Across the U.S., conservative-dominated school boards have sought to manipulate public education curricula by overruling relevant experts in subjects such as history, economics, and science, establishing requirements to teach subjects through a conservative lens, and via outright censorship. In 2010, the Texas Board of Education approved a social studies curriculum that questioned the Founding Fathers’ commitment to secular government and presented conservative political philosophies in a positive light. Astonishingly, the school board cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions across the world in the 18th and 19th centuries and replaced him with religious figures such as St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin because the board members disliked Jefferson’s support for separation between church and state.Read more
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
As any viewer of Fox News will tell you, America has become an entitlement nation. This claim is reinforced by example after example of individuals gaming the system or dissected across Fox’s political theater. The right’s fixation on the poor has become so blatant Fox has even come up with a pseudo-correspondent that fuels the misleading perception. Jason Greenslate, or “Food Stamp Surfer”, has been remarkably effective reinforcing the narrative of widespread welfare abuse. In fact, he was even mentioned by Representative Tim Huelskamp (R) on the House floor before a taking a food stamp vote, "You can no longer sit on your couch or ride a surfboard like Jason in California and expect the federal taxpayer to feed you." Hmmm. I’m guessing Representative Huelskamp missed the irony.
The Republican grab bag of anecdotal examples is very effective in creating a “poor are lazy” perception. To many on the right, those who take advantage of entitlements or welfare services are parasitic or morally deviant. This unabashed stereotype is important when justifying their political ideology: Democrats want everyone to live off the government, Republicans want individuals to succeed driven by personal motivation which handouts undermine.
The problem with such logic is demographics paint an entirely different picture of welfare recipients. Did you know that half of food stamp expenditures benefit children? Or that one in five veterans take advantage of the program? Did you know that food stamps represent a minuscule 1.8% of our federal budget or that food stamp fraud accounts for less than 5% of the total program? Such information might change the perception of voters about the role of government which is why “Food Stamp Surfer” becomes the poster child of the Fox News repertoire. Collective data is not personal and unpersuasive. You might not know any of the millions of children and veterans that are supported by welfare but you do know your aunt’s best friend’s sister is sporting a $500 iPhone paid for by the government.
GOP: Dear Kids, 50% of all food stamps go to you. Work harder and stop being moochers.
— Matty Ice (@MattyIceAZ) May 19, 2014
Misinformation about our Nation’s entitlement programs (Welfare, Medicare, and Social Security) is equally exaggerated. Even the word “entitlement” conjures negative connotation driven by ignorance and misunderstanding. Many Conservatives are enraged that we spend 57% of our federal budget on entitlement programs without any consideration to the demographics. Over half of all entitlement dollars are spent on the elderly. Another 20% are spent on the disabled. 18% are spent on the working poor like Walmart employees. In fact, almost $1,000 annually is spent per employee offsetting Walmart’s benefit liability. You shouldn't be thanking Walmart for low prices, Walmart should be thanking you.
So what of the remaining 9% able-bodied freeloaders drawing entitlements? Let’s hang them. I’ll get the tar, you get the feathers. But let's be careful, in our haste to enact fairness and justice we might be punishing a demographic that has equal need for taxpayer’s help. There are thousands of students that are attending colleges and universities while trying to support families. Many are studying for high earning careers as dentists and doctors, easily returning the entitlements being invested today. Even if we do conclude the 9% are actual moochers like Jason Greenslate, we should still resist the urge to throw the baby out with the surfer.
When addressing the growing expenditures associated with the rising baby boom population, little has been proposed by either party. Instead, partisan rancor has been unleashed and misdirection has become the norm. I have several friends who openly blame President Obama for the escalating debt and the growth of entitlement spending behind Baby Boomers. This is incorrect for three reasons:
- President Obama has not signed any law restructuring welfare or entitlements
- President Obama has not signed any law restructuring welfare or entitlements
- President Obama has not signed any law restructuring welfare or entitlements
Even President Obama’s signature legislation, Obamacare, is deficit neutral (CBO) offset by mandates and penalties with no impact to our deficit. Where our anger should be directed is government’s inaction, as the last major change to entitlements was the 2003 Prescription Drug bill. We should be holding the House of Representatives accountable, since the Constitution dictates laws originate in the lower chamber, to generate common sense bipartisan solutions. But herein lies the problem for the GOP-led House. Any changes to entitlement programs that do not include Medicare and Social Security reform are a wasted effort and any successful change will anger core constituents. Trying to repeal Obamacare 50 different times is a much safer play for House members interested in keeping their jobs through the next election cycle.
All spending bills must originate in the House. So when the GOP is complaining about Obama's productivity, please ask what they are doing. — Matty Ice (@MattyIceAZ) May 27, 2014
Even if undermining entitlements fosters partisan opportunities our problems are not disappearing anytime soon. I’m sure my Libertarian friends would suggest a free-market solution. Remember when Medicare was passed in 1965? Only half of our nation’s elderly had healthcare and costs associated with medicine were skyrocketing. The Sixties’ free-market solution was basically a Darwin-driven model. Can you imagine being a 55 year old senior looking for healthcare coverage after being dropped by your company’s insurer upon retirement?
How about charities? Can they fill the void? Based off of IRS data charitable giving (currently $300B) would need to increase three-fold to cover current liabilities. This also assumes every donation dollar is appropriated against entitlements; not building churches, saving rhinoceroses in Africa, or giving to one of Karl Rove’s SuperPACs.
Regardless of any proposed solution the very first step in delivering lasting reform is awareness. Data has become the newest inappropriate four-letter word being replaced with trivial anecdotal examples. But I get it, fully understanding issues takes effort and who wants to waste their time when partisan blogs are like crack to drug addicts (just slap "liberal" on this post so the right can disparage the content).
We need to avoid assuming our best-friend’s cousin scheming the welfare system is representative of millions of Americans looking for help. As Jon Stewart said recently, stop looking for the elusive “Welfare Bigfoot”. Start looking across the street, recognizing that single mother struggling to provide for her child, and be thankful we are in a much better place. Once we understand who it is we are helping, the solutions will become more clear.
When the GOP says entitlements are for the lazy, they are talking about seniors and the disabled where 73% of our entitlement spending goes.
— Matty Ice (@MattyIceAZ) May 28, 2014
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
A recent study of Wisconsin's Medicaid program revealed that Walmart ranked first on state's list of Medicaid enrollment by employer. In other words, Walmart employees in Wisconsin comprise a plurality of the state's Medicaid recipients. Altogether, a single Walmart Super Center costs Wisconsin taxpayers about $900,000 per year in poverty subsidies for its employees, such as food stamps, Medicaid, school lunches, and housing assistance because the employees are paid significantly less than what is reasonably required to survive at a minimum standard. Most Americans have rightly decided that we will not allow our fellow citizens, especially children, to starve or go homeless. We have a safety net for the poorest Americans, most of whom live in working households. However, Walmart and all other minimum wage employers are passing on much of this burden from themselves to the taxpayers.Read more
I smile every time a pundit tries to link escalating gas prices to our president. Not because I am satisfied with the erroneous connection, but out of amused exasperation at the hypocrisy that continually plagues polarizing talking heads. Gas pricing is a function of market dynamics, meaning that it is driven by supply, demand, and speculation. Any action by President Obama to influence pricing would be governmental regulation, which opposes conservatives’ fundamental advocacy of smaller government. The only organizations that can truly impact pricing are the oil companies whom our tax dollars continue to subsidize. Domestic oil companies are set to rake in windfall profits as pricing continues to rise. It’s time to ask for those subsidies back.
Most Americans do not understand that half the oil consumed by the United States is produced within its borders. The United States consumes almost 18 million barrels daily (MBD), of which 9.1 MBD comes from our own drills. We are the largest oil consumer in the world, using 22 percent of total global production. We are also the third largest producer of oil, just behind Russia (9.9) and Saudi Arabia (9.7). The other half of U.S.-consumed oil is imported from several nations. The largest exporter of oil to the U.S. is Canada, which accounts for 2.3 MBD. Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Nigeria are all next in line, with each exporting roughly 1 MBD. Surprisingly, and despite all the rhetoric, Iraq ships just 400,000 barrels a day, a mere 2 percent of our total oil consumption. In total, the United states only receives 10 percent of its total oil supply from the Middle East.
So if the U.S. consumes oil almost exclusively from North America, how does the Middle East impact pricing? What consumers need to understand is that the largest global producer of oil has the greatest control on pricing. Even though the United States receives only 10 percent of its imported oil from the Middle East, that region of the world accounts for 30 MBD, or 34% of global oil production. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a cartel of participating countries that unify production and pricing to maintain greater control of supply and demand. OPEC supplies the majority of oil to the world’s Eastern Nations (China, Japan, India, etc).
So why are gas prices rising? Bordering Iran is the world’s greatest natural choke hold of oil transportation. Almost 17 MBD pass through The Straits of Hormuz on their way to consuming nations. Iran has threatened to close the Strait, which would result in incremental increases in cost to transport oil out of the region. Since OPEC nations control the largest collective supply, any price increase due to their control will impact the worldwide marketplace.
American oil companies do not have to raise prices as no incremental production costs are being reflected, as in the Middle East. The problem is increased market demand for cheaper U.S. oil can drive prices up (i.e. China would prefer to buy our cheaper oil instead of OPEC’s more expensive offering). U.S. companies understand competition, and would much rather raise pricing with OPEC than undercut competition in the short term. Why? Oil is highly inelastic and consumers will pay for gas regardless of price. Over the next several months, as oil prices stay high, U.S.-based oil companies will deliver some of the most profitable quarters for their shareholders, taking full advantage of Middle East instability.
There is no better time to withdraw the subsidies our government pays to domestic oil companies. Each year domestic oil companies take $4 billion of taxpayer dollars and add it to their bottom line. As noted previously, subsidies have no impact on domestic oil prices, nor does increasing U.S. production through additional drilling. Any incremental oil production will be sold at the market prices, regardless of those subsidies, unless companies are willing to break away from OPEC direction. As gas prices continue to climb at the pump, understand that capitalism is in full swing. Oil company shareholders could not be happier, and they should thank both Iran and the American taxpayer.
Over the last several debates, GOP contenders use the word socialist to describe their warped view of what the Democratic Party stands for. They have leveled such attacks on "socialist" president Barack Obama, and have regularly used "socialist" in a derogatory tone against anything Democratic. Redistribution of wealth is also married to the socialist label, as with any governmental benefit. Not only do these candidates (and pundits) have little regard for the meaning of the word, they often demonstrate their ignorance in twisting its usage.
Socialistic theory encompasses government's choice to control capital. The extremist form of socialism, communism, argues for complete control of capital, eliminating all private property. Republicans follow and support many socialist platforms as a collective group and demonstrate socialistic behavior as government continued to grow at levels disproportionate to the economy. Growth of government = increased control of capital = socialism.
Let me cite some specific examples of socialist support among Republicans:
The military is the largest socialist organization in our nation. The military is not a privately run organization, nor does private capital control any equipment, technology, or weapons. The government own all military capital, and provides all services. It's quite interesting to watch Republicans discuss healthcare in the military with utmost respect, and then lash out at government controlled civilian healthcare. Veteran benefits are socialistic programs, as is all wartime activity. Think we can privatize the military? Get ready to fork out serious payments if you want protection.
Unless you are coughing up the $20k a year for private tutoring, education is a socialist program. Education is run and supported by the state and federal government, which spends roughly $7,000 a year on each enrolled student. Even if you believe private industry can operate the same program at 30% efficiency, it will still cost a family with two kids roughly $10k a year to pay for private education. In a purely capitalistic market you would pay according to the quality of the education, meaning the superior schools will cost substantially higher than average.
Medicare is another program that is entirely socialistic. With 90% of healthcare costs coming the final ten years of an individual's life, our seniors will be left out in the cold, as the payments will be unreasonable to assume. Now to be fair, the Medicare program could be privatized, which would require the 5.8% payroll tax to be saved by the individual year on year. Given the current state of our economy and the choices made by consumers, this will be a difficult challenge for the vast majority of citizens. Hospitals also are funded through governmental spending to drive consistency in quality.
I have often listened to my Republican friends complain about toll roads when traveling out east. I always found this interesting given that private controlled roads would charge per use, mimicking toll roads today. Private roads would follow market demand. If any road had continual traffic jams, the owner of the road would assume they are not charging enough, as the demand outweighs the supply. Public transportation would also be private in a purely capitalistic market, so pricing would also be owned directly by the users and not the government.
Just imagine if our society was purely capitalistic. If your house was burning down, or if someone had broken into your home, better hope you have a credit card on file with the right emergency department or no help will be coming. If your child falls off a ladder, and you have no insurance because you are one of the millions of individuals who lack coverage from your employer, there will be no emergency room visit. If you are convicted of a crime, don't look for the government to appoint a socialist lawyer if you can't afford one. If your district needs help with a specific project, don't ask the government for earmarks. If you have an innovative idea, the government will not protect you through patents.
Republicans like to look at selective measures to demonstrate Democrats are socialists. Here are a couple of facts that demonstrate socialism is not a partisan issue:
- The most money ever paid in earmarks was $56.2 billion in 2004 when Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and Presidency.
- The largest governmental subsidy is spent on fossil fuel (oil) with $72.5 billion (2002-2008) allocated through legislation signed by Republican presidents. The 2002 Farm Bill also provided expansive governmental subsidies to farmers across the US.
- In 2003 Republicans passed a $1 trillion dollar government entitlement prescription drug program to support Medicare. Part of the legislation shifted drug price negotiating power from the federal government (largest buyer of drugs) to the insurance companies (who then billed the federal government), creating a fixed pricing windfall for the Pharma industry.
- President Bush was the first president to see the annual budget cross the $2, $3, and $3.5 trillion dollar spending levels.
- Homeland Security was the largest expansion of government since the Department of Defense.
- The EPA was proposed and signed into legislation by Republican President Richard Nixon.
- Defense spending is the largest bill our government pays today, driven by Republican legislation.
- President Bush signed TARP and the first round of auto-bailouts, effectively creating social programs for the wealthy.
The most telling reason Republicans are closet socialists, is the way they vote. The only candidate campaigning on an anti-socialist platform is Ron Paul, and it is no secret how the Republican base feels about him. The other Republican candidates follow the same line of thinking as previous generations before -- lots of tax cut rhetoric, and no discussion of trimming today's socialist programs.
More has been added to our national debt under President Obama than all the other presidents combined. Partially true. However, of the $5.1 trillion added to the National Debt from 2009 to 2012, only $1.5 trillion is due legislation signed by President Obama. Of that $1.5 trillion, only $500 billion in incremental spending carries past 2010. The rest of the debt, or $3.6 trillion, can be directly attributed to legislation passed under previous administrations.
On January 20, 2009 President Obama walked into the oval office and was handed a negative annual deficit of $1.3 trillion. This was a stark contrast from his predecessor, who began his eight years in office with a $200 billion dollar surplus. However, through healthcare entitlements, unfunded wars, wealth redistributing tax cuts, and TARP that surplus had turned into the largest fiscal deficit our country had ever experienced. Obama was handed this budgetary disaster, coupled with a collapsed economy with the expectation of immediate change. Little did he know three years later, he would be held responsible for the gap he inherited, and full blame for the skyrocketing debt. Before we can understand what Obama was expected to fix, we need to first understand where our government spends money.
The federal budget is broken into five major categories; healthcare, defense, social security, interest, and everything else. The first four categories equate to 80% of the total federal budget consistently over the past 20 years. The “everything else” category includes spending from education, governmental programs, appropriations, earmarks, federal departments, etc. The “everything else” category dominates 90% of federal budget debates and discussions, and is leveraged in political perversions of reality. Here is the last 20 years of governmental spending broken down by category:
President Obama signed two major pieces of legislation that grew short and long term spending. In 2010 President Obama signed the American Recovery Act. This legislation accounts for $800B of new debt through $224b in entitlement spending, $275b in grants, and $288b in tax cuts over 2009 - 2010. You can see these amounts reflected in the 2009 and 2010 budget lines as the “everything else” category spikes and then declines the following years.
The second piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. In crafting the legislation, House Democrats worked closely with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to ensure the new legislation would remain deficit neutral. The potential increase in spending was offset by penalties due to mandates and some additional taxes directed at the super wealthy like "cadillac" healthcare plans. The CBO produced a report confirming President Obama’s claims. The only credible report opposing the neutral claim came from the highly conservative Heritage Foundation, providing a high side of $75 billion annual increase around the legislation (roughly 8%). Since Obamacare was created to be deficit neutral, repealing Obamacare has a negligible impact on our Nation’s budget.
The rest of the budget growth relies on legislated “stabilizers” that kick in based on marketplace conditions. For example, spending on Social Security will continue to increase as more individuals reach the threshold, unless we restructure the program. Defense will continue to increase unless we make changes to our policies. Medicare costs will continue to skyrocket as more individuals reach the required age. Welfare costs should hold flat unless unemployment grows, and interest expense will continue to rise as more debt is issued to pay for all of these programs. This entire group has little to do with any of President Obama’s policies, and would be growing at the same rate regardless of who sat in the Oval Office.
One of the most overlooked causes of our budgetary problem is due to governmental income, or receipts. Like our own household budget, when our income stays flat, so should our spending. Over the last decade this has not been the case. From 2000-2009, budgetary spending increased almost 96% and our nation’s receipts (income) only increased 3%. Imagine doubling your household spending after receiving a 3% pay raise! In 2000 receipts were roughly 20% of GDP. In 2009 receipts were 15% of GDP. If the 2009 receipts were equal to 2000 levels, our annual deficit would decline by $700 billion.
What caused this shortfall in income? The collapse of the economy and the 2002/2003 tax cuts. In 2002 and 2003, tax cuts were signed into legislation based on the premise that the red hot economy of the 1990’s would continue through the next decade. The collapse of the housing market and war spending were not part of the equation, nor was TARP funding and other bailouts. Even more problematic was when President Obama extended these tax cuts compromising with the Republicans to avoid a governmental shutdown. Declining receipts due to the economic collapse is straight forward; less income tax is being collected due to unemployment and less is being spent by the consumer.
As we go into the 2012 elections voters beware. You might be inclined to blame President Obama for the rising National Debt. However, if Governor Romney takes office in 2012, he will have four years of continuing rising deficits unless the big four spending categories are re-legislated. Why? Because minimal has been proposed in controlling rising spending, and any additional tax cuts will only expedite the problem. Of course the desire will again be to blame President Obama, but that will fall on deaf ears due to lack of rhetoric consistency.
If you still believe President Obama is to blame for $5 trillion in new debt, feel free to comment below identifying what legislation he signed to deliver such a disastrous fiscal decline. Whatever your belief, cut through the media’s rhetoric and read the actual budget. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb
After losing the South Carolina Primary to Newt Gingrich, possibly in part due to his waffling at the pre-Primary debates about releasing his tax returns, Mitt Romney released his tax returns for the past two years, which show that he paid about 14% in federal taxes on income of nearly $43 million. The timing of Romney's tax return release was impeccable- for Democrats. For months, President Obama and Democrats have been attacking Republicans for wanting to maintain tax breaks and loopholes for the super-wealthy. Last August, Warren Buffet pointed out in an op-ed that he paid a lower federal tax rate than his secretary in 2010. He paid about 17.4%, whereas his office staff paid an average of 36%. Buffet rightly pointed out that this simply isn't fair. He added, "it’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice."Read more
(Response challenging my views being opposite the lessons of Atlas Shrugged)
I don't see it that way. I am a pretty pure capitalist. I support Milton Friedman's ideas about school vouchers to maximize privatized education. I never supported Obama’s plan to control CEO pay. In my MBA classes I was one of the few students to oppose CEO pay regulation, as compensation is a market function. I even work for one of the largest corporations in the world which provides a lesson everyday about supply and demand. I think government subsidies for corporations are anti-capitalistic. I thought that the American car companies should fail. I think unions have outlived their purpose and are the major cause of the auto company’s demise (and airlines). I think minimum wage laws are useless and unnecessary and I disagree when Democrats push regulatory legislation. I think the Federal Reserve is what allowed banks to undertake excessive risk with minimal consequence. If the Philadelphia bank in the 70’s, the Savings and Loan bank in the 80’s, and other large banks in the 90’s were allowed to fail, it would have sent a clearer message to manage risk this past decade, instead of embrace it. I don’t think it’s possible for a company to make too much money. This includes drug companies, as profit drives innovation.
However, there are times when I see conflicts between capitalism and the best interests of society. Healthcare is one example. The interest of shareholders does not align with the interests of the people. I see insurance companies as one of the most wasteful corporate entities, being fed by taxpayer dollars, and supported by legislation to stifle competition, creating a high barrier to entry. Tell me how this plays into a free market belief? I also find it absurd that the largest buyer of drugs pays the highest price driven by legislation making negotiation illegal. Tell me how that is capitalistic? (By the way, I have enormous respect for your brother who bucked party lines to vote against the Republican monstrosity healthcare bill. The Medicare 2003 bill is perhaps one of the most detrimental pieces of legislation to ever come out of Congress. A one trillion dollar entitlement program over ten years?! And the right calls Obama a socialist!)
Remember that Ayn Rand was a Russian immigrant seeing firsthand the problems with communism. It was the Russian Government that taught her how destructive anti-capitalistic models are, and drove her motivation to push ideas on capitalism. I don’t think anyone would question Greenspan’s dedication to free markets, but even he saw a flaw with the current capitalistic model stating that he had made a "mistake in believing that banks, operating in their own self-interest, would do what was necessary to protect their shareholders and institutions." Greenspan called that “a flaw in the model that defines how the world works.” This contradicts Adam Smith. This also demonstrates to me that Ayn Rand needs some revision.