Social Security’s Looming Fiscal Nightmare

August 10, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Just a reminder of another fiscal bomb set to go off.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

With all the controversy over the failed and costly Obamacare program, it’s understandable that other entitlements aren’t getting much attention.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t serious problems with Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Indeed, the annual Social Security Trustees Report was released a few days ago and the updated numbers for the government-run retirement program are rather sobering.

Thanks in part to sloppy journalism, many people only vaguely realize that Social Security is actuarially unsound.

In reality, the level of projected red ink is shocking. If you look at the report’s annual projections and then adjust them for inflation (so we get an idea of the size of the problem based on the value of today’s dollars), we can put together a very depressing chart.

How depressing is this chart? Well, cumulative deficits over the next 75 years will total an astounding $40 trillion. And keep…

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New Diaper Subsidy is A Raise For Welfare Recipients

August 8, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Proposals like this, when the state suffers from pathetic infrastructure and its finances are a wreck, makes me wonder if some sort of “political dementia” hasn’t taken hold in Sacramento. Regardless, Grimes is right: a subsidy will only hide the trues cost of the product and encourage manufacturers to raise prices, because now it’s a “right.”

Originally posted on KATY GRIMES:

Diapers, diapers, diapers for everyone!

If ever there was evidence of the need for a part time Legislature in California, it is now: California Democrats are pushing a diaper subsidy program for welfare parents.

The rationale for this idea is right out of the welfare-state handbook: low-income parents cannot take advantage of free or subsidized child care if they cannot afford to leave disposable diapers with their child at care facilities.

This is nothing more than a boost to welfare payments, without actually identifying it as an increase. California taxpayers would be livid if the Legislature was honest about increasing welfare payments.

AB 1516 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would create a new taxpayer-subsidized program to provide eligible families already participating in CalWORKS, with $80 a month to buy diapers for children under the age of two.

“Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, said the true cost of the bill…

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Thanks to progressivism, we’ve lost the “War on Poverty”

August 1, 2014
"Defeat"

“Defeat”

The War on Poverty was launched in 1964 under Lyndon Johnson with the best of intentions: through massive spending and extensive welfare programs, the government would eradicate poverty in America and make people self-sufficient. Like I said, a worthy goal.

It has also been an utter failure. In 1964 we declared war on poverty, and poverty won.

As the chart above shows, poverty was in deep, rapid decline in America after World War II without any government help, just the natural processes of a growing, prosperous economy. It looked well on its way to elimination, perhaps. Then, in the mid to late-60s, it leveled off and, save for an occasional bump up, has stayed right around fifteen percent.What happened?

In 1964, with the start of the War on Poverty, progressives and other economically illiterate do-gooders wound up trapping people in poverty, rather than helping them out of it. As Robert Rector at The Signal writes:

Johnson did not intend to put more Americans on the dole (1). Instead, he explicitly sought to reduce the future need for welfare by making lower-income Americans productive and self-sufficient.

By this standard, the War on Poverty has been a catastrophic failure. After spending more than $20 trillion on Johnson’s war, many Americans are less capable of self-support than when the war began. This lack of progress is, in a major part, due to the welfare system itself. Welfare breaks down the habits and norms that lead to self-reliance, especially those of marriage and work. It thereby generates a pattern of increasing inter-generational dependence. The welfare state is self-perpetuating: By undermining productive social norms, welfare creates a need for even greater assistance in the future. Reforms should focus on these programs’ incentive structure to point the way toward self-sufficiency. One step is communicating that the poverty rate is better understood as self-sufficiency rate—that is, we should measure how many Americans can take care of themselves and their families.

Emphasis added.

What was it Ronald Reagan said?

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

One would think that, faced with all the mounds of evidence that government programs don’t lift people out of poverty, Progressives, who claim to be devoted to “progress,” would see the war on poverty has been a failure and that the programs should be reformed or discontinued and something else tried, something like less government intervention.

But, no. Few ever will be that honest, because to say government failed to reorder society as desired would be to admit that the central tenet of progressivism, a faith in the power of technocrats to manage a vastly complex society, was wrong.

Meanwhile, that core 15% remains trapped in poverty, addicted to government “crack” and walking a road paved with good intentions.

PS: Note the sharp climb back up to 15% at the end of that chart. It starts soon after the Democrats take over Congress in 2006 and undo the 1990s Clinton-Gingrich welfare reform, then accelerates under Obama. Coincidence? I think not.

RELATED: Cato economist Dan Mitchell has often written on the same topic. Here’s a post he wrote on the failures of the War on Poverty and another on the “redistribution trap.” That latter is must-reading.

Footnote:
(1) Many criticize that assertion, with some justification. See for example Kevin Williamson’s “The Dependency Agenda.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obamacare is Bad News for Your Wallet Today and Worse News for Your Wallet Tomorrow

July 9, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

The Democrats and their enablers, including the big insurance companies and groups like AARP, have much to answer for.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I wrote a few weeks ago about the hidden economic damage of Obamacare, particularly the harm to the job market.

Today, let’s get further depressed by looking at the ever-worsening fiscal damage of the law.

Here’s some of what Chuck Blahous of Mercatus wrote about this costly new entitlement.

The ACA was enacted in 2010 with the promise of reducing the federal budget deficit while expanding health insurance coverage. Nearly lost amid the recent press cheerleading over ACA enrollment figures is that this promise has disintegrated, and now no one…can say how much fiscal damage the ACA will ultimately cause. …CBO currently estimates that the ACA’s coverage provisions will cost the federal government $92 billion a year by FY2015. This is roughly 0.5 percent of projected U.S. economic output for 2015, well exceeding the relative costs of Social Security and Medicaid at similar points in their histories. (The amount falls…

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(Video) 1948 cartoon: “Make Mine Freedom!”

July 7, 2014

Here’s a neat animated short from almost 70 years ago that does a darned good job showing the differences between a society based on individual liberty and the free market, on the one hand, and those based on statism (Socialism, Communism, and Fascism) on the other. It makes good use of humor to get its point across:

Nowadays, I think we could add another “-ISM” to that patent medicine’s list of ingredients: the religious totalitarianism of Islamism.

Via Dan Mitchell, this was part of good post on how the Left was wrong about unemployment insurance.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#RaiseTheWage: Seattle businesses push back against minimum wage increase

July 6, 2014
"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage!”

Rick Moran at PJMedia has an article up about an effort on the part of Seattle business owners to get a measure on the ballot that would roll back the city’s recently passed $15 per hour minimum wage to a more “reasonable” $12.50. You can go there to get the details (there are accusations of fraud in the petitions to get the measure on the ballot), but here is a portion in which a Seattle business owner describes the very real impact raising the minimum wage has on his and other businesses:

That favorite coffee shop that you go to? That great neighborhood restaurant? That store where you buy your books, pet food, art supplies, or clothes? Each of those businesses survives on around a 5 percent net profit margin. That means that at the end of the year, after all the expenses—the payroll, the supplies, the inventory, insurance, rent, etc.—we all will end up with only about 5 percent income in our pockets if we’re doing a half-decent job. Maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less—but you get the idea. This does not leave a small local business with much room to absorb even a small increase in costs, much less the 60 percent increase demanded by the well-meaning but ill-researched and biased reporters and neighbors involved in this discussion.

Here are some more boring facts:

Payroll is approximately 30 percent of my entire costs at Liberty, the bar I own (the average in this business seems to be 30 to 35 percent). If the minimum wage goes up to $12.50 an hour (a reasonable middle ground some have proposed), that would be an increase of 34 percent, which means just to stay even I’d have to raise prices 10 percent across the board—the labor’s percentage increase in total cost to operate Liberty.

If the minimum wage goes to $15 an hour, I’d have to raise my contribution to payroll by 18 percent. So my costs would have to rise by no less than 18 percent, just for payroll—and that’s before my vendors’ increases in costs have to be considered, which I believe will be around another 5 percent, and that’s before Liberty adds any profit.

So it’s not impossible to imagine that costs for business like mine in Seattle will go up by no less than 20 percent.

Those increases are way more than my income. Again, my profit is around 5 percent. And it’s not just me, that’s across the board—for restaurants, for bars, for clothing stores, for pet stores, for art supply stores—many of whom have set costs and are competing with online retail. This makes it very difficult for them to adjust their purchasing.

So, what are this business owner’s options? That’s his problem, not the Seattle city council’s.

Thomas Sowell has often observed that politicians almost never feel the economic consequences of the decisions they force on the rest of us. While they’re buying their way to reelection by handing out goodies and making themselves feel good by supposedly “fighting for the people,” someone else has to pay the cost — in this case, the businessman who takes less profit, the worker who gets fewer hours, or the consumer who pays higher prices.

I left a comment to Moran’s post and I want to share part of it here. It’s anecdotal, but I think it illustrates the very real effects of politicians thinking they can ignore the laws of economics:

A friend supervises minimum wage, hourly employees in an educational setting. Our minimum wage [in California] has just gone up to $9 per hour. She has told me that she knows for a fact her budget for hiring will not increase, so she has to cut employee hours and, perhaps, eliminate a couple of jobs. Now, someone explain to me again how this increase actually helped these workers? But it sure made the pols in Sacramento feel good about themselves.

Those employees are student workers, often from minority groups, who work to help pay their way through school. And they are very real victims of progressives’ “good intentions.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Herbert Hoover’s Anti-Market Policies Helped Turn an Economic Downturn into a Great Depression

June 30, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

One of the things that opened my eyes to how badly History is taught in our schools was the realization that, far from being the laissez-faire conservative progressives made him out to be, Herbert Hoover was himself a statist whose policies helped turn a sharp recession into the Great Depression. Mitchell provides a good overview, including a must-see video from Prager University.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

There have been many truly awful presidents elected in the United States, but if I had to pick my least favorite, I might choose Herbert Hoover.

I obviously have disdain for Hoover’s big-government policies, but I also am extremely irritated that – as Jonah Goldberg explained – he allowed the left to create an utterly bogus narrative that the Great Depression was caused by capitalism and free markets.

Indeed, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity produced a video demonstrating that the statist policies of both Hoover and Roosevelt helped trigger, deepen, and lengthen the economic slump.

Building on that theme, here’s a new video from Prager University that looks specifically at the misguided policies of Herbert Hoover.

Amen. Great job unmasking Hoover’s terrible record.

As I explained when correcting a glaring error by Andrew Sullivan, Hoover was a big-government interventionist. Heck, even FDR’s inner circle understood that the New Deal…

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