February 20, 2013
If the automatic budget cuts set in motion back in 2011 – known as the “sequester” – go into effect soon, as will be the case without Congressional action, people will die. At least that is if the level of rhetoric to which President Obama has now lowered himself to bears any actual resemblance to reality. (Let us leave out for now that politics seldom ever really bears any resemblance to reality to begin with.)
Speaking in front of cameras Tuesday – and flanked by uniformed first responders otherwise known to political cynics as ‘prop people’ often used for emotional, rather than rationale, appeals – Obama warned of the following (abbreviated to prevent potential reader nausea):
“Emergency responders … their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded… FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go… Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.”
Who, according to Obama, will be to blame for these supposedly outrageous “meat-clever”-type cuts? The usual suspects: “Congress.” Or what he really means: Those evil, rich-loving Republicans who only cater to ‘special interests.’ Never mind the minor detail that the sequester was actually the Obama administration’s idea. In fact, Obama was at one point adamant against backtracking on it. In November of 2011, he warned, “I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts – domestic and defense spending.” He added, “There will be no easy off-ramps on this one.”
But don’t sweat the details, right? Political rhetoric is much more preferred in situations like this. And none is more preferred than the rhetoric that claims this sequester actually represents ‘cuts’ – and the “meat-cleaver” kind at that! Unfortunately, in ‘Washington-speak,’ most references to ‘cuts’ are really just slow-downs in the rate of projected growth. Assuming the sequester takes place, the federal budget will actually still grow by $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years. Translation: We’re still going to spend more, just not as much as we had originally planned. Similar to as if an employee were to get a slightly smaller raise instead of larger raise, only employers usually actually have that money to spare for the slightly smaller raise.
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September 4, 2012
In case logic gets a little lost this week during part two of the major political parties’ conventions (assuming it was ever there), it might be useful to provide a little primer for those less familiar with political rhetoric. This may help sort through the nonsense (which was always there).
First, notice the use of the word “access.” It’s one of the most used political catchphrases these days. When Party 2 says that Party 1 wants to deny Person X “access” to B, what that means in actuality is that Party 1 has no problem with Person X buying their own B, but it does not want to make a law forcing Persons Y and Z to pay for Person X’s B.
Second, if a politician says they favor “investing” in this or that government program, they really mean they want to spend more money (money the government really doesn’t have these days). When they do not favor the program, they’ll actually call it spending – but maybe add the adjective “wasteful” in front of it for the effect.
Third, watch out when Party 2 says all of our problems are the results of Party 1’s policies, or vice-versa. That is seldom ever really the case. There is plenty of blame to go around to indict both parties.
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February 17, 2012
A parody that might bring the enormity of the national debt a little closer to home:
August 5, 2011
It’s official. Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has downgraded their long-term credit rating for the U.S., noting in their report the following reasons:
… we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process. We also believe that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade.
Hard to argue with. Even the party dubbed as deficit hawks, Republicans, have voiced skittishness over the possibility of defense spending cuts should the plan potentially emanating from the so-called “super” committee not pass.
The sad reality is that very few politicians are willing to make the cuts that are necessary to correct our ever-increasing path toward staggering debt (not that we aren’t already there). And if they’re not willing to make those cuts, the only other option is to “increase revenues,” which is code for raising taxes – something that is even less politically palatable. Yet even raising taxes on the “rich” isn’t enough to put the government in the black.
It’s easy to point the finger at our politicians. But they are just doing what they think will get them reelected, which means in most cases avoiding making tough decisions that might offend their constituents. Truth be told, it’s the electorate that is to blame for our mounting debt and near refusal to seriously deal with it (note: part of the S&P reasoning was that the amounts agreed on in the recent debt-ceiling deal are not anywhere near enough to tackle our long-term debt problems). As long as we the voters are unwilling to give up our particular piece(s) of the pie the government spending-machine cooks up, we will continue to face mounting debt and further credit worries.
“But what about cutting waste, fraud and abuse?” you might ask. One man’s “waste” is another man’s “investment.” One man’s “fraud” is another man’s “tax credit.” And one man’s “abuse” is another man’s “grant” or “entitlement” or whatever other euphemism he may choose at any given moment to justify his looting of other people’s money.
We are all part of the problem. The sooner we realize that the better.
April 9, 2011
Much debate took place around government funding to Planned Parenthood leading up to the prevented government “shutdown.” Many pro-lifers argued funding was going directly to fund abortions. Pro-choicers argued the federal money was separated from the money going to abortions. And budget hawks and libertarians argued government shouldn’t be subsidizing any of their services, regardless of the abortion issue.
Here are a few facts on the issue straight from Planned Parenthood itself:
- Percent of Planned Parenthood revenue from government funding (FY 2008/2009) = 33% [source]
- Abortion as percentage of all Planned Parenthood services (FY 2008/2009) = 3% [source]
- Number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood every hour (2009) = 38 [source]
In short, some of the figures thrown around have been exaggerated while others not raised should be a little disturbing. However, two points should be raised.
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January 25, 2011
A key word to look for in not only tonight’s State of the Union address but virtually every other political speech is the word ‘invest.’ Invest is a commonly used euphemism used by politicians to describe what programs they want to spend taxpayer money on. The key is that no matter how they use it, it always really means “spend.”
If they the support the program, they want to ‘invest’ government resources in it. If they oppose it, they call it “spending.”
Nothing really changes in the words (read: euphemisms) used in these speeches, just the mouths speaking them.
For more on government ‘investing’ in dubious programs it can’t afford to fund, click here.
November 21, 2010
A new viral campaign led by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation is making its way across the internet and on television. It features a mock presidential candidate named “Hugh Jidette” and is a satire of the mounting debt our country is accumulating because of politicians and their spending.
Here is the website. Below is one of the mock campaign videos:
Most politicians are for racking up our debt. The only difference here is that at least he’s honest.
November 17, 2010
Watching the fallout from both sides on the release by the co-chairs of President Obama’s Deficit Commission of a draft proposal is a bit like watching young kids pouting in a toy store when their parents tell them that they cannot get all the toys they want because their parents lack all the money to pay for them. The left doesn’t want cuts in entitlements. The right doesn’t want to cut defense spending.
If we are ever going to solve our debt problem, or at least make a dent in it, we will have to grow up. The few grown-ups in this situation have to take the lead. But fiscal maturity is not an attribute many voters or politicians have often displayed.
It’s always easier to delay the sacrifice associated with fiscal responsibility. But, in the end, failing to grow up will have dire consequences.
November 14, 2010
Here we go again with another report on federal government employee pay outpacing pay in the private sector. A recent analysis from USA Today notes the following bit of information:
The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office.
For example, the report notes that the number of federal employees making $150,000 in 2005 was 7,420; in 2010, it is 82,034. This is in light of previous news that the average federal employee was making double the compensation of the average private sector employee.
All of this occurs at a time of economic stagnation where the unemployment rate remains near 10 percent and the federal debt is near $14 trillion. Never forget the fact that taxpayers, the same taxpayers who are making less on average, are the ones paying for all of this.
The term ‘public service’ has often been used in the past to imply that government employees are making a sacrifice to serve the public. Perhaps, in light of these trends, the term should be scrapped.
November 7, 2010
With the House of Representatives soon to be under Republican control, the government will be divided. The two parties, divergent as they are on ideological grounds, will likely not compromise on much. Such leads to a situation often derided as “gridlock.”
Those on the left, right and in the middle opposed to such gridlock say it is not good for our country. They argue that it means nothing will get done. But given the amount of things done over the years that have added to our massive debt, there may be something to be said for government not doing anything.
Republicans may argue that this gridlock is not acceptable. Their argument is that they must gain the Senate and the presidency in 2012. Then, they can go through with their agenda. It’s an agenda they claim, as they have done before with no significant results, will mean an end to wasteful government spending and a reduction in both the size of our government and its debt. But many of those same Republicans, when asked over the last week since the elections, have been hard pressed to spell out what they specifically would cut to make a significant dent in the debt. All too often they have resorted to the old “cut discretionary spending” mantra. The problem with that is, discretionary spending only makes up a small portion of overall federal spending.
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