It’s Time to Try Something New for a Change

January 16, 2014

Last week, on the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s so-called War on Poverty, President Barack Obama unveiled his latest initiative to combat economic deprivation in America.  The President’s latest scheme involves public and private funding to create jobs, enhance public safety, improve schools, and provide better housing in 20 communities across the country.  You know, it is the same old story.  If only the federal government would spend enough money we could eradicate poverty in our lifetime.  Unfortunately, for Obama, his latest initiative to fight poverty will have the same end result as LBJ’s War on Poverty – utter failure.

You see, in the 50 years since LBJ signed into law the most sweeping social welfare programs in the history of the U.S., Uncle Sam has spent about $16 trillion on public assistance schemes.  Yet, Americans living in poverty has only gone from 19 percent of the population in 1964 to about 15 percent today.  Put another way, it cost our economy $4 trillion for every percentage point decrease in the rate of poverty.  Given our already enormous national debt and the future calamity it will bring, isn’t there a more cost effective way to help the poor escape poverty?  We cannot afford to spend more money and that is clearly not the answer anyway.

At the end of the day, the best way to fight poverty is with a job.  Thus, to help the poor all minimum wage laws should be repealed immediately.  The late, great, Murray Rothbard had it right when he labeled minimum wage laws “compulsory unemployment”.  Whenever government fixes prices either shortages or surpluses result.  Fixing wage rates above the market rate will only lessen demand for workers’ labor.  Thus, a surplus of workers’ labor (unemployment) will result.  This is Economics 101.

Low wages may not provide a decent standard of living, but for the 49 percent of African-American youth who are currently unemployed, the jobs they would have by virtue of repealing minimum wage laws would give them the opportunity to work hard, get work place experience, and build a resume.  All three could lead to higher paying jobs in the future.

But repeal of minimum wage laws alone isn’t enough.  Uncle Sam needs to repeal costly regulations on business which prevents the creation of new jobs.  In 2013, the federal government adopted $112 billion worth of new regulatory costs on job producers.  This amounted to 80,224 pages being added to the Federal Register.  Since Barack Obama became president in 2009 close to $500 billion in new regulations have been imposed.  And then there is the job killing scheme known as Obamacare.  At a time when the labor force participation rate is at the lowest level since 1978, should the federal government really be concerned about expensive energy efficiency standards for microwave ovens?

To be sure, more could be done to alleviate the scourge of poverty.  A gold backed dollar like existed in the late 1800s and which kept price inflation flat for more than 60 years should be reintroduced in America.  Abolition of the Federal Reserve System which is primarily responsible for the continuous boom and bust cycle in our economy and the destruction of the middle class should be enacted.

In the final analysis, for 50 years, Washington has thrown good money at the so-called War on Poverty.  The result has been failure to achieve the objective.  And this is why it’s time to try something new for a change.


Young Voters Betrayed by Obama Policies

December 21, 2013

Barack Obama, in large part, owes his presidency to young voters.  In two presidential elections he has garnered 66 percent and 67 percent of their vote respectively.  Many of those votes proved pivotal for him in winning key states like Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  And yet the President apparently feels no loyalty toward this group of voters that has given him so much.  In fact, it has become second nature for him to run roughshod over their interests.

To begin with, the economy Obama has produced for young people in close to five years of his leadership is horrendous.  His policies of regulate and spend have not permitted the economy to recover from the Great Recession that began in 2008.  Unemployment for 15 to 24 year olds is more than double the national average.  Many college graduates, unable to find a job, have returned to their parents’ nests to wait for better days and brighter employment prospects.  African-American teenagers face a jobless rate of more than 40 percent!

And while the President was attempting to “stimulate” the economy back to good health with profligate spending, what he did instead was run up a tab that young folks will have to pay back for many years into the future.  What’s more, when interest rates rise to their historic average and interest payments on the national debt more than double, paying back that debt will have to include much higher taxes or enormous cuts in government services.

Lastly, there is Obamacare.  The President is relying on young folks to make his health care scheme work.  He is counting on millions of them to purchase high cost plans to offset costs for the sick and elderly.  Of course, many will not accommodate the President’s wishes, thereby causing health care premiums to skyrocket for all consumers.  By the time the current crop of 18-30 year olds is interested in purchasing health care coverage the costs will be astronomical.  Thus he has put them in an unenviable position.  They are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

Young people made a serious mistake giving Barack Obama their overwhelming support in the last two presidential elections.  But, what choice did they have?  John McCain and Mitt Romney weren’t much better alternatives.  What young people need are free market policies – sound money, a balanced federal budget, and deregulation.  It doesn’t appear this is going to happen anytime soon.


Obama is Disingenuous about the Economy as Well

November 21, 2013

Lies, damn lies, and statistics.  The current administration has become adept at using all three to mislead the American people.  There is the current kerfuffle over the President’s lie that Americans could keep their health care plans and doctors under Obamacare if they liked them.  Of course, that was a damn lie, especially if you have lost your plan and are now looking at much higher premiums.  And then there are smaller mistruths, perhaps not as egregious, when it comes to describing the current state of the economy.

For instance, I got an email from the White House last week with the headline:  “Here’s What Economic Growth Looks Like, in 3 Charts”.  Included in the message was a chart showing private sector job growth over the last 44 months.  7.8 million private sector jobs have been produced in that time period.  At first glance, this number is amazing.  But, it is only a statistic.  And statistics can be deceiving if you only take them at face value.

Although, nearly 8 million jobs produced in the last 44 months is quite an accomplishment, the figure becomes a lot less remarkable when it is viewed alongside other related statistics.  Those 7.8 million jobs in the last 44 months calculates to an average of about 177,000 per month.  Unfortunately, over the same time period the working age population has grown by an average of 213,000 workers per month.  Thus, private sector job growth is not keeping up with the number of new workers entering the job market.  7.8 million new jobs is simply nowhere near the number of jobs that are needed.

Further, the statistic put out there by the Obama Administration does not indicate what kind of private sector jobs are being produced.  According to the Household Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from February to August of this year, 963,000 more people reported they were employed, and 936,000 of them reported they were in part-time positions.  Additionally, Labor Department statistics show that people employed in part-time positions are growing four and a half times faster than those employed in full time positions.  So, while claiming 7.8 million jobs is “What Economic Growth Looks Like”, the Administration is being less than honest given that most of the jobs are low-paying, light hour positions.

To put things in the proper perspective, in 2009, 133.5 million Americans were employed.  32 million Americans were on food stamps.  Today, 143.5 million Americans are employed, while 47 million are on food stamps.  Thus, while 10 million more Americans are working today, 15 million more are on food stamps.  This is not indicative of economic growth.  It is characteristic of a collapsing economy.

But, the point is that the President needs to come clean with regards to the condition of the economy.  He is a smart guy.  He has access to the same statistics referenced in this article.  The charade that the economy is growing and has been in recovery since 2009 must end.  Lastly, there needs to be an acknowledgement from Obama that spending trillions of dollars and pumping trillions more into the economy through Federal Reserve monetary schemes has been an abysmal failure in reviving our collapsing economy.  Let’s end the lies, damn lies, and dishonest statistics so we can have an adult conversation about a new direction for America.


Obamacare is Mostly a Wealth Redistribution Program

November 1, 2013

President Obama has long held the view that wealth redistribution is good for America.  His most famous proclamation of that position came during the 2008 presidential race when in Ohio he told “Joe the Plumber”, “When you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody,” But, perhaps the best indicator of how he would govern as president came in a 1998 speech he gave to students at Loyola University.   Then, Illinois state Senator Obama said, “The trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some [wealth] redistribution — because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”

The President’s signature legislative accomplishment as chief executive, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more widely known as Obamacare, is one of those government systems he spoke about whose purpose is to redistribute wealth to help everybody.

All along, it’s been clear that Obamacare’s goal was to provide health care coverage to the millions of Americans who could not afford their own coverage.  Its purpose was never to lower health care costs in general.  In order to accomplish the goal, Obamacare must take from some (the young, healthy, and responsible) and give to others (the not so young, unhealthy, or irresponsible).  At the end of the day, this amounts to nothing more than a program to redistribute wealth on a vast scale.  And that is exactly what is happening under the law so far.

CBS News has reported that more than two million Americans have recently been notified that their current health care policies do not meet the higher minimum standards mandated by Obamacare.  Therefore, they will lose their coverage on January 1, 2014.  It’s been estimated that about half of those who have lost coverage will pay more while the other half will pay less.  But, Obamacare is not based on actuarial science like other insurance schemes.  Those paying higher premiums in the future aren’t going to be paying more because they smoke or guzzle booze or participate in risky sexual practices.  They will pay more to subsidize those who pay less or nothing at all.  This defies the very essence of insurance – shared risk.  What incentive do the poor have to live a healthier lifestyle if those with more resources will always pick up their bill?

And watching Secretary Sebelius testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I learned that single men, who have never given birth, are required under Obamacare to have maternity coverage!  Really?  Is this fair or is this a means to transfer wealth from men to women by using the income of the former to reduce the costs of the latter?  After all, the Administration believes women only earn about 70 cents of every dollar that men make.  Perhaps, the Administration is trying to achieve through Obamacare what it can’t through legislative action?

No matter the case, Obamacare is doomed to failure.  Yes, more Americans will be covered but the costs will overwhelm the system and those that are footing the bill.  As more and more high risk applicants sign up for health coverage through the exchanges, the premiums of those paying the bill will continue to rise.  The incentive for these folks will be to find a way to have Uncle Sam subsidize at least a portion of their coverage.  More Americans will become impoverished.  That is always the result of wealth redistribution policies.  The president is a learned man.  He should know this.


Obamacare is Contributing to Jobs Leaving America

October 16, 2013

One major defect (there are many) of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is the provision of the law which institutes an excise tax on medical device manufacturers.  Totaling a paltry $29 billion (in relation to what Obamacare will cost overall) over the next decade, the purpose of the new tax is to finance some of the subsidies the federal government will pay to expand Medicaid coverage to the uninsured.

Now on the surface, this sounds like an admirable goal, namely, providing health care coverage for those who can’t afford it on their own.  But, upon closer inspection, this is another example of what the famous French political economist Frederic Bastiat wrote about in his 1850 essay, “Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas” (“What is Seen and What is Unseen”).

You see while the president and other advocates of Obamacare boast that they will expand coverage for more Americans through provisions like the medical-device excise tax, they fail to realize or refuse to acknowledge that other Americans will lose their jobs on account of the same provision.

Consider just two of the bigger players in the medical device industry.  Minneapolis based, Medtronic (NYSE: MDT), the world’s largest spinal device maker, announced it would soon hire 1,500 new workers, but because of Obamacare most of those hires will be overseas.  Then there is Massachusetts based Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX).  The large cardiovascular device maker announced it would lay-off between 1,200 and 1,400 workers worldwide with a majority being American workers while at the same time announcing a $150 million investment in China that would create 1,000 new jobs there.  So, while Obama claims that more Americans will have health coverage under Obamacare, others will lose their jobs or not be hired because of it.

To be sure, companies do not move their operations overseas without careful consideration.  It is expensive and even risky for them to relocate all or the bulk of their workforce outside the United States.  There are a lot of costs involved with moving facilities and setting up shop abroad.  Corruption, political instability, and unskilled labor forces in most developing countries provide an enormous amount of risk for American companies.  Yet many of them make the move anyway.  And that is the question which has baffled Obama and his ilk for some time now. Why have American companies and the jobs they provide gone overseas these last several decades?  The answer is simple:  because the money saved in taxes, many times in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually, more than compensates them for their relocations abroad.  Medtronic and Boston Scientific are just the latest examples.


If Republicans Love America They Must Keep the Government Closed Down

October 5, 2013

The current government shutdown has statists all in a tizzy.  Democratic congressmen and mainstream media pundits have been blabbering all week about how we are doomed because Republicans in the House of Representatives refuse to approve more wasteful federal spending thereby allowing the government to continue to function.  For these folks, it is the end of the world if Washington is not the center of decision making and the purveyor of all of life’s provisions for the American people.  The incessant chatter of how a small group of “extremists” in the House is holding the whole country hostage got old pretty darn quick and I found myself reaching for the remote to quell the noise on more than one occasion.

I mean what is so extreme about attempting to change the disastrous course the country is currently on?  Can the federal government continue to rack up enormous deficits each month with no end in sight?  Are we able to take on another massive entitlement program?  Finally, after five years of managing the economy and producing no economic recovery, is it not time to admit failure and try something new?  If Republicans love America, they must stick to their guns and demand changes before any budget deal is agreed to.

For one thing, it is no secret that Washington wastes billions of dollars each year and a lot of the spending has nothing to do with the welfare of the American people.  It includes everything from $10 million  to create a version of “Sesame Street” for Pakistani television to $2.6 million to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly.  None of it is constitutional and none of it enriches the lives of ordinary Americans.

But, that spending is just the tip of the iceberg.  The national debt is quickly approaching $17 trillion and unfunded future liabilities for Social Security and Medicare equals another $84 trillion.

Then there is Obamacare – the president’s signature legislative accomplishment.  The increased costs that come with that scheme will be enormous.  Much of the costs will be covered by federal subsidies which will further exacerbate the national debt.  Because it is another entitlement program, future lobbying for protection of the system and increased benefits will rival that of Social Security and Medicare thereby causing huge unfunded liabilities of its own.  Yet, Democrats refuse to even consider delaying the law for one year.

In the final analysis, the way to get America back on the path to economic prosperity is not through big government programs supported with huge budget deficits.  That has been proven over the last five years.  The road to a bright economic future is through small government and balanced federal budgets.  The greatest period of economic growth in our nation’s history came when deficits were low and the largest federal program was the U.S. Postal Service.  Between 1869 and 1879 America’s economy grew 6.8 percent (NNP equals GDP minus capital depreciation) per year.  When the 20th Century began, America was the world’s leader in per capita income and industrial production.  Real wages increased greatly and prices of goods and services remained steady.

We have spent over $7 trillion in the last 5 years and what has it gotten us?  Lagging wages, continued high unemployment, and higher prices are the result.

An immense fiscal and monetary crisis is eventually going to engulf America. It is already too late to prevent it.  Over 40 years of profligate federal spending and monetary recklessness is quickly coming to a head.  If Republicans back down to the big spenders and pass a budget which increases the debt ceiling and funds Obamacare the collapse will be that much worse.  If they really love America, they must keep the government closed down.  Maybe we can salvage some of our doomed economy?


QE3 Can Never End

September 23, 2013

Back in June, as the official government unemployment rate continued to fall, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated to the public that the Fed might begin to scale back its easy money policies sometime before the end of this year.  As the Fed met this past week, many economists and analysts expected it to announce that the central bank would indeed begin tapering its current $85-billion-per-month bond buying scheme known as Quantitative Easing 3.

But, these are also the same pundits who have been claiming for five years that the U.S. economy is in a state of recovery.  They are either disingenuous or totally clueless.

This commentator had no doubt the Bernanke Fed would not begin tapering QE3 now.  In fact, QE3 may never end.

In the first place, for five years now the Fed has injected over $2 trillion into the economy through QE 1, 2, and 3 and the real unemployment rate is still north of 14 percent. More Americans are on food stamps than ever before.  Middle class incomes are down and poverty is up.  At this point, Bernanke’s largess is a life support system for the economy.  It will not cure the patient; just simply prolong the agony until the day of reckoning.

And the day of reckoning will come when long-term interest rates climb to the level where the current QE induced housing and stock market bubbles pop.  The carnage from that, however, will be minor compared to the destruction left behind from the mother of all bubbles – Treasury Bills.  The point is, in June when Bernanke simply mentioned the Fed might begin tapering the stock market tanked 550 points and T-bill and mortgage interest rates instantly rose.  Imagine the impact if the Fed really pulled the plug on the economy’s life support.  Additionally, because T-bill and mortgage interest rates have been rising that could mean Bernanke has lost control of long-term rates.  The only tool he has for combating rising rates is more stimulus.  Thus, instead of taper talk, analysts should be asking when the Fed will increase the amount of bond purchases per month.

Lastly and perhaps the biggest reason why the Fed may never be able to cut back on its monetary stimulus is because to do so would accelerate the insolvency of Uncle Sam.  Realize that even though the current national debt is almost 3 times what it was in 1996, interest payments on the debt after adjusting for inflation are lower today than they were then.  The difference is the rate of interest the federal government is charged.  Bernanke has no choice but to keep printing.  If he tapers, rates will go up, interest payments will become a bigger share of federal expenditures and he will have to print even more to keep things going.  The hyperinflation that will result will finish off what’s left of the U.S. economy.

Many will say the above is nothing more than doom and gloom.  But, the above scenario is real.  Ben Bernanke steered Fed policy down a dangerous path in 2008.  Instead of allowing the market to liquidate the mal-investments from the preceding boom, Bernanke chose the politically correct way by attempting to re-inflate the bubble.  Instead of letting those that were reckless and brought on the crisis lose their shirts; Bernanke launched a massive program of bailouts and bond purchases.  He has printed himself (and us) into a corner and thrown away the key.  To keep things from crashing he has no choice but to continue printing.  Even then, the end will ultimately come and the devastation will be so much worse than 2008’s crisis.