Tag Archives: Washington

There are 108.5 million Americans receiving some form of welfare, but only 101.7 million full-time workers paying for these benefits…

NORM ‘n’ AL Note: This post continues on the subject of our last post.

It’s time for the government to admit facts: The war on poverty is a malicious, unsustainable conspiracy designed to destroy America’s middle-class.

Today there are 108.5 million Americans receiving some form of welfare, but only 101.7 million full-time workers paying for these benefits, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

While President Obama campaigned against the rich and for a stronger middle class, the truth is his actions are part of a government conspiracy keeping poor Americans out of work and on welfare.

The end goal for Obama and the political elite orchestrating this scheme–career politicians with unlimited power and wealth–is a nation entirely dependent on Uncle Sam.

And both Democrats and Republicans alike are involved.

“What you are seeing in Washington is not a capitol that is hopelessly divided–it’s hopelessly interconnected,” New York Times Magazine Chief National Correspondent Mark Leibovich recently wrote.

This conspiracy started 50 years ago when Lyndon B. Johnson initiated the “War on Poverty.”

“What I’m doing is taking from the haves and giving to have-nots,” Johnson said back in 1964.

The “giving” has been expanding ever since, today reaching its most critical level ever.

As Thomas Jefferson warned, “Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

When you add up all the possible benefits from food, housing, medical care, social services, and cash, a family of four could receive up to $40,000 a year in taxpayer-funded subsidies.

Why would someone work making $50,000 to $60,000 when, after paying taxes, they will receive less than they could have by just sitting at home and relying on welfare checks?

The numbers don’t lie. The entitlement disaster is plaguing the country.

To keep the federal welfare program solvent, each American taxpayer is forced to pay an average of $8,776 every year.

At the same time, the average welfare recipient is handed $9,500 per year today in what is often called “free” government benefits.

The additional money comes from the country’s ever-increasing deficit, which now stands above $17 trillion.

And while the U.S. population has risen 56% since 1969, the number of Americans on food stamps has surged 1,625%.

Plus, it’s now projected that approximately 50% of all U.S. children will be on food stamps at some point in their lives before they reach 18.

Even more appalling, in 2011, the government spent $41.3 million just for advertising food stamps.

According to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), “Washington is making the poverty trap worse.”

With the welfare crisis looming, now is the time to take steps to protect yourself, your family, and make appropriate moves to insure your retirement assets continue to grow.

A great place to start is George Gilder’s book, Wealth and Poverty.

In Wealth and Poverty, Gilder helps Americans see what’s gone wrong, why it’s gone wrong, and what can be done to restore the wealth that’s been stripped from you thanks to the costly welfare society created by government programs.

Gilder explains how, “The welfare culture is destroying the very fabric of American families.”

He notes, “The political elite’s war on private industry will only result in catastrophe.”

Most importantly, in Wealth and Poverty Gilder breaks down the massive scale of the economic crisis you now face and how you actually can – and, in fact, must – overcome it.

Steve Forbes calls this amazing book, “One of the great books of Western civilization, on par with Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.

Rush Limbaugh says, “My friends, it would behoove you to study everything you can get your hands on by George Gilder, a true American genius.”

[from MONEY MORNING]

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

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Already missing the year we just left behind…

So long, 2013. You had some great moments, especially for Oregon college students, who apparently are the only ones in America too dumb to learn about kinky sex from Internet pornography.

University of Oregon officials, pursuing a selfless pedagogical program of No Pervert Left Behind, hired sex columnist Dan Savage to speak on having sex in gorilla suits (a bargain at $24,000!) And they also developed the splendid SexPositive App for smart phones. It allows students to spin wheels that match words — mouth, finger, vibrator, restraints, just to use some of the family-newspaper-friendlier examples — and start, umm, learning away.

Things weren’t so swell across the country in Washington, D.C., where the city government banned freedom altogether. A leaked list of words forbidden to appear on vanity license plates included FREEDOM, not to mention RONPAUL, GETNUDE and several terms that appear on the SexPositive App.

But maybe our Washington masters were just confused, as British tax collectors were when they opened a return from a man in the village of Evesham. To the question “Do you have anyone dependent on you?” the man answered, “2.1 million illegal immigrants, 1.1 million crackheads, 4.4 million unemployable (welfare) scroungers, 900,000 criminals in over 85 prisons, plus 650 idiots in Parliament, and the whole of the European Commission.” The tax collectors sent the return back with a note that he had answered the question incorrectly, to which he replied: “Who did I miss out?”

Other evidence of the decline and fall of practically everything in 2013:

WHEN POP TARTS ARE OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE POP TARTS

School officials in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., suspended a 7-year-old for chewing his breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun and saying, “bang, bang.”

THE BETTER TO SPOT CONCEALED POP TARTS

The U.S. Education Department issued a report encouraging schools to keep an eye on students with magnetic resonance imaging, electronic equipment that can judge facial expressions and posture, and biometric wraps on their wrists.

STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE

The Washington Post reported that Obama administration is pushing to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit.

WELCOME TO ALL-TEST- PATTERN TV!

Republicans in Idaho introduced a bill that would ban any reference to premarital sex in dramas, comedies, reality and talk shows and commercials.

GREAT MOMENTS IN LEXICOGRAPHY

Public-employee union leaders in Phoenix called for the city council to ban use of the term “union bosses” to describe them.

GREAT MOMENTS IN LEXICOGRAPHY, BILINGUAL EDITION

A black Spanish teacher in the Bronx filed suit alleging that she was fired for telling her junior high students that “negro” is the Spanish word for “black.”

GREAT MOMENTS IN LEXICOGRAPHY, SIGN-LANGUAGE EDITION

A Nebraska school district ordered a deaf 3-year-old to change the way he signs his name, Hunter, because it includes an extended index finger that looks like a gun.

INTRODUCING THE BARNEY FIFE DOCTRINE

A federal court ruled that New London, Conn., has the right to refuse to refuse to disqualify applicants as police officers if they score too high on IQ tests.

50 SHADES OF WATERBOARDING

Reporters at The Daily Beast website discovered that Avril Haines, the new deputy director of the CIA, used to host readings of erotica (that is, white-collar pornography) at a boarded-up strip club in Baltimore. One night, Haines herself read aloud from the S&M novel “The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty,” in which the fairy-tale princess is awakened from an enchanted sleep not by a kiss but an act best read about in the SexPositive App, then sold into sexual slavery.

WHAT RAIN AND SNOW CAN’T DO, THE PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL ON FITNESS CAN

The nearly bankrupt U.S. Postal Service had to destroy between 60 million and 90 million new stamps after the President’s Council on Fitness discovered they showed kids performing the forbidden activities of cannonball dives, skateboarding without kneepads and doing headstands without helmets.

WHY BRITISH NEWSPAPERS ARE DOING BETTER THAN OURS ARE

Headline in the London Sun: Mosquito bite made my boob explode.

[ by Glenn Garvin, writing for The Miami Herald]

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

 

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When government tries to do more and more, it actually does less, and does that badly…

“There’s not much sense in regarding the government as untrustworthy and inept, and then giving it more opportunities to screw up.”  – The Chicago Tribune  

“We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.”  – NORM ‘n’ AL

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The Affordable Care Act was supposed to be a great advance in fostering access to medical insurance. It would contain costs, guarantee coverage, simplify consumer shopping and make the entire system more rational. Now that it is being put into practice, however, it’s a giant, exasperating mess.

Just one example: In North Dakota, WDAY-TV reported that only 30 people have signed up for coverage on the new federally run exchange. But 35,000 people will lose their existing policies. That was not quite what was promised during the congressional debate.

Some of the fault lies with the Obama administration for promising more than it could deliver. But some of the fault lies with the American people, who sometimes demand more of their government than it can reasonably provide. The technical and management snafus with Obamacare may be fixed in time. The deeper problems in the effort won’t be so easy to solve.

In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing most of the time. Today, the figure is just 19 percent. It may be no coincidence that the decline in confidence occurred at the same time Washington was steadily expanding its role in a wide variety of spheres, from health care to housing to education.

When the government tries to do more and more, it raises hopes that are hard to meet. It gets further from its essential responsibilities, like defending the nation from foreign threats, fostering a sound national economy and facilitating interstate transportation.

It also spends more and more. In 1964, federal outlays accounted for 18.5 percent of gross domestic product. Today, they take 22.7 percent. But it doesn’t tax accordingly. This year, government revenues are lower as a share of GDP than they were back then, before the creation of the Great Society.

Why the discrepancy? Americans like getting things from Washington more than they like paying for them. Our leaders accommodate that taste by running big deficits every year, leaving much of the cost to be borne by future taxpayers.

But often, what the citizenry gets from Washington falls well short of expectations. Obamacare is a good example. Its introduction may have been bungled in several ways, but making big changes in a sector that constitutes one-sixth of the entire economy is a mammoth task, with great potential for error and harm.

That’s an argument for leaving most matters to private markets, with Washington establishing sensible basic rules, along with subsidies to help the needy. It’s also an argument that any changes should be incremental, to minimize disruption.

This logic applies to all sorts of federal involvement. Activists often decry the failure of private markets. But the question in most cases is not whether private markets function ideally. It’s whether legislation and bureaucracy will yield a better outcome.

Clifford Winston, an economist at the liberal Brookings Institution in Washington, concludes that three decades of empirical evidence “suggest that the welfare cost of government failure may be considerably greater than that of market failure.” Good intentions are not enough.

In a nation of 50 states with vastly different political colorations and cultures, there is also a lot to be said for federalism. What suits the people of Massachusetts is bound to be a lot different from what Texans will embrace.

A single national policy means one or the other gets their way. Letting each state choose its own path allows each to satisfy its preferences. Not only that, but if mistakes are made, the harm is confined to a relatively small area — and other states can learn from the experience.

But the first step toward better federal policy is for Americans to realize the limits of what it can do and the costs it imposes when it goes beyond those limits. There’s not much sense in regarding the government as untrustworthy and inept, and then giving it more opportunities to screw up.

[A recent editorial in The Chicago Tribune]

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
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What do our leaders need most? A sense of shame.

At first glance, you would think the CEOs of taxophobic US corporations and our less-than-stellar leaders in Washington have nothing in common. But you’d be wrong. What they share is a lack of shame and an excess of narrow thinking.

The similarity between C-suite tax avoiders and Washington reality avoiders struck me as I watched the debt ceiling and government shutdown debacle unfold recently. Listening to politicians say “This is what voters in my district want” reminded me of watching Apple chief executive Tim Cook invoke “shareholder value” during his May testimony at a Senate hearing that focused on the extraordinary games that Apple plays to avoid paying US taxes on what anyone other than a tax lawyer would consider to be US income. Not only was Cook not visibly embarrassed, but he actually seemed proud of what the company was doing.

Politicians and CEOs both justify their actions by citing obligations to their narrow constituencies. The fact that all Americans, conservative and liberal alike, would realize long-term benefits from having a functional government with predictable finances; the fact that shareholders would ultimately realize serious value from an increase in our nation’s well-being if bigtime corporate tax avoiders decided they had an obligation to help pay for public education and infrastructure — somehow these most basic of benefits have been completely overlooked.

It’s easy to understand why companies legally avoid taxes. Lower taxes mean higher profits, which presumably translate into higher stock prices. But going to extraordinary lengths to avoid taxes helps undermine companies’ long-term interests by hurting society and by giving average people yet another reason to detest Big Business.

It’s also easy to understand why politicians would rather pander to their constituents than act in the national interest. It’s safer. If you’re a Tea Party type who compromises or a liberal who tells Social Security recipients that the program in its current form is unsustainable, you risk losing your job.

I have a belief — possibly naive — that when you’re entrusted with corporate or political leadership, you are supposed to lead rather than stick your finger in the air, divine the prevailing wind, and follow it.

But there may now be a few glimmers of hope.

Some of the fanatics who caused the government shutdown and fomented the debt ceiling crisis are catching heat for having damaged conservatives’ long-term interests. Which, in fact, they did.

And we now see a company that has been embarrassed into doing the right thing. Not in the US yet, but in England…where an uproar erupted last year after a superb series by Reuters about the tax avoidance games played by Starbucks. Reuters reported that Starbucks told its shareholders it was making big profits in England but filed UK tax returns showing losses. (My favorite part was Starbucks UK buying coffee beans from a Swiss affiliate company that benefited from an agricultural tax break.)

As a result of the blowback, Starbucks paid 10 million pounds (about $16 million) in UK taxes voluntarily. (NORM ‘n’ AL Note: “Voluntarily” might be a rather loose usage of the term in this context, since the primary goal of the tax payment was not healing of the conscience but a desire to overcome extreme negative publicity.) When Starbucks was asked why it was paying its taxes “voluntarily,” its answer was “We believe that acting responsibly makes good business sense.” (NORM ‘n’ AL again: What was not added, but didn’t have to be, was “…when you are between a rock and a hard place due to your not acting responsibly initially.”)

Two other US companies skewered by Reuters, Google and Amazon, felt no obligation to anything. (NORM ‘n’ AL one more time: Possibly because they have a much thicker armor on their consciences, or — dare we say it — no shred of conscience left?)

So we can be encouraged by the Starbucks reversal, as by the intra-conservative debate between pragmatists and fanatics. Maybe the liberals will even join in.

When shame leads to doing the right thing, we could even hope for a trend to emerge. That’s not too much to hope for, is it?

[from a column by Allan Sloan in FORTUNE magazine]

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
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Congress seems (finally) to be going where it should have been going all along: A focus on debt…

Say what you will about conservative Republicans’ congressional tantrum of the past few weeks. It’s all true.

The GOP hard-liners look foolish for embarking on a crusade against the Affordable Care Act that they couldn’t win. They look foolish for allowing their intramural differences to split their caucus in the House. The party’s dirty laundry has been exposed in a way that makes Democrats, who last weekend tried to exploit the Republicans’ disarray and raise spending, look like crisp, clean models in a Tide ad.

Given these rival appearances, then, why can anyone possibly say that, a month or a year from now, Republicans of all shirt-stripes might wind up counting this episode as the time when their priorities became paramount?

Here’s why: Official Washington’s focus now is on our national debt. Not a focus in some longer range that treats our horrendous debt as a problem to be addressed, well, you know, someday. No, debt is the focus now.

We’ll take at face value the likely congressional passage and enactment of the bipartisan Senate deal reached Wednesday. Fundamentally, it’s a delaying action, which is why you’re hearing all those tired cliches about kicking cans and punting footballs. But it also rivets all of us on spending and borrowing. For now, arguments over defunding or defending Obamacare are moot.

Instead, a panel chaired by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., head of the Senate Budget Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, will be directed to produce a budget agreement by December.

These budget supercommittees tend not to deliver. This one faces a tight deadline: Wednesday’s deal would fund government operations only until Jan. 15 and extend the federal debt limit through Feb. 7. Is that sufficient leverage to force a grand bargain? We’ll see. But this arrangement does put debt in the spotlight, where it belongs.

For too long, America’s soaring national debt has stayed in the background. It gets talked about but not acted on. All the while, the debt keeps piling up like snow on a mountaintop, preparing for a lethal avalanche on today’s and tomorrow’s taxpayers. The nation’s political leaders seem to believe they can safely ignore this, as if it’s not their problem. They tut-tut about the burden being imposed on future generations, then keep piling on more snow.

Our national debt stands at $16.8 trillion. It is rising every minute of every day. That’s more than $50,000 in federal debt for every American, man, woman, and child.

Somebody has to pay it back. Defaulting on the debt is not a viable strategy for getting out from under it. Even a temporary default — now, in February or whenever — only would make matters worse by raising our future borrowing costs. The options, then:

•We could refinance the debt and stretch out payments over a longer and longer horizon. That would indenture our children and grandchildren — servants working to pay for what we’ve spent.

•We could print dollars, which would enable us to pay off the old debt with as many greenbacks as we can crank out — eroding the value of the world’s benchmark currency while undermining the nation’s economic prospects. That too would hurt our children and grandchildren.

•Or we could curtail the growth of borrowing and start working off the debt that we have accumulated.

That’s the only responsible choice. This fiscal year, again, we will spend hundreds of billions more dollars than Washington collects. The key is to get a grip on spending so the growth of borrowing becomes unnecessary.

For that reason, we have welcomed the sequester — automatic cuts in the growth of government spending that were approved in 2011 as … a hammer to encourage that year’s congressional supercommittee to strike a deal on deficits and debt. Hammers are blunt instruments. This one may have damaged the nation’s short-term economic prospects. But it has worked. It has cut back the growth of federal spending, and locked in $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

There is a better way, and every cool head on Capitol Hill knows it. America needs a grand bargain that includes reductions in the growth of Medicare, Social Security and other entitlements.

The deal announced Wednesday is still fresh, and for lack of full details, we can’t fully evaluate it.

Its greatest impact: Discussion in Washington and across America now goes right where it belongs: to the debt, the consequence of so much spending and borrowing, that looms over this nation’s future.

[A very recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune]

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NORM ‘n’ AL Note: That’s how it looks in words. Here’s how it looks in pictures:

The gravity of our situation...

The victory parade...

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Read that line above one more time: The key is to get a grip on spending so the growth of borrowing becomes unnecessary.

As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
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Temporary US debt ceiling could be worst possible solution…

Traders are bidding up stocks and other so-called risk assets on expectations Washington will manage to put together a deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, ensuring the U.S. won’t default.

But for Markus Schomer, economist at PineBridge Investments, that is the worst-case scenario.

Schomer, in a telephone interview, argued that another debt deal that kicks the can down the road, setting up yet another fiscal showdown in a few months, is potentially a worse outcome than a default. While missing payments certainly “wouldn’t be good,” he contends it would probably spur the kind of market carnage that would force politicians to come up with a long-term deal. And that, he believes, would be better for the nation’s fiscal outlook, as well as for near-term economic performance.

Schomer reaches back to the darkest days of the financial crisis for some compelling corollaries. Here’s one: A temporary budget deal would be much like the collapse of Bear Stearns in March 2008, he says. While many at the time mistakenly thought the investment bank’s demise marked the bottom of the crisis, it was merely a way station on the path to a meltdown, which culminated in the carnage that followed the fall of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

A default, on the other hand, would be more comparable to the Lehman drama, he says. While that was an ugly episode, it did create the impetus for the TARP program, which was “the first step out of the crisis.” A deep market selloff  is often credited with  convincing lawmakers to pass the controversial legislation. Once it was in place, markets were poised for the current bull rally, which got under way a few months later in March 2009, Schomer notes.

The fact that an economist sees the prospect of markets revisiting Lehman as a potentially positive turn of events is yet another sign of just how dysfunctional Washington has become. But Schomer makes some compelling points.

He argues, for instance, that without a long-term deal, the continued, constant threat of renewed fiscal turmoil will continue to limit economic growth. That means sluggish employment growth and an environment where corporations are unlikely to want to boost investment.

In turn, that means the Fed would be unlikely to begin tapering before 2015.

Schomer holds out hope that lawmakers will somehow scramble for a compromise, perhaps revisiting the Simpson-Bowles budget proposals. Meanwhile, stocks may be able to muster another run higher if a temporary budget deal is reached, but gains are unlikely to last, he says.

[by William L. Watts, writing for MARKETWATCH]

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Washington’s fiscal fracas threatens to undo economy’s progress…

Believe it or not, but we’re in the midst of a growth re-acceleration. At least, we were.

The latest data suggests that factories were spooling up in August. Business confidence was climbing. New orders poured in. All else equal, we’re on the cusp of a surge in the economy on a scale not seen since 2011.

But, of course, all else isn’t equal, because we’re hours away from a likely government shutdown in Washington. And even if a last-minute deal is brokered fiscal-cliff style, we’re just a few weeks away from running against the debt ceiling.

It’s something of a national pastime to blame the politicians for ruining things. In this instance, at least, it’s actually true.

Consider that the Citigroup Economic Surprise Index — which measures how economic data is performing vs. Wall Street’s estimates — has returned to heights not seen since late last year; a marked reversal from the weakness suffered earlier this year as fourth-quarter-2012 and first-quarter-2013 GDP growth averaged just 0.6% and caused a growth scare.

Both manufacturing and non-manufacturing ISM business activity surveys have surged on a scale not seen since 2003 — a period that featured an annual GDP growth rate of nearly 6% vs. the 1.6% rate we’ve averaged over the last four quarters.

Today, both the Chicago PMI and the Dallas Fed manufacturing survey surprised to the upside on a surge of new production.

So the corporate sector seems to be feeling pretty good.

This was corroborated by last week’s Richmond Federal Reserve manufacturing activity survey. While the overall report was a bit of a disappointment (missing expectations on a drop in shipments and hiring) something startling was hidden deep in the details of the report: Spending intentions on capital expenditures surged to +31 in September from +15 in August, reaching 13-year highs.

This is a big deal because a lack of corporate investment — and the accompanying fall in labor productivity and fixed-capital formation — has been one of the main reasons the economy has been so lackluster to date.

And what’s infuriating is that right when we’re on the verge of seeing a real turnaround, Washington’s fiscal fracas threatens to undo it all.

How bad could the damage be?

Over the last four quarters, the economy has only managed a 1.6% annual GDP growth rate (although the most recent second-quarter-2013 number was better). According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists, a month-long government shutdown could lop 2% from fourth-quarter-2013 GDP growth. That’s right: If the government’s lights go out for just four-weeks, the impact to incomes and confidence could cause the economy could shrink outright over the next three months.

The bigger risk, in their mind, is the debt ceiling.

If that’s not resolved by Oct. 17, 20% of federal spending worth 4% of GDP will be immediately cut. Moreover, this could be accompanied by a debt default and credit downgrades — threatening an even more violent experience than what we saw in August 2011.

Back then, stocks fell nearly 20%.

[by Anthony Mirhaydari, columnist for MSN Money. This piece appeared in MARKETWATCH.]

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

 

 

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