Filed under: Bureaucracy, Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economics, Economy, Foreign Policy, Free Markets, National Security, Progressivism, Regulation, The United States | Tags: $2.7 Trillion Tax Increase, Obama's Budget Plan, Subsidizing Billionaires
Progressives have a vision of money circulating through the economy, creating offspring wherever it goes. I find it very odd, but that’s what they get out of Keynesian economics. You give somebody food stamps, and the grocery store pays their providers and their sales clerks, and the clerks and providers buy other stuff, and so on and on, and somehow it grows and multiplies on the trip.
They are not very good at math either, which shows up clearly in their spending and budgeting. President Obama has released the final budget plan of his lame duck presidency and it will be ignored by Congress, as it should be. He wants to expand the federal government which is already obese, and he wants big tax hikes to pay for it.
But 70% of federal spending amounts to taking money from one set of pockets and putting it into another pocket. In spite of their constant claims of fighting income inequality, very little of this money goes to help the poor. There is housing assistance, food stamps, welfare programs and Medicaid — programs that comprise only 25% of all the payments to individuals.
It all starts with an enormous $2.7 trillion tax increase over ten years. This is on top of the increases Obama has pushed over previous years. In ObamaCare, the tax hikes totaled $1.2 trillion over a decade, and then right after his re-election in 2012, he demanded a $600 billion tax hike on upper-income earners as the price for not imposing bigger hikes on the middle class. If he were to get away with this disgraceful budget, it would add somewhere around $4 to $5 trillion over a decade or at least $400 billion each and every year. Of course the standard reply is a trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money! So why shouldn’t we tax the one percent even more? What we want — is to tax everybody less.
The federal government is not thrifty, nor is it a careful or honest custodian of the money they collect. Government waste is an ongoing scandal. There are somewhere around 45 different job training programs in as many different departments that are remarkably good at failing to increase employment. Excess regulation wraps businesses in a web of expense and wasted time in compliance. And there is less money and less confidence for expanding or hiring or growing. Top that off with higher taxes — and what you get is the kind of sluggish economy we have today.
The more sluggish the economy, the more the Progressives will try to fix it — with more regulation and probably more taxes. There does not seem to be an agency of the federal government that has not been politicized under this president, and the scandals mount.
Obama’s budget relies on “deep and unsustainable reductions in defense spending to make the deficit look smaller than it would otherwise be given his policies.” Defense spending is already at historically low levels, but then Obama sees little need for defense spending. He firmly believes that Iran would never use a nuclear weapon, though what they want with those intercontinental ballistic missiles is a puzzlement.
Mr. Obama does insist that “one of the greatest challenges of our time is climate change”and he wants to double funding for clean energy research and development by 2020. I’m sure that a 50 percent increase in funding for the EPA will go over well.
Environmental organizations raise bundles of money by featuring baby animals, starting with harp seals, and settling finally on polar bears. Baby polar bears are cute, and American are suckers for cute animals, but the polar bears are not endangered but are thriving. Federal funding for subsidies and grants are a rich source of money for big investors.
Al Gore’s global warming activism has increased his net worth from $700,000 in 2000 to an estimated $172 million by 2015. “He has also had a remarkable record of investing in companies right before they get huge grants from the federal government.”
The billionaire Elon Musk is chairman “of a number of companies such as Tesla Motors and Solar City which rake in billions in green energy subsidies. In 2014, Musk received $1.4 billion from Nevada taxpayers to build a ‘gigafactory’ for his electric car company Tesla Motors.” The MSRP for a Tesla is reportedly over $100,000. SolarCity also got a large payout to move to Nevada. When Nevada changed the way it subsidized solar power in a way that didn’t favor Musk or SolarCity, the company pulled out of the state.”
Tesla also sells lithium ion-battery Powerwalls for a mere $7,340 to store electricity for homes. The original intention of a Powerwall was to make rooftop solar panels economically viable for consumers. Powerwalls are estimated to take approximately 40 years to pay for themselves. Naturally, Tesla only offers five to 10 year warranties and predicts they will last for only 15 years.
Nice work if you can get it, though I cannot understand why taxpayers should be subsidizing billionaires’ playthings. That’s what hedge funds and angel investors do, not what the federal government should be doing with taxpayer money.
Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Economy, Energy, Free Markets, Freedom, Law, Politics, Regulation | Tags: President Barack Obama, The Environmental Protection Agency, The Supreme Court
On Tuesday the Supreme Court issued a stay that blocked the federal government from implementing a series of far-reaching environmental regulations that essentially crippled the entire coal industry. The rules were issued by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of President Obama’s attempt to force America’s energy sector to reduce their carbon emissions to conform to the administration’s demands.
Once again acting on his “presidential authority,” the president was making laws that would close hundreds of coal-fired power plants, because the president believes that CO2 is a pollutant (it is not) and that CO2 is the cause of global warming (it is not). Mr. Obama was trying to set an example for other countries to do the same, to comply with the unenforceable agreement that came out of the Paris Climate Talks—COP21.
Because of a 5-4 majority on the court, nothing will be done to implement those changes until an appeals court can formally rule on a challenge brought by 27 states, and corporate and industry groups against the EPA. What the Supreme Court has done is to restore some sense of accountability to an agency that has attempted to become a legislative body without any authority to do so.
The appellate courts will now have to give the 27 states the opportunity to make their case. The Supreme Court is not just saving the jobs of coal miners and the economy in several states, but calls attention to the rule of law at a time when the president of the United States has come to believe that he doesn’t have to bother with the consent of Congress. He just rewrites the law and dares the critics to stop him.
That stay will remain in effect through the end of Mr. Obama’s presidency, until the Supreme Court has a chance to hear the case—in 2017 at the earliest. The stay sends the strongest possible signal that the court is prepared to strike down the Clean Power Plan on the merits, assuming the next president doesn’t revoke it.
Not since the court blocked President Harry Truman’s seizure of the steel industry has it so severely rebuked a president’s abuse of power. …
In a ruling two years ago the court held that the EPA couldn’t conjure up authority to make “decisions of vast economic and political significance” absent a clear statement from Congress. Thus, the EPA may have the authority to require power plants to operate more efficiently and to install reasonable emissions-reduction technologies. But nothing authorizes the agency to pick winners (solar, wind) and losers (coal) and order generation to be shifted from one to the other, disrupting billion-dollar industries in the process.
The EPA has been rebuked by the courts repeatedly. In January the House joined the Senate in trying to stop another of Obama’s “power grabs” — the EPA’s attempt to seize control of virtually all waterways across the country. The federal government has used the EPA as its proxy and the Clean Water Act to enact its ideas about controlling privately owned land through the regulation of waterways. This year they extended, without congressional input, their authority through the 1972 Clean Water Act.
The Obama administration excused this attempted appropriation as nothing more than an effort to save the nation’s streams, headwaters, creeks and wetlands from “pollution and degradation.” In reality, the EPA simply wanted to expand its command over such near-waterless features as dry creeks, potholes and puddles . Under this regime, private individuals or businesses would need government permission to do anything on their property that is even remotely related to water — such as digging a drainage ditch — giving Washington sweeping powers over private lands.
A federal judge told the EPA last August that they had gone too far, but they just shrugged and said they would enforce the rule in the 37 states that were not part of the lawsuit. “Administrative Law” is one of those innocuous phrases in which the Left excels, like the substitution of “extremist” for “terrorist.” But you must pay attention to the real meaning — which is the substitution of agency regulation and presidential orders or directions or memos for the lawful actions of Congress. As Jonathan Turley, professor of Law at George Washington University said:
“What the president is doing is not one of the dangers
the Framers were concerned about; it is the danger
the Framers were concerned about.”
Filed under: Bureaucracy, Capitalism, Economics, Economy, Free Markets, History, Law, Politics, Regulation, Taxes, The United States | Tags: Preidential Election 1972, Senator George McGovern, The Wall Street Journal
A little history: George McGovern was a Senator from South Dakota. After college, he became a bomber pilot in the Air Force in World War II, then got a PhD in History and became a professor. In 1957 he became a U.S. Congressman, and then a Senator in 1967. He ran a grassroots campaign for the presidency in 1972, and lost in the biggest landslide in history, winning only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. He retired from the Senate in 1981 after a long and distinguished career.
He spent several years on public lectures around the world, for he was an expert in world food problems, and in 1988, invested most of the earnings from the lecture circuit acquiring the leasehold on Connecticut’s Stratford Inn. He had always been fascinated with Inns, hotels and restaurants, and it was “the realization of a lifelong dream to own an Inn with a restaurant and public conference facility, complete with an experienced manager and staff.”
He promptly went bankrupt, and in 1992 he wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal, headed with a quotation from Justice Felix Frankfurter:
Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought
not to reject it merely because it comes late.
In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.
Today we are much closer to a general acknowledgment that government must encourage business to expand and grow. Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas, Bob Kerrey and others have, I believe, changed the debate of our party. We intuitively know that to create job opportunities we need entrepreneurs who will risk their capital against an expected payoff. Too often, however, public policy does not consider whether we are choking off those opportunities.
My own business perspective has been limited to that small hotel and restaurant in Stratford, Conn., with an especially difficult lease and a severe recession. But my business associates and I also lived with federal, state and local rules that were all passed with the objective of helping employees, protecting the environment, raising tax dollars for schools, protecting our customers from fire hazards, etc. While I never have doubted the worthiness of any of these goals, the concept that most often eludes legislators is: “Can we make consumers pay the higher prices for the increased operating costs that accompany public regulation and government reporting requirements with reams of red tape.” It is a simple concern that is nonetheless often ignored by legislators.
The article was truly notable, for it was a pretty big admission from a devout liberal that legislators didn’t have a clue about business. “One-size-fits-all” rules ignore the reality of the marketplace, and the thresholds they set for ‘regulatory guidelines’ don’t fit the reality of how business works.
Congressional Democrats may have had a few moments of reconsideration, but they quickly went right back to their comfortable, traditional way of despising business and businessmen and trying to extract more taxes from the affluent in order to make everything more equal and more “fair.”
Senator McGovern died in 2012 at the age of 90.
Filed under: Bureaucracy, Capitalism, Crime, Domestic Policy, Economy, Free Markets, Freedom, Law, Regulation | Tags: A Weak Economy, Economist Thomas Sowell, The Importance of Work
The Great Obama Recession continues. Fourth Quarter growth was anemic, expanding at only a 0.7% seasonally adjusted annualized rate in the fourth quarter of 2015. That’s weak, really weak. From the end of World War II, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 3.5%, through thick and thin.
The Labor Department reported 292,000 new net jobs in December, but the U.S. labor force participation rate has been declining for more than five years. Only 62.6 percent of the labor force is actually employed. In a study published last month University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan concludes that American safety-net programs changed significantly, in ways that discouraged employment. Unemployment insurance became more generous in several ways. Eligibility rules for food stamps were reduced, waivers from work requirements were granted, and the monthly benefit amount was increased.
In Britain, labor force participation stayed flat throughout the downturn, and it increased for 25 to 54 year olds. In the U.S. labor force participation for ages25 to 54 dropped 3,1 percentage points. The difference was that Britain cut tax rates on income and consumption to encourage low income individuals to work. The American stimulus reduced the incentives to be employed.
Work is important. Only 3% of working-age adults who work full time, year around, are in poverty. Democrats govern most of the major American cities, and they have been increasing their spending significantly. Without the ability to increase their spending much more, they have turned to regulation. By regulating how businesses conduct themselves, who they can hire, what they must provide — they are turning the progressive agenda into a regulatory agenda.
During the 1990s, conservative ideas had a profound and lasting influence on welfare policy, policing, and K–12 public education. Cities that had appeared to be in a death spiral only years before began to see their populations stabilize and even start growing again. Republican mayors such as Steven Goldsmith in Indianapolis, New York City’s Rudolph Giuliani, and Los Angeles’s Richard Riordan gained national renown for their successes. Welfare rolls fell dramatically without the corresponding rise in poverty predicted by liberal doomsayers. Crime rates plummeted. School choice gained broad support throughout low-income minority neighborhoods.
Republican inability to explain what had happened, capitalize on the drop in crime and the popularity of charter schools, led to the reelection of Progressive mayors. The rise in convicted criminals was blamed on racism, not as the cause of the drop in crime. (See Butterfield Fallacy) Progressives aren’t spending in a big way because they don’t have the money. Paying city workers, mostly unionized, and pensions means there’s not enough left for anything else.
Work is Important. To quote Thomas Sowell:
It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader.
Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing “compassion” for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about.