July 25, 2014

$1.1 trillion budget deal doesn’t change fiscal cliff

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

TAMPA, January 15, 2014 – The Associated Press reported today that Republicans and Democrats are ready to support a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would fund the federal government through its current fiscal year, which ends September 30, 2014. Citing a perceived mandate from voters to put aside their differences, Congress largely abandoned the superficial cuts remaining from sequestration.

Those widely reported “cuts” weren’t really decreases in spending. They were merely promises to increase spending less than planned.

Out in the real world, when an employee making $18.00 per hour gets a 5% pay cut, his new hourly wage is $17.10. That’s not how it works in Washington, D.C. When a federal program funded at $3 billion in 2013 is “cut,” it’s funded for $3.1 billion in 2014 instead of $3.2 billion.

What have been called “draconian cuts” and “gutting the military” by hysterical politicians and media are, for the most part, increases in spending that beneficiaries deem inadequate. Now, even that infinitesimal restraint is gone.

Depending upon which poll one cites and the wording of the questions in it, there is some evidence that the public was unhappy with last autumn’s government shutdown and desires more “bipartisanship” in Congress. Representatives on both sides of the aisle were eager to comply in an election year.

“There’s a desire to show people we can do our job,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

However, no poll attempts to separate net taxpayers from net tax collectors. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the latter group would be unhappy with any interruption in government spending. A poll exclusively querying the former group may have yielded far different results.

Regardless of how any part of the public feels about federal spending, it is going to be cut dramatically. The fiscal realities that prompted sequestration and the shutdown have not gone away. Playing nice in Congress hasn’t changed that.

The federal government can only service its $16 trillion debt while its interest rate remains artificially low. The Federal Reserve has attempted to keep it near zero since 2008. It has only been successful because other buyers of federal debt have continued to buy while the Fed has pumped liquidity into the economy with its own purchases.

Should China, the Fed or any other buyer of federal debt cease or even significantly decrease its purchases, interest rates will begin to rise.

When interest rates rise on home mortgages, it hurts. When interest rates rise on $16 trillion, chaos ensues.

According to the White House’s fiscal year 2014 Budget proposal, interest in fiscal year 2013 was $220 billion or 6.2% of all federal spending. That was with interest rates below one half of one percent. It doesn’t take a Nobel Laureate to imagine what happens if the rate begins creeping up to the modest 3-6% levels of the last decade, much less the double digit rates accompanying the crises of the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Annual interest due on federal debt would increase hundreds of millions of dollars.

That would amount to de facto cuts in federal spending on everything else. We’re not talking about make believe “cuts” where spending is still more than the year before. We’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars less available to spend than the year before. We’re talking about cuts.

Increasing tax revenues isn’t the answer because taxes revenues are already maxed out. The only real debate left on tax rates is whether the top rate on the wealthiest should be 33% or 39%, which is inconsequential to the debt problem. If tax rates are raised significantly overall, revenues go down. That’s already been proven.

So, the federal government tiptoes forward on a fiscal tightrope, dependent upon a set of artificially-created conditions that could change at any time. An overpriced stock market could crash on its own. China could decide to cease or decrease its debt purchases. A natural disaster could occur. Any of these could start the dominoes falling towards higher interest rates, recession for the economy and an unserviceable federal debt.

Even if none of the above occur, the end is inevitable. If printing money to buy your own debt were sustainable, the government could legalize counterfeiting and everyone would be rich. Sooner or later, economic reality will assert itself and the United States will be forced to consume less than it produces. The only question on federal spending is whether it will decrease due to a deliberate act of Congress or the way Greece’s did.

The current budget deal may provide an answer.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Mitt Romney did not pay less in taxes than his secretary (and raising capital gains tax will destroy the economy)

TAMPA, December 1, 2012 ― President Obama and the Democrats were successful in 2012 largely on the strength of some rather outlandish demagoguery. “Billionaires pay fewer taxes than their secretaries” was one slogan that was particularly successful.

The Obama campaign successfully made an issue out of Mitt Romney’s taxes, finally getting Romney to admit that he paid around 13% of his earnings in taxes over the past several years. The “fair share” crowd contrasted this with the higher percentage that would have been paid by a secretary in the 28% bracket, for example, who would still pay more than 13% even after deductions.

That Americans bought this specious argument is more worrisome than that the Democrats made it.

Romney’s tax percentage was low because most of earnings came from capital gains, not income. Capital gains are just what they sound like. They are the appreciation in the value of one’s capital. If you buy a stock at $5 per share and its price goes up to $7 dollars per share, you have realized $2 in capital gains. If you sell that stock at a $2 dollar profit, the government wants a percentage.

Right now, Mitt Romney would pay 35% income tax and 15% on capital gains. The average secretary would pay 15% income tax and 15% on capital gains. So, Romney’s tax liability as a percentage of income is more than double the average secretary’s. His tax liability on capital gains is the same. Obviously, Romney’s nominal tax payments in both categories would exceed the secretary’s by orders of magnitude.

That’s how things actually are out here in the real world.

So why is the tax rate on capital gains lower than on income? Because “capital,” by definition, comes from previously taxed income.

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Interview (Video): Christina Tobin of Free and Equal Elections Foundation

TAMPA, November 4, 2012 – “Remember, remember the 5th of November.”

So says Christina Tobin, found and chair of the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, a 501 (c)3 non-profit formed to ensure a fair an open electoral process for all. The organization is sponsoring its second presidential debate this election season on November 5th at 9 PM EST. Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson will square off against Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

Johnson and Stein won the right to participate by finishing first and second, respectively, in an online vote conducted after the first Free and Equal debate on October 23rd. In addition to Johnson and Stein, Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode and Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson also participated in the first debate.

While united in their opposition to the two-party system, Johnson and Stein have very different ideas about the role of government and the solutions to America’s problems.

“They do have a different take on things such as healthcare and so on, but my feeling is that the two-party system has been playing us for over a century now and they’ve made us quite divisive. I do foresee, after this election, a huge movement of independents running for office and finding, well, we do have a lot in common across the spectrum,” said Tobin.

Watch the video interview at Communities@ Washington Times…

Read Free Chapters of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America here!

 

Obama and Romney on reviving the economy: Blow up the education bubble

TAMPA, October 18, 2012 – Mitt Romney has been able to cruise through two debates with Barack Obama by utilizing a surprising strategy. When Obama has gone on the attack, citing the “draconian cuts” that the delusional on both sides of the aisle imagine Romney would propose as president, Romney has completely defused the president by simply telling the truth.

He’s not cutting anything.

He went a step further during last night’s debate. Like Obama, Romney is not only refusing to cut a single penny from any government program (other than Big Bird), but he’s now on the record that expanding the welfare state is a key plank in his “job creation” plan. In addition to stating “I want to make sure we keep our Pell Grant program growing,” Romney went on to emphasize the importance of keeping student loans available.

Forget the supposedly conservative principle that it is immoral for the government to force one citizen to put up his money to guarantee loans taken out by another, much less force that citizen to pay another’s tuition outright. That principle is long, long gone from the conservative psyche.

What is disturbing is that neither candidate seems to have any idea that their plans for education will exacerbate a bubble that has all of the same characteristics of the housing bubble.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

Questions Obama and Romney won’t have to answer at tonight’s debate

TAMPA, October 16, 2012 – Tonight, we will be subjected to another presidential “debate,” in which two candidates who agree that government is the solution to everything argue about whose central plan is better. With the questions coming directly from the electorate and super-liberal Candy Crowley deciding which ones to ask, there is not much chance that big government will be challenged by anyone.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the candidates were actually asked substantive questions that couldn’t be answered with rehearsed talking points? Here are just a few that you won’t hear asked in any debate or interview:

1. Both of you support U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and elsewhere against nations that have committed no acts of war against the United States. How do you justify planned military action when no state of war exists?

2. Both of you support employing the U.S. military to promote “democracy” in other countries. Why is the U.S. taxpayer financially responsible for the liberty and security of everyone on the planet? When will this financial responsibility end?

3. You both agree that President Obama was right in signing the last NDAA bill which has provisions allowing the arrest and indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the military without due process. How do you reconcile this policy with the 4th and 5th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution?

4. It is almost universally acknowledged that Social Security and Medicare have unfunded liabilities that can never be paid, with Medicare representing the graver financial threat. Both of you argue that the programs must be preserved. However, don’t U.S. citizens who weren’t even born when these programs were started have a right to opt out of them, if they agree to waive all benefits in exchange for not being required to pay in? Would you sign a bill allowing younger workers to opt out under those conditions?

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

What Ron Paul didn’t say

TAMPA, September 6, 2012 — There was no big announcement during Ron Paul’s appearance on Jay Leno Tuesday night. On the contrary, Paul’s appearance was somewhat anticlimactic given Mitt Romney’s nomination at the Republican National Convention last week. Of course, he still said what he has been saying for over thirty years in public life: America must stop spending money it doesn’t have, must liquidate its debts and rethink the role of government as cradle-to-grave caregiver and policeman of the world.

Ron Paul has said many memorable things during his two most recent campaigns for president. A debate moderator tried to put him on the spot regarding his position on leaving Iraq, asking contemptuously, “What is your plan to get U.S. troops out of Iraq?” Paul replied without hesitation, “We marched right in there without a plan, we can march right out.”

When asked about Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that the U.S. government explore colonizing the moon, Paul replied, “No, I don’t want to go to the moon, although I’d like to send some politicians up there.”

A few days ago, I posed a question at the end of my story on the Maine delegation fiasco. What were they really so afraid of?

It wasn’t what Ron Paul said that had them so scared. It was what he didn’t say.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

The real story behind those Ron Paul delegates from Maine

TAMPA, September 2, 2012 – By the time of Marco Rubio’s speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC), rhetoric overload and sore feet had overcome any desire I had to listen. I sat down at a table in the corridor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. A few minutes later, several young people sat in the other chairs.

One of them was wearing a tee shirt that read, “Texas Remembers the Alamo, and the Maine, and the Oklahoma, and the Louisiana, and the Oregon, and the Massachusetts.”

Those are the other five states in which Ron Paul had majorities one week before the RNC. Together with the three states he actually won (Iowa, Minnesota and Nevada) Ron Paul would have carried eight states had many of those delegates not been unseated at the last minute.

The man wearing the tee shirt was Chris Howe, Ron Paul supporter and alternate delegate from Texas. Rob Hinojosa was a guest and the graphic designer of the tee shirts.

One day before, both had marched out of the RNC along with the Maine delegation and an army Ron Paul’s other delegates chanting “As Maine goes, so goes the nation!”

Howe and Hinojosa went to work on their smart phones and in short order produced Ashley Ryan, 21, the youngest national committeewoman in the history of the Republican Party.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

Peter Schiff on The Real Crash, Austrian economics and Ron Paul

TAMPA, August 30, 2012 – Like Ron Paul, Peter Schiff was predicting the 2008 economic meltdown long before it occurred. Schiff is the president of Euro Pacific Capital, a firm that pursues investment strategies based upon Schiff’s contrarian economic analysis. Clients who took his advice over the past decade did very well, even after the financial crisis.

Both Paul and Schiff are proponents of the Austrian school of economics, which emphasizes free markets, sound money and Carl Menger’s subjective theory of value. Asked to describe what the “Austrian school” is, Schiff quipped,

“It’s kind of like you’re asking me ‘What’s Science? Or what’s astronomy, because you believe in astrology. Austrian economics is economics. Keynesianism is like a witch doctor. It’s all a bunch of nonsense, but politicians love Keynesianism, because it justifies what they want to do to get elected, which is spend more money, promise something for nothing, play Santa Claus.”

Schiff was Ron Paul’s economic advisor during the 2008 campaign.

Schiff became a national sensation when the predictions documented in his 2007 book, Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse, came true. Not only was Schiff the darling of nationally televised financial and investing programs, but he found a whole new audience among Ron Paul supporters, who drove millions of page views to the You Tube video “Peter Schiff was right.”

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

 

Ron Paul’s “We are the Future Rally” unlike any other political event

TAMPA, August 27, 2012 ― Everyone knows what to expect from a political rally. Speakers recite the party line on various subjects. The audience already agrees with them and knows what they are going to say. The crowd cheers. The opposition is trashed. The crowd cheers again. The keynote speaker is introduced. Standing ovation. More talking points.

Ron Paul’s “We Are the Future Rally” couldn’t have resembled that model less. Rather than politics, the entire program focused on ideas.

His first three speakers were libertarian philosophers Lew Rockwell, Walter Block and Butler Shaffer. There were no talking points. Instead, attendees were treated to intellectual arguments for individual liberty from three of the most powerful libertarian thinkers alive.

Not everyone agreed, either. Block’s controversial argument for a new libertarian stance on abortion actually drew boos. Block argued that a woman has a property right in her body and thus can evict a “trespassing” fetus from her womb, but does not have a right to take the fetus’ life. Block claimed that this was possible now during the third trimester of pregnancy and that as the science advanced, it would be possible earlier and earlier.

Some of the more conservative among Paul’s following weren’t ready to hear it.

There were speeches by politicians Barry Goldwater, Jr. and South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis, but even these were atypical. Goldwater read from and commented on passages from his father’s Conscience of a Conservative, while Davis focused exclusively on attacking the Federal Reserve System.

Paul’s official campaign blogger and rising conservative star Jack Hunter continued with a talk on conservative philosophy, citing Ronald Reagan, Russell Kirk and other noteworthy conservatives. Hunter reminded supporters of Reagan’s “three-legged stool” theory of conservatism: equal parts national security conservatives, religious conservatives and economic/libertarian conservatives. Hunter argued that it was the absence of the libertarian leg that led to the profligacy of the Bush years. He quoted Reagan saying, “libertarianism is the very heart and soul of conservatism.”

None of this is to suggest that the affair was a quiet seminar with attendees nodding their heads and taking notes. Right from senior campaign advisor Doug Wead’s opening remarks, the atmosphere was electric and the applause thunderous. As usual, remarks on the Federal Reserve System and Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy got the most enthusiastic response.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

Repealing Glass-Steagall did not create the banking monster

TAMPA, August 22, 2012 – As we approach the Republican and Democratic National Conventions with two major party candidates that don’t substantively disagree on anything, debate about the causes of the housing bubble and what should be done about it will inevitably recur.

Both candidates advocate massive government intervention. They just disagree about the details.

Neil Barofsky weighs in with the generally accepted argument that the repeal of Glass-Steagall was the creator of what he calls “the monster,” highly leveraged investment banks taking extraordinary risks that led to the 2008 financial meltdown.

Barofsky is right about Wall Street being a monster, but the repeal of Glass Steagall wasn’t its Frankenstein. As Tom Woods explains in his bestseller, Rollback,

“But did the repeal of two provisions of Glass-Steagall allowing affiliation of commercial banks with securities firms through their control by the same holding company contribute to the losses and risk that permeated the system? Certainly not. For one thing, commercial banks bought mortgage-backed securities for their AAA rating, their attractive return, and the minimal capital requirements associated with holding them; they did not acquire these assets because they were connected to investment banks that were trying to unload them.

Moreover, severe regulatory firewalls essentially prevent this kind of affiliation from contributing to losses or increased risk on the part of the commercial bank involved. The reverse problem, that affiliation with a commercial bank might bring down and investment bank, is exceedingly unlikely, given the relative magnitudes of assets held by each institution. The commercial banks’ assets were only a tiny fraction of those held by the investment banks they were affiliated with. These banks were in no position to cause the investment banks any serious problem, much less their complete downfall.”

If that’s true, then why was that “sucker going down,” as President Bush so eloquently put it?

Continue at Washington Times Communities…