Real Charity

August 25, 2012

It’s a common narrative in many elections, and this year is no exception. Democrats care about the poor; Republicans do not. Progressives are concerned about those who have less; conservatives only care about the rich. It’s been stated so many times, many have come to believe it.

Then come periodic studies on actual charitable giving – you know, the kind where people actually give their own money instead of relying on the government. Turns out the oppositie may be true.

The latest is a recent report from The Chronicle of Philanthropy showing that those in many “red states” give more as a percentage of their income than in many “blue states.” For example, the eight highest states in their ranking (those that gave the most as a share of income) went for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. The seven lowest ranking states went for President Obama. See this chart for the details.

This is nothing new. Back in 2004, I wrote a column noting a similar study with similar results. Back then, all of the top 25 states that gave the most in relation to their average incomes all went to George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, and 19 of the bottom 25 went for John Kerry.

Despite the rhetoric from progressives about “giving back” and the need for spreading the wealth around, it appears they don’t practice it as often in their private lives. That includes some in the current administration.

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Bad Investment

August 16, 2012

Turns out Social Security may not only be an unwise investment for new and future retirees, it may not be an investment at all. A recent Associated Press report noted that today’s new retirees are part of the first generation that has paid more into the Social Security system than they will actually receive after retirement.

One such example from a 2011 Urban Institute study was given in the AP article:

“A married couple retiring last year after both spouses earned average lifetime wages paid about $598,000 in Social Security taxes during their careers. They can expect to collect about $556,000 in benefits, if the man lives to 82 and the woman lives to 85 …”

Though Medicare has come back into the spotlight with the media attention toward Mitt Romney’s new VP pick and his now infamous proposal of remaking the single-payer healthcare system into a “premium support” system (something Romney also supports), reform of the other big entitlement elephant in the room, Social Security, has rarely been discussed since the failed attempts by the last presidential administration to partially “privatize” it.

Perhaps Social Security reform deserves new attention. After all, the program’s own trustees state in their latest annual report that after 2033, “tax income would be sufficient to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits…”  At that point, one could just as well literally hide their money under their mattress and guarantee a more secure retirement. Assuming they remember where they hid it, they at least would not lose any of their money. Not to even mention the problem of inflation.

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Government Over-spending: Whose Fault?

September 7, 2010

Thomas Sowell’s latest column points out a fact that is often lost on people who, quite frankly, do not understand the structure of the U.S. government. That fact is that spending levels are almost always the fault of the Congress, not the president.

He notes this to debunk the popular myth that our spending woes are largely the fault of the previous administration:

The party line that we are likely to be hearing from now until the November elections is that Obama “inherited” the big federal budget deficits and that he has to “clean up the mess” left in the economy by the Republicans. This may convince those who want to be convinced, but it will not stand up under scrutiny. No President of the United States can create either a budget deficit or a budget surplus. All spending bills originate in the House of Representatives and all taxes are voted into law by Congress.

Sowell goes on to note that Democrats controlled Congress before Obama was sworn in as president and Obama was a member of that Congress in that time period. He also points out that Republicans controlled the House of Representatives during the period in which former President Clinton was given credit for a budget surplus.

All of this is not to say that Republicans are guiltless — far from it. These simple facts do, however, put things into perspective — particularly in light of the constant harping from the current administration seeking to blame everything on their predecessors. The success of their attempts at blame is reliant upon the ignorance of voters to how our government functions.


Bush Uses Clinton’s Shirt as Rag

April 8, 2010

Below is a totally pointless but funny video clip of former President Bush (W.) wiping his hand off on former President Clinton’s shirt. This was apparently filmed in Haiti. The funny part starts around :11 in this clip:

Again, pointless yet funny.


Increasing Executive Power?

February 16, 2010

A recent New York Times article reports that the Obama administration is preparing to advance its agenda through “presidential executive orders and directives.” Here are a couple of interesting excerpts from that article:

Mr. Obama has not given up hope of progress on Capitol Hill, aides said, and has scheduled a session with Republican leaders on health care later this month. But in the aftermath of a special election in Massachusetts that cost Democrats unilateral control of the Senate, the White House is getting ready to act on its own in the face of partisan gridlock heading into the midterm campaign.

Already, Mr. Obama has had to reconcile his campaign-trail criticism of Mr. Bush for excessive use of so-called signing statements to bypass parts of legislation with his own use of such tactics. After a bipartisan furor in Congress last year, Mr. Obama stopped issuing such signing statements, but aides said last month that he still reserves the right to ignore sections of bills he considers unconstitutional if objections have been lodged previously by the executive branch.

So not only is the president seemingly intent on growing the size and power of the federal government in general, but he also appears to be moving to increase the specific power of the executive branch as well. There’s a reason the U.S. Constitution spends more words on defining the scope of Congress than it does the Presidency.


Budget Changes

February 3, 2010

Here’s an interesting graphic from The Guardian showing the difference (mostly increases) between President Obama’s 2011 budget and President Bush’s last budget (2009) by area/department (click on the image for a larger version):

It doesn’t bode well for reducing the size of government.


Better Late Than Never?

November 15, 2009

Former President George W. Bush made headlines this past week by announcing the start of the George W. Bush Institute. Among the key points in his speech was that he believes he went against his basic free-market beliefs in setting up the TARP program toward the end of his presidency.

He said the following:

I believe in the power of free enterprise, which made the decision I faced last fall one of the most difficult of my presidency. I went against my free market instincts and approved a temporary government intervention to unfreeze the credit markets to that we could avoid a major global depression.

He then argued that steps taken by the federal government since then have gone too far:

As the world recovers, we’re going to face the temptation to replace the risk and reward model of the private sector with the blunt instruments of government spending and control. History shows that the greater threat to prosperity is not too little government involvement but too much.

Here is a clip of that part of the speech:

His speech implies that, except for the $700 billion bailout program, his presidency stayed true to his free-market, anti-government beliefs. The real history is not so kind. Besides TARP, just some of the other deviations from those principles included the Medicare prescription-drug bill and “No Child Left Behind.” Both measures increased the federal government’s role in two important aspects of people’s lives: health care and education. Overall spending, a large part due to the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, went up during the eight Bush years.

Perhaps it was practical necessity that drove his administration to pursue such policies that went against what Bush claims are his instincts. Or maybe it was political maneuvering. Regardless of why he chose to deviate, the fact is that he did deviate well beyond just the TARP program.

If this is a true change of heart, great; better late than never. Too bad he didn’t make the change before he left office. Implementing these pro-government-intervention policies, particularly the Medicare expansion and TARP, only gave the Obama administration more cover in expanding the bailouts and wanting to expand the government’s role in health care.


A Year of Bailouts

October 3, 2009

A year ago is when the whole flawed — and unconstitutional — government bailout frenzy began under the Bush administration with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). This pie chart shows where the money has gone so far:

After TARP came the auto bailouts, the “stimulus” package, Cash for Clunkers and many more dubious and economically flawed government programs to help “rescue” our economy — all under Obama. But this graph tells a lot about whether these programs helped save the economy:

graphic_unemploymentprojectionvrealitychart

The actual unemployment rate has risen well beyond the White House projections for both with and without the recovery plan. Thanks for all your help Washington!

You would think reason would tell politicians to leave things alone from now on. But to ask a politician to listen to reason is typically a complete waste of time — almost as much a waste of time as these bailouts were.


Welfare/Warfare Spending Comparison

September 25, 2009

CNS News is reporting that President Obama’s spending on welfare programs through next year will be greater than the entire bill for the Iraq War from the first bombing all the way until the end of President Bush’s presidency. The total cost of the Iraq War under Bush was $622 billion. Obama’s proposed welfare spending will total $697 billion in the first fiscal year.

One telling fact from this story is the following disturbing numbers comparing welfare spending with war spending in the past:

Welfare spending has taken its toll on the federal debt. Since the beginning of the “war on poverty,” $15.9 trillion has been spent on welfare programs. The total cost of every war in American history, starting with the American Revolution, is $6.4 trillion when adjusted for inflation.

The next time someone tells you the government spends too much money on the military in relation to social welfare, point them to stories like this.


Congress Controlling Pay

August 1, 2009

If you thought plans to limit bonuses and cap salaries for top-tier employees working for companies receiving TARP funds were worrisome enough, now the House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow the government to control pay for all financial companies with assets greater than $1 billion. Two reports on the bill, aimed at preventing “perverse incentives in the compensation practices of financial institutions,” can be read here and here.

Politico summed up the bill this way:

Banks, financial advisers and other financial firms would have to disclose their bonus plans to federal regulators, who would have the power to ban compensation packages they believe would encourage “inappropriate risks” by firms or employees.

Naturally, private industry is concerned that this an overstep on the part of government:

“The legislation represents a giant step toward the U.S. government controlling private entities,” said Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable, an industry trade association.

Dismissing concerns over such an obvious overreach by government into the private economy, one member of Congress clearly twisted the effect of this controversial legislation:

“This is not the government taking over the corporate sector,” Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C, said of the House action. “It is a statement by the American people that it is time for us to straighten up the ship.”

The last six-plus months of Obama and “progressives” controlling both the executive and legislative branches of our government, not to mention the last few months of the previous Bush administration, have led to perhaps one of the most rapid expansions of government power over the private sector in our country’s history. No matter what you call the various actions in the last months (“bailouts,” “overhauls,” “reforms,” etc.), they all represent an ever-steady encroachment on freedom.

The march toward change is in full swing — and in a hurry. Although it’s more like a stampede … a stampede that is trampling over our liberties.