The Slow Decline of America Since LBJ Launched the Great Society

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May 16, 2014George F. Will writes: Standing on his presidential limousine, Lyndon Johnson, campaigning in Providence, R.I., in September 1964, bellowed through a bullhorn: “We’re in favor of a lot of things and we’re against mighty few.” This was a synopsis of what he had said four months earlier.

“In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time”; today, 19 percent do. The former number is one reason Johnson did so much; the latter is one consequence of his doing so.”

Fifty years ago this Thursday, at the University of Michigan, Johnson had proposed legislating into existence a Great Society. It would end poverty and racial injustice, “but that is just the beginning.” It would “rebuild the entire urban United States” while fending off “boredom and restlessness,” slaking “the hunger for community” and enhancing “the meaning of our lives” — all by assembling “the best thought and the broadest knowledge.”

In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time”; today, 19 percent do. The former number is one reason Johnson did so much; the latter is one consequence of his doing so.

[Read the full text here, at the Washington Post]

Barry Goldwater, Johnson’s 1964 opponent who assumed that Americans would vote to have a third president in 14 months, suffered a landslide defeat. After voters rebuked FDR in 1938 for attempting to 41npsm-1StL._SL250_“pack” the Supreme Court, Republicans and Southern Democrats prevented any liberal legislating majority in Congress until 1965. That year, however, when 68 senators and 295 representatives were Democrats, Johnson was unfettered.

[Order the book “The Great Society at Fifty: The Triumph and the Tragedy” from Amazon.com]

He remains, regarding government’s role, much the most consequential 20th-century president. Indeed, the American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt, in his measured new booklet The Great Society at Fifty: The Triumph and the Tragedy,” says LBJ, more than FDR, “profoundly recast the common understanding of the ends of governance.”

When Johnson became president in 1963, Social Security was America’s only nationwide social program. His programs and those they subsequently legitimated put the nation on the path to the present, in which changed social norms — dependency on government has been destigmatized — have changed America’s national character.

Between 1959 and 1966 — before the War on Poverty was implemented — the percentage of Americans living in poverty plunged by about one-third, from 22.4 to 14.7, slightly lower than in 2012. But, Eberstadt cautions, the poverty rate is “incorrigibly misleading” because government transfer payments have made income levels and consumption levels significantly different. Read the rest of this entry »


Where Did Your Tax Dollars Go?

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The Hipster Libertarian


8 Infuriating Facts To Remember On Tax Day

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For The Federalist,  writes:  Happy Tax Day, America! It’s not every day that you either get to write a big fat check to Uncle Sam or discover that you’d been loaning him money interest-free for the last year. But have no fear: at least your hard-earned money has been spent on vital projects essential to America’s well-being. Projects like studying shrimp running on treadmills (seriously, you paid for that), or Bridges to Nowhere. Super important stuff like that.

In honor of tax day, here are 8 facts that will make you even angrier than you already are about the state of the U.S. tax system.

1. It will take you 111 days this year just to pay off the government.

According to the Tax Foundation, a non-profit which compiles detailed tax statistics, it will take 111 days this year for American workers to collectively pay their tax bills. That means that every cent you earn throughout those first 111 days of the year gets collected and consumed by government. The Tax Foundation pegs Tax Freedom Day — the day on which the money you earn effectively belongs to you rather than America’s governmental bureaucracy — as April 21 this year. So as you sign your tax returns today, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll still need to work another 6 days before the American tax leviathan will be satisfied.

While millions of Americans continue to send back portions of their hard earned wages to Washington, many federal employees are tax cheats.

During the year of sweeping budget cuts, millions of federal employees faced layoffs, furloughs, and other cutbacks as a result of Congress’ failure to replace sequestration with responsible, targeted cuts. Most of these federal employees are responsible citizens who pay their taxes. Some, however, don’t feel they have to live by the rules like other Americans.

In 2011, the IRS found nearly 312,000 federal employees and retirees were delinquent on their federal income taxes, owing a total of $3.5 billion in unpaid federal income taxes. This represented an 11.5 percent increase in the number of federal employees failing to pay their taxes, and a 2.9 percent increase in the total taxes owed the Treasury by these public servants.

2. Those federal bureaucrats whose salaries you pay? A bunch of them are tax cheats.

According to an investigative report by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), over 300,000 federal employees and retirees were delinquent on their own taxes to the tune of $3.5 billion:

While millions of Americans continue to send back portions of their hard earned wages to Washington, many federal employees are tax cheats. During the year of sweeping budget cuts, millions of federal employees faced layoffs, furloughs, and other cutbacks as a result of Congress’ failure to replace sequestration with responsible, targeted cuts. Most of these federal employees are responsible citizens who pay their taxes. Some, however, don’t feel they have to live by the rules like other Americans. In 2011, the IRS found nearly 312,000 federal employees and retirees were delinquent on their federal income taxes, owing a total of $3.5 billion in unpaid federal income taxes. This represented an 11.5 percent increase in the number of federal employees failing to pay their taxes, and a 2.9 percent increase in the total taxes owed the Treasury by these public servants.

3. You probably pay more in Medicare and Social Security taxes than you do in income taxes…

A lot of tax day commentary focuses on the income tax, but the vast majority of Americans — 80 percent or more — actually pay more in federal payroll taxes (the FICA line on your pay stub) than they do in federal income taxes. Those payroll taxes pay for Medicare and Social Security, the two largest federal entitlement programs.

2013 study from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that each of the bottom four quintiles of income earners in America (the bottom 80 percent) pays a higher effective payroll tax rate than income tax rate. The middle quintile, for example, pays an average payroll tax rate of 8.3 percent and an average effective income tax rate of 1.6 percent. Only the top quintile pays a higher effective income tax rate than it does a payroll tax rate.

 

Read the rest of this entry »


Fund: Feds Lifting Statute of Limitations to Seize Tax Refunds for Parents Debt? Not Cool

National Review Online


How to Become a Public Pension Millionaire

In five states, an average full-career retiree receives a retirement income higher than his final salary

moneyocareAndrew Biggs writes: Detroit and San Bernardino and Stockton, Calif. are in bankruptcy, and across the country the costs of maintaining pensions for city and state employees more than doubled to nearly $84 billion in 2011 from 2002. Yet the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Afscme) declares that public pensions are “modest,” noting that its average member “receives a pension of approximately $19,000 per year after a career of public service.”

The facts don’t agree. Data compiled from all state pensions show that, for employees who spend a career in state government, generous pensions put retired public workers among the highest earners in their state.

It is true that average public-pension benefits rarely seem extravagant. But these averages are reduced by two groups: older employees who retired many years ago and whose benefits are far less than those of an employee retiring today; and by short-term workers who often receive tiny pensions but almost surely have retirement savings from another job.

Unions claim that no one works for government to get rich, but many public employees become “pension millionaires” along the way. In Nevada, an average full-career state worker can expect to receive $1.3 million in lifetime pension benefits.

A far more relevant measure of the public-pension burden is how much a typical full-career state employee retiring today receives. In a new study for the American Enterprise Institute, I compiled data from pensions plans’ Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, which show the average benefits paid to a newly retired state government employee with at least 30 years of job tenure. Public-safety employees, who typically receive the most generous pensions, are excluded from these figures. These are not one-off examples of egregious abuses. They are what the average full-career employee actually received in retirement. Read the rest of this entry »


Progress: Government Workers Cost 45% More Than Private Sector Workers

 writes:  The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced on March 12th that the total cost of employing a state or local government worker is 45% more than an equivalent worker in the private sector.

For the month of December 2013, employers in private industry spent an average of $29.63 per employee hour worked, but the equivalent cost for a government worker averaged $42.89 per hour. Not only do government employees average 33% higher pay than those in the private sector, their pension and retirement benefit costs are now an incredible 254% higher also. Given that compensation formulas for federal, state, and local government are comparable, it should come as no surprise that this year spending by the U.S. government will exceed revenue by an all-time high of $744.2 billion, and our gross national debt is a stunning $18.5 trillion.

“Not only do government employees average 33% higher pay than those in the private sector, their pension and retirement benefit costs are now an incredible 254% higher also.”

The BLS reported that private employers spent $20.76 on average for wages and salaries, plus $8.87 for benefits per hour worked. State and local government paid $27.66 for wages and salaries, plus $15.23 for benefits per hour worked. Government employees cost 33% more in wages and 71% more in benefits. The biggest difference is that government pension costs are 254% higher than the private sector.

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Obama in Wonderland Budget 2015: It’s Time to ‘End to the Era of Austerity’

wonderlandPresident Obama’s forthcoming budget request will seek tens of billions of dollars in fresh spending for domestic priorities while abandoning a compromise proposal to tame the national debt in part by trimming Social Security benefits.Obama-roll-of-diceWith the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency and to his efforts to find common ground with Republicans. Instead, the president will focus on pumping new cash into job training, early-childhood education and other programs aimed at bolstering the middle class, providing Democrats with a policy blueprint heading into the midterm elections.

“This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: the president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis”

–Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner

As part of that strategy, Obama will jettison the framework he unveiled last year for a so-called grand bargain that would have raised taxes on the rich and reined in skyrocketing retirement spending. A centerpiece of that framework was a proposal — demanded by GOP leaders — to use a less-generous measure of inflation to calculate Social Security benefits.

President Bambi

It’s not just Congressional Republicans objecting to catastrophic levels of spending. The most influential critic of irresponsible budgets now holds the nation’s highest office:

“We’ve lived through an era of easy money, in which we were allowed and even encouraged to spend without limits; to borrow instead of save….

Once we get past the present emergency, which requires immediate new investments, we have to break that cycle of debt.

–Barack Obama, 2008

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey notes:

…If the new budget ends “austerity” by returning to Obama’s original top-line outlay demand of last year’s budget request, that will mean an additional increase of federal spending of 6.7% in just one year. If it’s just $56 billion more than the actual FY2014 outlays, then the notion that this ends “austerity” is doubly laughable.

The notion that we’ve been laboring under an “era of austerity” is as ridiculous and out of touch as … well, as most of Obama’s budget requests during his presidency…”

Republicans said emerging details of the president’s budget prove he was never serious about addressing the nation’s long-term debt problems.

Reality check:

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“This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: the president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement. “The one and only idea the president has to offer is even more job-destroying tax hikes, and that non-starter won’t do anything to save the entitlement programs that are critical to so many Americans.”

Read the rest of this entry »


The Hammer: Debating CBO’s Obamacare Findings …

 “If you have a part-time job and you’re getting a big subsidy, and you’re offered a better job, you do the calculation…”

Charles Krauthammer pushed back against National Journal’s Ron Fournier’s belief that the recent Congressional Budget Office’s report on Obamacarewas being manipulated to score partisan points…

“…It’s a huge incentive not to take that job — it’s irrefutable”

Read the rest of this entry »


Hunger Games: Washington D.C. Far Outpaces Nation in Personal Earnings

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 writes:  D.C. residents are enjoying a personal income boom.

The District’s total personal income in 2012 was $47.28 billion, or $74,733 for each of its 632,323 residents, according to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s Economic and Revenue Trends report for November.

The U.S. average per capita personal income was $43,725. The highest of the 50 states, Connecticut, fell 25 percent short of D.C.

Personal income is a combination of work and non-work related components — wages and salaries, employee health and other benefits, proprietor’s income, property income and transfer payments (such as Social Security).

In terms of pure wages, D.C., on a per capita basis, was 79 percent higher than the national average in 2012 — $36,974 to $20,656. That, despite 10 consecutive quarters of slower-than-average D.C. wage growth and a $350 million slide in federal wages — the private sector is tugging the District’s economy along.

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PEA Party: The ‘Punished Enough Already’ Young Middle Class

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In 2011 Salon made a weak-tea effort to coin Pea Party, but it vanished. (the lightweight Salon is also fond of the juvenile smear ‘neo-Confederate’ to demonize middle class folks they disagree with, so it’s easy to dismiss ’em as irrelevant)  punditfromanotherplanet is adopting the ‘punished-enough-already’ young middle class as the new Pea Party, to introduce Fleischer’s essay. Take it away Matthew.

LA Times guest blogger Matthew Fleischer writes: The Obama administration came out with a report Monday arguing that 1 million single adults between the ages of 18 and 35 will be eligible for an Obamacare insurance plan costing less than $50 a month.

That’s news to me.

I’m a healthy 34-year-old with a taxable income hovering right around the Obamacare subsidy level who, for the last several years, has purchased a relatively inexpensive catastrophic health insurance plan from Blue Shield. I get to see the doctor four times a year for a $30 co-pay, and I won’t have to spend the rest of my life working off the debt if I get hit by a bus.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Transformation of the USA: Introducing America 3.0

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The recent political deadlock and government shutdown, and the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare, show that something is seriously wrong in Washington, D.C.

What’s going on?

America is going through a transformation, on a scale that few people now realize. The last such fundamental change was from the rural and agrarian society of the Founding era (America 1.0) to the urban and industrial society which is now coming to an end (America 2.0).

That transition was disruptive and painful, but ultimately led to a better America.

We are now making a similar transition to a post-industrial, networked, decentralized, immensely productive America, with a more individualistic, voluntarist, anti-bureaucratic culture (America 3.0).

Today’s political regime is like legacy software, built for an earlier world.

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Institutions of the 20th Century welfare state that once looked permanent are crumbling. The old operating system has been kludged so many times it won’t work much longer. It has to be replaced.

The time-worn liberal-progressive wisdom is simple: See a problem, create a government program to fix it.

ObamaCare proves this approach no longer works.

Read the rest of this entry »


How Many College Students Know the Government Shutdown is Over?


Toxic Overreach: Obama Would Be a Fool to Pursue Immigration Next

Immigration reform next? Bad idea, writes David Frum—it’s a path littered with the same obstacles that nearly brought down Obamacare.

Thousands of immigrants marched on the US capital Washington to demand immigration reform on October 8, 2013. (Anadolu Agency/Getty)

Thousands of immigrants marched on the US capital Washington to demand immigration reform on October 8, 2013. (Anadolu Agency/Getty)

Overreach: nobody’s immune to it. Republicans overreached in the debt ceiling fight. Now, by some reports, President Obama is tempted to do the same.

Those reports state that Obama intends to proceed from the debt battle to the immigration issue, taking up again his plan to regularize the status of millions of people illegally present in the United States. Let’s leave aside for the moment the policy merits of the president’s immigration proposals. (I think they’re dreadful, but your mileage may vary.) Consider instead the politics of advancing this measure in a polarized Congress and a recession-battered country.

Why is the debate over the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—so bitter? Yes, it’s a big and expensive new entitlement. But so was Medicare Part D back in 2004, and that program provoked nothing like the controversy of the ACA.

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RACKET: Widespread Disability Fraud

Congressional investigators say Social Security has made more than $1 billion in improper disability payments to people who had jobs when they were supposed to be unable to work. In a report issued Friday, the Government Accountability Office estimated that 36,000 workers got improper payments from December 2010 to January 2013. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Congressional investigators say Social Security has made more than $1 billion in improper disability payments to people who had jobs when they were supposed to be unable to work.  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

A two-year investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found widespread fraud in the Social Security Administration’s Disability Program.

The fraud is so rampant, and disability cases have so proliferated in recent years, that the Social Security’s Disability Trust Fund may run out of money in only 18 months, says Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., whose office undertook the investigation.

Coburn’s report on widespread fraud, released Monday, focuses in large part on a veritable “disability claim factory” allegedly  run by attorney Eric C. Conn out of his small office in Stanville, Kentucky, a region of the country where 10 to 15 percent of the population receives disability payments. Read the rest of this entry »


The Real Debt Ceiling

What will happen in a decade or so, when default becomes inevitable? 

20111123001Kevin D. Williamson writes: The fight over the federal shutdown, in which Barack Obama pronounces himself ready to negotiate with atomic ayatollahs in Tehran but not Republicans in the House of Representatives — the body constitutionally empowered to manage budgetary concerns — is a prelude to the coming fight over the statutory debt ceiling. How either of those will play out politically is anybody’s guess, though one should never underestimate the Republicans’ ability to screw up being on the right side of an issue.

While there is panicky talk of default in Washington, the financial markets give no indication that they are expecting a default on Treasury bonds, which is only sensible: Even without extending the debt ceiling, current revenues are more than enough to cover debt payments, several times over. There are technical concerns within the federal government that complicate the issue, but debt ceiling or no debt ceiling, the money is there to make interest payments. Surely an administration that came into office on the heels of a financial crisis and claims the unilateral power to assassinate American citizens is not waiting on Congress to tell the Treasury Department how to perform its most elementary function? Surely the American people, in their wisdom, would not elect such irresponsible amateurs to high office? (Twice?)

Refusal to raise the debt ceiling will never necessitate default — unless the interest payments we owe exceed the revenue we have. That is not even close to being the case — net interest payments have been running around 7 percent of revenue lately. But if current trends continue, that number will change. In 2010 Moody’s, working from Congressional Budget Office projections described by one analyst as “wildly optimistic,” calculated that policies being pushed by the Obama administration could drive interest payments as high as 20 percent of federal revenue by 2020. The CBO’s polite-nod-to-reality “alternative fiscal scenario” projects that sustained deficits will mean that interest payments will cost us an additional 1 percent of GDP in ten short years. And those are far from worst-case, Chicken Little scenarios. A return to the interest rates that prevailed as recently as the 1980s would turn our federal budget upside-down practically overnight, with interest expenses far outpacing tax revenue. When debt-service costs exceed revenue, default is a practical inevitability. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. disability rolls swell as jobs vanish

breadlineMILLINOCKET, MAINE — The huge mills along the Penobscot River roared virtually nonstop for more than a century, turning the dense Maine forests into paper and lifting the thousands of men who did the hot and often backbreaking work into the middle class.

But the mills have struggled in recent years, shedding thousands of jobs. Now this area, whose well-paying jobs provided an economic foothold for generations of blue-collar workers, has become a place where an unusually large share of the unemployed are seeking economic shelter on federal disability rolls. Read the rest of this entry »


51% Favor Government Shutdown Until Congress Cuts Health Care Funding

President Obama yesterday criticized congressional Republicans for insisting on spending cuts in any budget deal that continues government operations past October 1, saying they risk “economic chaos.” Most voters agree a federal government shutdown would be bad for the economy, but they’re willing to risk one until Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree on ways to cut the budget, including cuts in funding for the new national health care law. Read the rest of this entry »