Thursday, July 28, 2011

Some Budget Options

Congressional negotiators are trying to reach a deal on spending cuts to get $1, $2, or $4 trillion dollars in spending cuts (relative to "the baseline") over the next ten years. That is intended to enable them to get agreement on raising the debt ceiling to allow continuation of the current obscene spending rates. That $1, $2, or $4 trillion dollars in spending cuts translates to an average of $100, $200, or $400 billion less spending per year, probably back-loaded to the later part of the ten year period. (That sounds to me a lot like "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.") Being delayed like that most likely means that — most likely — the debt ceiling and debt would quickly go up but the spending cuts would probably never actually occur.

But the bigger problem is that, even if the spending cuts do occur, they won't get us out of the current unconscionably large budget deficits. The cuts need to be bigger.

So here are a couple of budget cutting suggestions that will do a lot better:

- We are told a large number of current laws have built in escalator clauses that will increase their spending levels by a total of more than $9 trillion dollars over the next ten years. Put a freeze on those escalators and we've saved $9 trillion over those same years.

- Government spending has increased by more than $1 trillion a year since President Barack Obama took office. Get rid of that increased spending and we've saved more than $10 trillion over ten years.

These may be oversimplified, but it seems to me either one of these would do a lot better at cutting bloated government spending than anything being discussed in Congress.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Obama: Majority Want Higher Taxes

President Barack Obama has taken up Vice President Joe Biden's refrain that it's patriotic to want to pay higher taxes. Or, as the headline on one story put it, patriotic Americans want to share in the sacrifice and pay higher taxes. He also said at his press conference that 80% of the US population want to pay higher taxes.

This last, in particular, gets several reactions from me. One is questioning whether these people can really believe this, or are they just trying to con us. (Note that, in his press conference, Obama also said that tax cuts kill jobs!) A second is captured in this cartoon:And third is noting that somewhere between 47% and 51% of our population (depending on your choice of source) pay no income taxes at all, so they figure they won't be the "someone else".

No, I do not believe Obama's 80% statement. And I'm not alone in this — neither does much of anyone else. In fact, this statement has now been identified as one of Obama's ten biggest lies.

All this comes as part of White House PR efforts associated with the debt ceiling negotiations, in which President Obama is still following his obsession to increase taxes on the country. (He doesn't say that, though — he insists on using the words "increase revenue" to try to make people think he's not out to increase taxes.) That obsession came back to the surface this week as he raised by 50% (an additional $400 billion on top of the $800 billion to be gained from tax reform)the amount of debt reduction he insisted come from increased revenues. That bait-and-switch is what made Speaker John Boehner walk away from the White House negotiations. (It's hard to try to negotiate with someone who, when you compromise, adds extra demands.)

Obama keeps talking about "shared sacrifice". When he uses the term, he means higher taxes. But I agree with the writer who noted that

Real “shared sacrifice” doesn’t involve seizing more funds from the small minority of the people who pay the vast majority of our taxes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Last Shuttle Landing

With the pre-dawn landing of the space shuttle Atlantis in Florida this morning, this thirty year long program of manned space flight has come to an end. This mission was the 135th space shuttle mission, and was officially designated STS-135 (STS is short for Space Transportation System).

This is the end of an era of manned space flight that began with the challenge issued by President John F Kennedy on May 25, 1961. "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth," President Kennedy said at the time. Work toward that goal progressed through the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. President Kennedy's challenge was fulfilled on July 16, 1969, when Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon. Flights under the Apollo program continued through 1975.

The space shuttle program first reached into space on April 12, 1981, with a flight of just over two days. Subsequent missions have carried a variety of satellites into orbit (including the Hubble Space Telescope), carried various orbital experiments and technology developments, and performed a number of more mundane missions including satellite repair and carrying modules and supplies for the International Space Station.

The space shuttle program was originally conceived to involve many more launches, and much more frequent launches, than have actually occurred. The idea was to have up to 50 shuttle launches per year, with the reusable vehicle intended to drive down launch and operating per-mission costs. (The space shuttle is the only reusable vehicle ever launched into space.) Each shuttle was designed to have a working life of 100 flights over a 10 year period. The three surviving shuttles (of the five that were built — not counting the non-space-qualified Enterprise test vehicle) have all had longer working lives with many fewer launches; Atlantis ended its career today at the close of its 33rd flight.

With today's end of the space shuttle program, the United States has no manned space flight capability.

Space Shuttle Program
First Launch — April 12, 1981
Final Landing — July 22, 2011
135 Total Flights

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Legal Truth

A business law professor I had a class from years ago taught us a truth that proven again today:

There is law, and there is justice.
And if in some case those two are the same, that's

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Incredible Insurance Ignorance

Here's a tale from someone who is or was, as they say, "unclear on the concept". Totally.

When I was young, just got out of college, I had to buy auto insurance. I had a beat-up old car. And I won't name the name of the insurance company, but there was a company -- let's call it Acme Insurance in Illinois. And I was paying my premiums every month. After about six months I got rear-ended and I called up Acme and said, I'd like to see if I can get my car repaired, and they laughed at me over the phone because really this was set up not to actually provide insurance; what it was set up was to meet the legal requirements. But it really wasn't serious insurance.
Let me translate a little bit of this stupidity. "[W]hat it was set up was to meet the legal requirements." That would be the legally required liability insurance, to compensate others for damage you do. "{T}his was set up not to actually provide insurance[.]" Not intended to cover his own vehicle, under coverage he evidently did not purchase. So this guy clearly had just the legally required liability insurance coverage, and no coverage for the repair of his own car. And he didn't know the difference.

But then insurance is insurance is insurance. Right? If you have insurance of any flavor, it should take care of everything. Right?

The tale makes me wonder how anyone could get through high school, much less college, and not know such basic information? Especially since this kind of information is given routinely by every driver's training class and every auto insurance agent. (After all, the insurance agent wants to sell you the additional coverage, so it's in his interest to make absolutely sure you understand that liability coverage doesn't cover your own car at all.) How incredibly ignorant and just plain dumb does one have to be not to know something this basic? One would be tempted to put something like this down to deliberate stupidity.

And why didn't he file a claim against the other driver's liability insurance? Since he says he got rear-ended, the other driver was (probably) at fault and a claim could/should be made against that driver's liability insurance. Why did he apparently not know enough to get the other driver's insurance information so he could file such a claim? That, too, is awfully basic. Since he didn't, this tale indicates this young man never looked at any of the information provided by his insurance company — you know, the standard stuff with titles like "What to do if you have an accident". More incredible ignorance.

It turns out this individual is still as ignorant as ever. Right after telling the tale above, he got to the reason he was telling his tale, as he went on to say.

Now, it's one thing if you've got an old beat-up car that you can't get fixed. It's another thing if your kid is sick, or you've got breast cancer.
It's hard to believe anyone could possibly be this dumb-as-rocks ignorant. This must be one of those fake things that gets passed around by e-mail periodically. Except it's not. This story was told in an interview given as part of the push to get the Obamacare bill passed. The interview was on CNN. It is now on YouTube, and is linked here.

Being as charitable as possible, this level of ignorance could be real and, if so, may be at least partly responsible for this same individual repeatedly telling what turns out to be, at best, a highly misleading story about his mother's supposed difficulty getting her health insurance to pay her medical claims in her last month of terminal cancer. He keeps insisting the insurance company was trying to avoid covering his mother's medical bills, a statement that is simply not true. The only claim denied was a separate disability insurance claim, not any claim for coverage of her medical bills. It would take someone who is dumb-as-rocks ignorant, or suffering from deliberate stupidity, not to know the difference. The alternative is that he is, and has been, simply lying.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Senator McConnell's Gambit

There are a lot of stories running around with titles like "McConnell Caves" and "McConnell's Retreat". They're all talking about the fallback plan floated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). That plan, if passed by Congress, would allow President Obama to raise the debt limit in three stages. Each debt ceiling increase would be required to be accompanied by spending cuts of the same size.

This plan has already gotten approving comments from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Arizona Senator John McCain. None of these approvals is likely to gain much additional Republican support for the plan.

I wonder if there isn't something else involved in this gambit. If Obama and the Congressional Democrats accept McConnell's plan, they commit to spending cuts equal in size to each of the three debt ceiling raises — but there are no tax increases. Thus, under this plan, the spending cuts come but Obama's obsession with raising taxes fails. And the chances of the House passing this plan after that are very small.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Lockbox Has Been Stolen

President Barack Obama says Social Security checks may not go out next month if the debt ceiling isn't raised before then.

"I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it," Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley, according to excerpts released by CBS News.
"[T]here may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it." That directly says the legendary Social Security Lockbox — or at least what was in it — has been stolen. Somebody needs to go to prison for this, just as someone would if it happened in the private sector.

UPDATE: I like Jim Hoft's take on the ever-petulant Barack Obama: "Obama: I May Not Send Out Social Security Checks If I Don’t Get to Raise Taxes"

The Source of the Problem

President Barack Obama publicly and repeatedly blames the Republicans for the problems in reaching a deal in the debt ceiling negotiations. But the Wall Street Journal's Review and Outlook column has encapsulated the real source of the problem quite nicely, in one sentence:

President Obama demanded again yesterday that Republicans raise taxes in return for giving him the debt-limit increase he's also demanding.
As they say, "Nice of him to be so accommodating."

Obama is insisting that any package include tax hikes (euphemistically referred to as "reductions in tax expenditures"). This is Obama's obsession. How much does he want? His negotiators are demanding about $1 trillion in new taxes. And even that isn't enough to satisfy his cronies. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) have produced a plan calling for an additional $2 trillion in new taxes. These new taxes would be in addition to the nearly $1 trillion in additional taxes incorporated in the Obamacare bill.

There is one more small thing they're not admitting when they talk about this. These new taxes — whether $1 or $2 trillion or more — are on top of a baseline that assumes the expiration of the so-called "Bush tax cuts". Those tax rate reductions cut taxes for everyone who paid taxes, removing a whole lot more people from paying taxes at all in the process. Making them expire is already a tax increase of close to $1 trillion dollars — and Obama and his minions want another $1-2 trillion in new taxes on top of that?!?!?

Every time there's something new on this story, it just keeps getting worse!

Nancy Pelosi — Disconnected From Reality

We have known for a long time that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-SanFran) has a tenuous grasp on reality at best. Now it is clear she has completely lost touch with reality.

At Thursday’s White House meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner laid out in stark terms the awful economic repercussions of allowing the debt ceiling to lapse. Everyone in the room agreed that defaulting on U.S. debt would be disastrous and that something must be done. At that point, Nancy Pelosi asked: Why couldn’t the debt ceiling be decoupled from deficit reduction?

Her query, after so many weeks of reports and talks centered on deficit reduction tied to a debt ceiling deal, visibly surprised some leaders in the room, several Republican and Democratic sources say. Obama politely informed the House Minority Leader, those same sources say, that that train had left the station weeks ago.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Tale of Two Patients

Two different patients & two different doctors' offices.

Two patients limp into two different medical clinics with the same complaint. Both have trouble walking and appear to require a hip replacement.

The FIRST patient is examined within the hour, is x-rayed the same day and has a time booked for surgery the following week.

The SECOND sees his family doctor after waiting 3 weeks for an appointment, then waits 8 weeks to see a specialist, then gets an x-ray, which isn't reviewed for another week, and finally has his surgery scheduled for 6 months from then.

Why the different treatment for the two patients?

The FIRST is a Golden Retriever.
The SECOND is a Senior Citizen.
Next time take me to a vet!
This would be a funny joke if it weren't so true.

Back when President Barack Obama was trying to justify his massive takeover of the American health care system, through his Obamacare bill (a.k.a. the horribly misnamed "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act", or PPACA), one of his justifications was that private insurers were denying so many claims. Of course, he failed to mention that Medicare — our national health care program for senior citizens — denied medical claims at more than twice the rate of the private insurers. More examples, more coverage horror stories, have been coming out since then. Here is one more to add to that list.

Let me introduce Mrs Erlinda Moya. She has lived more than 99 years; she will soon have her 100th birthday. She is loved by the members of her parish, and cared for by her daughter and family. Her health has been good but, just in case of a medical need, she is covered by both Medicare and Medicaid (under the disabled and elderly waiver), as well as by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Not long ago, Mrs Moya got an infection in a toe. It was a stubborn one, and she was hospitalized. It took a while to find an antibiotic that was effective against her infection, and the toe had to be amputated. Medicare paid for all of the medical care, and all the supplies and facilities that were needed.

The doctors said Mrs Moya would need IV antibiotics for another five weeks to completely get rid of the infection. Medicare wanted to put her in a nursing home for that five weeks to handle the IV infusions. That would keep her instutitionalized, and away from her family. The family, naturally, wanted to bring her back home instead. And they were told that, while Medicare would cover the full nursing home cost (more than $7000), Mrs Moya would have to pay $60 a day for the five weeks (a total of $2100) if the family took her home. There's no way her limited income could cover that kind of cost!

Medicare didn't want to budge. They weren't interested in saving $5000 and getting a better medical outcome by letting Mrs Moya go home to her family. (And that's assuming the $2100 is a government rate as well as a private-pay rate.) Medicare was only interested in pressuring the family into putting her in an institution. They wanted to pay $7000 unnecessarily for institutional care, or make Mrs Moya pay $2100 to be with her family. Those were their only choices.

That is bureaucratic stupidity, at best.

Fortunately for Mrs Moya, another solution was found — a solution outside the Medicare system. A caring case worker put the family in touch with Walgreen's, from which they obtained the antibiotics at a nominal cost for infusion by Mrs Moya's son. As a result, Mrs Moya is with her family, is improving, and is looking forward to her 100th birthday.

There is a lesson to be had here. Programs don't care about people. Bureaucracies don't care. Rules and regulations don't care. But — sometimes — individual people do care. The system makes it hard for them to do so, but sometimes they do anyway. And when they do, they can sometimes find a way to force an unwilling bureaucracy to use at least a little common sense.

There is also an epilogue. Mrs Moya's tale touched Mrs Critter. As is frequently the case, she took action in response. She wrote to Senator Jeff Bingaman about it. She noted that Mrs Moya has voted for Senator Bingaman many times, and now she needs some protection from a system too big to care. What she got in return was a form letter that stated "I understand your concerns regarding the new health care reform law." and claimed major benefits for "the new health care reform law" (Obamacare) including the claim that "it significantly reduces the federal deficit by $1 trillion dollars." (At least he got the amount right - he just got the sign wrong.) Interestingly, the Senator's letter never names "the new health care reform law", either as Obamacare or as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - Obamacare's formal name.

This response angered Mrs Critter, and she replied to Senator Bingaman saying

Senator and staff,

I am so frustrated at the way you waste my money!!! I wrote to you about a specific case of Mrs. Moya, a 99-year old woman who has Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross Blue Shield and her family's frustrations securing the care she needs and you respond with a FORM LETTER. She is a real live person whom YOU have failed. If you have failed her and simply fold your hands, THAT is the real answer to my concerns about how OBAMACARE will fail the nation. The health care you have imposed on us now has failed Mrs. Moya -- what a waste of taxpayer dollars!!! Obamacare will be bigger and much more expensive and will fail all but the politicians. Yes, I am angry that you respond to a real life situation with a form letter and sit on your hunches while Mrs. Moya and her family struggles with her health care situation. You are useless!!!! We should start by cutting your staff and your retirement benefits should be need-based.


So there is no good news on the bureaucratic front. The only good news is still that Mrs Moya is with her family, is improving, and is looking forward to her 100th birthday.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

We Have a Spending Problem

The debt was merely a problem back in 2003-8. The debt has become a crisis now.

What has made the difference?

Tax rates haven't changed in the last eight years. Only spending rates have, leaping upward since 2008.

We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.


With the current tax rates, tax collections increased rapidly from 2003 through 2007. That only changed when the economy went into the toilet in 2008, thanks to the bursting of the housing sub-prime mortgage bubble. With tax collections increasing, and some (though not much) spending restraint, the deficit came down from 2004 through 2007, before the bad economy started it rising again.

Barack Obama became president in 2009, and immediately started making things worse. With him in the White House, there was no longer any restraint on the profligacy of the Pelosi-Reid Congress — indeed, Obama's spending demands made things worse.

Tax rates did not change, but spending rates did. The deficit exploded, tripling from what it had been before. And the reason was the spending increases, since there were no tax cuts.

The problem we now have with the deficit and the debt ceiling has been created by out of control spending, not by insufficient taxes. The solution to the problem is to roll back the spending increases that created the problem.

Get the spending cuts now. We can discuss tax hikes later, if we think they're really needed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Party Leaders Prove My Point (Updated)

I began a recent posting by saying

It is frequently claimed that concern over vote fraud is unwarranted, that there are few or no false or fraudulent voter registrations, and that little or no vote fraud actually takes place.
In an Albuquerque Journal guest column (subscription/registration required for link), Lisa Chavez, Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Valencia County here in New Mexico, made precisely these claims. She also claims, in the words of the headline on her piece, that "Voter ID Talk Just a Cynical Effort by GOP to Limit Votes". She makes the same claims in the oolumn's text. She claims, for example, that
The real issue here is that both nationally and locally, the GOP knows that they have to stop intimidated and disenfranchised groups from voting if they want to stand a chance in the 2012 elections.

It's that simple.

She rails against the new state voter fraud investigation, triggered by apparent findings of non-citizens who registered to vote and actually voted, calling it a waste of millions of dollars and again asserting its purpose is voter suppression. She thinks we should ignore the evidence and pretend it doesn't exist, as she does, and simply push the story that everything is fine.

Ms Chavez must know her claims are false. And she must know her claimes about Republican motives involve malicious projection, just like the recent charges by Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D-FL) that the Republicans want to bring back the Jim Crow laws, a charge so flagrant and reckless she had to retract it.

It seems to me that, if one wants to follow Ms Chavez and Ms Wasserman Schulz into conspiracy theories, one would note the close cooperation between the Democratic Party and ACORN, ACORN's nationwide voter registration fraud activity (including their insistence on registering voters only as Democrats), and the ACORN vote fraud activity already proven in several states. It appears to me the party trying to mess with our electoral system is the party that's protesting so much -- the Democrats.

In the meantime, I have a few questions for Ms Chavez and her fellow travelers. These include

  • Where are all the people you claim have no photo ID and no ability to get one? Where are their complaints that they can't buy a beer, cash a check, or rent a video, or enter a federal building, or travel around the country by most modes of transportation, or drive a car, or get a job, or . . . (so many other things), or even buy Sudafed over the counter? The evidence seems to say there are not large numbers of people without photo IDs — the notion that there are is false, it's a myth. And even if it weren't a myth, every voter ID law I've ever heard of includes a provision for free IDs for such people, just in case there really are some. Why do you ignore that?

  • With all the things an ID is required for, how is it that an ID requirement is only discriminatory in voting? How could asking for ID be discriminatory only when it comes to voting? If it is discriminatory in voting, then it is discriminatory in all those other areas, and we have a major national need to take action to end these vestiges of discrimination that are occurring throughout our society. If it is not discriminatory in all these other areas, then it is not discriminatory in voting, either, and the claims to the contrary are simply dishonest. Or, paraphrasing James Taranto,
    Our answer is that their claim of discrimination is a dishonest and divisive partisan appeal to blacks' [and other minorities'] fears of racism — fears that, in this instance, do not appear to have any basis in contemporary reality.
  • How can you claim voter ID bills are sinister plots to suppress minority and Democrat votes when reality shows they haven't worked that way?
    Some opponents of election security laws also declare that they are part of a sinister plot to depress voter registration and turnout, especially among minority voters who are more likely to vote Democrat. Here too the facts do not support the claim. Georgia's photo ID requirement was in place for both the 2008 and 2010 elections, when turnout among minority voters was higher than average. Likewise, Arizona's proof-of-citizenship requirement for registration has not impeded minority voters from registering.
  • Why do you ignore the evidence? Even I have seen it reported repeatedly, even in our local newspapers (see, for example, links cited here and here and here). Others have noticed, as well, as noted (for example) here and here. And that doesn't include the voter fraud and voter registration fraud proven in other states (through convictions and guilty pleas) and not prosecuted here. Explain to me how this evidence doesn't really exist.

  • Why aren't you welcoming this probe? If there really is no vote fraud, as you claim, the probe will show that. You only have something to worry about if your claims are wrong or dishonest.

It appears to me that Ms Lisa Chavez, Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Valencia County in New Mexico, probably (1) knows vote fraud is a significant problem, (2) knows or has a good idea what the vote fraud investigation is likely to find, and so (3) has written a cynical rant to try to divert our attention and — if she's lucky — derail the investigation so the vote fraud status quo can continue. In reality, she's just "pounding the table"*.

UPDATE: The Albuquerque Journal has published a guest column today (July 7) by Victor S Contreras, Jr. Mr Contreras is Chairman of Hispanos Unidos. Mr Contreras is a supporter of strong voter ID laws. And he really destroys the testimony of Daniel Ivey-Soto, a paid lobbyist for the New Mexico Association of County Clerks Affiliate. He points out that Ivey-Soto has said absolutely contradictory things at different times, all depending on what claims needed to be made to derail the current voter ID bill. His opposition to any kind of voter ID requirement is his only constant. He supports laws allowing people to register and vote on the same day. No photo ID required. As Mr Contreras notes, this would be "Hit-and-run voting, with no way to detect it."

While Mr Ivey-Soto now asserts there is no solid evidence of voter fraud, he previously sang a different tune.

Additionally, Ivey-Soto’s current stand that there is no fraud contradicts a statement he made when he was the New Mexico elections director in 2007 [emphasis added]. He was asked at a meeting of the state’s county clerks how same-day registration would not enable voter fraud. The Albuquerque Tribune printed his response: “I can’t. But I can’t guarantee there isn’t fraud going on now. … I know people who have gone on Election Day and voted multiple times because they knew people who weren’t going to vote. I’ve never participated in that, but I know people who have.”
In other words, like many other opponents of voter ID requirements, he knows there is a large vote fraud problem. It's just that, for whatever reason, he doesn't care.

As I have said before, anyone who opposes a serious voter identification requirement is objectively promoting vote fraud. That's why a large majority of New Mexico voters (apparently 85%) favor a voter ID law, but that doesn't matter since that 85% obviously doesn't include the Democrats serving in the legislature. I wonder why the Democrats are insisting on killing any and all voter ID proposals. (Maybe I shouldn't wonder.)

* "If you don't have the facts,
and you don't have the law,
then pound the table."

White House Deficit Talks Ploy

CBS News is reporting that

Amid ongoing efforts to work out a deal to raise the debt ceiling, the New York Times reports that the White House is offering up tens of billions of dollars' worth of reductions in Medicaid and Medicare programs - if Republicans agree to increase tax revenues.
Sorry, but this is nothing new. This is what the Obama Administration has been pushing since the debt ceiling question first came up, with emphasis on the White House (and Democrat) insistence that any debt ceiling bill must include tax hikes. And if the Republicans accept this, then, as Weasel Zippers notes
That way Obama can blame Republicans for raising taxes and cutting Medicare.
This, from the White House, is more politics than policy.

Note, too, that the Obama Administration wants to make more cuts in Medicare after having just stolen a half trillion dollars from the program in the Obamacare bill (horribly misnamed as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or PPACA) last year. In other words, the Obama Administration has already ended "Medicare as we know it".

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Default Is Obama's Choice

Obama Administration officials continue to say that "the nation's borrowing will exceed its $14.3 trillion limit on Aug. 2 and that economic shockwaves around the world would result from the first financial default in U.S. history." I have pointed out before that this is a direct and deliberate lie.

I'm not the only one say this. (If I were, you all would be fully justified in ignoring what I said — unless my evidence and argumentation convinced you.) Here are just a couple of the others making the same point.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on Michele Bachmann's appearance on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday:

Earlier Sunday, Bachmann had harsher words for those warning economic calamity unless Congress raises the government's borrowing limit by an August deadline.

"It isn't true that the government would default on its debt," Bachmann told CBS' "Face the Nation." She later added, "It is scare tactics."

Instead, she said the U.S. could avoid a default by paying only the interest on U.S. obligations while lawmakers work on a deal to cut spending dramatically as part of a new debt ceiling.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey insists that
the Treasury can easily pay interest to bondholders first. The remaining funds would cover about two-thirds of the budget, and the president would simply be forced to make drastic cuts because he lacked money to pay all the bills.
President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are like the guy who wants to buy a big screen TV but needs to buy groceries and pay his mortgage, but doesn't have enough money to do all three. He should pay the mortgage and buy the groceries, and has enough to do that with more left over. He could decide to default on his mortgage so he can buy the TV he wants. But if he does so, that default is his choice. It simply is not necessary.

Germany's White Rose Movement

History fascinates me. And it does so for the same reason science does. I always want to understand why things happen/happened. But it's also fascinating to see some of the things that didn't work, and attempts by people and groups that failed. They're instructive, too.

Today's case in point is Germany's White Rose Movement. I hadn't known about them, but they were a group at Munich University before and during World War II. They opposed Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers Party (the Nazis). They printed leaflets describing the horrors of the Holocaust, trying to bring national and international attention to the Nazi government's program of genocide. The movement spread these leaflets through affiliated groups in major cities throughout the German Reich.

They were not very successful. Most of the world wanted to — and did — ignore them. The Nazis wanted to exterminate them, and did execute the leaders of the movement and most or all of the movement's Munich members in 1943. The movement did reach someone's conscience, however, as Allied aircraft dropped some of their leaflets over Europe later in 1943.

Very few of the White Rose Movement's leaflets survive and, like the movement itself, they have been nearly forgotten. But a collector is now donating one of these rare leaflets to the British Holocaust Center. The White Rose Movement may remain fairly obscure but, partly as a result of this donation, they will not be forgotten.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

(image above from The Astute Bloggers)

God Bless America!

And remember why we celebrate.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Obama's "Balanced Approach"

President Barack Obama and his partisans in the Congress say they want a "balanced approach" for deficit reduction. They want to use a combination of spending cuts and tax increases ("tax expenditure reductions") to bring down the deficit. They absolutely do not want to reduce the deficit through budget cuts alone. (President Barack Obama said "We can't simply cut our way to prosperity.") In fact, the Obama Administration and its partisans don't want to have any budget cuts at all. (Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said "We have to raise taxes on small business so government programs don't have to shrink.") But they may accept some budget cuts as a necessary evil. If they're forced to.

Let's step back and take a look at the problem. Tax rates haven't changed in the last eight years. Only spending rates have. With the current tax rates, tax collections increased rapidly from 2003 through 2007. That only changed when the economy went into the toilet in 2008 thanks to the bursting of the housing sub-prime mortgage bubble. The deficit came down through 2007, too, but went up somewhat in 2008 (slightly, by comparison to later values).

But things changed in 2009. With Barack Obama in the White House, there was no longer any restraint on the profligacy of the Pelosi-Reid Congress. Tax rates did not change, but spending rates did. The deficit exploded, tripling from what it had been before. And the reason was the spending increases, since there were no tax cuts.

The problem we now have with the deficit and the debt ceiling has been created by out of control spending, not by insufficient tax revenues. The solution to the problem is to roll back the spending increases that created the problem.

But the secondary problem is that President Obama and his Congressional partisans, independent of anything else, just want a massive, and unnecessary, tax increase as part of any debt ceiling increase deal. Since that insistence does not really address the deficit problem's cause, it may be that Obama and his partisans simply want to maintain his principle that the answer to deficit reduction (as all other questions) is raising taxes. If he fails, and if it is proven that we really can "cut our way to prosperity", then he is done and his presidency will rest among the other failed presidencies. Right alongside that of Jimmy Carter.

Obama Wants to Raise Your Taxes

The economy is in bad shape, and getting worse. Manuracturing data suggest a new recession may be starting. If the economy isn't in a new recession, it's in danger of falling into one. It's shaky. It almost certainly cannot withstand any substantial shock.

So what does President Barack Obama want to do? He wants to raise taxes. A lot. $400 billion or $600 billion, depending on whose reporting you listen to. He wants to increase business and investment costs by that huge amount, taking that amount out of the economy that can't afford that kind of shock.

Yes, business and investment are the target — especially business. As Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said to Congress (approximately), "We have to raise taxes on small business so government programs don't have to shrink."

But we really do want government programs to shrink. The federal government and its programs are bloated and overly intrusive into the lives and actions of the people and the states. And the federal government wastes and squanders huge amounts of money every year. In addition, the government's increasing regulatory overreach is yet another huge drag on the economy.

There's another problem for Obama, too. The Congressional Budget Office says tax hikes are not necessary. So Obama's proposed tax hikes are both damaging to the economy and unnecessary — except maybe ideologically.

Or maybe President Obama thinks his tax hikes will be as ineffective in damaging the economy as his stimulus was in assisting it.