We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Six Months to Go Untilbr The Largest Tax Hikes in History

Six Months to Go Untilbr The Largest Tax Hikes in History

Doug Casey - Sun, June 27, 2010 7:20:19 AMThese popular myths are bringing the U.S. to its knees...

By David Galland, Managing Director, Casey Research

Scanning through a local newspaper this week, I came across a letter to the editor that speaks volumes about the popular misconceptions that are dragging this country, and the world, to its knees.

The letter writer, a retired public school teacher, unleashed a litany of solutions for making America's children better citizens. Summarizing his list (the exclamation points are his, too):

Give parents a livable wage!
Provide excellent subsidized childcare!
Guarantee parental leave with full pay and wage protection.
Institute a single-payer health care system.
Regrettably, the gentleman's perfect-world vision of how things should work is not his alone, but is widely shared. Unfortunately for him and his demanding ilk, it is a vision now made obsolete by the facts on the ground.

Simply, the nation – and most of the so-called developed world – is broke. As is the model that these modern-day economies have been built on – a model that foolishly assumed that politicians could be trusted to manage a currency in a responsible fashion.

Consider, in the 1940s central bank reserves were 70% gold. Today, official reserves are only about 10% gold, even though the price of gold is far higher. The balance of those reserves, for all intents and purposes, is nothing more than IOUs.

Out of a justifiable fear of being repetitious, I'm not going to belabor the point. But I am going to comment that it's time for people to grow up… to get real about the situation we are in.

To believe that a government that produces nothing can paper over every crisis, as well as provide succor and sustenance to meet every human desire, and can do so infinitely and without a serious consequence, is to believe in tooth fairies and magical beasts that dance through distant woods.

Even so, like the letter writer, there is still a large block of Americans who persist in believing in such a fantastical world – a world where government's largess should be extended even further. From this crowd you would get rousing cheers to the suggestion that the state should also provide a free and top-notch education to all, quality foodstuffs for both the domestic and foreign needy, high-quality computers (and free Internet connectivity) to every young student, housing subsidies, and open-ended unemployment benefits. And that's just the short-list.

Back in the real world, the declarative statement "I want" has to now be followed with "and here's how I'll be able to save up for it." That's because even a casual glance at the nation's finances confirms that the government's fiscal, monetary, and social policies have been an abject failure… an unmitigated disaster.

While I could illustrate that contention with enough citations to fill a large book, in the interest of brevity I'll point only to an excerpt from a Globe & Mail article on the dire state of California's finances, a fast-moving crisis that can be considered the off-Broadway version of the larger drama now playing out in these United States…

California on 'verge of system failure'

Los Angeles — Arnella Sims has seen a lot in her 34 years as a Los Angeles County court reporter, but nothing like this.

Case files piling up by the thousands, phones ringing off the hook, forced midweek courthouse closings and occasional brawls as frustrated citizens queue for hours to pay parking fines.

"People think we're becoming a Third World country," said Ms. Sims, 55. "They don't understand."

It's a story that's being repeated all across California – and throughout the United States – as cash-strapped state and local governments grapple with collapsed tax revenues and swelling budget gaps. Mass layoffs, slashed health and welfare services, closed parks, crumbling superhighways and ever-larger public school class sizes are all part of the new normal.

California's fiscal hole is now so large that the state would have to liberate 168,000 prison inmates and permanently shutter 240 university and community college campuses to balance its budget in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Think of California as Greece on the Pacific: bankrupt and desperately needing a bailout.

"We are on the verge of system failure," warned Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, an independent think tank based in Sacramento.

None of this would matter much to anyone outside the not-so-Golden State except that California's budget crisis is a harbinger of a grim dilemma that all Americans will soon confront. The country has built an elaborate and costly government machine, tied to a regressive tax system that can't generate enough revenue to pay for it all.

Full story here.

Naturally, we want to think of America as America the beautiful. Taking off the rose-tinted glasses, however, presents a different image altogether… that of a bankrupt, highly militarized, and hair-triggered socialist empire that is daily finding new ways to tax its struggling citizenry and tramp all over the Constitution.

Not to be overly dramatic, but the real face of America is increasingly like that of an early-middle-aged woman I saw the other day. She was wheelchair bound, with only one leg, her overweight body covered in poorly rendered tattoos. With a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth, she rolled out of a liquor store, a telling brown paper bag in her lap. In other words, the very picture of a life dominated by bad decisions.

While America hasn't yet been laid so low, it would be a mistake to think it can't – and won't – happen. If its leaders and a majority of the population persist in their ignorance of the causes and effects of economic failure, it is all but certain.

And it's not just economics. Over the weekend I re-read both the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, and it struck me that if the Founding Fathers were alive today, they would be considered terrorists and rounded up. Furthermore, because the Bill of Rights has been all but voided at this point, they might be dropped into the equivalent of a dark hole with no right to a speedy trial, or any trial at all, for that matter.

Trading our freedoms for security is a bad decision because, in the end, the nation will be neither free nor secure. Much in the same way that, to paraphrase one sage, a government that habitually saves all fools from their bad decisions, ultimately creates a nation of fools.

Fools that, like the letter writer, are clearly not self-made but rather look to the coddling nanny-state to guarantee an agreeable lifestyle. By virtue of the massive wealth that its post-WWII hegemony provided the United States, the nation's finances could support – for a time – an increasing crowd of moochers. But that wealth is now gone, leaving in its place the world's largest debtor.

And so it is that in the world now emerging, one where reality trumps fantasy, when talk turns to further stimulus, the conversation should no longer revolve around the ways that the government can prime the economic pumps with yet more borrowing and spending. That's how we got here in the first place, and a sure road map to an even worse catastrophe.

The continued failures of the government's misguided efforts can be seen in the latest bad news on the housing market – bad news we warned subscribers to The Casey Report to expect for months now.

Sales of U.S. New Homes Plunged to Record Low in May

June 23 (Bloomberg) – Purchases of new homes in the U.S. fell in May to a record low as a tax credit expired, showing the market remains dependent on government support.

Sales collapsed a record 33 percent to an annual pace of 300,000 last month from April, less than the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News and the fewest in data going back to 1963, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. Demand in prior months was revised down.

In the new world, the conversation should – must – turn to the proven ways that government can stimulate the economy; mostly by removing itself and its tax and regulatory burdens from as many areas of the economy as possible.

The world is only going to get more competitive – witness Russia's decision to eliminate capital gains taxes on foreign investment in that country – and an America dominated by a government lacking all fiscal restraint, urged on by a populace without even a basic understanding of economics, has little chance at remaining in contention. The situation is only made worse by a weakening of the rule of law, concurrent with a regulatory jungle that is only growing more tangled by the day.

Unfortunately, Paul Krugman, reigning champion of the crowd calling for saving the economy by pumping out yet more unbacked government stimulus, is now being trotted out as a possible replacement for the soon-to-be-vacated job of White House budget director. If he secures the position, then all may not be lost, but it soon will be

Socialst Pigs

From The Daily Reckoning:

Capitalism produces. Socialism distributes. The two systems do not coexist comfortably with one another. In fact, they are inimical.
Some of the most celebrated champions of socialism have coined terms like “greedy capitalist” or “capitalist pig.” By implication, a socialist is neither greedy nor a pig. But economic history suggests that socialists are just as porcine as their capitalist counterparts…maybe even more so.

One need only look to the recent goings on in Australia, your editor’s country of birth, for a glimpse into the real world outcomes of this ideological struggle. Kevin Rudd was last week ousted from Prime Ministership after a botched attempt to impose a “super profits” tax on the most productive sector of the Australian economy – the mighty mining sector. We provided a few details in Thursday’s issue:

“The story is a classic ‘producer vs. parasite’ tale…Rudd, like any other socialist bully would do, attempted to sell the tax to the Australian public under the familiar ‘fair share’ slogan.

“‘The infrastructure needs of this state are vast and on the existing tax base cannot be funded,’ Rudd told Australian reporters while on a recent visit to Western Australia, the nation’s largest mining state. ‘We say the sector of the economy most able to share a greater part of the burden for funding our infrastructure needs for the future is in fact our most profitable mining companies.’

“If this sounds like thinly veiled Marxist rhetoric,” we remarked, “that's because it is. As the founder of that ill fated, though persistently insidious ideology himself famously noted: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’”

One might be forgiven for thinking that, after Rudd’s spectacular political decapitation, replacement Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, would think twice before trying to kill the goose laying all of Australia’s golden eggs. Alas, it was out with one parasite, in with another.

Ms. Gillard is certainly aware of the research released by the Western Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry that suggests the “super profits” tax, as it stands, would have erased $4.4 billion and 17,000 jobs from the West Australian economy next year - before the tax was even scheduled to be implemented in 2012. The study further predicts the cost to the state’s economy would have risen each year to total $60 billion and 100,000 jobs lost by 2020.

And yet…Gilliard revealed her parasitic DNA within hours of nabbing the Prime Minister’s post.

“I want to make sure Australians get a fair share of our mineral wealth,” she declared, “But we want to genuinely negotiate…”

Gillard is widely expected to push for a slightly diluted version of the “super profits” tax. “I am throwing open the door to the mining industry,” she said just last week, “and I ask that in return, the mining industry throws open its mind.”

As warm and fuzzy as those sentiments may be, the fact remains that such featherweight idealisms invariably end up weighing a stone…and that is a burden the strongest, most able members of society are usually expected to shoulder. But theft is still theft…even if it is watered down a tad. Don’t expect the industrialists to take her play-nice politico-doublespeak lying down.

Although he welcomed the new leadership’s change of tack, Atlas Iron chief executive, David Flanagan, was unequivocal in his assertion that tax must be axed.

“We’ve been screaming blue murder to anyone who will listen about what the problems are with this tax,” he told The Australian this week.

Australians have been getting a pretty “fair share” of the local mineral wealth for some time now anyway. Those who risked their capital and bought even a single share of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals, Atlas Iron et al., were richly rewarded over the past decade as the geologic and geographic blessings of the “Lucky Country” and, more importantly, the efforts and initiative of its mining companies, paid off handsomely. (Of course, China and India’s voracious appetite didn’t hurt, either.)

In addition to capital appreciation and regular dividends for shareholders, ordinary, working Australians have also exacted what might be seen as a “fair share” of the local resource wealth. Through compulsory contributions to Australia’s Superannuation Fund – a scheme not entirely dissimilar to America’s Social Security, though decidedly healthier…at this point, anyway – working Australians have a large, indirect holding in the nation’s mining giants. Working Australians, therefore, saw the value of their retirement savings appreciate, more or less, alongside the rise and rise of the very companies the “super profits” tax sought to penalize. [Those same workers, not coincidentally, were among the first to see the value of their retirement nest egg shrink as the share prices of the nation’s mining companies collapsed after the proposed tax was first run up the national flagpole.]

Of course, all this is to say nothing of the tens of thousands of hard-working individuals who actually spend their days and nights thousands of feet below Australia’s rusty red surface actually digging the stuff up…and the carpenters, plumbers and electricians who build and service lodgings to house them…and the local businesses that profit from an influx of workers to the region…ect., etc., etc… (Not to mention the exorbitant taxes each and every link in this value chain already pay!)

After all, a barrel of oil or a ton of coal is worth nothing until it is first brought to market. Invariably, that process takes an immense amount of capital, the expertise to extract said resources and the gumption to actually get one’s hands dirty doing the job.

At the end of the day, those who deserved a “fair share” of the resource wealth got exactly what they deserved: a share commensurate to the effort they put in. By contrast, those who don’t work, don’t pay into Superannuation, don’t build or service mining towns in some way, don’t risk their capital by investing in those “conspicuously productive” companies; those who don’t actually contribute anything to the process of bringing the product to market at all, get exactly what they deserve: nothing.

People seem to think that just because they have an emu and a big red kangaroo on their passport they are somehow entitled to a bounty of riches…riches someone else must earn for them, no less. They define a “fair share” as a Divine Right handed down to them the moment they were born – coincidentally – in a resource rich land.

People of such a mind should consider asking how their poor brothers and sisters are faring in Venezuela, or Mexico, or Iran, or Nigeria or, for that matter, just about anywhere else on the African continent. These lands all enjoy an abundance of natural riches…and an abundance of government involvement in “distributing” the profits. And yet, curiously enough, the people living under these supposedly benevolent regimes are among the most repressed and impoverished on earth. Hmmm…

Socialist maxims may score high marks for eloquence and pathos; but they score very low marks for economic wisdom. Capitalism produces. Socialism distributes. Without capitalism, socialism cannot function. In other words; socialism needs capitalism.

Intriguingly, the inverse is not also true. Capitalism has no need of socialism whatsoever. Capitalism distributes wealth by creating opportunity, forged in the crucible of open competition. Capitalism amasses the capital that invests in the enterprises that enable others to advance their financial conditions. Capitalism does not confiscate wealth and redistribute it. Capitalism multiplies wealth…and in the process redistributes opportunity.

Of course, productivity and wealth creation does not come from penalizing the most productive members of society. It comes from standing aside and allowing them to do what they do best, be that excavating minerals, building cars or growing bananas.

Left alone, the free market operates as a kind of evolutionary arms race. Companies compete to offer the same product at a better price, or a better product at the same price. Those that cannot keep pace eventually whither and die. Through this “survival of the fittest” process, prices are over time driven down and the quality of goods and services forced higher. In this fashion, those at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum benefit most from the toils of companies competing to capture their business. And, the best part is that nobody has to steal a penny to pay for it. The “capitalist pigs” will finance the whole operation themselves…if only the safety-net socialists would get out of the way and let them.


Joel Bowman,
for The Daily Reckoning

Do You Make As Much as a Government Worker?

From Heritage .org

Federal employees are often called civil servants because their work is considered a "sacrifice" on their part to "serve" the public.

But for many of Uncle Sam's employees, it's not really that much of a sacrifice to work for the government.

Recent findings reveal that, on average, federal employees receive much higher pay, better compensation and more job security compared to their private sector counterparts, forcing a real sacrifice on the part of taxpayers to fund these elaborate benefits.

Heritage Foundation labor expert James Sherk has just released a study analyzing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey for 2006 through 2009. He found that "the federal pay system gives the average federal employee hourly cash earnings 22 percent above the average private worker's, controlling for observable skills and characteristics." This translates to about $28.64 an hour for Uncle Sam's workers versus $18.27 an hour for those in the private sector.

But it's not simply better take-home pay. Federal workers also enjoy far better benefits. "The average private sector employer pays $9,882 per employee in annual benefits, while federal government pays an average of $32,115 per employee," writes Sherk. When factoring in these non-cash benefits, which include the coveted Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, federal employees are earning approximately 30 to 40 percent more in total compensation.

This all adds up. Sherk found that if federal employee compensation mirrored that of their private sector counterparts, federal spending would be reduced by $47 billion in 2011 alone.

That's right, that's $47 billion in savings if federal workers were paid like those in the private sector.

And this cost will only increase as the federal government adds more workers to its payroll. Unemployment currently stands at 9.5 percent and the economy continues to shed private sector jobs, but the government has added almost 200,000 jobs since the recession began. And these new hires, along with older ones, receive unmatched job security – a priceless commodity in today's market. Once hired, Sherk notes, feds "keep their jobs unless their supervisor works through an arduous process of exhaustively documenting their performance and working through a complex appeal process."

This imposes an enormous burden on taxpayers. As Heritage President Ed Feulner writes on Townhall.com, "federal over-compensation sends the wrong message, encouraging people to work for the government even though most federal jobs don't contribute much to overall economic growth."

Something has to be done. And Heritage Foundation experts have prepared common-sense solutions.

The federal government should:

Replace its seniority-based, wage-fixing pay scale with performance-based pay.
Reduce federal benefits.
Make it easier to dismiss unproductive employees.
Not all federal employees are overpaid. Some of the most skilled and hardest working are probably underpaid.

But the "government is a monopoly," writes Heritage's Conn Carroll. "It has no competitors to act as a check on employee compensation." Unless serious reforms are enacted, taxpayers are looking at an excess cost of $47 billion for civil "service" next year – whether it's good service or not. And that's a real sacrifice for taxpayers.

The Idiocracy of our Leaders

From Porter Stansberry:

In today's Digest, I'll debunk your faith in humanity... but you might find yourself laughing. Sometimes it's all you can do when faced with the enormity of the problems facing our country and the ignominy of our leadership.

Let me begin with Hillary Clinton. God bless her. Has there ever been a more unfortunate woman in history? She wasn't qualified to pick a spouse, let alone run the foreign affairs of the United States. And now this... Let history record that economics has never entered her mind. Hillary was comparing the United States to Brazil recently when she said: "Brazil has the highest tax-to-GDP rate in the Western Hemisphere and guess what – it's growing like crazy."

She was implying that if we raised tax rates on the rich, our economy would improve. And just to remind the audience of exactly what she meant, she began her talk by pointing out a theme that's growing in popularity in Washington these days: "The rich aren't paying their fair share," she said. Never mind the fact that the "rich" pay for the vast majority of government and roughly 50% of American citizens pay no federal income tax at all. What Hillary either didn't know or didn't care to mention was the highest income tax rate in Brazil is 27.5% – even lower than the Reagan-era rates her husband jacked up. Compared to the 43% rates "the rich" will be paying this January, Brazil seems like a tax haven for wealthy Americans.

It's hard to believe Hillary could be so woefully ignorant of the real lesson the Brazil economy demonstrates: Lower rates of tax generate far more revenue (as a % of GDP) than do steeply progressive rates like we have in the United States. The reason is utterly simple and intuitive to every person who has ever had a real job: Nobody likes to give half his paycheck to the government. As any economist (liberal or conservative) would tell you, steeply progressive taxes result in lower economic growth, higher unemployment, and vastly more tax avoidance. When will the Democratic party cease its attempts to capitalize on class demagoguery and adopt sensible economic policies?

Washington D.C. is the Daytona 500 of uselessness, ignorance, and vaingloriousness. You can imagine it as a giant toilet bowl, with all of the politicians racing into the sewer. There's Hillary, sitting right on the pole – far in the lead. I never imagined someone could overtake her on the race to the bottom. But I seriously underestimated the mind-blowing ignorance of Nancy Pelosi...

On July 1, Pelosi proclaimed in a weekly press briefing that the best way to stimulate the economy was to extend unemployment benefits – beyond the two-year limit. "It injects demand into the economy... It creates jobs faster than almost any other initiative you can name."

Silence. There's nothing but stunned silence. And the growing realization that these people (our leaders) have no idea what they're doing...

Pelosi is the daughter of a congressman. She went to college in Washington D.C., interning for senators. She married out of college and raised five children. Then, in 1987, she won a special election in California's Eighth District, where only 15% of the voters are registered Republicans. It is probably the "safest" Democratic seat in Congress.

In short, Pelosi has spent her entire life in government – sitting in a guaranteed seat. She has never run a business, held a regular job, or employed anyone in her entire life. I'm sure she believes what she said – that the government should simply support everyone and doing so is the quickest way to improve the economy. It is all she knows. As she said: "It's impossible to think of a situation where we would have a country that would say we're not going to have unemployment benefits."

Actually, Nancy... until 1935 there was no federal role whatsoever in unemployment benefits. Such arrangements were organized voluntarily by trade associations and unions – and were self-funded. It didn't occur to Americans that they ought to be responsible for someone else's unemployment insurance until Franklin Delano Roosevelt showed how the newly expanded electorate had changed politics in America forever. Campaigning with the explicit promise to rob your neighbors was good politics. And it has been ever since. The irony is, such policies have now become so mainstream that politicians like Pelosi don't even remember where they came from or their party's role in creating them. Nor do the politicians yet understand that believing in these ideas – that everyone can live at the expense of their neighbors – will lead to a catastrophic financial collapse, a situation that' s well underway right now.

The Most Important Health Care Story You've Never Heard - Forbes.com

The Most Important Health Care Story You've Never Heard - Forbes.com

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dictator bills U.S. for $65 trillion in blood money

Ripple.us.com » Blog Archive » Dictator bills U.S. for $65 trillion in blood money

The Emperor Has No Credit

According to the old joke, one of the scariest phrases in the English language is: "We're from the government, and we're here to help."

One might now revise that phrase as, "We're from the government, and we're here to destroy you. We want you to put your faith in blind institutions and false promises... to let your hard-earned savings be ravaged by the locusts of inflation and the weasels of Wall Street... and if by any chance you have anything left when we're done with you, we want to tax the tatters of your nest egg into oblivion."

The Emperor Has No Credit