Switzerland’s “Debt Brake” Is a Role Model for Spending Control and Fiscal Restraint

April 27, 2014

I think Mitchell has the right of it: the root of the problem is government spending growing too fast, not deficit spending or even debt, per se. Maybe the Swiss solution is something we should look at. (Yep. The original article is about two years old. I ran across while cruising the Internet and thought it worth sharing, even at its “advanced age.”)

International Liberty

I’ve argued, ad nauseam, that the single most important goal of fiscal policy is (or should be) to make sure the private sector grows faster than the government. This “golden rule” is the best way of enabling growth and avoiding fiscal crises, and I’ve cited nations that have made progress by restraining government spending.

But what’s the best way of actually imposing such a rule, particularly since politicians like using taxpayer money as a slush fund?

Well, the Swiss voters took matters into their own hands, as I describe in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Americans looking for a way to tame government profligacy should look to Switzerland. In 2001, 85% of its voters approved an initiative that effectively requires its central government spending to grow no faster than trendline revenue. The reform, called a “debt brake” in Switzerland, has been very successful. Before the law went into…

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Entitlement spending as vote-buying heroin

January 27, 2012

Liberals decry all the corporate money in politics, while conservatives worry that President Obama plans to spend a billion dollars to fund his reelection campaign.

Bill Whittle calls that “chump change.”

In another of his Firewall videos, Bill examines what he calls “The Vote Pump:” the money the federal government can use to make sure you vote the way the statists want. It’s eye-opening, to say the least.

Interesting, isn’t it? We currently take in more than enough revenue to fund the actual government (setting aside for the moment how many of those are legitimate functions), but what’s killing us is the nearly 60% of all federal spending that goes toward entitlements.

And it’s a percentage that, under current conditions, is only going to go up as the population ages.

Bill calls this a vote pump — money in, votes out. I think of it more as a form of economic heroin: give people “free money” and make them dependent, afraid to give it up. And, no matter how much they realize intellectually that the system is unsustainable and bad for the nation, that fear will lead most to vote to keep in power those who promise to keep the smack coming — the statists, whether Democrat or Republican.

It’s as de Tocqueville once wrote:

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money. (1)

So when conservatives mock Gingrich for proposing a lunar base (“Too expensive!!”) or lefties decry all the money for the military (“Think of the children!!”), just take another look at Whittle’s chart and remind yourself of what the real problem is.

And then look at Greece to see where it will lead.

Footnote:
(1) Arguably misattributed.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Well, he does like to be compared to FDR…

August 6, 2011

In light of last night’s wholly predictable and wholly unavoidable(1) downgrade of the nation’s debt rating, I think you’ll get a chuckle(2) from this political cartoon from 1934(!) , via Roger Kimball:

Obama really is in that grand Democratic tradition, no?

Meanwhile, if there’s any silver lining to this, it’s that that pressure on the Democrats and Obama to cut spending and reform entitlements to cut spending will increase to “agony” levels. Not that I expect them to cave in — nope. We’ll see calls for “more revenue” (higher taxes) and more class warfare, more blaming of Republicans and the Tea Party for demanding radical, extremist measures like —gasp!— fiscal responsibility, and more refusal by the Democrats(3) do to anything meaningful, because to do that would be to admit the intellectual bankruptcy and fraud of 80 years of Party orthodoxy.

And that would be a bit hard for anyone to do, let alone rigid, committed Leftist ideologues such as Obama and Pelosi. (I’m not including Reid, just because he’s simply an unintelligent tool who does what he’s told.)

No, real reform and the repairing of our finances has to wait for January, 2013, to begin, which means we all have to work as we never have before to make sure the right (as in “Right”) candidates win in 2012.

The S&P downgrade was the alarm saying the wheels are coming off that cart; it’s up to us to bring it to a halt before they do.

LINKS: Two thoughtful pieces from Ed Morrissey. First, on the possible effects of a national credit downgrade: Life After D-Day. The other is about how we best get out of this mess: Can We Grow Our Way Out?

Footnotes:
(1)  While I sympathize with my friends on the hard Right (or, as I call that faction, the “Stalwarts”), saying that the downgrade could have been avoided if only we had passed “Cut, Cap, & Balance” (and thus blaming Boehner, too) is to engage in fantasy. In my opinion, it would never have gotten past the Senate and the Oval Office — the latter being held by a rigid, in his heart of hearts Socialist, ideologue. But, even if it could have been forced through, the Herculean effort needed would have taken so long that we’d have been downgraded by now, anyway. The damage done by the progressive sending binge has been that bad.

(2) Albeit a grim, resentful one. But a chuckle, nonetheless.

(3) I’m harping on the Democrats because, while I agree with my “Big L” libertarian friends that the Republicans bear their share of the blame for the debt/entitlement/spending fiasco, the lion’s share belongs to the Jackass Party. Just look at these charts on the deficit and the debt.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


(Video) Two more good ones from the Power Line contest

August 5, 2011

The contest may be over, but here are two more worthy entries in Power Line’s contest for the best entry that uses pop culture in any format to convey the seriousness of our national debt problem.

The first is a hip-hop video featuring babies with a message for the “adults” who run the country. I’m not a big fan of rap or hip-hop, but this made me laugh:

Speakin’ truth to power, yo!

The next is more serious, and I think it would make a very effective 1-minute commercial as it stands, or maybe trimmed to a 30-second spot. Regardless, I’d be surprised if some conservative group such as Club for Growth or Americans for Prosperity haven’t contacted the maker already to acquire the rights to “Doorbell.”

This one’s apparently going viral.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Debt deal could cut funds to ObamaCare

August 4, 2011

You see? I told you there were good points to this Satan Sandwich! It turns out that, if the forthcoming “super-committee” can’t find the required $1.2 trillion in cuts and sequestration (automatic cuts) takes place, ObamaCare is not immune:

“There are at least 15 provisions of the Obama health care law that will find themselves subject to this trigger if the committee is not able to come up with other cuts,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). “When I look at these, I think it gives a huge incentive to the Democrats to find cuts. What would be triggered if we can’t find other cuts would cut right into the Obama health care law.”

Senate Republican leadership aides identified the potential funding cuts shortly after the law passed and are talking with the Congressional Budget Office to determine what parts of the law would be subject to sequestration.

The fact that the programs are vulnerable at all means Obama and congressional Democrats did not succeed in their attempts to shield the health reform law from the debt-deal trigger.

Obama had resisted efforts by congressional Republicans to make the law’s individual mandate a part of the trigger during earlier debt-limit negotiations. But while the final deal doesn’t directly target the health care law, the cuts to specific programs could still happen because of the way the law is written.

The debt ceiling law exempts several programs for the poor and those with low incomes, as defined by the 2010 Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, called PAYGO. That law exempts Medicaid, Social Security and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, among other programs.

But it doesn’t protect the health law’s provisions because the definitions became law a month before the health law was passed.

“If you’re not on the list, you wouldn’t be protected,” said Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

This is going to endear The One to his already-cranky progressive base even more. Darn.

Of course, what really needs to be done is the total repeal of ObamaCare for economic, health, and political reasons; it’s a threat to the nation’s fiscal health, the individual’s physical health, and the citizen’s liberty.

But, until there’s a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican president in 2013 that will enact the “Repeal Every Dumb Idea of the Last Four Years Act,” we’ll have to make do with whatever monkey-wrenches we can throw into the statist works.

And smile when we get the other side to help throw them in.

via Lance Thompson

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Power Line contest winner: “The Spending is Nuts!”

August 2, 2011

Here’s the winner of the Power Line contest for art in any medium that would best educate the public about our national debt problem. A modern-day Aesop’s Fable using squirrels and nuts to make it’s point, the video is by Justin Folk, who earns a cool $100,000 for his efforts:

I have to admit, this wasn’t my favorite (this one is), though I think it’s a worthy choice. It’s a bit long and lacks something of the laugh-out-loud humor that I think is so important when giving people a message that normally will scare them. (When you scare them, they may stop listening. Make them laugh, though… ) Folk, interestingly enough, creates the backgrounds for Andrew Klavan‘s marvelous videos, which I’ve often posted here. I think this would have been improved by having Andrew collaborate on the script.

But those are quibbles; I think it’s good. But, more importantly, I think this contest was a great idea, one that should be repeated. I wrote before that conservatives and libertarians need to engage in pop culture and the arts to get their views back into the marketplace of ideas where people are likely to see them and be influenced. For too long, that ground has been ceded to the liberals and the Left. (But I repeat myself), and efforts like this from Power Line or in general from sites such as Big Hollywood are invaluable.

I’m looking forward to next year’s contest.

PS: You can see all the best contest entries here.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Rubio: “Save the whole house, or it will all burn down”

July 31, 2011

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) addressed the Senate two days ago on on the question of raising America’s debt limit, making pointed references to the Democrats’ shifting positions and penchant for name-calling at concerned citizens. Senator Kerry (D-MA) thought he’d be smart and take Rubio on with a couple of questions.

Bad move, John:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When you watch Marco Rubio, you are looking at a future president.

LINKS: via Fausta, Senator Rubio’s editorial from last March on the debt

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Leadership the Obama Way, then and now

July 31, 2011

Via Hot Air, here’s a commercial that will run in several markets to showcase Barack Obama’s rather… “flexible” positions on America’s debt:

And be sure to have a look at this Byron York article on the Democrats and the debt ceiling, which shows what partisan weasels(1) Reid, Durbin, and Obama have been.

Footnotes:
(1) Which fits with their behavior as sleazy, cheap, partisan weasels on the Iraq War, too. At least they’re consistent.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Video: Digging a hole

July 27, 2011

Here’s another finalist in the Power Line contest. This one’s much more somber than the first two, but very effective:

Well done.

Although I’m trying to think of, as the video asserts, great nations brought to ruin by debt. The British Empire after the World Wars? But they had also suffered generational casualties. Europe overall, with the rise of social democracy?

Any other suggestions?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Video: “Shovel Ready”

July 26, 2011

Another amusing video from the Power Line contest to see who could come up with the best way to explain our national debt problem via pop culture. This wasn’t a winner, but I liked it. Kind of a catchy tune. 

The Pelosi-Frank cameo might give me nightmares, though…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Video: The Debt Star

July 26, 2011

For most of the past summer, the Power Line blog has been running a contest offering $100,000 to the person or group who could, in any medium, best illustrate our national debt problem. The judges have made their decisions, and the winners are being gradually announced. My favorite so far is number eight, called “Weight.” I like to think of it as “The Debt Star,” for reasons you’ll see:

It carries a serious message and yet made me laugh. Well done!

You can see more finalists here.

One of the problems conservatism has had in modern America in getting its message across has been the surrender of popular culture and art to the Left. Countering this is one reason Andrew Breitbart founded Big Hollywood. The Power Line contest is another strategy in that same battle. (1) But it will only work if you spread the word (rather than the wealth). As John Hinderaker writes:

My request to you is: steal these videos! Email them to your friends; post them on Facebook; tweet them; if you have a web site, put them up. The idea of the Power Line Prize contest was to stimulate the creation of a lot of new ways to educate people about the debt crisis, not just a few. So the more people who see these videos, hear the songs, and view the other media, the better.

I’m looking forward to the rest.

Footnotes:
(1) Oh, no! Violent, martial rhetoric! Run!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Is Obama trying to create a crisis?

July 25, 2011

And if so, why? According to Jennifer Rubin, Boehner, McConnell, and Reid agreed on the framework for a deal over the weekend: a short-term debt increase with cuts larger than that increase, followed by a committee to find further cuts before any additional debt increase was considered. Reid then went to Obama for approval, and Obama humiliated the head of his party’s caucus in the Senate, the Majority Leader, and rejected the deal:

If this is accurate the president is playing with fire. By halting a bipartisan deal he imperils the country’s finances and can rightly be accused of putting partisanship above all else. The ONLY reason to reject a short-term, two-step deal embraced by both the House and Senate is to avoid another approval-killing face-off for President Obama before the election. Next to pulling troops out of Afghanistan to fit the election calendar, this is the most irresponsible and shameful move of his presidency.

I wonder. At first I thought this was some mad Cloward-Piven-like plan to create a crisis that would leave the people seeing no other solution than greater government control over the economy through higher taxes and regulation (i.e., “soft” Socialism), but that would make no sense. Even President Narcissus has to see that the vast majority of the people want the debt controlled, want a balanced budget amendment, want a smaller federal government, and don’t want significantly higher taxes — in other words, they want those things that are anathema to a Leftist. So, should a crisis hit, he and his party are likely to take as much or even more of the blame than the Republicans, who are acting more in concert with the will of the electorate and have at least tried to deal with the problem, something Obama and the Democrats have failed to do.

Maybe Rubin is right? Is The One taking this to the (supposed) brink because he’s desperate to push the next vote on the debt limit to after the election? So desperate that he’s willing to alienate his own caucus, which is itself in fear of 2012?

According to Rubin in a later article, the House and Senate are back to crafting separate plans. Not surprisingly, but tellingly and in the face of President Pouty-Face’s demands that his bluff not be called, Harry Reid’s contains no new taxes.  We may actually be witnessing the national legislature begin to do the function for which it exists, which is to put the nation’s finances in order — with or without cooperation from the White House.

And if that happens and a bipartisan bill is sent to the Oval Office, Obama either signs it, lets it pass without his signature after ten days, or vetoes it and takes full ownership of whatever train wreck occurs. That surely wouldn’t help his reelection chances, which makes me think he will sign whatever they send up.

The threat to create a crisis is itself a bluff.

LINKS: Ed Morrissey thinks Reid went to Obama in the hope of splitting Republican Senators from their House colleagues and ended up with a split in his own party, instead.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Worried about our nation’s finances? Take Spenditol!

July 21, 2011

Here’s a clever ad from Concerned Women for America that hits at the irresponsible ways of Washington and correctly identifies the root of the problem — overspending — and does it in the right way: with satire.

I especially like the line about how popular “Spenditol” is.

via Dan Mitchell

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Yet another reason I like Marco Rubio

July 15, 2011

Leadership and clarity. The Senator from Florida gets it: austerity alone isn’t the answer, though spending cuts and future discipline are essential. The federal government must also do those things necessary to create economic growth, which will in turn create jobs and the revenue the government needs to pay down the debt — without raising taxes.

Leadership and clarity, my friends:


Quote of the day: Sarah Palin edition

July 10, 2011

From her Facebook page:

It’s a matter of public record that I did not go to Harvard Law School, but I can add.

That’ll leave a mark.

Be sure to read the whole thing to see how she tears into Obama for his incompetent leadership, his refusal to face facts, and his blind devotion to Keynesianism: The Sugar Daddy Has Run Out of Sugar.

Nightstick. Boom.

UPDATE: And take a look at the forthcoming cover of Newsweek. (h/t Melissa Clouthier)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


I so look forward to voting for Marco Rubio, someday

July 8, 2011

Whether 2016, 2020, 2024 or beyond, Senator Rubio has “president” written all over him. The following is from remarks he gave in the Senate a couple of days ago in conjunction with Senator Ayotte of New Hampshire.

Rubio rightfully focuses on creating the conditions necessary to job creation as the best and only wise way to raise the revenue the government needs, along with the need to restore sanity to spending. And he righteously calls out the Democrats for offering “ideas” that are obviously bad, just to please their base in a game of cheap politics.

Twenty minutes long, and well worth your time:

Here’s a transcript of the key passage, courtesy of The Weekly Standard:

We don’t need new taxes. We need new taxpayers, people that are gainfully employed, making money and paying into the tax system. Then we need a government that has the discipline to take that additional revenue and use it to pay down the debt and never grow it again. That’s what we should be focused on, and that’s what we’re not focused on.

You look at all these taxes being proposed, and here’s what I say. I say we should analyze every single one of them through the lens of job creation, issue number one in America. I want to know which one of these taxes they’re proposing will create jobs. I want to know how many jobs are going to be created by the plane tax. How many jobs are going to be created by the oil company tax I heard so much about. How many jobs are created by going after the millionaires and billionaires the president talks about? I want to know: How many jobs do they create?

Emphasis added. Yeah, baby! 

RELATED: Previous posts on Marco Rubio.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Klavan on the Culture: Paul Ryan vs Barack Obama — link fixed!

June 17, 2011

It’s on:

UPDATE: Hmmm… This video is suddenly not available, locked up by the uploader. That would be Pajamas Media. I’m willing to bet that’s because of a certain joke at the end that oversensitive types might take wrong. Guess we’ll know if a revised video takes its place. Sorry for the inconvenience, folks.

UPDATE II: We have a new link, thanks to LarryG in the comments. Not sure why the original was pulled, as there’s no revision I can see. Regardless, enjoy. 

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Team Obama to S&P: “No, really! We know what we’re doing! Just trust us!”

April 20, 2011

Standard and Poor’s recently issued a warning about the credit rating of the United States of America(1). While they tried both to downplay its significance and argue that the warning paradoxically means we have to take on more debt, the truth is that the Obama administration knew this was coming and that it was bad news, because they tried to talk S&P out of it:

The Obama administration privately urged Standard & Poor’s in recent weeks not to lower its outlook on the United States — a suggestion the ratings agency ignored Monday, two people familiar with the matter said.

Treasury Department officials had been discussing with S&P whether the ratings agency should change its outlook on the United States to “negative” from “stable,” an indication that the country could lose its crucial AAA rating in coming years over its soaring debt levels.

Treasury officials told S&P analysts that they were underestimating the ability of politicians in Washington to fashion a compromise to curb deficits, a Treasury official said. They argued a change in ratings was not needed at this time because the debt was manageable and the administration had a viable plan in the works, the official said.

But S&P analysts told Treasury officials on Friday that they were unmoved — and released a report that expressed skepticism that the political parties could come together on how to bring spending in line with revenue.

One wonders if that “skepticism” was expressed via peals of uncontrolled, mocking laughter.

Ed Morrissey examines the faulty assumptions behind Treasury’s claims(2), as well as the drop in consumer confidence following the warning that should have Obama and Geithner worried, but I want to look at another angle.

Ask yourself this: Why did the administration go quietly to S&P to ask for forbearance? Sure, the obvious answer is that a warning would shake markets’ confidence and possibly lead to higher interest costs for the US (read: “us”). But, frankly, the sorry state of US finances, the irresponsible spending and borrowing of the Democrats, and the  “plans” of the administration have been long known by anyone paying attention and not smoking a pipe full of Hopium. S&P’s notice is a trailing indicator, an alarm that sounds after the fire has broken out, not an early warning.

But, what other reason could there be? Oh, yeah, there’s an election coming, and the president has just started campaigning for another four years of selling us down the river bringing us Hope and Change. The last thing he needs is some respected agency announcing to the world in a way that can’t be ignored that Obama cannot be trusted with the nation’s finances.

And there I think is the main reason Treasury was sent on its knees to beg for more time: not to avoid spooking the markets, which already know how bad things are, but to keep the vast unaligned middle of American voters, who maybe haven’t made the connection yet between “Obama” and “fiscal train wreck,” from having the blinders ripped from their eyes, getting mad, and taking it out on The One.

In other words, it was meant to hide the truth from us, the citizens, the one group of people with the power to fire Obama. And that truth is that we are being indebted into national penury by a group of economic incompetents who are now acting like little kids who’ve been caught doing something bad and beg the one who caught them not to tattle.

2012 cannot come fast enough.

TANGENTS:

(1) In my life, I never –ever– thought I would have to write those words.

(2) Seriously? They expected S&P to take the word of the man who admitted he screwed up Turbo-Tax?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


That pesky debt ceiling

February 12, 2011

One of the big arguments coming up in Congress over the next few weeks is the question of raising the federal debt ceiling, the amount of money the United States can legally owe. And it’s not just an abstract question: failure to raise the limit could (maybe, possibly) lead to a default on our debt, with horrific consequences — were it to happen. But will it? Would it be so bad the ceiling were not raised? Is this another manufactured crisis meant to bull-rush us into a bad decision?

In this episode of PJTV’s Trifecta, Bill Whittle, Scott Ott, and Stephen Green chew over America’s debt problem and how best to deal with it:

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Rand Paul: good debut

February 3, 2011

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul made his first speech in the Senate a couple of days ago, and his thoughts on when and where to compromise on an issue were quite well-considered…

…and quite colorful. I wonder if he’ll get thwacked for “violent rhetoric?”

While I doubt I’ll often agree with him on foreign policy*, his stance on reducing the debt and deficit as a matter of principle for the good of the nation, and thus something that cannot be compromised on, is one to cheer**.

If this is any indication, I think it’s going to be fun watching this freshman class of senators and representatives make their mark on Washington. I don’t get the feeling they went there just to be back-benchers.

*Because “big-L” libertarians like Paul tend to be doctrinaire non-interventionists foreign policy, something I consider naive and shortsighted.

**As long as he doesn’t pull a bowie knife.