Friday, July 29, 2011

Fiscal La La Land

The name calling and obfuscation surrounding the debt ceiling debate is remarkable even by Washington standards. The time for politics is past. The entitlement mentality in Washington which has spread throughout the country is not sustainable. It is time for us to know the numbers, the breadth and depth of the problem. Consider the following from a recent Wall Street Journal editorial and take a moment to the let the scope of the spending sink in. (Note also that the emphasis is mine.)
"According to the most recent government data, today some 50.5 million Americans are on Medicaid, 46.5 million are on Medicare, 52 million on Social Security, five million on SSI, 7.5 million on unemployment insurance, and 44.6 million on food stamps and other nutrition programs. Some 24 million get the earned-income tax credit, a cash income supplement."

And the next time one of your liberal friends suggests that we cut defense spending to solve the spending problem, consider this:

"By 2010 such payments to individuals were 66% of the federal budget, up from 28% in 1965. We now spend $2.1 trillion a year on these redistribution programs, and the 75 million baby boomers are only starting to retire." (WSJ)

Finally, to understand the reckless pace of spending, to put it in historical perspective read on.
"Spending as a share of GDP in the last three years is higher than at any time since 1946. In three years the debt has increased by more than $4 trillion thanks to stimulus, cash for clunkers, mortgage modification programs, 99 weeks of jobless benefits, record expansions in Medicaid, and more. The forecast is for $8 trillion to $10 trillion more in red ink through 2021."

All of this before ObamaCare costs hit the books.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Doing Things on His Own

If only President Obama received the same kind of intense media scrutiny George Bush was subject to and all presidents should be held to, his comments today would at least be a part of the national dialogue.

According to Catherine E. Shoichet of CNN, Obama told the National Council of La Raza: "The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting, I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that's not how our system works. That's not how our democracy functions."

Democratic National Committee Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz stated today: "I commend President Obama for his address at NCLR today." Presumably Ms. Schultz read the president's speech. Presumably she understands the conflict between the Constitution and the president confessing that "the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting."

Presumably as chairwoman of the DNC, Ms. Schultz understands that the president takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and that doing things on his own, while tempting, would be in breach of that oath.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Reckless Endangerment

If the budget/debt ceiling debate doesn't focus voter's on 2012 nothing will. After cramming ObamaCare through Congress using a parliamentary procedure (Reconciliation) meant for routine spending bills not massive entitlement bills; after cajoling and threatening and "rewarding" (we call it something else in the private sector) loyal party members with scads of taxpayer money for pet projects if they voted to support ObamaCare; after listening to Nancy Pelosi so aptly declare: "We have to pass the bill to know what's in it..." if you were still sitting on the sidelines, now is the time to engage in the debate.

Let's set aside the $1.whatever Trillion spending boondoggle that is ObamaCare. Let's focus instead on the question of spending and the sustainability of spending of our federal government.

Fact: in 2011, the US is projected to spend $772.4B on pensions, $874.4B on health care (before the effects of ObamaCare spending kick in in 2014), $417.1B on welfare, $254.5B on interest on the accumulating debt (projected to be in excess of $15 trillion by the end of FY 2011) and $830.9B on defense. Compare the budget in 2011 to the budget in 1961.

Just fifty years ago federal spending on pensions was $12.8B ($760 billion less than we pay each year to retirees in 2011). Health care costs were $1.6B ($872.8 billion less than 2011, and this is before the enormous costs of ObamaCare commence. It should also be noted here that despite exponential growth in health care payments since 1961, our health care system and availability of health care to the poor was so egregiously wanting, that we had to pass Obama's $1 trillion solution to fix it. What we couldn't do with $872 billion surely we can accomplish with $1 trillion more! ) Welfare costs were $3.2B. Our interest payment on debt outstanding was $7.5B and our defense spending totaled $57.0B.

Consider: Since 1961 the federal budget has expanded 3,735%. According to the government's own cost of living calculator. $10.00 in 1961 is worth the equivalent of $75.49 in 2011. In other words, while the average citizen in the United States has experienced a 654% increase in living expenses since 1961, the government has expanded its budget by 3,735%.

And is borrowing over 40 cents for each dollar spent.

This is the debate of 2012. Obama wants tax increases--more of your money--rather than to temper spending. And this is before the effects of the inflationary monetary policies of QE2 etc. seep into the economy and turbo charge consumer prices. The question for each of us: are his policies sustainable, effective, or for that matter, constitutional.

What is the primary purpose of government after all?

To protect her citizens from harm. And that includes reckless economic harm.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Enamored of His Own Reflection

Or how Americans put a serial narcissist in the White House.

Some day when the historians are chronicling the national disaster that is this Administration, I wonder if someone will think to take note of the thousands, nay millions of times this president has used the word "I." It is difficult to recall any public figure so self-referential, so self-absorbed and self-satisfied as this president. And will the historians take particular note of the fact that rarely, if ever, have such a civilized and intelligent populace willingly granted so much power to such an unaccomplished individual. Nor one so economically ignorant.

Point in fact: the president's press conference on Monday where he remarked: "And I do not want, and I will not accept, a deal in which I am asked to do nothing, in fact, I’m able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don’t need, while a parent out there who is struggling to figure out how to send their kid to college suddenly finds that they’ve got a couple thousand dollars less in grants or student loans." (emphasis mine)

What the president seems to forget, or perhaps never understood, is that he has the free will to donate that "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in extra income directly to that struggling parent. He doesn't need to wait for the IRS to come and get it and run it through the horrendously and inefficient grinder that is the government bureaucracy. He is free to do with what that money he doesn't need whatever he wants to. That was the whole idea of the American Revolution: the right to produce and earn and keep the fruits of our labor. A rejection of arbitrary taxes imposed by a distant and out of touch and self-absorbed monarchy...We seem to have become a reflection of all that we rejected and fought for over 200 years ago.

We seem to have come full circle.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Busybody Town

A man who knows and concerns himself with his own interests is regarded as a man of practical wisdom, while men whose concern is politics are looked upon as busybodies.
Nicomachean Ethics

Q: Since when is it a bad thing to be rich in America?

A: Ever since the democrats--most notably under FDR--have used the wealthy minority as red meat for their socialist policies.

There is no reason to dance around the issue. Confiscating money from those who earn it to spend it on whatever a few people in power deem appropriate is definitely not the trait of a free and democratic society. Remember that our founders did not include a direct tax (income tax) in the constitutional power of government because doing so would create the ideal opportunity for the many--the poor(er)--to tyrannize the few--the rich(er).

Why does our government require ever-exponentially-increasing-historically-unprecedented levels of cash? Because our politicians--and especially the left-leaning ones--are convinced they know better than you how to spend your money. They know this because most of them have never accomplished anything other than being elected to office. Where, here again, they spent other people's money to do so.

So while the national busybodies are wrangling over how much of our money we get to keep in the coming years; while they ignore the fact that they just implemented one of the most profligate spending sprees in American history and unemployment, instead of declining as promised, has relentlessly increased as economic growth has sputtered. While they ignore these pesky facts they are once more arguing for yet higher taxes slamming the rich in an attempt to somehow claim the moral high ground.

Let us not be deceived. Before Congress and the President do anything the following tax increases are set to kick in according to an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal:
  • Starting in 2013, the bill (ObamaCare, or as the pols named it: the Affordable Care Act) adds an additional 0.9% to the 2.9% Medicare tax for singles who earn more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000.
  • For the first time ever, the now 3.8% Medicare tax will also be applied to investment income, including dividends, interest income and capital gains. That doesn't just hit the rich, this implementation of the Medicare tax goes after every American with any assets at all.
  • Also in 2013, a 2.3% excise tax will be imposed on medical device makers. Which means medical devices will become 2.3% more expensive for everyone. Not just the rich. And if you want a real laugh take a look at what constitutes a medical device to these infernal busybodies. They have no shame. They want to tax your toothbrush and feminine care products included in their taxing scheme.
These taxes just scratch the surface of the scheduled taxes increases to fund the "Affordable" Care Act. The WSJ summarizes the affects of ObamaCare taxes and the current wrangling in Washington:

"There are numerous other new taxes in the bill, all adding up to some $438 billion in new revenue over 10 years. But even that is understated because by 2019 the annual revenue increase is nearly $90 billion, or $900 billion in the 10 years after that. Yet Mr. Obama wants to add another $1 trillion in new taxes on top of this."

Voters overwhelmingly repudiated this kind of Gladys Kravitz peer-through-the curtains invasion into our lives in the fall. Let us hope the freshman Congressional class will have the courage to stand their ground against the nosy ruling class in Washington.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Security Risk?

We all know air travel is a pain. From yesterday's Drudge Report.

A Miami photographer was escorted off a US Airways plane and deemed a “security risk” after she snapped a photo of an employee’s nametag at Philadelphia International Airport Friday.

Sandy DeWitt said the employee, whose name was Tonialla G., was being rude to several passengers in the boarding area of the flight to Miami.

So DeWitt snapped a photo of her nametag with her iPhone because she planned to complain about her in a letter to US Airways. But the photo didn’t come out because it was too dark.

However, once DeWitt was settled in her seat, preparing for take-off, Tonialla G. entered the plane and confronted her.

“She told me to delete the photo,” DeWitt said in an interview with Photography is Not a Crime Saturday morning.

DeWitt, who already had her phone turned off in preparation for take-off, turned the phone back on to show her that it didn’t come out, but deleted the photo anyway.

“I complied with her wishes but it’s not something I would normally do,” she said. “It just wasn’t usable.”

But Tonialla G. wouldn’t let the issue go. She then walked into the cockpit to inform the pilot that DeWitt was a “security risk.”

Tonialla's behavior is a result of unchecked power. She cried "security risk" because she confused DeWitt's right to free speech (taking a picture of her name tag presumably to complain about Tonialla's behavior) with an, at best, flimsy claim that that free speech compromised the security of the passengers on the plane. Not only did her actions have a profound impact on DeWitt (she was escorted off the plane and, despite the fact she was a "security risk" placed on another airline, arriving at an airport 45 minutes from her home in the middle of the night with no means of transportation home) but Tonialla's tantrum delayed other passengers and trivialized the very real security concerns that exist in our air travel system each day.

Consider the following:

In May, I flew from Oakland to Baltimore. The security line was the zoo it always is. Except this time I was behind two Muslim women dressed in black gowns and head scarves. As I was removing my shoes, then my jacket, my scarf and my hat, I noticed that the two women sailed through without even removing their head scarves. No body scan, no enhanced pat-down, no questions. I queried the TSA agent--how was this possible?--and he said that any passenger can attempt to go through security without removing their jacket or head scarf, etc., but TSA has the right to detain them and pat them down. Except they didn't. And, as he was finishing his explanation I turned to see my daughter who wore a hooded sweatshirt being patted down instead.

In June my husband boarded a flight in Phoenix. The flight was delayed while all the passengers' ID's were checked against the manifest so the flight crew could identify the extra passenger on board. The man seated directly in front of my husband was not ticketed on the flight and was escorted off the plane. While the agent's found the passenger in the end, how did he get on the plane without a ticket in the first place?

Today, a good friend was in the security line at Oakland Airport. Behind her was a man with a ticket who spoke only enough English to tell the TSA agent, "No ID." In other words, he had a ticket, but no ID. The man was escorted out of line and when my friend inquired of one of the agents whether he would get through without an ID, the clerk replied, "Well, it will take him a long time."

Tonialla G., if you are listening, take note. Now, those are legitimate security risks.