Over the past several years, as President Barack Obama has occupied the White House, his detractors have ceaselessly labeled his policies as communist or socialist. Pundits like Glenn Beck often carefully choreographed imagery of the Soviet Union’s hammer and sickle flag, or the Nazi’s swastika when referring to Mr. Obama and his policies. The notion that Democrats support socialism has become a foregone conclusion in conservative communities. As one who formally studied economics and political science at BYU, hearing these terms twisted far from their actual meaning, and observing the comparison of programs like Medicare and the Affordable Care Act to Stalinist Russia, make me cringe. For Republican strategists, the purpose in making such comparisons to the genocidal regimes of Stalin, Mao, or Hitler is obvious- striking fear in their largely uninformed constituents. This messaging strategy has worked marvelously as more and more Americans now simply refuse to even consider the merits of any policy proposal that the GOP punditry has labeled “socialist” or “communist.”Read more
I have many friends, relatives, and work acquaintances who subscribe to the Ron Paul libertarian wing of the Republican party. If you ask them, they will say, “Republicans and Democrats are totally corrupt and they don’t want to have anything to do with either party. No labels [conservative, liberal, etc.] apply to us, thank you very much.” I’m always one who likes to find out other beliefs. I enjoy a good discussion—even though many times it ends up with, “We will just have to agree to disagree.”
There are a few things Ron Paul Libertarians and I see eye to eye on. I think Ron Paul is correct concerning civil liberties, wars, and censorship issues. However, out of respect to many of my friends and relatives (those who can't understand why I don't jump on the libertarian/Ron Paul bandwagon), I want to point out my main disagreements with Ron Paul and his brand of libertarianism.Read more
Even before I left the GOP I knew that something wasn't right with the way workers are treated in America. Reality hit home the first month back from my mission. Shelter, food, and even my College education was in my hands. My parents felt that it was the best way to introduce me to real life. It was a hard lesson and one that so many of us are having a hard time figuring out. I spent a year working at a local grocery store.
The head manager would always throw out Horatio Alger language, “If you work really hard, you too can become the head manager.”Read more
Written by Ron Madson
MAY DAY! MAY DAY! MAY DAY!
Poverty is an anomaly to the rich, they cannot understand why the poor when hungry do not simply ring the bell. --Walter Bagehot
“May Day” repeated three times has become the internationally recognized distress signal for all vessels (planes, ships, etc) that are in peril. Even though technically the “May Day” phrase originated from the French phrase “venez m’aider”---meaning come help me---I would suggest that the International Workers’ Day held every May 1st in commemoration of the May 4, 1886 Haymarket Strike in Chicago adopt this distress call--- that is to be used only in the most dire of circumstances.Read more
By Warner Woodworth, BYU Professor Emeritus
Today’s currents of economic malaise have long been the concerns of who seek a healthy economy and social justice. The LDS standard works are filled with admonishments to empower the downtrodden and remember that “the labourer is worthy of his reward” (I Tim. 5:17). Recent battles such as the Occupy Wall Street movement, Mitt Romney’s denigration of the 47 percent, the uproar over inequality, and low minimum wages illustrate these issues. Other damages against workers include corporate downsizing, exorbitant CEO pay, decline of middle class jobs, offshore manufacturing, flat wage structures, high unemployment rates, and so forth.
Mormonism addresses each of these concerns. Our alliance with society’s have-nots should begin with appreciation of the fact that Jesus Himself was a blue-collar worker, a low-paid carpenter engaged in manual labor. In today’s vernacular, we would say he’d be a trade union member and card-carrying member of the Democratic Party. In other words, he would probably be a Liberal.Read more
The complexities and drivers of the federal budget are vast and intimidating to understand. However, it is very difficult to have discussions about our federal deficits and national debt unless the process is first understood. I want to initiate this discussion to help readers understand our nation’s budgetary process and to foster more informed dialogue. Hopefully this explanation will dispel partisan rhetoric and break down unfounded talking points.
The Federal Budget: Our nation’s budget can be divided into two major segments; mandatory and discretionary spending. Mandatory spending is authorized by law and not subject to annual review or appropriations. This falls outside of the Executive Branch’s control as the President cannot unilaterally change laws and is incapable of creating spending bills per the Constitution. Mandatory spending is the largest part of our nation’s budget composed of entitlement programs like Medicare, Social Security, and welfare. Mandatory spending is also incredibly difficult to alter given complexities and integration with society.
Discretionary spending is subject to the budgetary process and controlled by the Executive Branch. Over half of our discretionary spending is allocated to the military and the other half is divided according to department need. Since the President maintains control of the discretionary budget he should be held accountable for increasing or decreasing spending. The current discretionary budget today is $1.1 trillion, slightly less than in 2008.
The Calendar: The federal government reports on a fiscal year outside of the calendar year. This is common for many corporations as fiscal years can be planned around inventory fluctuations or revenue patterns. Regardless of the reason, our national budget runs annually from October 1st to September 30th. All accounting procedures are completed shortly after the fiscal year closes and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) compiles reports made available to the public.
The Basic Process: At the beginning of the year the President initiates the process by submitting a budget to Congress. The budget is typically provided the first week of February. Once Congress receives the budget they send it to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan organization, to evaluate assumptions and quantify changes. Once the CBO evaluates the budget a report is published for the public and Congress (typically in March). The House of Representatives then adds any additional amendments, and begins confirmation with the Senate.
The Senate also receives the federal budget and may pass as submitted or add additional amendments. Discrepancies between chambers are typically worked in committee and once aligned the budget is voted on and sent back to the President’s desk. If the President aligns with the changes he signs the budget and it is implemented for the upcoming fiscal year. If the President is not aligned the budget is sent back to Congress for revision.
Continuing Resolutions: As we have seen in previous years the Senate, House, and Executive Branch might not agree on the budget. This lack of cooperation is typically pinned on the Chief Executive unfairly. However, there is a critical secondary process to keep the government operating without an annual budget; continuing resolutions (CR). A CR is passed by Congress and the President to continue operations at the same levels already agreed upon by a previous budget (a de facto budget). There are several CRs that need to pass to sustain spending in the Executive Branch. Simplified, there is a CR for every cabinet department (Defense, Homeland Security, Education, State, etc).
Do you remember when government shutdown in October of 2013? The beginning of the fiscal year (October 1st) came and our government did not have a completed budget or CR to authorize spending. With no authorization workers were furloughed and major departments of the Executive Branch closed. Again this only impacted the discretionary portion of total budget; mandatory spending is not reviewed annually and continued to be spent.
Avoid the Political Spin: No government branch has more control than another when it comes to passing the annual budget. I have often heard explanations arguing either the House or President controls the budget when results are favorable. For instance, when Clinton was president and the Republicans controlled the House, arguments were made justifying either branch's impact on the budget. Once the process is understood, it becomes clear that both branches need to work together to pass a budget.
This explanation might prompt readers to question the House’s role in spending per the Constitution. As directed by our founding document all spending bills must originate in the House. Bills are prelininary laws so new spending is first passed by the lower chamber. Once the bill becomes a mandatory law spending falls outside of the annual budgetary process.
A great example of the House’s constitutional power was witnessed when the Immigration Bill passed by the Senate in 2013. Once passed the bill was retained, waiting for the House to pass their own version and use reconciliation to put the bills together. If the Senate had sent their bill to the House, it would be immediately stamped unconstitutional and discarded.
My last admonishment for readers who have made it this far – know the actual budget and what is driving the annual deficit and the national debt. Although it seems easy to blame any one individual or party, it requires significant compromise and bipartisanship to change either mandatory or discretionary spending. Office of Management and Budget
America’s antiquated health care insurance system has hampered innovation and ultimately slowed economic growth for decades due to the insurance system’s perverse incentives. However, the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, has done much to reverse those disincentives. Consider the following scenario:
Imagine you work for a large company that pays an acceptable salary. Like three-fifths of all American workers, your employer also pays a significant portion of your family’s health insurance premium, which, as part of a group health insurance plan, already costs much less compared to the health plans available to small businesses and the self-employed. However, after working at the same company for many years, you yearn for the opportunity to start your own business. Maybe you are tired of being subordinate to a large corporate bureaucracy. Perhaps you have even begun to hate your job. Over time, you develop a several good business ideas and finally are at a point where you feel your proposals are robust enough to start a new business. What would keep you from quitting a job you do not like for pursuing your personal business dream? Like any responsible breadwinner, if the job was your family’s sole source of health insurance coverage, you would likely be hesitant to give that up in order to start a new business without any guarantee of success.Read more
Being dependent isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's an integral part of life. It's unavoidable, inescapable, and all-around normal. There are associated ailments that are rightly looked down upon, but dependency, in and of itself, shouldn't be. Let me explain by exploring a question: who is dependent?
In a 2012 General Conference address, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, expressed concern about "the ever-growing gap between the rich and poor." Elder Ballard's concern about gross wealth inequality has been shared by many of his predecessors. Elder Orson Pratt once observed that "an inequality of property is the root and foundation of innumerable evils; it tends to derision, and to keep asunder the social feelings that should exist among the people of God.... It is a principle originated in hell; it is the root of all evils.... It is inequality in riches that is a great curse."Read more
The current shutdown of the federal government and upcoming showdown over the debt ceiling has caused many people to ask who is to blame for this gridlock. The media, in its effort to try to report both sides of the story, often end up giving balanced treatment to an unbalanced phenomenon. What we have is an extremist element within the minority political party that refuses to accept the results of the previous elections. Leading up to the shutdown, House Republicans demanded defunding of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) in exchange for passing a continuing resolution budget that would fund the rest of the federal government for a brief period. Republicans also threatened to prevent the debt ceiling from being raised that could result in a catastrophic default on our national debt if their demands are not met. In making these demands, Republicans are attempting to thwart the Constitutional order of our government while threatening financial and economic chaos.Read more