President Obama uses Class Warfare to Increase Spending and Reward Political Cronies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 19th, 2011

They have Learned in the UK that Government can’t Pay for Everything

China may be subsidizing high-speed rail.  But in the UK, the government is moving the other way.  Because it is just too costly (see Arriva Trains: Fare rise in Wales 2% lower than England posted 9/19/2011 on the BBC News Wales).

The Welsh Government has told Arriva Trains Wales it can increase prices by 1% above the inflation rate.

Last month the UK government announced an average increase in England of 3% over inflation…

Tony Miles, from Modern Railways magazine, said the decision was good news for Welsh commuters but it would impact on the Welsh Government’s budget.

He said: “This is a policy decision by the Welsh Government, which is very much in line with their outlook that the burden of financing public transport should fall more on taxpayers centrally than on the individual passengers…

“The UK Government wants to shift the cost of the railways more away from taxpayers and towards users.

The UK went farther down the socialist road than the Americans.  They nationalized a lot of their industries.  Nationalized their health care.  And, of course, their transportation.  Now there are efforts to reverse this.  Continuing on the work of the great Margaret Thatcher.

There are some in the UK that have a novel idea.  To let people pay for a train ticket.  If they want a train ticket.  Imagine that.  Paying your own way.  How fair.  And rational.  But not all are keen on the idea.  For in Wales they want everyone to pitch in and pay for train tickets.  Even those who don’t ride on the train.

They have learned in the UK that government can’t pay for everything.  And some are now trying to undo years of government growth.  In transportation.  And elsewhere.  To unleash more free market capitalism.  That they were so kind to introduce to the Western World all those years ago.

Was the Great Depression the Worst Economy Ever before Obama Took Office?

In America, though, government continues to grow.  Even with election losses.  And economic malaise (see End of Recession Doesn’t Mean Good Times Return Right Away by David Johnson posted 9/19/2011 on Random Samplings).

Numbers just released by the Census Bureau, however, illustrate that while the recession may technically be over, household economic conditions did not improve…

During the 2010 calendar year, median household income was $49,445, 2.3 percent lower than in 2009 after adjusting for inflation.

The Obama administration’s Recovery Summer ended the Bush recession in 2010.  Or so they say.  The unemployment rate is still above 9%.  If you factor in the underemployed and those who’ve given up looking for a job it’s closer to 16%.  And real household income is down 2.3%.

But just imagine how bad things would have been if Obama didn’t end the Bush Recession with his Recovery Summer.  People would be saying that the Great Depression was the worst economy ever.  Until Obama took office.

To end the Bush recession Obama spent $800 billion in ‘stimulus’ spending.  Which failed.  Because he’s asking for another $450 billion stimulus package.  Despite the first one failing.  Well, it may have failed to stimulate the economy.  But it did stimulate government.

Only Union Jobs are Good Jobs in the Obama Admin because only Union Jobs Fill Democrat Coffers

So we know that their stimulus spending fails to stimulate the economy.  But why?  Is it because they don’t understand things economic?  Or is it because their stimulus has more political goals than economic?  Perhaps it’s both (see Illinois among worst states to do business: Survey by Ameet Sachdev posted 9/19/2011 on the Chicago Tribune).

Illinois ranked among the three worst states for business, according to a survey of U.S. corporate executives released Monday…

Taxes and high costs were among the factors that contributed to the state’s poor showing in the survey. California was deemed to have the worst business climate, followed by New York and Illinois.

So California, Illinois and New York have the worst business climates.  Because of taxes and high costs.  No surprise, really.  For these are big blue Democrat states.  With big blue Democrat cities.  And big public sector unions.  At both the state and municipal levels.  Which is why they have such high taxes and costs.  Those public sector pension and health care benefits are absolutely killing their economies with the high taxes required to fund them.

The Democrats can say what they want.  But they are not business-friendly.  They are only friendly to political allies.  Unions.  Teachers.  And public sector employees.  Which is why businesses want to leave these Democrat areas.  Not to exploit cheap labor.  But to stop their own exploitation by these Democrat strongholds.

Illinois recently increased its income tax rate, which has prompted several companies, including Chicago-based CME Group, to consider leaving the state.

Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina were viewed as having the best business climates, according to the survey.

Boeing built their new 787 Dreamliner plant in South Carolina.  But the Obama administration is trying to shut that plant down.  Why?  Because they don’t like South Carolina.  Or its people.

You see, all jobs are not good jobs.  As the Obama administration sees it.  And these new South Carolinian jobs are not good jobs.  Because they are nonunion jobs.  No union means no union dues.  And no money to flow into Democrat coffers.  So the Obama administration has nothing to gain politically.  And that’s why they are using the power of the National Labor Relations Board to shut that plant down.  And make Boeing expand production in Seattle.  Where the jobs will be union jobs.  And union money will flow into Democrat coffers.  Via union dues.

President Obama and the Democrats Prefer Crony Capitalism over Free Market Capitalism

We call this crony capitalism.  Some may even say extortion.

Crony capitalism is the opposite of free market capitalism.  Where merit wins the day.  In crony capitalism, though, it’s who you know.  And what kind of political power you have (see Obama administration ‘pressured Air Force general to change testimony’ by Toby Harnden posted 9/16/2011 on The Telegraph).

According to Republicans on Capitol Hill, General William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, told them in a closed session the White House urged him to alter his testimony about the Pentagon’s concerns about a new wireless project by a satellite broadband company…

LightSquared, based in Virginia, is funded by the multi-millionaire Philip Falcone, a frequent donor to Democrats. The satellite and broadband communications company plans to build a nationwide, 4G phone network that many generals believe would seriously hinder the effectiveness of high-precision GPS receiver systems used by the military…

The row over the allegedly improper intervention came as a Republican-controlled House of Representatives Committee investigated a federal loan guarantee to Solyndra, a solar firm also tied to a major Democratic contributor, which failed after receiving a half-billion US government loan guarantee.

A spokesman for Gen Shelton said that his testimony was “his own, supported by and focused purely on documented tested results”.

LightSquared insisted it had not sought to interfere with the properly regulatory process. The White House said reviewing congressional testimony was routine.

Interesting.  The White House says this is just routine.  Which it apparently is.  Whether you’re funneling tax dollars to a green energy company.  Connected to a rich Democrat donor.  Or trying to throw a contract to a communications company.  Also connected to a rich Democrat donor.  Even if it compromises national security.

It’s just business.  And our politicians are just business people.  In the business of rewarding political friends.  In return for generous campaign contributions.

So much for hope, change and transparency.

If You Confiscated all the Rich’s Income it would Wipe out Obama’s Deficit…for One Year

Crony capitalism.  A little extortion.  Mixed in with a generous helping of class warfare.  In other words, Obama politics (see Obama calls for broad tax increases by Stephen Dinan posted 9/18/2011 on The Washington Times).

President Obama on Monday proposed a deficit reduction plan that calls for about $3 in new tax increases for every dollar in additional spending cuts as he seeks to put his imprint on the ongoing talks with Congress over reducing the government’s staggering debt…

“This is not class warfare, it’s math,” Mr. Obama said in the White House’s Rose Garden as he laid out the outlines. “The money’s got to come from some place.”

Real incomes are down.  Unemployment is still above 9%.  If you count the underemployed and those who have given up looking for work the actual number is closer to 16%.  So how best to create more jobs to help people go back to work?  And boost those real incomes?  Well, if you’re a member of the Obama administration, you raise taxes.

But this won’t help the employment numbers.  So why do it?  Because it is class warfare.  Despite the president’s denial that it is.  For there is no other reason to do this.  It won’t help the economy.  And it won’t help reduce the debt.

If you took all income from those earning $200,000 or more you’ll be lucky to get $2 trillion.  At least this is all they had in 2008.

(Source:  SOI Tax Stats – Individual Income Tax Rates and Tax Shares)

See?  You can raise tax rates to 100% on the rich but it won’t help.  If you confiscated all their income you’d raise a lot of money, yes.  Enough to wipe out the Obama’s $1.6 trillion deficit.  For one year.  But it will be $1.6 trillion the following year.  Unless you cut spending.  Because you can take this money only once.  Unless these people agree to keep producing all this wealth as indentured servants.  Which I don’t see happening.

So Broke that We Must Raise Taxes but not too Broke that We can’t Throw $7 Billion to the USPS

So it is class warfare.  And cronyism.  Helping those who help them.  With taxpayer dollars.  Which is why they need to raise taxes.  Not to retire the debt.  But to help their political supporters (see President Obama deficit plans back ending Saturday mail by Ed O’Keefe posted 9/19/2011 on The Washington Post).

The White House is also calling on Congress to return $7 billion that USPS paid into a federal retirement fund to the delivery service to help pay for other retirement and health-care costs. Obama’s plans also would allow the Postal Service to raise stamp prices beyond the rate of inflation to better match the cost of delivery…

Though the Postal Service is a self-funding entity that doesn’t accept taxpayer dollars, it is a significant piece of the unified federal budget because its workers and retirees draw benefits from federal workers’ compensation, retirement and health-care accounts.

The country is so broke that it must raise taxes.  But it is not too broke that it can’t throw $7 billion to Obama’s friends in the USPS.

We are Regressing back to the Totalitarian Regimes of the Old World

All this talk about balance approach to deficit reduction?  And getting the rich to pay their fair share?  It’s all class warfare. To increase taxes.  To keep funding important political constituencies.  It has nothing to do with deficit reduction.  The numbers are just too large to be able to reduce the deficit with taxes alone.  You have to cut spending.

And this just isn’t going to happen with Democrats in power.  Because government spending is their lifeblood.  Their economic policies don’t work.  And they’re not designed to work.  They have but one purpose.  Politics.  Rewarding political favors.  With taxpayer dollars.

And they will sacrifice anything to keep spending.  The economy.  Our real incomes.  Our national security.  Even the American Dream.  Our liberty.  For we are regressing back to the totalitarian regimes of the Old World.  Where, if you’re not politically connected, you are fast becoming a second class citizen.

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Keynesians turn to Alien Invasions to Fix the Economy and to Stop Global Warming

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 19th, 2011

Paying them to Dig Ditches, then Paying them to fill them back In

Leave it to a Keynesian to find the silver lining in a war of annihilation (see The Dimlight Zone posted 8/17/2011 on Investor’s Business Daily).

“If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack,” Krugman told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, “and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat, and inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months.”

Where did Krugman get his idea for “Up-in-the-Sky-Side Economics”? He told Zakaria, “There was a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time we don’t need it; we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.”

And Paul Krugman won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.  Not for his theory on space alien threats but for something about New Trade Theory and New Economic Geography

He’s Ivy League.  A Keynesian economist of the first order.  And an Orwellian socialist, apparently.  For in Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four, that was a key party tenet.  Perpetual war.  To unite the people against the common enemy (which often changed if one of their two possible enemies was losing too badly).  And to consume the products of state labor.  To provide permanent employment for the people.  (Sort of like paying them to dig ditches, then paying them to fill them back in.)  Building the things of war.  While they lived in desperate privation of the necessities of life.  A dark existence indeed.  But they kept the people occupied.  And obedient.

World War gave the U.S. a strong Export Market During and After the War

Being in favor of war spending is a bit strange.  Considering the Left’s vehement opposition to the Iraq Way, the War in Afghanistan, the Libyan War, the Vietnam War, etc.  All of these were quite costly.  And required enormous war production.  Creating near-perpetual jobs for people in the war economy.  There was a whole lot of deficit spending going on.  Just like you’d think an Orwellian socialist would like.  But no. 

Contrary to Keynesian belief, these wars did not stimulate the economy.  They were in effect paying people to dig ditches and then having them fill them back in.  Just moving money around in the economy.  Not creating anything new.  Unlike the war he refers to in that article.  The good war.  World War II

World War II was a different kind of war.  It was a world war.  Much like World War I.  Where the world’s economies were left in ashes.  Unlike America.  Who was unscathed during these wars.  Was ready and able to rebuild the world after these wars.  And feed it, too.  So not only did we have a strong export market during the war (we were the Arsenal of Democracy), we had an even stronger export market after the war. 

That’s what makes a war profitable.  When someone else pays for it.  Which is why the previously mentioned wars did not stimulate economic activity.  The United States paid for them.  Not other people.  It was just moving money around in the economy.  Not creating anything new.  Just digging ditches.  And filling them back in.

Before acting to Save the World a Keynesian would Consider its Impact on the Next Election First

Besides, do we really want Keynesians fighting our wars?  For they are more concerned in winning political battles than military ones.  No matter the costs.  Whether it threatens the fiscal solvency of the country.  Or military strategy (see Bad luck? Bad faith? by Charles Krauthammer posted 8/18/2011 on The Washington Post).

The charge [wishing to see America fail for their own political gain] is not just ugly. It’s laughable. All but five Republican members of the House — moderate, establishment, Tea Party, freshmen alike — voted for a budget containing radical Medicare reform knowing it could very well end many of their careers. Democrats launched gleefully into Mediscare attacks, hardly believing their luck that Republicans should have proposed something so politically risky in pursuit of fiscal solvency. Yet Obama accuses Republicans of acting for nothing but partisan advantage.

This from a man who has cagily refused to propose a single structural reform to entitlements in his three years in office. A man who ordered that the Afghan surge be unwound by September 2012, a date that makes no military sense (it occurs during the fighting season), a date not recommended by his commanders, a date whose sole purpose is to give Obama political relief on the eve of the 2012 election. And Obama dares accuse others of placing politics above country?

Let’s just hope that when the aliens attack we don’t have Keynesians in power.  For with them it’s about the money and the power.  And political expediency.  Who would, in the face of an alien evasion, dither about what action would benefit them most in the next election before acting to save the world.

Global Warming bringing the Final Frontier to Us?

Paul Krugman isn’t the only one thinking about alien invasions.  Climate scientists are, too (see Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilisations, say scientists by Ian Sample posted 8/18/2011 on the Guardian).

It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim.

Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth’s atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain.

This highly speculative scenario is one of several described by a Nasa-affiliated scientist and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University that, while considered unlikely, they say could play out were humans and alien life to make contact at some point in the future.

This isn’t hyperbole from Al Gore.  It’s NASA affiliated.  So this must be serious stuff.

The authors warn that extraterrestrials may be wary of civilisations that expand very rapidly, as these may be prone to destroy other life as they grow, just as humans have pushed species to extinction on Earth. In the most extreme scenario, aliens might choose to destroy humanity to protect other civilisations.

“A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilisation may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilisational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions,” the report states.

“Green” aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. “These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets,” the authors write.

Talk about taking it up a notch.  And this after those emails leaked from the University of East Anglia.  Showing that they fudged many of the numbers they used to sell global warming.  So they changed tack.  Propose absolute gibberish that is completely independent of data.  And sanity.  Thus making it impervious to attack.  Or scientific scrutiny.

Who would have thunk it?  That global warming would bring the final frontier to us.  Where others would travel here.  In their quest to explore strange new worlds.  To seek out new life and new civilizations.  To boldly go where no man has gone before.  And possibly bring a cook book with them entitled To Serve Man

I wonder how many Trekkies were in that group at the Pennsylvania State University.

Long Lines of Communication and Costs make the odds of an Alien Invasion Slim

Let’s apply a little historical perspective on this.  Why did Napoleon not conquer Russia?  Because Russia is a very big place.  It stretched Napoleon’s lines of communication to the breaking point.  He could no longer support his Grande Armée.  And the Russian winter only compounded his misery.  He had no choice but to retreat.

Why did Hitler not conquer Russia?  Ditto.

Now let’s look at some economic history.  Why did NASA cancel Apollo missions 18, 19 and 20 to the moon?  Because they were too costly.  Why have we not landed a man on Mars?  Because it’s too costly.  Why did we cancel the Space Shuttle program?  Because it was too costly.

Put long lines of communication and costs together and what do they tell you?  The odds are slim for an alien invasion.  Because you have to benefit somehow for the costs you expend.  Hitler wanted living space.  Grain.  And Caucasus oil.  His hatred of Jews, Russians and communists was one thing.  But killing all of them meant little if he didn’t get the living space, grain and oil.  That was the desired payoff for his investment in the invasion of Russia.

“There is Nothing more Dangerous than a Wounded Mosquito”

Granted, this is pure speculation, but let’s assume invading aliens are like all other conquering people history has known.  That is, they want something.  Something real.  Food.  Resources.  Whatever.  And if they are able to conquer the space-time continuum, they’d be pretty darn smart aliens.  And resourceful.  They could probably do just about anything when it came to food and resources.  Probably even make a clothes washer that can fold and wrap clothes in a plastic wrap.  And if we become an annoyance they could probably dispatch our world before we could put the first thoughts of a starship on a drawing board.

So there is little point in expending any time, effort or money in preparing a defense for an alien invasion.  And there is little chance that our so called global warming is going to bring a Death Star to our corner of the universe.  Such talk appears to be a ruse to increase government spending.  What some would call ‘grasping at straws’.  Just another way for the Keynesians to continue their failed policies. 

The Obama administration has shown the futility of Keynesian economic policies.  And it has wounded the Keynesians deeply.  But like the mosquito, we should be careful.  For as they said on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded mosquito.”  They will find other ways to tax and spend.  No matter how silly, ridiculous or costly it is.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #79: “Tax cuts stimulate. Not tax hikes.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 16th, 2011

Government can only Spend what it Taxes away from the Private Sector

What stimulates?  Tax cuts?  Or tax hikes?  Ronald Reagan believed it was tax cuts.  But everyone one on the Left poo pooed Reaganomics.  ‘Trickle-down’ economics only stimulated rich people, they said.  Those on the Left prefer Keynesian stimulus.  Tax and spend.  To take some of that money the government pulls from the private sector.  And spend it to stimulate the private sector.

What did we learn from the great 2011 debt ceiling debate?  And the subsequent S&P credit downgrade?  This.  Government is spending beyond its means.  Those on the Left say this is due to insufficient taxation.  Those on the Right say we’re spending too much.  That’s neither here nor there for our purposes here.  I only mention it to emphasize a point.  Government can only spend what it taxes away from the private sector. 

For the government to stimulate the private sector economy, then, it must first tax money out of the private sector.  So let’s take a look at a proposed stimulus plan.  Let’s say the government revises the federal withholding tax rates so that there is a net 5% increase in the effective tax rate (tax revenue divided by income).  And let’s put these numbers into a chart like this:

 

Let’s say all numbers are millions of dollars.  The effective tax rate changes from 20% to 25%.  And tax revenue increases by $25,000.  (Effective tax in the above chart.)  That’s the additional amount they pulled out of the private sector.  That they will use for government stimulus spending.  Now the government has to process this.  Through a large bureaucracy.  Let’s say that these ‘overhead’ costs are 15%.  Subtract that from the stimulus amount.  And you have $21,230 left.  To stimulate the economy. 

So they pull $25,000 out of the private sector economy.  So they can inject $21,250 back into it.  Which means the net stimulus added is a negative $3,750.  That’s right.  They added money to the economy.  After removing a larger amount from it first.  And that’s Keynesian stimulus.

Keynesian Spending favors the Politicians, not the Private Sector

This is actually opposite of what a stimulus is supposed to do.  Which explains why Keynesian stimulus spending fails.  But it’s even worse than this.   Because those numbers above are for a best case scenario. 

They don’t take into account pork and earmarks that make up most of a stimulus bill.  Such as the Obama stimulus bill.  Which proved to be more a Democrat wish list of repressed wants for some 40 years than shovel-ready stimulus.  And the 15% overhead is something you see in the private sector.  Not in a government that pays $300 for a toilet seat.  So let’s factor these more realistic numbers in.

 

The numbers are much worse.  By increasing taxes 5% you actually pull 8.63% out of the private sector economy.  There is no stimulus.  That’s a net deficit.  And a lot of pork and earmarks for the politicians.  And to make things worse, this additional spending finds its way into baseline budgeting.  Which means that they increase the current deficit.  And all subsequent deficits. 

That doesn’t favor the private sector.  That favors the politicians.  Which is the goal of Keynesian stimulus spending.

The Beauty of Tax Cuts is that the Money doesn’t go through the Sticky Hands of Government

So we see that Keynesian stimulus favors the politicians over the private sector.  Is there another form of stimulus that actually favors the private sector?  As it turns out, yes.  Tax cuts.  Let’s look at cutting taxes instead of raising taxes. 

The beauty of tax cuts is that it doesn’t require the money to go through the sticky hands of government.  So a tax cut of $25,000 equals a stimulus of $25,000.  The money remains in the private sector.  And we pull no money out of the private sector.  So this is pure stimulus.

The net add to the private sector economy is 6.25%.  Which is 14.88% better than the Keynesian approach.  (Going from a 8.63% decrease to a 6.25% increase).  So it’s clear which way to stimulate is better.  It’s a no brainer.  So why don’t the diehard Keynesians admit defeat?  Simple.  Tax cuts don’t go through the sticky hands of government.

Tax Cuts stimulate the Private Sector, Keynesian Spending stimulates Government

The Keynesians will no doubt say this is an oversimplification of stimulus.  And it is.  But the fundamentals remain the same.  Government stimulus spending is funded by the private sector.  Either by higher taxes to pay for the stimulus.  Or by higher taxes to pay for the cost of borrowing the stimulus.  And if the government just prints the money for the stimulus, a depreciated dollar makes everything cost more in the private sector.  Whatever they do the private sector will lose in the long run.  Because they ultimately pay the bill.

Tax cuts don’t have this affect.  Because you don’t have to pay for tax cuts.  The money never belonged to the government in the first place.  So they don’t have to pay for it.  The private sector just gets to keep what is rightfully theirs.  But the Keynesians will cry that if you cut taxes you will increase the deficit.  Yes, you may.  But no more than you would by borrowing money to pay for Keynesian spending.  Either way the government is spending beyond its means.  The government should cut spending.  But if they don’t, they should at least pick the option that will stimulate the economy.  The option that grows the economy.

The goal of stimulus is to stimulate economic activity in the private sector.  And as the exercises above show, the best way to do that is to leave more money in the private sector.  Not less.  Tax cuts stimulate the private sector.  Unlike Keynesian stimulus.  Which only stimulates government.

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

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2011

The Unemployment Rate is Down even though more People are Unemployed

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

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

But…

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

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

In July, labor participation fell by 193,000.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No Deficit Reduction and the Credit Rating Agencies don’t Care

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 3rd, 2011

The Credit Rating Agencies wanted Serious Spending Cuts and our Glorious Government Delivered 

It was scary.  We stared into the abyss.  We stood at the edge of the world as we knew it.  With one foot held up midstride, dangling precariously over the void.  Ready to tumble forward into the chasm of fiscal demise.  And then something happened.  Congress compromised.  There would be more debt.  There would be more spending.  And they restored our financial house to order.  We could put that foot down on terra firma.  Everything was going to be all right.  Like it was before.  Hallelujah (see U.S. Debt Rating: Economists Wait to Hear From S&P by Susanna Kim posted 8/3/2011 on ABC News).

Now that President Obama has signed the debt ceiling deal and averted a default, economists are waiting to see if ratings agency Standard and Poor’s will downgrade the nation’s credit rating…

At stake in all this is not only interest rates the US must pay on its $14.4 trillion debt, but a host of rates for consumers, from mortgages to car loans to credit cards. A downgrade of US debt would cause interest rates of all kinds to edge up and that would cost the US and consumers billions of dollars. The stock market plunged yesterday partly on worries about this possibility.

What a horrible fate this would have been.  God bless Barak Obama, Harry Reid, John Boehner and everyone else that did such an extraordinary job of saving us from this fate.  The credit rating agencies wanted to see some serious spending cuts.  And by God if that isn’t what our glorious government gave them.  Moody’s and Fitch have already given us the good news.  We’re still AAA with them.  Just waiting on Standard and Poor’s.  If they still like us we’re golden.

No spending cuts, no Deficit Reduction and no Credit Downgrade, were they Lying?

The only problem with this is that it is all bull [deleted expletive] (see Spending Cuts Seen as Step, Not as Cure by Binyamin Appelbaum posted 8/2/2011 on The New York Times).

There is something you should know about the deal to cut federal spending that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday: It does not actually reduce federal spending.

By the end of the 10-year deal, the federal debt would be much larger than it is today.

Indeed, both the government and its debts will continue to grow faster than the American economy, primarily because the new law does not address federal spending on health care.

Well how can this be?  More spending?!?  And not just a little but a lot.  So much that it will grow faster than the economy.  But they told us they made real spending cuts.  That they made some real deficit reduction.  Are you telling me that our government lied to us?

Stabilizing that [debt] ratio would require about $4 trillion in cuts over the next decade, according to a number of independent analysts. That is also the target that S.&P. declared the nation must meet, and it was the goal of the “grand bargain” that Mr. Obama tried to reach last month with Speaker John A. Boehner.

The deal they reached instead contains cuts of at least $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years. By the end of that period, the federal debt could equal as much as 80 percent of economic activity, and rising.

Guess so.  We barely made half of the recommended cuts and two of the agencies already gave us their blessings.  Which begs the question was all that fear mongering of the debt downgrade just bull you-know-what?  Just a trick to raise the debt ceiling?  I mean, this deal should have triggered the credit downgrade.  It doesn’t cut spending or reduce the deficit.  So how can it be the end of the world as we know it one minute and then credit rating bliss the next?  Because nothing changed.  Something fishy here.

With the Spending Crisis over, now comes More Spending

All right, so the spending cuts were only phantom spending cuts.  Just designed to fool the American people so the government can do what they do best.  What they always planned to do.  Even though the credit rating agencies said we can’t keep doing it.  Spend with reckless abandon (see Compromise achieved, reform’s the next chapter by Timothy Geithner posted 8/2/2011 on The Washington Post).

The agreement creates room for the private sector to continue to grow, without the threat of default and the burden of higher interest rates…

And by locking in long-term savings, Congress will have more room in the fall to pass additional short-term measures to strengthen the economy — such as extending the payroll tax cut, which provides an average of a thousand dollars to the after-tax incomes of working Americans; extending unemployment benefits; and financing infrastructure investments. After all, strengthening growth and putting more Americans back to work are among the most important things we can do to improve our fiscal situation today and over the long term.

This is like a chain smoker who just got the scare of his life.  A bad lung X-ray that could be cancer.  Only to find out later that it wasn’t cancer.  He feels so good that he lights up to celebrate his good health.

The government has already tried every Keynesian stimulus in the book.  A trillion dollar stimulus bill.  Subsidies for green energy (the economy of the future).  Tax credits.  Shovel ready jobs.  None of this helped the economy.  It just gave us a spending crisis that added so much debt that the credit agencies are threatening to downgrade the U.S. bond rating.  Additional spending is not going to improve our credit worthiness.  In fact, it will do that other thing.  The opposite thing.  It will make it much, much worse.  How can they not see this?  Was I the only one paying attention these past weeks?

When the Market Corrects things get Better; when the Government Corrects you get Double-Dip Recession

So it’s been all smoke and mirrors.  So what?  So they like to spend.  But their spending stimulates, does it not?  They’re investing in the future.  To win the future.  Like green energy.  The economy of the future.  They’re pouring money into this to create jobs and stimulate the economy.  And imagine how bad things would be if they didn’t do this.  Instead of a double-dip recession we may be in a triple-dip recession.  The recession could be one dip worse, then, couldn’t it?

Yeah, that’s a joke.  The economy is horrible despite everything they’ve tried.  Or perhaps it’s horrible because of everything they’ve tried.  Spending for the sake of spending hasn’t produced any results yet.  Just take a look at the Chevy Volt.  The car that was to lead GM back from the abyss.  And change the American automobile industry.  The Obama administration was going all in on this car.  Even ponying up $7,500 in tax credits per car just to make people buy these things.  But apparently the people don’t like the Chevy Volt.  Because they’re not buying them.  Even with a federal gift of $7,500 to sweeten the deal (see Chevy Volt: Still Not Selling by Jonathan V. Last posted 8/3/2011 on the weekly Standard).

The July sales numbers are out and the Chevy Volt continues to electrify (get it?) the country. GM sold … 125 Volts last month!

Way back in March I made fun of the Volt for selling 281 units in February. Turns out, February was a good month. But wait, there’s more! GM says they’re going to increase production to 5,000 Volts per month in order to keep up with demand. You see, they claim that the reason the Volt isn’t selling is that they can’t keep enough cars on the lot. A GM spokeswoman recently claimed that they are “virtually sold out.” Which is virtually true. Mark Modica called around his local Chevy dealers and found plenty of Volts waiting for an environmentally conscious driver to bring them home.

These numbers are so bad they’re embarrassing.  And building 5,000 units to meet a 125 unit demand?  You can tell the government is calling the shots at GM.

This is what happens when government starts running automobile companies.  They destroy automobile companies.  And wastes tax money.  They’ll keep raising taxes (and borrowing money) so they can ‘invest’ in jobs.  Creating jobs where people build things that nobody buys.  This is how the best and brightest tweak the economy.  Use Keynesian stimulus to correct for ‘market inefficiencies’.  Which in Washington is when people don’t spend their money ‘correctly’.

Of course, when the market corrects things get better.  When the government corrects you get a double-dip recession.

The Obama Administration did some serious Fear Peddling to get the Debt Ceiling Raised

The Obama administration did some serious fear peddling to get the debt ceiling raised.  First they tried to scare everyone that the government would default on their debt obligations.  When it was pointed out that there was some $200 billion of tax revenue coming in monthly they changed their story. 

Then they tried to scare old people by saying they couldn’t send out Social Security checks.  When it was pointed out that Social Security Trust Fund was full of treasury securities (i.e., IOUs) that could be converted into cash without any impact on the debt ceiling they changed their story. 

Then they tried to scare everyone that if they didn’t reduce the deficit with a balanced approach (new taxes and spending cuts, but mostly new taxes) the credit rating agencies would downgrade the U.S. AAA debt rating.  So far that hasn’t happened.  Despite there being no deficit reduction.

Well, they got their debt increase.  They may have been less than honest but they got it.  And what are they going to do with that additional $2.4 trillion?  Why, build more Chevy Volts, I guess.  And other winning-the-future job-creating Keynesian stimulus spending.  Because it’s worked so well these past few years.

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LESSONS LEARNED #74: “When negotiating it’s important to understand the ‘time value’ of promises. The longer out in time something is promised the less likely that promise will be kept.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 14th, 2011

Slaying the Inflation Beast

In Washington promises would make a poor currency.  Because they’re very inflationary.  Politicians make a lot of promises.  And they break almost as many as they make.  Promises just don’t hold their value over time.  Especially when it comes to spending cuts.  Any promise for future spending cuts will be worthless by the time that ‘future’ arrives.  Because things change.  The economic picture may change.  And they’ll write new legislation to eliminate those spending cuts.  To adjust for these unforeseen changes in the economy.  Just as those promising those spending cuts knew they would.  That’s why politicians (i.e., Democrats) can be generous when offering future spending cuts in any budget debate.  Because they have no intention of ever keeping those promises.  So Democrats can be very generous in offering ‘future’ spending cuts.  In exchange for tax hikes in the here and now.  It’s a con.  And one of the biggest such cons was the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 that Ronald Reagan fell for.

Reagan’s poor economy had its roots in the Sixties and LBJ‘s Great Society.  LBJ was a tax, borrow, print and spend liberal.  And he spent.  He exploded government spending for his Great Society.  On top of the massive war spending for Vietnam.  The economy limped into the Seventies.  A bad economy and high taxes left few options to pay for that spending.  So the Fed just printed money.  Which devalued the dollar.  The dollar then was still convertible to gold at $35/ounce.  With the depreciation of their dollar assets, foreign nations converted their dollars to gold, depleting U.S. gold reserves.  To stem this loss of gold Nixon suspended the dollar’s convertibility into gold (the Nixon Shock).  Free from the restraint of a quasi gold standard, Nixon turned the printing presses on high.  Devaluing the U.S. dollar in the process, giving us high inflation. Then the 1973 oil embargo came and made everything worse.

Gerald Ford did little to change things.  Or Jimmy Carter.  They were little more than Keynesians themselves.  And believed in the power of government spending to stimulate the economy out of recession.  So their policies remained Keynesian.  Tax rates were high.  As was government spending.  And then another oil crisis came thanks to the Iranian Revolution.  Things just went from bad to worse for Carter.  Inflation was killing the economy.  Until Paul Volcker came on board after a cabinet shakeup.  He slew the beast.  Eventually.  Starting in the Carter administration.  And finishing the job in the Reagan administration.  For one of the tenants of Reaganomics was a sound currency.  Which Volcker gave him by slaying the inflation beast.

Reagan was not a Keynesian

Inflation is the great big bad side affect of Keynesian economics.  For it’s the only economics system that tells governments that counterfeiting money is a good thing.  So governments do.  And find justification for their actions by the sweet nothings Ivy League economists whisper in their ears.  But once the inflation beast is unleashed it is not easily subdued.  Because the only true antidote for runaway inflation is a good, deep recession.  And a bit of a deflationary spiral to put prices back to normal.  So this was where the economy was in 1982.  In deep recession.  With high unemployment.  And double digit interest rates (reaching as high as 20% on occasion).

Tax receipts fell.  As you would expect them to during a deep recession.  Which increased the deficit.  And this was just a calamity.  The country was facing economic ruin.  They just had to raise taxes.  For it was the only cure.  And the Democrats demanded that Reagan do just that.  Raise taxes.  But being that it went against another tenant of Reaganomics, Reagan refused.  He was not a Keynesian.  His Reaganomics was more of the Austrian School variety.  Low taxes.  Less regulation.  Sound money.  And little government spending.  He believed that the massive government spending was the problem.  And you didn’t fix that problem by giving the government more money to spend.  No, Reagan wasn’t going to abandon principles easily.  They needed something to sweeten the deal.  To make him abandon his principles more easily.  And they came up with a pretty sweet lie.

“Okay,” they said to Reagan.  “You’re right.  We need to cut spending.  We’re all in agreement here.  But the recession is hurting the people.  We can’t hit them with spending cuts now.  We’ll have to ease them in over time.  To make it easier on the people.  So we’ll give you your spending cuts.  A lot of them.  Just not right now.  In the future.  When the people are back on their feet.  You win.  All we ask for in return is that we increase taxes now before this deficit causes some damage that we won’t be able to walk away from.”

Democrats are Liars

And they made a deal.  Tax hikes now.  For spending cuts later.  And a lot of them.  For every new dollar in taxes they would cut $3 of spending.  It was some unprecedented spending cuts.  So Reagan accepted the deal.  Tax hikes now for spending cuts later.  He signed the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 into law.  He only made one mistake.  He trusted the Democrats.  And didn’t see them twisting their evil mustaches while they were making their deal.  Nor did he see them rub their hands together as they made a sinister laugh.

A Democrat’s promise to cut taxes isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.  For it starts to depreciate before the ink even dries.  And the numbers prove this.  According to CBO, tax revenue in 1982 (the year of the tax hikes) was $617.8 billion dollars.  At the end of Reagan’s second term in 1988, tax revenue rose to 909.1 billion.  For an increase of $291.5 billion.  Supply-siders (of the Austrian School) will say it was Reagan’s massive tax cuts in 1981 (Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981) and 1986 (Tax Reform Act of 1986) that that generated this tax revenue by creating more taxpayers.  Keynesians will say it was the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 that generated this revenue by taking more from each taxpayer.  For the sake of argument, let’s say the Keynesians are right.  And all that new tax revenue is from the higher taxes.  So, according to the deal he made with Democrats to get this tax increase, government spending for the same period should have gone down by three times this amount, bringing total outlays at the end of that period to a negative $128.8 billion. 

Now we know that didn’t happen.  Government spending didn’t go to less than zero.  So if they didn’t honor their 3-1 pledge, how much did they cut spending?  Well, in 1982 government outlays were $745.7 billion.  In 1988 that increased to $1.06 trillion.  For an increase in spending of $318.8 billion.  Clearly something is amiss here.  For this is not spending reduction.  It’s a spending increase.  For every new tax dollar Congress collected they increased spending by $1.10.  That’s not the promised spending reduction.  It’s quite the opposite.  More spending.  A lot more spending.  That $3 gain in spending cuts turned out to be a $4.10 loss.  The Democrats lied.  And Reagan would never fall for this trick again.  For he learned the hard way that there are no such things as future spending cuts with Democrats.  And that Democrats are liars.

Don’t trust Democrats when they Promise to make Spending Cuts 

Of course, we could say that the supply-siders were right in regards to that increase in tax revenue.  The reason the Democrats failed to follow through on their promise was due to the success of Reagan’s tax cuts.  It just created so much money above and beyond what the tax hikes brought in.  They may have delivered their promised cuts but you can’t see them looking at the aggregate numbers.  Because Reaganomics created such great economic activity that it showered Washington with dollars.

It is an interesting choice.  Either the Democrats are liars and renege on their promises.  Or they are incompetent and follow failed Keynesian economic policies.  Perhaps it’s a little of both.  They’re both liars.  And incompetent.  For it would explain a lot.  Such as how their policies never make the economy any better.

Either way the lesson learned is for certain.  Don’t trust Democrats.  Especially when they promise to make spending cuts.  Because whatever may happen, one thing is clear.  What won’t happen are the spending cuts.

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Obama Prolongs the Recession with High Food and Gas Prices and anti-Business Policies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 27th, 2011

Consumer Spending and Wages are Flat thanks to Inflation

Consumer spending at last shows some growth.  No, wait a minute.  It’s not growth.  It’s only inflation (see April consumer spending shows weak gain by the Associated Press posted 5/27/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

Consumer spending rose 0.4 percent, reflecting a surge in the category that covers food and gasoline, areas which showed big price gains last month, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Excluding price changes, spending rose a much smaller 0.1 percent.

Incomes rose 0.4 percent but after-tax incomes adjusted for inflation were flat for a second straight month.

Analysts are worried that weak income growth and big gains in gasoline and food prices are leaving consumers with little left to spend on other products. That could dampen economic growth. Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

Increased consumer spending is a good thing.  But not when consumers are only paying more for the same stuff.  That’s not new economic activity.  That’s just inflation making life more expensive.  Food and gasoline are the main culprits.  And it’s gasoline that plays a large role in making food more expensive.  Because gasoline is used everywhere in bringing food to our grocery stores.

Worse, Americans are paying more.  But not earning more.  Which leaves less disposable income to stimulate the economy. In other words, the U.S. is still in recession.  And won’t be coming out of it anytime soon.

Still no Recovery in the Housing Market

So we’re still mired in recession.  Of course that means houses should still be cheap.  With low interest rates.  Put the two together and someone should be buying houses at least (see Pending Home Sales Plunge, Reaching Seven-Month Low by Reuters posted 5/27/2011 on CNBC).

Pending sales of existing U.S. homes dropped far more than expected in April to touch a seven-month low, a trade group said on Friday, dealing a blow to hopes of a recovery in the housing market.

Damn.  Housing sales had been the backbone of the U.S. economy.  Because furnishing a house drives so much consumer spending.  The more people that bought houses the better.  So that was U.S. policy.  Putting people into houses.  Which led to the subprime mortgage market.  A housing bubble.  The subprime mortgage crisis.   And a glut of foreclosed homes on the market driving housing prices down further.

It’s a buyer’s market now.  Because so few are buying.  So the economy is not going to get any assistance from the housing market any time soon.

Universal Health Care Ruins Massachusetts First, then the United States

So things are bad.  But can they get any worse?  Are there any new big regulatory compliance or taxes in the pipeline?  Anything that could snuff out even the most anemic of economic recoveries?  As it turns out, yes (see Health Insurance Premiums Continue to Rise Under RomneyCare by Peter Suderman posted 5/27/2011 on reason).

Not only are Masachusetts’ health insurance premiums higher than elsewhere in the U.S. on average, they’ve grown at a faster rate since the adoption of RomneyCare, according to a report released yesterday by the state government. The report, which was published by the state’s Division of Health Care Finance & Policy, notes that for the last two years, private group insurance premiums rose by between five and 10 percent per year despite the fact that the regional consumer price index, which measures inflation on common goods and services, rose by just two percent..

The Obama administration has explicitly stated on numerous occasions that RomneyCare was the model for the federal overhaul. Given the Bay State’s spiraling costs, it seems more and more likely that, thanks to ObamaCare, we can all expect higher health insurance premiums in our future.

So Obamacare is Romneycare at the national level.  So the American people can expect spiraling health care costs and insurance premiums.  That can’t be good for the economy.

Obamacare hasn’t really kicked in yet.  Most of the activity has been by companies seeking waivers to be excluded from the requirements of Obamacare as it places too great a cost burden on their small businesses.  But these are only one-year waivers.  So small business costs will be going up eventually.  When they do in fact comply with Obamacare.  And that will be a great disincentive to hire new employees.  Being that small business is the biggest generator of jobs, Obamacare will further stretch out this recession.  Or make it an even more severe recession.

The Obama Administration would like Gas at $8/Gallon

If only we could get a break on gasoline prices.  That is such a large part of consumer prices that if they went down the economy might tick up.  So the government should focus all of its powers on lowering gas prices (see Obama’s Bad Policy, Harmful Regulations Add to Gas Prices by Darrell Issa posted 5/27/2011 on USNEWS).

From the campaign trail, then Senator Obama spoke of increased electricity prices as a means for advancing his agenda, noting that costs would “necessarily skyrocket.” Energy Secretary Stephen Chu was equally blunt. “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe [currently $8 a gallon],” Mr. Chu announced. Last year, President Obama declared that America must be the nation that leads the “clean energy economy.”

So the plan was to make gasoline prices high all along.  To make gasoline so expensive that the more expensive green energy became cost competitive.  To encourage the American people to choose it.  And by ‘encourage’ I mean force.  Talk about devious. 

Even as compliance costs for traditional and affordable sources of energy rise, the administration’s willingness to promulgate even tighter regulatory controls and raise taxes on oil and gas producers rolls along. In his fiscal year 2012 budget, President Obama requested more than $60 billion in direct tax and fee increases on American energy production over the next 10 years.

Tighter regulatory controls and higher taxes won’t help the economy.  Especially when those controls and taxes are on the one thing that drives most prices.  Gasoline.  It’s almost as if the Obama administration is trying to prolong the greatest recession since the Great Depression.

The Government’s Help is killing Small Business

So how about the man in the street.  Or, rather, a man on an airplane.  Stephen Carter, Yale law professor, sat next to a small business owner on a recent flight.  An actual person.  Not the abstract business people who are trying to cheat the government out of their taxes or take grandma’s medications away.  A flesh and blood real person.  They had an interesting conversation.  About small business.  The greatest generator of American jobs.  And he asked this business owner why he was prolonging the recession by not hiring new employees (see Carter: Economic Stagnation Explained, at 30,000 Feet by Stephen L. Carter posted 5/26/2011 on Bloomberg).

“Because I don’t know how much it will cost,” he explains. “How can I hire new workers today, when I don’t know how much they will cost me tomorrow?”

He’s referring not to wages, but to regulation: He has no way of telling what new rules will go into effect when. His business, although it covers several states, operates on low margins. He can’t afford to take the chance of losing what little profit there is to the next round of regulatory changes. And so he’s hiring nobody until he has some certainty about cost.

One thing business people don’t like is uncertainty.  Because when they screw up they can’t just raise taxes or print money.  They have to deal with real the consequences of bad decisions.  So they are very careful about making costly decisions.  Like hiring people.

“I don’t understand why Washington does this to us,” he resumes. By “us,” he means people who run businesses of less- than-Fortune-500 size. He tells me that it doesn’t much matter which party is in office. Every change of power means a whole new set of rules to which he and those like him must respond. ‘‘I don’t understand,” he continues, “why Washington won’t just get out of our way and let us hire.”

Republican.  Democrat.  It doesn’t matter.  Every time there is a change there are new rules to follow.  And more of that thing they so hate.  Uncertainty.

“I think about retirement a lot,” he says. “But I can’t.” I wait to hear about how much he loves the business he founded, or about his responsibilities to his employees, or perhaps to the town, somewhere in the Dakotas, where his factory is located. Instead, he tells me that it’s impossible to make a sensible decision about winding down his firm when he doesn’t even know from one year to the next what the capital gains rate is going to be.

So it’s just not the Wall Street robber barons affected by the capital gains tax.  The greatest employer, small business, is affected, too.  He is just one of many.  Unable to make decisions like when he can retire.  Does he have enough money to retire?  And pay his capital gains tax?  If not it could be a problem.  Because you just can’t un-retire when you sell or close down a small business if you calculated wrong.  Instead, you’ll be an old guy trying to find a job.

I ask him what, precisely, he thinks is the proper role of government as it relates to business.

“Invisible,” he says. “I know there are things the government has to do. But they need to find a way to do them without people like me having to bump into a new regulation every time we turn a corner.” He reflects for a moment, then finds the analogy he seeks. “Government should act like my assistant, not my boss.”

An assistant doesn’t tell the boss how to run his business.  Because an assistant doesn’t know how to run his boss’ business.  Government bureaucrats aren’t even as knowledgeable as the assistant.  The assistant at least has a job in a business.  Few in Washington have ever run a business.  Let alone had a real job.  Yet here they are constantly trying to tell others how to run their businesses.

On the way to my connection, I ponder. As an academic with an interest in policy, I tend to see businesses as abstractions, fitting into a theory or a data set. Most policy makers do the same. We rarely encounter the simple human face of the less- than-giant businesses we constantly extol. And when they refuse to hire, we would often rather go on television and call them greedy than sit and talk to them about their challenges.

Recessions have complex causes, but, as the man on the aisle reminded me, we do nothing to make things better when the companies on which we rely see Washington as adversary rather than partner.

The best thing Washington can do to help small business?  Stop helping. 

In the Recession Business?

From small business regulation to inflation to the high cost of health care to the high cost of gasoline it would appear that the current administration is actually in the recession business.  Or utterly incompetent.  One almost has to lean towards incompetence.  Because there is an election in 2012.  And making the worst recession since the Great Depression more like the Great Depression can’t possibly help at the polls.  Even if you have compromising photographs of the Republican candidate having a good time with someone that is not his or her spouse.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #54: “Every dollar the government spends is a dollar that the consumer can’t spend.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 22nd, 2011

An Increase in Economic Activity Creates Jobs

Economic activity in a free market is win-win.  A buyer and seller come together.  They each have something the other wants.  One has a product or service.  The other has money.  Each values more what the other has.  So they trade.  And each feels they are better off after the trade.

Millions of such trades make up the economy as a whole.  And this goes on all by itself.  No one manages it.  No one steps into each trade to make sure it’s fair.  There’s no need.  If it’s not a fair trade one of the parties simply won’t trade.  They’ll go elsewhere to find a better deal.

As more people come together to make trades economic activity increases.  This activity creates more jobs (to meet growing demand).  Giving people more money.  So they can go out and make more trades.  Further increasing economic activity.

High Taxes and Government Spending Fell the Roman Empire

Many things made the Roman Empire a great empire.  Among these was the aqueduct.  And the Roman legions.  Fresh water allowed cities to grow.  And the army protected the cities from its enemies in other civilizations.   And the raiding barbarians beyond civilization.  But water and the army were costly, though.  It took a lot of money.  A lot of which came from the spoils of war.  And when the empire was expanding and there were always new lands to conquer there were always spoils to send back to Rome. 

But eventually the Romans saw their borders fixed.  And there was peace.  The Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The problem with peace, though, is that you’re not waging war.  And when you’re not waging war you’re not sending home any spoils of war.  But the empire still had bills to pay.  Aqueducts to build.  And soldiers to pay.  So the Romans had to turn to other funding sources.  The citizens.  Taxes replaced spoils.

And the taxing and spending began.  The state grew.  The army grew.  And the government grew.  All required more and more taxes.  Then they debased the coinage (i.e., inflated the money supply by using less precious metal in each coin so they could make more coins out of the same amount of precious metal).  Silver coins contained more and more lead.  And were worth less and less.  Eventually Rome wouldn’t accept tax payments in silver coin.  You had to pay with gold.  Or taxes in kind (a wheat farmer gave a portion of his wheat to satisfy his tax obligation).  This got so bad that farmers quit being farmers because they couldn’t make any money with so much of their crops going to Rome to pay their taxes.  Then Rome passed laws preventing farmers from quitting farming.  The Roman citizen became an unhappy citizen.  Few wanted to serve in the Roman legions.  So Rome had to hire soldiers.  Which cost more money.  And on and on it went until tax and spend became tax and spent.  The empire spent itself into collapse.

The Key to Economic Activity is Private Sector Jobs

Every time taxes went up the Roman citizen had to pay more of his silver coins in taxes which left him with less to spend on his family.  When Rome debased their silver coins the Roman citizen’s money was worth less and bought less.  When more of a farmer’s crops went to Rome to satisfy their tax obligation they had less to sell at market.  Every time the government spent more the private sector spent less.  Because Rome transferred more of the private sector wealth to the public sector.

When the government takes more money out of the private sector, the private sector has less money to spend.  That means people are spending less when they go to the store.  Which means the store is selling less.  And when a store sells less they buy less.  And when they buy less manufacturers produce less.  So manufacturers cut back on production.  Lay people off.  Which means these people have less money to spend in stores.  So sales at stores decline further.  So stores buy less.  And manufacturers produce less.  Cut back on production.  Lay off people.  Who have less to spend.  And round and round it goes until the economy crashes into a recession.

The key to economic activity, then, is jobs.  We need jobs to get the money we need to make trades with other people.  If we don’t have a job we have no money.  And can’t trade for anything.  So we need jobs.  And who creates jobs?  Businesses.  And how do they do that?  By selling something.  The more they sell the more jobs they create.  The less they sell the fewer jobs they create.  And what helps them sell more?  Lower taxes.  What prevents them from selling more?  Higher taxes.  For the more money in the private sector the more money the private sector can spend.  And the more people can trade with each other.  Which increases economic activity.  Which creates more jobs.  Giving more people money to trade with other people.  And round and round it goes.  Until we all live happily ever after. 

An Economy Works Best when Government Intervenes Least

John Maynard Keynes was an economist that said that government could stimulate the economy by spending money during a recession.  Governments love this man.  Because it’s like a license to spend.  Never mind that it never worked.

Here’s why.  The government doesn’t earn any money.  They have to take it from someone else before they can spend it.  That’s like me giving you $20 out of my wallet so you can stimulate the economy.  And how much will you stimulate the economy by spending my $20?  Will it be more than if I spent that $20 myself?  No.  Because, in the end, someone is spending only $20.  Either you.  Or me.  The net spending doesn’t change.  Only who’s spending it.

This is the fundamental flaw in Keynesian economics.  Tax money comes from taxpayers.  Who work.  Stimulus spending only transfers the money to someone else to spend.  Leaving the taxpayer with less to spend.  Either now through higher taxes.  Or later through higher taxes to pay for past deficit spending.  Which is a very common feature of Keynesian economics.  Deficit spending.  And huge debts created by all that deficit spending.

Contrary to Keynes, an economy works best when government intervenes least.  This keeps the money in the private sector where it belongs.  Where it does what it does best.  Create jobs.

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

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 11th, 2011

The Concept of Other People’s Money

A lot of people don’t understand how a bank works.  Or government.  In fact, banks and government are similar in one respect.  They both ‘give’ things away.  Banks loan money.  Government gives out benefits.  But before either gives anything away, they have to take from other people first.  Banks take money from depositors.  And government takes money from taxpayers.  That’s how they get the money that they give away (bank loans and government benefits).

You see, banks and government have no money of their own.  They work with other people’s money.  Yes, they can make money.  Banks via fractional reserve banking.  And government via monetary policy (lowering the discount rate, selling bonds and treasuries or simply printing money – we call this fiat money).  But there’s a danger when they do.  If they make too much money, we get inflation.  And a lot of bad things follow inflation.  Higher interest rates.  Higher prices.  And an overheated economy that eventually crashes into recession.  Which causes higher unemployment.  So they have to be careful when they’re making money.

If inflation is such a bad thing, then why do they even make money in the first place?  That’s a bit complicated.  To get a simplified understanding, think of a bank.  Businesses borrow from banks to expand their business.  When they expand they create jobs.  Everybody likes this.  Jobs.  So we try to help them get the money they need to expand their businesses.  But banks often don’t have enough money from their depositors to loan to all these businesses.  Fractional reserve banking solves that problem.  This allows the banks to lend more money than they have in their vaults from their depositors.  Creating more money allows more economic activity.  And that’s why we make money.  But we have to be careful not to make too much.

Money is only as Good as our Faith in It

More economic activity means more jobs.  And more taxes for the government.  This is why the government likes a little inflation.  A little bit allows economic activity.  And what is economic activity?  People trading with each other.  A worker trades his or her skills for groceries.  Of course, an office worker in midtown Manhattan can’t easily trader his or her office skills for a dairy farmer’s milk and cheese in Wisconsin.   But that’s okay.  Because we have a medium of exchange to make trading easier.  Our money.

You see, it’s things or services we want.  Not the money.  Money just lets us trade what we do with what others do.  We’ve used different types of money throughout history.  Specie (like gold and silver coins).  And commodities (tobacco, food, whiskey, etc.).  Specie and commodities have intrinsic value.  They’re worth something besides their value as money.  And because of this, it is not easy to make more of it.  Because a printing press can’t print gold, silver, tobacco, food, whiskey, etc.  So you can’t ‘stimulate’ the economy like you can with fiat money.  Of course, this can be a good thing.  Because you can’t over-stimulate the economy like you can with fiat money.  There are pros and cons of each type of money.  And there’s been a lot of debate between competing types of money (such as the gold standard versus fiat money). 

Money is only as good as our faith in it, though.  Because specie and commodity have intrinsic value, it’s easy to have faith in it.  It’s pretty hard to make this kind of money worthless.  But it’s easy to make fiat money worthless.  All you have to do is print too much of it.  You do that and people won’t want to use it.  Because they will have little faith that it will hold its value.

Inflation Reduces your Purchasing Power

How bad can it get?  Let’s illustrate with an example.  Let’s say you dug down about 30 feet in your back yard and discovered gold.  And you worked your butt off to bring it up to the surface, smelt it and pour it into gold bars.  Now you want to trade that gold for a new car, a 60″ plasma television, a state of the art home theater sound system, an in-the-ground swimming pool, some property on an island in the Caribbean and a few other extravagances.  You see all of these things for sale.  But the sale prices are all in dollars, not weights of gold.  Not a problem.  Because you can sell your gold for dollars. 

Think of a scale.  Put your gold on one side of the scale.  And put dollars on the other side.  When the scale balances (when both sides equal the same value, not weights), you have the value of your gold in dollars.   Let’s say your gold equals $1 million.  Lucky for you because that’s the total price of everything you want to buy. 

A week later you have all the details worked out.  You’re ready to write your checks.  But the day before, the government printed more money and doubled the number of dollars in circulation.  When you increase the number of dollars, you decrease the value of each dollar.  In this case, they doubled the amount of money so money is now only worth half of what it used to be worth.  This makes you furious.  Because if you had waited only one more week, you would have gotten $2 million for your gold instead of $1 million (same amount of gold on one side of the scale but twice the amount of dollars on the other).  Worse, not only did the price of your gold go up (after you had already sold it at the old price), but prices everywhere went up.  The stuff you were about to buy for $1 million now costs $2 million.  Now you can only buy half of what you want.  Because doubling the amount of dollars in circulation cut your purchasing power in half.

Other People’s Things

This is the time value of money.  Money decreases in value over time because of inflation.  The greater the inflation rate, the quicker the money in your wallet loses value.  During times of high inflation, people will not want to hold onto their money for a long time.  They’ll want to spend it fast.  Because they’ll be able to buy more with it sooner than they will be able to later.  And it’s the things they want to buy that have real value to them.  Not the money.

Things, not money.  That’s what people want.  And that’s what government benefits are.  Things.  Other people’s things.  You can’t just print money and give it away.  Because you need things to buy with that money.  So not only do you need taxpayers to pay taxes.  But you need them to make the things (and services) people want to buy. 

The greater amount of benefits the government hands out, the more of other people’s stuff they have to take.  That’s why there is a limit on the amount of benefits that government can hand out.  The things the government does to pay for those benefits reduces economic activity.  And increases unemployment.  Unemployed people can’t make stuff or perform services.  And they have less stuff to take.   No matter how much fiat money the government prints.

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Democrats Seek to Increase the Debt Ceiling, Republicans Prefer Spending Cuts

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 2nd, 2011

Obamacare Push the Deficit Higher than Reagan’s and Bush’s Combined

Ronald Reagan had deficits of $200 billion.  The Left said that was reckless and irresponsible.  George W. Bush averaged $800 billion deficits.  The Left said that was reckless and irresponsible.  Now Obama’s deficits approach $1,500 billion.  And the Left says, “Let’s raise the debt ceiling.”

It’s a reckless and irresponsible game Obama, Pelosi and Reid have been playing.  During the worst recession since the Great Depression they have gone on a spending orgy.  Hoping to pass as much as possible in as short of time as possible.  The goal being simple.  Get as many people as possible addicted to this new government spending.  Make it political suicide for the opposition to repeal.  Thereby giving the Democrats yet more things to frighten voters about should Republicans win elections.  That those rascally Republicans will take away those benefits they fought so hard to give them.

But they have increased spending to levels impossible to sustain.  Medicaid is bankrupting the states.  Medicare and Social Security are bankrupting the nation.  Despite this, Obama, Pelosi and Reid passed Obamacare.  This on top of stimulus spending that stimulated nothing but unions and Democratic loyalists.  They’re selling bonds and printing money to feed this orgy of spending.  In the process mortgaging our future.  And making the United States credit worthiness on par with a subprime mortgage.

The Best Way to Stop a Spending Crisis is to Stop Spending

The Left is now concerned.  They see spending is unsustainable.  With the current debt ceiling.  So they want to raise the debt ceiling (see Obama aide: Debt limit fight could be “catastrophic” by Caren Bohan posted 1/2/2011 on Reuters).

White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee accused Republicans of “playing chicken” with the nation’s financial credibility.

“This is not a game. You know, the debt ceiling … is not something to toy with,” Goolsbee told the ABC News program “This Week.” “If we hit the debt ceiling, that’s … essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history.”

“The impact on the economy would be catastrophic. I mean, that would be a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008,” he said.

Interesting.  When we get ourselves in trouble by maxing out our credit cards, what do debt counselors tell us?  To solve our problem by getting another credit card so we can keep spending?  Or do they tell us to cut all of our credit cards and sell everything we own to pay our bills?

When spending gets you in trouble you stop spending.  You don’t keep spending.  It’s what we the people do.  And it’s what our government should do.  Because the nation, the states and even our cities are all having spending and debt problems.

Big Government Spending Destroys Some of our Biggest Cities

Big Government at every level is failing.  Destroying great cities in its wake (see American Cities That Are Running Out Of People by Michael B. Sauter posted 1/1/2011 on Yahoo! Finance).

New Orleans has lost more than a quarter of its population in the past 10 years as the result of Hurricane Katrina. The rest of the cities that have lost major parts of their population have seen their flagship industries, which include coal, steel, oil, and auto-related manufacturing, fall off or completely collapse.

The big losers?  Flint, Michigan.  Cleveland, Ohio.  Buffalo, N.Y.  Dayton, Ohio.  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Rochester, N.Y.  Big, blue cities.   Big labor unions.  And big public sectors.  Is there any surprise that these cities are dying?

Targeted Tax Cuts and Incentives Don’t Stimulate

The evidence is all around us.  Government spending may get you votes in November, but it is bankrupting the nation, the states and the cities.  And you don’t fix that problem with more taxing.  And more spending.  Even liberal Democrats know this (see Goolsbee: Obama to Make ‘Tough Choices’ on Budget by Mary Lu Carnevale posted 1/2/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Mr. Goolsbee, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the administration is focusing on spurring investment and improving U.S. exports and innovation to boost economic growth. And he said that steps already taken, such as cutting payroll taxes by two percentage points and giving small businesses new tax incentives, should soon provide some economic fuel.

They know that cutting taxes stimulates the economy.  They admit as much by cutting payroll taxes.  And by offering tax incentives.  But they target everything.  It’s never across the board.  Because across the board tax cuts don’t offer tit for tat.  And what good is a tax cut to a politician if it doesn’t get you something in return?

Repeal Obamacare, Forget about Raising the Debt Ceiling

Cutting taxes will stimulate the economy.  It worked for Harding.  For Kennedy.  For Reagan.  And for Bush.  Reagan doubled tax receipts with his cuts.  But he still had $200 billion deficits.  Why?  Because the Democratic Congress spent the money faster than it came in.  And they reneged on their promised spending cuts.  Lesson learned?  You have to cut spending.

There’s hope.  Thanks to the Republican ascendancy at the 2010 midterm elections.  The Republicans have the power of the purse.  And a lot of Democrats lost their seats for voting for Obamacare.  You add this up, and you can take tough words about repealing Obamacare seriously (see House to vote early on health care repeal by Jake Sherman posted 1/2/2011 on Politico Live).

Incoming House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) says the new Republican-controlled House will look to repeal Democratic health care overhaul legislation before President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address later this month.

“We have 242 Republicans,” Upton said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There will be a significant number of Democrats, I think, that will join us.”

Upton, whose committee will key in the GOP’s effort to roll back the law, said that he believes the House may be near the two-thirds majority required to override a presidential veto. Short of repeal, Upton said the House will “go after this bill piece by piece.”

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are political third rails.  Too many people are dependent on them for significant reform.  But Obamacare is a no brainer.  No one is dependent on it now.  Repealing that will be pain free.   Other than a bruised ego.  But Obama can get over that.  When he retires in 2012.

You repeal Obamacare and our debt crisis all of a sudden gets a whole lot easier to manage.  So let’s cut that credit card.  Before we build up a balance that we’ll never be able to pay off.

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