It’s the Entitlements, Stupid!

November 29, 2012

G’Day!

With apologies to President Clinton for modifying his famous phrase, this time “It’s the Entitlements, Stupid!” Virtually everyone with a functioning brain knows that our exploding National Debt and $1 trillion annual Federal Deficits are unsustainable. Without a solution to this government-imposed national crisis, the American economy will continue to stagnate, unemployment will be high, job opportunities low, and the country may ultimately decline into bankruptcy. Also, anyone with a functioning brain knows that the solution to this problem must involve compromise and agreement among the three (3) fundamental contributors to the problem; “Entitlements,” “Discretionary Spending,” and “Tax Revenues.” By listening to the Media, President Obama, and the Democrats, you would conclude that the sole cause of our country’s fiscal and debt crisis is insufficient “Taxes on Rich.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This is like trying to stand on a 3-legged stool with two of the legs removed.

Let’s analyze President Obama’s only publicly proposed solution, “Tax the Rich.” Our annual federal deficit is currently $1.3 trillion. Obama’s proposal with possible outcomes is presented below:

Obama “Tax the Rich” Proposal

Possible Annual Revenue (billions)

% Deficit Solved

Raise top 2 rates on Incomes above $200-250,000 from 33 to 35% & 36 to 39.6%

$44.2

3.7%

Raise Dividend tax from 15% to Ordinary Income Rate

$20.6

1.7%

Raise Capital Gains tax fro 15% to 20%

$3.6

0.3%

Reinstate the Pease limit on Itemized Deduction

$12.3

1.0%

Reinstate the Personal Exemption Phase-out (PEP)

$4.2

0.4%

Subtotal Tax increase for Upper-income

$84.9

7.1%

Restore Estate & Gift Tax to 2009 levels

$11.9

1.0%

Total Government Tax Revenue

$96.8

8.1%

 

The above result is a static analysis and assumes no income or behavioral change by taxpayers (highly unlikely). In total, Obama’s “Tax the Rich” solution would potentially generate $96.8 billion per year and solve a mere 8.1% of our annual fiscal deficit problem. Since neither Obama nor the Democrat leaders have publicly suggested any change in either “Discretionary Spending” or “Entitlements,” this would leave a continuing federal deficit of approximately $1 trillion per year or 92% of the fiscal problem unresolved. (Interestingly, a $1 trillion annual deficit is the amount in Obama’s currently proposed budget for the next four (4) years.) This is blind insanity and “Ostrich Management.”

“Entitlement” reform for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security combined with growth oriented “Tax Reform” and “Discretionary Spending” cuts are the only ways we can avoid the trap that Greece and other European socialist countries have created for themselves. By insisting ONLY on “Taxing the Rich” with no consideration for “Discretionary Spending” cuts or “Entitlement” reform, Obama appears to be more interested in political ideology than in solving our nation’s economic problems. Without correction, we will create a European slow growth dependent society for America and potentially financial collapse. We must demand a better and more comprehensive performance from our government. I believe the Republicans are correct in demanding that any agreement on additional tax revenues must be accompanied by significant cuts in federal spending.

Let’s review some fundamental facts about our unsustainable National Debt and continuing Fiscal Deficits. The table below summarizes the major items in our national economy and Obama’s 2012 enacted budget.

Item

2012 Budget Amount (Billions)

Total Current National Debt

$16,200

Estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

$15,797

Total Federal Government Receipts (Tax, etc.)

$2,469

Total Federal Government Outlays

$3,796

Annual Federal Surplus (Deficit)

($1,327)

Total Mandatory “Entitlement” Outlays

$2,252

Health (Medicaid, etc.)

$361

Medicare

$484

Social Security

$818

Income Security (Food Stamps, Unemployment, Housing, etc.)

$580

Net Interest on Debt

$225

Total “Discretionary” Outlays

$1338

National Defense

$702

Education

$79

 

Federal outlays in 2012 are expected to be $3.8 trillion (24% of GDP) with a $1.3 trillion deficit after government revenues of $2.5 trillion. Mandatory “Entitlements” total $2.3 trillion, (60% of federal outlays and approximately 15% of GDP), AND are growing at an alarming and unsustainable rate. Discretionary federal outlays (including National Defense) are $1.3 trillion. Simple math indicates that to balance the budget without “Entitlement” reform, the entire Federal Government “Discretionary Spending” (including National Defense) must be eliminated or tax revenues increased across-the-board by approximately 50% to eliminate the deficit. Neither of these alternatives individually or in combination is feasible or desirable. Currently the largest federal “Entitlement” outlays are: Health (Medicaid) & Medicare $845 billion, Social Security $818 billion, Income Security $580 billion, and Interest on Debt $225 billion. (Please note that “Interest on Debt” is unusually small based on an artificially low interest rate (approximately 1-1.5%) resulting from global economic problems and monetary support by the FRS. When interest rates return to normal levels the $225 billion could easily double or more in a very short period of time. Remember, interest rates were in the double digits in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Just look at the recent government borrowing rates in the troubled countries in Europe.)

While the mandatory “Entitlement” programs have good intent and are desirable, they are not sustainable and are inconsistent with economic growth policies. “Entitlements” are where the big federal outlays reside and must be part of a major solution to our fiscal and debt crisis. “Entitlement” reform is the most significant fiscal spending problem we face. Fortunately, we have excellent proposals from Conservatives and bipartisan groups available on how to fix “Entitlements” (see Bowles-Simpson, “The Moment of Truth,” Domenici-Rivlin, “Restoring America’s Future,” and The Heritage Foundation, “Saving the American Dream”). It would be helpful if Obama and the Democrats would acknowledge these or offer proposals of their own. It won’t be easy but as I said in the title, “It’s the Entitlements, Stupid!”

Let’s get to work and save our country!

The Old Guy PhD


Has American Decided Its Future?

November 7, 2012

G’Day!

No, there is still the opportunity to influence our future! While it is not possible for me to adequately describe my disappointment, disbelief, and initial unhappiness with the results in this election, a free people in a free society expressed their current desire for a popular President to continue to transform our country into a centrally controlled socialist welfare state. If this new nation evolves, our country will be very different from the America in which I have long lived, long enjoyed, and hoped to endow to my children. Fortunately, we live in a country where it is possible for an election as divisive is this one to take place peacefully and without violence and there will be another Congressional election in only two years. We now know (or should know) exactly what the next four years are likely to bring unless we strive to change it.

On its current track America faces a looming financial & economic collapse, unsustainable deficits & National Debt, higher taxes and healthcare costs, the ultimate failure of our important social safety nets, continued energy dependence on nations that do not like us, and a Foreign Policy of appeasement, apology, & withdrawal that has encouraged terrorists & enemies of the US and our allies. If Iran does create a nuclear weapon and the “Arab Spring” continues to deteriorate, it is unlikely that our best ally in the Middle East, Israel, will survive without resolute US support. Without a course correction, the America and freedoms I know and love are probably doomed. In my opinion, our only hope is that Obama reverses nearly all of his policies (unlikely) or the Republicans and Democrats in Congress can find a bipartisan way to resolve our country’s multiple crises quickly (possible). It is now time for all of us on both sides of the issues to work together to save our country. It can be done!

John F. Kennedy at his inauguration said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!” This was not only inspirational but an accurate indication of our country’s culture of independence, freedom, and opportunity at the time. Since those words were spoken, our nation has experienced a gradual erosion of our freedoms, a huge increase in the size of our government, and increased welfare and dependency by citizens on government. We must regain our spirit of personal responsibility, mutual cooperation, and independence from a government that increasingly seems to believe (with apologies to JFK), “My fellow dependents, ask not what you can do for yourselves; ask what your government can do for you!” Let’s all endeavor to reestablish a culture of unity not divisiveness, compromise not partisanship, progress not gridlock, and independence not welfare. We are all Americans!

I believe the Republicans can and should take the lead in proposing new solutions to the major crisis of our time: the impending financial collapse of our federal government and our economy. My two principal suggestions for initial Congressional action are: 1) In the lame duck session extend the “Bush Tax Cuts” for 6-12 months to avoid the “Fiscal Cliff” and give Congress a reasonable opportunity to properly deal with the real reforms necessary and 2) As the first priority in 2013 pass the Bowles-Simpson proposal in the House with added entitlement reform as the appropriate framework for a permanent solution and submit this to the Senate for review and actual vote. (see “Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!” “Obama Ignores Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission-Again!” “Debt Reduction: Bowles & Simpson Have it Right-Redux!” “Debt Crisis-Whatever happened to Bowles-Simpson?”) Simply “Taxing the Rich” cannot work. If the “Rich” were taxed at 100% and paid it (unlikely), there is not enough tax revenue available to pay for and sustain our government for the future. What is required is renewing the growing private-sector economy necessary to create the jobs needed to move individuals from permanent dependency to employment and personal independence. In other words, “Save the American Dream!”

Longer term Republicans need to properly and practically address with positive programs the issue of Latinos in America (+40% voting edge for Obama), Women’s issues (+11% voting edge for Obama), and the lack of under age 30 youth support (+20% voting edge for Obama). Without broadening the party’s appeal to these constituencies, it will become increasingly difficult for Republicans to win future elections.

The challenge facing our future is getting our government to work together to correct its self-inflicted path of fiscal insanity, unsupportable debt, unsustainable entitlements, and individual dependency on government by a combination of economic growth policies, major business and individual tax reform to increase tax revenues, cuts in unnecessary federal discretionary spending, and reforms required to make our social safety nets and entitlement programs sustainable for future generations. We can do this! Let’s get to work!

The Old Guy PhD


Obammunism – What is “Fair”?

July 13, 2012

G’Day!

Everyone believes in “Fairness” but what is it? Is “Fairness” equal opportunity to succeed based on your own efforts and decisions, free of government intervention? Or, is “Fairness” government dictated equal sharing of the success of others independent of personal effort and decisions? Consider this, who determines “Fair Share”? Under Capitalism, “Fair Share” is objectively determined by the choices of free people in a free market. Under “Obammunism”, political bureaucrats subjectively and arbitrarily determine “Fair Share” and impose it on the people. Regarding tax alone, what is to protect you from the “Bureaucratic Elite” changing the wealth threshold from $1 million, to $250,000, to $100,000, to $75,000 or lower? If you support Obama’s policies, nothing can protect you from the Government arbitrarily changing “Fair Share” to adversely penalize more and more successful people. If you work hard and succeed in improving yourself and your family, what is to prevent the government from penalizing you for becoming “Rich”? Under Obama, “Fair Share” cannot be satisfied until everyone is economically equal. This is not “The American Dream”.

To our Founding Fathers “Fairness” is our personal “Entitlement” to national security, individual freedom, and free market capitalism with limited fiscally-sound government based on equality of opportunities and private property rights. To President Obama and the Democrats it is “Obammunism”, which is based on the government’s “Entitlement” to regulate and control the American people and businesses to accomplish subjectively determined income and wealth equality. “Obammunism” is achieved through higher taxes, bigger government, forced income and wealth redistribution, expanded welfare dependency, and unfunded entitlements to an unnecessary and undeserved portion of the population. It further requires excessive environmental restrictions on the use of private property, regulations and controls over selected industries, and use of taxpayer funds in the arbitrary selection of industrial “winners & losers”. So far Obama’s big government approach to economic equality has resulted in slow economic growth, a net loss of approximately 4 million jobs, and an energy policy that has killed jobs and leaves American security more dependent on imports of foreign oil. “Obammunism” has also resulted in a 60% increase in our National Debt (from ~$10 trillion to ~$16 trillion) and a huge fiscally unsustainable federal deficit that has exceeded $1.3 trillion in every year of Obama’s Presidency. Erskine Bowles of the Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission stated earlier this month on the subject of our National Debt, “It is like a cancer. Over time it will destroy the country from within.” Alan Simpson simply referred to it as, “Madness”.

The founders of our great country also believed in equality, the equality of opportunity implemented through personal freedoms, private property rights, and free markets. They believed in minimal government and established a Constitution and subsequent Bill of Rights to guarantee and protect the individual liberties of all citizens from the oppressive policies of the foreign governments from which our ancestors fled in search of a better life. Is it moral or ethical or “Fair” for the government in a land of equal opportunity to engage in wealth redistribution from those who worked hard, made good decisions, and earned their success to those who did not? While nearly everyone believes and supports a reasonable social safety net for the truly needy, the trends since the Great Depression have increasingly been to increase welfare and entitlements far beyond reasonableness and absolutely beyond sustainability.

So what do I believe is “Fair”? What “Entitlements” should we expect from our government? First and foremost, I believe that we are entitled to a President who actually believes and supports the oath of office he declared at his inauguration, which is: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

I believe that we are entitled to a limited government that is business friendly and supports and protects our individual freedoms, free markets, private property rights, sound fiscal & monetary policy, economic growth, and the security and defense of our great nation.

I believe that we are entitled to a limited federal government that regulates and enforces only those activities that cannot be controlled by citizens through either individual freedom of choice under free market capitalism or by State and local governments.

I believe that, except for essential government services, we are entitled to keep what we earn and that wealth redistribution for the goal of economic equality, excessive welfare, and unsustainable entitlements is “Unfair”, unethical, and destructive to economic growth. I further believe that tax reform is essential. (See “Fiscal & Debt Crises – Tax Reform Essential!”)

I believe that, as the Founding Fathers intended, we are entitled to a government that protects our right to use our private property as we wish as long as it does not endanger or encroach on the value of our neighbor’s property AND that we should have the right to use our private property free of unnecessary environmental control and regulation by administrators.

Finally, I believe we are entitled to a President that supports and protects the rights of ALL American citizens and does not promote policies intended to enhance reelection prospects by dividing the country by income, gender, ethnicity, religion, political party, sexual orientation, or race.

Under Obama, our exceptional nation is on the precipice of a fiscal catastrophe and terminal decline in the world. It is not yet too late to correct the Obama’s neo-socialist trend for more taxes, more spending, bigger government, slower economic growth, and eventual collapse under a mountain of unsustainable debt. Throughout history, no nation has been able to sustain excessive spending by taxing, borrowing or “printing money” as a way out of fiscal insanity. All have failed. It is time for America to wake up and realize where this “Amateur” President is taking our country. Study the issues and vote accordingly in November.

The Old Guy PhD


Big Government IS STILL Our Problem – & It’s Growing!

May 16, 2012

G’Day!

A year ago on February 11, 2011 my first posted article was “Big Government IS Our Problem!” I firmly believe Big Government is STILL our problem and it is not only growing, it is accelerating! What our country needs is LESS GOVERNMENT not more. If we could get government off our backs, unnecessary discretionary spending could be eliminated, individual and business opportunities could be pursued, jobs created, and income increased, allowing our economy to expand more rapidly. Government needs to be reduced not enlarged.

Last year I believed President Obama and the Democrats would eventually consider the best interests of our country first and would finally realize that their policies were dividing and potentially bankrupting the nation and stifling economic growth. I hopefully thought the President and Congress would recognize this and relatively quickly pursue the excellent recommendations in the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission’s Report, which was officially presented to President Obama in early 2011. How wrong I was! Obama immediately shelved the report; the Democrats declared it dead on arrival and again failed to pass the required Federal Budget. It has now been over 3 years that the Democrats have prevented passing a budget and Obama’s huge overspending budget proposals have been overwhelmingly defeated by both Republicans and Democrats. Only the Republicans, especially Paul Ryan, have tried to adopt any of the Bowles-Simpson recommendations. Reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion that the “Obammunists” are only interested in pushing their socialist agenda for central control over our lives, our environment, and our private property. Their actions, or lack of, are driving our country into an increasingly dependent and unsustainable welfare state. More importantly, their policies are in serious danger of destroying the American creative opportunistic spirit and national prosperity in which the majority of US citizens believe and enjoy.

In my opinion it is not too late to correct this adverse trend toward mediocrity and save our nation. America can resolve its fiscal and debt crisis and restore our country to a united foundation for responsible government and future prosperity. However, this can only occur if we return to the principles that have made America the greatest and most exceptional country in the world. These principles are: Constitutionally protected individual liberties, free markets, sound fiscal and monetary policies, economic growth, and Constitutionally limited government. The “Obammunists” are rapidly leading us away from all these principles and toward a future of economic stagnation, shared poverty, limited personal freedom, and dependence on government for much of our survival. Under Obama, America is declining quickly into a centrally controlled overregulated socialist state with increasingly limited opportunities for aspiring individuals and companies to succeed.

So what should we do? The first and most vital action individuals can take is to become informed about the issues and vote out the “Obammunists” in the November election. This one single accomplishment will at least stop the rot and give us the opportunity to correct the damage done by Obama and the Democrats. Next we should demand our new President and Congress concentrate on resolving our fiscal/debt crisis, get our economy back on track, and create productive private sector jobs. As I outlined a year ago, at least six actions should be undertaken: 1) Stop/Minimize non-essential regulations, 2) Have a business-friendly government, 3) Reduce tax rates, especially on business, through tax reform, 4) Enact an energy policy that encourages rather than discourages development of domestic sources of traditional energy, 5) Fix the fiscal and debt crises by cutting government spending, revising entitlements, and increasing tax revenues through tax reform, 6) Pass the three pending Free Trade bills and expand them to include other trading partners. Of these six actions only #6, the Free Trade bills, has been passed. (see “Yes, We CAN Grow the Economy and Create Jobs!”)

More specifically, I suggest our new government in 2013 accomplish the following ten (10) priority items:

1)   Unless already accomplished in 2012 by the outgoing President and Congress, immediately extend all the 2012 tax rates for 2 years or until the Tax Reform in Item 6) below is enacted.

2)   Immediately declare a moratorium on any non-essential new laws and regulations.

3)   Immediately rescind Obamacare (unless The Supreme Court has already done this for us).

4)   Immediately rescind the Dodd-Frank Act and its approximately 400 new required regulations (most of which are still to be written). In this regard the most important pieces that need to be rescinded are “The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection”, “The Financial Stability Oversight Council”, and “The Durbin Amendment”.

5)   Initiate and approve a medium term Balanced Federal Budget that downsizes government, reforms taxes by simplifying the code, reducing tax rates, broadening the tax base, and eliminating politically motivated subsidies. This budget should reform entitlements to sustainable levels, assure the defense and security of America, and reduce and “Cap” the Federal Government Spending at 18-20% of GDP. (see “Bowles & Simpson Have it Right!”)

6)   Initiate and enact the necessary tax and entitlement reform necessary to accomplish suggestion 4) above. (see “Fiscal & Debt Crises – Tax Reform Essential!”)

7)   Demand that any and all new laws or regulations enacted have a “Sunset Clause” that automatically terminates the new law within no more than 10 years.

8)  Demand that Congress review and terminate annually for the next five years at least 10% of all currently existing laws and regulations that are non-essential, unnecessary, or out of date.

9)   Demand a review of all Executive Departments and Agencies of our Government with the goal of downsizing or eliminating over time those that are non-essential, unnecessary, or just bloated. I suggest the prime candidates for consideration are the Departments/Agencies/Bureaus of: Environmental Protection, Energy, and the National Labor Relations Board.

10)   Longer term, Congress should initiate and pass a Federal “Balanced Budget Amendment” to the Constitution. Forty-nine states currently have some version of a balanced budget requirement. Only Vermont does not. (see “Is a Balanced Budget Amendment Necessary?”)

Our country can be saved if the American People recall and return our government to the original spirit and intent of our founders. The United States is exceptional among all nations because of our Constitutional support of individual liberties, private property rights, a free market capitalist society, and limited government. Government should be the servant of the people. The American People should not be the servants of the government. It’s time to take back our country! Study the issues and vote in November!

The Old Guy PhD


Let’s Send Congress & The President on Unpaid Leave!

November 30, 2011

G’Day!

Let’s face the truth. Our government is doing nothing to solve our country’s economic problems and has actually made the situation worse in the last two and a half years. While not practical, perhaps the best way to create jobs and improve our economy would be to send Congress and President Obama on an unpaid leave of absence for 2012. Certainly neither is accomplishing anything of benefit and paying Congress to do nothing and President Obama to campaign for his reelection is a waste of their time and our money. Also, my real concern that they will continue to do even more harm through Executive Orders or will create new regulations that further restrict our businesses and prolong the political uncertainty that is at the heart of our economic stagnation. Since they are not doing anything meaningful, preventing all new government action in 2012 would give business the certainty of “status quo” and no further damage would be done prior to our national vote on economic policy. Withholding pay is a logical penalty for our current do-nothing government representatives and would have the benefit of reducing the deficit. Since their priority is reelection, this would give them the freedom to try to convince the electorate that they support policies that will protect our freedoms, promote jobs and economic growth, and deserve to be retained in office.

To be fair, let’s review a few of the major government results since the 2008 election. Our total deficit has increased by $4 trillion and the annual deficit more than doubled from $500 billion to $1.3 trillion/year. Government spending has increased from approximately 20% of GDP to 25% of GDP. National Debt has now increased by nearly 50% to an estimated $15 trillion, nearly 100% of GDP. New entitlement commitments through “Obamacare” was passed against the desires of the majority of American voters and will further increase deficits and debt in the future. The Dodd-Frank Financial Regulations Bill was passed, which significantly increases regulations over the financial services industry and has currently added to the turmoil, confusion, and stagnation in our banking system. The Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have virtually shut down domestic development and exploration of fossil fuel resources, have wasted billions of taxpayer dollars in support of noneconomic renewable energy companies (Solyndra et al), and have again delayed the proposed pipeline from Canada (Note: Canada is now threatening to sell the oil to China). The Department of Justice (DOJ) tried to bring the terrorist prisoners back into the US to be tried under US laws, supported the sales of guns to criminals and is delaying business mergers, which will improve the competitiveness of American companies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has joined with DOJ in attacking the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. The pro-union activist National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is attempting to stop Boeing from finalizing its new “Dreamliner” plant in the Right-to-Work State of South Carolina and is attempting to change voting rules to eliminate the requirement for secret ballot for unionization in a company. The do-nothing Democrat-controlled Senate has passed no government budget for approximately three years and has blocked attempts by the Republican-controlled House to pass fiscally responsible legislation. Not an appealing set of accomplishments.

President Obama is and has been in re-election campaign mode for months and has virtually abdicated leadership to resolve our unsustainable deficit and debt crises. In fact, Obama has significantly added to the magnitude of these problems by his uncontrolled increases in government spending, Obamacare, and the overall anti-business attitude of his administration. Obama ignored the excellent recommendations of his own Bowles-Simpson Debt Reduction Commission, which addressed all areas of the deficit and debt crises including increased revenues through tax reform, entitlement reform, and decreased government spending. Obama has also provided no apparent advice or leadership for the failed “Super Committee” and it now appears to have been designed to fail in order to create a political issue for the next election. As Governor Christie of New Jersey said this week regarding Obama’s lack of leadership, “What the hell are we paying you for?”

Enough is enough. Given the stalemate in Congress and an absentee President focusing on his own reelection, we should, if we could, send them all home on unpaid leave until the next election. Unfortunately, we need to have this election ASAP and not a year from now. The will of the American people needs to be determined regarding whether free market capitalism and individual freedoms or redistributive socialism and big government central planning is preferred. Personally, I vote for individual freedom, free markets, sound fiscal and monetary policy, economic growth, and limited government.

The Old Guy PhD