Saturday, January 21, 2012

Are we over the edge?

I wonder if we have lost our nation. I don’t come to the conclusion lightly. But, If those Americans who take more in benefits from the government than they produce have not already overwhelmed the system to form an effective majority, they are perilously close.

As early as elementary school, I wondered how the Roman Empire fell and could not understand it. I learned something of the dole system that was established to help make the poor dependent upon the Imperial government, but did not fully understand the correlations.

Now, America is on the verge of putting itself on auto-pilot to insignificance, crushed under the weight of debt to support those who have the political numbers to protect themselves from the necessary spending cuts that would save our country.

The government itself has grown so large that too many Americans look at it as the founder of their feast rather than a necessary evil.

So, while the people will rise up on issues that affect their entertainment like the Wikipedia led outrage over the Internet piracy bill, they are sanguine on real issues that cut to the heart of our nation’s survival.

Since October 1, 2008, our nation has spent $5.2 trillion more than we have taken in, and the size and scope of government continues to expand. To put the total national debt into perspective, 15.2 trillion dollars is the equivalent of 15,251 billion dollars or one million dollars multiplied 15.251 million times. And we keep adding more than one million dollars multiplied by a million to it every year.

To make matters worse, the U.S. Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation found that in 2009, 51 percent of all households, which includes filers and non-filers, paid no income tax for tax year 2009. In the same year, the Committee also found that 30 percent of households that filed taxes received more money back from the government than they paid into it throughout the year.

In addition, the Wall Street Journal quotes just released U.S. Census Bureau data which shows that 48.6 percent of Americans live in a household receiving some form of taxpayer funded assistance.

That’s right. Almost one half of Americans are at least partial beneficiaries of some kind of government dole, and according to USA Today only 54 percent of the people who file tax returns end up paying any taxes at all.

Just sixteen years ago, three out of four tax filers paid some taxes, making the lower taxes argument a clear political winner. But today, with almost half of tax filers not paying any taxes and many of those actually getting more back from the government than they paid in, the political advantage enjoyed by those who pay taxes over those who demand services has been lost.

The political advantage lies with the 49 percent of the people who are in households getting taxpayer assistance instead of those who make the money and pay the freight.

The very best case scenario is that America is at the tipping point where the balance between those who demand government services and those who pay for them is teetering, and the parasites are about to overwhelm the host.

Incredibly, in the end, the parasites are likely to not only demand that the producers provide for them, but also that their hosts apologize for providing goods or services of sufficient value to create an income that puts them in the taxed rather than beneficiary category.

This upcoming election will determine if the beneficiaries of government control the ballot box. If they do and Obama is re-elected, the producers of wealth in America can only hope to fight an ever more futile rear guard action as even the politicians who pretend to support them are truly only milking them for their personal gain.

Obama’s new normal will be established with ever lower expectations for individual wealth from an increasingly diminished economy, and the President will have kept his 2008 campaign promise to transform America.

There is no other issue facing our nation that is more important than this battle between those who are government wards and those who pay the freight.

America has a choice of who she wants to be in the future. I pray that the voters choose wisely.



The Land of Obama Make-Believe

Where did President Obama go after killing off thousands of Keystone XL pipeline construction and manufacturing jobs? Why, Disney World, of course. Sabotaging work is hard work for Goofy and his pals.

_And where'd he head after that? Why, up to Manhattan for more high-priced campaign fundraisers charging up to $38,500 per partier. The business of wining and dining politically connected donors ain't child's play, you know.

Obama touted a White House foreign tourism initiative on Thursday with Cinderella's castle as his backdrop. "America is open for business," he proclaimed chirpily to the rest of the globe.

Tell that to the Keystone managers in Canada whom Obama and his State Department rebuffed -- after years of planning and review -- in order to appease militant environmentalists and Hollywood celebs. The Animatronic Divider robotically lambasted Republicans for pushing him to make a decision this week. But Senate and House Democrats issued the sharpest rebukes to White House obstructionism:

"President Obama's decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is a major setback for the American economy, American workers, and America's energy independence," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said.

"The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline permit is a missed opportunity to drastically turn this economy around. This pipeline would have created thousands of new jobs and helped to ensure our energy independence," Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., lamented.

"This delay is just playing politics with American jobs and American energy security," Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, pointed out.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle scratched their heads as the job-snuffer-in-chief bolted to Orlando's fantasyland to promote economic growth. But there's no more fitting place on Earth for the man whose escapist administration occupies the land of make-believe and no consequences. (Bonus moment: Obama got to shake hands with Mickey Mouse, who infamously turned up on a Florida ACORN voter registration form in 2008. Constituent outreach at its most surreal.)

On the very same day he quashed Keystone, Obama released his first campaign ad of 2012 -- hyping his stellar record on energy jobs. It's Opposite Day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, 365 days a year. Even more comically, the ad touted his exemplary ethics record by quoting a moldy three-year-old endorsement from left-leaning Politifact. And as bipartisan Capitol Hill outrage over the half-billion-dollar Solyndra solar stimulus bust mounts, Obama had the nerve to sprinkle his inaugural campaign spot with -- wait for it -- solar panels.

Instead of supporting new infrastructure jobs in America through an energy independence-enhancing project that has bipartisan legislative support on Capitol Hill, the president flew to Disney World to peddle looser visa restrictions in China and Brazil by executive order. He also will expand the Visa Waiver Program (a security loophole-ridden program that was suspended temporarily after the 9/11 terrorist attacks) to speed foreign travel.

In case anyone needs reminding, it was the relentless drive of the tourism industry and kowtowing State Department bureaucrats that led to the Bush-era Visa Express Program, which relaxed visa policies, eliminated in-person consulate interviews and opened the door to the 9/11 hijackers. Brazil is just the latest base for al-Qaida and other Islamic jihadi groups. It does not consider Hezbollah or Hamas terrorist groups, and it disbanded its anti-terrorism force in 2009.

The Visa Waiver Program and other efforts to expedite the tourist visa process also pose continuing security risks because -- as the Government Accountability Office itself admitted last year -- there is still no comprehensive, systematic way to track the 70 million-plus foreign visitors who enter the country on tourist and other short-term visas. Indeed, half of the nation's estimated 20 million illegal aliens are visa overstayers.

How many of the new Disney foreign tourists whom Obama is touting as America's economic salvation will fail to return to their home countries after their Obama World visas expire? We'll likely never know. And Team Obama doesn't care.

In his opening campaign ad salvo, Obama accuses his opponents of being "untethered to facts." But this is an administration that believes lowering visa standards and risking homeland security to pump up Disney foreign tourism is a better path to economic recovery than supporting direct American job creation and enhancing energy security. Like the Disney characters he posed with this week, our cartoonish president is wholly untethered to reality.



A Question of Priorities

For three years, the Obama administration and its cheerleaders have tried to claim that they stand for the same can-do spirit. Administration officials have a rare form of Keynesian Tourette's syndrome whereby they blurt out phrases like "Infrastructure!" ... "Spending multiplier!" ... "Shovel ready!" ... "Nation-building at home!" ... "Investment!" almost as often as they draw breath. Just last week, Obama's own handpicked jobs council -- perhaps looking at the fully employed and booming oil state of North Dakota -- advised that the U.S. must embrace an "all-in approach" to the energy sector, including the pursuit of "policies that facilitate the safe, thoughtful and timely development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects."

Obama himself has insisted time and again he cares only about "what works" and not about ideological or partisan point scoring. Nary an utterance from the president doesn't include some claim that his "top," "chief," "first" and "number one" priority is to create jobs and get America working again.

Just last week he announced that he wants to streamline government to cut red tape and make both government and the economy more efficient.

It's all a farrago of lies. Now, maybe they believe all of this stuff, but that doesn't disprove they're lying; it just proves they're lying to themselves, too.

Obama's decision to block the building of the Keystone pipeline on the grounds that the Congress -- in a bipartisan vote -- didn't give the bureaucrats enough time to study the issue is akin to Leslie Groves accepting that he couldn't have his silver because he failed to ask for it in troy ounces.

The State Department simply didn't have the time, Obama the alleged red-tape cutter lamented, to check every box on its mountains of triplicated forms. The eight-volume environmental impact statement cogitates on the possible spreading of "137 federally restricted and regulated noxious weeds," as well as an unspecified number of "state and local noxious weeds." By all means, let's hold up a massive infrastructure project that will cost taxpayers nothing and create bountiful jobs and tax revenues so we can check -- again! -- that local noxious weeds don't gain the upper hand (upper leaf?).

It doesn't help Obama's case that his excuse is a sham. The Keystone pipeline had already been essentially cleared by environmental bureaucrats. Adding the pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf wouldn't scar some pristine wilderness, it would be more like adding just one more string to a spider web, given how many pipelines already crisscross the region.

Opponents say it would threaten the groundwater in Nebraska, where some 21,000 miles of pipeline already exist. But, as the American Enterprise Institute's Kenneth Green notes, any spilled oil would have to flow uphill to reach the Ogallala Aquifer.

Even the unstated but important motives driving opposition to the pipeline are hogwash. The environmentalists to which Obama is pandering have an understandable, if at times irrational, fear of oil spills and a religious faith in the dangers of global warming. The only problem is that blocking the pipeline will, if anything, increase the likelihood of oil spills because Canada will still bring the oil to market. But if it can't sell it to America it will sell it to China, which will bring it home via tankers, which spill more often -- and more calamitously -- than pipelines. Moreover, China will still burn the oil, meaning the effects -- real or alleged -- on global warming will be the same (or marginally worse, given the "footprint" of tankers). Also, the U.S. will still buy oil -- only we'll get more of it from the Middle East, again via tankers, deepening our dependence on their oil (another Obama bugaboo).



Nudge, nudge, here come the Germans

Peter Saunders

Okay, forget, for a moment the monumental folly of the European common currency, which wasn’t really the Germans’ fault. It was pressed on them by Mitterand as the price for French agreement to [German] reunification.

Consider, instead, German social policy. We might all learn something from the way the Germans tackle problems that the Brits (and to some extent the Aussies) struggle with.

Consider, for example, family policy, and the child support rules for absent fathers.

The German civil code establishes a principle called the ‘solidarity of the generations.’ This stipulates that ‘lineal relatives’ (children, parents and grandparents) have a legal obligation to maintain each other. The primary obligation to support dependent children falls on parents, but if they lack the means or will to pay, grandparents become liable.

While our politicians voice platitudes about strengthening family life, the Germans give extended families real duties. Before taxpayers are asked to contribute to the costs of maintaining other people’s children, German law insists that the extended family should draw on its own resources.

So if a father defaults on his child support payments, both sets of grandparents are required to pay. Grandparents know they may become financially liable for their grandchildren, so they do all they can to ensure that the parents discharge their responsibilities properly in the first place. Brilliant!

Another example of German ingenuity concerns education. Ever since Britain abolished state grammar schools, bright kids from poor backgrounds have been consigned to what one Labour minister infamously called ‘bog standard comprehensives.’ In many parts of Britain, the only way to get a good education now is to pay for it. Even firebrand Labour MPs pay for their kids to be educated privately.

The trouble with the old system was nobody liked the 11+ exam which determined whether you went to a grammar, technical or general (‘secondary modern’) school. Too many middle class children failed the exam, and pressure built to overthrow the whole system. But in Germany they still have it. So why do German parents still accept selection when British parents don’t?

A key reason is that German parents are offered some control over the selection process. Head teachers in primary schools recommend to parents which type of secondary schooling would best suit their child, but if a parent insists their dull child should go to a grammar school against the head’s advice, this can still happen. When such children then struggle (as they almost certainly will), they are transferred after a year or so, disrupting their education and fragmenting their friendship networks. Most parents therefore go along with head teachers’ recommendations.

A lot of policy wonks in Britain, Australia and the United States got excited a few years ago about the idea of ‘nudging’ people into doing the right thing, but these two examples suggest the Germans have been ‘nudging’ for ages.

If a father falls down on his child support obligations, the Germans don’t send for the bureaucrats at the Child Support Agency (CSA). Rather, they mobilise the extended family to put pressure on him.

And the Germans didn’t antagonise parents to the point where grammar schools lost public support and got shut down. Rather, they allowed parents the chance to discover for themselves that their dull children really are dull, which legitimises selection.




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