I expect it was intended to convince me Republicans are better than Democrats because they are, on average, more fiscally responsible. But that is not how I see it.
What I see is that Republicans are a little less fiscally irresponsible, but so what? They are still fiscally irresponsible.
If the graphic concerned murders rather than money, would anyone think Republicans were somehow better because they only killed 159 people while the Democrats killed 372?
The fact is, for far too long, both parties have been spending taxpayer money like drunken sailors on leave in a whorehouse. (And isn’t ‘whorehouse’ the perfect metaphor for Congress?)
Keep in mind that the numbers in the graphic reflect only state debt. The $15 trillion federal debt is a horse of a different color. Heck, it’s a whole ‘nother animal entirely.
Neither party has anything to be proud of and would have much to be ashamed of, if any of them had any shame. But they don’t. Except, perhaps, for Ron Paul.
I suppose, as voters, we can use the numbers above to decide in November, when it comes time to vote, how deeply in debt we prefer our state be, but really, it’s just a matter of bleed me fast or bleed me slow.
I’ve long held the opinion that very little government does actually makes our lives better. Quite the opposite. Whenever government sticks its nose into anything, quality goes down, cost goes up, and we have to deal with a whole passel of unintended consequences.
You might think something as basic and simple as organic food would be immune to government meddling. You might think organic food is food that is 100% as nature intended, with nothing added or subtracted. You might think that, but you’d be wrong, as John Sununu demonstrates in his column today, which is based on a New York Times article, also below.
Uncle Sam subverts organic farming
Once upon a time, all you needed to be an organic farmer in America was a pair of Birkenstocks and a commitment to keep your products chemical-free. Those idealistic days of the 1990s are long gone. Today, organic farming is a $30 billion industry dominated by Big Agriculture, backed up by Uncle Sam and a federal rulebook that gets longer every day.
In the halls of Congress, the rhetoric never changes: Vote against new regulations and you side with big business; support tough rules and side with the little guy. But history tells us that, far from restraining the power of big companies, an overbearing regulatory bureaucracy benefits them just about every time. Last month, the White House released e-mails detailing the deal it cut with PhRMA — the drug industry’s lobbying arm — to win support for Obamacare. And the size and market share of America’s biggest banks have only grown since the passage of Dodd-Frank banking regulations.
But if those examples hold too much partisan history for you, how about organic farming? As The New York Times reported recently, “the industry’s image — contented cows grazing on the green hills of family-owned farms — is mostly pure fantasy.”
In 1997 the US Department of Agriculture first proposed a set of national standards for the industry. They became the law of the land in 2002. Today, the National Organic Standards Board keeps a list of 250 non-organic food additives that can be used under the “certified organic” label. That’s three times the number listed just 10 years ago. As the Soviets proved time and again, a good central committee can kill just about anything.
Did you catch that in the last paragraph above? The National Organic Standards Board allows “certified organic” food to contain one or more of 250 non-organic food additives! One wonders what they allow in non-certified organic food.
I had no idea there ever was a National Organic Standards Board, much less that it allows my “organic” food to be adulterated with who-knows-what?
Once again, government sticks it’s nose into something and royally messes it up. Is anyone surprised?
Here is the New York Times story Sununu references. You’ll want to read it all. It’s an eye-opener.
Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?
Michael J. Potter is one of the last little big men left in organic food.
More than 40 years ago, Mr. Potter bought into a hippie cafe and “whole earth” grocery here that has since morphed into a major organic foods producer and wholesaler, Eden Foods.
But one morning last May, he hopped on his motorcycle and took off across the Plains to challenge what organic food — or as he might have it, so-called organic food — has become since his tie-dye days in the Haight district of San Francisco.
The fact is, organic food has become a wildly lucrative business for Big Food and a premium-price-means-premium-profit section of the grocery store. The industry’s image — contented cows grazing on the green hills of family-owned farms — is mostly pure fantasy. Or rather, pure marketing. Big Food, it turns out, has spawned what might be called Big Organic.
Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Health Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.
Over the last decade, since federal organic standards have come to the fore, giant agri-food corporations like these and others — Coca-Cola, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft and M&M Mars among them — have gobbled up most of the nation’s organic food industry. Pure, locally produced ingredients from small family farms? Not so much anymore.
All of which riles Mr. Potter, 62. Which is why he took off in late May from here for Albuquerque, where the cardinals of the $30-billion-a-year organic food industry were meeting to decide which ingredients that didn’t exactly sound fresh from the farm should be blessed as allowed ingredients in “organic” products. Ingredients like carrageenan, a seaweed-derived thickener with a somewhat controversial health record. Or synthetic inositol, which is manufactured using chemical processes.
Mr. Potter was allowed to voice his objections to carrageenan for three minutes before the group, the National Organic Standards Board.
“Someone said, ‘Thank you,’ ” Mr. Potter recalls.
And that was that.
Two days later, the board voted 10 to 5 to keep carrageenan on the growing list of nonorganic ingredients that can be used in products with the coveted “certified organic” label. To organic purists like Mr. Potter, it was just another sign that Big Food has co-opted — or perhaps corrupted — the organic food business.
Has any of the above changed your mind about spending more for “organic” food?
I know I’ll be looking for Eden Foods products as well ss those from the few other still-really-organic producers mentioned. And Whole Foods or not, I’ll be taking a much closer look at package labels from now on.
It’s no secret that The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, not-so-affectionately know to the relatively few libertarians and conservatives living here as The People’s Republic, has been for generations now, an ongoing experiment in socialism. The Democratic party controls state government and most city and town governments, which is why a bad idea like Romneycare got passed in 2005 and why it hasn’t been rescinded despite it’s failures, not the least of which are insurance rates that have doubled, tripled, and even worse for some folks.
Much in the news lately have been Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. For those who do not know, they are essentially welfare debit cards. Every month, the state reloads them with whatever “benefits” the welfare recipient is due and the person is then free to spend the welfare money however he or she wants.
Now, you might think that folks who are, ostensibly, so poor that they qualify for such benefits might be using the money they get to buy as much nutritious food as possible for themselves and their families. You might think a welfare system might, in fact, restrict the use of such benefits to things like milk and bread, chicken and beef, vegetables and fruit, and so on. In some places, you’d be correct. But not here in The People’s Republic, where EBT benefits currently may be used for a wide range of purchases including getting tattoos, buying jewelry, guns, and booze, getting your nails done at a salon, on cruise ships, and in casinos and adult entertainment venues.
Stories abound of folks standing in a grocery checkout line behind someone whose purchase consists primarily of luxury items like lobster, filet mignon and porterhouse steaks, and junk food, like snack cakes, chips, and soda and watching as they swipe their EBT card to pay for it all.
The reactive legislature here, thanks to a spate of embarrassing news stories about EBT abuse, has been trying to change the law to stop some of the abuse, but our governor, Deval Patrick, wants the folks who vote for him and his ilk to continue to be able to buy what they want, when they want it.
What will happen in the end? If things go as they usually do in our statehouse, they’ll likely “compromise” and ban use of the cards at casinos and strip joints, maybe even liquor stores, but I can’t imagine them restricting the purchase of luxury and junk food. Can’t make those reliable voters too angry, after all.
Quite a place, The People’s Republic, eh?
What can welfare benefits be used for where you live?
I’m pretty good at math, so I did some the other day. I wanted to figure out where I stood, retirement-wise. It turns out, I won’t be standing, but sitting right here in front of the computer monitor working. Social security and our meager savings will not come close to allowing us to live comfortably here in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts. And with our first grandchild due next month, I’ve abandoned all hope of convincing Martha to move.
As it turns out, though, we’re not alone. Lots of others are facing seniorhood with less-than-stellar financial resources, too.
5 Steps to Greater Retirement Self-Reliance
Poverty rates have been rising for older Americans. They’re not alone, of course. The meager recovery from the recession has left millions of us worse off. Younger people can at least hope for a rebound when things get better. But it is hard to find a silver lining in any of the clouds that hang over older folks.
Tax rates are set to rise. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are under the gun. Federal and state spending will be under pressure for years, if not decades. And the flood of aging baby boomers promises to intensify demand for senior health and safety-net programs, just when it’s clear that the money for any expanded efforts is just not there.
The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) recently took a look at poverty rates among people age 50 and older, and how they changed between 2001 and 2009. Looking at four different groups of older people, here is how their poverty rates have changed:
Ages 50 to 64: from 9.1 percent in 2001 to 12.3 percent in 2009
Ages 65 to 74: from 8.4 percent to 9.4 percent
Ages 75 to 84: from 8.8 percent to 10.7 percent
Ages 85 and older: from 15.9 percent in 2001 to 14.6 percent in 2009
Number 3 on the list, delaying retirement, is not even an option for me. It’s a necessity.
Even if I do delay collecting Social inSecurity until I’m 70, we still won’t have enough to live on comfortably. So the bottom line of my math exercise is, barring a big lottery win, I’ll be working until I die.
What’s your situation?
If you’re approaching “that age,” will you have enough to retire comfortably?
If you’re younger, do you have a concrete plan to generate enough savings to retire?
And how do you feel the nation’s ongoing shift to socialism will affect you?
By now you’ve heard or read that the Supreme Court essentially upheld Obamacare. They did it by first telling Congress they can’t force you to buy health insurance or anything else. But they can tax you for not buying health insurance.
See the difference?
No. I don’t either.
By converting the mandate to buy insurance into a tax for not buying it, the Court told Congress they can tax you for not doing something Congress wants you to do.
Apparently, five of Justices thought this was a perfectly reasonable interpretation of what the Founders intended when they penned the Constitution.
What’s the next thing we’ll be taxed for not buying?
Let’s look at some hypothetical future taxes Congress could well decide to impose:
$$$ Any adult citizen who does not own a late-model, General Motors automobile or truck will have to pay an annual tax of $500. Late model is defined as less than six years old.
$$$ Anyone who does not buy a pair of Nike sneakers each year will be taxed $130.
$$$ All adults who don’t own a smartphone will incur an annual tax of $690
$$$ All taxpayers who do not purchase at least one round-trip airline ticket annually must pay a “non-support of the airline industry” tax of $999.
$$$ All families that cannot provide per-person proof of purchase of 1460 servings of fruit and 1460 servings of vegetables will incur a healthcare offset tax of $1500 per family member.
I could go on and on and on, but you see the point.
The Supreme Court essentially declared freedom of choice dead in America. Or maybe not dead, but taxable.
Can’t you just see all the heads in Washington spinning with visions of all the taxes they can impose, now that you can be taxed for not buying something…or anything?
The conversion of America to socialism, which FDR began in the 1930s, is nearly complete, now.
Comments? Or not.
Does it really matter anymore what any of us “little people’ think?
Two related items today concerning Our Dear leader.
First up, The Smartest President Ever® and his handlers appear to be getting desperate for donations. Apparently, the big bucks from Hollywood and other 2008-campaign sycophants is not rolling in this time around now that everyone has seen what their money bought them the last time. So Obama & Co. decided to appeal to the little people. And what kind of appeal did they come up with? Here it is, straight from the official Obama-Biden blog.
That’s right! Obama and his ilk think you should celebrate your 21st birthday, your 50th anniversary…even your upcoming wedding by directing those who will celebrate with you to give him the money they would have given to or spent on you as a gift.
Talk about the audacity of hope!
It seems there is no limit to the man’s arrogance, to his cluelessness, to his shamelessness.
Will he and his cabal be telling you to forgo you children’s birthday parties and send him the money you would have spent on that, too?
Or maybe he’ll be looking for your vacation money…or trying to convince you you really don’t need new shoes.
Heck, as his wife likes to remind everyone, lots of us can afford to skip a few meals. Will he soon be telling us to only eat once a day and give him the rest of the grocery money?
By the time you finished reading the headline, you probably already guessed the answer. They’re spending the money because the dopes you elected to Congress, and the myriad bureaucracies they’re created, think it’s just fine that you have to work a little harder, pay a little more, do without a little more often, so private companies, corporations, and associates won’t have to spend their own profits to promote their businesses.
Along with those mentioned in the title, oodles of companies like Blue Diamond Growers, Tyson Foods, Purina, Del Monte, and the Cotton Council International receive millions of taxpayer dollars every year to spend overseas promoting their businesses. That last one, the Cotton Council, received $20 million to create a game show that’s supposed to promote cotton use, in India, a country that produces so much cotton, they are a net exporter of the stuff.
Below is a link to the report published this month by Senator Tom Coburn titled Treasure Map: The Market Access Program’s Bounty of Waste, Loot and Spoils Plundered from Taxpayer.
In the report, Coburn writes:
At the request of Congress, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has spent more than two billion dollars on the Market Access Program (MAP), a government program that uses your tax dollars to subsidize the advertising costs of profitable agriculture companies and trade associations doing business overseas.
Many Americans might respond with disbelief that we are paying for private companies to market their products in the first place. That we are doing so overseas is even more troubling.
With a host of other agricultural priorities, it is time to reduce funding for this program. At a time when we are cutting funding for our troops, taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the filming of Reality-TV shows in India, wine tastings for foreign journalists, pet food advertising, and even to advertise pet shampoo anymore. We need to make tough choices.
As the federal government has amassed more than $15.6 trillion in debt, or nearly $50,000 per American, and as Congress borrows more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends, it is now time to scrutinize every federal program, no matter its size, shape or beneficiary. Congress has a duty to root out duplicative and inefficient programs. It must also learn to set priorities as budgets inevitably constrict and determine whether programs are consistent with a proper constitutional role for the federal government.
The time has come to debate whether the federal government should be in the business of promoting private market goods to foreign buyers.
While I agree with Coburn that Congress should be eliminating duplicate programs, I’d go one further and eliminate ALL programs that use taxpayer dollars to benefit businesses and individuals. And I strongly disagree that it’s time to debate anything. It’s time to act.
America can no long afford to waste tax dollars, 40% of which are being borrowed. It is time to eliminate programs and the bureaucracies that administer them and not just those which relate to agriculture or food. The Federal government has grown into a bloated behemoth and the time has come for emergency bariatric surgery.
I’m not one who lives in the past. However, when it comes to the housing market and mortgages, I do long for the old days.
Back in the 70′s and early 80s, I was a real estate broker. In those days, we didn’t need banks to “pre-approve” buyers. We did our own calculations to determine if buyers were likely to be able to qualify for a mortgage and, unless someone lied to us, it was rare that a deal fell apart because the buyers could not get financing.
In those days, most lenders required mortgage payments, which included property tax and insurance escrows, at or below 28% of the combined household income. And they wanted to see all debt, including credit cards, auto loans, and whatever, no higher than 35%. They did this, I believe, because they wanted to make sure they’d get their monthly payments on time, to help insure against buyers’ temporary financial setbacks due to illness or loss of a job, and because foreclosing was an expensive business that created nothing but ill-will.
Of course, in those days, there were a whole lot more local banks instead of national megabanks on every corner. And government mostly kept its nose out of the business. Little did brokers then know what was coming.
Fast forward to today, when government interference has tortured and distorted the mortgage market and banking business, and we have ever more regulations being promulgated by various busybodies in agencies hell-bent on justifying their existence. It’s gotten so bad, even critics of the banking business are starting to complain about all the regulations.
Bank Critic Goodman Sees Lending Chill in Regulations: Mortgages
Laurie Goodman, who says no analysts have been more critical of bank mortgage practices than her team at Amherst Securities Group LP, is siding with lenders when it comes to a flurry of new rules intended to protect homebuyers.
“We’re piling tighter standards on top of already tight credit standards, and because you have so many different entities responsible for making these rules no one is really looking at the interaction,” said Goodman, who’s based in New York and is a member of the Fixed Income Analysts Society’s Hall of Fame. “The combined effects could be devastating.”
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Housing and Urban Development are among regulators trying to reshape mortgage lending after poor underwriting contributed to a housing crash that triggered the worst financial crisis in seven decades. The proposals include new tests on borrowers’ ability to repay, guidelines for servicers and rules on origination fees.
Lenders already have been tightening credit standards even as borrowing costs fall to record lows. With the housing market showing signs of stabilizing, after home prices plunged more than 35 percent from a 2006 peak, banks are opposing some of the proposals on the grounds that it will make it harder for them to extend loans.
The concerns raised by Goodman should be taken seriously because she’s not overly sympathetic to the banks, said Representative Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat who’s on the Financial Services Committee. Regulators should make sure that requirements intending to protect consumers against abuses don’t make credit unavailable to people who ought to get a mortgage and could afford a home, Miller said.
The simple fact is that as long as government, which can’t even run itself with any degree of efficiency, continues to distort the mortgage and banking markets with regulations designed to achieve social goals, we will never recover to the point of the market equilibrium we lived with when I was a broker.
Yes, back then, there were very nice people who could not afford to buy their dream house. There were folks who could not afford to buy any house. But those who did buy a house did so with the knowledge that only extreme adversity was likely to jeopardize their home.
If we really want to straighten out the housing market as quickly as possible, we’ll get government completely out of the business and let lenders return to setting qualifications and terms they know will ensure the greatest return on their investments, which will translate into the greatest number of people qualifying for and obtaining mortgages they can well-afford to live with.
I was twenty-four going on twenty-five when I moved out of my parent’s house back in he ’70s. I can still remember the conflicted look on my mother’s face when I told her I’d found an apartment and would be leaving in a few weeks. On the one hand, she was happy to see me get out on my own, something that was long overdue. On the other hand, the loss of the 10% of my poker winnings would make a dent in the household income. I was living the life of a gambler in those days and doing well. But I’d recently come to realize that if I wanted any sort of normal life, I had to get a real job, which I did. Once the crappy, low-paying job was secured, it was time to leave the nest.
I moved into the cheapest apartment I could find in a decent neighborhood. It was on the second floor of an old house and looked it’s age. It was spacious, but to get to the bathroom, you had to go out into the hallway that was used by the tenant on the third floor. My first order of business when I moved in was, with the landlord’s permission, to cut an opening in the shared wall and install a door from the apartment into the bathroom, then seal the door from the hallway.
I learned some important lessons in that apartment, not the least of which was that staying warm costs money. I leaned that one morning when I woke to an apartment in which you could store milk without it spoiling. Not only did I have to arrange for an oil delivery, the guy wanted an extra twenty bucks to re-prime the furnace. The second heat-related lesson I learned was that a hundred gallons of oil doesn’t last very long in an apartment with leaky windows. That was when I learned about weatherproofing.
There were many more lessons, the costs of food and utilities among them, and the fact that girls seemed to look more favorably on guys who had their own place.
Despite shivering many a winter night with the heat set at 50, despite eating mostly canned food because I couldn’t afford a refrigerator or take-out food, despite the mostly found-on-the-street-on-trash-day furniture I had, despite everything, it never once occurred to me that I should move back to may parent’s house. I loved the freedom and independence too much.
Apparently, these days, lots of young folks feel differently.
Being 30 and Living With Your Parents Isn’t Lame — It’s Awesome
Just how much of a bummer is it to be well past the age of adulthood and still living under your parent’s roof? As this living arrangement grows increasingly common, the perception is that it’s not so bad after all. In fact, living with mom and dad can be pretty sweet. According to a new survey, young adults who live with their parents are nearly as likely to say they are satisfied with their housing situation as those who live on their own.
Last fall, a study revealed that the number of young adults living with their parents had soared. Prior to the recession, 4.7 million Americans ages 25 to 34 lived with their folks. As of last year, though, the number had increased to 5.9 million, thanks largely to years of widespread high unemployment and underemployment for young workers—who often simply did not have the money to move out of their own.
According to a new Pew Research poll, 21.6% of Americans ages 25 to 34 now live in multigenerational households. The figure has risen steadily since 1980, when it measured at just 11%, and it spiked, unsurprisingly, starting in 2007.
Some may assume that these young adults are desperate to move out on their own. Living with your parents just has to be demoralizing, perhaps even a bit soul-crushing. Another recent survey, timed to be published for Valentine’s Day, made a strong case that living with your parents does nothing for your love life.
But in the new Pew survey, the attitudes and optimism of young adults living with their parents aren’t that different from that of young adults living on their own. Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) of those living with mom and dad say they are satisfied with their family lives, compared with a slightly higher percentage (73%) of those living on their own who report the same. While 49% of adults out on their own declare themselves satisfied with their present housing situation, 44% of those living with their parents can say the same thing. Roughly the same portion of both groups (83% with parents vs. 84% on their own) believes that they will have enough money down the line to live the kind of life they want.
In a column published by the Los Angeles Times over the weekend, one college grad forced to move back home explained why her living arrangements have proved, surprisingly, to be pretty great:
After four years of dorm living in New York City, with fire alarms that wrenched us from bed at 2:30 a.m., cursing whatever drunk sophomore had pulled the emergency lever “for fun,” I appreciated the quiet. I loved having a house to myself, 9 to 5. I loved hosting elaborate meals for my parents’ friends, the overworked adults sighing with relief into their glasses of wine. I loved my parents, come to that, and the long conversations we had on world events prompted by my hours in the kitchen listening to NPR.
How nice that she can hang around listening to NPR all day. What a life, eh? I wonder if it ever occurs to her that her parents might like the opportunity to hang around all day, too, but they’re too busy working to support themselves and her college-degreed butt. Or maybe they’d like have the occasional spontaneous romantic evening without worrying about her walking in at an inopportune moment.
I suppose it never occurs to her, or to many of Generation Cupcake, that life is sometimes uncomfortable and hard. And I suppose it’s the fault of her and other parents who dedicated themselves to sheltering their precious angels from any and all adversity and disappointment while they were growing up.
Perhaps the young lady quoted above can’t find a really well-paying job where she can use her degrees in French Literature and Women’s Studies, or whatever they are, but she sure can find a job or two at McDonald’s or Target or waitressing. And maybe she can’t afford an apartment on her own, but I’d bet that she could afford to share a place with several others her age. Or maybe, just maybe, she could turn off NPR and spend her days creating her own job by starting some small business.
Parents, you really are not doing your kids any favors by sheltering them from life. There are hard lessons to be learned and it’s far better to learn them while they are young and resilient.
Moving back home should be a temporary thing, a short time for kids to find an income, even if it’s from a crappy job, and a place to live, even if it’s a crappy apartment with a bathroom in the hall. I guarantee they will learn more about life in the first two months on their own than they learned in four years of college and however many years of living with you.
Do your back-in-the-nest kids a favor, parents. Kick them out and make them spread their wings. They’ll thank you for it some day.
What do you think? Am I just being a surly, out-of-touch curmudgeon?
When did you leave the nest? Or are you back there and if so, why?
Comment Contest Winners # = Repeat winner
For the week ending
1/29 Leonard Barnes2 2/5 Pat
2/12 Brogan1 2/19 Stephanie
2/26 Scott Schluter
3/5 Storm4 3/12 Donna C.
3/26 Becky Holm
4/30 Brogan1 5/7 Blue_Sky
5/14 Drill Sgt K.
6/25 Woody3 7/2 Christie
7/9 Candace Delaney
7/16 No responses!
7/23 Rob Andrews
7/30 George Deas
8/6 Vinny V
9/17 Leonard Barnes2 9/24 Kathy
11/5 Kentucky Kid
11/26 Woody3 12/3 Leanne
12/10 Gina Jackson
12/31 charles scamman
1/7/12 Gloria Meyer
1/14 Liz Gavaza
2/4 Phillip Dukes
2/11 Storm4 2/18 Leslie
3/3 Debby Rich
3/17 Carolyn McBride
3/24 Keith Hodges
3/31 Jeffrey C. Anthony
4/7 Sue Reynolds
4/14 No responses!
5/5 No responses!
5/19 Estes Mills
6/16 Chip Johnson
6/30 Elizabeth Martin
7/21 K Howe
8/4 Will you be this week's winner?