"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How To Lie With Statistics

Let us ignore some of the more glaring inaccuracies with the new "Tax Receipt" calculator that was created by the White House on Monday and instead focus on the more subtle manipulation of the data to accomplish President Obama's political goal of shifting attention away from entitlement reform.

Using the White House's default setting for a family of four making $80,000/year, the application helpfully breaks down how much of this hypothetical family's taxes go to different categories.  However, what immediately jumps out is that the (large) portion of taxes that go to Social Security and Medicare are not included in the percentages even though they are counted towards the total spending at the bottom.

By omitting entitlements, the percentage for defense spending is inflated drastically so that it appears as the largest share of spending, just narrowly edging out the next largest category--health care.  However, if we include entitlements, the picture changes dramatically.  According to the White House numbers, defense spending is really only 12% of overall spending, not 26%.

Also, if we look at the broad categories of welfare spending vs. government spending on constitutionally enumerated powers like defense, law enforcement, and foreign relations, we can easily see that spending on the welfare state in this country accounts for more than 80% of the hypothetical family's tax payments for that year.

Worse still, if we conjecture that the parents of this family are under the age of 40, it is almost guaranteed that neither parent will ever see a dime of the money that they are currently paying into the system, because Social Security and Medicare will be completely bankrupt and interest on the national debt will have overtaken non-defense discretionary spending by the time they retire.  Meanwhile, their children will be left with a debt they will never be able to pay down.

The hard truth that Obama doesn't want you to know is that the 20th century welfare state is at its breaking point.  The welfare programs currently in place benefit some, but unless Congress is able to implement drastic reforms, these programs will cease to function within our lifetimes.  The choice now is clear: we can follow President Obama in ignoring and obfuscating the problem, or we can have the courage to make serious reforms.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Your Government In Action, Part 7

It's been a while since we last had one of these. In today's installment, you have to read the fine print to discover it's not actually a mistake. Tax Day will be postponed this year due to a District of Columbia holiday. If you've ever seen one of those D.C. license plates that says "Taxation Without Representation," now you know that it's a lie.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What the Government Shutdown Means For You

With the threat of a federal government shutdown growing with each passing day, it’s important to understand what functions would and would not continue operating after this Friday if Democrats and Republicans can’t reach a last-minute compromise. The list below is by no means complete, but provides at least a partial accounting of some of the far-reaching effects of a shutdown:

WON’T SHUTDOWN: the US Postal Service is considered self-funding, so mail will continue to be delivered. However, paychecks for millions of government employees and contractors will not be sent out, so postal workers will have slightly less mail to sort through.

WILL SHUTDOWN: all national museums, parks, memorials, cemeteries, and historical sites will be closed to the public. The Park Police will still patrol the monuments to ensure that nobody takes any pictures or listens to music on their headphones though.

WON’T SHUTDOWN: the IRS will continue to collect taxes, so don’t feel like you can slack off as tax day approaches next Friday, but if the government owes you money, don’t hold your breath waiting for your tax return. Meanwhile, The Federal Reserve will still continue to print worthless currency to fund the existing debts of the United States.

WILL SHUTDOWN: all non-essential government offices will be closed and it will be a fire-able offence for government employees to attempt to do any work during a shutdown. Some agencies are even exploring ways to remotely shut down the ubiquitous blackberry phones wielded by government employees.

WON’T SHUTDOWN: Metro will continue to run at full capacity even if all the trains are empty. Plush Union contracts will also guarantee that even though nobody is riding metro, senior employees will continue to accrue overtime hours while not fixing the broken escalators at Farragut West.

WILL SHUTDOWN: all personnel aboard the International Space Station will be requested to enter deep hibernation until the budget situation is resolved. Operation of the space station will be transitioned over to control by a new computer system called “HAL 9000.”

WON’T SHUTDOWN: the Sun will continue to shine. US Department of Agriculture farm subsidies will continue to be funded under the “provision of payments” clause which defines essential government functions. However, all federally-subsidized solar power plants will have to be pointed away from the Sun, unless the weather is cloudy.

WILL SHUTDOWN: the Moon will go dark and the tides of the ocean will cease. Functions of the commerce department relating to measurement of oceanographic phenomena will be suspended and as mentioned previously, NASA will be closed. During the shutdown, only the dark side of the Moon will be visible. The Earth will also stop spinning and fire and death will rain down from the heavens.