The Free Brazil Movement (Movimento Brasil Livre) was instrumental in the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Students for Liberty (Estudantes Pela Liberdade) is larger in Brazil than in any other country. Can Brazil’s surging libertarian movement defeat the left and save the country?
Written, shot, edited, and narrated by Jim Epstein. Post production help from Ian Keyser. Translation services provided by Matheus Pacini and Vanan Services.
Fantastic Dim Bar by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license; Ghost Processional by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license; Ignosi by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license; Over Time by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license; Industrial Music Box by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license; “After The Week I’ve Had” by Dexter Britain (http://www.dexterbritain.com) Creative Commons. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON— Laura Meckler writes: Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose liberal call to action has propelled his long-shot presidential campaign, is proposing an array of new programs that would amount to the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.
“Sen. Sanders’s agenda does cost money. If you look at the problems that are out there, it’s very reasonable.”
— Warren Gunnels, Sanders’s policy director
In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal, a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause. Mr. Sanders sees the money as going to essential government services at a time of increasing strain on the middle class.
His agenda includes an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges.
To pay for it, Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, has so far detailed tax increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years, according to his staff.
“One of the demands of my campaign is that we think big and not small.”
— Bernie Sanders
A campaign aide said additional tax proposals would be offered to offset the cost of some, and possibly all, of his health program. A Democratic proposal for such a “single-payer” health plan, now in Congress, would be funded in part through a new payroll tax on employers and workers, with the trade-off being that employers would no longer have to pay for or arrange their workers’ insurance.
“The Sanders program amounts to increasing total federal spending by about one-third—to a projected $68 trillion or so over 10 years.”
Mr. Sanders declined a request for an interview. His campaign referred questions to Warren Gunnels, his policy director, who said the programs would address an array of problems. “Sen. Sanders’s agenda does cost money,” he said. “If you look at the problems that are out there, it’s very reasonable.”
Calling himself a democratic socialist, Mr. Sanders has long stood to the left of the Democratic Party, and at first he was dismissed as little more than a liberal gadfly to the party’s front-runner, Hillary Clinton. But he is ahead of or tied with the former secretary of state in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and he has gained in national polling. He stands as her most serious challenger for the Democratic nomination.
“By way of comparison, the 2009 economic stimulus program was estimated at $787 billion when it passed Congress, and President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts were estimated to cost the federal treasury $1.35 trillion over 10 years.”
Mr. Sanders has filled arenas with thousands of supporters, where he thunders an unabashedly liberal agenda to tackle pervasive economic inequality through more government services, higher taxes on the wealthy and new constraints on banks and corporations. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government ran a bigger deficit in January, pushing the imbalance so far this budget year up 6.2 percent from the same period a year ago.
The Treasury Department said Wednesday the deficit for January stood at $17.5 billion compared to $10.3 billion a year ago. For the first four months of the budget year that began in October, the deficit widened to $194.2 billion from $182.8 billion during the same period last year.
“President Barack Obama unveiled last week his new budget proposal, which projects the 2015 deficit to rise to $583 billion, sharply higher than the CBO’s latest estimate.”
The budget deficit has gradually narrowed since 2012, which was the fourth straight year in which it topped the $1 trillion mark. The improvement reflects the country’s economic recovery from recession. The government is seeing higher tax revenues as people go back to work and smaller payments for safety-net programs such as unemployment assistance. It also represents efforts by Congress to control deficits through higher taxes and across-the-board spending cuts.
Last year’s deficit benefited from a $24 billion special payment Freddie Mac made for the support it received during the financial crisis. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts a deficit of $468 billion for the full 2015 budget year, 3.1 percent lower than in 2014.
“Obama’s new budget is asking Congress for authorization to spend $4 trillion next year and projects a 2016 deficit of $474 billion. The president’s budget proposal will set off months of wrangling in Congress.”
For the current budget year, government revenues total $1.05 trillion, an increase of 8.7 percent from the same period a year ago. Government spending totals $1.24 trillion, up 8.3 percent over last year. Read the rest of this entry »
1. They want to keep up appearances.
The truth is, ever-growing entitlement programs drive ever-greater government spending. Everyone knows it. Some leaders in both parties have even worked together on first-step solutions agreeable to both sides. Yet rather than risk Warren Buffett’s taxpayer-funded benefits decreasing, politicians pretend America’s national budget can handle all the extensive promises they’ve made over the past several decades.
2. They are unwilling to sacrifice even wasteful spending.
Like a recent guest on “Hannity,” some in Washington will defend even the most ridiculous spending. Yet Congress could eliminate billions in spending tomorrow. Heritage expert Patrick Louis Knudsen, who spent two decades working on the House Budget Committee, recently went line-by-line through the federal budget to find $42 billion in unnecessary, poorly run, and duplicative federal government programs.
‘Sequester” may be your word for the week, but it’s not mine. I’ve been diverted from the Beltway theater by an enterprise equally fraudulent, the “Arab Spring.” No, the plot line does not feature an Armageddon of budget slashing after which, somehow, Leviathan manages to land on his drunken feet and binge up an even higher tab this year than last. The Arab Spring, instead, is the tyranny of Islamic supremacism cruelly masqueraded as the forward march of “freedom.”
On Tuesday, the dead-tree version of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, my book on the subject, finally hit the bookstores after previously being available only as an e-book. Despite the digital age, people still love their paperbacks, so I’ve had the good fortune to spend this week talking about it.
Though seemingly unrelated, the sequester contretemps have provided a useful context. In the tortured argot of Washington, “sequestration” connotes “a reduction in government spending.” It is thus an exquisite weasel word, the kind that fraud-construction thrives on. Of course, the disease sequestration is meant to treat is only too real — our metastasizing cancer of debt. But the political class that lives today’s high life on tomorrow’s stolen prosperity naturally prefers the illusion of action to the pain that must accompany any real, surgical remedy. So it peddles placebos that have the ring of earnestness and effectiveness: “cuts,” “balanced approach,” and the like.
On examination, these words are seen for the nonsense that they are. In Washington a “cut” is not what your family does when it becomes over-extended — a spending slash, a commitment to live within one’s means. It is a nominal decrease in the rate at which government plans, despite our straits, to increase spending. So a “cut” lards debt on debt . . . just not quite as quickly.
And a “balanced approach”? It sounds so admirably Greek — as in the ancients, not the contemporary Athenians we sadly prefer to emulate. Balance, “moderation in all things,” is great . . . as long as you have a multifaceted problem. But what if your problem, very simply, is that you spend goo-gobs more money than you earn? That does not call for a “balanced” approach. If you think it does, try explaining to the waiter that you’ve decided to pay only half the check for the meal you just devoured because, after all, there should be more “balance.”
Like the sequester molesters, “Arab Spring” devotees have their own fantasy vocabulary. The whoppers are “freedom” and “democracy,” the ideals, we’re told, that have swept the Middle East, even as it sinks into repression, social unrest, and the persecution of religious minorities. Islam and the West use the same words, but we are not conveying the same concepts — just as a “cut” in your budget means something very different from a “cut” in Washington’s.
Freedom? “Let it be known to you that the real meaning of freedom lies in the perfection of slavery,” explained al-Qushayri, a celebrated eleventh-century scholar of Islam…
Don’t buy all the hysteria about what’s over the cliff. Government spending reduces real growth, while tax cuts only work if they’re paired with a strong dollar. Both sides miss the point.
The point? The destruction of the dollar. It undermines the argument on both sides, according to this essay. It’s an oversimplification, but understanding that “GDP” is an absurd measure, invested with false meaning, is a good start.
Supply-siders and Keynesians don’t agree on much these days, but when it comes to the alleged “fiscal cliff”, both sides are in agreement that jumping off this ledge would bring tragic economic consequences. Though a strong believer in supply-side principles, I believe even more strongly that conventional wisdom is nearly always wrong. It’s wrong here.
Before getting into why the grand assumptions surrounding the fiscal cliff are ridiculous, it’s best to explain why we’ll never reach this ranch-style house “plunge” onto soft ground. We won’t because the incentives that drive politicians ensure a deal.
“Economies are nothing more than a collection of individuals, and when we break the U.S. economy down to the individual, it’s easy to see how wrong the Keynesians are.”
That’s the case because with the economy still limping, very few politicians will want to be on record as having voted to raise rates of taxation. Every member of the House of Representatives is up for re-election in 2014, a third of all senators are, and with an eye on re-election they’re not going to vote for large tax increases. At best with taxes, they’ll compromise: lower rates in return for a reduction in economy-distorting tax loopholes.
Considering spending, though it nearly always occurs at the expense of growth, politicians exist to spend our money. That’s what animates them, and it’s true irrespective of party affiliation. The spending of the money of others is to politicians what oxygen is to the rest of us. Because spending is breath to the political class, there’s no way they’d ever allow automatic spending cuts or, “sequestration.” Repeat after me, we’ll never jump off of the “fiscal cliff”, and breathy commentary suggesting we will is written by writers who haven’t a clue about human nature.
“…with policy in favor of dollar devaluation, why commit capital to economy-enhancing ideas if any returns come back in dollars that have shrunken in value?”
Turning to why supply-siders and Keynesians alike are so fearful of the “cliff”, that’s easy too. For Keynesians, they’re deluded by the false belief that government spending is an economic stimulant. Because they are, automatic reductions in spending by the feds would directly subtract from GDP growth.
In an artificially absurd sense, the Keynesians are right. GDP would decline in the very near term amid automatic spending cuts, but all this tells us is that Gross Domestic Product is a worthless number. Governments have no resources, so for governments to spend is for them to tax or borrow limited resources from the private sector that will be consumed in a wasteful ways.
Economies are nothing more than a collection of individuals, and when we break the U.S. economy down to the individual, it’s easy to see how wrong the Keynesians are. Indeed, are you better off when the federal government taxes away your earnings and consumes limited capital that might otherwise fund a future Microsoft? No? Well, you’re the economy.
In short, government spending is an economic retardant. Because it tautologically weighs on economic growth, any reduction in the burden that is government would boost the economy.