No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

Archive for the 'Politics' Category

October 17, 2013

A complete cave in 11 easy steps

by @ 10:48. Filed under Politics - National.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in a cave (in which case consider yourself lucky the Park Police didn’t tear gas you out), you’ve heard by now that the Republican Party (or as I’ve begun to call its Hispandering successor, El Partido Republicano Legado in a nod to its Mexican PRI blueprint) got absolutely, positively nothing in the latest can-kick of the mess that is the federal spending-and-borrowing. Those of you who’ve been around in the comments at Hot Air and Ace of Spades HQ where I spent my sabbatical already know that I was predicting the GOP would get nothing and like it from the start. So, how did they do it? It didn’t even take a dozen steps:

– They started in late March with a Paul Ryan-written budget that included exactly $0.00 spent on PlaceboCare over the next 10 years, both the “mandatory” and “discretionary” spending, through FY2023. This was the same 10-year budgetary “defund” they quietly and fully abandoned the previous two years.

– About the time they wanted to switch to a 1-year “total” delay attached to a slightly-down-the-road debt-ceiling increase, Sen. Ted Cruz decided that the “defund” strategy wouldn’t be so quietly abandoned this time, switched that to an indefinite total defund, and got it attached to the nearer-down-the-road continuing resolution needed to keep the 35% of federal government subject to yearly approprations going into FY2014.

– In response, the Rats demanded a “clean” short-term (couple weeks versus the GOP’s couple months) continuing resolution to allow government to keep on racking up the deficits and a longer-term “clean” debt-ceiling increase to allow government to keep up racking up the debt required to finance the deficits.

– The Cruz version of “defund” met a bipartisan Party-In-Government end in the Senate, with nearly half the “Republican” caucus, including both leadership and those who campaigned in 2010 on doing everything possible to derail PlaceboCare (cough…Ron Johnson…cough) joining Harry Reid in raising the knife to it and another quiver of arrows into Cruz’s back.

– With no concessions from the Rats, the GOP dropped the full 1-year delay for a 1-year delay in the individual mandate and a repudiation of the administrative Congressional exemption from the no-employer-subisies in the individual exchanges Congress successfully begged Obama for (aka the Vitter amendment previously rejected by the Senate Rats).

– Again with no concessions from the Rats, the GOP dropped the 1-year delay in the individual mandate, instead switching to a desperate try to get back into the good graces of K Street by offering an elimination of the medical device tax in exchange for screwing over pensioners with higher taxes.

– Then Paul Ryan got the proverbial chair of offering up the end of the sequester (in exchange for “negotiations” on Social Security) out from under the ring.

– The Rats seized that chair and, as negotiations between the Senate Rats and “Pubbies” finally began, added a demand of the end of the non-defense portion of sequester immediately to their list of demands. They used the “giving up” of this new 11th-hour demand to knock down the elimination of the medical device tax to a 2-year suspension of same on the Senate side.

– In exchange, they introduced a union-demanded call for a 1-year delay in a “reinsurance” tax, a 3-year tax assessed on existing group insurance policies to fund the subisidies to those who in the past would be in high-risk insurance pools. They then used the “giving up” of this new 11:30 pm demand to eliminate the Vitter amendment on the Senate side.

– Meanwhile on the House side, the rank-and-file found out that the post-2012 election war their leadership has been waging against the conservatives amongst them, and the full-scale assault on Cruz, were ordered by the portion of K Street that hadn’t already given up entirely on the GOP as tests of fealty to them. That torpedoed the last desperate House idea of a 2-year suspension of the medical device tax and an expansion of the Vitter amendment to cover the political appointees of the executive branch before it could get out of the House.

– That left the Reid plan, with a slightly longer CR and less time between the end of the CR and the end of the debt-ceiling raise, as the only game in town. Senate Minority “leader” Mitch McConnell demanded and got a $2 billion por…er…lock project on the Ohio River and a completely-meaningless strongly-worded letter for Obama to enforce the income-verification requirements for PlaceboCare subsidies he already decided to unilaterally ignore.

Thus you have what we got – a punt down the road for a few months with nothing to show for it and the stage set for the end of the non-defense portion of the sequester before Christmas. I doubt Wile E. Coyote could have done a “better” job than MiniCave and Bo(eh)ner (and by “better”, I mean “more self-destructive”).

October 14, 2013

Shutdown number of the day – $83,990,000

by @ 12:56. Filed under Politics - National.

That is the amount of money the Treasury Department will need to come up with on Default Day, October 17, to fully-service the $120 billion in short-term Treasury bills that come due that day, assuming a successful rollover of that debt.

Here are the amounts of federal tax deposits from, in order, 10/16/2012, 10/17/2012, and 10/18/2012 – $8,148,000,000, $6,751,000,000, and $1,980,000,000. Surely Treasury Secretary Jack Lew can’t be serious when he says he might not be able to come up with the cash to service that “pitiful” (in federal government terms) interest amount.

There’s another $40 million in interest coming due next week Thursday, and $5.1 billion at the end of the month, which is less than what the federal government took in on two of the three days mentioned above. Even the $56 billion in interest due to be paid out on 11/15 is less than a third of what came into the coffers last November.

In short, the only way there is an “interest-only” default in the near-future is if President Barack Obama and Lew order one. The bad news is, if they do order one, that opens the door to either a default on principal as investors refuse to reinvest in Treasury securities or hyperinflation as the Federal Reserve soaks up what isn’t bought by private and foreign interests. I’m not convinced that isn’t their goal.

October 10, 2013

Half of Detroit’s pension shortfall went out the door in “bonuses”

by @ 19:31. Filed under Politics.

(H/T – Ace)

This New York Times story is chock full of spin of how the workers for bankrupt Detroit deserved the decades’ worth of infamous “13th checks” issued by the two pension funds that an outside actuary estimates cost the general employees’ plan $2 billion between 1985 and 2011, so I’ll rely on Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle’s righteous outrage over the belated discovery of this (where Ace got his info) to help sift out the relevant points.

Between 1985, the first year the outside actuary could get records for the general workers’ pension fund, and 2008, the general workers’ pension fund handed out $1 billion in “bonuses” to current workers, retirees, and the city of Detroit. Notably, only 14% of that went to the retirees. 32% went to “reduce” the city’s committment to the trust funds, even though had this program not been in place, it is likely that the city’s contributions would have been lower as there were years that this program doubled the required city contribution. 54% went to the active employees for some reason.

The outside actuary, who made his report to the Detroit Common Council in November 2011, estimated that had the “13th checks” instead remained in the general pension fund between 1985 and 2008, the fund would have been nearly $2 billion larger than it was in 2011. He was not able to calculate the effects of the “13th check” on the police/fire pension fund, which had a similar program that apparently ended a bit before the Council finally pulled the plug on the general employees following that report.

That $2 billion is more than half of the $3.5 billion underfunding of the two pension funds. Something tells me that, if this were calculated for the police/fire pension funds, and had the 2009 and 2010 “13th checks” were also included in the calculation, almost the entirety of the current underfunding would have been covered.

Of course, that didn’t matter to the (mis)managers of the pension funds – like the architechts of the Milwaukee County pension raid of 2000 and especially the unionistas that benefited from it, they got “theirs”. Moreover, they thought that the Michigan constitution would require that the last drop of blood from the turnip go to them. They didn’t count on the last drop being drained before they died.

One more thing – in 2009, when the Detroit pension funds lost nearly a quarter of their value, the retirees were credited with a 7.5% return on their investment.

Thursday Hot Read – DrewM’s “The GOP Civil War…The Role Of Outside Groups And The Empire Strikes Back”

by @ 9:53. Filed under Politics - National.

This is what a post on the GOP Civil War written by me would look like if I had the time to do 1,695 words and the talent of DrewM. While even this three-paragraph excerpt can’t do justice to the entire piece, I hope it whets your appetite enough to read it all:

There’s clearly a faction of the party (the entrenched professional class) that saw the victories of 2010 as simply an opportunity to return to business as usual. There was no real urgency to roll back the Obama agenda of 09-10, just to accept the ground lost and move on. Oh sure there were plenty of votes to repeal ObamaCare but not when it really counted. In divided government only a handful of bills are going to pass. If you don’t hitch your wagon to one of the few “must pass” pieces of legislation, you’re really just putting on a show for the folks back home.

Enter the establishments new favorite conservative villains…the Senate Conservative Fund, Heritage Action and The Club for Growth. The knock on these groups is that they spend far more time attacking Republicans than Democrats. And to a large extent, it’s a fair description. But that ignores the problem they are trying to solve…weak kneed Republicans who left to their own devices will revert to their big spending, go-along, get-along ways.

The fact of the matter is, given past performance, Republican office holders do need an enforcer looking over their shoulders. I like to think of these groups not as “the enemy within” but as the “motivation squad”. If you aren’t a self-motivator, most people will take the path of least resistance. For Republican officeholders, that often means giving in to the DC mindset that their job is to manage the train and keep it running to the benefit of those who pay the freight. Well, these conservative groups are serving as the eyes and ears (and occasionally the clinched fist) of conservative voters back home who sent people to DC to slow the train down and eventually put it on a different track.

What are those “past performances”? No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D in 2003, the torpedoing of Social Security reform in 2005, an average publicly-held debt increase of over 9% per year, the growth to near 50% of the income-earning populace not paying any income taxes…need I go on?

How many people would have avoided PlaceboCare’s tax had the exchanges worked 100% from Day One?

by @ 8:11. Filed under PlaceboCare, Politics - National, Taxes.

(H/T – Hot Air commenter MobileVideoEngineer)

3,800,000 according to DNC Chair (and Congresswoman) Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL). That’s right – the PlaceboCare exchange website was designed to handle a grand total of 50,000 people per day. There are 76 days, including weekends and holidays, between October 1 and December 15, the last day to sign up for PlaceboCare to be covered starting in January and thus not taxe…er…fined for not having PlaceboCare coverage.

No wonder why the IRS is saying the PlaceboCare exchanges are going “as planned”. They stand to get a rather-substantial ill-gotten windfall.

Revisions/extensions (8:15 10/10/2013) – I forgot to mention that, just like every other Rat-introduced health-related spending disaster, the PlaceboCare exchanges busted the budget by orders of magnitude. It was supposed to cost $94 million; instead, the cost is $634 million and counting.

R&E part 2 (18:20 10/10/2013) – It’s supposedly 50,000 at a time, not per day. Of course, that’s less than half the capacity of the GOP’s Medicare drug benefit expansion, which if memory serves was also available through snail mail.

October 8, 2013

Want a government job? Go south, ex-con.

by @ 17:52. Filed under Politics.

(H/T – Tom Blumer)

WBBM-TV out of Chicago reports that Illinois governor Pat Quinn (D) has administratively barred the state from asking prospective job candidates from asking about any possible criminal past when they apply for open employment positions with the state. While state bureaucrats still have the option to do a background check later in the hiring process, how are they going to know who to check?

The beauty of the piece is the one person WBBM found to tout the new “welcome crooks” initiative is state Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago), who has federal bank fraud charges pending against him. They don’t call the county Chicago is the seat of Crook County for nothing.

Say, I wonder if asking UnioncRAT gubernatorial nominee(-in-waiting) Mary Burke whether she’ll welcome ex-cons to apply for Wisconsin state jobs is on her agenda will fall on the same deaf ears 10 other must-ask questions from my friends at Right Wisconsin want asked.

Jimmy Carter – today’s middle class is as poor as the poor were in my day

by @ 8:06. Filed under Economy, Politics - National.

Really, Peanut Farmer? Let’s ignore the middle class for now and compare the poor now and the poor then:

  • Back then, the average family had one color TV out in the living room and maybe one black-and-white TV in the parents’ bedroom. Now, there’s color TVs in every room used for either living or entertaining (oh yeah, they’re probably hooked into a pay-TV service and some are hooked into gaming consoles, neither of which were exactly the province of the poor or the middle class back in Peanut Farmer’s day).
  • Back then, there were 2, maybe 3, phones in the house on a single line. Now, every family member over the age of 12 has his or her own phone and phone number (and they’re portable, and a couple are probably smartphones, again not exactly the province of either the poor or the middle class, or in the case of the smartphone, even the ultra-rich, back in the Peanut Farmer’s day).
  • Back then, home-cooked meals, and cooked-from-scratch meals, were the norm, with even fast-food restaurant a rare treat. Now, dinner is about as likely to come out of a McDonald’s bag or a Domino’s box as it is out of a heat-and-serve one, and a cooked-from-scratch meal is the rare treat.
  • Back then, there might have been 2 cars in the household, and most likely only if the mom also worked. Now, it’s as likely as not that little Biffy/Buffy has his/her own car to drive to prom (which would make 3 cars in the average 2-parent family because, thanks to a historically-high overall government demand, mom has to work too).

I will grant that there has been a major slip backward since the summer of 2008 with the “legacy” rich’s attempt to make sure Al Czervik doesn’t even have enough money to think about getting into Bushwood, but that’s on the Peanut Farmer’s party.

October 7, 2013

The definitive shutdown analogy

by @ 17:56. Filed under Politics - National.

Hot Air commenter 18-1 absolutely nailed it in the comments section of a post on White House economic advisor Gene Sperling terming prioritization of paying bills “default by another name”:

Let’s break this into an analogy.

Your house is about to be foreclosed on and your credit cards are maxed out. Your earnings are down because the Obamaconomy has devastated your income.

Your spouse comes to you with a handful of credit card applications saying this is the only way you can still afford to go out to eat every night and still go on that vacation to Obamacare Tahiti as promised.

You refuse to sign up for the new cards and instead demand that you cut all unnecessary spending now before you lose everything.

Your spouse responds by calling you a terrorist, a hostage taker, and an extremist. Your spouse locks you out of the house, and spends money hiring people to wall off not only your driveway, but everyone in the neighborhood.

Who is the reckless individual in this case?

One thing 18-1 left out of that – you offered several different ideas on spending to cut, and your spouse rejected out of hand every single one of them.

As for Sperling, the dirty little secret is no matter what the politicians in DC do, there will be a “technical default” within 15 years. There isn’t enough money in the world to support another doubling of the publicly-held portion of the debt, and there isn’t enough money in the US to support the amount of taxation required to avoid said doubling.

October 6, 2013

Mark Steyn pens the NPS Anthem

by @ 21:28. Filed under Politics - National.

(H/T – Dad29:

Mark Steyn penned this catchy tune, which is a hell of a lot better than the Unionista Singers ever did.

This land is our land, it sure ain’t your land
From downtown DC to the Lake Mead shoreland
From the Arctic Refuge to the Gulf Stream waters
This land is closed to you and yours

I’m hoping for a tape of him singing it on Thursday, mostly so I don’t have to do it myself.

Do go over to NRO for verses 2, 3 and 4.

October 3, 2013

Walker defies Team SCOAMT

This Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story on how Scott Walker defied federal diktats to close several state parks that receive a modicum of federal funds, and use a 1961 agreement to reopen a Mississippi River boat launch in a state park but on federal land, has gone viral. I could direct you to, say, the guest bloggers tending to The Gateway Pundit’s place or Hot Air for the macro shutdown take, but instead I’ll tie it to the Medicaid expansion that was part of PlaceboCare.

Over the course of the creation of the current state budget, the Rats and their allies-of-convenience in the health care industry tried to push Walker to accept a temporary federal funding of an expansion of Medicaid, saying it was “free money”. Walker refused, saying that the state would be left holding the bag when that money inevitably dried up.

Well, the federal money for the expansion of some state parks has dried up. Because Walker and the Republicans managed to cobble together a bit of a surplus, rather than be the heartless bastards the Rats and their presstitute organs say he is (and that Team Shutdown Clusterf*ck Of A Malignant Tyrant is), he and DNR secretary Cathy Stepp are able to keep those parks wide open.

Of course, $701,000 in parks revenue is a far cry from the hundreds of millions of dollars that Medicaid expansion is, and the shutdown is temporary.

October 2, 2013

The PlaceboCare national hotline number is…

by @ 19:41. Filed under PlaceboCare, Politics - National.

1-800-F1UCK YOU (or for those of you who can’t spell on a phone handset, 1-800-318-2596, with the 8-for-U not necessary).

What, were 1-800-382-5968 (FUCK-YOU), 1-800-358-5936 (FLUKE YOU, courtesy Myron Falwell in the comments section of Duane Patterson’s piece), and all the 888/877/866/855 variations of those two taken? Then again, Fluke does rhyme with fuck, so HHS might be counting on the low-information voters needing to L33T-spell phonetically.

October 1, 2013

Abele dumping county employees onto PlaceboCare?

Just a quick catch-up note or two; I’m BAAAAAACK! Also, a lengthier version of this was posted at Hot Air’s Green Room. You can thank (or curse, as the case may be), Ed later.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is including a proposal to dump all 4,400 county employees onto PlaceboCare, offering a “tax-neutral subsidy” to buy insurance on the exchanges. He claims that providing “subsidies”, really pay increases so he doesn’t have to go hat in hand to the Obama administration for the same exemption from the no-employer-subsidy law Congress got, for the employees to purchase insurance on the PlaceboCare exchanges will save the county $10 million per year. Even though the county is expecting to otherwise pay UnitedHealthCare nearly $14,000 per employee next year, I somehow doubt the math will work to that extent. After all, the not-exactly-functional exchanges will charge Wisconsinites some of the highest premiums in the country, with the “silver” plan having a Milwaukee-area retail (i.e. pre-subsidy) price of just over $11,000 per year for a family of 4. There are also open questions of whether units of government will be charged the $3,000 per employee tax fine other large employers not offering health insurance will eventually be charged and whether, to make it tax-”neutral”, the county can offer “pre-tax” dollars.

Even though earlier rumblings out of the Board had been negative toward this idea when it was merely a rumor floating around the courthouse, Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic was quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as saying she was “always interested in studying ideas that could expand health care options and produce savings.” That suggests that the Board might be on board this idea.

This is all possible without much fear of a union backlash because of 2011’s Act 10, which allows units of government in Wisconsin to dictate the terms of non-wage compensation to unions, just as they had to non-union employees. I know I’ve seen stories of other local governments nationwide at least threatening to end employer-provided health coverage, but I cannot remember what I’ve done with the links to the stories. Of note, the FY2014-FY2015 state budget did not take health insurance benefits away from state employees even though most of the same Republicans who passed Act 10 passed that budget.

October 20, 2012

The Final Debate Drunkblog

by @ 13:02. Filed under 2012 Presidential Contest.

Don’t confuse this with a full-on Egg return, but since Shoebox is just about out of free time on Cover It Live, I’m doing the post for this one. The usual language warning applies, so bring your favorite beverages over and we’ll start this thing about 7:45 pm Central Monday.

October 14, 2012

Debate Thunderdome!

Two men enter! One man leaves! Two men enter! One man leaves!

Yes, it’s time for the second Presidential debate. With the Dems down 0-2 and going back to the Great Grimacer, they are in desperate need of at least a tie. If the Dems go down 0-3, even my former home state of Minnesota might have a chance of recovering from the Mondale Muff!

Join us Tuesday evening. I should get it going about 7:45 for you Central timers. As usual, the family friendly light will be out so bring your best snark!

October 10, 2012

VP Debate

Yup, it’s another Thursday and that means another debate!

This time we’ve got Joe “gaffe is my middle name” Biden going up against Paul “I’ve got your balanced budget right here” Ryan.

Join Me and hopefully Steve, for another evening of scoffing, snark and derision. I should have us up live about 7:45 y’alls time.

September 30, 2012

First Presidential Debate

by @ 13:02. Filed under 2012 Presidential Contest.

Update: In a move that has come to be known in Wisconsin as “The Favre,” it is being reported that Steve Egg will be coming out of his self imposed retirement to join the live debate tonight….let’s see if his aging legs serve him better than Favre’s did!

Come one, come all. Bring your booze and your snark. Leave your thin skins at home!

I’ll try to get things rolling by about 7:45 Central

September 28, 2012

Out With a Bang!

Egg has announced that he will be putting up the closed sign here at NRE in the not too distant future. He’s graciously offered for me to take over here but really, can you imagine someone with my green complexion holding down a blog site for runny eggs? ewwwww!

All that said, there’s no reason to let many years of fun and friends go out with a whimper. We need to take advantage of the upcoming debates and take this baby out in style!

There are currently 4 Presidential/VP debates scheduled:

October 3rd at 8 Central
October 11th at 8 Central
October 16th at 8 Central
October 22nd at 8 Central

I’m a little challenged on the 22nd but think I can find a way to get live blogs going for all 4 events. Put these on your calendar today and plan on joining me and maybe Egg if he hasn’t succumbed to the Obamapacolypse by then. The “Family Friendly light” will definitely be extinguished for these events to plan on liquoring up prior to the start of the debate….you won’t want to be sober or sane for even a minute of these events!

Let’s take NRE out not with a whimper or simply a bang. Help me take NRE out in a fully engulfed in flames!

September 5, 2012

Wisconsin GPR tax revenue estimates increase (again)

by @ 20:25. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin, Taxes.

The Department of Revenue stated today that General Purpose Revenue tax collections for FY2012 increased to $13.515 billion in their next-to-last report on said revenues. The MacIver News Service noted this was $127 million higher than the DOR’s May 2012 estimate and $320 million higher than the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s February 2012 estimate.

Allow me to bring back from the memory hole a couple of other, earlier estimates. First is the LFB’s estimate immediately after the FY2012/FY2013 budget was adopted, as part of a longer memo showing that budget would produce a structural surplus in the succeeding biennium. In that memo, once the effects of the budget and the (prior-period) budget repair bill are added (subtracted, really) together, FY2012 GPR tax collections were expected to be $13.297 billion.

I’m sure my friends on the Left will say that, if we had just continued former governor Jim Doyle’s policies, things would be a lot better. That administration didn’t exactly see it that way. A LRB memo from late-January 2011 references the December 2010 DOR estimates, and despite economic assumptions that, on a national level, were a bit rosier than reality, the Doyle-era DOR foresaw only $13.304 billion in GPR tax collections for FY2012.

The Laffer Curve lives.

DemocRATs – We like being property of government

I wasn’t going to comment on a line from the DemocRAT National Convention’s opening video that said, “Government is the only thing we all belong to.” Then, an outfit called Revealing Politics decided to go out and ask delegates to the DemocRAT National Convention how it felt to belong to the government. I swear this video was not filmed in Pyongyang, even though the last time I saw something like it, it was:

September 4, 2012


by @ 21:08. Filed under Politics - National.

Sometime on Friday, the federal government crossed the $16 trillion debt barrier, with the official announcement that it hit $16,015,769,788,215.80 by the end of Friday made today. Less than 4 short years ago, it was $10.6 trillion.

The Republican National Committee decided to quote President Obama extensively for this occasion:

Let’s see; 4 years of $1.1 trillion-plus deficits (none of which qualifies as “cutting the deficit in half”), more publicly-held debt added under Obama ($4.965 trillion) than total debt added by any previous President – yep, Teh SCOAMF is a real success story…if your definition of “success” is “make it nigh impossible to dig out from governmental excess”.

Is it too late to save Social Security?

by @ 20:31. Filed under Social Security crater.

For a long time, it has been argued that Social Security was the easier of the two entitlement “bombs” to defuse. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) infamously said last year that nothing needed to be done to Social Security until the 2030s. Social Security Public Trustee Charles Blahous, author of Social Security: The Unfinished Work, argues that it may already be too late to save Social Security “as we know it”:

Social Security’s future, at least in the form it has existed dating back to FDR, is now greatly imperiled. The last few years of legislative neglect — due to a failure of national policy leadership coming just as the baby boomers have begun to retire — have drastically harmed the program’s future financial prospects. Individuals now planning their financial futures, whether as taxpayers or as beneficiaries, should be pricing in a substantial risk that the federal government will not be able to maintain Social Security as a self-financing, stand-alone program over the long term. If Social Security financing corrections are not enacted in 2013, or at the very latest by 2015, it becomes fairly likely that they will not be enacted at all.

Blahous gave three reasons for a lack of hope for resolving the Social Security crisis – the Baby Boomers starting to retire, the inability of either side to compromise in the face of a lack of one-party domination, and the lack of seriousness of many in power to address the issue. Allow me to add a fourth – the inability to even address the Disability Insurance (DI) portion. Despite outgo in the DI program outstripping taxes since the end of 2005, outgo outstripping both taxes and interest on the trust fund since early 2009, and predictions in each of the last several Trustees’ Reports that the trust fund would zero out sometime this decade (with the 2012 Trustees’ Report putting that year as 2016), nothing has been done to address this. Even the assumed “solution” of chaining it to the larger Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund, which would extend the life of DI roughly 17 years at the cost of shortening the life of OASI roughly 2 years, has not made it to the floor of either House of Congress.

The overall problem is much worse, if not quite as immediate, as the 1983 OASI crisis, or the 1994 DI crisis. In 1983, OASI merely had to weather a short-term storm before running nearly 30 years of surpluses, though it would have collapsed again in the 2020s and, if tethered to DI, collapsed the entire system by 2040. In 1994, the fix for the drain of the DI fund was even simpler because it was merely a short-term fix designed to last 22 years – reallocate a larger portion of the FICA/SECA tax toward DI, possible because the larger OASI fund was projected to run a couple decades of surpluses with or without the reallocation. Now, both programs are in the red, and indeed, about to be deeper in the hole than projected in the mid-1980s as this graph on the projected balances from the 1982 and 2012 Trustees’ Reports from Blahous illustrates:

In 1983, the long-term solutions, which barely made it through Congress, were to delay the COLA adjustment by 6 months, bring federal employees into the system, subject the self-employed to the same total tax rate as “traditional” employees and employers, and subject half (the employer-funded portion) the benefits of the “wealthy” to the income tax (which, thanks to a lack of any adjustment for inflation, is hitting more seniors every year). Blahous notes that the divide now is at least twice as wide as it was then.

Worse, two of the main “solutions” often offered up by those on either side of the “limit benefits vs. tax more” divide, limit benefit growth to price inflation instead of wage inflation for at least the “high-income” earners, and raise the cap on the FICA/SECA tax to an undetermined maximum (up to and including infinity) without allowing any increased benefits, appear to be unable to solve the long-term problem on their own. Indeed, while either of the two most-extreme versions of the “solutions”, indexing all benefits to price inflation and eliminating the cap on the FICA/SECA tax entirely, may have passed the “75-year actuary test” back in 2005, neither alone will work in 2012.

What does continuing to do nothing until it is too late mean for Social Security? Blahous explains:

Upon merging into the general fund, Social Security benefits would be far less secure going forward. Benefit payments would have to compete with other annual spending priorities, and would be limited to those deemed affordable given pressures elsewhere in the budget. They would thus be much more susceptible to sudden reductions, means-tests, and other episodic changes to which general fund financed programs have long been subjected.

If this all happens, and renders tomorrow’s Social Security benefits less secure than today’s, it would be a tragic irony: the outcome would have been brought about largely by supporters of Social Security having countenanced the tactics of delay to the point that the program’s unique political protections could no longer be preserved. Those who care about the Social Security program need to clearly understand the consequence of this ongoing neglect; that time for a realistic financing solution has nearly run out.

Just as a reminder, when the trust funds run out of money, whether it be the DI fund in 2016 should nothing be done, the OASI fund in 2035 should nothing be done, or the combined OASDI funds in 2033 should that combining be the only thing done, the benefits paid out by said fund(s) will be cut by over 20%.

There is also the very real cost of getting DI to the middle of 2016, and OASI barely into 2035 (or if one prefers, the combined programs into 2033); the monetization of the trust funds. The Trustees put the difference between non-trust-fund revenues and expenditures of the combined OASDI programs at $4.993 trillion in current dollars (inflation-adjusted $3.506 trillion in 2012 dollars) through 2032, the last full year of “normal” operations. In 2032, the inflation-adjusted shortfall is projected to be roughly $349 billion in 2012 dollars (non-adjusted $586 trillion), or nearly a third of all the discetionary spending by the federal government this fiscal year, with an ever-increasing shortfall in succeeding years. Unfortunately, that money doesn’t exist outside of a series of IOUs, which means it will have to be borrowed, taxes will have to be increased, other spending will have to be cut, or some combination of the three will need to be done.

Before that, specifically in 2026, total spending on Social Security on an inflation-adjusted basis will exceed what will be spent in federal discretionary outlays this fiscal year. If all that is done is Social Security remains a drag on the larger federal budget by paying out all of the promised benefits, by the time 2070 rolls around and most of the Gen-Xers (including me) die off, in inflation-adjusted terms, spending on Social Security will be more than what either the White House Office of Management and Budget or the Congressional Budget Office expects the federal government to take in next fiscal year, when Taxmageddon hits.

Social Security, in its current form, is doomed. Waiting until the last few months, as was done in both 1983 and 1994, is not exactly an option. The window for an “easy” solution, if it hasn’t already closed, is rapidly closing. The person who is in the White House after January 19, 2013, and those in Congress next year, will have to make hard choices quickly.

June 27, 2012

I wouldn’t want to be Bo tomorrow!

If you blog about politics, it’s hard not to toss a blog up prior to tomorrow’s announcement re: Placebocare.

I’m on vacation in the great northern parts of Minnesota so this won’t be long. I want it down to play against after the decision is revealed and for posterity…it’s too damn easy to say “yeah, I knew that’s what would happen!”

Placebocare is going down in flames. I say this not because I want it to…I do, but because of the signs along the way.

Ginsberg inkled the decision a few weeks back when she said that the decisions would have “sharp disagreement.” I can’t see her making this comment without the single most important case of the session, and arguably of this generation, in mind.

Second, it appears that Chief Justice Roberts himself will be writing the opinion for the case. There is much rumor on this but it makes sense as he is the only justice who has not written one this go around. I think the fact that Roberts writes the opinion makes the mandate a goner.

As to the rest of Placebocare, I think once the mandate is gone, the Supreme Court will also decide that the rest of the bill needs to go. I think there will be two likely arguments for this.

First, the Commerce Clause has been used as an excuse for Congress to pass legislation on damn near anything they wanted to for the past 40 years or so. “The slippery slope” is no longer a theory, it is real. I think that given that the administration argued for the right to do this under the Commerce Clause, the Supremes will take this chance to council Congress on what is and what is not acceptable to slide under the Commerce Clause door. I would expect Roberts to see this decision as his legacy in the court. I don’t seem him passing up this opportunity to put his stamp on the history of the court.

Second, the Administration gave the Supremes the perfect out on shooting the entire bill as they argued that the mandate was essential to make Placebocare work financially. I can’t remember who, it may have been Roberts, made the astute observation that it was somewhat indefensible of the Administration to ask the Supremes to figure out the financial implications of what should stay or go in the Placebocare law if the mandate was struck. Hell, Nancy Pelosi didn’t even know what was in the bill until it was signed but knew it was a good law. How could the Supremes be more omniscient than Nancy P and Harry R?

OK, so Placebocare is dead, then what?

Well, if you thought Obama was petulant after he got slapped on Arizona, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

If this goes as I see it, Obama is a lame duck. Worse, he’s a dead duck politically. Unfortunately, he will still hold the office of President for several more months. I don’t expect Obama to go quietly into that good night. Rather, like post Arizona, I think we could see petulance at a level not seen since the last of the Roman emperors. We are likely to see all kinds of Executive orders made dealing with administration and fund dispersal of various federally supported medical programs. Obama’s sole intent will be to leave office with a great big “I told you so” sign on his bumper. He will attempt to cause chaos in as many medical programs as possible just to be able to say that his plan would have prevented all of that. In fact, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see him do this and couch it as things he must now do to be fiscally responsible

Obama has shown himself to be a very sore loser. I wouldn’t want to be Bo his dog, tomorrow night!

June 13, 2012

Your Shrinkage is Showing!

In the science of thermodynamics we learn that as objects are cooled they shrink, as they are heated, they expand.  I remember enough about high school physics to tell you that the reason for this is that as atoms are heated, they get excited, move vibrate more and the item expands.  The opposite effect occurs when the atoms are cooled.

At this point I must warn you that if you are squeamish about subject matter, you may want to skip a few paragraphs as I am known for being perfectly willing to discuss and have viewed, certain body parts that may not be considered “civil” discussion.  I’ll point out where to rejoin us if you skip ahead.

Most males, beyond a certain age, are intimately familiar with the effects of thermal expansion.  Drop a bunch of teenage males into a cold pool and you will hear a noticeable heightening in their voice tones as thermal expansion, or in this case retraction, works on their genitals.  Drop a bunch of 20+ year old guys into the same cold pool and not only will you hear their voices move up in range but you will hear these voices explaining to the other males how they are really much larger than the slight bump in their swimsuits would suggest.  They will argue that the cold water is having an enormous impact on them.  They will further argue that under normal circumstances, they are much more impressive. OK, if you skipped that last paragraph, you can return now. Last Friday during a press conference, President Obama said,

“The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government. “

As a bit of an aside, for any of you that believe that his was just another of Obama’s “Biden moments” because he didn’t work from a teleprompter, you’re wrong. Obama said clearly what he wanted to say. The proof? Listen to Harry Reid from October of last year…same line. This wasn’t a slip, this comes from Obama’s Socialist belief that government is the source of all economic good:

OK, back to topic…

Obama’s statement received an immediate reaction of incredulity from everyone not living in Obama’s big government bubble, and rightly so. Since then, Obama and his surrogates have been attempting to explain, deflect and walk back the statement.

White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, took the media to task for asking about Obama’s statement telling them that they should “do your jobs and report on contexts.” This was a follow up to David Axelrod, who traveled the weekend talk show circuit, using the same “context” explanation. Further, he argued that voters knew what the President meant and wouldn’t be sucked in by the Republican’s misrepresentation.

On Wednesday, James Carville basically told the Obama campaign to quit telling people how much he’s done for the economy…they don’t believe it!

Is it just me or do voices of Carney, Axelrod and Carville all sound like they’ve had a dip in cold water?

Meanwhile, like the 20 something standing in a cold pool, Obama continues to explain to us that it’s not really him, it’s the environment around him that makes him look small and ineffective. Using terms like “headwinds,” Obama blames everything including Buuuuuush, Japan, Europe, Congress and others for his inability to fix the economy.

Today, Reuters/Ipsos shows Obama and Romney in a statistical dead heat among registered voters (likely a Romney lead of likely voters for a variety of reasons) in a poll that was taken largely after the Obama statement. The poll also shows Romney preferred over Obama on economic issues.

Also today, Rasmussen has a poll that shows Romney up 3 among likely voters in Wisconsin. This is the latest poll that shows Romney tied or ahead in virtually every battleground state with momentum on his side in each case.

Obama and his spokespeople can continue to believe that the President should not be held accountable for the mess our economy has become. They can continue to believe that they will be able to fool some of the people all of the time. In fact, they may be able to do that….with some people. But, they won’t fool all of the people. In fact, it looks like fewer and fewer people are being fooled by Obama’s litany of excuses. It looks to me that despite his protests, Obama’s shrinkage is clearly visible. It’s time for him to get out of the deep end before he does himself and us any permanent damage.

May 31, 2012

Last call – Walker/Barrett Debate liveblog

by @ 20:23. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be using CoverItLive as they’re transitioning to an almost-mandatory monthly fee starting in July, but as long as they’re still available, let’s roll. Besides, I need the practice again.

The debate will be at 9 pm, hosted by WISN-TV, so tune in to that, find it on your TV dial if you’re not in southeast Wisconsin, or mash here for a livestream from WISN-TV. Come on and chime in in the CiL iframe below:

May 29, 2012

Rally for Rebecca Kleefisch

by @ 11:21. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin.

While it appears that Governor Scott Walker will walk away with a relatively-easy victory come Tuesday, June 5 in his recall, things are quite a bit tighter, both in polls and in money, in the recall election between Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin president Mahlon Mitchell. I have focused on this “undercard” before, but allow me to reiterate the point now as part of the day-long fundraising drive launched by Dana Loesch, Michelle Malkin, and Teri Christoph. Donate here.

In a normal election cycle, once the separate primaries for governor and lieutenant governor are held, the winners of the same party run on a unified ticket, complete with shared campaign finances. However, due to the unique nature of the recall elections, the governor’s recall and lieutenant governor’s recall are entirely different elections. One of the consequences is Kleefisch’s campaign doesn’t have access to the millions of dollars raised by Walker.

Kleefisch has done yeoman’s (or should that be yeowoman’s) work being what she promised during the 2010 lieutenant governor’s primary campaign – be an saleswoman of Wisconsin to businesses. In addition to the well-publicized “cold calls” to out-of-state businesses to try to get them to relocate to Wisconsin, she launched the Small Business Roundtable to get input from small businesses across Wisconsin on how to improve the business climate.

What are the consequences of a split decision on June 5? Let’s first start out with the “minor” detail pointed out by WDJT-TV. Whenever Walker departs Wisconsin, the lieutenant governor constitutionally assumes the duties of the office, including the power to issue executive orders.

Considering that Mitchell, in his capacity as president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, signed letters demanding public opposition to what became Act 10 upon threat of public boycott to M&I Bank (then the largest Wisconsin-based bank) and Kwik Trip (the largest Wisconsin-based convenience store chain), one can only guess what kind of executive orders he would issue if given a chance.

That split decision would also put Mitchell a heartbeat, or a felony criminal conviction on a trumped-up charge, away from the governor’s office. If you are doubting that the Left using the criminal court system as their last stab from Hell’s heart is possible, I present today’s column from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice, who has served as the press organ of a very-leaky 2-year-long “John Doe” fishing expediti…er, investigation by Democrat Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s office headed by an investigator who has a Recall Walker sign in his yard (blamed on his wife) and a history of donating to pro-union Democrats. Bice’s sources are insinuating that a potential relocation of the offices of Milwaukee County’s Department on Aging to a location a longtime Walker political adviser was representing while Walker was Milwaukee County Executive could be “bid-rigging”.

A Mitchell win, even if the other 5 recalls fall short, would be an unequivocal win for the unionistas. Don’t let that happen. Donate to Kleefisch’s campaign, and if you are a Wisconsin resident, remember to vote for her (and Walker) in the recall election on June 5.

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