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No, it's not Wall Street. It's the U.S. government.
A joint report from the White House budget office and the Treasury Department showed that the federal government's spending commitments soared by 25% in 2008, putting taxpayers another $1 trillion in the hole. What's even worse is, the government's fiscal year ends in september, so those numbers don't include the $800 billion financial bailout or other federal spending in the last calendar quarter of 2008. You might as well call the calendar year 2008 deficit a $2 trillion hole, and that's only if you don't count the growth of the government's unfunded liabilities (the government doesn't count it), which are estimated to grow at a rate of $2 trillion annually. That makes the real federal deficit for 2008 approximately $4 trillion. And that number doesn't count all the state and local government deficits. I don't even have a figure for that, but I know the states and localities are also looking for our broke federal government to bail them out, so they cannot be solvent. Let's guess-timate the entire government deficit for 2008 to be $5-6 trillion.
The media is all abuzz about whether Caroline Kennedy is qualified to be appointed the junior Senator from New York. This in a year when we elected a President who had only two years in Congress prior to launching his presidential campaign, and who has no prior executive experience. This in a year when a comedian, Al Franken, who also has zero political experience, may become a Minnesota Senator if they can "find" enough votes to elect him. The great state of Minnesota previously elected a professional wrestler as their Governor, and California elected Arnold Schwarzenegger Governor because those Terminator movies were pretty cool.
Is Caroline Kennedy qualified ? Who cares ? It's an irrelevant question.
A friend sent me the following holiday e-mail. I just had to share it.
To All Our Democrat Friends: Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.
Associated Press (AP) reporters contacted some of the financial institutions that received federal bailout funds and asked the financial institutions how they have spent the money. The financial institutions either refused to tell the AP what they did with the money, or issued generic statements that didn't disclose anything. (link)
The stonewalling by the financial institutions made it into the news.
Congress is scheduled to receive an automatic pay raise in january 2009, adding an average of $4,700 to each Congresscritter's paycheck. Is there anyone more deserving of a pay raise than Congress ? Yeah, probably almost everyone is more deserving. Record deficits, record debt, the economy in the tank, Congressional ethics problems galore......
Since it probably isn't workable to give Congress the year off so they can't do any more damage to our country than they already have, they should at least skip the pay raise this year. ----- Every time I hear about how Bernie Madoff ran a $50 billion ponzi scheme and bilked his investors out of all their money, I think of the biggest ponzi scheme of them all, the legal one we call Social Security. I think President-elect Obama should bring in Madoff as an advisor on how to fix SS. The guy knows ponzi.
I find myself wondering how long our political leaders think we can continue to live beyond our means. They haven't reached that point yet, and we're on the verge of total fiscal meltdown. What's it going to take to shake them awake ? I wonder if anything can awaken them. For over 70 years, our federal goverment has spent more money than it has taken in, leaving us massively in debt. The last time I checked, the interest alone on the federal debt was over $680 billion. That's a lot of dough we have to skim right off the top, and it's only going to get worse. Much worse. We've been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs for over 30 years, and I haven't heard many realistic ideas coming from Washington D.C. to turn that around. I'd tell you it's a good idea to 'Buy American', but that's getting increasingly difficult to do. It's far simpler to 'Buy Chinese.' We are transforming from a nation of producers to a nation of consumers. We are sinking in $11-12 trillion in federal debt, and with $55 trillion in unfunded entitlement liabilities looming on the horizon. Both those numbers are rising fast, with no end in sight. We are handing out trillions in taxpayer funded bailouts for industry. Credit markets are freezing. Unemployment is rising. Foreclosures are rising. Government revenue is dropping, as the recession hits home to America.
And our geniuses in D.C. think this is a great time to spend a whole bunch more money. Of course, they ALWAYS think it's a great time to spend a whole bunch more money. That's the essential problem. Our federal government has been running deficits for 95% of the best boom years that America has ever seen, especially from the post-WWII period to present. If they can't balance the budget during the good times, then how on earth are they going to do it now ? Answer - they won't. Even worse, they don't even appear ready to try. One of the scariest things I've heard from President-elect Obama recently was when he said Bush "hasn't done enough" on the economy. Hasn't done enough ? The largest set of bailouts in history isn't enough ? I tremble to think what our new president would consider "enough." As part of a huge economic recovery package (aka, more federal spending), Obama wants to start a new (and mostly unnecessary) countrywide infrastructure project reminiscent of the 1950's. Such a project made sense in the 50's, it doesn't today. Little old Akron, Ohio has chipped in with 228 infrastructure requests, including a redesign of the Rt 76/Rt 77/Rt 8 interchange (unnecessary) and a fence for the Y-Bridge (unnecessary). The governors of the states recently requested $76 billion in earmarks. Apparently, there's no recession on for them. Only for us, the people. I also heard Obama say the other day that redesigning the health care system, which includes insurance for the 45 million who lack it, will be LESS EXPENSIVE than the system we have now. If Obama can provide insurance for 45 million more people and make it cost less than our current health care system, he'll have to change his name to Houdini, because that will be one hell of a magic trick. Maybe he plans to remove the doctors from the health care system. I don't know.
"All you need is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure" - Mark Twain
Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has over 300 hours of tape of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, obtained by bugging the Governor's campaign offices and home phone. Fitzgerald refers to Blago's actions as a "political corruption crime spree", and arrested him. Blago is charged with attempting to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, illegally withholding state assistance to the Chicago Tribune unless certain reporters critical of Blago were fired, mail and wire fraud, and several other pay-to-play arrangements, where Blago handed out contracts and appointments in return for campaign contributions. More specifics on the charges are almost certain to come later, as only a few minutes of the tapes have been released to the public. Blago got in hot water earlier when he was implicated in the trial of president-elect Obama's buddy Tony Rezko, who apparently served as Blago's bag man and is now a convicted felon.
A couple days ago, the New York Times printed an op-ed from William Ayers, the former Weather Underground leader, domestic terrorist bomber, current university professor, and friend to president-elect Barack Obama. Ayers makes a number of simply amazing statements using his Times bullhorn, so I thought I should talk about it a little bit. Nearly every sentence Ayers pens is hypocritical or dishonest in some fashion. I have to start at the end, with Ayers' final summarizing statement, where he complains of the linking between himself and Obama during the presidential campaign: