A Frightening Figure, Setting Off Ethics Alarms

We don't even know how to play Russian Roulette responsibly.

On Friday, the day before Christmas Eve when much of America was thinking about sugar plums,  lay-away plans, and protesting Christmas pageants, the Federal Accounting Office released its analysis of  the net present value of the nation’s Social Security and Medicare obligations, “net present value” being  the total funds that would have to be set aside today to pay the costs of these programs in the future. Seldom do figures so clearly indict the unethical practices and statements of so many.

In fiscal 2011, the cost of the catching up on the required funding of Medicare and Social Security rose from $30.9 trillion to $33.8 trillion. That $2.9 trillion increase should be regarded as adding to the $1.3 trillion cash deficit for fiscal 2011, making a $4.2 trillion deficit—and this coming in a year in which the rising national debt was supposedly recognized, at last, as a threat to America’s stability, prosperity, and welfare. The costs of Social Security and Medicare are rising at a frightening rate, nearly doubling in the last decade, with little or nothing being done to address the problem. And there is good reason to believe that the Medicare estimates are based on unrealistic assumptions. The GAO report also includes an alternate, less rosy scenario (or perhaps “more putrid” is a better phrase) in which the projected Social Security-Medicare debt is more than $46 trillion. How serious is that? Well, the combined value of the equity in U.S. homes and the value of all publicly-traded companies is less than 20 trillion dollars.

What do these figures tell us about the ethics of the various players on the national scene? Continue reading

The Selfish, the Irresponsible and the Cowardly, Pushing the US to Fiscal Disaster

Greek food, America! Better get used to it, becuase we'll have to swallow what the Greeks are swallowing we can't find some leaders with courage.

Failure is now all but ensured by the so-called Super Committee, a gimmick designed by our leadership-averse President and his pathetically inept legislative counterparts in Congress (both parties, now) to provide themselves with bi-partisan political cover when they again ducked their obligation to solve the nation’s fiscal mess. For those of you who, like me, have wondered how Greece and Italy could reach their current miserable status when the fiscal disaster now facing them was obvious years ago, the answer is plain. They tolerated a fatal combination of selfish interest groups, pampered and lazy voters, and elected leaders who distorted, dithered and ducked their duties, until it was too late. And that is exactly what happening here.

There is no need to waste invective on the committee itself, which is beneath contempt. What they have come to was predictable, and I, along with many others, predicted it. But the predictions still did not have to come true, if, for example, these hostages to toxic ideologies really cared about the country as much as keeping the power to ruin it, or if President Obama hadn’t calculated that his best chances of re-election would be to let the committee founder with him being able to claim no role in its betrayal. rather than to do his job—leading–and try to make sure it succeeded at the risk of failing himself…again.

Betrayal is the word that I use, and that is what it is. Continue reading

One More Reason To Defund NPR, or “Boy, Did I Ever Go Into The Wrong Profession!”

The primary reason to end funding for NPR and PBS is that the government shouldn’t be funding competitors of private broadcasting organizations.

The second reason is that anything public broadcasting does that is sufficiently popular and valuable  (“Sesame Street,” “The Prairie Home Companion,” “Car Talk,’ et al.) will be picked up by commercial stations, and those programs that are not should not be underwritten by taxpayer dollars.

The third: NPR’s audience is narrow and affluent, and doesn’t require a public subsidy, particularly when cutting down the budget deficit is a national priority.

Finally, NPR can’t be trusted with public funds. It claims to be objective, but isn’t; it is mismanaged, and isn’t appropriately frugal with taxpayer funds.

This comes under the final category. The salaries of the top NPR talent do not reflect restraint in expending precious resources.  Continue reading

Obama’s Social Security Cover-Up, as the Media Snoozes

USA Today ran a sensible editorial a couple of weeks ago calling for the Obama administration to stop cravenly caving to groups like the AARP, Congressional Democrats, and increasingly, liberal/progressive commentators who claim that Social Security isn’t really a budgetary problem. The fiction: since Social Security has received more from taxpayers than it has had to pay out since 1983, the Social Security Trust Fund has built up a whopping $2.5 trillion, guaranteeing enough to meet the program’s obligations ( despite yearly deficits, now that the population is senior-heavy) until the money is scheduled to run out in 2037. The truth: the trust is empty. Congress had raided it regularly for non-Social Security spending, so now the yearly Social security deficits (37 billion dollars last year, a projected 45 to 57 billion in 2011, and a half trillion total in the decade underway) are putting a direct burden on the already reeling Federal budget.

Good for USA Today: this is responsible, public-spirited journalism. the public has heard so many lies from politicians and elected officials about Social Security that it is thoroughly misinformed and confused, and an informative, unbiased editorial from the nation’s most read newspaper is exactly what is needed. But the Obama administration couldn’t handle the truth, so it trotted out White House Budget Director Jacob Lew, who denied that there was a problem, writing in response… Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: President Obama

“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions. I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens.”

—-President Obama, commenting on Wisconsin’s budget balancing measures, which will include ending collective bargaining by some public employee unions.

"Ladies and gentlemen...The President of the United States!"

This an abuse of power. No doubt about it.

For all his vaunted intellect, the President has displayed a stunningly flat learning curve in acknowledging and respecting the limits of Presidential influence, otherwise known as “sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong” or “shooting of your mouth about something that is none of your damn business.” In less than three years in office, he has… Continue reading

The Democrats, Earmarks, and the Transparency Dodge

The arguments for continuing the irresponsible and frequently corrupt earmark process are misguided at best, and dishonest at worst. Mostly they are dishonest, Senators and House members graft appropriations in the millions for local projects that are never weighed, prioritized or evaluated in the voting process, killing budget restraint by a thousand cuts. They are also used as legislative currency, as two elected officials trade one irresponsible expenditure for a dubious state project for another.

Earmarks are an invitation to corruption, as they often are the result of thinly veiled quid pro quo arrangements. The device makes the American taxpayer the underwriter of expenditures that often have no greater purpose than to grease the skid for re-election for one more fiscally irresponsible politician. For decades, U.S. Presidents have complained about them; most since Ronald Reagan argued for the Constitutionally problematic line-item veto to combat them. Now, spurred by the recent voter revolt over out-of-control spending, the Republican Caucus in the Senate has voted to ban earmarks. The full Senate, however, with eight Republicans joining with the earmark-happy Democrats, voted down a proposed moratorium. Continue reading