–Why Robert J. Samuelson wants to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology. Those, who do not understand Monetary Sovereignty, do not understand economics. If you understand the following, simple statement, you are ahead of most economists, politicians and media writers in America: Our government, being Monetarily Sovereign, has the unlimited ability to create the dollars to pay its bills.

Robert J. Samuelson is a weekly columnist for The Washington Post, writing on political, economic and social issues. His column usually appears on Wednesdays. Add his name to the long list of economics writers who are ignorant of Monetary Sovereignty, the basis of all modern economics.

In a March 7, 2011 column titled, “Why Social Security is Welfare,” he makes the following comments:

Recall that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the main programs for the elderly, exceed 40 percent of federal spending. Exempting them from cuts – as polls indicate many Americans prefer – would ordain massive deficits, huge tax increases or draconian reductions in other programs. That’s a disastrous formula for the future.

Yes, Robert, not cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would “ordain” (?) deficits. However, because the U.S. now is Monetarily Sovereign, there is zero connection between deficits and taxes. For your benefit, Robert, I’ll say again what you as an economics writer already should know: “Federal taxes do not pay for federal spending.”

And so far as those draconian reductions in other programs, why do you believe a nation with the unlimited ability to create dollars, needs to cut spending, when inflation is nowhere in sight?

Here is how I define a welfare program: First, it taxes one group to support another group. . .

Robert, now repeat after me until you get it: “Federal taxes do not pay for federal spending.” State taxes do pay for state spending, and city taxes do pay for city spending. The states and cities are not Monetarily Sovereign. But, federal taxes do not pay for federal spending. In fact, FICA could be eliminated, and this would not reduce by even one penny, the federal government’s ability to support this program – even were benefits doubled.

Since the 1940s, Social Security has been a pay-as-you-go program. Most benefits are paid by payroll taxes on today’s workers.

Things have changed markedly since the 1940’s, and Robert has not kept up with the changes. In August, 1971, one of the biggest economic changes in our lives occurred. We became Monetarily Sovereign. At that instant, Social Security ceased being a “pay-as-you-go” program, because FICA no longer supported benefits. In a Monetarily Sovereign nation, tax dollars are destroyed upon receipt. They do not, and cannot, support federal spending.

Think about it, Robert. Why would a government with the unlimited ability to create dollars, need to use taxes to pay for anything? It makes absolutely no sense. Sadly, Robert still lives in a gold-standard (aka “flat-earth”) world.

Annual benefits already exceed payroll taxes. The gap will grow.

Yep, the difference between FICA collections and benefits will grow. More net money will be created. This will stimulate economic growth. So what is the problem?

No doubt people would be outraged (by benefit cuts). Having been misled, they’d feel cheated. They paid their taxes, why can’t they get all their promised benefits? But the alternative is much worse: imposing all the burdens on younger taxpayers and cuts in other government programs. Shared sacrifice is meaningless if it excludes older Americans.

No, shared sacrifice is meaningless if it is purposeless. There is absolutely, positively no reason to cause widespread human misery by cutting Social Security, Medicare and/or Medicaid benefits. Causing misery out of sheer ignorance is unforgivable.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity, nor grow without money growth.

–“How to Slash the State: 14 ways to dismantle a monstrous government, one program at a time”

The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology.

The November 2010 issue of reason.com contains an article titled, “How to Slash the State: 14 ways to dismantle a monstrous government, one program at a time”

It’s a thoughtful article, but only if you believe the federal government should be smaller, the federal deficit should be lower and taxpayers pay for federal spending. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support any of these three beliefs. In fact, all the evidence points to the need for ever increasing federal deficit spending, i.e. money creation. (A growing economy requires a growing supply of money.) Also, in a monetarily sovereign nation, taxes do not pay for federal spending (though taxes do pay for state and local spending, as the states, counties and cities are not monetarily sovereign).

Further, some of the “dismantling” they suggest is more like shifting, because some of the suggestions merely push expenses from the federal government (which has unlimited money) to state and local governments (which are having great difficulty paying their bills) – a terrible idea.

Nevertheless, here are the ideas, with my comments.

1. Overhaul Medicaid
“stop the matching grant funding process, in which states receive federal money for each Medicaid dollar they spend” or “scrap the program entirely in favor of a temporary assistance program that doesn’t create long-term dependency.”

The first part of the suggestion shifts more burden to the struggling states, which are not monetarily sovereign, and so cannot create unlimited money. The second part of the suggestion goes under the heading, “These Medicaid recipients aren’t really poor; they are lazy. If we stop giving them help, they’ll go to work.” That simply is nuts.

2. Bring the Troops Home
“. . . a swift and total deoccupation . . . probably would save “$50 billion to $70 billion in fiscal 2011 and perhaps $80 billion to $100 billion a year in 2012 and beyond.”

I’d like to see the troops come home, but not for financial reasons. I have no idea why we’re in Afghanistan, but saving money is a foolish way to manage a war. It kills soldiers.

3. Erase Federal Education Spending
“. . . the federal education budget is full of cuttable programs. If eliminating the entire Department of Education is politically impossible, then the programs with the most tenuous relationships to raising student achievement need to be the first to go.”

This falls under the “make government more efficient” heading. Sure, who can argue with that, but again, it’s not a money thing. It’s an effectiveness thing.

4. Slash State Budgets
“ . . . lawmakers have been living way beyond their means for far too long.”

Not sure what this has to do with the federal government, but I love it. Any specific ideas?

5. End Defined-Benefit Pensions
“ . . . public servants of the future should be put into 401(k) plans like the rest of us, with responsibility to contribute to and manage their own retirement nest eggs.”

This would mean federal employees would receive less money, which would be anti-growth. I agree however, for state and local government employees, as the state and local governments spend taxpayer money.

6. Declare Defeat in the Drug War
“To enforce drug prohibition, state and federal agencies spend more than $40 billion and make 1.7 million arrests every year. This effort wastes resources that could be used to fight predatory crime. . . While imprisoned (as half a million of them currently are), drug offenders cannot earn money or care for their families, which boosts child welfare costs.”

I agree, but again not for money reasons. Prohibition didn’t work in the 1920’s. I can’t imagine why the public and the politicians think it will work, today. Prohibition caused crime in the 1920’s. It causes crime, today. The war on drugs is a perfect example of how the government and the public are incapable of learning from experience.

7. Cancel the Federal Communications Commission
“. . . just about everything the FCC does is either onerous, constitutionally dubious, ineffective, or all three.. . . its role as broadcast censor . . . The best alternative is a world in which spectrum is freely tradable private property rather than a government-managed resource, interference is treated as a tort, and no one worries about whether their next on-air word will result in a seven-figure fine—in other words, a world with no FCC at all.”

The FCC’s role as public scold is useless – actually harmful. The Internet has eliminated the prohibition against swear words, as today one easily can find the most pornographic videos. Fining CBS for Janet Jackson’s 1 second breast reveal, while every sexual act imaginable is available on the Internet, is just plain silly. But, the limited public bandwidth has to be managed to prevent monopolies.

8. Uproot Agriculture Subsidies
“They distort markets and spark trade wars. They make food staples artificially expensive, while making high-fructose corn syrup—the bogeyman of crunchy parents, foodies, and obesity activists everywhere—artificially cheap. They give farmers incentives to tamper with land that would otherwise be forest or grassland. They encourage inefficient alternative energy programs by artificially lowering the price of corn ethanol compared to solar, wind, and other biomass options. School lunches are jammed full of agricultural surplus goods, interfering with efforts to improve the nutritional value (and simple appeal) of the meals devoured by the nation’s chubby public schoolers.”

I agree. Any time the federal government subsidizes an industry, it controls that industry. So you have bureaucrats determining what food is best. While those agriculture subsidies are stimulative, in that they add money to the economy, they distort the market.

9. Unplug the Department of Energy
“. . . more than half of the department’s $26 billion budget ($16 billion) was devoted to managing . . . facilities that make and dispose of materials used for nuclear weapons. . . If Congress and the White House must pursue the development of alternative energy via social engineering, a far more effective alternative to allowing DOE bureaucrats to pick technology “winners” would be a tax on conventional energy. The boost in energy prices would at least encourage inventors and entrepreneurs to get to work.”

All taxes hurt the economy. Taxing energy would tax us all, as we all use energy. The federal gasoline tax has accomplished nothing but take money out of the economy. It certainly has not reduced the consumption of gasoline. It has been an economic cost. This falls under the heading: “If something is harmful, do it again, only more so.” Once again, a failure to learn from experience.

10. Dismantle Davis-Bacon
“. . . which requires all workers on federal projects costing more than $2,000 to be paid the “prevailing wage,” which typically means the hourly rate set by local unions. . . . born as a racist reaction to the presence of Southern black construction workers on a Long Island, New York, veterans hospital project.”

I agree. See #8. It’s another example of the federal government distorting the market, this time the labor market.

11. Repeal the Stimulus
“. . . as of early September, 18 months after the stimulus was passed, an estimated $301 billion remained unspent. That money should be banked, not wasted . . . deficit spending has crowded out private investment.”

A demonstration of financial ignorance. There is no way federal money can be “banked.” And there is no way deficit spending can “crowd out” anything. This is a myth. Without deficit spending, we would be in the deepest depression one could imagine. Of all 14 suggestions, this is the most ignorant.

12. Spend Highway Funds on Highways
“ . . . just to maintain the Interstate Highway System at a decent level is $10 billion to $20 billion per year. . . . lesser highways should all be the states’ problem.”

In other words, transfer the cost from the federal government, which can afford it, to the state governments, which can’t. And how does this help the taxpayer?

13. Privatize Public Lands
“Letting the states manage this land instead would take up to $5 billion a year off the federal books. . .One Forest Service contractor in Arizona recently offered to take over six state parks targeted for closure amid budget cuts. The concessionaire would collect the same visitor fees the state charges today while taking the operations and maintenance costs off the state’s books entirely. Further, the company would pay the state an annual “rent” based on a percentage of the fees collected, turning parks into a revenue generator instead of a money eater.”

In the very few cases where a private company could do this, profitably and under federal supervision, it could be a good idea. Now let’s talk about the other 99% of the public lands. Get real.

14. End (or at Least Audit) the Fed

It’s not explained how auditing would cut federal spending. Bernanke warned that opening the Fed’s books would diminish the central bank’s political independence. I believe him. Imagine relying on Congress to make quick economic decisions. These people can’t decide to go to the bathroom without the threat of filibuster. Let’s face it. The most dysfunctional of all federal agencies is Congress.

In summary, most of these suggestions simply are foolish or would not save taxpayers anything. A couple have some value, not because they “save” money, but because they are good governing policy. All are based an the false assumption that federal spending should be reduced.

Think of the economy as a child and money is its food. Today, the child is starving. To make the child healthy, we must feed it. As the child grows, it will need an increasing amount of food. Yes, if you overfeed the child, it will become fat (inflate), but we are a long way from that. The debt hawks want to starve the child, and then always are surprised when it becomes ill.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity

–More debt-hawk injuries to America

An alternative to popular faith

Here is yet another example of many such instances (See: DAMAGES) showing the continuing damage debt-hawks cause America and our poorest citizens:
By Greg Hitt and Sara Murray, WASHINGTON, 6/25/10: “Spooked by concern about deficits, the Senate shelved a spending bill that included an extension of unemployment benefits, suddenly cutting off a federal cash spigot opened by President Barack Obama when he took office 18 months ago.

“The collapse of the wide-ranging legislation means that a total of 1.3 million unemployed Americans will have lost their assistance by the end of this week. It will also leave a number of states with large budget holes they had expected to full with federal cash to help with Medicaid costs.
What is the evidence large federal deficits harm America? There is none. Yet, based solely on mystical faith and unsupported belief, the debt hawks have managed to punish millions of our poorest Americans.

The debt-hawks have heads of stone. They have hearts of stone, too.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity

–Worried about your children and grandchildren paying the federal debt?

An alternative to popular faith

     The debt hawks claim to be concerned about your children and grandchildren, but their proposals actually will punish your heirs. The debt hawks say future taxpayers will pay for today’s federal deficit spending. This is factually wrong. Unlike state and local governments, the federal government does not spend tax money. It, in fact, destroys the tax money sent to it, and it creates new money, ad hoc, when it credits the bank accounts of creditors. Federal spending is not limited by, or related in any way to, federal taxes. Thus, taxpayers never have, nor ever will, pay for federal spending.

    What the debt hawks fail to mention is that their solutions (raising taxes and cutting federal spending) to this non-existent problem will impoverish you, your children and your grandchildren. Here is a sampling of debt hawk proposals. Read them carefully, and think about each proposal’s effect on current and future generations.

    Raise the normal retirement (Social Security) age to 68
    Reduce scheduled Social Security benefits
    Reduce Social Security spousal benefits
    Increase taxes on Social Security benefits

Health care:
    Tax insurance benefits
    Tax employees for employer-paid premiums
    Cut Medicare payments
    Cut Medicaid payments
    Raise Medicare premiums
    Cut spending on graduate medical education
    Raise the Medicare retirement age (again)
    Cut federal Medicaid funding to states

    Do not enact a new jobs bill

More taxes; higher taxes
    Raise taxes on higher incomes
    Increase the inheritance (“death”) tax
    Increase the gas tax
    Enact a VAT tax
    Increase the payroll tax (FICA)
    Eliminate the mortgage interest deduction
    Eliminate state and local tax deductions
    Tax life insurance benefits
    Eliminate EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit for low and moderate income workers
    Eliminate the $400/person making-work-pay credit
    Eliminate the “American Opportunity” college tax credit
    Add and excise tax on high-cost health plans

Military and Security:
    Reverse the “Grow the Army” initiative (fewer paid soldiers)
    Reduce purchases of weapons systems
    Reduce veterans’ income security benefits
    Reduce Homeland Security spending

Aid for the poor:
    Cut food stamps
    Cut average unemployment benefits
    Cut temporary assistance to needy families (TANF) program
    Cut funding for adoption and foster care

    Cut federal funding of K-12 education
    Cut school breakfast programs
    Cut funding for the education of disadvantaged and disabled children

    Cut federal highway funding
    Cut funding for bridge repair

Research & Development:
    Cancel NASA missions to the moon and Mars

States and Cities:
    Cut mass transit funding
    Cut federal funding to the states and cities

This is the world — a world of higher taxes and fewer benefits — the world the debt hawks propose for you, your children and your grandchildren.

And what is the federal debt the debt hawks worry over? The federal government spends by crediting the bank accounts of its vendors. Every credit demands a debit, and this debit on the government’s balance sheet is called “debt.” It more properly should be called, “money,” because the way the government creates money is by crediting bank accounts. That balance sheet merely is a score sheet, showing how much money the government has created.

You don’t owe it, nor do your children and grandchildren. It’s just a score sheet.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity