Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Government Is Wasting Ever More Of Your Money

We get so little for our tax dollars. And ever less.

Our government has long made us pay so much in taxes, fees, fines ($300 for walking my dog off-leash in an empty park?), etc for labyrinthine, wildly overlapping and redundant government bureaucracies, billion-dollar non-responses to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, wildly bloated space programs, and boondoggles like bridges to nowhere, $85 hammers, billions in Medicare and other fraud, government "businesses" that despite massive spending, go bankrupt (e.g., Amtrak, the Post Office, Medicare, and Social Security). And don't get me started on the endless pork-barrel spending: for example, The Big Dig, which cost you and me $14.6 billion to move a 3.5-mile road underground. (Tip O' Neill got it funded while he was House Speaker.)

Incomprehensibly, the waste of our money is accelerating, which can only mean higher taxes and/or printing more money, which endangers our future. We're broke and if China calls in our debt, we're finished). Especially at risk will be our children and grandchildren. And lest this sound like catastrophizing, a bond rating agency in China has already lowered the U.S.'s credit rating!

If you had control of your tax dollars, would you spend on these current mammoth-ticket items that the people you've elected are now spending your money on:
  • A trillion dollars to invade and try to prop up a developing nation,Iraq.
  • Enormous sums to do the same in Afghanistan.
  • "Investing" in alternative energy schemes that have been rejected by every energy country in America. If such investments had a reasonable chance of paying off, even if it took a decade, at least one leading company would invest in it. Yet, with our tax dollars, the government chooses to invest in these "sloppy seconds," which the working and middle class, which pays the most painful share of taxes, wonders how they'll find the money to pay the rent. Examples: solar energy, without tax subsidies would die because they're simply never going to be cost effective. Another example: ethanol. The government gives huge taxpayer-paid subsidies to corporations like Archer Daniels Midland to grow more corn for ethanol, which lowers our gas mileage, gums up our engines, and, net, saves no energy. (Not to mention drives up food costs worldwide--which most affects the poor and starving.)
  • Extending unemployment checks to 99 weeks, almost two years. Nearly every one of my career counseling clients who are on unemployment admit that each extension demotivates them from looking for work.
  • The $814 billion "stimulus" package. President Obama promised that the unemployment rate would not exceed 8 percent. Well, 18 months later, it's 9.5%, and at least double that if you count the people who have become so discouraged that they're not even looking for work. And the percentage of people who are underemployed is additionally enormous. And liberals speak of the need of yet more tax dollars for Son of Stimulus?! That stimulus would, yes, rebuild some roads. But again, with so many people un- and underemployed, worrying about how they'll pay the rent, the government wants to take their money and repave a road, or as one Midwesterner said, "Replace an old traffic light with a new one?"
We desperately need legislators who would be as prudent with your money as they'd be with their own.


Anonymous said...

Then there's the 7 T bailout of the financial industry

Time was, that was serious enough money to hide it and act like the 700B everyone was admitting to was the iceberg, not the tip.

Fortunately, China'd lose a lot of dough if they asked for much of their money back. As long as we keep Iraq stable enough to supply them with oil, they'll keep letting us live here.

On the stimulus bill, McCain's adviser and Moody analyst Zandi says he would have made it bigger, and that it did keep some folks employed.

While a lot of folks probably aren't pounding the pavement as hard as they could be if they were about to be on the street, most of them have been paying for unemployment insurance for a long time. It's a benefit they've paid for. The unemployment rate in the Bay Area is well north of 10%, I think it's closer to 12%?

if I were laid off right now, I'd lose money if I took a gig paying less than 15 an hour.

I'd probably spend the first three to six months getting current trade certifications, test the waters, and if there wasn't work here, head overseas for a time. However, I don't have a mortgage or a family and I have enough dough in the bank that I could afford to relocate and offer my services to, say, the Pan American Health Organization for free on a trial basis.

If I had a mortgage, would it be better to take low-wage work and default on the loan or take a gig well below what I'm capable of?

The Wall Street Journal recently told me to knife my bank and walk if I was underwater.

Paraphrasing, "they'd do it to you in a heartbeat - it's a business decision" -- and these big players certainly were willing to let the taxpayers absorb a lot of their junk.

They make a good noise now, about hating taking TARP funds. Since Bloomberg's FOIA for details on the much larger programs has been denied, we'll never know who, exactly, backed up the truck to the Fed and drove off with how much money in exchange for garbage assets - half million dollar loans in dodgy parts of Antioch, 300k notes in Fresno and Tracy...

But whenever I see folks getting wound up about the deficit and trying to put things like unemployment insurance or even TARP and the stimulus bill down as sizeable contributors, I think again about the costs of the tax cuts passed in 2000-2002, the wars started in that time frame, and that enormous financial sector subsidy that no one wants to remember.

(I fear we don't want to remember it because it's still being kept off the books, and the real national debt is half again what it's projected at.)

Jeffrie said...

Expect the government to start wasting tax dollars on this invasion of privacy any day now.

napamike said...

Hi Marty- agreed theres plenty of waste. Hopefully people won't be so apathetic at election time and get the wool pulled over their eyes again.
Did you see the article in WSJ about the $170,000 in stimulus money that went for solar panels at a fish hatchery in Montana? They won't start breaking even on the cost vs. savings for 70 years. Problem is the life expectancy of the panels is 25 years.... And I am sure this is just a drop in the bucket.

Anonymous said...

What I find funny is that there were so many wasteful actions performed under the last administration too. The only thing is that we allowed ourselves to be distracted by the war. Shame that now all of a sudden we want to attribute everything that is wrong with this country to the president that has only been in office a short time.

What I find most troubling about your position is that it is the same thing most of us on the Right are saying. Shame on us for not taking some responsibility for this.

And BTW, I have to disagree with 2 points you made. While your clients may say that extending unemployment demotivates them...most of mine say the opposite. They need the extra help but it motivates them to look for work that actually pays the bills. Most hardworking people don't like to ask for a handout. This is humiliating for many of my clients.

The other point about the unemployment was a baseline. While noble (yet a bad move) for Obama to assume he could keep it down...let's be real, it's those big companies you defend so passionately that are laying off people. Why? To continue to keep their pockets fat.

If we had never decided in the early 2000s to outsource so many jobs, we would have had to face facts then that we were creating a country built on other nations' backbones. Now, what we need to do is come together and encourage big businesses to go back to the "Made In America" mentality.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair to read Marty's essay as singling out Obama for the debt.

Although he was never particularly energetic in opposition to the wars when they were Bush's babies, I think he understands very well that they started under Bush and most of their expense to date was incurred under Bush. Likewise the ethanol program - that was a bipartisan supported program, but it was heavily supported by the Bush administration.

One thing about that which I wish more folks knew/admitted/cared about (I don't know which of the categories Marty falls into) - one of its most important impacts is not on gumming up anyone's engine, or impacting fuel economy, but on driving up food costs around the world.

Burning corn that could be used as feed in engines is pretty much the height of carelessness for others.

Anonymous said...

I remember telling conservative relatives that I was against the invasion of Iraq because I didn't think we could afford it. At the same time the U.S. invaded Iraq there was a large tax cut for the upper 2%. I was accused of being a terrorist sympathizer. How ironic that now the same people are decrying the deficit.