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


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


Obama’s 2013 Budget – More “Obammunism”!

February 24, 2012

G’Day!

Tax and Spend! Spend and Tax! Spend, Spend, Spend! These are the only fiscal policies the President appears to support. They were also reflected in his populist State of the Union oration in January. President Obama’s socialist concept for our country is painfully transparent. Higher taxes, excessive federal spending, unsustainable entitlements, reductions in National Defense, and another fiscal deficit of approximately $1 trillion for 2013 are all included in his push for more and bigger central government. Obama appears to believe in “Trickle-down Government”, where a parasitic government extracts wealth created by the productive private sector, adds an administrative processing fee, and returns the residual to government selected individuals and businesses in the hope for “stimulated” economic growth. Does this concept make any sense?

The Democrat-controlled Senate has not passed a budget in over three years. In every year of the Obama Administration federal deficits have exceeded $1 trillion (in 8 years of President Bush the maximum federal deficit was $0.5 trillion). Obama claims that his new budget “saves” approximately $4 trillion over the next ten years. It actually increases the cumulative deficit and debt over this ten-year period by approximately $6 trillion. Other than National Defense, his proposed budget makes no serious attempt to reduce government discretionary spending or entitlements. It appears that the President’s rhetoric is to create class warfare intended to improve his chances for reelection and not for the future benefit of our nation. How far behind Greece are we?

In my opinion, this budget and the State of the Union speech are more of what I call “Obammunism” and is bad for our country. “Obammunism” is essentially turning America into a centrally planned, European-style, bureaucratic, welfare state. This concept is based on a socialist doctrine of forced economic equality determined by an arbitrary bureaucratic definition of “Fairness” or “Fair Share”. Obama apparently wants to establish a socialist nanny state by transferring wealth from the successful businesses and individuals above a government-determined wealth “Threshold” to those below this level. “Obammunism” penalizes hard work and achievement and rewards idleness and failure. Simultaneously, it is stifling economic growth, promoting class warfare, lowering the potential standard of living for all citizens (especially the middle class), and continuing our nation’s decline under a mountain of debt. Obama’s policies continue to undermine our Constitution, our heritage, our culture, and our fundamental principles of individual freedom, free markets, sound fiscal and monetary policy, economic growth, and limited government.

Consider this, who determines “Fair Share”? Under Capitalism, “Fair Share” is objectively determined by the choices of the people in a free market. Under “Obammunism”, bureaucrats subjectively and arbitrarily determine “Fair Share” and impose it on the people. 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 prevent the “Government” from 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”?

A society built on “Obammunism” has few incentives for anyone to create value (except bureaucrats, who subjectively divide the wealth, frequently among themselves). If value is created, it is likely to be taken away and redistributed to others. Taking from those who earn and redistributing to those who do not does not create wealth and prosperity. Margaret Thatcher said it best, “The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money!”

The Communists put it this way, “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their need”. This did not work well for the people in the former Soviet Union. Communism’s precursor, socialism, is currently eroding the freedom, growth, and prosperity of the European Union. The path from democracy based on personal freedoms and private property rights to authoritarian wealth-sharing socialism based on central planning and control is not necessarily a long one (see “The Road to Serfdom” by Nobel Prize winner, Friedrich A. Hayek). If it is allowed to continue in America, it will further damage and perhaps destroy both the culture of constitutionally protected personal liberty and opportunity that we have enjoyed for over 200 years. Socialist societies penalize success and reduce economic growth and living standards. Capitalist societies reward success and increase economic growth and living standards. Which future do you want for yourself, your children, and our country?

The growth of Western Civilization and especially the United States was fuelled by the expansion of individual liberties, property rights, and a free market capitalist society. Our nation was established on the fundamental principle that government is the servant of the people, not that the people are the servants of the government. It’s time to take back our country and return to the individual liberties, free markets, economic growth, and limited government we have long enjoyed.

The Old Guy PhD