How Long Can The Economy Absorb Excessive Government Spending? Not much longer. Excerpt:
The Congressional Budget Office’s latest budget estimates showing a marked decrease in the federal deficit seem to indicate the fiscal fights that have rocked Washington for the last five years are over. However that is wrong, these conflicts are perpetual.
CBO’s figures do project a significant fall in the deficit – to $506 billion, $174 billion below last year’s, and 2.9% of GDP. But it has only dropped so far, because it rose so high. In 2007, the deficit was $161 billion and 1.1% of GDP. In 2009, it was $1.413 trillion and 9.8% of GDP.
Washington has taken the federal budget to a higher plateau on taxes and spending, and will climb higher from there. However, just because the debate will resume again, and likely more virulently, why is it important?
It’s important because of the upcoming fiscal train wreck, of course.
At some point in the 20th century the primary role of government, especially the Imperial Federal government, became the redistribution of wealth through taxation. Tax policy has changed accordingly; from the original purpose of raising revenue for essential government functions, the tax code has become a system for the redistribution of wealth and ensuring “fairness” (use of scare quotes intentional.)
How is this connected to the
Federal Imperial debt? Because regardless of tax policy, there is a ceiling to tax revenues, that ceiling being about 21-23% of GDP. To make up the gap, pols in the Imperial City first ran rampant through the Social Security “trust fund” (again, use of scare quotes intentional) and then began borrowing, at increasingly insane levels.
It is very likely we have gone past the point of no return on this issue. What will the end game look like? An Imperial repudiation of debt? Runaway inflation? One thing we know for sure – unless there is a major change in the Imperial City, there will be no growth-based solution to this mess; every economic policy put forth from Washington for the last ten years ago has been staunchly anti-growth.
The linked article concludes:
It is impossible to see an issue so fraught with import, short of war and peace. Yet, questions of war and peace are not perpetual, thankfully only occurring periodically and at crucial junctures. The question of taxing and spending is perpetual – and perpetually crucial.
And perpetually ignored, both by the pols in the Imperial City and a plurality of those who vote them into office.
Some reflection seems appropriate for the day – in case you don’t remember, look at a calendar and remember this day in 2001. And on that topic, here is the always-worth-reading Dr. Thomas Sowell on President Obama’s strategy for the Middle East. Excerpt:
There is always someone else to blame for whatever goes wrong in the Obama administration. Supposedly the intelligence services had not kept him informed about how imminent the ISIS threat was. But others who received top-secret briefings by the intelligence services say otherwise.
Some people are wondering how someone of obvious intelligence like Barack Obama could be so mistaken about so many things, especially in deadly foreign policy issues. But there is no way of knowing whether anyone is succeeding or failing without first knowing what they are trying to do.
If you assume that Obama is trying to protect the safety and interests of the U.S. and its allies, then clearly he has been a monumental failure. It is hard to think of any part of the world where things have gotten better for us since the Obama administration began.
Much as I admire and respect Dr. Sowell (and that is a great deal) I have to take exception with his description of the President as “someone of obvious intelligence.” To be honest, I see little evidence of this obvious intelligence. He is no dullard, but neither is he a great intellectual, or even a particularly deep thinker; he is abysmally poorly informed on a variety of topics important to his job (economics, military affairs.) And while he gives pretty speeches when using a teleprompter, he is an execrable speaker when he has to ad-lib.
The ability to speak extemporaneously is, to my estimation, a sign of intelligence. Ronald Reagan could do it. Rhodes Scholar Bill Clinton could (and can) do it. Barack Obama just can’t. He stutters, he stumbles, he gaffes. And why are his college records sealed? What is there that must be kept quiet?
But on balance Dr. Sowell is correct. All evidence indicates that the Obama Administration will be known for three things: Evading responsibility, procrastination, and a chronic failure to follow through.
It seems there is a nuclear power plant only a few miles from the Imperial City that has some, well, security problems – as in, security that doesn’t exist. Excerpt:
A reporter and videographer drove from the nation’s capital last Friday to Calvert Cliffs (nuclear power plant) and twice accessed the power plant site. No one stopped or even seemed to notice them.
The (Daily Caller) DC was able to proceed through an unmanned security checkpoint — the guard booth was empty and padlocked — and, minutes later, enter a parking lot about 550 feet away from one of the plant’s two nuclear reactors.
On one visit, reporters did not see a single security guard anywhere. On a subsequent visit, a lone marked security car passed by without slowing down or asking questions.
At one point, a large civilian truck — roughly of the size of the trucks used in terror bombings around the world, including at the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 — rolled through the front gates and approached the reactors without being stopped.
A whole lot of people need to lose jobs over this.
The 9/11 Commission noted that there were indications even then that terrorists considered nuclear power plants a high-value target, and that plans were in place to attack them. So why are the operators of these plants making it easier on them?
Has anyone considered the implications of a reactor vessel breach in a populated area?
I’ve always been an advocate of nuclear power. It’s one of the key pieces of an energy puzzle that we need to solve as soon as possible. But just as the post-9/11 world has changed the way we think about security in air travel, so too has it changed the way we need to think about security in nuclear plants. Like any high-risk targets, at a bare minimum the plants have to control access to the facility.
Calvert Cliffs has failed badly. Heads should roll.
A kerfuffle has arisen over a recent Marvel comics cover; this is the best summary of that discussion I’ve yet seen (h/t VodkaPundit for the story):
With additional commentary by Stephen Fry:
I never had a chance to work with the Isreali military back when I was wearing Uncle Sam’s colors. This makes me wish I had.
Will Scotland vote to break up the United Kingdom? It’s looking a bit more likely. Excerpt:
Scottish independence increasingly looks like an iceberg that could sink Prime Minister David Cameron’s government and the opposition Labour Party. And like the passengers on the Titanic, they never saw it coming.
Yesterday’s YouGov Plc poll putting the Yes vote on 51 percent sparked a fresh effort from supporters of the union to urge Scots to come back from the brink. About 100 Labour lawmakers will travel to Scotland this week to campaign for a No vote, while Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne offered more powers over taxes and spending to the Scottish Parliament — if voters opt to stay part of the U.K.
This is something that’s been simmering since the days of William Wallace, of course, and will have some pretty serious implications for the United Kingdom and the European Community (Will Scotland go on the Euro or keep their own currency? Will there be a Scottish pound?)
There is a similar separatist movement closer to us here in the States, too; maybe Scotland and Quebec could compare notes.
Scotland and Quebec do share some commonalities; a distinct culture (although English-speaking Scotland lacks the major difference of Francophone Quebec) and a contentious history with the containing country. There are probably as many Quebecois who remember General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and the Plains of Abraham as there are Scots remember William Wallace and Falkirk.
The Quebecois separatists have been quiet of late. Scotland – well, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Some random tidbits this fine Monday morning:
Obama on Golfing After Foley Murder: ‘I Should Have Anticipated the Optics.’ No shit, Sherlock.
Speaking of the President: Ducking Lame Duck Status. Quite a few Presidents have achieved significant things in their second terms. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both did so, and with Congresses of opposing parties.
How Junk Science Spreads in Academic Journals. Thumbnail: Lots of people believe weird shit. Back in the 1990s when I was writing Misplaced Compassion, I ran into a woman on an animal-rights Usenet (remember Usenet? Man, does that make me feel old) forum who professed her belief that there was a city of superhuman aliens beneath a dormant volcano in (where else?) California. What’s more, she was adamant that those “Inner Earth Beings” would one day emerge and stop us eating our fellow vertebrates.
Seriously, some people really shouldn’t be walking around unsupervised.
On that note, we return you to your Monday, already in progress.
Our own Colorado is, of late, a peripatetic swing state, maintaining a rather schizophrenic purple status for the last few election cycles. Now, to challenge Senator Udall in this November’s election, we have Republican Cory Gardner, who is calling himself a new kind of Republican. Excerpt:
Senate candidate Cory Gardner has released a pair of campaign ads reaching out to Colorado’s all-important centrist voters, who have soured on some GOP positions, and cast himself as a “new kind of Republican” who supports over-the-counter birth control pills and renewable energy.
The TV spots released this week come in a close race against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in a swing state that has become increasingly reluctant to elect conservatives as coastal transplants have pushed the politics to the left.
Democrats have won every top-of-the-ticket statewide race in Colorado since 2004, and Udall and his allies have followed the established playbook by attacking Gardner as being against reproductive rights and the environment.
But Gardner, a U.S. House representative, has hit back with his new ads.
In the first, which launched Monday, Gardner walks past wind turbines and asks, “So what’s a Republican, like me, doing at a wind farm?” He notes that he co-authored legislation, backed by a former Democratic governor, to create a state agency to support new Colorado renewable energy businesses. The ad’s female narrator calls Gardner “a new kind of Republican.”
You’ll forgive me, True Believers, for a little – no, a lot – of skepticism.
It seems that every time a Republican in a close race refers to himself as a “new kind of Republican,” or a “compassionate conservative,” what he really seems to be saying is “I’m tacking to the left to try to garner the moderate vote.”
Caveat: The term “RINO” – Republican in Name Only – has been overused to the point of meaninglessness. It has become too often used by anyone on the political Right to mean “any Republican who disagrees with me on any given issue.”
Isn’t the GOP supposed to be the party of smaller government? Free markets? Fiscal responsibility?
Isn’t the GOP supposed to be in favor of removing
Federal Imperial barriers to domestic oil and gas development?
Gardner is, unfortunately, playing right into Senator Mark Udall’s hands with this strategery. He is tacking towards positions that Udall can claim higher ground on; no matter how much Gardner comes out in favor of wind farms, Udall was already there, the firstest with the mostest on this issue.
But Gardner is making his position weaker, not stronger. To take out an incumbent in a tight race, you have to offer an obvious alternative – not a pale shadow, not a little bit of “more of the same, only slightly less.” Gardner should be running on fiscal responsibility, on energy independence, on a strong national defense, on the issues that the GOP is known for – and, in the not-particularly-humble opinion of yr. obdt., if he is going to tack, tack not to the left but to the libertarian, a position that will get him farther than presenting as a Democrat-Lite.