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Having observed our whizbang President for five years now, I feel qualified to make the following political predictions for the new year. Here is what my crystal ball tells me is in store for us in 2014:
- In January, Republicans will make the astute observation that if Obama wants to hold down healthcare insurance premiums, it might be a grand idea to stop TAXING INSURANCE COMPANIES AND PREMIUMS, as Obamacare Does (or is it DUHes ?). Obviously, those taxes drive up the cost of our insurance premiums. Rep. Ted Cruz (R-TX) says "only a progressive would believe he can make something less expensive by taxing it". When the White House Press Corps asks Obama's Press Secretary, Jay Carney, about the new Obamacare insurance taxes, Carney calls the Republicans "obstructionist" and states, "the American people aren't worried about how much we tax them. They are worried about providing for their families". This gets a hearty round of laughter from the entire press corps, save for the New York Times journalist, who doesn't understand what is so darned funny. He writes an op-ed blaming Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for "dumbing down the White House Press Corp to fool the low-information voters".
When a reporter asked President Obama about his "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan" lie being selected by fact-checker group Politifact as 2013's Lie Of The Year, the President dodged the question. No surprise there, but I think Politifact is wrong. Obama's "if you like your plan" claim about Obamacare, along with many other Obama claims about Obamacare, shouldn't be the lie of the year. They should be the Lies Of The Decade, because Obama has been telling these same lies all along. They didn't start in 2013. Obama and the Democrats lied to the American people almost every step of the way regarding Obamacare. They lied to get it passed, and they are still lying. You can't keep your plan. You can't keep your doctor. You can't even keep your hospital. The plans aren't cheaper. They are more expensive. Not everybody is going to be insured. The average family won't save $2500 in the first year. The problem with the healthcare.gov site isn't a "glitch". The problem is that it wasn't fully tested and it wasn't even fully constructed before it was launched. The website STILL doesn't work, despite administration claims to the contrary. I can testify to that fact, having wasted many hours trying to sign up myself.
Millions more people are having their plans canceled because of Obamacare than are being signed up to date. And even if one does manage to get through the error-filled website, endure all the mind-numbing "please waits", and manage to sign up, the payment portion of the website hasn't even been built. We discovered this in the middle of november during testimony from Medicare Deputy CIO Henry Chao, who estimated that 30-40% of the healthcare exchange's software has not been built. This begs the question, why in the hell did they launch a website that wasn't even finished yet ? The administration knew all this, and we now know that the Obamacare rollout SHOULD have been delayed to spare the American people all this confusion, frustration, and incompetence.
The real GDP (nominal GDP adjusted for inflation) of the United States was $15.79 trillion as of 9/30/13. That is a record high. Our per capita GDP was $49,965 as of 2012. This is the good news. We don't have the highest per capita GDP in the world, but we rank pretty high. Large countries with higher per capita GDP's are Canada and Australia, along with some smaller countries like Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, and a few others.
The not so good news is, government spending is a component of GDP. The most common way to calculate GDP is with this formula: GDP = private consumption + gross investment + government spending + (exports − imports). The reason government spending is the not so good news regarding GDP is because the government has been incurring record amounts of debt in recent years (artificially inflating GDP), as the following chart illustrates:
I hear a lot of talk from the political left about the richest 1%, as if becoming wealthy in America is a bad thing, some kind of sin. It isn't. In fact, the opportunity to become rich in America is one of the things that makes this country great. What would be a sin is if we removed those opportunites from Americans. The Associated Press recently noted that 20% of Americans will be wealthy at some point in their lives. To me, that is fantastic. I want as many Americans as possible to be financially secure, but to the AP, it was a springboard for a discussion of income inequality, as if every person who becomes wealthy is somehow stealing money away from someone else. That belief is an economic myth, based on the false assumption that there is a fixed-sized economic pie, where one person's larger piece means others are getting a smaller piece. The problem with that assumption is, the economic pie is not fixed. It is dynamic, provided that opportunities are available to those who wish to grab them. While our free market capitalist system does create income inequality by definition (winners and losers), it is far preferable to a socialist government-controlled system that stifles opportunity and innovation, promotes mediocrity, and shares the economic pain equally across the population. I don't know how any American could believe otherwise, but many apparently do.
What baffles me even more about the political left is that after they decry income inequality and rail against the rich, they advocate for a bigger, more interventionist government, as if more government is going to solve the problem. Has it never occurred to the left that the government takes money and opportunity AWAY from American citizens, and that more government means more money and opportunity will be taken AWAY from American citizens ? Has it never occurred to the left that more centralized governmental power will make it harder for Americans to succeed ? And most importantly, has it never occurred to the left that the government serves the rich and powerful, because those are the people who are connected and can buy influence ? The government IS the rich and powerful, and like every other ruling class in the history of the world, it looks out for itself first.
First, a bit of positive news. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States grew 3.6% in the third quarter. The less good news is that GDP growth came primarily from inventory buildups, not consumer demand. We'll see if fourth quarter consumer demand (aka, Christmas ?) justifies the inventory growth. It may interest you to look at a modern history of annual U.S. GDP growth, which can be found here. My takeaway from the chart is - we have yet to experience a real recovery from the last recession. GDP growth has been relatively weak ever since. If you compare the current weak recovery to the real recovery that began in 1983 following our last serious recession, you'll see a stark difference.
To emphasize the weakness of this recovery, we still have 1.5 million fewer jobs than we had in 2008. What's even worse is, lots of the jobs that have been created are part time. Consider this chart:
Early this morning, while twiddling my thumbs during yet another endless 'Please Wait' screen on healthcare.gov (sigh. I was so much younger when I began this process), I switched over to another computer window to catch up on my political reading. It was either that or commit hara-kiri out of boredom. I ran across the following quote from President Obama, who was singing the praises of President Obama at a hoity toity Beverly Hills fundraiser last week ($2,500 to $16,200 per ticket, depending on whether the deep-pocketed attendees wanted the gold-plated chicken or the platinum-covered fish). The President said he had accomplished "as much, if not more" than any other President (and he's more humble than the others too !!!). Here's Obama:
"saving an economy from a Great Depression; revitalizing an auto industry that is producing better cars and has come roaring back like nobody believed; doubling our exports; drastically reducing our dependence on foreign oil; doubling fuel efficiency standards; doubling our production of clean energy; reducing the pace of our carbon emissions; ending the war in Iraq; about to end the war in Afghanistan; re-centering our fight against terrorism in a way that respects our values and our ideals; expanding access to college for children all across this country; ending "don't ask, don't tell"; making sure that we are vindicating the notion that everybody should have a fair shot regardless of their sexual orientation, as well as their race and their gender; pushing for equal pay for women; reinstituting research for stem cells."