Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Is the economic recovery real or illusory?

The Obama administration has poured about $6 trillion of borrowed money into this economy over the last four years. Has this resulted in a growing economy, or is the economy slowing down?

Take a look at this must-read editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

The Great Recession is an apt name for America’s current stagnation, but the present phase might also be called the Grand Illusion—because the happy talk and statistics that go with it, especially regarding jobs, give a rosier picture than the facts justify.

The country isn’t really advancing. By comparison with earlier recessions, it is going backward. Despite the most stimulative fiscal policy in American history and a trillion-dollar expansion to the money supply, the economy over the last three years has been declining. After 2.4% annual growth rates in gross domestic product in 2010 and 2011, the economy slowed to 1.5% growth in 2012. Cumulative growth for the past 12 quarters was just 6.3%, the slowest of all 11 recessions since World War II.

[...]February’s headline unemployment rate was portrayed as 7.7%, down from 7.9% in January. The dip was accompanied by huzzahs in the news media claiming the improvement to be “outstanding” and “amazing.” But if you account for the people who are excluded from that number—such as “discouraged workers” no longer looking for a job, involuntary part-time workers and others who are “marginally attached” to the labor force—then the real unemployment rate is somewhere between 14% and 15%.

[...]The number of Americans unemployed for six months or longer went up by 89,000 in February to a total of 4.8 million. The average duration of unemployment rose to 36.9 weeks, up from 35.3 weeks in January. The labor-force participation rate, which measures the percentage of working-age people in the workforce, also dropped to 63.5%, the lowest in 30 years. The average workweek is a low 34.5 hours thanks to employers shortening workers’ hours or asking employees to take unpaid leave.

When we borrow massive amounts of money and spend it today, we should expect to see some sort of return for all of that spending. But it turns out that when government does the spending instead of private citizens and private industry, then much of the money is wasted on nonsense that doesn’t create jobs and grow the economy. The numbers we have today put this point beyond dispute.

The Obama administration has been failing skilled immigrants for the past four years, as well:

When employers can’t expand or develop new lines because of the shortage of certain skills, the employment opportunities for the less skilled are also restricted. To help with this shortage, the administration’s proposals for job-training programs do deserve support. The stress should be on vocational training, postsecondary education and every program that will broaden access to computer science and strengthen science, technology, engineering and math in high schools and at the university level.

But the payoffs from these programs are in the future, and it is vital today to increase the number of annual visas and grants of permanent residency status for foreigners skilled in science and technology. The current situation is preposterous: The brightest and best brains from all over the globe are attracted to American universities, but once they get their degrees America sends them packing. Keeping these foreigners out means they will compete against us in the industries that are growing here and around the world.

This administration prides itself on being “pro-immigration” but they actually favor giving citizenship and voting privileges to millions of people who do not have marketable skills, who cannot speak English, and who disrespect the law by coming here illegally. The administration wants those people to become citizens because those people will vote Democrat. Meanwhile, skilled immigrants with advanced degrees in math, science, engineering and technology can just clear out of the country. They can learn here and work here temporarily, but eventually they have to go home. There are no green cards or naturalizations for skilled immigrants – they have skills, and they may be tempted to do nasty things like vote Republican. Democrats don’t want any of those independent, hard-working immigrants in this country. They are too hard to control and too hard to lie to.

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Let the grown-ups lead: Paul Ryan describes his proposal to balance the budget

Paul Ryan's Balanced Budget Proposal

Paul Ryan’s Balanced Budget Proposal

In the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

America’s national debt is over $16 trillion. Yet Washington can’t figure out how to cut $85 billion—or just 2% of the federal budget—without resorting to arbitrary, across-the-board cuts. Clearly, the budget process is broken. In four of the past five years, the president has missed his budget deadline. Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in over 1,400 days. By refusing to tackle the drivers of the nation’s debt—or simply to write a budget—Washington lurches from crisis to crisis.

House Republicans have a plan to change course. On Tuesday, we’re introducing a budget that balances in 10 years—without raising taxes. How do we do it? We stop spending money the government doesn’t have. Historically, Americans have paid a little less than one-fifth of their income in taxes to the federal government each year. But the government has spent more.

So our budget matches spending with income. Under our proposal, the government spends no more than it collects in revenue—or 19.1% of gross domestic product each year. As a result, we’ll spend $4.6 trillion less over the next decade.

Our opponents will shout austerity, but let’s put this in perspective. On the current path, we’ll spend $46 trillion over the next 10 years. Under our proposal, we’ll spend $41 trillion. On the current path, spending will increase by 5% each year. Under our proposal, it will increase by 3.4%. Because the U.S. economy will grow faster than spending, the budget will balance by 2023, and debt held by the public will drop to just over half the size of the economy.

Yet the most important question isn’t how we balance the budget. It’s why. A budget is a means to an end, and the end isn’t a neat and tidy spreadsheet. It’s the well-being of all Americans. By giving families stability and protecting them from tax hikes, our budget will promote a healthier economy and help create jobs. Most important, our budget will reignite the American Dream, the idea that anyone can make it in this country.

The truth is, the nation’s debt is a sign of overreach. Government is trying to do too much, and when government does too much, it doesn’t do anything well. So a balanced budget is a reasonable goal, because it returns government to its proper limits and focus. By curbing government’s overreach, our budget will give families the space they need to thrive.

Since Obama was elected, he’s added over $5.5 trillion to the national debt. This is not sustainable. We cannot continue to pass on enormous levels of debt to our children so that 30-year-old students can have free condoms bought for them. It is immoral to spend trillions of dollars and then pass the bill to the next generation. Democrats like to talk about helping the children, but really they just want to force them to pay for their wasteful spending. It’s got to stop.

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Did Obama really cut the deficit the deficit by 2.5 trillion?

Democrats control the House and Senate in 2007

Democrats controlled the House and Senate in 2007. The last budget deficit with Republicans in control was $161 billion.

CNS News takes a look at the raw numbers.

Obama’s claim:

President Barack Obama claimed today that since he has been president both parties have worked together to cut the federal deficit by $2.5 trillion—despite the fact that the national debt has increased $5.9 trillion during Obama’s presidency, which is more than it increased under all presidents from George Washington through Bill Clinton combined.

“Over the last few years both parties have worked together to reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion,” Obama said in a speech at the White House in which he called on Congress to avoid modest automatic cuts in anticipated spending that are set to begin on March 1.

The facts:

When Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009, the federal government’s debt was $10,626,877,048,913.08. As of the close of business on Feb. 14, 2013, the federal government’s debt was $16,540,800,290,147.46. Thus, since Obama has been president, the federal debt has increased $5,913,923,241,234.38. That is more than all the debt accumulated by all the presidents from George Washington through Bill Clinton.

[...]Federal spending and federal deficits have both increased sharply under President Obama. In fiscal 2008, the last full fiscal year before Obama took office, the federal government spent $2.9716 trillion. In fiscal 2012, the federal government spent $3.538 trillion.

In fiscal 2008, the federal deficit was $454.8 billion. In fiscal 2012, it was $1.2967 trillion. By this measure, President Obama did not reduce federal deficits by $2.5 trillion. He increased the annual deficit by $841.9 billion.

Not sure what Obama is talking about with this $2.5 trillion number, because both deficits and debt are WAY UP under his leadership. Why is he lying? And why do his supporters believe his lies?

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Obama’s fiscal cliff deal leaves us on a path to 200% debt to GDP

From The Hill.

Excerpt:

The nation’s long-term fiscal outlook hasn’t significantly improved following the recent agreement between Congress and the White House over tax and spending issues, according to a new analysis.

The “fiscal cliff” deal, combined with the debt-limit agreement of August 2011, only slightly delays the United States reaching debt-to-gross domestic product levels that would damage the economy and risk another fiscal crisis, according to a report from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation released on Tuesday.

The agreement “may have prevented the immediate threats that the fiscal cliff posed to our fragile economic recovery, but we haven’t remotely fixed the nation’s debt problem,” said Michael A. Peterson, president and COO of the Peterson Foundation.

“The primary goal of any sustainable fiscal policy is to stabilize the debt as a share of the economy and put it on a downward path, and yet our nation is still heading toward debt levels of 200 percent of GDP and beyond,” he said.

The report concludes that the recent round of deficit-reduction measures won’t make major improvements because they fail to address most of the major contributors to the debt and deficit, including rapidly rising healthcare costs. 

[...]At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week, lawmakers and budget experts agreed that rising healthcare costs, such as Medicare, must be addressed this year as part of efforts to overhaul the tax code and entitlement programs.

“Until spending in those areas is reduced, tax revenues are increased, or policymakers implement a combination of both, the United States will continue to have a severe long-term debt problem,” the report said.

“Reforms should be implemented gradually, and fiscal improvements must be achieved before our debt level and interest payments are so high that sudden or more draconian reforms are required to avert a fiscal crisis.”

The latest deal that stopped income tax increases for those making $400,000 a year or less may have only improved the burgeoning debt situation by a year.

Scheduled spending cuts from the 2011 budget deal, combined with the fiscal cliff agreement, put the debt on track to reach 200 percent of GDP by 2040, five years later than was projected prior to the passage of the two deals. 

The recent deficit-reduction measure gave the nation an additional year before hitting that 200 percent threshold, the report showed. 

I saw an interesting interview featuring Captain Capitalism in the Washington Times. He thinks that the debt spiral is irreversible.

Excerpt:

DDG: What was your take on the “solution” we saw earlier this month to the so-called fiscal cliff crisis?

Clarey: Band-Aid put on a cut aorta.

DDG: My concern is that inflation is distorting all levels of American society. For example, as prices skyrocket from monetary dilation at the Fed, we have this effect where as Rose Wilder Lane says, everything becomes increasingly more expensive and government starts creating laws and fines just for the purpose of revenue generation. So the formation of a police state and this loss of freedoms is in large part a result of government wanting to get more and more revenues to finance outlays that are being dilated as a result of the inflation they themselves are creating. What’s your take on this?

Clarey: I don’t know if it would be at the police state yet where the federal government comes in and confiscates wealth, as much as it is something much more clandestine. The government likes inflation in that it increases asset prices. Thus when somebody sells an asset – land, stocks, bonds, et cetera – they have to pay a capital gains tax.

Forget whether there was an actual real rate of return for the investor, the government gets to tax the real capital gains and the inflationary capital gains. Inflation also erodes the value of the federal debt, forcing the costs on US treasury holders. However, unless things change, the government will be forced [to cope with] with a simplified problem: Does it inflate its way out of its debts or does it confiscate wealth to pay for it?

I can’t read Paul Krugman and Barack Obama’s minds – if any exist – but I believe they will opt to go the inflationary route to solve the country’s debt problems. If they went the wealth-confiscation route, that would mean nationalizing people’s IRAs, 401(k)s and brokerage accounts much like they did in Argentina and Bulgaria. I fear however, because of their political ideology they have no problems doing both.

I am expecting inflation to continue in the near term, followed by seizing retirement accounts if the Democrats take back the House in 2014. The amnesty of 12 million illegal immigrants should give them that. So, if you have a plan to escape this, you’d better execute it in the two years. The clock is ticking.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fiscal cliff deal raises taxes by $600 billion, increases spending $330 billion

The Heritage Foundation explains.

Excerpt:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just now released its score of the bill the Senate passed early this morning while everyone was celebrating the beginning of the New Year. Despite knowing for a long time that taxes would go up on all Americans today, the Senate waited until we technically went over the cliff to act. Washington’s dysfunction was even fodder for New Year’s revelers in Times Square.

Going over the cliff allows Congress to technically say that it isn’t raising taxes, but is cutting them instead. CBO’s score backs them up on this by scoring the Senate bill as a $3.6 trillion tax cut. No one should fall for this. The Senate bill is a tax hike because it allows taxes to go up from 2012 to 2013. The tax increases in the bill will reportedly raise about $600 billion over the next 10 years.

Also of note in the CBO score is that the Senate bill increases spending by around $330 billion by extending expanded unemployment benefits, a temporary “doc fix” patch to prevent cuts to Medicare, and extension of the agriculture programs.

There was some good in the Senate bill — the harmful defense sequester cuts were postponed and most tax hikes were avoided. But there was bad — tax hikes that will hurt the economy and do little to tame the deficit, especially factoring in the spending in the bill.

As I noted before, the CBO has predicted that the bill will add $4 trillion to the national debt, taking us over the $20 trillion mark.

Bloomberg:

The budget deal passed by the U.S. Senate today would raise taxes on 77.1 percent of U.S. households, mostly because of the expiration of a payroll tax cut, according to preliminary estimates from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington.

More than 80 percent of households with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would pay higher taxes. Among the households facing higher taxes, the average increase would be $1,635, the policy center said. A 2 percent payroll tax cut, enacted during the economic slowdown, is being allowed to expire as of yesterday.

According to the CBO, the deal would raise taxes by $41 for every $1 cut from the budget. Have we really dodged a fiscal cliff?

 

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