Class Warfare Escalates in France to pay for Out of Control Government Spending

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 8th, 2012

Week in Review

Once again a government is asking the rich to pay their fair share.  Well, not asking so much.  More confiscating their wealth.  In the name of fairness (see Socialists in France Announce New Taxes by STEVEN ERLANGER posted 7/4/2012 on The New York Times).

France’s new Socialist government announced on Wednesday billions of euros in tax increases and new taxes, to be borne by businesses and the wealthy, in a revision of the 2012 budget designed to meet promised deficit targets in a period of nearly stagnant growth…

For this year alone, the government announced about $9 billion in higher taxes, with about $7.6 billion more to come next year. A freeze on government spending is expected to save $1.8 billion.

So that’s $16.6 billion in new taxes and only spending cuts of $1.8 billion.  That’s $9.22 in new taxes for every dollar cut in spending.  When the Democrats snookered Ronald Reagan into increasing taxes they dangled $3 in spending cuts for each dollar in new taxes.  A deal he accepted and lived to regret.  Because governments just don’t cut spending.  Especially if they get the new taxes up front.  For Reagan it was about the reverse of the deal they offered.  There was $3 in new taxes for every $1 in spending cuts.  Guess the French are much more receptive to paying taxes than the Americans.  Or should I say, they are much more receptive to forcing higher tax rates on those who pay taxes.

Among the main new taxes is a special surcharge on the assets of individuals with more than $1.62 million of global wealth, which is expected to bring in $2.87 billion; the tax is expected to be made permanent next year, when there will also be a new tax bracket of 75 percent on incomes of more than $1.25 million a year…

There will also be a one-time tax on oil stocks, which is expected to raise $688 million and will hit refineries and gasoline stations, which supposedly have benefited from higher oil prices. About $1.13 billion is to come from ending a tax exemption for overtime income, a major effort by former President Nicolas Sarkozy to raise take-home pay, and there will be a new tax on dividends and stock options…

The figures are based on assumptions that the economy will grow by 0.3 percent this year, 1.2 percent in 2013 and then by 2 percent each year after that, which some economists find overly optimistic.

Taxing wealth.  Ouch.  This isn’t taxing capital gains on your investments.  This is taxing the value of your investments.  Even if those investments lose money.  Which means the rich may end up paying for the privilege of losing money in France.  It’s a good thing Europe is bilingual.  It’ll help the French rich as they settle in their new home.  Britain.  So those overly optimistic tax revenue figures will bring even in less revenue.  Making the French economy worse.  And the deficit bigger.  Requiring even deeper spending cuts later.

The auditors urged the government to cut spending more than raise taxes, because the latter hurts economic growth, but the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, insisted that the key to growth was investment, not austerity. Still, spending cuts would seem to be inevitable to meet the 2013 target. For its 2013-15 budget, the government said it would reduce operating costs. It promises to balance the budget by 2017.

France’s government accounts for 56.6 percent of gross domestic product, one of the highest in the euro zone. It is projected to fall to only 56.2 percent this year and decline slowly after that.

Companies have complained that already thin profit margins are being hit and that France is losing competitiveness in a global market. The auditors said the same, and urged structural changes to better calibrate social welfare benefits to deal with France’s aging population and reduce the debt.

It’s the spending that’s too high.  Taxes aren’t too low.  In fact, taxes are too high.  They’ve transferred over half of private sector wealth to the government.  Over half!  That is an incredible burden on the private sector.  Which will simply collapse as they add the full weight of pension and health care costs of their aging population to their burden.  There will simply be no more wealth to tax.  Which will require draconian spending cuts.  Or a return to subsistence farming.

We may be witnessing the end of the European social democracy.  Which will end as all democracies end.  When the people learn that they have the key to the treasury.  And can vote themselves benefits.  When they learn this all spending restraint is gone.  And politicians pander for votes by promising to spend ever more irresponsibly.  Never worrying about the mess they’re making.  Leaving that to future generations.  Well, that future generation is here.  It’s why the Eurozone is suffering a sovereign debt crisis.  Because all of this social spending has come to a head.  And they can no longer sustain it.  But they still refuse to cut spending.  Instead, they escalate the class warfare.  And when that fails, as it will, then comes the subsistence farming.

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Democrats get Liberal Arts Degrees because there’s less Math Required

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 25th, 2011

Mathematically Challenged when it comes to the Stimulus

You know it’s pretty bad when they can’t project a spending amount correctly when they themselves determine the amount (see Stimulus price tag once again lurches higher by Stephen Dinan posted 5/25/2011 on The Washington Times).

Congress’s chief scorekeeper said Wednesday that the price tag on President Obama’s stimulus law has risen once again, this time to $830 billion — or more than $40 billion more than first projected…

When it passed, the stimulus was expected to cost $787 billion over 10 years, with most of that being front-loaded. But the CBO has regularly adjusted that cost — usually upward — and now says the 10-year price tag will be $830 billion. That’s a $9 billion jump from the last estimate in February.

When you say you’re going to give everyone quality yet affordable health care you know there are a lot of guesstimates in the proposed price tag.  No one knows what the future holds.  So you know that actual costs are going to exceed whatever they project.  Because they can’t even guess the number right when they set the number themselves.

Imagine the stimulus bill as your grandparent coming over and giving you $20 so you can go out and buy something.  The grandparent gives you one of his or her $20 bills.  When your grandparent goes home that day, he or she has $20 less.  He or she spent $20.  A week later that spending was still $20.  A year later that spending was still $20.

You’d think that if the government put $787 billion into a fund for stimulus spending that they’d spend that money until that $787 billion was gone.  Simple, yes?  Instead, they accidentally spent more than they said they would.  It’s like they’re taking a test from a school textbook.  Only they have a teacher’s edition.  With the answers next to the questions.  And they still get the answers wrong.  Doesn’t give you much confidence in their number crunching abilities.

Republican Sponsored Tax Cuts Stimulated the Clinton Years

But those in Washington were always a little fuzzy with their math.  When they crunch the economic numbers for the Nineties, they show how higher taxes spurred economic activity (see The Graph That All Tax Hike Mystics Need to Grapple With by Romina Boccia and Curtis Dubay posted 5/25/2011 on The Foundry).

Economic growth was so impressive in the latter half of the ’90s, in fact, that some claim the Clinton-era tax hikes spurred the economy to prosper…

The data tell a different story. Growth in the first half of the decade following the Clinton tax hike was clearly subpar, and real wages actually fell. The economy didn’t take off until later in the decade, and not coincidentally after a 1997 Republican-sponsored tax cut.

Remember that Clinton‘s first term wasn’t a very good one.  Though he campaigned as a moderate, he governed as a liberal.  Remember Hillarycare?  The secret meetings to take over and nationalized U.S. health care?  That didn’t go over well with the voters.  The Democrats lost the House of Representatives at the midterm election.  And it was the republicans that yanked him back to the center.  And pushed for tax cuts.

As the Heritage chart shows, a closer examination of the economic growth data during the Clinton era reveals a very different story than the one Ezra Klein and the CBPP told. Despite the unusually favorable economic environment during the period, the Clinton tax hikes likely dampened real output and real wage growth. Economic growth, measured as real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was a moderate 3.3 percent in the period from 1993 through 1996, and real wages actually fell for the entire period. In contrast, the 1997 tax cuts, which significantly lowered the capital gains tax rate, coincided with a period of strong business investment, strong real GDP growth at 4.4 percent, and strong real wage growth of 1.7 percent.

Before the Republican takeover of the House GDP did rise.  But real wages fell.  After the Republican takeover, both GDP and real wages rose.  Proving again tax cuts makes life better for the people.  Not tax increases.

The principles of economics still hold: If you make something more expensive, you get less of it. Taxes on capital and labor, ignoring all other factors, reduce economic and real wage growth. The real story of the Clinton-era tax changes is that the 1993 tax hikes resulted in slower economic growth than expected, while the 1997 tax relief unleashed economic and real wage growth—and a cottage industry of liberal history re-writes.

The numbers are all there.  Anyone can check them.  Just like the economic data from the Reagan years.  But the facts don’t help those who want to buy votes with continued spending.  So they rewrite history.  And belittle anyone who dares to disagree with them. 

Fuzzy, Pragmatic Math

When it comes to the economy, there are some like Raymond in Rain Man.  Brilliant people with their Ivy League degrees.  But put a dollar sign in front of something and they will inevitably get it wrong.  Like they did with the stimulus bill.  With Reaganomics.  With the Clinton years.  As they will get it wrong with Obamacare.  You see, their math has political ends. 

Their math is pragmatic.  It’s fuzzy.  So it can add up differently as needed.  In their world, the ends justify the means.  They want to raise taxes so they can spend and social engineer.  So the facts don’t mean what they appear to.  A low unemployment rate is too high under Reagan and Bush.  While a higher unemployment rate is not that bad under Obama.  A $200 billion deficit is too high under Reagan.  A $1.4 trillion deficit is not that bad under Obama.  And we can’t afford tax cuts for the ‘rich’ but we can afford to give everyone health care.  In short, anytime the flow of money increases from the people to Washington it’s a good thing.  Whenever that flow decreases it’s a bad thing.

That’s why getting the stimulus amount wrong doesn’t bother them.  Or that Obamacare will cost far more than they said it would.  Because both have or will increase the amount of money flowing from the people to Washington.  And that’s always a good thing in their pragmatic world.

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The Obama Budget: High Taxes, Reckless Spending and Lies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 18th, 2011

Is it how Much we Give or how Much we Could Give that Counts?

Imagine, if you would, two people standing in front of an orphanage.  There’s a donation box there.  And we can see these caring people actually count out their money before placing it in the donation box.  One counts out $20.  The other counts out $100.  Who is more generous?

Is this a trick question, you ask?  Well, yes, I guess it is.  You see, normal people, like you and me, are inclined to say the person donating the $100 is more generous.  I mean, $100 is more than $20.  $100 buys more than $20.  $100 will do more for orphans than $20.  So it sure looks like to us, the normal people, that the $100 donation is the more generous donation.  But that’s not the way government would see it.  For I left out one important piece of information.  I didn’t say how wealthy these people are.  So let’s do that now.  The $20 donation is from a UAW line worker.  The $100 donation is from a rich business owner.  Now who is more generous?

$100 will still buy more than the $20 for the orphans, but $100 is a smaller percentage of the business owner’s salary.  The $20 donation is a larger percentage of the UAW line worker’s salary.  So, people in government, and those on the Left, will say the $20 donation is the more generous donation.  Even though it will buy less for the orphans.

We Pay Tax Dollars, not Tax Rates

This is a big problem clouding the debate over ‘fair’ taxation.  Devious politicians point to tax rates and cry that the rich aren’t paying their fair share.  When, in fact, they are paying far more tax dollars than those less rich.  Even in an attack on these rich bastards shows this (see Only Little People Pay Taxes by Dave Gilson posted 4/18/2011 on Mother Jones).

Leona Helmsley’s distaste for paying taxes eventually landed her in federal prison. But the rich have little need to break the law to avoid the tax collector. As Martin A. Sullivan of Tax.com recently calculated, a New York janitor making slightly more than $33,000 a year pays an effective tax rate of nearly 25%. And the effective tax rate for a resident of the Park Avenue building named after Helmsley, earning an average of $1.2 million annually? A cool 14.7%.

And the chart following this shows the income and taxes of the Janitor and the millionaire.  And even though the millionaire pays only 14.7% in taxes, the actual tax dollars paid in income taxes is $159,515.  And how much did that janitor pay?  Just $3,168.  The cheap bastard, the millionaire, paid $156,347 more in income taxes.  That’s 4,935% more than the janitor paid in income taxes.  Yes, 14.7% is a smaller percentage than 25%, but there’s no math in the world that says the janitor paid more in income taxes than the millionaire.

There’s a difference between tax dollars and tax rates.  And tax rates don’t pay the bills.  Tax dollars do.  And the rich pay more of them by far.  Anyway saying otherwise is fostering class warfare for political purposes.  Because if it was about tax dollars to pay for federal spending, $159,515 pays for a lot more spending than $3,168. 

Low- and Middle-Income Families don’t Pay their Fair Share of Taxes

So if the rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes, who is?  And are there others, too, not paying their fair share?  Of course, that can’t be.  Because only the rich can get away with cheating the…  Hello, what’s this?  Low- and middle-income families aren’t paying any federal income taxes?  Really?  How can that be?  Wasn’t it the rich blankity blanks that were screwing the poor?  Not the other way around (see Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax by Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press Writer, posted 4/7/2011 on Yahoo! Finance)?

About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. That’s according to projections by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research organization…

In recent years, credits for low- and middle-income families have grown so much that a family of four making as much as $50,000 will owe no federal income tax for 2009, as long as there are two children younger than 17, according to a separate analysis by the consulting firm Deloitte Tax.

Really?  They’ve told us that people flipping burgers for minimum wage were poor, but even people earning $50,000 are poor?  No wonder we have so many people in poverty.

The result is a tax system that exempts almost half the country from paying for programs that benefit everyone, including national defense, public safety, infrastructure and education. It is a system in which the top 10 percent of earners — households making an average of $366,400 in 2006 — paid about 73 percent of the income taxes collected by the federal government.

The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment…

In 2007, about 38 percent of households paid no federal income tax, a figure that jumped to 49 percent in 2008, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center.

No wonder the Democrats win elections.  You know there are a lot of Democrats in that 49% not paying federal income taxes.  That makes the Democrats a modern day Robin Hood.  Stealing from the rich.  And giving to the low- and middle-income.  And when you’re on the receiving end of this bounty, you’re all for class warfare.  Screw the rich, you’ll shout.  Until, God forbid, you become rich.  Just ask Nicholas CageSinbadWesley Snipes.  Or Willie Nelson.  And anyone who won the lotto.  Or a car.  Who did not realize that their bounty came with a hefty tax obligation (there’s no tax withholding for these people.  They have to write a check for all the taxes they owe).  People are stunned to learn the amount of their money the government wants.  And that isn’t fair.  But before they were rich, that was a different story.  Then nothing was fairer than sticking it to the rich.

The Rich aren’t Rich Enough to Pay all our Taxes

If the poorest half of all Americans aren’t paying any taxes, then who, exactly, is?  I mean, if the rich aren’t paying their fair share and the poor aren’t paying anything, who does that leave (see Where the Tax Money Is posted 4/17/2011 on The Wall Street Journal)?

Consider the Internal Revenue Service’s income tax statistics for 2008, the latest year for which data are available. The top 1% of taxpayers—those with salaries, dividends and capital gains roughly above about $380,000—paid 38% of taxes. But assume that tax policy confiscated all the taxable income of all the “millionaires and billionaires” Mr. Obama singled out. That yields merely about $938 billion, which is sand on the beach amid the $4 trillion White House budget, a $1.65 trillion deficit, and spending at 25% as a share of the economy, a post-World War II record.

That’s funny.  I thought the rich weren’t paying their fair share.  And in 2008 the top 1% paid 38% of all taxes.  I don’t know, but 38% sounds like a lot more than the 0% paid by the poorest 50%.  So the rich are paying a lot.  Can they pay more?  Can they pay all of our taxes?  Well, even if you confiscate all of the top 1%’s income, no.  They can’t.  They simply aren’t rich enough.

Say we take it up to the top 10%, or everyone with income over $114,000, including joint filers. That’s five times Mr. Obama’s 2% promise. The IRS data are broken down at $100,000, yet taxing all income above that level throws up only $3.4 trillion. And remember, the top 10% already pay 69% of all total income taxes, while the top 5% pay more than all of the other 95%.

The richest 10% of all Americans, including everyone making $100,000 or more, won’t do it either.  At least, they can’t fund a $4 trillion budget.  Which means there’s no way no how you can pay for government by taxing the rich.  Even if you tax them at 100%.  You see, these rich simply aren’t rich enough.  You know who is, though?  The middle class.

So who else is there to tax? Well, in 2008, there was about $5.65 trillion in total taxable income from all individual taxpayers, and most of that came from middle income earners. The nearby chart shows the distribution, and the big hump in the center is where Democrats are inevitably headed for the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks.

This is politically risky, however, so Mr. Obama’s game has always been to pretend not to increase taxes for middle class voters while looking for sneaky ways to do it…

Keep in mind that the most expensive tax deductions, in terms of lost tax revenue, go mainly to the middle class. These include the deductions for state and local tax payments (especially property taxes), mortgage interest, employer-sponsored health insurance, 401(k) contributions and charitable donations. The irony is that even as Mr. Obama says he merely wants the rich to pay a little bit more, his proposals would make the tax code less progressive than it is today.

The $100-200 thousand earners are the largest group of earners in the country.  They may each make less than each of the top 1%, but their numbers are far greater.  And it adds up.  If you drop that low end to $50 thousand and the total pot of income is close to $3 trillion dollars.  That’s a lot of money to tax.  And a lot of tax deductions to disallow.  That’s the sweet spot.  The $50-200 thousand earners.  They’re just one plump, stuffed, cash piñata.  And oh how they want to whack it open.  But how to do it?  And blame the Republicans?  That is the question that faces them.

Only the Middle Class can Fund a $4 Trillion Budget

And you do this, of course, by lying.  In his speech to offer his ‘budget’ in a response to the Ryan budget, Obama said he would cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years.  How?  In part with $2 trillion in spending cuts.  Which aren’t exactly all spending cuts.  They’re actually tax increases.  You see, he sees tax breaks and credits as federal spending.  Because it costs government by not having that money collected as a tax.  So he will cut that ‘spending’.  By eliminating those tax breaks and credits.  Resulting in you paying higher taxes.  And that additional money the government is ‘taking back from you’ will lower the deficit.  Confused?  You should be.  This is about as devious as it gets.

And he also said he would save $1 trillion by not renewing the Bush tax cuts.  So that’s another $1 trillion in new taxes (see Obama’s $2 trillion stealth tax hike by James Pethokoukis posted 4/17/2011 on Reuters).

If you’re keeping score, what Obama is actually proposing is $1 trillion in new taxes on wealthier Americans (and small businesses) and $1 trillion in higher tax revenues by reducing tax breaks and subsidies for a total of $2 trillion in new taxes over 12 years. That means total debt reduction, not counting interest, would be $4 trillion, 50 percent of which would come from higher taxes. The econ team at Goldman Sachs ran a similar analysis and found that 56 percent of Obama savings over ten years could come from higher tax revenue.

So that’s $2 trillion in new taxes.  And where do you think that will come from?  Not the 1%, that’s for sure.  If you took all of their money it would only get you half way there.  To raise that kind of money, you have to go to the sweet spot.  The middle class.  Including those making far less than $200,000.  You have to tax everyone making $50,000 or more.  And take away their tax breaks and credits.  Where it will really hurt.  And be political suicide.  So why promise to do just that?  Simple.  He’s not. 

The Obama plan is a non-plan.  It’s just a political tool for the 2012 election.  To show that it is the Republicans that want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Not him.  He’ll say he fought like a dog to save these entitlements.  Because he cares for you.  Unlike those nasty mean Republicans.  And entitlement spending will continue to grow unchecked.  Making it that much harder to save these programs down the road.  But this is what politicians do.  Kick the can down the road.  For someone else to worry about.  For by that time, many of the Democrats will be dead.  And won’t care anymore.

It’s not the Taxes, Stupid.  It’s the Spending.

There’s a difference between tax rates and tax dollars.  And it’s the tax dollars that are important, not the tax rates.  The rich may have a lower effective tax rate but they pay an awful lot in tax dollars.  And as tax dollars go, they’re paying more than anyone else.  Far more than half of all Americans.  Who pay $0.00 in federal income taxes.  If anyone is screwing anyone, it’s the lower 50% screwing the top 10%.  And the top 10% probably wouldn’t mind so much if we weren’t constantly demonizing them despite their generosity.

When you can’t pay for your spending by taxing everyone making $100,000 or more at 100%, you’re spending too much.  This is a spending problem pure and simple.  It’s not that the rich aren’t paying their fair share in taxes.  They are.  And then some.  It’s that government is just trying to buy too many votes.  If there is any greed here it is in Washington.  Their spending is out of control.  Even Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service thinks so.  They just lowered our rating from “stable” to “negative” because of the “ballooning deficit.”   Because our out of control spending threatens our future ability to service our debt.

But the Democrats have other pressing concerns on their minds.  Like winning elections.  And you win elections by spending.  Not living within your means.  And if they play it just right, the day of reckoning will come conveniently in the future.  When they’re dead.  Problem solved.  For them, at least.  Their children and grand children?  Guess they just don’t care about them.

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A Government Shutdown over the Budget Debate would be Transparent, unlike this Current White House

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2011

It is interesting the doom and gloom the White House is warning us about a potential government shutdown.  But as they make their case, it seems less doom and gloom and more of a good thing.  The truth is most of us wouldn’t even notice it.  And we’d save a lot of money we don’t even need to spend (see White House says shutdown will delay pay to troops by Richard Lardner and Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press, posted 4/7/2011 on Yahoo! News).

The Obama administration warned Wednesday that a federal shutdown would undermine the economic recovery, delay pay to U.S. troops fighting in three wars, slow the processing of tax returns and limit small business loans and government-backed mortgages during peak home buying season.

No worries here.  There is no recovery.  At least nothing worth saving.  We’ll pay the troops.  This is more of a scare tactic to scare the military wives.  Some of us may have to wait longer to write a check to the IRS for our income tax.  Those who do I’m sure will manage.  Small business loans?  Government shouldn’t be making loans.  That’s why we have banks.  And government-backed mortgages?  Really?  Come on, it was the government-backed loans that got us in the mess we’re in.  The subprime mortgage crisis wouldn’t have happened if the government wasn’t backing loans in the first place.

The dire message, delivered two days before the federal government’s spending authority expires, appeared aimed at jolting congressional Republicans into a budget compromise.

To jolt the Republicans?  Compromise is a two-way street.  Why is always the Republicans who are stubborn?  Why isn’t the other side, the stubborn side, stubborn?  What happened to President Obama’s debt commission?  The Republican budget isn’t asking more than Obama’s highly esteemed debt commission that Obama has filed away in the round file.  For he never had any intentions of making any cuts.  Because Democrats don’t make cuts.  They just talk about them.  So people can see that they’re serious.  And when people lost interest, bang went the debt commission’s report into the trash.

As the talks continued, the White House sought to put the prospect of a shutdown in terms people would care about, warning even that the beloved National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in the nation’s capital would be wiped out. The Smithsonian Institution and national parks around the country would also be closed.

Life’s hard.  People are dying in genocide in Libya (according to the Obama administration).  If it’s not quite genocide then let’s call it civil war.  And there’s a lot of that going around.  In the grand scheme of things, missing the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade just doesn’t seem as great a disaster as wholesale death and destruction.

Under long-standing federal rules, agencies would not be affected that provide for U.S. national security, dispense most types of federal benefit payments, offer inpatient medical care or outpatient emergency care, ensure the safe use of food and drugs, manage air traffic, protect and monitor borders and coastlines, guard prisoners, conduct criminal investigations and law enforcement, oversee power distribution and oversee banks.

That sure sounds like we’ll be paying our soldiers.  They’re providing national security.  And if Libya is a vital national security interest, so are the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.  If we don’t pay our military it is nothing more than a cheap partisan trick to scare people into hating Republicans.  No, it seems like we’ll pay most of the ‘important’ things in the event of a shutdown.  Other than parks and Cherry Blossom Festivals.

Mail deliveries would continue in the event of a shutdown. U.S. postal operations are not subsidized by tax dollars.

Really?  Our tax dollars don’t subsidize the U.S. Postal Service?  That same postal service that hasn’t shown an operating profit since I don’t know when?  Really?  Since when?  But I digress.  The important thing is that the mail will keep coming during a shutdown.

According to the shutdown scenario described by the administration, the government would have to significantly cut staffing across the executive branch, including workers at the White House and civilian employees at the Defense Department; close to 800,000 workers would be affected. Congress and the federal court system will also be subject to a shutdown.

Good.  Make Thomas Jefferson happy.  Well, make his spirit happy.  Cut the executive branch.  It has grown way beyond what any of the Founding Fathers ever envisioned.  I doubt if Alexander Hamilton would even approve of its size today.  Though he would be pretty impressed with the power of the military, though.  But that’s a different story.  Let’s slash the executive branch for awhile and see if anyone notices.  If not, here’s a chance for some real budget cutting.  Let’s make these cuts permanent.

At the Pentagon, defense officials were finalizing plans that would lay out how the department would deal with a shutdown. But they already have acknowledged that U.S. military troops — including those in war zones — would receive one week’s pay instead of two in their next paycheck if the government were to close.

Military personnel at home and abroad would continue to earn pay, but they wouldn’t get paychecks until there was a budget agreement and government operations resumed.

Cheap partisan scare tactics.  Whenever a government can’t get the tax increases they want, they threaten the teachers, cops, firemen and, now, the military, in a childish tantrum.  Gimme want I want or I will cut the things that are important to you.  Those things that, if cut, puts you into peril.  How do you like that, hmmm?

What makes this worse is that they’ll enjoy not paying the military.  They don’t like them.  Never have.  In fact, they almost regret repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because it took away their go-to excuse to keep these people off of their Ivy League campuses.

Key national security responsibilities, including operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and earthquake assistance to Japan, would not be interrupted by a shutdown, the Pentagon said.

So are they paying them?  Or just making them work without a paycheck?  Maybe our soldiers should go on strike.  Like the teachers.  To prevent unfair treatment.  You have to admit being forced into combat operations without pay is worse than being asked to contribute another fewer percentage points to your own health care.  Of course, these aren’t the same.  The Obama administration would not stand by and allow teachers to suffer an outrage like paying for their own health care.  Soldiers in combat?  The hell with them.

Social Security payments would continue to be delivered, and applications for benefits would continue to be processed, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said.

Yes, they will sacrifice the soldiers.  And why not?  Most of them vote Republican.  But senior citizens?  Dependent on Social Security?  That’s another story.  Anyone dependent on the federal government votes to keep federal government big, i.e., they vote Democrat.  So the seniors get paid.  Always.  Unless the Republicans can be blamed.

Medicare would still pay medical claims for its 48 million recipients, who are mainly seniors but also several million younger people who are permanently disabled or have kidney failure. Payments to doctors, hospitals and other service providers could be delayed, however, should a shutdown continue for several months.

Sacrifice the soldiers (many of who vote Republicans).  Protect the seniors (many of who vote Democrat).

The Obama administration said the impact on the housing market would be more severe than in 1995, the last time there was a government shutdown. The Federal Housing Administration accounts for 30 percent of the mortgage market, nearly three times the amount 16 years ago.

And the greatest financial crisis ever (the subprime mortgage crisis) to hit the United States happened after the government backed three times as many mortgages than they did in 1995.  Having the government stop backing mortgages is a good thing.

The nation’s 15,700 air traffic controllers would keep working, as would many of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 6,100 technicians who install and maintain the equipment for the nation’s air traffic control system.

The planes will still fly in the event of a shutdown.

Operation of the International Space Station would be unaffected. NASA’s Mission Control in Houston would continue to work around the clock to keep watch.

Soldiers, no.  Astronauts, yes.  Even though the International Space Station is international.  With other nations ‘watching’ the station.  And our astronauts often catch a ride with the Russians on their Soyuz rockets.  So the space coalition could survive a few months easily without us.

Among other consequences cited by the administration:

_The Environmental Protection Agency would cease issuing permits and stop reviewing environmental impact statements, which would slow the approval of projects.

_Most government websites would not be updated, unless they were deemed essential.

_Federal courts would be unable to hear cases as clerks, stenographers, bailiffs, security guards and other employees would not be at work.

At most these are inconveniences.  Unlike the out of control spending that can “herald the end of the republic.”  As Benjamin Franklin warned us about when people learned they can vote themselves money.  And that’s where we are.  They’ve learned.  And have.  Franklin’s prophetic warning is about to play out if we don’t stop spending.  This is the choice.  Keep spending and end the republic.  Or make some serious cuts.

The Democrats have not presented a budget as called for in the Constitution since before the last election season.  Why?  It wouldn’t help them win any elections.  Further out of control spending would show them as irresponsible.  Responsible spending cuts would anger their voting base.  So they abdicated their constitutional responsibility.  They punted.  Now they’re trying to run out the clock with the Republicans on offense.  Positioning them to look like the bad guys.  No matter what happens.  Pain now (cuts).  Or greater pain later (no cuts).  It will be the Republicans’ fault.  Because they’re acting like the grownups here.  While the Democrats play their childish, partisan games.  And when the Democrats break the nation with their spending, like a child they’ll say it wasn’t them.   It was the big elephant in the room.  The big GOP elephant.

But what will the Democrats do if they win this showdown?  What will become of our country?  For if they don’t cut spending they will have to raise taxes.  But not by a little bit.  For the spending cuts proffered by the Republicans still aren’t large enough to solve the impending entitlement crisis.  So if there are no spending cuts the increase in taxes will have to be huge.  Bigger than the dollars in the current debate.  So big that they will truly undermine the anemic economic recovery underway.  Pulling the nation into a deeper recession.  So deep that we may never pull out without even more ‘draconian’ spending cuts.

In the grand scheme of things, a government shutdown is the least of our worries.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #53: “The essence of politics is taking from the many and giving to the few.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 15th, 2011

That Great Sucking Sound of our Money Leaving our Pockets

All right, here’s the dirty little secret about politics.  Most people enter politics for the money.  They can say whatever they want but when it comes to voting tax increases, guess what?  There are tax increases.  Always.  The amount of money transferring from the private to the public sector is always increasing.  Always.  Congress set up close to half of the federal budget to increase automatically.  That great sucking sound isn’t jobs going to Mexico.  It’s our money leaving our pockets.

Take a look at your check stub.  Compare gross pay to net pay.  Are these numbers almost the same?  Or is the difference closer to a car payment?  A house payment?  Depending on where you are in your career this difference on your weekly paycheck could pay for a nice car.  Add them up in a month and they could get you into that nice house in the good school district.  This is a lot of money.  Ask your grandparents what was the difference between gross pay and net pay on their paychecks.  You’ll probably be surprised.  Because, back then, net pay was very nearly gross pay.

Today, nobody gives gross pay a second thought.  We talk about what we ‘net’.  Because we’re just used to it.  You see, the government (federal, state and local) didn’t just start taking hundreds of dollars out of our paychecks.  It was incremental.  Over a long period of time.  Sometimes coming to pennies a day.  Hard to see.  And just not enough to bitch about.  We may see tens of dollars of our gross pay taxed away over a decade or two.  But we typically make more over that same time.  Again, in the great scheme of things, these are small incremental changes.  Just not big enough for a great number of people to bitch about.

Incrementalism, Progressive Tax Rates and the Withholding Tax

That’s the power of incrementalism.  Baby steps.  Little by little.  Big growth over time.  Like watching grass grow.  You don’t see it grow.  Then one day you have to cut it.  And so it is with taxes.  One day you look at your check stub and realize how much you’re paying in taxes.  You may have never realized you were paying so much.  A progressive tax system keeps the tax burden on the young who don’t make a lot money yet low.  So they don’t see it at first.  And keep voting Democrat.  Not because they want to pay higher taxes.  But because the higher taxes haven’t impacted their lives yet.  When they do start paying more in taxes, that’s when some of them start voting Republican.

So taxes creep up on us.  We don’t see them all that clearly at first because of progressive tax rates.  And the fact we pay them before we see them.  Via the withholding tax.  Which provided the greatest advancement in the collection of confiscatory taxes.  For without it there would be tax revolts when April 15th rolled around and people didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars sitting in their checking accounts to pay their taxes.  I mean, what’s easier?  Getting us to pay our taxes with money we never saw?  Or paying our taxes after having that money in our hands first?  Funny thing about earnings.  Once we have the cash in hand we don’t give it up lightly.

That’s why the government introduced withholding taxes.  It makes getting our money from us easier.  And allows them to raise our taxes ever higher.  Because we pay those taxes with gross pay.  Pay we never get.  In our real world, gross pay is a myth.  It doesn’t exist.  Our earnings only become real at net pay.  Sad.  But true.  So they can increase our taxes a lot more than if we were paying them in full in April.  And do.

Pandering and Patronage

Yeah, but America is a center-right country.  And liberal Democrats on the left are the ones who want to keep increasing our taxes to pay for their Big Government programs.  So how can they?  When America is a center-right country.  I mean, if it’s a minority of Americans that want to raise our taxes to grow government, how do they get the votes to increase our taxes in the first place?

By pandering.  Buying votes.  And patronage.  The power to tax provides near-limitless money for politicians to spend.  The trick is in the getting and giving amounts of money.  You tax the many.  And give to the few.  You tax a hundred dollars or so from each paycheck.  And give hundreds of thousands of dollars to those who can help you win election.  That’s how the tax and spend people win elections.  They give money to small groups in exchange for their vote.  Or legislate favorable legislation for them.  Or put someone from that group in the government itself in an oversight position of the industry there’re in.

A small group by itself can’t make a big difference at the polls.  But you get enough of them, they can.  Luckily for the tax and spenders, a lot of these small groups can be found in the political center.  Which helps pull some of that ‘center-right’ to the left.  And this is how the difference between gross pay and net pay continues to grow larger.  These ‘swing votes’ may pay more in taxes, too, but the special privileges they receive from the government more than makes up for it.

The Little Programs Add Up

We pay a lot in taxes.  And yet you don’t hear too many people complain about it.  Why?  The progressive tax rate plays a role in this.  There are more poor people than rich.  So fewer people pay taxes.  And the withholding tax helps, too.  Because most of us don’t even pay attention to what we’re paying.  But what really helps government is the number of taxpayers.  The total amount of taxes each taxpayer pays can ‘appear’ small.  And the amount each taxpayer pays for a specific program can appear smaller still.  This can get a lot of people to ‘support’ these little programs.  Simply by their passive lack of opposition.

For example, heating assistance for the poor is not a very big part of the budget.  And it doesn’t take much out of your paycheck.  You feel for the poor who can’t pay for heat.  You want to help.  So there isn’t a lot of political action against this program.  It’s like those commercials where you can save a child in Africa for the price of a cup of coffee.  I mean, who wouldn’t feel guilty for refusing to buy one less cup of coffee to save a life?  It’s an effective tactic.  Making people feel guilty for being so greedy that they are unwilling to drink one less cup of coffee.  And no one wants to be seen as this greedy.

But the little programs add up.  You start out by sacrificing a cup of coffee.  But when each of these little programs costs you a cup of coffee, they can add up to a dinner.  A movie.  A night on the town.  A new car.  And they do.  That’s why a lot of people can’t live in the school districts they want to.  Because of the aggregate of all of these little programs.  But we never look at the aggregate.  It’s always one program at a time.  To make the taxpayer feel guilty for their greed.  To break down their will to oppose cuts.  To go along with further tax increases.  And a lot of us do.  Which makes that gap between gross pay and net pay grow ever larger.

Taxpayers and Tax Consumers

But things are changing.  And it’s causing a problem.  The baby boomers are beginning to retire.  They’ll soon be using Medicare.  And collecting Social Security.  So the number of taxpayers will go down.  While the number of tax consumers will go up.  And that changes everything.  The fewer taxpayers will have to pay a larger amount of taxes to support these entitlements as well as all of those little programs.  And this will make it a lot harder to hide these taxes.  To make them appear small.  More people will have to go with less to pay these taxes.  Even those who once did all right during periods of high taxation will have to go with less.  Because more people will be consuming Medicare and Social Security benefits.  And it’ll be political suicide to cut these programs.  Leaving little choice but to cut some of the little programs.  Which will give the patrons of Big Government little incentive to support tax and spend any longer.  Because they’ll see more taxing.  And less spending.  On themselves.

Politics as usual will not work as well as it once did.  Because they will not be able to hide the cost of Big Government any longer.  They won’t be taking from the many to give to the few anymore.  They’ll be taking from the few to give to the many.  Which can’t be anything but a recipe for disaster.

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