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ę Top Headline Comments 1-16-13 | Main | Wednesday Morning Link Dump Ľ
January 16, 2013

DOOM: Naked came I into the world, and naked shall I leave it


The real debt danger is from people's sense of entitlement. And their unwillingness to make difficult choices. Ultimately, a representative government is reactive, not proactive. Things are the way they are because the majority of the people insist on it.

You know...if I had to borrow 40% of the money I need to pay my bills every month, Iíd be fairly alarmed. When you come up a few bucks short at the end of the month for necessary bills, you can cut back: get rid of the cell phone, stop eating out, whatever. But when your monthly nut is routinely running to almost twice what you can pay, youíre kind of out of options. Itís probably time to re-examine your resistance to sleeping outdoors and pooping outdoors, and...well, doing everything else outdoors, because outdoors is where youíre going to be living before long.

Bad news: recent retirees will outlive the Social Security trust fund. Worse news: most of the estimates on the exhaustion of the trust fund (in 2033 or thereabouts) are over-optimistic. Even worse news: there probably is no politically-viable way to fix this problem, hence uncontrolled collapse is almost certain. Good news: wasteland rats are a good source of protein, and The Humongous doesnít mind if you hunt on his land as long as you pay the proper tribute and stay well away from his precious reserves of gasoline. (If youíre wondering why Democrats resist means-testing Social Security when itís such an obvious cost-saving measure, hereís why: it would expose Social Security as the pure welfare program it is, rather than the egalitarian ďpension planĒ itís always been billed as. Moving to means-test Social Security in effect exposes the whole program as a lie. It becomes just another redistributionist liberal government program, and a completely unsustainable one at that.)

Just a reminder: this jackwagon came within an inch of being the President of the United States.

I never forget that I won lifeís lottery by simply being born in the United States of America during this age of the world. I always remind myself that while much of my success is my own doing, a lot of it is simply due to luck and the grace of a kindly and benevolent God. I am not notably smarter or more industrious -- not better in any moral or spiritual sense -- than any random person elsewhere on the planet. My good fortune was in being born an American, where I could bring my unique talents and abilities fully to bear on my own behalf. Our forefathers gifted us with a culture that just happens to be splendidly suitable for raising people up out of poverty, provided they put in the effort to make it happen. Itís not race, itís not class, itís not gender: itís culture.

This story also makes clear that many liberal policy preferences hurt the very people they claim to want to help: the poor. Well-off people have slack; they can absorb financial blows. Poor people canít. To me, a higher sales-tax means that I donít buy that new flat-screen TV for the bedroom, maybe, or I forgo eating out at a restaurant once or twice a week. To a poor person, it means having two meals a day instead of three. It means walking instead of driving because you canít afford gas for the car (or the insurance). It means being chilly all winter because it costs too much to turn the thermostat above sixty degrees.

This is also why I always say that although liberals claim to act on behalf of ďthe peopleĒ, they donít like actual people all that much. Individual human beings, with individual hopes and dreams. This is why, in spite of more than half a century of failure in social policy, the Democrats keep shoveling money into the furnace. The idea is what counts, and the unearned sense of virtue it gives liberals, not the actual results.

Richard Epstein (PBUH, may he live a thousand years) asks why the Federal government is locking unwilling citizens into Medicare. Answer: Ponzi schemes collapse when suckers quit paying into them. (Iíll bet you didnít know that if you renounce your benefits under Medicare Part A, you must renounce your Social Security benefits too.) Money quote:

It would take only a few sentences of legislation to reverse this authoritarian excess. For an age that values individual freedom of choice, that correction would take hours to make. But we live in more perilous and politicized times, so it is likely that the matter will never receive any Congressional attention at all. It is a pity how far this country has strayed from its own constitutional ideals on small as well as large issues.

Chinaís demographic problems make our own ďBoomer bulgeĒ seem trivial. Combine the generational imbalance with the gender imbalance caused by the artificial selection (via abortion) of boys over girls, and you have the raw materials for a huge amount of social unrest.

The Bundesbank is repatriating some gold currently stored in the New York Fed. Is this something? The ZeroHedge writer thinks it means that the worldís central banks may be losing faith in each other, but thatís not necessarily the case. It might simply be that the Germans want to hold onto their own assets. In uncertain time it's a good idea to have your most valuable assets close at hand.

Keith Hennessey is a lot smarter than me about the politics of economics, but even so, I find his argument here less than compelling. Basically, heís trying to get the House GOP to play ďbunts and sacrifice fliesĒ baseball with the budget -- give the Democrats their debt increase, but tie it to cuts in spending. This seems unlikely to happen, for two reasons. One: in historical terms, the government spends every dime it is allowed to spend. If it is allowed to spend more, it will spend more. Two: the GOP may not have the unity of purpose or political will to carry through such a strategy, which would require budget fights with the Democrats at three-month intervals.

The Obama Administration announces that the budget will be late. This is against the law, but His Majesty the King Barack Hussein Obama finds this law inconvenient to the Royal schedule. Líetat, cíest moi, declares King Obama, waving a languid hand and commanding the court jester to caper for His Majestyís amusement.

The Social Security payroll tax holiday ends; low-income groups hardest hit. Many of the people who are complaining voted for Obama, proving that thereís no pleasing these people. They voted for higher taxes, they get higher taxes, and then they complain that their taxes went up. To which I reply: youíre getting what you voted for, chumps. Good and hard. Enjoy!

Roger Kimball: Sandy wrecked my house, but bureaucrats are preventing me from fixing it. This is where Leviathan does the most damage, I think. Tyranny is always a danger in centralized governments, but a greater danger is the proliferation and growth of bureaucracies. The rules become ever more Byzantine, ever more contradictory, ever more pointless, and ever more expensive (both to implement and comply with). The bureaucracies themselves achieve a life outside the body politic: they persist, age after age, irrespective of their political origin. Their sole imperative (regardless of their ostensible purpose) is to perpetuate themselves. They are an amoeba, growing to engulf everything they touch -- not because they are evil, necessarily, but simply because itís in their nature to do so. They cannot help themselves. Bureaucracies -- lethargic, slow, risk-averse, rules-bound, pedantic, expensive, often causing more harm than good -- are perhaps the very worst creation of human society.

Teh Bernank doesnít care for this debt ceiling thing at all. Putting an upper limit on how much a government is allowed to borrow is just crazy-talk, apparently.

Peter Morici: You know, Iím beginning to think that a college education might not be such a good investment.

Remember how Germany seemed immune to the problems besetting the rest of the Eurozone? Yeah, about that....

The French would snort some superior Gallic laughter towards the Teutonic chumps to the north, except that, you know, their economy is in the toilet too.

The revenge of the gold bugs: trust in fiat currencies is eroding. The globalization of inflation proceeds apace. This is really all Bernankeís QE did: it exported inflation to other countries. It was only a matter of time before the other countries fought back.

What is that dread sound I hear? A death-rattle, dry bones knocking together in a crypt? It is the VAT, that destroyer of economies and scourge of prosperity. Flee! Flee! Run for your lives! (Some kind of consumption tax may make sense, but only if two conditions are met: it is a tax on actual consumption, not on production of goods; and it is imposed in place of rather than in addition to the income tax.)

People are raiding their retirement funds to pay for current expenses. I have a limited amount of sympathy for these people as a rule, because these ďexpensesĒ are more often than not easily avoidable forms of debt (credit cards, car loans, student loans, etc.). On the other hand: itís their money. If they spend it, thatís their right -- I just donít want them to come whining to me twenty years from now, crying that they donít have enough money for retirement and would I please give them some of my money.You chose to buy an RV and a boat on credit, pal. You chose to send Junior to an Ivy League college to get a degree in Interpretive Dance. You chose to vacation in Europe every summer. I might be willing to listen if your tale of woe includes a massive and unforseen catastrophe, accident, or illness; otherwise...well, I hear that Wal-Mart is always looking for greeters.

Also, note the way the WaPo not-so-subtly bashes 401(k) plans. Thereís nothing particularly wrong with how 401(k)ís are structured; the problem is that people donít leave the money in them alone. Itís called a retirement fund for a reason. If you take out a loan against that asset to buy a boat, the problem is with you, not with the plan. But liberals, as ever, believe they must save you from yourself -- personal responsibility is so over, donít you know. Much better to let that serious, careful, and fiscally sound entity known as the government manage your money instead. Because if anyone knows how to manage money, itís the U.S. government.

Yep, itís all good. No problem here.

ObamaCare: the policy equivalent of poop-sacking your neighbor. Stomp on the flaming bag to find out whatís in it!

President Obama as Judge Smails: ďYouíll get nothing and like it!Ē

Hizzoner Rahm hired some of the best minds in Chicago to study the problem of retiree healthcare costs. The verdict: Chicago is screwed. Solutions? Pshaw! The panel wasn't convened to come up with actual solutions; they were just being paid to state the completely f**king obvious. Solutions are for some other group of suckers to figure out.

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posted by Monty at 08:00 AM

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