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“Our practical choice is not between a tax-cut deficit and budgetary surplus. It is between two kinds of deficits: a chronic deficit of inertia, as the unwanted result of inadequate revenues and a restricted economy; or a temporary deficit of transition, resulting from a tax cut designed to boost the economy, increase tax revenues, and achieve . . . a budget surplus.” John F. Kennedy

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Jul 26 2012

Obama’s Plan Worked?

C.M. Phippen

What plan was it that “worked”?

The plan where the debt held by the US government increased by an amount greater than the debt accumulated from George Washington’s presidency all the way to Bill Clinton’s?

The plan where US competitiveness fell from 1st to 5th?

The plan where unemployment went up as rapidly as the federal deficit and 700,000 more workers lost their jobs during the Obama recovery (I’d certainly hate to see an Obama recession)?

The plan where already unaffordable worker health insurance costs increased 23 percent?

The plan where the number of Americans in poverty rose by 6.4 million, to the highest level since the start of the war on poverty in 1965; and that is with the safety nets in place that were created by that war?

The plan where the number of Americans on food stamps increased 44%, to the highest rate EVER, all while the government runs ads touting dependence on food stamps to help you “look amazing“?

The results of the plan which lead Henry Waxman to declare this?


Jul 24 2012

Stimulus and Economic Growth?

C.M. Phippen

According to a recent interview with Larry Kudlow, Alan Greenspan admitted that, much to his surprise, the economic stimulus had a negative effect on the economy. The data showed that not only had it not been stimulative, it was actually detrimental to economic growth. Our government spent nearly $1 trillion and it not only did nothing to “stimulate” growth, it actually hindered it.

That makes sense, based on a little statement by Jared Bernstein a couple of years ago. I wrote about it at the time. Bernstein was the chief economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden and he stated that the consensus among economists was that unemployment would not rise above 8 percent. This consensus ostensibly existed independent of any plans by the administration to pass a stimulus bill that amounted to nearly $1 trillion of borrowed money, as it existed in the fall of 2008 and prior to Obama entering the White House. Apparently the administration was as surprised as Alan Greenspan to find that the stimulus did precisely opposite what our president told us it would do.

One could expect any open-minded, non-idealogical leader to learn from the events of the past few years and change course; reconsider the policies that have stunted economic growth and harmed millions of Americans.

When asked recently by a reporter why President Obama hadn’t met with his jobs council in over six months, Jay Carney’s response was that the President “has a lot on his plate.” Of course, he has attended over 100 fundraisers and is a prolific golfer and entertainer of celebrities.

But back to the economic reality that the rest of the country must face every day, a recent study by Ernst & Young claims that we will experience a loss of over 700,000 jobs if the Bush tax cuts are not extended for upper income earners. If legislation extending those tax cuts for upper earners crosses his desk, Obama apparently will veto it.

On a number of occasions, when confronted with the evidence that raising certain tax rates reduces federal revenue and cutting those rates increases revenue, Obama’s response has been that he would still raise taxes on the rich for reasons of “fairness.” One must assume he just isn’t interested in the effect of such policies on the broader economy.

Then there’s Sen. Patty Murray’s recent comment that if the Republicans won’t cave to the Democrats by helping them to pass legislation that would exempt top earners from an extension of the Bush tax cuts (remember, costing our economy an additional 700,000 jobs) then the Democrats should allow all of the tax cuts to expire. According to Citigroup, if this were to happen we could expect a 4 percent hit to growth in 2013. Even if Congress extends the “middle-class” income tax cuts and allows all others to expire, we can expect a 2.9 percent decline in growth.

This in an economy that has only been growing at around 1.7 percent for the past two years. Either of these options would most likely swiftly throw us back into recession. But of course in this political machination (most likely non-idealogical), I’m sure Pres. Obama and Sen. Murray are only looking out for the middle class and poor, who actually need a job to get by.

Then there’s this remark from Alan Greenspan in the same interview, where he said that the largest problem with our debt (the Peter G. Peterson Foundation has been telling us this for a very long time) is entitlements, specifically Medicare. The solution to the debt problem for this administration was to add to our entitlements, specifically health care, in such a way that anybody who is capable of performing simple mathematical functions is completely aware will cost us multiple trillions of dollars every decade and most likely many times that.

I’m just wondering, after this administration has, through it’s policies of fairness, pushed more working-class Americans out of jobs, decimating the income of the average consumer as well as wiping out much of the tax base, who’s going to be left to pay for it all?


Jul 16 2012

Economic Reality and Government

C.M. Phippen

“There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.” Frederic Bastiat

The newly upheld healthcare bill, passed by a president who can’t get anything right and always has someone else to blame for his failures, is supposed to add 30 million Americans (or non-Americans) to the “insured” category while at the same time not hampering accessibility or quality, and decreasing costs.

In fact, just after the Supreme Court ruling declaring the mandate unconstitutional but upholding the ability of the federal government to tax non-participation in the US insurance industry, every interview I heard with a supporter of the bill still claimed that it would save the federal government $100 million, even though every recent indication is to quite the contrary.

China is having some government v. free enterprise conflict of its own. In order to continue to grow the Chinese economy without causing inflation, which would be devastating to the 150 million Chinese living in poverty, the government has mandated that utility prices remain below market rates. Of course, we all know that if the government says something must be, then it simply must be.

The result is that private companies in China, refusing to operate at a loss, have been supplying power for fewer hours and have shut down record numbers of power plants for maintenance during the hot summer months. In some areas, power plants have stopped providing power for days at a time, leaving citizens without air conditioning, refrigeration or running water.

The chairwoman of China Power International has warned that if the government continues to enforce price controls, one-fifth of China’s 436 coal-fired power plants could face bankruptcy.

The fact is, there is a cost for goods and services, and a price below which no one will willingly produce or provide them. China’s largest electric utility, Huaneng, says that prices charged to customers should have been 13 percent higher last year to remain in line with the increase in coal prices; this year, spot prices for coal are up 20 percent because of various world events. All the while, the government is mandating almost no increase in the rate that utility providers can charge.

In order to deal with the lack of dependable power, some businesses have their workers come in at night or during odd hours when there are fewer blackouts, some restaurants have resorted to cooking over coals and hauling water by hand from wells. Additionally, the government has put pressure on the mines to sell coal at below-market rates, causing the best and purest coal to be exported while selling high-sulfer, high-polluting coal to Chinese companies.

At the end of May, at least six cargo ships carrying loads of coal from abroad were affected by deferrals or defaults on contracts by Chinese buyers as those ships remained full and waiting in ports with no one to pay. Of course, why would they when the government won’t allow utility companies to be adequately reimbursed for providing the electricity generated by that coal to consumers?

The Chinese economy is experiencing rapid deceleration and its potential growth is being hindered by bureaucrats who claim to honestly believe that their issuance of an edict will cause economic forces to fall into line behind their stated desires.

In the US, 83 percent of doctors who responded to a survey performed by a group opposed to Obamacare have considered leaving the medical profession as a result of “current changes in the medical system,” with 65 percent of those individuals pointing to government involvement as the main culprit.

We can look to Massachusetts to see that since the passage of state healthcare reform, there has been basically no difference in the usage of emergency rooms, doctor shortages abound and premiums shot up above the national average within two years and have only recently started growing at a slower rate.

In order to combat a nearly 50 percent cost overrun encountered with the implementation of the law, the state reduced costs by kicking almost 40,000 legal immigrants off of state health coverage and implementing free market principles which grant tiered health care plans to individuals based on, yes, their ability to pay. Free market principles are what finally brought down the rise in the cost of care in Massachusetts.

As for the rest of us, our president promised that with the passage of Obamacare we would see lower premiums, less federal spending and no additional federal debt, no taxes for anyone making under $250,000 a year, the ability to keep any current health plan if one were to so choose and greater access to health coverage.

Too bad saying it just doesn’t make it so.