Third Party & Independents Archives

Land of the Subsidized

Friday was an important day. A day when the US crossed a threshold that it is looking less likely to cross back the other way on. On Friday, January 22, 2010, the United States federal government put into full force of law its 2000th subsidy program.

This number may seem small but in reality, compared to the past, it is disturbingly large. In the 70's we were around 1000, this didn't change much through the Nixon, Carter, Ford and Reagan years. But between George Bush the first, Clinton and George Bush the second we managed to push that number up to 1,645. Over 20 years.

However, since the Democratic Congress took over from the Republicans, and then a Democratic President was elected, that number has exploded to over 2,000. Data for this information can be found here.

People are upset about our debt, and they should be. They are upset about our spending, and they should be. But I wonder how many know just how many DIFFERENT subsidies that are handed out from the federal government (this does NOT include state or local governments)?

Do we really need this many? What is the point of them all? How many are trying to force people to live their lives as the politicians see fit instead of letting people live their lives as they want to? How many are in response to previous programs that have created greater need but instead of being pulled back just needed some 'tweaking' with another program?

How many do you think the people who need them even know about them? I recall one program put into place a year ago in response to the home mortgage 'crisis'. The program was set up to allow homeowners to renegotiate their mortgage. After months of being available, it turned out ONE family had qualified and taken advantage of the program. More people were going to private companies and renegotiating directly instead. How much did that program cost us just to exist, staff and finally service a single family?

Who is doing the means testing? Who is doing the cost/benefit analysis? Who is performing the oversight while we continue to rack up trillions of dollars in debt that we have increasingly no hope of ever paying back, all the while spending billions on just the negotiations and talks around creating one of the largest new spending programs ever?

President Obama was going to get out his red pen. I'm sure you all remember the promise. I am thinking that he must have forgotten where he put it...

Posted by Rhinehold at January 25, 2010 11:54 PM
Comments
Comment #294585

Rhinehold,
I’ll make a weak defense for the President. Maybe he is color blind.

Posted by: tom humes at January 26, 2010 4:23 AM
Comment #294597

Rhinehold, America’s population has doubled since the 1950’s.

That is a rather important relevant factor in considering current to past measures of any economic data. Keep increasing the population, and government has no choice but to subsidize ever larger numbers in that society who are marginalized by that political, economic, and cultural system, threatening their health, life, and well being.

Of course, one can take adopt the Republican from South Carolina’s perverse political value system in the news this week, to actively promote the death of the poor, unemployed, homeless, and handicapped for whom a handout (subsidy) will only promote their reproductive urges eventually causing their numbers to overwhelm those of wealthy, industrious, and ever creative in the society.

By this standard, those Haitians do not deserve a single American greenback from the public or private sector.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 26, 2010 10:56 AM
Comment #294598

Been going on for over 30 years. Called socialization. In the name of globalization you can’t have us few sucking up more resources than other countries of the world. Therefore, bust up the middle class by putting them on a government diet. Take away jobs, education and healthcare and dole out those services through the government. Quickest way to get folks down to $5/hr so that, we too, may compete in the globalized economy. I do believe I rant about that here daily to the point of warping tautology.
Obama will try to act like a populist, working from the center to save his ass in 2012. But, the Corpocracy is moving on. More taxpayer wealth to destroy, things aren’t happening fast enough, folks are still making near $10/hr. Etc.

I think folks should put a little more emphasis on Beck when he shows pictures of Mao on the WH Xmas tree ornaments, an admin person making a statement that her favorite philsophers are Mao and Mother Theresa, Cass Sustein making socialists statements about union workers, Van Jones, the guy Beck got fired, etc. Ain’t no coincidence. The new world order has decided that we need to divify up world resources and socialism is the better model of government to get that accomplished.
If Beck is wrong then we’ve got some way dumb critters running things. One has to ask, why, after running up an $80T debt and in the middle of a recession would government want to hang on to tens of millions of illegal immigrants, push for more temporary work visas and such? Jobs program? Highly delusional. True, we could save a some low skilled jobs by deporting the illegal population, but that won’t happen. The government should come clean with us. Identify the wage at which the US can compete in the global economy, make the public aware of that wage and wait. When people get hungry enough they will man up and accept that wage. Why the government has chose to jump through all these hoops can only be that they are pretty sure the people wouldn’t like their plan for a NWO.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at January 26, 2010 11:39 AM
Comment #294600

This was exactly how Roosevelt fixed the economy. He tried different programs and paid attention to what worked and what didn’t.

There’s a long line of pork that should and needs to be cut, but these programs aren’t it. I doubt they total one day’s worth of war expenses.

Posted by: Max at January 26, 2010 11:52 AM
Comment #294604

Swartznegger is coming in with a proposal to save money. He recommends the taxpayers pony up $1B to build a prison in Mexico that would be used to house Mexican nationals who are in prison and awaiting deportation.
David, our population is to double again by 2050 so one can understand somewhat the reasoning rationalfor pushing for socialism. I would assume they are using China for a model as it doesn’t seem to matter how many people China has to deal with.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at January 26, 2010 1:57 PM
Comment #294607

Max, FDR did NOT fix the economy. The entire 30’s decade was plagued with repeated recessions, the last one beginning in 1938 and really smarting.

It was WWII deficit spending on a far more massive scale than FDR and Congress approved, which mobilized the unemployed into jobs, and moved women into the work force as well.

FDR and his Congress’ failed to fix the economy because they didn’t deficit spend enough to create sufficient works projects to employ vastly more Americans. The absence of consumption repeatedly exacerbated the economic w shape recessions, along side constraints on capital formation in various years following the realization that consumption (demand) was not picking up.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 26, 2010 2:35 PM
Comment #294609

Rhinehold…thanks for the link. It is just astounding to me to find that we have so many subsidy programs. Is it any wonder that with so many special interests being addressed and subsidized by the feds that this country is broke and deep in debt?

It seems that “WE” the people have become too successful in our demands of government. We no longer demand our constitutional rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness…but rather, demand of our government an unending supply of money to make us all equal.

Equal opportunity has been replaced with equal results, an impossibility. Socialism, and all the other political “isms” of the world combined have never produced equal wealth…only equal misery.

Our founders understood that happiness is an inside job and can never be legislated or mandated by government. Individual happiness and success comes from within each of us and is not something any politician or government can give. It is right to help those who can not help themselves. It is wrong to help those who refuse to help themselves. And all the subsidies and all the money that can be printed will not change that simple fact.

Posted by: Royal Flush at January 26, 2010 2:52 PM
Comment #294610

DR wrote; “It was WWII deficit spending on a far more massive scale than FDR and Congress approved, which mobilized the unemployed into jobs, and moved women into the work force as well.”

Very true. And, one should remember what that deficit spending bought…tanks, airplanes, ships, food, and all manner of real goods produced by real work.

There is no comparison between the deficit spending of WWII and what we witness today. Along with WWII came a unity of purpose and shared peril. Combined, this produced a country of patriots working together and sharing in the necessary deprivations of war. One should also remember that in the WWII era we eliminated the “Red Tape” and got things done for the common defense. We weren’t hidebound by useless government agencies and regulations. Roosevelt was a master at communicating what must be done and instilling in American’s a sense of purpose and worth. Every American felt necessary and was willing to sacrifice their own comfort for the survival of all.

If we are to survive, this sense of purpose and individual worth must be regenerated. If we are asked to deficit spend to survive the case must be made that this spending is worthwhile and not to the exclusive benefit of some at the cost of others.

Posted by: Royal Flush at January 26, 2010 3:12 PM
Comment #294611
If we are asked to deficit spend to survive the case must be made that this spending is worthwhile and not to the exclusive benefit of some at the cost of others.

and TEMPORARY with a visible end date and plan on how to pay it all back. A realistic plan.

Not more and more government programs that perpetuate themselves by creating dependant people instead of independant individuals…

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 26, 2010 3:39 PM
Comment #294612


Roosevelt didn’t do enough to bring the economy around. He did just enough to give the people hope and a feeling that some one in the power structure cared about them. He did just enough to turn the people away from hate. Although it is not an absolute, I believe Roosevelt did just enough to prevent a possible revolution and the demise of capitalism.

I doubt that all government subsidies are on Rhinehold’s list. If one considers all the graff in government contracts, all the cost overruns that would often double, triple, even quadruple the cost of a contract we see that even non-subsidies can in truth be subsidies.

Another name given to the Civil War Era was the Age of Shoddy because of the shoddy materials being sold to the government by ripoff contractors. The age of shoddy has been with us, to one degree or another, throughout our history as a nation.

I am opposed to the welfare system because I think that the wealthiest nation can do better for all it’s citizens. But, nearly all the money invested in welfare goes back into the economy and workes it’s way back to the top.

Then there are the other subsidies, tax subsidies for neary every tax payer and tax loopholes and sweatheart tax concessions for the more affluent and the corporations.

Inefficency and just plain bad management cost us more than we will know and there is no doubt about who is responsible for that. While we are all responsible for all the above, I would say that partisan party politics is most at fault. Neither party’s partisans hold their politicians accountable.

Posted by: jlw at January 26, 2010 3:53 PM
Comment #294614

Excellent response, jlw. A thoroughly broken system. Done so, incrementally, over time by just about all of us. Time for a Jeffersonian, Jacksonian fix. Let’s jack it up and run a new one under there. Let’s push government reform through a 3rd party specifically designed for that purpose. That is the ONLY way we can downsize DC, get government out of our lives and remove the tentacles of corporate power from government. Only way to achieve REAL campaign finance reform to provide clean elections.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at January 26, 2010 4:25 PM
Comment #294617

http://usdebtclock.org/

:(

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 26, 2010 5:24 PM
Comment #294618
Rhinehold, America’s population has doubled since the 1950’s.

Irrelevant, David. And you know that. The number of programs is not dependant upon the number of people in the country. I can see the amount being SPENT on those subsidies increasing, not the number of them.

The only reason the number of subsidies is increasing is because the Federal government has been successful in moving in and taking control of that much more of our lives.

And I understand that a statist is 100% behind that goal, but I am pretty confident that most americans are not statists…

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 26, 2010 5:27 PM
Comment #294620
“The problem with a spending freeze is you’re using a hatchet where you need a scalpel. There are some programs that are very important that are underfunded.” B. Obama, October 2008

“President Obama plans to announce a three-year freeze on discretionary, “non-security” spending in the lead-up to Wednesday’s State of the Union address”

Of course, like many other promises, this will be another one he will be unable to keep…

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 26, 2010 5:39 PM
Comment #294622
do not deserve a single American greenback

Deserve? I think that one key choice of words speaks volumes…

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 26, 2010 5:45 PM
Comment #294624

Royal Flush wrote: “If we are to survive, this sense of purpose and individual worth must be regenerated. If we are asked to deficit spend to survive the case must be made that this spending is worthwhile and not to the exclusive benefit of some at the cost of others.”

Yes, and No.

The sense of national purpose must manifest behind deficit spending to bring the economy back. Instilling that sense of purpose is the responsibility of the President and Congress. Obama will get his chance tomorrow night. Spending freezes in some discretionary areas to offset new spending on stimulating jobs, could be a sound argument, but, we will have to see if that is the argument to be made.

Congress can’t be relied upon to carry out any of its responsibilities in a competent fashion. They are too divided and blamefully partisan.

The No refers your quote: “the case must be made that this spending is worthwhile and not to the exclusive benefit of some at the cost of others.”

Any government spending will benefit some, and cost others. Deficit spending can benefit some with new jobs today, but will cost taxpayers in years to come. WWII was no different. There were many in our society who lost money as a result of the war through failed contract bids, and loss of subsidies or tax breaks due to poor management or business records. Consumers were forced into rationing and many products in demand were not available for years. Every policy or decision any of us or our government makes, will benefit some and not others, cost yet others.

Remember the definition of economics. The distribution of finite resources amidst infinite demand for them. By definition, economic decisions will benefit some more than others. In and of itself, it is an illogical critique of government policy to say it benefits some, and not others. Its like critiquing the earth for being round creating darkness on half the planet all of the time. It is what it is.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 26, 2010 6:46 PM
Comment #294630

It might be worth noting that some of the shortages and rationing were completely phony in WWII. It was done to create a sense of unity and contribution. The collection of metal items for scrap for example was supposedly to produce steel. In fact, the metal was dumped. It was pure propaganda.

Posted by: gergle at January 27, 2010 1:26 AM
Comment #294634

RH
And for starters,lets get rid of all oil company subsidies. How about Bushcos federal assumption of liability for nuclear power plants. Is that a subsidy?
There is a place for subsides IMO. Milk price supports to stabilize an important but otherwise turbulent market. Possibly for start up industries, but only briefly. At this particular economic junction,subsidizing job creation is justifiable. This is also in line with most economics thinking. How much of the increase is for the purpose of aiding the recovery?

Posted by: bills at January 27, 2010 7:58 AM
Comment #294635

RH
I only hope you are right the freeze will never come to pass. Depressing demand during a deep recession is about the worst thing to do.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/26/obama-liquidates-himself/

Posted by: bills at January 27, 2010 8:13 AM
Comment #294646

“President Obama plans to announce a three-year freeze on discretionary, “non-security” spending in the lead-up to Wednesday’s State of the Union address”

Of course, like many other promises, this will be another one he will be unable to keep…
Posted by: Rhinehold at January 26, 2010 05:39 PM

It’s a shell game. First, obama increased spending on many government agencies and programs as much as 35% and will now call for reductions of 5%. It reminds me of car dealerships adding rust proofing, window tinting and other after-factory flim-flam to the MSRP to inflate the cost so they could offer the illusion of big discounts.

“Its like critiquing the earth for being round creating darkness on half the planet all of the time. It is what it is.”
Posted by: David R. Remer at January 26, 2010 06:46 PM

DR’s comments failed to take into account that I used the word “exclusive” benefit of some at the cost of others. Darkness on half of the planet all of the time is true…but, the darkness is shared equally at a cost and benefit to all. Liberals demand all of the sunshine and none of the darkness.

Posted by: Royal Flush at January 27, 2010 11:22 AM
Comment #294648

The president has lately regressed into his “I will fight for you” campaign sloganeering — by which, of course, he means, “I will fight for me.” There will be no hands reaching across the aisle. Obama’s too busy using them to point fingers at everyone else for his own political meltdown.

Some conservative Beltway analysts are cheering Obama’s fiscal freeze follies as a step in the right direction, a rhetorical victory and a “good start.” Pardon me for not joining in the standing ovation for the latest performance of White House kabuki theater. Praising the president for carrying on the charade of budget reform because a few piddling cuts are real is like complimenting the Naked Emperor’s fingernails: So he didn’t have any clothes. At least his cuticles were real. It’s a start!

Posted by: Royal Flush at January 27, 2010 11:47 AM
Comment #294676

jlw wrote: “Roosevelt didn’t do enough to bring the economy around. He did just enough to give the people hope and a feeling that some one in the power structure cared about them. He did just enough to turn the people away from hate. Although it is not an absolute, I believe Roosevelt did just enough to prevent a possible revolution and the demise of capitalism.”

I would have to amend your comment above to ‘FDR and Congress’, in order to agree with it. Congress was a limit upon the power of FDR, even if they did accede to his actions far more tolerantly than during any other administration I can recall. To many in Congress of FDR’s time, growing national debt during a time an economic depression, made no sense to them whatsoever, and thus, FDR did have congressional limits on how fast and large he could tap future tax payers.

Isn’t it ironic, we hear these same objections in Congress today, despite all historical evidence? HOWEVER, the opposition to deficit spending today has a 20 trillion dollar structurally mandated national debt looming in their face by 2020. A situation entirely different, at least from an emotional perspective, than that facing the Congress of FDR’s time.

It is always tricky trying to compare historical contexts to today’s. Backdrops and contexts change and are never exactly replicable.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 27, 2010 3:31 PM
Comment #294678

Pre-Judging Obama seems always to undermine his chief critics and rivals, after the fact. Is it the prowess of Obama, or the weakness of prejudice?

Perhaps a bit of both, eh?

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 27, 2010 3:34 PM
Comment #294679
And for starters,lets get rid of all oil company subsidies.

Won’t get an argument from me, though I imagine that I would support ending a lot more subsidies than you are as I am not tied down to partisan views on the initial and continuing purpose of most of those subsidies, buying votes…

As for you constant linking of Krugman, that’s one I’m going to stay away from, it seems to me to be more like a religion than anything else, and I don’t see any good outcome of trying to argue religion.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 27, 2010 3:55 PM
Comment #294692

RH
Like a religion? Don’t be silly. PK does a good job providing interesting links,charts etc. and I often agree with his point of view and insight. Perhaps you are trying to dismiss the evidence once again by proclaimming a religious bias this time. Intellectually dishonest at best.
There are good and bad subsidies. I mentioned milk price supports. They were put in place for a reAson and that reason has not vanished. Dairy herds take about 6 years to get into production. Thats six years with minimal payback on investment.After the dairy is in production it still only makes money if the price of milk is high enough. If that market drops the herd may well be slaughtered and sold as low grade beef out of economic necessity. Overall this means fewer dairies so ,as the market dictates, the price of milk goes up accordingly. Great as far as free market theory goes, but the actual outcome on the country is that milk and milk product become a luxury item. Kids don’t get enough calcium. A major nutritional resource disapears. Small farms dissapear as only big player can afford the vagueries of the market and weather the storms. Perhaps that appeals to you but the market aspects have not changed a bit since the inception of that particular subsidy.

Posted by: bills at January 27, 2010 10:40 PM
Comment #294762

David,

It is always tricky trying to compare historical contexts to today’s. Backdrops and contexts change and are never exactly replicable.

Excellent points made in this post. Thanks.

Posted by: gergle at January 29, 2010 3:19 PM
Comment #294764

gergle, thanks, and welcome. When I was in college, I was too young to appreciate history, knowing everything I needed to know, as I did. I am older now, and know how much I don’t know, which means, I know I know a lot less now, but, what I know, does have some lasting and useful value. I have forgotten most of what I thought I knew when entering college.

Knowledge and history continue to change over time, a person’s time, and history’s time. Good thing, too! Because we humans started out ignorant as apes. We are only now learning to get comfortable with the knowledge that our evolution has only taken us to the point of acknowledging that we are less hairy and more vocal apes, still! I think this is the cue for Charleton Heston to ride up yelling, Damn them, Damn them all to Hell! :-)

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 29, 2010 4:50 PM
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