Which Party Ruined the Economy?

Here’s a quick, hopefully thought-provoking post.

Under Pres. Reagan there was a large expansion in the size of the federal government. Who had control of Congress during those years? Democrats. Pres. Clinton gets credit for having a good economy and balancing the budget but who is responsible for making and passing budgets? Congress. Pres. Clinton did the politically expedient thing and worked with the Republicans in Congress to get the budget balanced (although, the budget would prove to be unsustainable because it was based on unrealistic expectations of future tax income; the balanced budget was in trouble starting in late 2000 and early 2001 when a recession hit).

We had a good economy in the 1990s with Republicans in charge of Congress and with a Democrat in the White House. Things went south with the Internet bubble burst in 2000 and 2001. That was the start of a recession made much worse by the events of 9/11. Thankfully, the “Bush” tax cuts (Republicans were still in control of Congress) were passed. They helped shorten the recession. What was not good was passing them and increasing our federal spending. The economy was going along quite well until the housing market crashed in 2006-2007. This was one of the main factors resulting in the biggest recession the U.S. has faced. I’m not going to blame any political party for the recession but I have to point out that Democrats (and many Republicans) helped put in place government housing policies in the 1990s that were factors in the housing bubble burst. Further, Democrats were the ones opposed to regulations Republicans were trying to put in place that might have reduced the housing market crisis. Both parties are culpable for their actions or inactions though.

In 2006 (2007) Democrats took control of the House and Senate. In 2007 the recession officially started. Things were bad with the Republican Pres. Bush and a Democrat majority in Congress. They passed some bailout policies that were weakly effective at best and harmful at worst. Then Pres. Obama took office in 2009 (2008 election). He nearly had a Democrat supermajority in Congress with which to work. It seemed the perfect time to get things done to help the economy but instead of focusing on the economy, or at least trying to stay out of its way (there were other bailouts, some that seemed effective – the auto bailouts – but most have no measurable effects other than a huge deficit), Pres. Obama and the Democrats passed an environmental bill (which no one had the opportunity to read before it was passed) and a gigantic health insurance bill (which also was not read before it was passed).

In 2010, after about 2 years in office, Pres. Obama said he was serious now about the economy. Things were still bad. In 2010 (starting tenures in 2011), Republicans took control of the House and gained seats in the Senate. In 2011 the economy finally started to improve after Democrats no longer had complete control of Congress. It’s still rough but getting better.

What I think is interesting is that the economy seems to flourish when Republicans are in charge of Congress and it seems to flounder when Democrats are in charge of Congress. It also seems that our economy is finally starting to recover in spite of the worst efforts of many Democrats (and many Republicans who either went along or didn’t fight bills enough). It seems like the best course of action would have been either to do nothing or pass smaller, more focused stimulus measures. Tax cuts always work to improve the economy and are usually the best way to stimulate the economy. They just have to be accompanied by a reduction in spending. Basically, the government should get out of the way of the economy and provide focused regulations when necessary.

This post is biased. I wrote it this way on purpose to provide a counter-point to many arguments I have heard or read that praise Pres. Clinton for the good economy of the late 1990s, blame Pres. Bush for the 2007 recession, and praise Pres. Obama for the current economic improvements. There are many people who blame all good things on actions of Democrats and all bad things on actions of Republicans. That’s such a gross oversimplification of who things actually work that it’s not an effective argument (well, it is often effective because many people do not think critically and just accept it as truth). I wrote this post to show that I can argue just the opposite – that poor economies are the result of the actions of Democrats; after all, Congress is in charge of spending and passing laws and our economy suffered the most with Democrats in charge.

What’s the truth? Probably something in the middle (Democrats and Republicans are both responsible). Our federal government is too big and certainly too inefficient. I’d argue that the inefficiency (bureaucracy) is worse than the size of government. We need a Congress and a president who are willing and able to increase the efficiency of the government in part by reducing its footprint.

Mitt Romney’s Tax Returns

It took some comments on the New York Times article about Mitt Romney’s tax returns to bring me out of retirement from posting on this blog. I want to provide brief responses to a few of the comments that capture much of the general sentiment of those commenting on that particular article (I cherry pick comments but I’m only focusing on comments with many other reader “recommendations”).

The current highest reader-rated comment is this: “Anyone who sees nothing wrong with the fact that somebody who makes $20 million/year pays less than 14% in taxes, while someone who makes $40K/year pays over 20% is insane. Do not over-think it. It’s absurd and unjust on its face.”

There are many similar comments. For example: “this MITT guy earns 21mil & pays 15% in taxes [sic]. Joe the knuckle head plumber earns 50K and pays 28% in taxes”

What’s wrong with the comment(s)? First, it’s telling that this is the highest rated comment on the article; that tells you something about NYT readers and their biases (just like this post reveals some of my biases). Second, it never helps your cause to insult those with whom you disagree. Third, someone making $40K is not paying over 20% in income taxes (that’s all we’re talking about here – not other kinds of taxes; that’s all we can talk about because the article is about Mitt Romney’s income tax return). With the current tax code, a single person (I calculated as a single in order to try to increase the potential tax burden the most and to reduce credits or deductions or exemptions) earning $40,000 a year has a pre-deduction and credit federal income tax burden of $6030. Aha! That’s a higher rate than Mitt Romney pays (it’s 15%). However, that is a pre-deduction/credit tax amount. The standard deduction for a single person with no dependents and no other conditions that might change that deduction is $5,950. Using that deduction without any itemization (no other items resulting in a higher deduction), a single person making $40,000 a year would owe $4,106 in federal income taxes (estimated using the IRS estimated tax site). That is a 10.3% effective tax rate, which is lower than Mitt Romney’s. At no point was the tax rate ever over 20%, like that particular commenter stated. Further, it is certainly possible but not likely that my hypothetical $40,000 a year earner would have no other credits or deductions. In reality, most people earning $40,000 a year pay a lower income tax rate than 10% (from a WSJ article: “The average income-tax rate for the middle slice of households—those making between $34,300 and $50,000—was 3.3% for 2007.”;  {that article isn’t that great; if you want a better WSJ article to read, read this one}). There’s not much more to say in response to the comment on the NYT article.

This next comment (also very highly rated) captures what a number of people stated (the context is that Ann Romney paid around $20,000 last year for “domestic help”):

“There is NO WAY that family only spent $20,000 for domestic help. No family making that kind of income pays so little for domestic help unless they are doing something illegal. Just one house-keeper alone should make more than $20,000 if they were to pay her the legally required over-time, etc. Something is very wrong here.”

This comment and the others like it are assuming that those are wages for 4 people working full-time (and even overtime!) during the year (“if they were to pay her the legally required over-time…“) instead of the reasonable assumption that 4 different people were paid to help around the house(s) when needed. Maybe the “domestic help” (commenter’s words, not mine) only worked 1 hour each and each was paid $5000 for that hour. That’s much more likely than 4 people working overtime for a total of $20,000 in a year. The logic of the comment is seriously flawed. Not only that but the Romneys paid Social Security, Medicare, and other taxes on that $20,000 paid as Household Employment Taxes (see page 38 of the tax return).

Another highly rated comment (just a bit of it): “Like many of the wealthy, Romney paid no Medicare taxes.” Also, this one: “According to his 1040 Obama IS working — he has a number greater than $0 on the line for wages. It’s Mitt Romney who isn’t working — his wage line says $0.”

Actually, Mitt Romney earned $500,000 in speaking fees. Those fees are taxed at self-employment rates, which means at least $500,000 of his income was taxed at a high income tax bracket (with probably a lower effective rate due to deductions). It also means he paid Medicare and Social Security taxes (plus whatever else) on $500,000 (or at least paid higher taxes on that portion of his income). The first of those two comments was not only a red herring (it doesn’t have anything to do with income taxes), it was wrong. The second is wrong as well. If you throw out a red herring you might as well bring up the fact that in 2010, Mitt Romney paid $226,000 in real estate taxes. That’s money going to governments. In 2009 the Romneys paid $750,000 in state and local taxes (page 137 of the return). Stating that has as much (or more) relevance to federal income taxes on a tax return as does talking about Medicare taxes.

Another well-liked comment:

“This man is part of the international elite of super wealth, whether Wall Street tycoons, oil Sheiks, South American land holders or Chinese and Indian industrialists…. And then there is the business of Mormonism and giving as much to his religious as the public coffers. Why does our system of law allow a tax deductible contribution of this size – and to the Mormon Council of Elders, a shadowy private equity giant connected to Goldman Sachs (basically a Mormon bank).”

Notice the logical fallacy of guilt by association. Also note the blatant anti-Mormon bigotry full of completely false information (“Mormon Council of Elders, a shadowy private equity giant connected to Goldman Sachs (basically a Mormon bank)”). I’m sorry, but that is a ridiculous statement. The whole comment is an expression of ignorance or even outright deceit.

Another comment: “Will the moderator at the next debate please question Romney whether it’s fair that he pays a far lower ta [sic] rate on his income than many middle class Americans?”

Actually, the effective average tax rate for middle class Americans is 8%. Mitt Romney, even with mainly investment income, is paying nearly double that rate.

Another one: “Romney is the symbol of what is wrong in America today. His vast income derives from the destruction of companies, jobs, benefits and pensions in order to generate fees for Bain.”

Bain invested in around 100 companies during Romney’s time there (and most of the companies were either just starting or on the verge of collapse – they were not generally healthy companies; Bain took on risky investments). Around 80 of those had very positive results with less than 10 mainly negative results (and this is only if you include what happened to companies up to 7 years after Bain’s involvement, which means that some of the negative results came during the 2000-2002 recession). That’s quite a remarkable record given the risky business investments. So much for destroying companies and jobs!

Here’s the comment that brought me out of retirement (and it had a lot of other people recommending it, which is pretty sad): “Mitt Romney pays less in taxes than I do. And probably less than almost all the population. But no worries. We’re good sheep. Nothing to see here. Moving along.”

Let me restate that: “I pay more than $3,000,000 in taxes in a year. Almost all the population pays more than that. We just do what we’re told though.” Is that statement true? I doubt it. What the person meant to write is about tax rates, not taxes. Even so, the statement is still wrong. Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate (again, which is what that individual really meant to write, not just taxes) is higher than 80% of tax-paying Americans’ effective rates (additionally, 47% have no income tax burden). So no, Mitt Romney does not pay “less than almost all the population.” Mitt Romney pays much more.

Okay, one last one: “Oh, I get it. You made the money all by yourself. And who paid for the police so you wouldn’t be robbed? And who paid for the transportation system that allowed your goods to flow to and from your place of business.”

Actually, Mitt Romney paid a lot of that. He paid over $700,000 in local and state taxes, including a lot of property taxes. Those go to support the police and the transportation system. He pays sales tax. In any case, we all talk about how we do our jobs or “I earned this” or “I did that”; that doesn’t mean we necessarily ignore the contributions of others.

What we can learn from many of these comments is that there is room for improvement in the critical thinking department. We all could improve in that department; I know I certainly can! But what happens is that some people let their hatred or intense dislike of others cloud their judgments. We allow our biases and assumptions interfere with logical, critical thinking. All people do it to one extent or another. I’m not arguing that we all need to be coldly logical all the time but we could certainly use a boost in critical thinking skills and stop spreading falsehoods.

The State and Future of U.S. Health Care

Many people support socialistic ideals by an appeal to pathos. Here is a rough prototypical and salient argument: Recently divorced Ann is a middle-aged woman with 3 kids. She has two part-time jobs and no health insurance. She has a medical emergency, which results in massive health care costs. She ends up losing her home and has to move into a friend’s home with her two children who are still at home. She loses so much because of not having health insurance. If only there was a nationalized health care system in place, she would not have lost her home and all of her savings, which were small already.

This or similar experiences seem to be commonly used as arguments for nationalized health care and/or health insurance. However, using an appeal to emotion (a pathos story) is a logical fallacy; it is a weak argument at best and misleading at worst. Sure, it makes you feel badly and it is sad, but should it be the foundation for an argument in support of socialist policies? No. Such a story could be used appropriately and as support for an argument, but it should not be the central theme of an argument. Yet, appeals to pathos in support of nationalized health care are rampant.

Here is an example from Pres. Obama’s most recent address on health care. This is, of course, not his entire speech but this entire selection is nothing more than an appeal to emotion [again, appeals to emotion are okay as long as they do not comprise the bulk of an argument]:

“Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can’t get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can’t afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or too expensive to cover.

“We are the only democracy — the only advanced democracy on Earth — the only wealthy nation — that allows such hardship for millions of its people. There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two-year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone. But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem for the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today.  More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you’ll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won’t pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.

“One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn’t reported gallstones that he didn’t even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer had more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.”

An additional argument in favor of nationalized health care is that the “U.S. system is broken. Look at Sweden or Canada or any number of other countries that provide health insurance to all their citizens without ‘breaking the bank’. It is unethical for the U.S. to not provide for its citizens [as an aside, ethics have largely replaced morals in our world; instead of talking about what is moral or not we talk about what is ethical or even legal or not].” There are a number of problems with this argument.

  1. It assumes that nationalized health insurance is a good solution, or at least better than our current system and that the cost is justified. We do not know that it is better than what we have. Many assume that it will be – or at least that it will be “fairer” – but we cannot really know it will be better unless we implement it. The problem is that it is a really expensive experiment. Additionally, is it really the role of the United States government to provide for the health care of its citizens?
  2. It assumes that the U.S. is or should be like other countries. The U.S. Constitution is not the constitution of other countries and what was enumerated as the role of the government in the Constitution is different than in other countries.
  3. It ignores that socialized health insurance plans are one of the main reasons of high health care costs! To be accurate, all insurance is socialistic in nature (although historically, insurance has been based on risk – those at higher risk have higher premiums; that is a capitalistic modification of insurance {however, there are many within our country who want to level the playing field and make everyone pay the same amount}). In any case, insurance in and of itself is socialistic (I’m not saying that necessarily as a negative, I’m just pointing out philosophical underpinnings of our health care system). Additionally, most of the insurance plans in the U.S. are company funded. This means that our health care system is not based on free market principles. There are hints and allegations of free market economics but there is little real competition. The health care industry is based on insurance – everything revolves around it. It is also heavily regulated by the government. There is a striking correlation between the cost of health care and the rise of company-paid insurance. As the industry became more dependent on insurance and more regulated, costs increased. Health care costs in recent years have far outpaced inflation. In the free market this would likely result from an increase in demand. As demand increases, prices increase. However, our system is not a free market – it is not capitalistic. Demand has increased, which increase can account for some of the increase in health care costs, but due to the nature of the system, the dramatic rise in health care costs is likely due to governmental intervention and socialistic-type policies, such as employer-paid health insurance (and even insurance in general).  For more on this topic please read David Goldhill’s article in The Atlantic (Goldhill is a Democrat). Governments are notoriously poor at reducing costs.
  4. This argument also ignores the fact that most countries who have nationalized health care have recently started to privatize because the governments are finding the model to be unsustainable. If the government run systems work so well, why the need for privatization? The answer is that they are not sustainable, especially not in a world that devalues family and family size (meaning that there is a decreasing number of people supporting an increasing number of people).
  5. The demographics of the United States are different from most other countries. The United States has many immigrants. We allow a number of legal immigrants in every year; also at least tens of thousands of illegal immigrants enter each year. Should illegal immigrants be covered by nationalized health insurance? How many other countries with nationalized plans are similarly affected by demographic factors like the U.S. is? [That is not a rhetorical question – I do not know. I could guess that very few are].
  6. Is a nationalized plan really sustainable with the aging population? We have more and more older adults due to numerous factors (decreases in infant mortality, better health care, more medicines, and so forth) and fewer younger adults (and not just per capita). People are having smaller families than they used to – the declines in average family size have not been dramatic within the past 100 years but they have been steady. This means we have a decreasing number of workers supporting an increasing number of people. People will be able to work longer – in theory – than they have in the past so this problem may not become as severe as it could be but we also have an increasing number of people with chronic health problems who are not able to work or who can only work part-time. The irony is that socialism, which is ostensibly about “the people” and requires masses of people to function, devalues people and leads to reductions in the number of people, which reduction undermines socialism! Look at the average family size in countries with stronger socialist influence (e.g., much of “Old Europe” or China) compared to the United States.
  7. Many health problems are related to unhealthy life choices. Obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes are all mainly related to lack of exercise and over-eating (and unhealthy eating). These problems lead to heart problems, higher rates of cancer, long-term disability, higher dementia rates, more strokes, etc. I have seen estimates that greater than 66% of health care spending is for largely preventable problems. Granted, some people have genetic propensities that contribute to these problems but genes only account for a minority of the variance. This means that lifestyle, not genes or biology, is responsible for much of our health care spending. I am not ignoring the fact that other things like corn food subsidies lead to an increase in use of high fructose corn syrup, which is very unhealthy. I am also not ignoring the fact that unhealthy food often is less expensive than healthier food; however, ceteris paribus (i.e., all other things being equal), lifestyle is the greatest contributor to health care costs. This means that in order to reduce health care spending, we have to change our lifestyles! Given that the government is not good at reducing costs (the free {or slightly regulated} market is much better), is it appropriate that “the government” pays for poor lifestyle choices of so many people? Is it appropriate that through socialized health care a person who makes good lifestyle choices be forced to directly subsidize someone who does not? Some may argue that we are already doing that and by nationalizing health care we can further diffuse the costs, which might even reduce costs generally. This may be true in the short-term but it is not sustainable. As mentioned earlier, the government is not good at reducing costs. Costs will continue to rise and in the end, the whole system will be worse than before. Nationalizing health care and insurance does not fix the problems in health care in our country. It is a bit like adding bandaids when what we really need is a transplant. There is an additional problem to diffusing costs in this manner.

Psychologists have shown an interesting phenomenon that people in the presence of others accept less personal responsibility. In the face of need, an individual within a social situation is both less likely to help and slower when he does help. We think someone else will pick up the tab. We think that someone who is more capable will act. The problem is that responsibility is diffused enough that fewer act. This is called the bystander effect or diffusion of responsibility. It has been replicated numerous times (see for example, Darley & Latane’s article Bystander intervention in emergencies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1968). Those in larger groups are less likely to help someone in need. Now, any given individual might be likely to help, but based on averages and group studies, those in larger groups (“larger” typically shown to be comprised of 4 or more individuals) are much less likely to help someone in need, even if it is an emergency and the person could be in serious danger. The classic example of this is Kitty Genovese, who was raped and murdered but no one intervened to help her (someone eventually called the police but it was too late). There are many reasons why no one did but the important thing is the research that grew out of this attack and similar ones too. The more people present, the more diffuse our perceived personal responsibility becomes.

Socialism is the same. Because “the government” takes care of the people, why should anyone help another person? Why should we reduce costs by losing weight if someone else is paying for our health care? I’m not saying these are conscious decisions to not accept personal responsibility for actions, it is just that the nature of socialism leads to less personal responsibility. There is no individual in the collective we of socialism. Without at least some focus on the individual (I’m not implying or supporting anything like Ayn Rand’s Objectivism – her extreme humanism of selfishness), there is little to no desire for accepting personal responsibility for actions, in fact, personal responsibility is eschewed. Without this responsibility in health care, costs will continue to skyrocket. Socialist systems are not the solution. Our health care system is already largely socialist (although maybe not what we think of as “typical socialism”) through Medicare and employer-sponsored plans. More socialism will not work, we need less governmental intrusion and more free market enterprise.

Is capitalism better for health care? Maybe. My bias is to say, “Yes” but others will disagree. Are all socialistic ideas bad? No, but they are not necessarily the best answer. Is pure capitalism the best? Likely it is not. I have not addressed most of the philosophies of socialism, instead I have focused mainly on the health care debate, which merely touches one part of economic socialism. There are many other aspects of socialism to which I am opposed, including the devaluation of the family unit and the distrust and denial of religion. I also did not address how socialism interferes with the correct practice of free will, which is a topic for future discussion.

In summary, I believe socialist policies (including lack of competition, government and employer-sponsored health insurance, etc.) are largely responsible for our enormous and growing health care costs. Some may counter by stating that “more socialist” nations have lower health care costs as percents of their GDPs – that may be – but our health care system is anything but capitalistic. As we shift towards socialism, “socialist” nations shift away. Our system is unsustainable as are “more socialist” systems. The solution is not to increase the government’s role in health care but to reduce it by reducing the artificial barriers against free market principles.

I do not have all the answers and maybe I do not have any of the answers, but I do know that socialism is not the best solution. It is a worse solution than what we have now. We need to increase personal responsibility, not take it away even more than it already is by moving in a socialistic direction. If we want to fix our health care system, we need to encourage healthy behaviors. I will not suggest how we might do that – that is a post by itself – but it will go a long way in reducing our health care costs. Further, increasing dependence on the government to solve our problems reduces our dependence on ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our communities.

Please comment to add suggestions or correct any errors I might have in my post. I welcome and respect all viewpoints as long as comments remain civil.

Obama’s Health Agenda – What’s the Hurry?

This post is somewhat of a response to the following article: Obama Defends Health Agenda – WSJ.com.

My main question is is health care reform is so important why are Democrats trying to push through legislation at the speed of sound? Should not the most important bills receive the most scrutiny and debate? Should not the public and particularly the professionals have time to share their input?

I believe health care reform is important. However, my ideas of reform have more to do with insurance companies providing incentives for healthy living as well as governmental restrictions on malpractice lawsuits rather than turning health care over to the government. I do have to add, probably to the chagrin of pure libertarians, that I’m not necessarily opposed to nationalized health care if it makes preventative care a major focus – most national systems do not, by the way – and if it does not reduce physician reimbursement down to Medicaid levels. There are other provisions nationalized health care needs to have for it to be acceptable to me. We should pump more money into research and development and keep the pharmaceutical companies and others doing medical research going at full speed; contrary to what some detractors believe, pharmaceutical companies are [usually] not the enemy. I do not take pharmaceuticals if I can avoid it – it’s been many years since I’ve had a prescription medication – but most pharmaceutical companies do a lot of good.

The same thing [hurrying a bill through Congress] happened with the stimulus bill. It was shoved through Congress so quickly no one had time to actually analyze it fully. There is a time for decisive action but when that action comes at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, the government should have the courtesy to take a little time on the matter. I know Pres. Obama is operating in the post-Katrina world where the federal government was perceived as acting too slowly in response. However, where were the local and state governments? Are not they the first responders? This does not give the federal government freedom to rush in to a perceived crisis without planning or without at least a little debate. Where lives are imminently at stake such as with a hurricane, responses should be faster (and driven first locally and lastly nationally). However, with stimulus packages and with health care (especially with health care), there is time to work together.

So far in Pres. Obama’s administration he has come across as nothing but partisan. He is condescending towards those who disagree with him; he is finding out that people – even those within his own party – actually have the audacity to disagree with him. Repeatedly I read about Obama mocking those who disagree. Such childish snobbery is sad. He comes across as defensive and elitist. Pres. Obama’s approval rating is falling faster than the stock market last year. As an investment he’s leaving many people poor.

Democrats trying to cram bills through shows that they are as partisan as any Congress ever was. They are acting as if they feel like they have to get everything passed that they can while they still have a majority. If they have a majority after the elections in 2010, it will not be very large. Yet through all this Democrats say that none of these bills are political; Pres. Obama in particular has stated this a number of times. Who is not being truthful?

We Elected the Wrong President

We elected the wrong president. What is almost as bad is that Republicans nominated the wrong person to run against Pres. Obama. What led to our electing the wrong president?

After eight years of Pres. Bush, the country was fed up with Republicans, the economy (although we had some really good years during Pres. Bush’s presidency), and the wars. Not all of us were fed up with Pres. Bush but most people were. Of course, many people never gave him a chance or the benefit of the doubt because of the controversies Democrats created over the 2000 election. I was not a fan of Pres. Bush’s fiscal policies in general but the treatment of him by much of the media and many liberals was inexcusable. The media should be able to and should criticize presidents but the relentless barrage on Pres. Bush and his administration was almost without precedent and bordered on unethical. Pres. Bush also had the misfortune to have his tenure come during the maturation of the internet and rise of social media. The vitriol exploded and the administration did not know how to deal with it (or did not want to waste time dealing with it, unlike the present administration). Part of it was the fact that Pres. Bush was not a “good politician” (that’s not a criticism); he was successful in politics but was not a politician like Pres. Clinton or Pres. Obama. After eight years, our country wanted change.

This is where Pres. Obama came in. In 2006 Congress changed from a Republican majority to a Democrat majority. This was the beginning of the overall governmental change. For a time Sen. Clinton had the lead in the Democrat race for nomination. She had years of experience in Washington and had many connections. However, she was a “Clinton” and had her own history of scandals as well as those of her husband. She did not stand a chance once the media got behind and helped create the juggernaut that was Obama. He was young, cool, polished, intelligent, and media-savvy. As a community organizer he knew how to set up grassroots campaigns and raise funds in small amounts from many people. He was also African-American, which rather than hurting him, helped him tremendously. He had the African-American vote locked up and sealed. Overall, African-Americans compose about 13% of the U.S. population. Obama had virtually all of the African-American vote. Pres. Obama, smartly, ran his campaign on the promise of “Change you can believe in!” He was the person ostensibly from outside Washington who would re-create Washington, giving it an extreme makeover and more metrosexual appeal. Obama was to be a new JFK with the beautiful wife, cute kids, and polished rhetoric. Maybe he could build Camelot anew within the marbled pillars of the White House. He, to some of his followers, is a savior who not only cures cancer with a sympathetic look but also plays a decent game of basketball and looks good without a shirt on. Obama received the Democrat nomination also in part because the economy became of larger concern than the War Against Terror and the war in Iraq at a pivotal moment last year. Sen. Clinton suffered because of this and Sen. Obama benefited.

A similar thing happened in the Republican primary, although for different reasons. Mitt Romney was running 2nd to John McCain but in reality the race was close. However, Mike Huckabee proved to be more than a stinging gnat for Mitt Romney. Mike Huckabee pulled many of Christian conservatives away from Romney because they, in part, were already reticent about supporting a Mormon. Mormons, according to many Evangelicals, are the worst kind of cult; the worst thing to happen to Christianity since the feeding of early Christians to lions by the Romans. Mormons had the audacity to believe in and practice plural marriages in the 1800s, a practice many Westerners just cannot seem to stomach. Of course, Evangelicals do not seem to remember that many of their Biblical prophets practiced polygamy as has most of the world throughout most of history. In any case, Mormons are not well-liked among many fundamental Christian groups (or most other religions for that matter). Romney, in addition to losing supporters to Huckabee, also had the misfortune of the war in Iraq becoming the major issue within the Republican Party for a short while. The main focus on the economy did not come until after Romney withdrew and really not until after McCain was nominated. The war was McCain’s strong point while the economy was (and is) Romney’s.

More than a year ago I stated that Mitt Romney is “the man for the economic crisis in America.” We did not realize at the time how bad the economy really was becoming. That was unfortunate. Had the economy remained the major issue, Mitt Romney would have received the Republican nomination. He has proven business acumen, rescuing troubled businesses over and over (including the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics). While experience can sometimes be over-rated, Mitt Romney’s economic experience is not over-rated and cannot be over-stated. He would have been a president who would not have to rely completely on advisers to understand and establish economic policies. He could have worked even with a Democrat-controlled Congress, just as he did as governor of Massachusetts, to get sound fiscal policies passed (although the Legislature in Massachusetts did not like many of Romney’s fiscal policies, which were too conservative for them).

Instead of Romney we are left with a spend-happy Pres. Obama and a Congress that is even more spend-happy. The stimulus and bailout packages might help in the short-term, should the money actually ever be released, but they set a precedent for future spending and debt. We purchase short-term and ephemeral gains at the expense of the livelihood of our children and their children. Even with the so-called stimulus package, we face unemployment rates that rival Europe’s (at least Europe’s in a good economic climate). As many European nations move away from socialist economic policy, America moves towards it. Even China has largely moved away from a socialist economy. We should let the market run itself without too much government intervention. I’m not idealistic enough to believe that a purely capitalist nation without government intervention is the best way but less governmental intervention and meddling is usually better.

While I think Pres. Obama is a good person trying the best he knows how to do, I do not believe he is the right person for the job. We elected the wrong person. Instead of Obama, we should have elected Mitt Romney. Fortunately we might have that opportunity in 2012. My only worry is that the economy will have recovered by then and many of us will believe that just because the symptoms are gone, the illness is gone. However, just like antibiotics, we need to extend the treatment long after the symptoms are gone in order to get rid of the disease. I believe that Obama’s fiscal policies contribute to the disease instead of curing it. Maybe Obama can cure cancer but he cannot fix the economy; Congress cannot fix it either. Only the economy can fix the economy. Governments can help the economy but they cannot repair it; they can, however, make it worse by meddling. Again, this does not mean governments should leave economies completely untouched but our government should worry first about plugging the gaping holes in its bank accounts before it tries to do anything with the broader economy. We need fiscal responsibility, not this wanton spending our government is doing.

Mitt Romney was ready to answer the call to service but we rejected him. Hopefully we will not make the same mistake again in 2012 when we will need him more than ever to help clean up the mess the current administration and Congress are making.

White House Boosts Deficit Projections – WSJ.com

White House Boosts Deficit Projections – WSJ.com.

The budget deficit was predicted (by the administration) to be $1.752 trillion for the current fiscal year. How much money is that? It’s $1,752,000,000,000. That’s too large a number to really understand. If you took $1 bills and laid them end to end around the earth, you would wrap around the earth 6,477,130,690 times! That’s about 6.5 billion times. That’s still too large a number to really understand. Using the same end-to-end laying of $1 bills, you could travel to the sun and back 865,700.554 times! What that means is that using $1 bills, we could travel 1,731,401.11 AU (astronomical units). That’s 27.38 light years! These are astronomical amounts.

Of course, my use of the length of the U.S. $1 bill was arbitrary, I could have made any number of other comparisons but the point remains the same; that is a lot of money. And that’s just the projected 1 year budget deficit! Of course, that deficit includes additional bailout money Congress might not approve but even so, we’ll have at least a $1.5 trillion budget deficit with another large one next year (and so on for the forseeable future). I’m not even going to broach the subject of the actual national debt.

I appreciate that Pres. Obama and Congress are trying to address the weak economy and the budget shortfalls but right now Pres. Obama seems too much like Pres. Lyndon Johnson trying to escalate the Vietnam War while pushing for his Great Society; it was more than he could handle so he wasn’t particularly successful at either. I’m not saying all of the Great Society programs were bad – many were good – but he was not able to focus on both social and military programs at the same time. He should have done one or the other, not both. Pres. Obama, like LBJ, is trying to do everything. I think he’s more capable than LBJ was but Pres. Obama is not only trying to “fix” the economy, he is trying to create his own Great Society while fighting the War on Terrorism (including two ongoing campaigns – Iraq and Afghanistan). I recognize that Pres. Obama was thrown some flaming torches and asked to juggle them but instead of letting some fall and go out, he decided to keep juggling them all while asking for more.

I applaude that Pres. Obama did not implement his original plan to start taking troops out of Iraq immediately, at least he listened to his military leaders and implemented what is essentially Pres. Bush’s withdrawal plan (although Pres. Bush did not like that word). I think some bailouts were probably necessary, although they should have been much smaller than were approved, but much of Pres. Obama’s “stimulus” or other budgetary monies are going towards social programs at a time when we cannot afford them. Increaing Pell Grants is a nice idea (I know many other conservatives disagree) and as a researcher, I always appreciate having more money available for reserach grants, but this money is borrowed money. It’s not real; we are borrowing against the future for things we cannot afford now. Fix the budget first, then try to work on social programs. We need to cut spending, not increase it.

Obama’s Budget “Cuts”

Today Pres. Obama proposed a $17 billion budget cut today. According to CNN.com, some of the cuts are as follows:

  • Recruiting and retention adjustments: $6.24 billion
  • Future combat systems of manned ground vehicles: $2.98 billion
  • F-22 raptor fighter aircraft: $2.9 billion
  • Transformational satellite: $768 million
  • Joint strike fighter alternate engine: $465 million

That is $13.35 billion cut from defense spending alone (other estimates put the defense department cuts at $9.4 billion; my guess is that the numbers in the CNN article are off, or at least counted differently). However, are these really cuts? No, the $17 billion is going to go towards previously unfunded health care, education, and energy initiatives! There is no budget cutting occurring, there is just budget shifting. That’s pretty disingenuous for an administration who talks so much of reducing spending and cutting the deficit. Of course, these proposals have to muster support in Congress in order to pass; Congress has the real power over the budget so all of these “cuts” are moot at the moment.

I applaud the Obama administration for taking serious looks at the budget and trying to find ways to reduce spending, no matter how small, but if they plan on cutting spending they should really cut spending rather than shift spending onto other priorities. I’m not even opposed to reduced defense spending if the reductions really are unnecessary programs (i.e., inefficient/outdated ones that are being replaced with more efficient and modern programs). After all, one of the major reasons for the federal government is to help defend the nation, so defense spending is important and Constitutionally mandated.

All politics, all the time – Romney, Cantor say market turmoil mostly to blame for 2008 loss « – from CNN.com

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive – Romney, Cantor say market turmoil mostly to blame for 2008 loss « – Blogs from CNN.com.

Whenever I feel like punishing myself I read comments on CNN.com political stories. They are seriously that bad. I don’t mind intelligent commentary from liberals or conservatives or whomever but there are so few logical, balanced, and intelligent comments that it is painful for me to read, which is why I rarely do. On this particular story, not more than 10% of the comments are from conservative posters. That is the norm for CNN.com stories. Why are only about 10% of comments from conservatives?

I posted a comment a number of hours ago, well before some of the most recent comments. Is my comment on the site? Nope. Hmm, maybe I didn’t submit it correctly. Maybe my 15 year experience with the world wide web does not give me enough skills to successfully interact with websites and successfully submit my comments. That’s probably why my comment went missing.

Or, maybe my comment was too inflammatory. I guess when I set up a straw man and ad hominem attack like the following it is to be expected that my comment would not be posted: “Isn’t it funny that so many liberals comment so frequently on CNN.com stories. Maybe it’s because they are all living off welfare and aren’t doing anything more useful than comment on online news stories while conservatives are out working or at church (since it is Sunday) or otherwise being productive.” Okay, I really did not post that. I didn’t even think of it until just now as I was trying to come up with some completely off-the-wall, ridiculous, and stupid comment for my somewhat sarcastic post.

So what terrible comment did I really post? I replied to the many people who said things like, “This just goes to show that this Dying Old Party has not got a clue” or ” It was because of the Bush Economics [sic] that the economy fell apart”. Mainly I replied to the people who posted scathing, hateful comments that insulted Mitt Romney (and Republicans in general) as well as who said that he was just trying to deny any Republican responsibility (e.g., “The arrogance of this party [Republicans] is revolting. Still not willing to own up to any thing, truly pathetic [sic]”).

This is roughly what I said (I’m expanding on my comment here on my blog). Romney was not denying Republican responsibility. He said, “Republicans and Democrats have been playing this game, passing the hot the [sic] potato, spending money like there was no tomorrow.” All he did was include Democrats in his criticism yet so many people think he’s trying to push the blame onto anybody but Republicans or Pres. Bush (“speaking” of Pres. Bush, here’s a wonderful, hateful ad hominem comment on the story: “The Republicans still don’t get it…They picked a drunk sot, hooker chasing, coke sniffing, moron, loud mouth, scum bag, out of Texas in 2000…”; I guess it could have been worse!).

Romney was simply criticizing the constant fiscal irresponsibility of Washington. Democrats are to blame as well as Republicans. Democrats have had control of Congress since 2006. Congress have the authority to actually pass budgets; they have to work with the executive branch but Congress “pays the bills” (technically, we pay the bills, or actually the Chinese and the rest of the world who loan us the money, but that’s beside the point).

Further, the causes of the economic crisis started in the 1990s (actually, they started a long time ago when we as a people started individually being more fiscally irresponsible, which I believe started en masse some time after WWII). Some people decry the Republicans for not providing enough oversight of Wall Street (hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Not that more regulations are the best idea.) while forgetting that many Republicans (including Pres. Bush) pushed for oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2004 and Democrats refused to vote for that oversight (to be fair – so did some Republicans). Further, in general, Democrats weren’t exactly clamoring for any sort of financial markets oversight. In fact, it was mainly Democrats (including Clinton) in the 90s who pushed (successfully) to force lenders to carry more risky debt by offering mortgages to historically unqualified borrowers (again, Republicans are partially to blame for this too). If you want a cause of the financial crisis, that’s certainly a big part of it.

Romney did criticize Republicans but he also criticized Democrats. He criticized all wasteful spending, regardless of who authorized it. Pres. Bush was a big spender (actually, Congress was the big spender, Pres. Bush just asked them to spend a lot of money; however, Pres. Bush’s spending is “small potatoes” to Pres. Obama’s spending). Unlike what many people believe, Pres. Obama is not spending money (again, it’s really Congress spending the money) to clean up Pres. Bush’s mess – that’s a naive and ludicrous argument; it’s like saying Pres. Bush physically caused Hurricane Katrina (there are people who believe that!) and Pres. Obama has to clean up New Orleans because of Pres. Bush’s hurricane. Republicans in general did not even cause the financial crisis. We (citizens of the United States) all did – all of us who were irresponsible with our money, from the top down and the bottom up! We speculated on speculations of real estate or oil or whatever else we could. We let the government’s size grow out of control and few even tried to stop it; certainly most Democrats didn’t.

That’s basically what I posted (it was much briefer on CNN.com). Yet, my comment did not make it through moderation; however, hateful anti-Mormon comments (e.g., “Romney still does not get it! No one will vote for him a cult member aka MORMON.” [note: that is a direct quote]) and otherwise inane or bigoted comments did. Like I said, I only read CNN.com political comments when I want to punish myself.

House Republicans roll out alternative budget – CNN.com

House Republicans roll out alternative budget – CNN.com.

I’ll comment more on this later but here’s one gem from the article: “Democrats were quick to criticize the GOP proposal as little more than a way to help the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the rest of the country.”

Let me get this straight. Democrats criticize the Republicans for spending far less ($3.6 trillion less borrowed over 10 years) than the Democrat proposal by saying that the Republicans only want to help the wealthy. And what exactly is all of the deficit spending of the Democrats doing for anyone? Who’s going to pay for the all the spending? Just the wealthy? Not a chance; all Americans will be paying in some form or another. Democrats asked for an alternative plan (the Republicans, unlike the Democrats, actually took some time to craft their budget proposal. They took time to read it over and talk about it, unlike the Democrats who rushed their bill through so quickly no one had time to actually read the whole thing.) and their first reaction when a plan is presented is the stale, incorrect, and whiny “It only benefits the rich.”

Further, the result of the G20 summit is that the U.S. will spend an additional $400 billion or so to help shore up the international economy. We are spending money we don’t have. We need to stop this wasteful spending. While some may be necessary in order to help stabilize the economy, we need to take some time and figure out better ways to stabilize instead of just throwing as much money as we can at companies.

There Is No Such Thing as Nuclear Waste – WSJ.com

There Is No Such Thing as Nuclear Waste – WSJ.com.

This Op-Ed article in the Wall Street Journal clearly explains why we should build new nuclear power plants and allow the reprocessing of nuclear fuel. Pres. Obama at best said that he’s open to nuclear energy but he’s not very keen about it. That’s unfortunate. He has the opportunity to completely pull the United States away from dependence on foreign oil by embracing and pushing for more nuclear energy. We could build more nuclear plants and allow the reprocessing of fuel and have more energy than we know what to do with. If Pres. Obama pushed for electric cars (more importantly, if consumers and manufacturers pushed for them), we could in effect have nuclear-powered automobiles.

Nuclear plants are safe. They are much safer than just about any other power plant. In my opinion, radical environmentalists of the 1960s and 1970s (even continuing on to today) did far more damage to the global environment than any other group. Because of radical environmentalists’ scare-mongering and lies (or at least gross misrepresentations), Pres. Ford and Pres. Carter effectually killed off nuclear energy. The last new nuclear power plant went online in 1996 (although there have been a few new ones approved recently). It was designed using nuclear technology from the 1970s. Nuclear power technology has advance considerably since then. Because our use of nuclear energy stagnated in the 1970s, we’ve had large increases of reliance on coal and oil for energy. As a result, we’ve had years of fossil fuels and carbon-dioxide emissions that otherwise could have been reduced by allowing more nuclear power and the reprocessing of spent fuel rods. Additionally, coal plants dump many tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere every year as well.

Nuclear power was never the problem; the hatred of nuclear power and the very successful but untrue propaganda campaign of the radical environmentalists is the problem. The environmentalists even convinced the general public that the nuclear meltdown at 3 Mile Island was a major catastrophe (it didn’t help to have The China Syndrome come out shortly before the partial meltdown). Many of us are exposed to higher levels of radiation every day than were leaked at 3 Mile Island. It’s time for the U.S. to stop believing the lies of the radical environmentalists and start building more nuclear power plants. At the very least, they provide a very clean and reliable short and long-term source of energy until other technologies such as wind and solar become more economically feasible and able to provide a majority of our energy needs (which isn’t likely for many years). The problem is that it takes many thousands (6-7 thousand at least) of wind generators to produce the same amount of energy 1 modern nuclear can produce. Wind generators also have variable rates of production. The same is true with solar generators. While I think wind and solar generators are wonderful ways to convert energy to electricity, they just are not as feasible as nuclear generators.

Pres. Obama and Congress are missing a major opportunity to push for nuclear energy and electric cars (and hydrogen fuel cells as well). Many Democrats (and Republicans too) are blinded by the craftiness of radical environmentalists. We as citizens generally are likewise blinded. Nuclear power is not something to be feared; it’s powerful and it can be dangerous but so are all other forms of energy. Nuclear energy is about as green as energy can be. We could build many nuclear plants within a short time-frame and have more than enough cheap energy. We have the technology now; it’s good and safe technology too. We need to stop being afraid of nuclear energy.

If you want to see how safe nuclear power plants are from terrorist or military attacks, watch this video of a jet crashing into a concrete wall (much like ones built to encase nuclear reactors).