Thursday, February 2, 2017

February, 2017, Part 2, Political Class Insanity: Spending Money We Do Not Have On Efforts We Do Not Need

It has been several weeks since Donald Trump has been sworn in which means at some point in the future we may run out of material to talk about. With the demise of the Obama administration, eight years worth of wasteful and excessive spending for nothing in return, foreign affairs blunders, Obama Care disasters, and assorted other administration and government blunders and screwups might end with the onset of a new administration. Trump may usher in a new paradigm of government actions that are limited, effective, cost efficient, and protective of the Constitution. If so, then this blog would run out of material to discuss and would have to be shut down.

But I doubt it. Even if Trump is truly a different type of President, he is still fighting over 500 embedded and entrenched politicians in Congress and thousands and thousands of government bureaucrats who will not go peacefully into the night for the good of the country. I wish him well and hopefully he can fix at least some of the myriad of problems the American political class creates everyday but until then, enjoy the latest political class insanity from Washington and beyond:

1) The biggest insanity of the Washington political class is the reality that it has spent $20 TRILLION more than it collected in tax revenue and we have very little show for this obnoxious overspending. Our public schools still generally under educate our kids, our infrastructure of bridges, roads, and tunnels is crumbling, we no longer have the top armed forces in the world, major government social programs such as Social Security are hurtling towards insolvency, etc.

And things are not likely to get better in the near future unless major changes are made to how the Federal government operates. According to a recent analysis by the Fix The Debt organization, if current spending trends continue, we will soon return to annual TRILLION dollar deficits:

These results are based on the latest research by the Congressional Budget office (CBO).

The following conclusions fall out from the above chart and analysis:

  • The largest eight years of spending deficits by the Washington political class happened during the Obama administration.
  • Four of those Obama annual deficits exceeded a mind boggling TRILLION dollars a year.
  • The other years would have likely been much higher but tax increases reduced the deficits somewhat.
  • By 2027, the deficit could be a devastating $1.4 TRILLION in a single year.
  • By 2027, the deficits will be about 5% of the annual national economy and since annual economic growth is almost never much more than 3%, the Federal debt burden will grow without a corresponding rise in economic growth to support it.
  • The driver in the long-term debt will be mostly rising health costs (Medicare and Medicaid) and an aging population. 
  • In addition, about two-thirds of the projected $2.6 trillion increase in the budget between 2017 and 2027 is for Social Security and health care.
  • Interest on the debt will be the fastest growing part of the federal budget, nearly tripling in dollar terms and almost doubling as a share of the economy.
  • The CBO warns that “high and rising debt would have serious negative consequences for the budget and the nation.” including lower wages, reduced flexibility to react to unexpected crises like a recession, and increased probability of a fiscal crisis, i.e. default.
A lot of wasted spending without many societal benefits in return, wasteful spending that could lead to the collapse of the economy and our democracy and cause that collapse in the relatively near future. And the current set of Washington politicians have neither the will, knowledge, or guts to make the necessary changes in government spending. Insanity.

2) One way we get these tremendous overspending deficits is by allowing the Federal government and the bureaucrats and politicians that operate it to focus and spend wealth on absolutely stupid programs and efforts. Elizabeth Harrington, reporting for the Washington Free Beacon on January 22, 2017 examined a set of incredibly stupid and crazy regulations for the Feds that appeared during the Obama administration:

- Before looking at the specific examples of stupid spending, Ms. Harrington points out that the Obama administration created a record 97,110 pages of Federal regulations for almost 4,00 new Federal rules and regulations during its time. These outrageous new regulations costs the economy an estimated $350 billion a year or about $2,800 for every U.S. household.

- Bureaucrats at the Department of Labor put forth a mighty effort to eliminate the word “he” and “she” references from all Federal regulations. The labor participation rate in this country is at almost forty year lows, 94 million adult Americans are out of the workforce, the true unemployment rate is close to 10%, and millions of Americans cannot find a full time job, settling for contract and temporary work. And the highly paid Department of Labor employees are worried about the words “he” and “she,” as if there are no other labor issues facing Americans.

- The Department of Transportation, rather than focusing on keeping air travel safe from terrorists and bad planes and pilots, spent a lof time in 2012 to put forth rules and regulations that would allow pigs to fly as “emotional support” animals: “[I]f you determine that the pot-bellied pig is a service animal, you must permit the service animal to accompany the passenger to her seat provided the animal does not obstruct the aisle or present any safety issues and the animal is behaving appropriately in a public setting.” 

While transportation safety affects millions and millions of Americans, and what should be the only function of the Department of Transportation, how many people are affected by needing to have their service pig in the seat next to them on a plane? Insanely bad priorities.

- A major requirement of the Obama Care legislation was that people that had never worked in a restaurant, i.e. politicians, were dictating to restaurant owners on how to operate their businesses, namely the legislation required restaurants to post calorie information in their restaurants. This has cost the restaurant industry an estimated $1.7 billion, money that could not be used by restaurants to expand their businesses, hire more employees, or pay their employees more money. 

And all of this nonsense was for naught as we have discussed before since we have already reported on how virtually no one going into a restaurant consults these Obama Care signs for their calorie risk. They are going to a restaurant to have a good time and a good meal, not worry about their diets for a few hours.

Oh, by the way, the Obama Care legislation was so convoluted and stupid that it took 171 words to simply define what a “menu” is. Insane.

- The regulations associated with the American With Disabilities Act were finalized in 2012 and included the following insanity:

  • The Federal government wrote a provision that forced store owners to let miniature horses into their stores if they are used as guide animals, provided “the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.”
  • The regulations were very specific in that someone somewhere in the Federal bureaucracy went to the trouble of making sure that “ponies and full-sized horses are not covered.”
  • The regulations also regulated the height of miniature golf courses, shooting ranges, and saunas.
I remember a Paula Poundstone stand up comedy act where she pointed out that no matter how bad a TV commercial is, you have to realize that someone actually wrote down those words to that bad commercial. That those words went through many rewrites and reviews by upper management. Same thing with this mess, how many taxpayer dollars were spent writing and rewriting these regulations for a very limited service miniature horse population.

- Not even Christmas was safe from over regulation. The Consumer Product Safety Commission instituted a regulation that deemed certain Christmas decorations a “substantial product hazard” if they did not meet the government’s standards for wire size, overcurrent protection, and strain relief. These regulations were very specific in that the regulations applied to “stars, wreathes, candles without shades, light sculptures, blow-molded (plastic) figures, and animated figures,” but not “solar-powered products.” A lot of writing, and rewriting, like the miniature horse nonsense we just discussed.

- And possibly the most inane regulation example of the entire Obama era were regulations that tried to control cow farts and flatulence. The objective was to somehow get cows to fart less in order to reduce the amount of methane that cow farts expel into the atmosphere. I am gagging just writing this. 

By spending taxpayer resources and wealth on these stupid efforts, the following issues and societal problems could not receive more help:

  • Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from drug addiction, an issue that could have greatly benefited from the resources expended on the silliness above.
  • Thousands of additional teachers for our public schools could have been hired from the resources expended on the silliness above.
  • Thousands of additional medical resources could have been directed to the neglected medical needs of our veterans rather than the resources expended on the silliness above.
You get the idea, the spending priorities of the Federal government are so screwed up that we spend money on stupidity and we allow issues affecting millions and millions of Americans to continue to suffer. Insanity.

That will do it for today’s insanity. Spending money we do not have on projects we do not need. More insanity tomorrow.

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