Investments for the Future

Government spending is higher than ever, financed by debt that is higher than ever, but government is not doing the right things and not doing things right. According to a recent article on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” the percentage of the federal spending that goes to investment, things like infrastructure, basic research, education, investment in our future are decreased from about 32% fifty years ago to less than half, only about 15% today. Meanwhile transfer payments from one set of Americans to another went from about 14% in 1962 to 46% today. If current trends continue, we will be spending 61% on these kinds of payments by 2030. We are eating the seed-corn, spending now on the consumption of current generations instead of investing in our country’s future.

I love government and think that our Federal government is one of the most sublime inventions of mankind. But it has gotten out of balance. We used to build big things like Hoover Dam. Today we argue about who gets more of the growing debt-financed pie. We used to invest in things that would make us greater, richer, smarter and healthier in the future. Today we take what we can from the Federal trough. A great president told us to ask not what our country can do for us, but rather what we can do for our country. Today politicians openly pander to the parochial interests of particular groups, and many voters proudly sell their votes for benefits real and imagined to be bestowed by politicians.

As president Obama points out, we need government to ensure our well-being, but we don't need so much of it. The difference between a life giving medicine and a deadly position is often in the dosage. Or to switch metaphors, a hungry person loves a good meal. But if he doesn't stop when he has enough, he becomes a fat slob, demanding ever more, enjoying it less and destroying his health in the process. We are overfed with government.

My generation, the baby boomers, will need to rediscover that patriotism often involves self-restraint. We need to demand less of government and more of ourselves. Social security is a type of insurance against being needy in old age. It should never have become and entitlement. I have insurance against fire for my house. I hope I never need to use it and if I get through my life w/o having my house burn down, I will NOT use it. I don't expect the insurance company to build me a new house unless mine is destroyed.

Social Security was meant as a supplement, not an income. SS was not sufficient to live comfortably because you were not supposed to need it for that. It would top-up your savings and investments made over a lifetime. Those improvident or unlucky not to have saved enough to support themselves in my old age depend on SS but should not expect to be as well-off as someone who worked harder, saved more and maybe was luckier. There is a certain amount of shame associated with needing to call on the help of others to satisfy things you should do for yourself.

President Obama is right when he says that we are all in this together. He is also right when he says that not everyone is doing their fair share, but he is sometimes wrong in identifying the freeloaders. We should rather look to who takes more from our country than he gives and who gives more than he gets in direct benefits. Government needs to get back more in the business of creating conditions that allow for the greater benefits of all Americans, things that are wealth creating, and scale back on things that just move wealth around.

Posted by Christine & John at August 1, 2012 9:35 PM
Comment #349825

As a black man who built a business, without the help of the government, I must say, I see the winds of change coming to America:

“The Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) announced at the National Press Club on Tuesday that the grassroots group - comprised of the more than 3,000 members - is a launching a national campaign to support marriage between one man and one woman and to oppose the Obama administration’s efforts to advance same-sex marriage.

“The time has come for a broad-based assault against the power that be that wants to change our culture to one of men marrying men and women marrying women,” CAAP President William Owens said at the press conference, held to announce the Marriage Mandate campaign, which includes a petition seeking 100,000 signatures pledging support for traditional marriage.

“Mr. President, I’m not going to stand with you, and there are thousands of others across this country that are not going to stand with you with this foolishness,” Owens said.

This is very big; we are seeing the beginnings of opposition among blacks to the control of government. Three thousand pastors represent three thousand congregations.

Obama has backed himself into a corner; his evolving belief in gay marriage, to cater to the gays, has alienated black pastors who still believe and teach the Bible, that homosexuality is an abomination before God.

Posted by: Frank at August 1, 2012 10:31 PM
Comment #349867

“There is a certain amount of shame associated with needing to call on the help of others to satisfy things you should do for yourself”

Not any more. It has now became an accepted way of life.

Posted by: kctim at August 2, 2012 12:20 PM
Comment #349875

A weighty issue that needs addressing, C&J. The solution can’t be found by tweaking the system here and there. Oh, you might lessen our plight by a year or two by changing this tax law or that entitlement rule. But, pdq mission creep will deliver us deeper into the fiscal hole, IMO.

And, can we say who is getting more than their fair share of the pie? NO, because we can’t know the full extent of crap going on behind the scenes. Gov’t is so way out of control even they don’t know what the real numbers are.

Case in point, the late, great GSA scandal. First it was one conf, then a little scratching of the surface and its 77 or more and then they are calling them ‘celebrations’ to get around congress on their rulings on ‘conference’ gatherings, etc. And, now we would need to look at other numerous agencies and we won’t like what we find there either.

And, the LIBOR thing. Going on for 8-10 years without any of the numerous watchdogs aware. Or, if they were, they didn’t bother to sing out.

Look at the Solyndra thing where the gov’t was told it was cheaper to let them fail rather than bail them out and the gov’t chose to ignore that info and put the taxpayer on the front line to take the hit in the bailout, leading to their subsequent bankruptcy, etc.
What I’m suggesting is that it’s too rotten to save at this point. We need radical reform through such things as implementing REAL campaign finance reform. We’ve got to take most of the money influence out of gov’t.

We need a flat tax policy where the gov’t can’t easily make winners and losers through the tax code.

We need something akin to a balanced budget where maybe the budget has to come into balance two years out of six or some such thing where they can’t indenture our children and grand children for their lifetimes just the line the pockets of the Corpocracy.

Here we are, 90 some days before the election and neither party has put anything like a ‘get serious’ agenda on the table. More interested in debating Mitt’s wife horse and so on - - - and folks seem to love it even as the debt works it’s way to 16T.

Enuff tautology. Up with a new 3rd party w/a/d/p/a - - -membership oversight of elected party members - - - 66% party vote against an incumbent will reject the incumbent from the party - - - rules to prevent party co-option by the money influence, and so on - - -

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at August 2, 2012 6:22 PM
Comment #349876

Roy Ellis, a third party on a national presidential level is nothing more than another four years for Obama. Although it would be possible to vote in 3rd party candidates on a House district or possibly even a state level; third party will never get off the ground on national level.

The conservative movement in America through the TP is a move to reclaim the Republican Party; it’s working, and the liberals are terrified.

Posted by: Frank at August 2, 2012 6:36 PM
Comment #349878

Frank, assume the TP takes over in 2016. How long do you think it will take the ‘money influence’ to co-opt the TP movement?

What has the TP done to circumbent co-option? I’ve heard nothing other than rhetoric. I guess we should just trust them to be ‘more transparent’ and so on - - -

Otherwise - - -

Posted by: Roy Ellis at August 2, 2012 7:23 PM
Comment #349880

Roy, that’s the reason we have elections every 2, 4, or 6 years. You tell me, what happens when your 3rd party candidate crawls in bed with the controlling party? What happens when they are influenced by committee chairmanships, money, or the perks of DC? What happens when the 3rd party candidates either cave or they’re not invited to the blue blood shindigs of DC. You see, it’s not about party; it’s about holding our representatives accountable or booting their asses out. Tell me, how much money does this elusive 3rd party have, how much influence, or what is the name of their organization?

I’m a realist,to me it is much easier to take control of an existing party, than it is to organize a new one.

Posted by: Frank at August 2, 2012 8:02 PM
Comment #349882

Frank, the problem with only having 2 parties is that all they have to do is tell people they are better than the other guy, and then paint that person as scum. This has been the modus operandi of the two parties for the past couple of decades.

With someone else in the mix keeping them honest, we might actually get to some legitimate campaining again…

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 2, 2012 8:26 PM
Comment #349891

Well, I guess that depends on if you want 4 more years of Obama. Because a 3rd party vote is a vote for Obama.

Re/scum: America is split; conservative/liberal, rich/poor, black/white, Hispanic/white, Constitutionalist/evolvers, socialist/capitalist. It wouldn’t matter if you were running 10 political party candidates; they would still attack each other.

The divided political beliefs have been around for the past few decades, you are correct. But, I’m old enough to remember a Democratic control of the House and Senate for 40 years. The loss of the Congress has been a real problem for the Democrats; hence, let the personal attacks begin. There was a time when a Senator like Reid would have been reprimanded by the whole Senate for making the accusations that any candidate had failed to pay any taxes for 10 years, and followed up with, “well I don’t really have proof”. The goal is not to tell the truth, the goal is to make the accusation; to put the thought in people’s heads.

A “yeller dog democrat” was a democrat who would vote for an old yeller dog, before he would vote for a Republican. I have to consider myself a “yeller dog Republican”, and I would vote for an old yeller dog before I would vote to put this clown back in the WH for another 4 years.

Posted by: Frank at August 2, 2012 11:28 PM
Comment #349897

Most of the transfer payments are for Medicare and Social Security, programs funded in large part by obligatory taxes taken out of every working citizen’s check.

Are these the people who you’re calling freeloaders?

As for the diminishment of public works and the like? You can’t be constantly pushing budget cutting and tax revolt and expect the money to be there for this. Too much of the Republican Party and the Tea Party is built less on depending on the legacy of the past, with little care to pay to maintain, much less add to it.

Oh, and of course, it’s more important to bust unions than get people jobs.

If you don’t like where we’re going on infrastructure, ask your friends what kind of problem they have with it. Democrats would be very willing to fund infrastructure projects, especially since those mean jobs.

Talk to your own people, ask them to relax the tight sphincters on spending, and do some good.

Good luck. If you’re careful, you might get ostracized as a moderate. If you’re not, you’re going to get tossed in with the rest of us “marxists”.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 2, 2012 11:40 PM
Comment #349907

Great post C&J! Too bad conservative comments have sought to change the topic from the important issues.

We definitely need to refocus government spending into useful infrastructure projects rather than excessive spending on defense or wealth transfer. You are also right about entitlements such as OASDI. These benefits were never meant to support every person over the age of 65, but rather to provide a supplement to the incomes of people who lived longer than they had planned for. In my opinion, retirement income for people under the age of 80 should be their own responsibility. This would return the benefit scheme to its original intention.

Posted by: Warped Reality at August 3, 2012 1:05 AM
Comment #349908


“Are these the people who you’re calling freeloaders?” It depends on how much they are taking versus how much they are putting in and the idea of insurance is that people do not necessarily expect to get “back” what they pay in unless there is some sort of catastrophe beyond their control and unpredicted. Getting old is beyond your control, but it sure should not be unpredicted.

Re underinvestment in public works - the percentages have dropped like a stone and will continue unless something changes. Whether you cut or grow government, I think we need to back to government doing the things is it supposed to do.

Re unions - busting unions often creates jobs. Wisconsin is saving big money because of Governor Walker’s brave stand and that has allowed school districts and others to protect jobs.


I think we have to make some changes. Otherwise my generation will rip off all the money from yours.

Posted by: C&J at August 3, 2012 8:07 AM
Comment #349992

They say it saves jobs to bust the unions. But you know what really happens? After you go through all the trouble of freeing them of the regulations that were supposedly killing jobs, they fire and layoff the people themselves, and hire people whose governments don’t have laws keeping them from making an absolute environmental hellhole of their country, or forcing them to pay people the kinds of wages you would need in order to survive in this country, and not backslide into poverty.

I mean, at best, you are dividing the same amount of money among more people so, economically, you do nothing to help the stagnant economy.

The folks paying them, though, either through taxes or wages, get to keep more money. That seems to me to be the brain-dead basic common thread, and it’s one that the facts basically discredit. Bush allowed more of this kind of behavior to fly, the Republicans rewrote the laws so that these people would keep more money, and rather than your theory fulfilling its prediction, the job market slowed its growth considerably

If you ask me, this union-busting crap is just one more example of what people are willing to say in order to be more miserly, keep more for themselves, whether you’re talking private or public faces of the situation. They aren’t interested in greater employment. They just want to keep more money.

And they’ve been successful. But that isn’t to say that America grows more prosperous because they grow more prosperous. You know, sometimes, wealth is more symbolic than effective. I mean, as rich as some may be, there’s only so much food they can eat, only so expensive of houses to buy, or cars, or anything else. Do they really pay more out as consumers, as their income goes up, or does the continued increase of their money only ulimately contribute to its greater accumulation, sitting in a bank, or sunk in a company, doing little for the average person?

What I would say is that the last ten years tells us quite bluntly that enriching the already rich, the so-called job creators, simply doesn’t improve overall prosperity for practical and economic reasons.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 5, 2012 1:36 AM
Comment #349993


It is not the union wages that cause the most problems; it is the union rules that demand that jobs be given based on things like seniority, protect the laziest, required inflexible jobs classifications etc.

The cost of the worker is not only salary. There are many places with low salaries but very high labor costs due to low productivity or onerous rules.

RE “the last ten years” I know you want to make it fit the Bush time, but a good thing about the Clinton time was that unions became weaker and we had a more flexible, the U.S. had a pro-business policy. We also ended welfare in the traditional sense and government shrunk as a % of GDP.

In fact, we enjoyed about a quarter century of basically good times and the largest peacetime expansion in history. The fact that it finally ended is not an indictment of the policies. All policies need to be updated. Those of the successful Reagan-Clinton-Bush years need updating too, but we should not throw them out and go with silly egalitarian programs that mimic the truly unsuccessful policies of the 1970s.

Posted by: C&J at August 5, 2012 8:41 AM
Comment #354248

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