Planet Libertaria

Posts Tagged ‘federal debt

GOP Presidential Candidate Rundown (Part 1)

leave a comment »

If you’re like me, you’re not a fan of being in three simultaneous wars in the Middle East and wallowing in mind-blowing national debt, so the odds are you wouldn’t mind seeing someone other than President Obama in the Oval Office come November of 2012 (technically January 2013).  If you’re like me, you want to know what your other options are when it comes to picking the President of The United States.  If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering who the Republicans will field as their presidential nominee because, let’s be honest, the chances of the Libertarian Party and the other also-rans getting their act together by next year’s election season are smaller than minuscule.

And hey, even if you’re nothing like me, you might even be interested in what I think of the GOP’s current field.  Well, look no further – I’ll tell you what’s what free of charge.  Let’s first describe what major policy positions I look for in a president before we get going.

Social Issues:

  • Keep the government out of marriage entirely – including gay marriage.
  • Education Reform:  Hemorrhaging money to the Department of Education has not produced any improvements in our academic abilities versus the rest of the industrialized world.  Give parents choice on where their children go to school by implementing a voucher system (thus simultaneously encouraging educational experimentation via school competition).
  • Immigration Reform:  Simplify the process by which immigrants become citizens.  Implement a robust work visa program to encourage legal immigration and economic stimulus.  This would also enable a realistic way to document who is in the country.
  • Drug War Reform:  The War on Drugs is a complete failure.  Legalize marijuana, and readdress the criminal justice system’s approach to drug use and abuse.

Fiscal Issues:

  • Corporate Tax Reform:  We have the second-highest (soon to be the absolute highest) corporate taxes in the world; stop giving businesses an incentive to avoid doing business in the United States.
  • Individual Tax Reform:  Economic growth happens when people are allowed to spend and invest their money rather than having it confiscated by taxation.  Cut taxes to stimulate the economy.
  • Entitlement Reform:  Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will grind to a bankrupt halt along with the rest of the country if we don’t address the practical issues of having tax-funded social programs which are categorically impossible  to pay for as they currently exist.
  • Federal Budget Reform:  We borrow 43 cents on every dollar we spend.  We need an immediate, comprehensive plan to stop adding to the national debt and start paying it off.

Foreign Policy:

  • End the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.  The United States does not benefit from the continued occupation of the Middle East, nor from engaging in even more military operations in Libya or elsewhere.
  • Stop foreign aid.  We can’t afford our own national programs, let alone those of other nations.  Additionally, funding oppressive (albeit convenient) governments based on our own various international agendas hasn’t exactly been without serious long-term consequences (1980s Iraq springs to mind); it’s time to learn from our mistakes.
  • Close many if not most of our military bases overseas.  A military presence does not endear us to the populace of many nations, nor does supporting the economic growth of other countries by paying for their protection make the faintest bit of sense.
  • Stand by our allies.  Any aggression against our friends should be met with our unflinching wrath.  If, for example, Israel were invaded, my ideal response would be as follows:

Without further ado, let’s take a look  at the first wave of Republican candidates.  Please note that I’m arbitrarily selecting the five individuals who participated in the debate on May 5th as who I’ll talk about here on Part One of the series.  That being said, let’s start with somebody you’ve actually heard of:

Ron Paul

Who?

He’s been in Congress for quite some time, and he’s famous for vetoing bills left and right for exceeding the scope of the government’s Constitutional boundaries.  He ran for president as the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988.  He’s a libertarian God.

What I like:

He’s been saying the same thing about our fundamental economic weakness (debt, debt, and more debt) for decades.  He despises the Federal Reserve.  He wants out of the Middle East.  He’d end the drug war.  He doesn’t think the government gets to decide who gets married and who doesn’t, he takes The Constitution seriously, and he’s vocal about addressing entitlement spending.  Better yet, he could actually beat President Obama.

What I don’t like:

He’s old, and it’s starting to show; he doesn’t educate so much as he raves.  He has a tendency to insert earmarks into bills he knows will pass and then vote against them just so he can say he never votes for pork barrel spending.

Odds of getting the nomination:

I give him 20%.  The GOP field is weak, but he doesn’t have many friends amongst the Party establishment.   Sure, he can win over a lot of independents and every libertarian on the planet, and he’s notoriously good with young voters (read: he can steal them from Obama).  Besides, many on the the left can enjoy his tolerance and consistent anti-war credentials if they can be intellectually honest about the president’s fiscal irresponsibility, his tendency towards corporatism, and especially his hawkishness.  So, yeah, those are all reasons that Ron Paul can win the general election, but don’t hold your breath on him being nominated.  He raised gigantic sums of money during the 2008 campaign, but it didn’t get him anywhere; I don’t have reason to believe 2012 will be different.

Rick Santorum

Who?

He served in the Senate for 12 years, ending in 2007.  He’s been very active in defining himself as a “traditional conservative” (you’ll have to excuse me for leaving that topic alone, because I just don’t have the energy).  He dipped his toes in the Election 2008 waters until he figured out he had no real following.

What I like about him:

He promotes the missile defense program.

What I don’t like about him:

Most things.  He clearly favors an extra-interventionist foreign policy (we’ll bomb the democracy into you!), which I say because his website says:

[…] having supported popular sovereignty abroad, both this and the previous administration have erred in failing to sufficiently support the conditions of liberty and the institutions necessary for a successful democracy.  Too often we have acted as if liberty’s first order of business is a vote. Elections should be a consummation and not a commencement to democratic processes.

.

I have a big problem with that; we have no business being in the business of nation-building; lead the world by example, not by occupation.  Here’s how I read that quote, anyway: “We really need to spend more money and blood on countries that we want to install democracy into – certainly long before they have an election of some kind anyway, and let’s not get in a hurry over that little bit either.  For instance, ten years in Afghanistan and eight years in Iraq and a trillion or so dollars just isn’t enough, so let’s get ready to up the ante.”

Then there’s an Associated Press (AP)/Santorum discussion on… well, you read it.

SANTORUM: […] Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality —

AP: I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about “man on dog” with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.

SANTORUM: And that’s sort of where we are in today’s world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society.

That’s just not going to work for me.

Odds of getting the nomination:

15%.  He’ll appeal to many party-line Republicans immensely; he doesn’t like homosexuality, he’s very clearly pro-war/intervention, and he continues the Republican Party tradition of talking about spending less while enthusiastically discussing spending a lot more.  Unfortunately for him, there’s nothing to really distinguish himself from the other boilerplate Republican candidates except maybe his propensity to poll badly whenever he’s considered running for the Senate (again) or the governorship in his home state.  If your neighbors don’t like you… anyway, don’t expect donors to flock to him.

Herman Cain

Who?

As CEO, he turned a pizza franchise around and made a lot of money.  He’s had a fairly varied number of careers (mostly in business, but one with the Navy and a few years with The Federal Reserve).  He’s a talk radio host; coincidentally, he did extremely well in the debate.

What I like:

He’s a self-made kind of guy, which I respect immensely.  The man came from nothing and succeeded due to a lot of hard work.  He’s a political outsider whose understanding of business is personal, not academic.  He’s for domestic energy production, he’s vocal about supporting the Second Amendment, and he’s interested in a school voucher system.  He says he’d cut the corporate tax rate.  On paper, I like a lot more of him than I don’t like.

What I don’t like:

I’m so tired of hearing people talk about how they’re all about small government, and then turning out to be the opposite.  Since this guy comes from nowhere (politically speaking), for all I know he’s just mouthing talk radio talking points and riding the Tea Party wave.  He keeps calling his foreign policy plan “The Cain Doctrine” (yes, really) but fails to delineate it; come to think of it, he doesn’t delineate any of his policy positions on his second-rate website.  At any rate, he is very firm in his desire to “secure the borders.”  Well, welcome to fantasy island, Herman, because that ain’t gonna happen – not practically speaking, and not politically speaking.

Lastly, you can’t overlook this extremely damning (and likewise rambling) bit of video evidence:

Odds of getting the nomination:

25%.  That number could shoot up pretty easy, or collapse.  If he can’t capitalize on his success off of the debate  then he could easily go down like the Hindenburg.  Oh, and forgive me for noticing and everything, but he’s black.  If you don’t think the GOP would do unspeakable things for a viable black candidate (especially versus President Obama), I probably have many clever and disparaging things to say about your political intellect.  What’s semi-surprised me, though, is that I’ve read separate articles on Mitt Romney and Ron Paul raking in the cash, but nothing on Herman Cain doing likewise.  Romney’s got the establishment and Paul’s got the enthusiastic/rabid base feeding in money, and Cain could get both of those… but he’s obviously not there yet.

Tim Pawlenty

Who?

A former governor of Minnesota.  He’s been unofficially campaigning since  2008 or so, which is his recognition of his complete and total lack of recognition.  But here’s the real kicker: he was reportedly on John McCain’s short list for Vice President, but lost to this woman:

Not Actually Sarah Palin

What I like:

He’s not Rick  Santorum…

What I don’t like:

…but he might as well be.  They sounded exactly the same during the debate, and their policies are about the same.  Maybe his one distinguishing characteristic is that he was on the wrong side of cap-and-trade, which, even in the spineless Republican Party, is akin to contracting syphilis.  He’s a darling of the social conservatives, but that’s already a long line of sameness that’s going to get longer once the rest of the candidates wade into the race.  Ultimately, he’s probably the most boring candidate anyone could come up with; he’s worse than Bob Dole ever was (before Bob’s hilarious Viagra ads, that is).

Pictured: More excitement than Pawlenty 2012.

Odds of getting the nomination:

5%.  Nobody cares, Tim.  Nobody.  You have nothing to bring to the table.  The only way Pawlenty could get the nomination is if every other candidate died.  Well, with the possible exception of:

Gary Johnson

Who?

The former Governor of New Mexico.  He is especially well-known for climbing Mt. Everest, competing in triathlons and marathons, and being outspoken on marijuana legalization.

What I like:

I’ve never seen a candidate who I agree with more; he hits every point I listed at the start of this post.  He has executive experience, he owned his own successful small business which he built from the ground up, and he was re-elected by a ten point margin in a predominately democratic state by being an honest-to-God libertarian with a track record of success.

What I don’t like:

He did not do well in the debate.  He’s not polished.  He looks uncomfortable in front of cameras, but on the other hand that didn’t stop Bush from winning twice (not that Al Gore and John Kerry were much better in 2000 and 2004).  He doesn’t have a clear policy on what constitutes torture.

Odds of getting the nomination:

1% (rounded up).  The Republican Party despises him.  No social conservative will ever vote for him: he’s pro-choice, pro-marijuana legalization, and pro-gay marriage.  He was a political outsider when he ran in New Mexico, and he hasn’t endeared himself to the GOP since; besides, Ron Paul has most of the Republicans who would support Gary Johnson in the first place.  I think Johnson could win over a lot of voters on the left, many of the independents out there, anyone who’s tired of the war, a lot of the hispanic vote, libertarians and fiscal conservatives, and politically apathetic potheads (in other words, anyone on the west coast I haven’t named already).  If he ironed his shirt, stood up straight, and took some elocution lessons, he could win an election (seriously, if you thought “Anyone But Bush” was a strong force in politics, just wait for “A Not-Necessarily Warm Body vs. Obama”) … but the nomination?  Next to impossible.

So that’s it, ladies and gentlemen.  That’s the first five possibilities.  Sucks, doesn’t it?  I guess we’re supposed to be excited about Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin (maybe running), Michele Bachmann (possibly) and Chris Christie (doubtful).  Allen West is even being floated, but we’ll see.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

The Pointless Veneration of Reagan

with 7 comments

Why conservatives and many self-styled libertarians insist on worshiping Ronald Reagan is beyond me.  What’s to like?  His tripling of the national debt?  Promising to end the Departments of Education and Energy, and failing to do so?  Selling arms to Iran?  Merely being present during the inevitable fall of communism?  It seems that the patently rudderless Republican Party is reduced to attributing things they never do (creating and maintaining fiscally-sound small government) to a man who never did them.

Not that they have too many presidential role models to work with.  Let’s review: should they choose George W. Bush, whose unfortunately all-to-recent slew of terrible policy and popularity disasters include sending the federal deficit and national debt to spectacular heights?  Perhaps George H.W. Bush, whose “Read my lips: no new taxes” pledge was a comical farce?  Gerald Ford, who pardoned Nixon?  Dare I even mention Nixon himself?  It’s absolutely breathtaking to consider that at this point we’ve backtracked all the way to Eisenhower, and fond remembrance of 60 years (or more) past isn’t likely to energize the electorate.

The entire strategy of misty-eyed Reagan retrospective is a guaranteed failure anyway.  With every breath wasted on Ronald Reagan and his so-called legacy, the Republican Party demonstrates no forward momentum into 2012 with any real presidential contender.  Perhaps this wistful yesteryear obsession with Reagan is simple self-preservation via subconscious denial of today’s political realities; after all, what present-day presumptive Republican candidates are there to be excited about?  It may very well be a forlorn hope that Ron Paul will enter as even a reluctant candidate, and with all the Party toes he’s stepped on over the years it’s hard to believe there wouldn’t be a concerted effort to internally sabotage his candidacy.  Chris Christie, who makes headlines as a champion big-government fighter in New Jersey has repeatedly stated he won’t run.  Paul Ryan, whose claim to fame is purposing a balanced budget by – oh boy! – 2063 is a highly improbable choice.  Who’s left?  Sarah Palin?  Mike Huckabee?  Can anyone actually believe the best they could come up with in the recent New Hampshire straw poll was Mitt Romney?  Is there any Republican less qualified to shrink government?

It is thus that the Republicans and their Tea Party supporters in particular – both so outspokenly dedicated to reducing the size of government – are practically doomed to look in the past and credit a man with actions he never took and purported beliefs he clearly betrayed.  To make matters worse, consider that the recent Republican boom in Congress is to be of scarce comfort in short order.  While congressional Republicans make noise about reducing the deficit by pathetically microscopic amounts (while refusing to take on Defense or entitlement spending, which currently make  about 76% of the budget), election season is right around the corner and there’s no evidence to suggest any remotely significant direction on the legislative front.  Attention, GOP: the charade can’t last forever.

But it’s the so-called “Reagan Libertarians” that raise my hackles; it’s a sad commentary that hijacking and bastardizing the libertarian label is so unfortunately in vogue.  If there was ever a contradiction of terms, this would be it: the defining of small government as big government.  The real Reagan legacy is deficit spending, hugely expanded national debt, foreign intervention, and tax hikes.  There is not and cannot be anything libertarian about any of that, period.

I suppose none of this is really surprising: the Republican Party is a contradictory self-defeating desiccated husk of anything it ever even claimed to be.  You can’t have small government and the fruitless War on Terror, the patently failed War on Drugs, the morality police, the Patriot Act, pointless federal departments, oil dependence, and a bevy of foreign entanglements.  Sadly, the impossible is apparently what Republicans desire – it is, after all, what they consistently vote for.

So perhaps, all things considered, Ronald Reagan is the best representative of the Republican Party that anyone could ever dream of.  As long as Republicans insist on what can only be called hypocrisy, perpetuating the myth of Reagan is quite frankly the shoe that fits.  But I draw the line – I must draw the line – at any fool who wishes to hitch libertarianism to Reagan’s fraudulence.  Unlike the ideologically boxed-in Republicans, Libertarians can offer a future for a nation mired in very real and very present dangers.  We need not clamor aboard a sinking ship, and I condemn any professed libertarian who implicitly or explicitly insists that an abandonment of libertarian principles by celebrating the antithesis of libertarianism is the path to our salvation.

Written by libertarianews

February 8, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Libertarians and The Welfare State

with one comment

Many people reading this are currently under the assumption that public welfare is a necessity which must be provided by the government to people who are, for one reason or another, lacking something.  This “lacking” could be due to any number of external factors, but it’s usually chalked up to people being victimized by economic decline, evil business practices, or more generally their socio-economic status.  Regardless of the indicated root cause, poverty, old age, and disability are certainly prime examples of what many of us think requires government welfare, and this assumption probably continues to reason that not only is government welfare a necessary thing, but a good thing.  How else does money, housing, medical care, prescription drugs, retirement stipends, food stamps, job retraining programs, assorted kinds of compensation, education, and all the rest reach those who lack, if not via government’s guiding hand?

But let’s be crazy and controversial, shall we?  Let’s assume that there might be more to the story than “and they all lived happily ever after, because they advocated for more funding in the subsequent fiscal year.”  Let’s stop for a moment, and ask a few questions about welfare, like:

So how much do these government welfare programs actually cost, anyway?

That’s a good place to start, right?  Savvy consumers that we are, we probably want to know what the price tag is before we buy something, no matter how good it sounds.  I mean, a Rolls-Royce looks great until you find out it’s like half a million bucks plus tax, so, y’know, let’s keep our credit cards in the wallet for a minute before we get too excited about all the features.

A convenient starting point for adding up the so-far price of welfare is back in 1965 with President Johnson’s Great Society programs.  This “Great Society” was to be the series of government welfare programs that were going to end poverty once and for all.  They even called it the War on Poverty, which was a really severe thing to do before it became an increasingly offhand political expression, such as Nixon’s War on Drugs, George W. Bush’s War on Terror, and Michelle Obama’s War on Childhood Obesity (send in the tanks; they’ve got Twinkies!).  In other words, they weren’t screwing around – I repeat, they were going for THE END OF POVERTY.

So, with the Great Society came state and federal funding for medicare, medicaid, food stamps, a wide variety of education initiatives, job training, urban transportation, and so on.  Various civil rights initiatives – the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and so on – were considered a part of the overall program as well, though we’ll just be focusing on the War on Poverty and its creation of many modern welfare programs that are still in place today.

And now, the price of the War on Poverty:

$15,900,000,000,000 between 1965 and 2008.  That just under sixteen trillion dollars, give or take; sixteen trillion dollars to “end poverty.”

Well, that sounds like a lot, but think of all the good it’s done.

It’s actually very important to focus on just what that number means before we progress.  If you added up the cost of every war the United States has been in since there was a United States, you’d need to multiply the total two-and-a-half times over to reach the price of the War on Poverty.  That is a colossal pile of money, and it’s only increasing.  In fact, another $10.3 trillion is going to be spent on welfare over the next ten years, not including our new nationalized health care system.

So what?  We’re the richest country in the world.

I’d love to meet whoever started that rumor.  Actually, as a country, we don’t have enough money to buy the rope we’re hanging ourselves with.  We’re flat broke, but that hasn’t stopped both Republican and Democrat administrations from spending as if times were never better.  The fact is  we’re rapidly approaching $14 trillion in debt, which is a problem not only because it’s past a dangerous economic tipping point, but also since we’re planning on increasing that precarious number by another 70% just to fund massive welfare programs that we literally have no way of paying for.

Wait… what?

This situation really encapsulates everything libertarians are calling for; we demand less government because, among other reasons, we’re at the point of impending economic collapse in the near future.  If you fell asleep in history, let me be succinct: continuing this insane spending addiction means The Great Depression Part II, and it doesn’t matter what we spend the money on, either.

Now hang on just a minute.  Why can’t we just buckle down and pay it off?  What’s the big problem here?

I’d like to direct your attention to a previous link I posted, which was to the U.S. Debt Clock.  Its numbers come from from the likes of the U.S. Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Census, the Congressional Budget Office, and so forth.  Mouse over any number you like to see the sourcing.  The debt clock, I should mention, is a concept that began during the Reagan years as an actual billboard in Times Square, but unfortunately our national debt is so high that the original board can no longer display it.  This website is a new version of the same thing.

So, while you might say something like “let’s pay it off,” you need to realize that, as a taxpayer, your share of the current ever-rising federal debt burden is actually over $124,000.  Yes, if we split all the national debt up, that’s your piece of the pie.  If you spread the debt out further to be paid equally by every citizen – which would also include every man, woman, and child not paying taxes  – the new cost is $44,000 per individual, and climbing.  This debt share does not include local and state government debt, but I’ll get to that momentarily.

Furthermore, each citizen could have an additional $52,000 share of the cumulative privately held debt in our country – the significance of that number will be explained in a minute.  Unfortunately, the average family only has about $9,600 in the bank.

What does that mean?

Bear with me here.

It means that every citizen – not just taxpayers – would have to pay a total of roughly $176,000 to settle up their even share of all U.S. debt held today, and that includes all personal, business, financial institution, state government, local government, and federal government debt.

Here’s an important point to differentiate these numbers I’ve been mentioning:  public debt – which is to say government debt – is quite literally everyone’s problem; however, the possibility of additional debt at your own state and local government might make your debt share even worse for you, or possibly worse for everyone if that additional debt is spread around to all Americans as well.  The bottom line is that we are all responsible for federal government spending, and some of us if not all of us are going to be responsible for state and local government spending.  On the other hand, private debt – like credit cards, mortgages, business debt, and so on – is an individual problem until government assumes that debt with bailouts, as is the practice today.  In other words, the “best” case scenario is that literally everyone owes $44,000 (alternatively, all taxpayers owe $124,000) to get just the federal government out of debt, and then everyone would be expected to take care of their own personal private debt on the side; the worst case is $176,000 from every citizen if the government continues the bailout insanity, which includes a federal bailout of state and local debt.

Whoa, wait.  What if we, like, get the government to cancel the credit card debt?  Wouldn’t legislatively erasing some of that private debt be a good start to helping us pay off the national debt?

That would be a bailout.  I’ll show you why that doesn’t work.  Let’s say the government signs a bill to bail you out and pay for some or all of your credit card debt.  Yay.  Of course that bill wouldn’t be targeted literally just at you; lots of people would be bailed out.  Now all you have to do is pay for that bailout through increased taxes (because government money, even bailout money, is literally your money), plus now you get to pay for the new additional costs of creating and administering the program that they’d use for this theoretical bailout.

So I’d basically get lots of free money with this bailout?

No.  Initial debt + personal government bailout – new government bailout program tax share – bureaucratic fees – administration costs – corruption = quite possibly even more debt than you started with.  A bailout wouldn’t be dodging a bullet so much as jumping in front of one and insulting its mother; the government’s debt is your problem, your personal debt is your problem, and when government assumes your debt and/or anyone else’s debt, it’s your problem.  

So you’re saying we can’t afford welfare?

I’m saying that this means that we can’t afford government programs beyond our income, and that certainly means we cannot afford a continuation of the Great Society.  Perhaps the greatest irony of the welfare system created by the Great Society is that it not only failed to eradicate poverty, but that its skyrocketing cost has an excellent chance of impoverishing this entire country.

I want to emphasize that the debt problem as a whole isn’t caused exclusively by welfare spending, even though that’s specifically what I’m hi-lighting today.  It’s easy to point at the largest government expenditures, like welfare, and show how and why they in particular are disproportionately part of a larger problem.  There is, of course, more to the failure of welfare than dollars and cents, but I firmly believe that the failure starts there.

Written by libertarianews

November 2, 2010 at 4:36 pm