Mitt Romney wants to get Dick Cheney to shoot Big Bird. The argument can be made that you have to start somewhere and that’s what he seems to be doing. People see it as wasteful spending and it is an easy one to tackle. Federal funding for PBS is $444m which would certainly cover my mortgage but, given the the deficit is $1.1 trillion, foreclosing on Oscar’s trash can is like giving up water as the first step of a diet.
The fastest growing, non-defense, part of the deficit are not these discretionary programs (I’m not saying there isn’t waste there, just slicing up the pie) but the entitlement programs. As the population gets older, more people draw Social Security and fewer pay into it. The levers to fix it are increase social security taxes, increase minimum ages, decrease the corresponding payout percentages or gut the system. No one is going to get elected if they propose any of the above. Medicare/Medicaid is a mess. There’s $2b/year in erroneous billings and fraud. If you paid a company 10% of whatever savings they could clean up, the government would still save $1.8b. Cut fossil fuel subsidies, ethanol subsidies and tighten the purse strings on foreign aid. If they’re not going to make changes or reduce but still want to reduce the deficit, it means higher taxes (either the rate or elimination of deductions like mortgage interest).
Kudos to candidates. They assume the electorate are slack-jawed yokels who will latch onto an idea like a seagull dives for a french fry and, sadly, they correct in this assumption more often than not. A couple of tried and true examples;
- Drilling for oil in the US will decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Romney has been beating this drum but it’s not as simple as, if I plant tomatoes I won’t have to buy them at the store. The basic economics of this pitch fail. Other oil producing nations can reduce production, keeping the price up. If the producers in the US can get more revenue by exporting, they will and the Government will be powerless to stop them. The worldwide demand continues to grow (see India and China).
- [Insert Name of Candidate] can create jobs. Unless the government is going to start hiring, the most any Mayor, Governor, or President can do is try to enact policies (a.k.a. tax breaks to companies) to try and get them to hire. GE, for example, pays $0 in taxes. Not much of a carrot for them.
- Success is individual, failure is someone else’s fault.
- Don’t let facts cloud your arguments. Whether it’s old data, data taken out of contexts or values that are difficult to disprove, all a candidate needs to do is start spewing numbers to make their version more plausible. Check factcheck.org or Politifact.com
Once elected, the primary job of that person is to get re-elected. The notion that any candidate will commit re-election suicide by taking the needed steps around Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid if a foolish notion. They will try to cut the spending that won’t hurt them in the polls the next time around. The idea of a budget is that you don’t spend more than that amount, but that notion is long gone from not just government but from households.
Earlier this year I, somewhat sarcastically, tossed out the idea of using electronic shock in political debates with the idea that every time a candidate lies, they get a shock. The intent isn’t to physically harm anyone but to cut to the chase. Paul Ryan claims to run a sub 3 hour marathon – zing. Joe Biden speaks – zing. Eventually you have the last person standing and you have the one who lies the least.
A few passing thoughts –
- Every time a chucklehead makes the socialist claim, they should be asked to asked to define socialism to see if they know what they’re talking about and then asked for their timeline for ending social security.
- For every dollar a SuperPac spends, they should be required to spend $2 to help disadvantaged areas like eastern Kentucky.
- It is amazing that no one gets asks for facts to substantiate claims. The closest we’ve seen if the dust up over Ryan’s marathon time. The conclusion is that we elect on perception, not fact.
- Romney’s statement that job retraining will be the responsibility of States and companies means it won’t happen.
- Neither candidate can create jobs, unless the Federal Government starts hiring. Cutting the corporate tax rate means more cash will be help by companies.
In short, the economic problems can be tied to housing, the largest asset for most Americans. Greenspan, Congress and Wall Street allowed mortgages to be extended well above what folks could afford, housing prices skyrocketed and then the bubble burst. People can’t afford their mortgages, they stop spending (not good in a consumer driven economy) and employers reduce workforces. No corporate tax cut will trigger hiring, only demand will.
Final thought – with few exceptions, Bernie Sanders comes to mind, the primary focus of elected officials is to get re-elected which rarely aligns with what is truly needed.