Planned Parenthood and Grown-up Budgeting

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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‘Entitled’ Students Protest in the U.K.

November 11, 2010

More outcries from the ‘entitled’ in Europe:

This time it is students lamenting the fact that they may have to actually pay for more of their own college tuition instead of relying on the government for support. The horror!


Obama’s Immigrant Aunt a Freeloader?

September 26, 2010

You really can’t make this stuff up:

This almost sounds like something from a dubious chain e-mail, except that this is actually true. Go figure.

Here is a related report.


Another Job Growth Plan = Selective Subsidization

September 4, 2010

If the history of political meddling in the economy teaches us anything, it is that people seldom come to a realization of basic economic realities. That’s why President Obama can come up with yet another plan to ‘stimulate’ our economy like this:

That’s why we need to take further steps to create jobs and keep the economy growing, including extending tax cuts for the middle class and investing in the areas of our economy where the potential for job growth is greatest.

The simple fact lost on many is that all of this involves taking money we don’t have (which will mean increased debt and/or future devaluing of our currency) and spending it in ways that politicians deem appropriate. What it really, in effect, represents is government taking our money from us and deciding how to spend it for us.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=obama+economy&iid=9647673″ src=”http://view4.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9647673/president-obama-speaks-the/president-obama-speaks-the.jpg?size=500&imageId=9647673″ width=”234″ height=”167″ /]”Extending tax cuts for the middle class” implies that only that segment of income earners defined as “middle class” by politicians and deemed worthy of tax breaks will benefit from such a measure. The “investing” (which is government code for “spending”) in areas of the economy “where the potential for job growth is greatest” means government deciding what industries and individuals should be subsidized.

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Stopping ‘Discovery’

August 26, 2010

With the recent court order blocking certain expanded federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research (expanded last year by President Obama), comes inevitable criticism from those who warn of stifling ‘scientific progress.’ But such attempts typically rely on a rationale justifying the means by the ends.

Take for example a recent USA Today article noting how the head of the National Institutes of Health was “stunned” by the ruling:

“I was stunned, as was virtually everyone here at NIH,” agency director Francis Collins said. … “Stem cell research offers true potential for scientific discovery, and hope for families. This decision has just poured sand into that engine of discovery.”

Not mentioned in the article was the obvious fact that these scientists have a vested monetary and career interest in seeing federal funding continue. The report noted that the ruling would halt 143 grants worth $95 million and 22 grants totaling $54 million.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=stem+cell+research+funding&iid=4202180″ src=”http://view4.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/4202180/obama-signs-order-for-full/obama-signs-order-for-full.jpg?size=500&imageId=4202180″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]What this order, in reality, does is stop an unethical and unconstitutional use of federal taxpayer money. The ruling was based on the fact that such extended funding necessarily goes against a ban on using taxpayer money to fund the destruction of embryos. And though the Constitution gives power to Congress to “promote the Progress of Science,” it limits this promotion to “securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” It doesn’t authorize the federal government to subsidize questionable research.

Even leaving aside the ethical and constitutional reasons for blocking this funding, a side benefit of this injunction is to freeze one area of federal spending. That alone is a desirable outcome given our mounting debt.


Bailing Out the States

August 10, 2010

Are you from a state that just can’t seem to pay its bills? Never fear, President Obama and the U.S. Congress are coming to your rescue.

Congress recently passed, and Obama recently signed, a bill that will effectively bailout states with an additional $26 billion the federal government doesn’t actually have. Though it is argued that the bill would be paid for in the future with increased taxes, withdrawing funding from a loan program and suggested cuts in food stamps — not to take place until 2014 — some lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have voiced opposition to such methods of payment. In addition, one provision in the bill reportedly mandates that one state, Texas, maintain its current levels of education spending through 2013.

Obama emotionally appealed to the moral sensibilities of Americans when he argued the following:

We can’t stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe.

Which children and communities is he referring to? What the bailout amounts to is taxpayers from one state paying to bailout another state. I believe the phrase is, “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

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PolitiFact on Potential Federal Abortion Funding

July 16, 2010

Update on previous post: Since the news broke of federal-government funds going to pay for abortions in Pennsylvania, PolitiFact has tackled the issue.  Here is their take claiming the funds will not go toward “elective” abortions.

In the end, we’ll see if the “forthcoming regulations” actually address this issue.


Problems with Subsidized Loan Modifications

June 24, 2010

This report from ProPublica notes the problems with the Obama administration’s subsidized loan modification program for struggling homeowners. The main problem seems to be poor service:

Since the beginning of the program, we’ve reported on problems homeowners have encountered with their servicer – lost documents, delays, and costly errors. Although Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner sharply criticized servicers for these problems earlier this year, so far it’s been all bark and no bite from the administration. The Treasury has yet to penalize any servicer for breaking the program’s rules.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=loan+modification&iid=7360948″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/7360948/thousands-new-york-area/thousands-new-york-area.jpg?size=500&imageId=7360948″ width=”234″ height=”147″ /]Lost in this is the fact that there is no incentive for the financial institutions to cater to those receiving loan modifications. The treasury is the one footing the bill (to the tune of $75 billion in taxpayer money), meaning it’s a third payer. When costs are shifted to third parties the incentive for the companies to cater to the needs of the lenders is diminished. After all, the homeowners aren’t the ones paying the subsidy, the government is. And, the government doesn’t appear to be interested in ensuring the money is spent wisely.

Notably, the report mentions that many have turned to private modification programs after being dropped from the program. Maybe they’ll get better service.


Mandating the Purchase of a Product

May 15, 2010

Where there is a government regulation or subsidy, there is typically a lobbyist or special interest that benefits from them. One area of regulation in which this often happens is in the case of environmental regulations that subsidize or require purchases of “green” products by consumers. Another area is health-insurance mandates. But other regulations, like those dealing with safety, are not immune to this trend.

Tony Fleming of Metropolitan Fire Protection shows off his firms line of fire sprinkler systems Wednesday at the Atlantic Builders Convention in the Atlantic City Convention Center. Photo by Edward LeaTake for example a recent decision by the state of New Jersey to require new homes to be built with fire sprinklers in every room. Naturally, the advocates (read: those who sell sprinkler systems) are touting this as a necessary safety regulation, and they have gained some support in the media. Builders aren’t as thrilled, arguing that it will add to their costs. By extension, the increased cost of this mandate on builders will be passed on to homeowners.

No doubt, a correctly-operating fire sprinkler would aid in the squelching of a house fire, but leaving aside the arguments about safety, the sprinkler system companies are the clear winners under this regulation. They were successful in lobbying the government to force individual homeowners to buy their product. In one report, someone representing a sprinkler company argued the following:

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Subsidizing Unemployment

April 21, 2010

Coincidently or not, President Obama signed a further extension to unemployment benefits on April 15, Tax Day — a move that will cost more tax money. The bill extended some individuals’ benefits to a whopping total of 99 weeks (quick math: That’s nearly two years).

Though initial state unemployment benefits are funded through taxes on employers, federal extensions like this one are funded by the U.S. Treasury (read more details here). Translation: taxpayers are on the hook for subsidizing more weeks of unemployment checks for millions of Americans.

Though earlier this year, the idea of “paygo,” paying for new spending as it is voted on, was agreed on, The New York Times notes the following

… the Senate resolved a stubborn (emphasis added) impasse, deciding the $18 billion cost of the measure could be added to the deficit.

Since when is insisting on actually paying your bills considered “stubborn”? Since politicians decided they could win votes by making more individuals dependent on government subsidization.

And all of this has been done despite the earlier view of one of Obama’s chief economic advisors that unemployment insurance is an actual cause of long-term unemployment. In writing on the causes of long-term unemployment, that advisor, Lawrence Summers, observed the following:

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