At some point between Thanksgiving and December 1, the federal government made history, as the value of outstanding U.S. Treasury securities exceeded $18 trillion—that’s an 18 with 12 trailing zeroes. At some point, such numbers begin to lose their meaning because the amounts exceed most people’s ability to comprehend.
“Government is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else,” wrote the celebrated French legislator, economist, and political theorist Frederic Bastiat 165 years ago. With recent reports out of the Census Bureau indicating nearly half of all Americans are receiving some form of direct government subsidy – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits, housing assistance, veterans’ benefits, etc. – can there be any doubt he was right?
To paraphrase the knight who guarded the Holy Grail in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Ireland has chosen poorly.
The Emerald Isle has decided to make itself decidedly less attractive to people the world over.
Efforts are underway by the Taiwan government for a government led restructuring to avoid bankruptcy (Plan to stop Taiwan’s high-speed rail going bust set for review). Since opening in 2007, this privately financed and operated system has been plagued with ridership well below projections. The Taiwan experience is consistent with the research showing that ridership on high-speed rail lines has been frequently over-projected.
The total federal government spending in 2013 totaled $3,454,253,000,000—over $3.4 trillion—encompassing defense, highway and transportation costs, public education, immigration services, and government worker salaries, to name a few.
It began as the idea of one eccentric entrepreneur, but now has 1.3 million signatories backing it: the case for breaking California up into six separate states is gathering steam. When the Six Californias campaign began, most serious commentators thought it was crackpot scheme, a pipe-dream of a few people that had no hope of gaining traction. They have been proved wrong. To an extent anyway.
Debt is an issue that affects countries all over the world. Almost all countries are in debt as their governments take loans to cover for variations in their tax receipts. Yet while many developed countries such as Greece and Ireland are increasingly facing debt crises of their own, the effect of such debt is not nearly as crippling as it is for developing nations.
According to the Commerce Department, the economy based on its Gross domestic product–the value of its goods and services–fell at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.9% in the first quarter of this year. That was the largest recorded drop since the end of World War II in 1945!
A judge in Sangamon County Circuit Court has blocked a modest reform of Illinois’ pension system for state workers and retirees outside Chicago from taking effect June 1, giving Gov. Pat “Four Counties” Quinn the excuse he’s probably been looking for to block reforms for two of Chicago’s pension plans. (I’ll explain “Four Counties” in a moment.)
For every 100 mortgages being sold in the United States these days, at least 95 of them have government backing. We’re told America has a free-market economy? Not judging by the government’s involvement in housing, arguably the most important market there is. Most people can go years without needing health care. A healthy adult can go weeks without food. We cannot go one day without needing shelter.
Governments have an insatiable appetite for the wealth of their subjects. When governments find it impossible to continue raising taxes or borrowing funds, they have invariably turned to printing paper money to finance their growing expenditures. The resulting inflations have often undermined the social fabric, ruined the economy, and sometimes brought revolution and tyranny in their wake. The political economy of the French Revolution is a tragic example of this.
In campaigning for the presidency, Barrack Obama inspired popular support of millions of voters by eloquently promising to “transform” America with “fundamental” change. Now his popularity is at its all-time low, his signature legislation, Obamacare, has been a disaster, his highly touted—and extremely expensive—stimulus program has failed. He has done nothing to lower the federal debt or tackle the future insolvency of Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.And the economy continues to stumble 58 months after the recession officially ended.
This year marks one hundred years since the beginning of the First World War in the summer of 1914. The Great War, as it used to be called, brought great devastation in its wake. Millions of human lives were lost on the battlefields of Europe; vast amounts of accumulated wealth were consumed to cover the costs of combat; and battles and bombs left a large amount of physical capital in ruins. But the “war to end war,” as it was called, also resulted in another weapon of economic mass destruction – an orgy of paper-money inflations.
A recent article by Paul Rosenberg in Salon contends that Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin and erstwhile running mate of Mitt Romney, exhibits many of the hallmarks of a psychopath. Rosenberg claims that Ryan is “arrogant, manipulative, deceitful, and remorseless.” Whether Ryan is guilty of any or all of these sins or not, they seem to fit the bill of another prominent figure in Washington, DC: Barack Obama. Is the president a psychopath?
Every year the percentage of American high school graduates enrolling in college increases. Yet the cost of attaining those degrees has been growing at an astronomical pace, one that is harmful and unsustainable.
In “Paul Krugman and Detroit, Part 1” I discussed the New York Times columnist’s failure to understand why Detroit currently resembles the United States in Atlas Shrugged. But Krugman’s error[…]