turn from taxpayers to benefit recipients.  Heralding the end of the republic.

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State of the Union, Benghazi, Sequestration and the Politics of Spending

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 14th, 2013

Politics 101

President Obama’s Idea of Compromise and Bipartisanship is Unconditional Surrender

President Obama’s State of the Union Address was a little light on details.  But the general gist is no spending cuts.  And more taxes.  Which makes the sequestration about to hit a crisis in the making for the president.  For it was sort of his idea.  And he did sign it into law.  But to him it was more like playing a game of chicken.  Confident that the Republicans would cave and roll over.  Giving him whatever additional tax increases he wanted to prevent cuts in defense spending.  But the Republicans aren’t blinking.  Because this is the only way they’re going to get any spending cuts.  Even if it means gutting defense spending.  Something the president didn’t consider.

Despite being an architect of the sequestration he called it a stupid idea during the State of the Union.  He doesn’t care about the cuts in defense spending.  He is, after all, a leftist liberal.  And they hate defense spending.  He even denied Ambassador Stevens’ request to beef up security in Benghazi.  Which led to Ambassador Stevens’ death.  Along with three other Americans.  But it’s the equal cuts in things he does care about that has him worried.  That social spending.  The kinds of things that buy votes.  And makes people dependent on government.  Helping to endear the Democrat Party to the American people.  While making them hate the Republican Party.  Who want to take away the great things the Democrats so generously give them.  Even if the government can’t afford to give these things to the American people.

President Obama may talk about compromise and bipartisanship but he doesn’t mean it.  His idea of bipartisanship is unconditional surrender.  He has no interest in meeting Republicans halfway.  He wants to destroy the Republican Party.  And undo the Reagan Revolution.  And bring back the Big Government of the Sixties and Seventies.  When the Democrats ruled supreme.  And you do that with spending money.  Not cutting spending.  Which is why the sequestration bothers him so much.

Running Deficits is OK if it provides for Senior Citizens, Our Children and Clean Stuff

Leading Democrats are saying we don’t have a spending problem.  We’re just not paying enough for the stuff we want.  Which also happens to be the stuff that buys votes.  So the excess spending to buy votes is not the problem.  The problem is that we’re not raising taxes enough to pay for this orgy of spending that is the problem.  We’re not taxing rich people enough.  Or corporations.  And once we do then we won’t be taxing the middle class enough.  And once we do that it probably won’t matter what we do as the country will be so deep in debt that no amount of new taxes will help.  Unless they figure out a way to tax away more than 100% of a person’s earnings.

So low tax revenue is the problem.  Well, that, and spending money on the wrong things.  On things that don’t buy votes.  Things that weren’t on the laundry list President Obama rattled off during the State of the Union that we need to spend more on.  Defense spending.  And…, well, defense spending.  Which is the only thing the Obama administration is willing to consider cutting.  Because we can get a lot of free things by gutting defense.  New programs that won’t add a single dime to the deficit.  Something he said more than once during the state of the union.  Obamacare, for example, will be deficit neutral.  Because the money we were going to spend on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will pay for it.  So even though the spending will still add to the deficit it’s now Obamacare spending.  Not defense spending.  Which is OK.

You see, running deficits is OK if it provides for senior citizens.  Our children.  If it gives us clean water.  And air.  Invests in clean energy.  And in those jobs of the future.  If it builds roads and bridges.  For less face it, we would be nothing without our government-provided roads and bridges.  Which we simply could not have it if it weren’t for government.  (Then again railroads build and maintain their own roads and bridges.  With funds they earn operating their railroads.  But I digress.)   In fact, any deficit reduction that comes from cutting this spending is just about the worst thing in the world we could do.  According to those on the left.  So we should tax rich people and corporations more.  And cut defense spending more.  Because we spend way too much on defense spending anyway.  And for what?  It’s not like we’re going to use it for anything.  Such as protecting our ambassadors in hostile lands.

Defense Spending is the only Spending growing at a Rate less than Total Federal Outlays

If you listened to the State of the Union (and didn’t fall asleep during it) you’ve learned that we don’t spend enough on our social spending.  And too much on defense spending.  That’s what the president said.  But what do the numbers say?  To find out let’s look at federal outlays (see Table 3.1—OUTLAYS BY SUPERFUNCTION AND FUNCTION: 1940–2017).  The following chart graphs the historical data from 1958 to 2011 and the projection for 2012.  We look at 4 areas of spending: defense; education, training, employment and social services; Medicare; and Social Security.  We calculate the spending as a percentage of total spending and graph the results.

Percent of Total Federal Outlays

The one area we spend too much on that the Obama administration is willing to cut is the one area that has seen the greatest decline in spending.  Defense spending.  Which as a percentage of total outlays has fallen while non-defense has trended up or held steady.  This tells us the government has pulled money from defense to pay for these other things.  But this chart doesn’t tell the whole story.  For although Medicare and Social Security have trended up they haven’t taken as big a piece of total spending as defense gave up.  And education spending has been pretty flat.  Perhaps giving credence to President Obama’s claim that we’re not spending enough on education.  But if you look at the year-to-year growth in spending you see a different picture.

Federal Outlays as a Percentage of 1958 Outlays

Here we divide each year’s spending by the spending in 1958 (or 1966 for Medicare).  Showing the increase in spending over time.  This chart also includes total federal outlays.  Which tells a startling story.  Not only is defense spending being gutted to pay for other spending it is the only spending growing less than the growth rate of total federal spending.  While the other three areas are growing at greater rates.  In 2011 Social Security spending was 8,892% of the spending in 1958.  Medicare, which came into existence in 1965, grew at an even greater rate.  In 2011 it was 17,673% of the spending in 1966.  More than twice the growth in less time.  And education spending tracked pretty close to Medicare spending.  In 2011 it was 15,744% of the spending in 1958.  While defense spending in 2011 was only 1,509% of the spending in 1958.

Note that the general trend of increased spending holds regardless of who is in power.  That’s because of baseline budgeting.  Which provides for automatic increases in spending.  When government talks about spending cuts it not really spending cuts.  It a cut in the rate spending increases.  You can see some dips in the graphs and where they may have cut the rate of growth.  But nowhere is there really a cut that results in reducing net spending.  Except for defense.

Increases in spending on education (and training, employment and social services) has grown at a rate greater than most other spending.  And what can we learn by throwing money at education?  Well, based on the president’s remarks, it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t increase the quality of education.  At least based on the great increases year after year that only give us the need to spend more money.  And this spending doesn’t even include the bulk of education spending.  That generated from property taxes.  Which can mean only one thing.  If we’re paying more and need to spend even more the quality of education is not as good as it should be.  Or all that money is going to teachers’ salaries, pensions and health care benefits.

Of all this spending the only sustainable spending is defense spending. For it is the only one growing at a rate less than total federal outlays.  While increases in the other spending is going off the chart.  With the slopes of these graphs getting ever steeper.  And the closer they get to vertical the more impossible it will be able to pay for these programs.  That’s why Medicare is near crisis mode.  With the cost of our aging population pushing that graph closer and closer to vertical.  Where our spending obligations will approach infinity.  Which is, of course, impossible to sustain.

Of all this spending the only sustainable spending is defense spending. For it is the only one growing at a rate less than total federal outlays.  While increases in the other spending is going off the chart.  Contrary to what the president said we are increasing spending in these areas so much that we won’t be able to sustain it.  For there just won’t be enough money to tax away from the people.  Unless we figure out a way to tax away more than 100% of their earnings.

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FT141: “Liberals are absolutely sure they’re right and you’re wrong even though they can’t explain why.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 26th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

Jobs are Everything in an Economy

In the movie Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks it was a smart electrical engineer that saved the astronauts.  Who explained that nothing they did would save the astronauts unless they figured out how to make the limited remaining power last until reentry.  He said power was everything.  And if it ran out before reentry the astronauts wouldn’t make it back alive.  So heeding the advice of the smart electrical engineer they shut off all power to save what they had for reentry.  Which meant they had no heat.  And had to do some course corrections without the computer, requiring some complicated flying skills.  Because they listened to the smart electrical engineer they had just enough power left to make it to reentry.  And the astronauts made it back home alive.

An economy is similar in a way.  For it, too, has something that is everything.  And without it nothing else matters.  Jobs.  Jobs are everything in an economy.  For they are the only way we can afford things.  A house.  A car.  Food for our families.  The heating bill.  Fuel for our vehicles.  Electronic devices.  Our wireless/cable bills.  Coffee at Starbucks.  Clothing.  Shoes.  Pet food.  Etc.  None of these would be possible without a job.  And a paycheck.  Even our government benefits.  Paid for with taxes.  Deducted from our paychecks.  Without people working none of these things would be possible.  Because jobs are everything.

Money is not everything.  We use money to make it easier to trade our skills with others to get the things we want.  The more our skills are in demand by others the more we can trade them for other things.  Which is why doctors have more things than high school kids working an entry level job.  For there are a lot high school kids with entry-level job skills.  But not so many people with doctor skills.  So we pay doctors more.  And high school kids less.  Because doctors have more valuable skills than high school kids.  And therefore can trade those skills for a lot of other things.  So it’s not the money that matters.  It’s the skills that they can trade for money that matters.  Provided there is a job for them to fill.  Once again coming back to jobs.  Which are everything.

Birth Control and Abortion are the Pressing Social Issues that keep College Students Awake at Night with Worry

If the government printed money and paid everyone in the nation the equivalent of a doctor’s earnings it would not be the same thing.  Because if everyone was paid the same no matter their skill level no one would go through the costs and hard work to become a doctor.  Because working harder to acquire those skills wouldn’t provide them anything more than they can get for doing nothing.  Giving people money for skills they don’t have diminishes the values of those skills.  So people won’t work hard to get those skills.  With less skillful people in the workplace there will be fewer people to provide the goods and services we want to buy.  Leaving a lot of empty store shelves.  And high prices because the things you want will be very hard to find.

This is why high school kids go to college.  Take on a lot of student loan debt.  To get the skills that will let them get the kind of jobs that will let them earn a lot of money.  Granted, a lot of kids go to college for the fun.  First time away from home.  Binge drinking.  Casual sex.  Drugs.  But they’re also there for the big payday a college education is supposed to give you.  However, if the jobs aren’t there neither is that big paycheck.  But that student loan debt is.  Who’s to blame for the lack of jobs?  In part these college kids.  Who typically vote Democrat.  The party that favors social justice, access to birth control and abortion, gay marriage, the decriminalization of marijuana, and other pressing social issues that apparently keep college students awake at night with worry.  So the Democrats pursue these issues to get the youth vote.  Instead of making a favorable climate for business.  So they can grow and create the jobs these college students want and are going to college for.

The problem is that these kids don’t understand the fundamentals of economics.  They don’t understand business.  Or the affect of taxes and regulatory compliance costs on a business’ bottom line.  And they don’t seem to understand that they are not the only ones who want to make money.  So do business owners.  And if the tax burden and cost of regulatory compliance reduce the bottom line it makes it more difficult to meet payroll.  And pay their other bills.  So they will not grow their business.  They will not create jobs.  They will not offer pay raises and bonuses.  And may even lay off people.  When they do these things college kids call these business owners greedy.  While their desire for a high-paying job does not make them greedy.  Funny how subjective greed can be.

Liberals are Deep Critical Thinkers though they think about few things other than a Woman’s Reproductive Parts

In the current election cycle the Democrats don’t have a good record to run on.  The current economic recovery, if we can call it a recovery, is about the worst on record.  The biggest drag on the economy?  Jobs.  There are fewer of them today than when President Obama took office.  And his policies haven’t help.  Especially Obamacare.  Which has caused business owners to slam the brakes on hiring.  As they have no idea of the final total cost impact of Obamacare.  So having destroyed job creation, the Democrats have turned to other tactics.  Fear and loathing of Republican candidates.  Such as the so-called war on women.  Where the Democrats are warning women that if the Republicans win the upcoming 2012 election women will lose their birth control, their access to abortion, their cancer screening, their freedom.  Life for women under the Republicans, the Democrats say, will be little different than living under the Taliban.

Of course, this isn’t true.  For it didn’t happen under the 20 years of Republican rule of George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.  But it doesn’t stop the Democrats or their celebrity endorsers from warning about the horrible things that will happen to women should the Republicans win.  And they speak with such certain authority.  For they know everything.  At least, that’s what they think.  It would be interesting, though, to ask them a few questions.  So they can demonstrate their mastery of things economic.  By explaining the stages of production.  Why stimulus spending raises prices.  To explain the business cycle.  How recessions correct prices by wringing inflation out of them.  How keeping interest rates artificially low creates asset bubbles.  Like housing bubbles.  And how bubbles create recessions when they burst.  To explain what is Say’s Law.  To name an economic school besides the Keynesian school.  To explain the Keynesian school of economics.  The number of taxes a business must calculate and pay with every payroll.  How excessive government borrowing diverts investment capital from the job-creating private sector.  Or how the growth in government spending cannot increase greater than the population growth rate.

As they don’t teach any of this in today’s public schools and most universities they probably won’t be able to explain any of these things.  Yet liberals are absolutely sure they’re right and you’re wrong.  Even though they can’t explain why.  For they are smarter.  Brighter.  More progressive.  Enlightened.  And deep critical thinkers.  Though they think about few things other than a woman’s reproductive parts.  Even when the real unemployment rate (the U-6 number that counts everyone that can’t find a full-time job) currently stands at 14.7%.  Which is serious.  As jobs are everything.  And sometimes you can’t have everything you want.  Sometimes you must sacrifice.  And put in place policies that are business friendly.  Cutting back on the social spending.  At least until businesses start creating jobs again.  And the working tax base can once again support that social spending.

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Progressive and Regressive Taxes and Marginal Tax rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 9th, 2012

Economics 101

The Beatles fled Britain to Escape a Confiscatory Top Marginal Tax Rate of 95%

George Harrison wrote Taxman.  The song appeared on the 1966 Beatles album Revolver.  It was an angry protest song.  For George Harrison was furious when he learned what exactly the progressive tax system was in Britain.  In the song the British taxman is laying down the tax law.

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

That’s one for you, Mr. Harrison.  And nineteen for us.  The government.  Meaning that for every £20 the Beatles earned they got to keep only £1.  This is a 95% top marginal tax rate.  A supertax on the super rich imposed by Harold Wilson’s Labour government.  So if the Beatles earned £1 million because of their incredible talent and hard work touring in concert, working on new albums in the studio and making movies, of that £1 million they got to keep only about £50,000.  While the government got £950,000.  If they earned £10 million they got to keep about £500,000.  While the government got £9,500,000.  As you can see 5% is a very small percentage.  Which is why George Harrison got so angry.  The harder they worked the less of their earnings they were able to keep.

Is this fair?  George didn’t think so.  Nor did his fellow Beatles.  For they fled Britain.  Moved to another country.  Becoming tax exiles.  For they were little more than court minstrels.  Who the government forced to entertain them.  Earning a lot of money so they could take it away.  To help pay for an explosion in social spending Harold Wilson unleashed on Britain.  Socializing the UK like never before.  And all those social benefits required a lot of taxes.  Hence the progressive tax system.  And marginal tax rates.  Where the super rich, like the Beatles, paid confiscatory tax rates of 95%.

The Top Marginal Tax Rate was around 70% under President Carter and around 28% under President Reagan 

As social spending took off in the Sixties and Seventies governments thought they could just increase tax rates to generate greater amounts of tax revenue.  For governments looked at the economy as being static.  That whatever they did would result in their desired outcome without influencing the behavior of those paying these higher tax rates.  But the economy is not static.  It’s dynamic.  And changes in the tax rates do influence taxpayer behavior.  Just ask the Beatles.  And every other tax exile escaping the confiscatory tax rates of their government.  Because of this dynamic behavior of the taxpayers excessively high tax rates rarely brings in the tax revenue governments expect them to.

Even when it comes to sin taxes government still believes that the economy is static.  Even though they publicly state that taxes on alcohol and tobacco are to dissuade people from consuming alcohol and tobacco.  (The U.S. funded children’s health care with cigarette taxes clearly showing the government did not believe these taxes would stop people from smoking).  Perhaps some in government look at sin taxes as a way to discourage harmful habits.  But the taxman sees something altogether different when they look at sin taxes.  Addiction.  Knowing that few people will give up these items no matter how much they tax them.  And that means tax revenue.  But unlike the progressive income tax this tax is a regressive tax.  Those who can least afford to pay higher taxes pay a higher percentage of their income to pay these taxes.  For sin taxes increase prices.  And higher prices make smaller paychecks buy less.  Leaving less money for groceries and other essentials.

Most income taxes, on the other hand, are progressive.  Your income is broken up into brackets.  The lowest bracket has the lowest income tax rate.  Often times the lowest income bracket pays no income taxes.  The next bracket up has a small income tax rate.  The next bracket up has a larger income tax rate.  And so on.  Until you get to the high income threshold.  Where all income at and above this rate has the highest income tax rate.  This top marginal tax rate was around 70% under President Carter.  Around 28% under President Reagan.  And 95% under Harold Wilson’s Labour government in Britain.  An exceptionally high rate that led to great efforts to avoid paying income taxes.  Or simply encouraged people to renounce their citizenship and move to a more tax-friendly country.

When the Critical Mass of People turn from Taxpayers to Benefit Recipients it will Herald the End of the Republic

Progressive taxes are supposed to be fair.  By transferring the tax burden onto those who can most afford to pay these taxes.  But the more progressive the tax rates are the less tax revenue they generate.  What typically happens is you have a growing amount of low-income earners paying no income taxes but consuming the lion’s share of government benefits.  The super rich shelter their higher incomes and pay far less in taxes than those high marginal tax rates call for.  They still pay a lot, paying the majority of income taxes.  But it’s still not enough.  So the middle class gets soaked, too.  They pay less than the rich but the tax bite out of their paychecks hurts a lot more than it does for the rich.  Because the middle class has to make sacrifices in their lives whenever their tax rates go up. 

As social spending increases governments will use class warfare to increase taxes on the rich.  And they will redefine the rich to include parts of the middle class.  To make ‘the rich’ pay their ‘fair’ share.  And they will increase their tax rates.  But it won’t generate much tax revenue.  For no matter how much they tax the rich governments with high levels of spending on social programs all run deficits.  Because there just aren’t enough rich people to tax.  Which is why the government taxes everything under the sun to help pay for their excessive spending. 

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

This is where excessive government spending leads to.  Excessive taxation.  And confiscatory tax rates.  Taking as much from the wealth creators as possible to fund the welfare state.  And as progressive tax systems fail to generate the desired tax revenue they will turn to every other tax they can.  Until there is no more wealth to tax.  Or to confiscate.  When the wealth creators finally say enough is enough.  And refuse to create any more wealth for the government to tax or to confiscate.  Leaving the government unable to meet their spending obligations.  As the critical mass of people turn from taxpayers to benefit recipients.  Heralding the end of the republic.

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The Chinese Economy is mostly Bad Investments, Savings and little Domestic Consumption

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 26th, 2012

Week in Review

The Chinese economic juggernaut is losing steam.  The communist 5-year plans in infrastructure projects isn’t having the magic it once did.  Exports are down thanks to a worldwide recession.  And worse of all for Keynesians everywhere savings are outpacing consumption.  People across China are acting responsibly.  And this just won’t do (see Chinese urged to spend more, save less by Mure Dickie posted 5/25/2012 on The Washington Post).

Yet with China’s economy slowing — to a relatively modest annual rate of 8.1 percent growth in the first quarter — some observers fret that consumption could be faltering. Retail spending in April was weaker than expected. And while Wen Jiabao, the premier, last week signaled action to shore up growth, the government appears to have set its policy focus on promoting investment rather than consumption…

Indeed, [Andrew] Batson [research director at GK Dragonomics] suggests that the present slowdown could promote a much-heralded rebalancing of China’s economy, away from reliance on increasingly unproductive investment to a healthier consumption-driven model.

While the government has long talked of such a shift, the proportion of gross domestic product accounted for by investment actually soared to 46 percent in 2010, while household consumption’s share of GDP slumped to just 35 percent…

So China’s investment is increasingly unproductive.  Perhaps their high-speed train program isn’t the only black hole for their investment capital to disappear in.  The Chinese have invested a fortune in their high-speed trains but so far that has been an investment earning a negative return.  Sure, it created a lot of jobs but their high-speed trains can’t turn a profit.  So far they’re only accumulating debt.  But they keep spending this money.  Adherents to Keynesian economics that they are.  For the Keynesians say anything that puts more money into a workers pocket is good.  Because that worker will spend that money.  Even if we pay him to dig a ditch.  And then pay him to fill it back in.  Or pay him to build a very costly high-speed railway that the people don’t need.  Or can ever pay for itself.  A Keynesian will say that’s good.  Because it will give the worker money.  And that worker will spend that money.  Thus increasing consumption.  Unless that worker does something stupid like put it in the bank.

Some economists say the government needs to do more to promote this rebalancing in a country where citizens still save a far larger proportion of their incomes than do their counterparts in developed economies…

Lower-income consumers also save fiercely. In the village of Wuti in northern Hebei province, house builder Li Moxiang and his farmer wife aim to set aside $3,150 or more a year to help raise their future grandchild — even though stingy state-set interest rates mean such savings are constantly eroded by inflation…

A big motivation for such saving is the lack of a social security system to cushion Chinese in old age or ill health. Serious illness or accident often spells household bankruptcy. For most rural people, children have to play the role of pension provider.

In a report this week, the World Bank said fiscal measures to support consumption — including targeted tax cuts, social welfare spending and other social expenditures — should be Beijing’s top priority as it seeks to avert an economic “hard landing.”

Some economists would like to see mass privatization to shift wealth out of the dominant and domineering state sector.

Keynesians hate savings.  They want people to spend their money.  And not be responsible and save for their retirement.  Or to save to pay for any unexpected expenses.  Why they hate savings so much that they constantly inflate the currency to dissuade you from saving.  For if you do save you’ll only see inflation eat away the value of your savings.  Sort of like putting an expiration date on your money.  Telling you saving is for fools.  That consumption is the smart way to go.  And so what if you can’t afford food or housing in your retirement.  Or pay for medical care.  That’s what family is for.  So you can be a burden to them.

Right now the social democracies of Europe are imploding from the massive debts they incurred from their social spending.  And the World Bank is encouraging Beijing to increase their social spending.  To be as irresponsible as the Europeans were.  Unbelievable.  Europe is burning because of the social expenditures they can no longer afford to pay.  And the people are rather reluctant to give up.  So when the government tries to live within their means with a touch of austerity the people reply with riots.  And this is what the World Bank is advising the Chinese to do.

History repeats.  For everything the Chinese are doing, or trying to do, or are being advised to do has been done by every nation with a spending and debt problem.  Sure, China is still enjoying 8% GDP growth.  But a lot of that growth is from building stuff that the market isn’t demanding.  Consumer spending in China is only at 35%.  With the worldwide recession hurting Chinese exports that leaves that 35% as a large component of their market-driven spending.  And you can rarely sustain economic growth from making stuff the market isn’t demanding.  Instead this artificial growth usually leads to some kind of a bubble.  And a painful recession to correct the mess the government made while artificially increasing economic output.

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Brazil is Rich in Resources but Beset with Poverty Despite its Social Spending

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 18th, 2011

Week in Review

The Portuguese colonized Brazil.  Which is why Portuguese is one of the top ten most spoken languages in the world.  Because there are a great many Brazilians speaking Portuguese.  So there is a strong bond between Brazil and Europe.  Home of tiny little Portugal (and a wonderful dessert wine.  Port).  Perhaps a little too strong (see Brazil state struggles with poverty despite rich natural resources posted 12/12/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

Brazil’s huge northern state of Pará is about three times the size of California, home to much of the Amazon rain forest and is the second-largest producer of the nation’s most important export, iron ore.

But poverty levels are well above the national average…

Even opponents of the bill, however, recognized the predicament, and it’s one that is repeated in parts of Peru, Colombia and elsewhere in South America: the lack of central government representation for states that are resource-rich (be it mining, gas or other commodities) but poverty-stricken.

“We can’t accept that in this country, natural resources benefit companies, but not its people,” said Simão Jatene, governor of Pará. “The Brazilian fiscal system is extremely perverse with respect to Pará…”

In Brazil, the last decade of economic growth has brought tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty, powered by commodities exports, consumer credit growth and social spending. But the country still remains extremely unequal, across class and geographical lines. Some parts of the southeastern cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have a higher gross domestic product per capita than rich European countries, while in remote parts of Pará, residents who are struck ill must brave a five-day boat ride to the nearest hospital for treatment, O Globo reported.

The Amazon rain forest, eh?  Perhaps part of the problem is the environmentalists trying to save the rain forest.  Preventing any development there.  Condemning these people to a life of poverty.  Because it is usually a trade off.  Save the planet.  Or save man.  Rarely can you do both.  At least the way the environmentalists see it.  Who won’t be happy until they take civilization back to the days of Neanderthal.  And you know there are those out there who would bitch about Neanderthal’s use of tools changing his environment, too.  Which is the greatest crime man can make.  Changing his environment.

The lack of central government is the problem?  Funny.  The lack of central government didn’t stop the British and the Industrial Revolution they kicked off.  And the lack of central government didn’t appear to be a problem for Andrew Carnegie as he created a steel revolution in the United States.  Which is far bigger than California.  Yet the economy of the country grew so great it topped the mighty British Empire from the top spot.  One country with a limited central government.  Besting another country with a limited central government.

The problem the Brazilians have is spelled out in this article.  Their economy has been driven by the export of commodity materials.  Exporting raw materials?!?  This isn’t capitalism.  This is mercantilism.  And why only some Brazilians are living the good life.  They need to ignite an engine of economic exchange within Brazil.  Use those raw materials in domestic industries.  Build factories to transform them into consumer goods that Brazilians will buy with their factory wages.  Like the Americans did in the 19th century.  And we did that with less central government than we have today.  And I’m guessing that’s the only problem Brazil has.  Too much government.

Any country has the human capital to do what the Americans and the British did.  They just need the key to unlock that capital.  And the key to that lock is called free market capitalism.  Brazil is already far down this road.  They just need to let the rest of their country play catch-up.  And they’ve got to back off on the social spending.  Or else they’ll end up like Europe and their Eurozone.  Fighting for their life.  From excessive social spending.  If European capitalists had any advice for the Brazilians it would be this; don’t do it.  Don’t follow them down the Road to Serfdom.  Be free.  Stay free.  And let capitalism be free.

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Deficits, Debt and Inflation Concern Everyone in the World but the Obama Administration

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 7th, 2011

Chicago Cuts their Public Sector Budget

Scott Walker in Wisconsin is taking a lot of heat for trying to cut the costs of the public sector.  But he’s not alone.  Even Chicago is trying to cut the cost of its public sector.  By buying bigger, high-tech, trash cans for the central business district (see Chicago trash cans go solar-powered posted 3/7/2011 on UPI).  They’re going to spend $2.5 million for this capital investment to reduce their operating costs (i.e., the cost of people). 

If you use some of the numbers bandied about for public sector pay and benefits in the news today, that $2.5 million could pay for some 25 public sector workers (or more) per year (including health care and pensions).  Now here’s the punch line.  Chicago will uses some federal stimulus funds for this investment.  In other words, money sent to Chicago by Washington to create jobs is being used to cut jobs.  Funny, isn’t it?

This is what you do during bad economic times.  Replace people with technology.  Because people are so expensive.  It’s because of people, after all, that all these states and cities are facing budget crises due to the crushing costs of their public sector health care and pension benefits.  So when times are bad, you make capital investments to increase productivity.  You don’t hire more people.  Even Chicago understands this.

India has a Booming Economy, high Inflation and plans to Increase Social Spending

Once again prosperity leads a nation into dangerous economic waters (see Calling on the gods posted 3/3/2011 on The Economist).

It is tempting to expect the gods to keep smiling. Only China, among big economies, has pipped India’s 8.6% growth in the past year. Mr Mukherjee foresees a rosy period of easing inflation, reviving foreign investment and robust public finances. He may be in for a shock.

Inflation is still a pressing problem. High food prices hurt the urban poor. In December street protests over the price of onions led the government to ban their export. Onion prices have since collapsed, but other causes of inflation remain.

First there’s robust economic growth.  Then inflation.  Then the food riots.  It’s what triggered the French Revolution.  As well as the recent uprisings in the Middle East.  Economic growth is like a drug.  And it’s a good high.  While it lasts.  People are working.  The government is collecting lots of money.  And they can spend it on social programs.  Keeps everyone happy.  And voting for those in power.  Again, for awhile.  It’s when things become rights the trouble starts.  Because people don’t give up their ‘rights’ easily.  Even when the state can’t afford them anymore.  (Incidentally, a true right has no cost.  Freedom of speech is a right.  And no one has to pay for it.  Fat government benefits aren’t rights.  They’re just ways to make people vote for you).

Social spending is set to leap by 17% next year, as the government attempts to encourage “inclusive” growth. Congress’s chief, Sonia Gandhi, next wants a law embodying a universal “right” to food. How this might work (if at all) is unclear. Again, technocrats favour transfers of cash or vouchers over dishing out food through a vast and corrupt state bureaucracy. Either way, the subsidies mean demand for food will soar.

No matter, says Mr Mukherjee breezily. By spending on agriculture, giving farmers credit, easing transport bottlenecks and getting better cold-storage distribution, supply will rise, too. As for other causes of inflation, seven interest-rate rises by the central bank have removed monetary excess, he says. Little can be done about painful world prices for oil and other commodities, but, barring a big shock, Mr Mukherjee guesses annualised inflation will drift down to about 6% in a year’s time, from nearly 10% today.

Chicago as well as other states and cities may be cutting their social spending (i.e., public sector spending), but not India.  Even with 10% inflation.  That’s pretty gutsy.  Or delusional.  And those painful world oil prices?  I think they’re being a little optimistic about peace returning to the Middle East any time soon.  It may very well get worse before it gets better.  However, India has raised interest rates seven times to rein in inflation.  Other than that increase in social spending, India is doing a lot of the right things.  And her economic growth shows it.

China trying to curb Inflation to keep their Economy Booming

Even the IMF think the rise in oil prices is only temporary (see IMF: Signs of overheating in emerging markets by Lesley Wroughton and Chrystia Freeland posted 3/7/2011 on Reuters).

After the global economic slump of 2008 and 2009, the recovery took divergent paths, with emerging markets powering ahead while advanced economies merely trudged along. With growth and interest rates remaining unusually low across the developed world, investors have flocked to emerging markets, bringing much-needed capital but also a risk of inflation.

Rising oil prices have compounded the inflation problem, but Lipsky [the Fund’s first deputy managing director] said the IMF has not cut its growth forecast because it thinks the oil price spike will prove temporary.

All right, let’s say that peace does indeed break out throughout the Middle East.  Will that keep oil prices down?  Well, it didn’t during the last years of the Bush presidency.  The only reason why they fell was due to the worst recession since the Great Depression.  China and India are building cars.  Cars that run on gasoline.  This is what pushed up gas prices before.  And it will push them up again.  Because more and more people are driving cars in those countries.  Even when there was peace in the Middle East.  And when gas goes up everything goes up.  Even food.  Because food has to be transported.

China has made curbing inflation its top policy priority this year. Its finance minister said earlier on Monday China will ensure that spending on social priorities does not fan inflationary fires.

Separately, Zhu Min, special adviser to the IMF’s managing director, said China’s loan growth was too strong and addressing that was key to safely slowing down the economy…

Brazil and some other emerging markets have increased taxes on foreign investors or raised banks’ reserve requirements to try to slow inflows of investment money and ward off inflationary pressures.

China is worried about inflation.  So is Brazil.  And other emerging markets.  Because there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  If their economies overheat they will create bubbles.  And when bubbles pop they become recessions.  So they’re concerned.  Besides, they have enough on their minds to worry about.  One of their biggest export markets, the United States, is having their own financial problems.  And if they lose their biggest customer, that bubble will come sooner rather than later.

The United States has no Booming Economy but Spends like it Does

So what’s the problem in America?  Well, right now, it’s social spending.  It is out of control.  And there appears little incentive to do anything about it because, unlike Chicago or the other states and cities with financial crises, the federal government can print money.  But when they do they inflate the money supply.  We call this inflation.  And they’re inflating the hell out of the money supply these days.  To pay for record deficits.

So how bad is it?  Pretty bad.  We’ve set a new record.  The largest monthly deficit in history.  A staggering figure of $223 billion (see U.S. sets $223B deficit record by Stephen Dinan posted 3/7/2011 on The Washington Times).  That’s in one month.   That’s about how much the annual deficits were under Ronald Reagan.  And the Democrats pilloried Reagan for his ‘irresponsible’ deficits.  But now?  $223 billion a month ain’t so bad.  Go figure.

Unlike India and China, America has high unemployment.  But like India and China, America has some inflation concerns.  Well, those outside the current administration do.  The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve aren’t all that worried about inflation.  Because they’re Keynesians.  Rational people, though, are very concerned.  And for good reason.  Because when you add unemployment and inflation together do you know what you get?  Stagflation.  And stagflation sucks.  People have less money and everything costs more.  Stagflation made Jimmy Carter a one-term president.  Yeah, it’s that bad.  So knowing our history we must be doing everything within our power to avoid a repeat of the malaise of the Jimmy Carter years, right?  Well, not exactly.

Have Printing Press will Ease

The Fed is planning to print more money (see Oil Shock=More Fed Shock by Douglas French posted 3/7/2011 on Ludwig von Mises Institute).

Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart told a group at that National Association of Business Economics in Arlington, Va. that if the price of oil keeps climbing, the Fed will need to purchase more assets, or QE3.

Of course the men at the Fed don’t believe all of this new liquidity they are creating has anything to do with the prices of oil or food. Oil over a $100 a barrel is an external shock you see. A bolt of lightening out of nowhere. Those crazy kids in Cairo twittering and whatnot.

Ben Bernanke testified last week that inflation will remain tame. And when pressed about oil and food prices, he said “My sense is that the increases we’ve seen so far — while tough for many people — do not yet pose a significant risk to the overall recovery.”

Quantitative Easing 3.  As if QE 1 and 2 wasn’t bad enough.  Neither has helped.  And the inflation lurks out there.  Building.  Just waiting to explode oil and food prices.

The problem with Bernanke is he studied the Great Depression.  But the only thing he apparently learned from it is how the Fed caused the bank runs by tightening the money supply when they should have been helping the banks to stay solvent.  He does not grasp this fundamental: businesses don’t need to borrow money today.  They’re sitting on piles of it.  Why?  Because no one is buying anything.  So they’re not going to hire people and add capacity.  Even if they can borrow money at 0%.

Jimmy Carter’s Second Term

If you weren’t around for the Jimmy Carter years here’s your chance to live history.  While Chicago, India, China and other emerging markets are being responsible, the Obama administration is finally answering that age-old question.  What would a second term of Jimmy Carter have been like?  The answer?  As bad as the first.  Perhaps even worse.  Because we should know better now.  It’s no secret what happened during his presidency.  So there’s no excuse for repeating his mistakes.  And yet we seem to be hell-bent to do exactly that.  Amazing.

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