Category Archives: Taxes and Spending

Not Gonna Happen

It seems to me that this is a perfect way to get spending down in Washington.

By our calculations, the OMB study, called Program Assessment Ratings Tool (PART), further reveals that on average more than half of all federal expenditure programs are falling about 50% short of their stated goals.

This means that out of every dollar spent, 50 cents may possibly be accomplishing something worthwhile, but the remaining 50 cents might as well have been poured down a rat hole. In these cases alone, the cost of government incompetence is over $250 billion per year.

Congress, however, is not the least bit interested in PART or any other attempt to evaluate federal spending on an efficiency or cost-benefit basis. For one thing, the results would be embarrassing. Too many federal expenditure programs made no sense to start with or are now outmoded and would be a waste even if performed efficiently.

Furthermore, federal budgeting is not about spending as little as possible and trying to make certain that each $1 spent produces at least $1 of public benefit. Instead, it is about spending the maximum amount in the most politically efficacious way.

So you establish a non-partisan committee to figure out which programs aren’t working. They come out with a way to slice $250 billion out of the budget and you don’t have to own up to it — just say “the commitee made me do it.”

And Congress in uninterested.


We need to stop electing these asswipes.

Wednesday Linkorama

  • National Review on “universal health care”.

    The health-care debate has centered on the uninsured. That so many people do not have health insurance is a consequence of foolish government policies: regulations that raise the price of insurance, and a tax code that ensures that most people get their insurance through their employer. If you don’t work for a company that provides health insurance, you’re out of luck. People locked out of the insurance system still have access to health care. But they often end up in emergency rooms because they did not receive preventive care.

    In several states in this country, it is against the law to buy health insurance that doesn’t have aromatherapy coverage.

  • The Justice Department is prosecuting accountants who find legal loopholes to save their clients money. Tell me again how Bush is a conservative?
  • The immense wave of regulation from Washington has only gotten stronger under Bush. Tell me again how Bush is a conservative?
  • Americans are the most charitable people on the planet.

    Gaudiani said Americans give twice as much as the next most charitable country, according to a November 2006 comparison done by the Charities Aid Foundation. In philanthropic giving as a percentage of gross domestic product, the U.S. ranked first at 1.7%. No. 2 Britain gave 0.73%, while France, with a 0.14% rate, trailed such countries as South Africa, Singapore, Turkey and Germany.

    Throw this in some euro-weenie’s face next time he talks about how greedy and uncaring Americans are.

  • Thursday Linkorama

    An analysis of just how much seniors are going to rip us off with Medicare and Social Security. Nice to know that the debate in Washington is over who can make this situation worse.

    Center for New American Security has, what seems to me, a reasonable plan for getting out of Iraq. Money quote:

    Some may suggest the United States should withdraw only when victory is achieved but “there will no American victory in Iraq in the terms defined by the Bush administration,” the report concluded.

    I discovered this because Neal Boortz endorsed it. I think this is what the Right is looking for right now. A way to get out while still declaring victory. This report suggests phased withdrawal, timetables, etc. — everything the Right has railed against for years.

    Sand may be a greater menace than sharks. Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

    Scott Adams gets to the heart of environmental hypocrisy and panic-mongering.

    Virginia school has a zero tolerance policy . . . on touching. Ugh.

    Friday Linkorama

    Taxes destroy an old amusement park. I hope the city thinks its worth their art subsidies and other waste.

    The internet weights about the same as a grain of sand.

    Cato on why we should be leery of Rudy:

    Here’s why: Throughout his career, Giuliani has displayed an authoritarian streak that would be all the more problematic in a man who would assume executive powers vastly expanded by President Bush.

    His support of water-borading is another reason. If Kerry were president right now, I’d support Rudy. But we need someone to repair our government’s adherence to constitutional principles.

    Finally, Congress is pushing back against the CIA gul-, er, prisons. Four of seven Republicans. Let’s hope this is just the beginning.

    The border agent decided the TB man didn’t seem sick so he just let him in.

    Yeah, we’re going to stop terrorism by closing the borders.

    Turning the Barrell Over

    Cato has the goods on the latest garbage:

    Eager to avoid the bad publicity of legislative earmarking, lawmakers are secretly calling or writing bureaucrats and demanding that they fund their pet projects by fiat. These projects-via-telephone, or “phonemarks,” are the hottest new gimmick on the Washington scene.

    Executive branch officials can dole out millions of dollars with impunity. And they avoid the scrutiny of the public, since they are done quietly and without any disclosure.

    But . . . but . . . but the Democrats are good?

    Now for a secret. The big problem in Washington isn’t earmarks. They’re just a symptom of the real problem: policymakers who believe the federal government should be all things to all people. Pork projects – disclosed or not – are inevitable in such an environment no matter what you call ‘em.

    Term limits. That’s the only way to stop this.

    NYT Hypocrisy

    Raise your hand if you’re surprised by the hypocrisy Neal Boortz has demonstrated in the NYT:

    It’s no surprise really. The New York Times came out in support of “a new 4 percent tax on income above $200,000 a year for married couples and above $100,000 for single taxpayers.” But liberal hypocrisy rears its ugly head when you consider the tens of millions of dollars the Times received in tax breaks, just so they could build their fancy headquarters in Manhattan. Oh and not to mention that they seized the city property by abusing a little power called eminent domain—and then viciously criticized the Supreme Court decision expanding eminent domain powers as “a set back to the ‘property rights’ movement.” For a paper that is so renown, I guess it lives by the saying “Do as I say, not as I do.” Too bad I can’t tell the IRS that when they come knocking on my door.

    The NYT actually runs some very good articles on science and the economy. But their editorial board basically gets faxes from the DNC and republishes them.

    OK, maybe they don’t. But could you honestly tell the difference?

    IRS Worship

    Cato takes apart an NYT piece on the IRS.

    I have never understood the Left’s worship of the IRS. I remember in ’95 when the GOP was having hearings on IRS abuses, the derision among Lefties, the cartoon that said, “What’s next? Hearing on bad service in restaurants? Ho ho ho!” Maybe it’s because they hate they rich. Maybe it’s because they worship government power.

    But we have here an agency that is incredibly abusive of its power; that has the (unconstitutional, no matter what SCOTUS says) power to seize your property without charging you with a crime; an agency that used to post “Catch Seizure Fever!” posters on its walls and evaluated its agents by how much property they’d seized; an agency that didn’t want to discipline agents who went poking around the finances of their neighbors and celebrities. I have personally experiencde the abuse of this agency and, if my blog were read by more than two people, I’d hesitate to post on this for fear of reprisal. James Bovard once estimated that this agency, at is worst under the Dems, took more money away from Americans falsley and by intimidation than all forms of property theft combined.

    And, to kick the Lefties again, the IRS is known to target the middle class quite heavily, since they have enough money to be worth seizing but not enough to fight them in court.

    Yeah, I get emotional about it. People who’ve seen the nasty side of the IRS tend to. My accountant, a sweet southern lady; my grandfather, a kindly man so respected hundreds turned up at his short-notice funeral; my former Congressman John Linder, as mild-mannered a man as you’ll meet — all these people could or can be brought to rage by the mere mention of the IRS.

    Yet all the NYT can do is repeat fictional claims about the amount of money we’re losing to offshore tax “havens”. And the Dems are going to have a hearing where the IRS will get to bitch and moan without restraint. Nowhere in the puff piece, and I expect nowhere in the hearing, is there mention of why people are moving money offshore: because of our insanely high corporate tax rate, rising marginal tax rates and an insanely complex tax system that the IRS itself does not understand but can get you jailed if you break it.

    End rant.

    Haley the Baby-Killer?

    Sully links to this diatribe about how Haley Barbour’s budget cuts to Medicaid are killing babies. It’s possible they are on to something. But it sounds fishy to me.

  • The biggest reason I doubt this analysis is that correlation is not causation, especially when the correlation is two data points. We have one (1) year’s worth of data pointing to a rise in infant mortality. The article sights numerous reasons infant mortality rates have jumped in a number of states. And is there a reason infant deaths might have jumped in 2005 for Mississippi other than Medicaid budget cuts? Perhaps. A massive natural disaster and influx of poor homeless people from one of the worst cities in America might, just might, bump up mortality rates. Let’s see what happens when Louisiana comes out with their 2005 numbers. And what happened in 2006.
  • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Insurance does not equal healthcare. Just because someone doesn’t have Medicaid does not mean they are not getting health care. Their babies are not being born in back alleys and crack houses. If they go to a hospital, they will be admitted, they will get adequate care. Moreover, all poor mothers and babies are eligble for WIC, last time I checked.
  • I’m sorry, but this could be a fluke, despite the 95% confidence interval. It still could be. We’ll have to see when the 2006 numbers come in. But the number of infant deaths is thankfully so small (481) than a big jump might not mean anything (the broader jump throughout the South is more alarming).
  • I think it’s interesting that the authors rant and rave about Medicaid cuts. Yet what do they site as a tremendous success story? The Cary Christian Center . . . a private interest. In fact, precisely the sort of private interest that might arise in a healthier tax environment. Precisely the sort of private interest that might be more common if Medicaid weren’t expanding so rapidly.
  • What these poor people need is not more government handouts. What they need is jobs. Cutting taxes might help create jobs, especially in a state that is 51st in unemployment.
  • That all having been said, I do agree that Medicaid should provide coverage of poor babies — coverage that can be, and often is, granted retroactively. But Barbour’s idea was right, even it the execution, no pun intended, was bad. Medicaid is growing out of control and as it grows, more and more Americans are being booted out of good insurance plans into the Medicaid Gulag. I worked in medicine for 13 years. Medicaid is an utter disaster. We would be far better off just telling doctors to give out their care for free than put poor people and overworked physicians through the rigmarole that pays a pittance for their services.
  • All that having been said, I must admit that it is the politics that makes by BS meter twitter. The NYT specifically, and most lefties generally, have been predicting a massive disaster from welfare cuts for years. Of course, I’m not sure how any disaster can be worse than the destruction visited on the African-American family by the Great Society welfare state. But this is the Left’s first chance, after a decade of welfare reform to say, “See! See! We told you welfare cuts would kill babies!”.

    As I said, maybe they’re right. Maybe Barbour’s budget cuts are killing babies. But I think we need more than one year of data — and a disastrous year at that — before we start pronouncing someone a black baby killer. No?


    Well, he is a Republican I guess.

    Two Numbers in the Dark

    The Heritage Foundation has a completely bullshit study of how much illegal aliens are costing us. Supposedly, the are costing us $2.2 trillion. However

  • This is over ten years. I’m getting sick and tired of this business of projecting things over five or ten years and proclaiming them gigantic.
  • As Heritage itself will attest, this is almost entirely due to our progressive tax system. Illegal aliens tend to be in the lower income brackets and lower income brackets pay very little taxes while consuming enormous benefits. I don’t see that 12 million illegal aliens are necessarily worse than 30 million people living in “poverty”.
  • Here’s what makes me doubt the whole smash. The study bases this on 2/3 of the illegals. But what of the other 1/3? Are they revenue neutral? Revenue positive?
  • And finally, it’s a huge mistake to confound government revenue with national revenue. Are the illegals going to produce $2.2 trillion in goods and services in that period of time? If they’re paying $9,000 per annum in taxes, that means they are growing the economy by at least $40,000 per year. That’s $4 trillion they are contributing to the economy.
  • There’s another Number in the Dark out there — the supposed $400 billion tax hike the Democrats are giving us. First, this is over five years, so it’s actually an $80 billion tax hike. Second, they are not raising taxes, they are allowing the tax cuts to expire. And third, who was it who gave us expiring taxes in the first place? Who was it who, rather than give us a permanent tax cut, gave us a perpetual issue to bash Democrats with? Who was it who had a six year spending orgy?

    Why, geewhillikers, that would be the Republicans!

    They’ve been caught by their own cynical political ploy. Or rather, the America taxpayer has. Yes, the Democrats should extend the tax cuts for “the rich”. I’m getting that tax cut and I’m not rich. But the GOP have only themselves to blame. They empowered the Democrats, in every way imaginable. The Dems must be chuckling now. Thanks to the Republicans, they can raise taxes without a single vote.

    Hot Links

    I always knew iPods were good for you.

    VDH says what I said about Iran, only better. The smart Muslims have figured out how to play the victim. Unforunately, our President is only too happy to oblige them.

    Another story on the crackling infrastructure in this country. The biggest unreported story in our nation is the slow decay of our infrastructure. The money is there to fix all this. All we have to do is stop building bridges to nowhere.

    We’re not opening a dialogue with Iran. Well, no surprise. We missed our chance. After 9/11, the Iranians had a vigil in Tehran to honor the fallen. If I had been Bush, in addition to going to war with Afghanistan, I would have re-opened diplomatic relations with Iran (I said so at the time; too bad I didn’t have a blog). We are not presently at war with Iran and re-opening relations wit them in the wake of 9/11 would have given a huge signal that we are at war with radicals, not with Islam. It might have averted the situation we are in now. We can’t do it now and “reward” them for the abduction. But we should be looking for a way to re-open our embassy.

    Say, for example, if they agree to seal their border and keep insurgents out of Iraq.

    That right-wing rag, the Washington Post, gives a broadside to Nancy Pelosi. She’s may be the first woman speaker, but she’s not the first dumbass to wield the gavel. Sadly, she won’t be the last, either.

    Yeah, privatizing Social Security would be soooo risky. Always remember the four ways money is spent.

    It seems to me that the Supreme Court decision earlier did not so much accept global warming as it kicked the EPA in the head and told them to make a decision about it one way or another.

    I’m not even going to quote this story from Cato on welfare for the wealthy. Read it. And remember what Milton Friedman pointed out. Government tends to help the rich a lot more than it helps the poor.

    Quick Links

    Bush is a conservative. Yeah, right. Conservatives start trade wars all the time!

    Cheerleading is dangerous. So why can’t college cheerleaders get scholarships to balance out Title IX?

    It seems to me Alberto Gonzalez is a in a tight position. If he admits that he talked about the USA firings, then he lied to Congress. If he maintains that he didn’t, that means the firings were organized not by the Attorney General but by the President’s Political Advisors. That would be, to say the least, disturbing.

    Why am I not surprised. At least the NYT inflation-adjusted the figure. Now if they could only adjust it for increasing disposable income. This also means that the idea of a gas tax to decrease our emissions may not work.

    How Bad?

    Is Bush’s record when he makes conservatives pine fo Clinton.

    If Clinton and Bush were graded solely on the basis of fiscal policy, one could argue that their tax and spending records offset each other. But there are other important issues, and Clinton clearly wins the tiebreaker.

    Take trade, for example. At best, Bush has a mixed record. The Central American Free Trade Agreement is a step in the right direction, but his steel tariffs and agricultural subsidies are examples of anti-trade initiatives. Clinton policy was unambiguously pro-trade, however, largely because of the approval and implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that also launched the World Trade Organization.

    Clinton gets a better grade on regulatory policy, as well. Bush signed into law the prohibitively expensive Sarbanes-Oxley law, as well as a market-distorting energy bill. The Clinton years, by contrast, saw the burden of regulation reduced on numerous sectors of the economy, including agriculture, financial services and telecommunications.

    Clinton also beats Bush on federalism. He signed a welfare reform legislation that ended an entitlement program and reduced the central government’s power and authority. On education, Bush went the other direction. His No Child Left Behind Act increased federal control over an area that properly belongs under the purview of state and local governments.

    A net impact of other policy choices — especially if appointments to the courts and regulatory agencies are added to the equation — would reduce Clinton’s score. Yet a more comprehensive analysis would also include the long-term negative impact of Bush’s new prescription drug entitlement, which single-handedly saddled taxpayers with trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities.

    Sigh. I miss gridlock.