Greece is cutting their Goods and Service Tax (GST) to replace the Lost Economic Activity the High GST Caused

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 3rd, 2013

Week in Review

There are few things more enjoyable than going out to a nice restaurant.  Where you and your significant other can enjoy a fine meal.  And some adult beverages.  A couple of cocktails each before dinner.  A couple of glasses of wine each with dinner.  Then dessert and coffee after dinner.  It doesn’t get better than this.  But it can get costly.  Especially when there is a 23% GST (see Greece slashes restaurant taxes by Alanna Petroff posted 8/2/2013 on CNNMoney).

This week, the Greek government slashed the restaurant sales tax on food and drink across the country, making it cheaper for everyone to go out and grab a meal.

The restaurant sales tax, which was 23%, has been cut down to 13%…

It’s expected that the break will cost the government €100 million in lost tax revenue in the short term, but will ultimately benefit the country in the long run as it boosts tourism spending and encourages restaurant owners to declare more of their revenue to the government.

They acknowledge that a high GST tax (goods and service tax) rate discourages people from going out.  But the notion that cutting a tax rate will cost the government is a foolish Keynesian notion that must be done away with.  For example, let’s look at the numbers for the above noted dinner out.  If each entree is €8, each cocktail/glass of wine is €5, each dessert is €5 and each coffee is €2 the total for a dinner out is €70.  Add in the 23% GST (€16.10) brings the total up to €86.10.  That’s a lot of money.  So let’s say we can only do this twice a week.

The best part of going out is relaxing over adult beverages.  Which is often the largest part of the bill.  In our example, we drink a total of 16 adult beverages in those two dinner outs (and walk home/back to the hotel or take a taxi as we shouldn’t drive anywhere after enjoying 4 adult beverages during a meal).  Our total GST comes to €32.20.  Equivalent to the cost of 6.4 adult beverages.  In other words, the GST makes us pay for 6.4 adult beverages that we’re not allowed to drink.  So our 2 nights out we pay for 22.4 adult beverages but can only drink 16 of them.  If we went out 4 nights a week we’d pay for 44.9 adult beverages but could only drink 32 of them.  Or drink about 71.3% of what we paid for.  Which would limit our evenings out.  Now let’s look at what happens when the GST is only 13%.

The GST for our 2 nights out only costs us 3.6 adult beverages.  Not 6.4.  Which isn’t too bad.  So we are more willing to eat out.  If we go out 4 nights a week that GST now only costs us 7.3 adult beverages.  In other words, we pay for 39.3 adult beverages while getting to drink 32 of them.  Or about 82%.  Which would encourage us to go out more than before.

So with the high GST rate we may go out only twice a week and pay €32.2 in GST taxes.  But at the lower GST rate we may go out 4 times a week and pay €36.40 in GST taxes.  A 4.2% increase.  And because the lower tax rate is getting people to go out the restaurant owner doesn’t have to cheat the government out of the tax to get people into the restaurant.  If the tax rate is reasonable people will pay it and the owner will pass it on to the government.

This is something Keynesians don’t understand.  They see only loss tax revenue with a cut in tax rates.  Not the additional economic activity those lower tax rates will generate.  Which is why Keynesians have horrible economic records.  Like President Obama.  And the Eurozone nations.  While people who understand classical economics have good economic records.  Like Ronald Reagan.  And Margaret Thatcher.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Rich People, Lying Politicians, Capitalism and World Peace

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 1st, 2013

Politics 101

Rich People are Cash Piñatas for Governments at all Levels to Whack Open

Politicians lie.  It’s no secret.  But because they tell people what they want to hear, the people often like these politicians that lie.  And vote for them.  Which is why politicians lie in the first place.  To trick people into voting for them.  For there is no other reason to lie during a political campaign.  For that is the one and only thing they’re trying to do.  Win.  And you win by getting as many people voting for you as possible.  But you don’t win by saying the current welfare state is unsustainable.  No.  You win by expanding the welfare state.  And taxing the rich to pay for it.

Of course, when people complain about higher tax rates politicians immediately call them greedy.  Rich selfish people who don’t want to pay their fair share.  Though these selfish rich people pay the lion’s share of all tax revenue.  Governments love having these rich people in their tax base.  From sales tax to property tax to income tax, rich people are cash piñatas for governments at all levels to whack open. To fund their public sector pensions and retiree health care benefits.  New York City LOVES having Wall Street and all those rich people in their city.  Because they pour dump-trucks of money into city coffers.

Yet these are the same people government officials demonized as being greedy and unwilling to pay their fair share.  And call them unpatriotic if they threaten to leave their high-tax locale.  Because when a few of the top 1% earners leave millions of tax revenue leaves with them.  Whereas if a few of the bottom 50% leave only a few thousand of tax revenue leaves with them.  Not even enough to notice.  No.  Rich people are a government’s best friend.  Yet governments treat them like pariahs.  And lie about them not paying their fair share.  Demonize them to gain political points.  And to trick people into voting for them.  Because their lies make it sound like they care.

There was a whole lot of Killing going on in the Americas before the Europeans first Stepped Foot in the Americas

But it’s just not politicians that lie.  Most of those on the left lie, too.  Our public school teachers, our university professors and the mainstream media lie, too.  To help the political left gain and maintain their power.  Kids today grow up learning that the greatest economic system in the world, capitalism, is the worst economic system in the world.  These educators and the mainstream media brainwash our kids.  Telling our kids that capitalism is bad.  And government intervention in the free market is good.  Like in socialism and communism.  Where they put people before profits.  And yet the mass of immigration has and always will be from nations that favor socialism and communism to nations that favor capitalism.

To help further this lie that the system that made America great is bad they teach these kids that America is not great.  Because of capitalism.  Which put profits before people.  That this nation was founded by rich white men for rich white men.  Despite this country of, and for, rich white men being the destination of choice for the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free who left their wretched and capitalism-free shores to come to America.  It was greedy white Europeans who came to America.  Whole stole this land from the Native Americans.  And then brutally waged war against these peace-loving people.  Who were anything but.

The Native Americans were hunters and gatherers.  They didn’t raise cattle.  They traveled great distances to find and hunt buffalo.  Hunters and gatherers need huge tracts of land.  Unlike farmers who can make a small plot of land productive.  Which created a permanent state of war in the Americas.  For when these tribes bumped into each other trying to hunt the same food they fought each other.  That’s why they called the most esteemed Indians ‘warriors’.  Those who proved their courage in battle.  By killing brave warriors in other tribes.  There was a whole lot of killing going on in the Americas.  Both in battle.  And in human sacrifice.  The Pawnee practiced child sacrifice in North America.  To please their gods.  As did the Aztecs.  Who killed people wholesale on their pyramids in Central Mexico.  And the Inca.  Who drugged their children with coca leaves and alcohol before taking them to a mountain top.  Where they then strangled them to death.  Killed them with blunt force trauma to the head.  Or simply left them to die of exposure.  And all of this was happening before those greedy white Europeans first stepped foot in the Americas.

The History of the World is one of Brutal Military Conquest and State Oppression

Those on the left blame Islamist terrorism on America.  And their imperialist ways.  Often citing the 1953 Iranian coup d’état as the prime mover.  A coup executed by the British with American help.  Why?  It’s a complicated story.  The British found oil in Iran.  The British needed this oil to fuel their war machine during two world wars.  As did their ally during World War II.  The Soviet Union.  Iranian oil fueled the Red Army.  And Iran provided a corridor for American supplies to reach the Red Army.  After the war the Allies began pulling out of Iran.  But not the Soviets.  Who liked that oil.  And wanted to keep it.  Not to mention having a warm water port for their navy.  And it wasn’t the first time the Russians came south looking to take Iranian land.  The deals the Iranians made with the British before the war were in part to check the Russian advance into their lands.  The Soviet interest in Iran was what got the British to convince the Americans to join them in their coup.  For the Cold War was on and the Soviets were already in Eastern Europe.  They tried extending into Greece and Turkey but failed.  And here they were testing the waters in Iran.

The British suffered through two world wars.  She lost her empire in the first one.  And nearly lost their existence in the second one.  But they held on.  Poland, Norway, the Low Countries and France fell.  Leaving the British alone.  Until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor bringing the Americans into the war.  And the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.  Allowing the British to go onto the offensive.  Thanks to the Royal Navy.  And the sea lanes they kept open to Iran.  Allowing the free flow of oil that defeated Nazi Germany.  Oil that they invested a fortune to get.  Which brings us back to the coup.  The Iranians wanted a bigger slice of the oil profits pie.  The British refused.  Because the war had devastated their economy.  And they were struggling to rebuild.  Without ceding any ground to the new threat in town.  The Soviet Union.  So the British weren’t feeling particularly generous with the profits on that Iranian oil.  So the Iranians started whispering the dreaded ‘N’ word.  Nationalization.  One thing led to another and, well, the British put an end to all of the nationalization talk.

It may have not been a nice thing that the British and the Americans did to the Iranians.  But there’s been a lot of that going on throughout history.  A history of brutal military conquest.  And brutal state oppression.  Sumer was one of the first great civilizations.  But it’s not here anymore.  Having been replaced by the Assyrian and the Babylonian empires.  Which were replaced by the Persian Empire (Persia is present day Iran).  Which was conquered by the Greek Empire.  Which was displaced by the Roman Empire.  Which was replaced by the Byzantine Empire.  Which fell to the Ottoman Empire.  Which fell to the Allied Powers in World War I.  Which brought the British into Palestine.  Thanks to the League of Nations.  Which also called for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  The seed of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Arab nationalism.  And the Soviet Union allying with the Arab nations against the United States and Israel.  Fomenting anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.  To help the Soviets win the Cold War.

Geopolitics is complicated.  And brutal.  Where war, oppression, slavery, genocide, human sacrifice, etc., were the norm throughout history.  Where there were but brief periods of peace.  Like the Pax Romana.  About 2 centuries of world peace under the Roman Empire.  The Pax Britannica.  About a century of world peace under the capitalist British Empire.  And the Pax Americana.  A period of world peace following World War II thanks to capitalist America’s role as a superpower.  Where they used that super power for good far more than it was used for bad.   But our schools teach our kids that Britain and the United States are just nations founded by rich white men for rich white men.  While the Native Americans and the Muslims that conquered countless people to build empires are the true peace-loving people.  And gloss over the parts of world conquest.  And human sacrifice.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

Decriminalize Marijuana and the Kids will Smoke more and Eventually Vote Democrat

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 28th, 2013

Week in Review

Teenagers typically vote Democrat.  In part because of the liberal bias in our public schools.  And in our colleges.  As well as in the mainstream media.  In Hollywood.  In television.  And the music industry.  These things do a lot to shape the way our kids think.  But there is another reason why our kids become Democrat voters.  Because it is the left that is handing out free birth control.  While their parents say ‘no’ the left says ‘go ahead.  Have fun.’  And then there is the push by the left to decriminalize marijuana.  Something else these kids’ parents say ‘no’ to.  While the left says ‘go ahead.  Have fun.’  Even if it may be harmful to them.  For what’s a few burnt brain cells in exchange for the youth vote (see Pot’s march toward mainstream by Alicia A. Caldwell And Nancy Benac, The Associated Press, posted 7/27/2013 on The Vancouver Sun)?

It is a moment in the U.S. that is rife with contradictions: People are looking more kindly on marijuana even as science reveals more about the drug’s potential dangers, particularly for young people…

Exploration of the potential medical benefit is limited by high U.S. government hurdles to research. Washington policy-makers seem reluctant to deal with any of it.

So we know it’s bad for the children.  But we really don’t know how bad.  For it is the only medicine (medical marijuana) ever allowed without proving the drug through clinical trials.  To make sure the drug works.  And it doesn’t cause irrevocable harm.  No pharmaceutical is allowed this luxury when bringing a new drug to market.  And we know how dangerous cigarettes and alcohol are.  But not marijuana.  No.  That drug we just accept on faith that it will cure us.  Besides just giving us a great high.

Opponents of pot are particularly worried that legalization will result in increased use by young people.

“There’s no real win on this from a political perspective,” says Sabet. “Do you want to be the president that stops a popular cause, especially a cause that’s popular within your own party? Or do you want to be the president that enables youth drug use that will have ramifications down the road?”

If anyone legalizes it will be the left.  Who are always attacking the right for hating children whenever they say we can’t afford to spend any more money.  But smoking pot harms kids.  And the left is okay with that.

“Having a regulated system is the only way to ensure that we’re not ceding control of this popular substance to the criminal market and to black marketeers,” says Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group for legal pot businesses in the U.S. See Change Research, which analyzes the marijuana business, has estimated the national U.S. market for medical marijuana alone at $1.7 billion for 2011 and has projected it could reach $8.9 billion in five years. Overall, marijuana users spend tens of billions of dollars a year on pot, experts believe…

In Washington state, the Liquor Control Board is drawing up rules covering everything from how plants will be grown to how many stores will be allowed. It expects to issue licences for growers and processors in December, and impose 25 per cent taxes three times over – when pot is grown, processed and sold to consumers…

Marijuana advocates in Washington state…have projected the legal pot market could bring the state a half-billion a year in revenue…

Decriminalizing marijuana will make it easier for kids to smoke it.  Because it’s easier to get things that are only illegal for people under a legal age.  As opposed to being completely illegal.  Kids aren’t legally allowed to smoke cigarettes but they do.  In fact, it is fair to say kids smoke more cigarettes than marijuana.  Because cigarettes aren’t completely illegal.  They’re only illegal for kids.

So cities suffering under the crushing costs of their public sectors are looking at a windfall of tax revenue by decriminalizing marijuana.  And don’t seem to have a problem of people spending more of their money on getting high instead of saving for their retirement.  Paying for their kids’ education.  Or putting food on the table.  It was the same thing when cities scrambled to legalize gambling.  Because they wanted the tax revenue.  Despite people gambling away money that they should have spent on their family.  No doubt these cities would be disappointed if more kids didn’t start smoking marijuana.  So that when they grew into adults they would already have a healthy drug habit the city could tax.  To help pay for the crushing costs of their public sectors.

Of course, the states and cities will never see those rosy projections of tax revenue.  Because when they “impose 25 per cent taxes three times over” they will raise the price of legal marijuana so much that it will benefit, not hurt, the black market for marijuana.  Even if the black market price is below the official taxed price.  Why?  Because people smuggling cigarettes from a low-tax state to a high-tax state don’t do the time drug dealers do when caught.  Encouraging more people to sell a legal substance illegally.  To cheat the state out of that tax revenue.  And pot smokers, especially the kids, will turn to the black market for their pot.  Where it will be even more readily available when the growing, transporting and selling of marijuana is no longer illegal.  Like cigarettes.  Which kids have no problem buying.

California steps back California’s experience with medical marijuana offers a window into pitfalls that can come with wider availability of pot.

Dispensaries for medical marijuana have proliferated in the state, and regulation has been lax, prompting a number of cities in the state to ban dispensaries…

In May, the California Supreme Court ruled that cities and counties can ban medical marijuana dispensaries.

A few weeks later, Los Angeles voters approved a ballot measure that limits the number of pot shops in the city to 135, down from an estimated high of about 1,000. By contrast, whitepages. com lists 112 Starbucks in the city…

In 2010, California voters opted against legalizing marijuana for recreational use, drawing the line at medical use.

But Jeffrey Dunn, a Southern California lawyer who has represented cities in pot cases, says that in reality the state’s dispensaries have been operating so loosely that already “it’s really all-access.”

“What we’ve learned is, it is very difficult if not impossible to regulate these facilities,” he said.

The people may have voted for marijuana in California.  But the people didn’t like living in a Cheech and Chong movie surrounded by stoners.  And seeing a pot shop every time they turned around.  Which is the last thing a parent wants.  To have it so much easier for their kids to smoke pot.  Or eat it.

A Denver-area hospital, for example, saw children getting sick after eating treats and other foods made with marijuana in the two years after a 2009 federal policy change led to a surge in medical marijuana use, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics in May. In the preceding four years, the hospital had no such cases.

The Colorado Education Department reported a sharp rise in drugrelated suspensions and expulsions after medical marijuana took off.

“What we’re doing is not working,” says Dr. Christian Thurstone, a psychiatrist whose Denver youth substance abuse treatment centre has seen referrals for marijuana double since September. In addition, he sees young people becoming increasingly reluctant to be treated, arguing that it can’t be bad for them if it’s legal.

You decriminalize marijuana and, of course, kids will see that as an admission from the state that smoking pot can’t be bad for you.  So more kids use the drug.  Ending up in the hospital.  Getting suspended or expelled from school.  Or in drug rehab for a pot addiction.  But the left is okay with this.  Because, after all, it is the right that hates kids.  Whereas the left is the cool uncle that will let their niece and/or nephew smoke a joint.  Which is why the kids love the left.  They are always helping them do things their parents won’t let them do.

Legalization foes Opponents counter with a 2012 study finding that regular use of marijuana during teen years can lead to a long-term drop in IQ, and another study indicating marijuana use can induce and exacerbate psychotic illness in susceptible people. They question the notion that regulating pot will bring in big money, saying revenue estimates are grossly exaggerated…

They warn that baby boomers who draw on their own innocuous experiences with pot are overlooking the much higher potency of today’s marijuana.

In 2009, concentrations of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot, averaged close to 10 per cent in marijuana, compared with about four per cent in the 1980s, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

So the left will sacrifice our children for money.  So they can pay for those costly public sectors breaking their budgets.  They won’t take on the public sector unions.  But they will sacrifice our kids.  Because kids don’t pay taxes.  Or vote.  Yet.  But when they do they hope they will remember their cool uncle when in the voting booth.

The baby boomers, who filled the theaters watching Cheech and Chong movies, look back to their days of pot smoking with nostalgia.  Thinking they turned out all right.  And so will the younger generation.  As they anxiously wait for the decriminalization of marijuana so they can buy more.  And smoke more.  Loving the high potency of the new stuff.  Not at all like the stuff they grew up smoking.  Which still fried their brains.  Providing a head start to what dementia will do to them as they reach their golden years.

Kids will on average start smoking at an earlier age.  More of them will smoke because if it’s legal it can’t be bad for you.  And they will be smoking a more potent marijuana than their parents smoked.  Accelerating the damage pot smoking will do to them compared to what it did to their parents.  But the left is okay with that.  Because it is the right that hates the children.  Not the cool uncle.  At least that’s how the youth vote will see it.  Which is all that matters to the left.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

The City of Detroit Bankruptcy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2013

Economics 101

There is nothing more Dangerous to a City’s Finances than a Shrinking Tax Base

The federal debt is at record levels.  Because federal spending is at record levels.  But those on the left say there’s nothing to worry about.  And try to expand federal spending further.  With more government benefits to hand out to the people.  And an ever growing federal bureaucracy.  Full of new jobs with generous pay and benefits.  All funded by the taxpayer.

Businesses in the private sector cannot operate like this.  Because businesses have to pay their costs with the things and/or services they sell.  That people willingly buy.  So there is a limit on the costs a business can incur.  But not so with government.  For the government has the power to tax.  To forcibly take more money from the people against their will.  Something businesses just can’t do.  And when that fails they can borrow money by issuing bonds.  Which are generally easy to sell.  Because governments have the power to tax.  All but guaranteeing that they will repay those bonds.  And when that’s not enough the federal government has one other benefit businesses don’t have.  They can print money.  Further guaranteeing that they will be able to redeem their bonds.  Making them that much easier to sell.

Government below the federal level, though, doesn’t have that last option.  So when they want to spend more money than they have they have no choice but to borrow.  And hope that their tax base doesn’t erode over time.  For there is nothing more dangerous to a city’s finances than a shrinking tax base.  Especially when the city has a huge and growing public sector.  Enjoying generous pay and benefits.  Especially pension and health care benefits for retirees.  Where promises made must be kept decades into the future.  During which time a lot of things can happen.  Such as that tax base shrinking.

Detroit’s Tax Base plummeted while the Size of the Public Sector did not for Government Never grows Smaller

This is the problem the City of Detroit has.  And it is why they filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.  Thanks to the automotive industry and World War II destroying most of the industrial economies of the world, Detroit became an economic power house.  And one of America’s grandest cities in the 1950s.  Paris of the Midwest they called Detroit.  Automotive capital of the world.  The Motor City.  The mecca of American manufacturing.  Having one of the richest middle class.  And one of the largest black middle classes.  Everyone was doing well in Detroit.  So the City of Detroit did the only rational thing a city could do with a swelling tax base.  They exploded the public sector.  All paid for with higher taxes.  Including a new city income tax.

But that growing public sector soon turned Detroit into a business unfriendly city.  With more red tape, regulatory costs and a corporate income tax.  And rising union demands during contract negotiations made it even less business friendly.  So businesses started leaving the city.  Taking their jobs with them.  And people followed.  Then the race riots hit in 1967.  Five days of unprecedented violence.  Thus beginning the great white flight from the city.  And the great population decline of the City of Detroit.  Culminating in the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in history.

At Detroit’s peak her population topped out at about 1.8 million people.  Today there are but 680,000 people remaining.  A loss of 1.12 million people.  About 62% of her peak population.  So Detroit’s tax base plummeted.  But the size of the public sector didn’t.  For government never grows smaller.  So Detroit continued on with the overhead expenses of a city with a population of 1.8 million people.  With the tax revenue of a city with a population of 680,000 people.  Making bankruptcy inevitable.

The Problems of the City of Detroit are the Problems of the Nation Writ Large

At the height of Detroit’s industrial might there were approximately 300,000 automotive or manufacturing jobs in the city.  Today there are a mere 27,000.  That’s a loss of 273,000 jobs.  That’s 273,000 breadwinners whose families are no longer in the city.  If each of them had on average 2.5 children who remained in the city with their parents that would have added about 1.2 million to the city’s population.  Which corresponds pretty closely to the 1.12 million the city actually lost.  So we can see how the loss of the jobs devastated the population.  But we can also see what it did to the city’s finances.

Let’s assume these breadwinners had their children when they were in their 20s.  So the breadwinner was still in the workforce when their children were 20 and had entered the workforce.  Let’s say this happened over a 40-year period.  So, on average during that 40-year period, there were an additional 136,500 jobs per year.  Let’s say they each owned a house and paid property tax of $750.  Over 40 years that’s about $4.1 billion in lost property tax revenue.  If each of these workers earned $35,000 on average over those 40 years and paid a 3% city income tax that’s about $9.8 billion in lost personal income tax revenue.  Finally, if we figure a 50-50 split between labor and material, a 15% overhead and a 2% net profit we can extrapolate that $35,000 average personal income into approximately $448 billion in lost corporate revenue over those 40 years.  At a city corporate income tax rate of 2% that’s about $9 billion in lost corporate income tax revenue.  Adding these all together we see a total loss of tax revenue to the city of approximately $18.8 billion due to the loss of 273,000 jobs.  Plus or minus.

This is a crude guesstimate with an emphasis on crude but it could be close enough to explain what happened in Detroit.  For with the falling tax base Detroit turned to borrowing more and more money to pay for an oversized public sector.  To service a disappearing population.  With those pension and retiree health care benefits being especially burdensome.  Which forced the city to borrow so much it left them with a debt of $18.5 billion (very close to the $18.8 billion in our little exercise above) that they don’t have a chance in hell of ever repaying.  Leaving bankruptcy as the only option.  Unless the federal government steps in.  Which probably won’t happen.  And shouldn’t happen.  For Detroit is not the only government suffering under the weight of unfunded pension obligations and retiree health care benefits.  If they bail out Detroit then they’ll have to bail out all other states and municipalities.  Which they can’t afford to do.  For the federal government has its own problems with pensions (Social Security) and retiree health care benefits (Medicare).  And they’ve just added a new government benefit that will dwarf the costs of Social Security and Medicare.  Obamacare.  All while burdening the economy with a slew of anti-business regulations that has chased jobs out of the economy.  And out of the country.

So the federal government can’t step in to save Detroit.  For the federal government is working to ‘out Detroit’ Detroit.  As the problems of Detroit are the problems of the nation writ large.  What’s happening in Detroit will happen in other states and cities across the country.  That are spending more money than they have to support an oversized public sector.  And in time what’s happening in Detroit will happen to the federal government.  Bailing out these states and cities will only hasten the downfall of the federal government.  Which the federal government will do whatever it can to prevent.  For while the nation can survive a city like Detroit going bankrupt the nation cannot survive a federal bankruptcy.  Because the numbers are just too big at the federal level.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

Aging Populations and Replacement Birthrate

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 8th, 2013

Economics 101

Trying to follow a Baby Boom with a Baby Bust creates Problems in Advanced Economies with Large Welfare States

In the late 1960s began a movement for zero population growth.  It called for women to have only enough babies to replace the current population.  Not to have too many babies that would increase the population.  Nor have too few babies that the population declines.  Something that women could easily do because of birth control.  And, later, abortion.  The drive behind this was to save the planet.  By keeping large populations becoming like a plague of locusts that devour the earth’s resources and food until the planet can no longer sustain life.

China did these zero population growth people better.  By promoting a negative population growth rate.  Limiting parents to one child.  They did this because during the days of Mao’s China the country set some world records for famine.  Their communist state simply couldn’t provide for her people.  So to help their communist system avoid future famines they tried to limit the number of mouths they had to feed.  Of course, trying to follow a baby boom with a baby bust creates other problems.  Especially in advanced economies with large welfare states.

China’s one-child policy and the preference for boys have led to a shortage of women to marry.  Some Chinese men are even looking at ‘mail-order’ brides from surrounding countries.  But China is going to have an even greater problem caring for her elderly.  Just like Japan.  Japanese couples are having less than 1.5 babies per couple.  Meaning that each successive generation will be smaller than the preceding generation.  As couples aren’t even having enough children to replace themselves when they die.  Leaving the eldest generation the largest percentage of the overall population.  Being paid and cared for by the smallest percentage of the overall population.  The younger generation.

States with Aging Populations are Suffering Debt Crises because they Spend More than their Tax Revenue can Cover

As nations develop advanced economies people develop careers.  Moving from one well-paid job to another.  As they advance in their career.  Creating a lot of income to tax.  Allowing a large welfare state.  Which is similar to a Ponzi scheme.  Or pyramid scheme.  As long as more people are entering the workforce than leaving it their income taxes can pay for the small group at the top of the pyramid that leaves the workforce and begins consuming pension and health care benefits in their retirement.  And there is but one requirement of a successful pyramid scheme.  The base of the pyramid must expand greater than the tip of the pyramid.  The wider the base is relative to the top the more successive the pyramid scheme.  As we can see here.

Babies per Generation - Constant Replacement Birthrate

Generation 1 is at the top of the pyramid.  It is the oldest generation.  Which we approximate as a period of 20 years.  In our example Generation 1 are people aged 78-98.  They’re retired and collecting pension, health care and other benefits.  Some combination of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, heating assistance, etc.  All paid for by Generation 2 (58-78), Generation 3 (38-58) and Generation 4 (18-38).  Each generation is assumed to bring 6 children into the world.  So these couples are not only replacing themselves but adding an additional 4 children to further increase the size of the population.  Which really makes running a pyramid scheme easy.  For if we assume each member in Generation 1 on average consumes $35,000 annually in benefits that Generations 2 through 4 pay for that comes to $555.56 per person annually.  Or $46.30 per person monthly.  Or $10.68 per person weekly.  Or $1.53 per person daily.  Amounts so small that Generations 2 through 4 can easily pay for Generation 1’s retirement.  Now let’s look at the impact of a declining birthrate with each successive generation.

Babies per Generation - Declining Replacement Birthrate

When all couples in each generation were having on average 6 children this added 1.9 billion new taxpayers.  Which greatly reduced each taxpayer’s share of Generation 1’s retirement costs.  But thanks to birth control, abortion and the growing cost of living each successive generation has fewer babies.  Generation 2 only has 3 children.  Enough to replace themselves.  And add one new taxpayer.  Generation 3 has only 2 children.  Only enough to replace the parents.  Providing that zero population growth that was all the rage during the late 1960s and the 1970s.  While Generation 4 only has 1 child.  Not even enough to replace the parents when they die.  Causing a negative population growth rate.  Which is a big problem in an advanced economy with a large welfare state.  For instead of adding 1.9 billion new taxpayers they only add 217.5 million new taxpayers.  Greatly increasing each taxpayer’s share of Generation 1’s retirement costs.  Instead of paying $555.56 per taxpayer they each have to pay $5,384.62 annually.  Or $448.72 per taxpayer monthly.  Or $103.55 per taxpayer weekly.  Or $14.79 per taxpayer daily.  Numbers that prove to be unsustainable.  The state simply cannot tax people this much for Generation 1’s retirement.  For if they did this and added it to the rest of government’s spending they’re taxing us to fund it would take away all of our income.  This is why advanced economies with aging populations are suffering debt crises.  Because their spending has grown so far beyond their ability to pay for it with tax revenue that they borrow massive amounts of money to finance it.

If you want a Generous Welfare State you need Parents to have More Children

If you carry this out two more generations so every generation only has one child the per taxpayer amount tops out at $14,736.84 annually.  Or $1,228.07 per taxpayer monthly.  Or $283.40 per taxpayer weekly.  Or $40.49 per taxpayer daily.  Amounts far too great for most taxpayers to pay.  This is what an aging population does in a country with a large welfare state.  It makes the population top-heavy in elderly people who no longer work (i.e., pay taxes) but consume the lion’s share of state benefits.  When couples were having 6 children each across the generations there was a ratio of 84 taxpayers per retiree.  When there was a declining replacement birthrate that ratio fell to 15 taxpayers per retiree.  If we look at this graphically we can see the pyramid shape of this generational population.

Generational Population - Constant Replacement Birthrate

With 84 taxpayers per retiree we can see a nice and wide base to the pyramid.  While the tip of the pyramid is only a small sliver of the base (Generation 4).  Making for a successful Ponzi scheme.  Far more people pay into the scheme.  While only a tiny few take money out of the scheme.  This is why Social Security and Medicare didn’t have any solvency problems until after birth control and abortion.  For these gave us a declining replacement birthrate over time.  Greatly shrinking the base of the pyramid.  Which made the tip no longer a small sliver of the base.  But much closer in size to the base.  That if it was an actual pyramid sitting on the ground it wouldn’t take much to push it over.  Unlike the above pyramid.  That we could never push over.  Which is why the above Ponzi scheme would probably never fail.  While the one below will definitely fail.

Generational Population - Declining Replacement Birthrate

If you want a generous welfare state where the state provides pensions, health care, housing and food allowances, etc., you need parents to have more children.  For the more children they have the more future taxpayers there will be.  Or you at least need a constant replacement birthrate.  But if that rate is below the rate of a prior baby boom the welfare state will be unsustainable UNLESS they slash spending.  The United States has a replacement birthrate below the rate of a prior baby boom.  While the Obama administration has exploded the size of welfare state.  Especially with the addition of Obamacare.  Making our Ponzi scheme more like the second chart.  As we currently have approximately 1.75 taxpayers supporting each social security recipient.  Meaning that it won’t take much pushing to topple our pyramid. We’re at the point where a slight breeze may do the trick.  For it will topple.  It’s just a matter of time.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

The Public Sector and the Tax Base

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 3rd, 2013

Economics 101

All Government Bureaucracies Grow Bigger and Pay their People Very Well

Big cities throughout the United States are suffering financially.  They are drowning under the costs of their public sector employees.  For when the Great Recession hit tax revenues fell.  People lost jobs and paid less income taxes.  People out of work spent less in the local stores causing a fall in sales taxes.  People drove less and paid less gas taxes.  Home values plummeted, reducing property taxes.  Tax revenue fell at all levels of government.  Leaving the big cities unable to pay their bills.  With less help from the governments above them.  While their infrastructures crumbled.  And they struggled to furnish basic city services.

Governments don’t make anything.  They just have people doing things.  So there are little economies of scale.  Just a lot of people.  The public sector includes every worker in the city paid by tax revenue.  The mayor, city council, school teachers, police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors, boiler operators, electricians, janitors, building inspectors, meter readers, bus drivers, etc.   And all the civil servants and bureaucrats that push paper.  Requiring a huge payroll.  And lots of benefits.  In a large city with a population of 1.5 million those costs can look like this:

Public Sector Costs 1

All government bureaucracies have two things in common.  They always grow bigger.  And pay their people very well.  So the above table has three columns.  Showing the growth of the public sector.  (Assuming a constant population to simplify our math).  From 1% of the city population to 2% then to 3%.  So the number of city employees goes from 15,000 to 30,000 to 45,000.  By the time you add in pay, holiday pay, vacation pay, sick days and health insurance the active employee costs are huge.  Going from $1 billion to $2 billion to $3 billion.  Today it is not uncommon for a big city with a population of 1.5 million to have 45,000 public sector workers.  So we will build on that figure.  And add in retiree costs.

As City’s Population Declines so does its Tax Base

Another big perk of working in the public sector are the great pensions.  Something that has long since disappeared in the private sector.  While most of us have to put money away in a 401(k) public sector workers can count on a generous pension during a long retirement.  Perhaps getting as much as 80% of their base pay.  Plus they keep their health insurance.  Which is unlike the health insurance most of us get in the private sector.  For it covers everything.  With few co-pays.  And only the best name-brand pharmaceutical prescriptions.  This is why people want to work in the public sector.  And why they want to retire from the public sector.  Because no one else pays as well.

Public Sector Costs 2

Public sector workers retire long before their counterparts in the private sector.  Allowing them to live a long retirement.  And because they live so long into retirement the city ends up paying for almost as many retirees as they do active workers.  Putting great cost pressures on these cities as more of their workers retire.  Within as few as 2 decades the cost of retired workers can go from $648 million to $1.9 billion.   When we add this cost to the cost of their active workers we get the total cost of the public sector.

Public Sector Costs 3

As time passes and more people retire from the public sector we can see how the cost of the public sector (active and retired) rises from $3.7 billion to $4.4 billion to $5 billion.  Which, of course, the people living in the city have to pay.  The taxpayers.  They pay income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and a variety of other taxes and fees.  Who by the time the number of retirees reach 40,500 must pay $3,336 per year.  Or $278 per month.  Or $64.15 per week.  Or $9.16 each day.  Just to get a true feel of how much this is do the following exercise.  Each day take a $10 bill out of your wallet or purse and throw it away.  This will approximate the cost of the public sector you pay for.  Until the people start leaving the city.  And as the population declines so does the tax base.  Requiring each person to pay a larger share of the public sector cost.

To pay for an Expanding Government you need a Growing Population

If a city starts losing population it doesn’t reduce the need to pay the bloated public sector.  Both active and retired.  So the fewer people remaining in the city have to pay a larger share of the public sector cost.  Because the public sector union isn’t going to allow the city to lay off any workers.  So it’s up to the taxpayers.  But as the population shrinks it becomes more painful to do.

Public Sector Costs 4

By the time the population falls to 500,000 the amount of taxes a person must pay to support the public sector amounts to a house payment.  Or $192.46 per week.  Or $27.49 each day.  Can you imagine taking three $10 bills out of your wallet or purse every day just to throw them away?  Probably not.  Because no one would.  Cities just can’t keep increasing the tax burden on their people.  For there is a limit.  And when a city reaches it they start borrowing.  Which is how cities go into debt.  And flirt with bankruptcy.  Because of these bloated public sectors.  That grew when the cities grew.  But they didn’t shrink as their populations shrank.

We have ignored corporations in our exercise.  Which increase the tax base.  But we have also excluded additional costs.  Buildings, vehicles, equipment, housing assistance, food assistance, fuel for city vehicles, car insurance, property insurance, liability insurance, lawsuits, etc.  If we factor these things in the numbers will only look worse.  As the cost of the active and retired workers increases there’s less money to pay for the basic city services.  So they deteriorate.  Which when added to the higher taxes chase even more people out of the city.  Reducing the tax base further.  Leaving even less money for the basic city services.

When the population declines so does the city.  As the public sector workers consume a greater percentage of the shrinking tax base cities suffer increasing urban decay.  As there is little money for anything but the public sector workers and their benefits.  For when it comes to paying for government population is key.  You need a growing population to pay for expanding government.  To spread the costs of a bloated public sector over as many people as possible.  And you can’t do that with a declining population.  Which is why big cities flirt with bankruptcy during bad economic times.  For they can pay for their bloated public sectors only during the best of economic times.  And only during the best of economic times.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

Preventing Future IRS Scandals is as Easy as Changing the Tax Code

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 30th, 2013

Politics 101

The Tea Party was the Driving Force in returning the House of Representatives to the Republicans

The IRS is very powerful.  It can seize your property.  It can throw you in jail.  It can ruin your life.  There is no other arm of the government honest people fear more.  Because it is so powerful.  America did away with debtor’s prison.  Because it was inhuman to jail a person over a debt.  Unless you owe it to the federal government.  Then all of that compassion goes out of the window.

The recent scandal of the IRS targeting conservative groups is especially chilling.  For the Tea Party was the driving force in returning the House of Representatives to the Republicans.  Infuriating the Democrats.  As well as the Obama administration.  When President Obama ran for reelection in 2012 he had little to run on.  The economy was horrible.  No one was talking about Obamacare because the majority of Americans don’t want it.  It was so bad that the Democrat president had to highlight his single national security achievement—killing Osama bin Laden—while ignoring his domestic policy achievement.  Obamacare.

Then Benghazi threatened to ruin everything.  An attack on an American mission that killed four Americans.  Including a serving ambassador.  Making matters worse was that it was an al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group that was responsible for it.  This did not play well with the campaign message.  ‘Osama bin Laden is dead.  And General Motors is alive.’  President Obama had already won the War on Terror.  So he couldn’t have a terrorist attack during his reelection campaign.  So they hit the Sunday morning talk shows and said there was an anti-Muslim video on YouTube that created a spontaneous uprising.  Where average Libyans on the street then pulled out rocket propelled grenades and mortar launchers from their back pockets.  And launched a military assault on the American mission.

The IRS silenced the Tea Party during the 2012 Election by Harassing them and their Donors

You don’t hear much about the YouTube video anymore.  During the 2012 reelection campaign, though, both the president and the secretary of state pushed it hot and heavy.  Even apologized for it in a video to play in Pakistan.  And arresting the obscure filmmaker on some other charge.  And it worked.  Benghazi faded into the background.  Despite the Obama administration denying the American ambassador additional security.  And issuing a stand-down order for forces that could have gone to help the Americans under attack.  This order coming about 7 hours BEFORE the last two Americans died.  To this day we don’t know who gave that stand-down order.  And we don’t know where the president was when all of this was unfolding in Libya.

But it worked.  The misinformation spun from the White House won the president a second term.  And people started talking about what the Republicans had to do to start appealing to women and Hispanics.  For the early postmortem said that was why the Republicans lost.  They turned off women and Hispanics.  But something was wrong with that conclusion.  Because the conservative base didn’t turn out on Election Day.  That’s why the Republicans lost.  To explain that some said the problem was that Mitt Romney wasn’t a true conservative.  And he turned off true conservatives.  But that doesn’t make sense, either.  Because Romney may not have been the most conservative Republican to run for president but next to President Obama the man was practically Ronald Reagan.  There had to be some other reason why conservatives didn’t turn out like they did in the 2010 midterm elections that returned the House to the Republicans.

That was the million dollar question.  What happened to the Tea Party?  Who were so instrumental in turning out conservatives to vote in the 2010 midterm elections.  It’s as if they sat out the 2012 election.  For we didn’t hear their voice like we heard it in 2010.  And now we have a plausible explanation for that.  The IRS.  They delayed and made it so difficult to get their 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status that some just gave up trying.  Finding themselves and their donors getting IRS audits both for their businesses and their personal returns.  As well as other arms of the federal government auditing them from the Department of Labor to the EPA.

Everyone wins with a more Simplified Tax Code except those in Power who use it to Attack their Political Enemies

Did the White House coordinate this?  We don’t know.  Yet.  The IRS commissioner visited the White House 151 times.  While his predecessor visited the Bush White House about 1 time.  So that looks suspicious.  And silencing the Tea Party did help the president win reelection.  For silencing the Tea Party sure didn’t help Mitt Romney.  So it looks probable that the Obama administration used the nonpartisan IRS to attack their political enemies.  As they were determined not to suffer another Tea Party uprising like that which lost them the House of Representatives in 2010.  Right now the circumstantial evidence is pretty damning.

This is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind.  That was the point of limited government.  So it didn’t have this kind of power over people it perceived as political enemies.  And the source of this power is the complex and convoluted tax code.  That serves those in power better than the people they serve.  Allowing them to reward friends and punish their enemies.  One would almost have to believe the reason why the current administration ran the deficit up to record highs is to further empower the IRS.  By creating the need for ever more tax revenue.  And the need for more strenuous collection efforts.  Not to mention using the tax code to facilitate a permanent state of class warfare.  For the government needs this complex and convoluted tax code to make sure the rich pay their fair share.  As well as using it to reward their friends.  And punish their enemies.

So perhaps it’s time to revamp the tax code.  Some are talking about it.  As they always do.  But there is so much resistance because of the power the tax code gives those in power.  And those in power quickly shoot down any talk about a flat tax or a national sales tax as being unfair.  Regressive.  Hitting low-income earners harder than the rich.  But perhaps this is exactly what we need.  So everyone feels the pinch of the taxman.  So people won’t be so quick to give the taxman more powers.  Because a lot of low-income people don’t stay low-income.  And one of the quickest ways of raising low-income earners out of poverty is with a better and stronger economy.  And there is one thing that does that better than anything else in the world.  Low tax rates.  So let’s take a look at different tax plans for a married couple filing jointly.

Federal Taxes Current Brackets Flat Tax National Sales Tax

(For the national sales tax we assumed everything above a certain savings rate is spent somewhere in the economy.  Those who earn more can save more.  In our example the saving rates are 1%, 8%, 15%, 20%, 25% and 30 %.)

Those earning only $15,000 will pay more under a flat tax or a national sales tax.  But the IRS becomes far less intrusive and far less powerful.  Because it will be so much simpler.  Giving honest people less to fear about.  And giving those in power less power to attack their political enemies.  Making it harder for them to cheat during elections.

Also, lower tax rates will bring money sheltered outside of the country back home. Which those rich people will invest here.  To get even richer.  And probably end up paying more taxes than they were before.  Because they won’t have any need to shelter it.  While all the new jobs they create will increase tax revenue further.  Because there will be more people working and paying taxes.  So everyone will win with a more simplified tax code.  Except, of course, those in power who use the tax code to attack their political enemies.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

Big Box Stores going after Mom and Pop Stores again, this time on the Internet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 12th, 2013

Week in Review

The big box stores put Mom & Pop stores out of business everywhere.  Mom and Pop cried foul.  But the big box stores told them to cry them a river.  This is business.  If you want to play with the big boys then you have to figure out how to stay in business selling at the big boys’ prices.  Which Mom and Pop never could do.  Not with the big box stores’ purchasing power.  And their big box stores and warehouses that can house massive inventories.  When Mom and Pop could only buy a handful of stuff at a time.  Quantities so small they got the worse pricing from their suppliers.  Who could care less if they stopped buying from them.  Because it was the big box stores that kept the suppliers in business.

So the big box stores had a mighty advantage over Mom and Pop.  Some would even say it was unfair.  Even causing people to protest the opening of another big box store in their neighborhoods.  To protect the Mom and Pop stores.  For the people knew the moment a better deal was available they’d leave Mom and Pop and flock to the big box stores.  Where they could get real value for their hard-earned money.  And now the shoe is on the other foot.  And Mom and Pop have found a way to beat the big box stores.  Who are now crying foul (see You’re probably a tax cheat! Even if online stores don’t charge it, you’re supposed to pay it and new law will try to force you by AP Reporter posted 5/5/2013 on the Daily Mail).

Few taxpayers know they’re expected to pay sales tax on online purchases, so a new law likely to pass in Congress Monday will help states force retailers to pay up, thus forcing the retailer to charge its customers tax…

Supporters say the bill is about fairness for local businesses that already collect sales taxes, and lost revenue for states…

Supporters say the bill makes it relatively easy for Internet retailers to comply. States must provide free computer software to help retailers calculate sales taxes, based on where shoppers live. States also must establish a single entity to receive Internet sales tax revenue, so retailers don’t have to send them to individual counties or cities…

‘Complying and living under the tax laws of 50 states is a major undertaking because the process of complying with tax law goes far beyond just filling out the right forms,’ said Brian Bieron, eBay’s senior director of global public policy. ‘You have to deal with the fact that all of these government agencies can audit you and can question you and can actually take you into court and sue you if they think you are doing something wrong.’

Not charging sales tax does not give Mom and Pop an advantage over the big box stores.  It’s not having a brick and mortar store that gives them the advantage.  And not much of a one at that.  For unlike the big box stores everything Mom and Pop sell over the Internet includes something the big box stores don’t.  Postage and handling.  Which can be greater than the sales tax the big box stores adds to their sales.

As far as lost tax revenue for the states?  It is not as bad as they claim.  For instead of sales tax cities and states are generating fuel taxes on the fuel the delivery trucks consume.  They’re generating payroll and income taxes from the delivery truck drivers, the package sorters, the mechanics keeping the trucks on the road, etc.  In addition to the taxes these workers pay they spend what they keep.  Spending it in the local economy.  Where they even take their wages into those big box stores.  Purchase something.  And pay sales tax.

This is real economic activity that Internet sales drive.  Which DOES create a lot of tax revenue in these states.  So this isn’t as much about an unfair tax advantage Internet retailers are getting away with.  It’s about the big box stores who just don’t like the shoe being on the other foot.  So they hope to destroy that competition by putting Mom and Pop under an additional 49 (or more when adding in cities and counties that charge sales tax) tax jurisdictions.  Which will just suck the life out of dear Mom and Pop.  Again.

And it’s a chance for government to suck more wealth out of the private sector to pay for their bloated public sector.  Who are drowning under the weight of their costly public sector union contracts that they will grab any tax they can.  Leaving the taxpayers with less money in their pockets.  Which is why they turned to the Internet in the first place.  To get as much value as they can from their rapidly shrinking paychecks.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

FT167: “When we lived more austerely there was no need for painful austerity to cure a bloated government.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 26th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

Wise Men in Governments can Do Anything but Pay for their Nanny States

Economics changed in the early Twentieth Century.  America once again had a central bank.  Progressives were expanding the role of government.  And a new economist entered the scene that the progressives just loved.  For he was a macroeconomist who said government should have an active role in the economy.  A role where government tweaked the economy to make it better.  Stronger.  While avoiding the painful corrections on the downside of a business cycle.  Something laissez-faire capitalism caused.  And could not prevent.  But if wise men in government had the power to tweak the private sector economy they could.  At least this is what the progressives and Keynesian economists thought.

That economist was, of course, John Maynard Keynes.  Who rewrote the book on economics.  And what really excited the progressives was the chapter on spending an economy out of a recession.  Now there were two ways to increase spending in an economy.  You can cut tax rates so consumers have bigger paychecks.  Or the government can spend money that they borrow or print.  The former doesn’t need any government intervention into the private sector economy.  While the latter requires those wise men in government to reach deep into that economy.  Guess which way governments choose to increase spending.  Here’s a hint.  It ain’t the one where they just sit on the sidelines.

Governments changed in the Twentieth Century.  Socialism swept through Europe.  And left social democracies in its wake.  Not quite socialism.  But pretty close.  It was the rise of the nanny state.  Cradle to grave government benefits.  A lot of free stuff.  Including pensions.  Health care.  College educations.  And a lot of government jobs in ever expanding government bureaucracies.  Where wise men in government made everything better for the people living in these nanny states.  And armed with their new Keynesian economic policies there was nothing they couldn’t do.  Except pay for their nanny states.

According to John Maynard Keynes raising Tax Rates reduces New Economic Activity

The problem with a nanny state is things change.  People have fewer babies.  Health care and medicines improve.  Increasing lifespans.  You put this together and you get an aging population.  The death knell of a nanny state.  For when those wise men in government set up all of those generous government benefits they assumed things would continue the way they were.  People would continue to have the same amount of babies.  And we would continue to die just about the time we retired.  Giving us an expanding population of new workers entering the workforce.  While fewer people left the workforce and quickly died.  So the tax base would grow.  And always be larger than those consuming those taxes.  In other words, a Ponzi scheme.

But then change came.  With the Sixties came birth control and abortion.  And we all of a sudden started having fewer babies.  While at the same time advances in medicine was increasing our lifespans.  Which flipped the pyramid upside down.  Fewer people were entering the workforce than were leaving it.  And those leaving it were living a lot longer into retirement.  Consuming record amounts of tax money.  More than the tax base could provide.  Leading to deficit spending.  And growing national debt.

Now remember those two ways to increase spending in the economy?  You either cut tax rates.  Or the government borrows and spends.  So if cutting tax rates will generate new economic activity (i.e., new spending in the economy) what will a tax increase do?  It will decrease spending in the economy.  And reduce new economic activity.  Which caused a problem for these nanny states with aging populations.  As the price tag on their nanny state benefits eventually grew greater than their tax revenue’s ability to pay for it.  So they increased tax rates.  Which reduced economic activity.  And with less economic activity to tax their increase in tax rates actually decreased tax revenue.  Forcing them to run greater deficits.  Which added to their national debts.  Increasing the interest they paid on their debt.  Which left less money to pay for those generous benefits.

President Obama’s Non-Defense Spending caused a Huge Spike in the National Debt not seen since World War II

It’s a vicious cycle.  And eventually you reach a tipping point.  As debts grow larger some start to question the ability of a government to ever repay their debt.  Making it risky to loan them any more money.  Which forces these countries with huge debts to pay higher interest rates on their government bonds.  Which leaves less money to pay for those generous benefits.  While their populations continue to age.  Taking you to that tipping point.  Like many countries in the Eurozone who could no longer borrow money to pay for their nanny states.  Who had to turn to the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund for emergency loans.  Which did provide those emergency loans.  Under the condition that they cut spending.  Money in exchange for austerity.  Something that just galls those Keynesian economists.  For despite all of their financial woes coming from having too much debt they still believe these governments should spend their way out of their recessions.  And never mind about the deficits.  Or their burgeoning debts.

But these Keynesians are missing a very important and obvious point.  The problem these nations have is due to their inability to borrow money.  Which means they would NOT have a problem if they didn’t need to borrow money.  So austerity will work.  Because it will decrease the amount of money they need to borrow.  Allowing their tax revenue to pay for their spending needs.  Without excessive tax rates that reduce economic activity.  Making the nanny state the source of all their problems.  For had these nations never became social democracies in the first place they never would have had crushing debt levels that cause sovereign debt crises.  But they did.  And their populations aged.  Making it a matter of time before their Ponzi schemes failed.  Something no nation with a growing nanny state and an aging population can avoid.  Even the United States.  Who kept true to their limited government roots for about 100 years.   Then came the progressives.  The central bank.  And Keynesian economics.  Putting the Americans on the same path as the Europeans (see US Federal Debt As Percent Of GDP).

Debt as Percent of GDP and Wars R2

With the end of the Revolutionary War they diligently paid down their war debt.  Which was pretty much the entire federal debt then.  As the federal government was as limited as it could get.  Then came the War of 1812 and the debt grew.  After the war it fell to virtually nothing.  Then it soared to pay for the Civil War.  Which changed the country.  The country was bigger.  Connected by a transcontinental railroad.  And other internal improvements.  Which prevented the debt from falling back down to pre-war levels.  Then it shot up to pay for World War I.  After WWI the Roaring Twenties replaced progressivism and quickly brought the debt down again.  Then Herbert Hoover brought back progressivism and killed the Roaring Twenties.  FDR turned a bad recession into the Great Depression.  By following all of that Keynesian advice to spend the nation out of recession.  From the man himself.  Keynes.  The massive deficit spending of the New Deal raised the debt higher than it was during World War I.  Changing the country again.  Introducing a state pension.  Social Security.  A Ponzi scheme that would struggle once the population started aging.

Then came World War II and the federal debt soared to its highest levels.  After the war a long decline in the debt followed.  At the end of that decline was the Vietnam War.  And LBJ’s Great Society.  Which arrested the fall in the debt.  Its lowest point since the Great Depression.  Which was about as large as the debt during the Civil War and World War I.  Showing the growth in non-defense spending.  Then came Reagan’s surge in defense spending to win the Cold War.  Once the Americans won the Cold War the debt began to fall again.  Until the Islamist terrorist attacks on 9/11.  Halting the fall in the debt as the War on Terror replaced the Cold War.  Then came the Great Recession.  And President Obama.  Whose non-defense spending caused a huge spike in the national debt.  Taking it to a level not seen since World War II.  When an entire world was at war.  But this debt is not from defense spending.  It’s from an expanded nanny state.  As President Obama takes America into the direction of European socialism.  And unsustainable spending.  Which can end in only but one way.  Austerity.  Painful austerity.  Not like the discomfort of the sequester cuts that only were cuts in the rate of future growth.  But real cuts.  Like in Greece.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

The Roaring Twenties and the Stock Market Crash of 1929

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 23rd, 2013

History 101

The Roaring Twenties gave us the Modern World and one of the Greatest Economic Booms in History

When the steam engine hit the American farm it increased farm production.  By mechanizing the farm fewer farmers could farm more land.  Allowing American farmers to produce bumper crops.  Creating a boom in farm exports.  Especially during World War I.  As Europeans farmers exchanged their plows for rifles Europe had no one to grow their food.  So even though the mechanization of the American farm caused crop prices to fall the increase in sales volume brought in more farm revenue.  Life was good for the American farmer.  For businesses manufacturing all of that mechanized farm equipment.  And the banks making loans to farmers so they could mechanize their farms.

The1920 presidential election pitted a progressive Democrat against a conservative Republican.  The progressive promised to raise tax rates to pay down the war debt.  Andrew Mellon, Warren Harding’s treasury secretary, found that high tax rates were counterproductive.  They actually reduced tax revenue.  As wealthy people invested their money out of the country to avoid high tax rates.  So when Harding won the election they cut tax rates.  With no need to shelter their income the wealthy invested their money in the United States.  Pouring their money into the domestic economy caused great economic activity.  Great returns on investment.  And great income tax revenue.  The wealthy paid almost three times as much in tax revenue.  While the tax burden on the poor fell.  And the national debt fell by one third.

Harding died in office but Calvin Coolidge continued his policies.  He slashed government spending along with those tax cuts.  Pulling the government out of the private sector economy.  And the private sector economy responded.  Creating a lot of jobs.  Unemployment fell to as low as 2%.  And living standards soared.  For everyone.  Not just those in the unions.  In fact, this general rise in living standards weakened the unions.  For you didn’t need to belong to a union to live well.  It was the beginning of the modern world.  Brought about by a burst of innovation and manufacturing that lasted 8 years.  One of the greatest economic booms in history.  Henry Ford’s moving assembly line made the car affordable for the working man.  Auto registrations rose from 9 million in 1921 to 23 million by 1929.  An increase of 156%.  And keeping pace with the auto manufacturers were their suppliers.  Metal, steel, paint, lumber, leather, cotton, glass, rubber, etc.  And especially the oil industry.  That made lubricating oils and greases.  And the gasoline that powered all of these cars.  With so many jobs per capita income increased from $522 in 1921 to $716 in 1929.  An increase of 37%.  With people earning more home ownership soared.  And this boom in economic activity didn’t end there.

Herbert Hoover thought Government could better Manage the Economy than Messy Laissez-Faire Free Market Forces

Electric utilities were bringing the new electric power to industrial users and private homes during the Twenties.  Industry was using 300% more electric power than they were in 1899.  And it changed home life.  As electric clothes irons, vacuum cleaners, clothes washers, toasters and refrigerators became common household items by the end of the Twenties.  Households that had a telephone increased by 51% during the Twenties.  People were watching movies.  And saw the first talkies in the Twenties.  The radio also became a household fixture with some 7.5 million radio sets sold by 1928.   The economy was booming.  The middle class was expanding.  Consumer prices fell due to increases in productivity giving people more disposable income than they ever had before.  Causing an increase in consumer spending.  Allowing 1 in 5 Americans to own a car.  And increasing the number of people who could afford to fly from 40,000 in 1920 to 417,000 in 1930.  An increase of 943%.  So Americans were buying a lot.  But they were also saving a lot.  And investing.  Some 28% of American families owned stock.  Something once the exclusive privilege of the rich.  Wage earners were even buying life insurance policies to provide for their families in the event of their death.  Things were happening in the United States during the Twenties.  And the innovation and economic tsunami coming out of America had those in Europe worried.  So worried that they were discussing forming a United States of Europe to compete with the American system.

But all was not good.  During the Twenties those Europeans traded their rifles back for plows.  Reducing the export market for American farmers.  And when European governments threw up tariffs on America farm goods that export market disappeared.  Putting great surpluses into the American market.  Causing crop prices to fall further.  Crashing farm incomes.  Making some farmers unable to service their debt for all of that mechanized equipment they financed.  And when they defaulted on their loans en masse banks in the farming regions failed.  And when they did the money supply contracted.  The Federal Reserve made no effort to stop this contraction.  Which had a cooling effect.  Tapping the breaks on an expanding economy.

Coolidge chose not to run for a second term.  His successor, Herbert Hoover, was a progressive Republican.  And was everything Coolidge was not.  Hoover favored a big government perfecting the country.  He was a professional bureaucrat.  He loved bureaucracies.  And he loved paperwork and forms.  Which he wanted to bury private business in.  He thought the government could manage the economy better than messy laissez-faire free market forces.  Those very forces that created the Roaring Twenties.  He wanted to partner government with business.  With the emphasis on government.  (As president he increased the size of the Commerce Department and deepened its reach into the private sector economy.)

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff caused Investors to Dump their Stocks causing the Stock Market Crash of 1929

The Federal Reserve misjudged the stock market.  They thought it was nothing but speculation.  Citing radio maker RCA’s stock price’s meteoric rise.  So the Fed tapped the breaks further to cool this ‘speculative’ fervor.  Further contracting the money supply.  But this wasn’t speculation.  The rate of growth in radio sales actually was greater than the rate of growth in the stock price.  Making it more likely that the stock was undervalued.  Not overvalued.  But the Fed went ahead and contracted the money supply anyway.  Making it difficult for business to get funding for continued growth.  Despite there still being people out there who hadn’t bought a car, a house, electric appliances or a radio yet.  And wanted to.

In 1929 a new tariff bill was moving through Congressional committees.  The Smoot-Hawley Tariff.  Which would raise taxes on imports by up to 30%.  Which would greatly increase the cost of business.  Because most if not all of American manufacturing used some imported raw materials.  Which would increase their selling prices.  Making them less competitive.  Worse, if the U.S. slapped tariffs on imports it was certain their trading partners would respond with some retaliatory tariffs.  Which would just shut down their export markets.  Much like those tariffs shut down the export markets for American farmers.  Then in the autumn of 1929 the Smoot-Hawley Tariff passed critical votes in committee.  Sending the tariff bill on its way to becoming law.  This was not good news for investors.

It was all too much.  The coming expansion of government regulation over the private sector economy.  Higher taxes to pay for this bigger government.  The contraction of the money supply.  And then the Smoot-Hawley Tariff.  Investors could read the writing on the wall.  None of this would be good for business.  It would just smother the economic growth of the Twenties.  For if you increase businesses’ costs and decrease their markets you will slash their profits.  Which will reduce the value of these companies.  And reduce the value of their stock prices.  As investors live by the adage of “buy low, sell high” they’d want to sell those stocks fast before the Smoot-Hawley Tariff sent their prices into a tailspin.  Which they did.  Causing a great selloff starting in October.  That led to the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

Now contrast that with a true speculative bubble.  The dot-com bubble.  Where investors poured money into these dot-com companies eager to find the next Microsoft.  Aided and abetted by the Federal Reserve that was keeping interest rates artificially low.  To encourage all sorts of investment.  Including ones driven by irrational exuberance.  So investors were bidding those stock prices into the stratosphere.  For companies that had no profits.  For companies that didn’t have a product or service to sell.  But these investors were looking with great anticipation at their future profits.  Even though they really didn’t understand the Internet.  They just knew that computers were involved.  Which is what made Microsoft rich.  Producing software to run on computers.  And every investor was sure their dot-com was going to produce something to run on computers.  Making that company rich.  And their investors.  But when the start-up capital ran out there were no earnings to replace it.  And the speculative bubble burst beginning on March 11, 2000.  And those highly overvalued stock prices began to fall back to earth.  With the tech-laden NASDAQ losing 78% of its value before it was all over.  Now THAT is a speculative bubble that the Federal Reserve should have tried to prevent.  Not the economic boom of the Twenties where companies were building real things that real people were buying.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

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

« Previous Entries   Next Entries »