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U.S. Standard of Living Unsustainable Without Drastic Action - David Walker

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March 31, 2010 – Comments (18)

David Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States was, in my opinion, the only government official appointed within the last couple decades that was truly qualified for his position.  He has been stating for years that the government is an ever-growing titanic headed for a large debt iceberg. When he left the GAO I was devastated because now this administration is practically devoid of a sensible voice when it comes to our fiscal policy.  There are a few dissendents but they are either too quiet for they are being completely ignored.  He continues to discuss America's fiscal situation but I doubt anyone is really listening.I would think people would listen to the man who used to be responsible for preparing the Government's financial statements.  If I could vote this guy as Comptroller General again I would.  I think he would make a great cabinet member. 

In this interview he discusses the $50 trillion in unfunded liabilities and roughly $62 trillion in total long term debt. He explains that there are tough decisions to be made if America is to truly get back on its feet.  Its a good interview and like every tech ticker, pretty short.

See the interview here: U.S. Standard of Living Unsustainable Without Drastic Action

18 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On March 31, 2010 at 11:04 AM, outoffocus (22.75) wrote:

As a clarification the total debt $62T = $12T in outstanding debt + $50T unfunded liabilities.

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#2) On March 31, 2010 at 11:09 AM, binve (< 20) wrote:

Hey outoffocus

>>David Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States was, in my opinion, the only government official appointed within the last couple decades that was truly qualified for his position

I agree with that! Good post!

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#3) On March 31, 2010 at 11:45 AM, TMFLomax (49.12) wrote:

Thank you for posting this! I just saw this on Yahoo! Finance and it made me feel a little better, like I haven't gone nuts in the current Bizarro World we seem to live in... (and I liked how he mentioned that the current outrage is not really about the health care bill, it's about the bigger picture about the continuation of out of control government spending -- I'm getting tired of the people who seem to interpret it as "political" or "mean-spiritedness" or something). He IS (and has been) a fair and rational voice about the reckless and unsustainable government spending for a long time. I feel like a lot of people aren't very open to the rational points and the big picture about the economic situation right now though. I have seriously been floored by all this reality disconnect stuff going on.  

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#4) On March 31, 2010 at 12:33 PM, russiangambit (29.12) wrote:

>  I feel like a lot of people aren't very open to the rational points and the big picture about the economic situation right now though. I have seriously been floored by all this reality disconnect stuff going on.

I think this is the most pronounced in the financial industry, where the things are good again. It is amazing , really, how people willfully ignore unpleasant things coming in the future as long as the party is continuing in the present. And then they'll say  - nobody could've foreseen is. When in fact, plenty of people did, they just chose to ignore it. Humans are really not very rational.

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#5) On March 31, 2010 at 12:55 PM, AbstractMotion (53.76) wrote:

Agreed with the previous posters, a lot of people try to turn this into a political issue but ultimately a lot of it has to do with economics and budgeting.  There's an enormous burden that's been alloted to everyone who will be working for the next 30 years and onward.  We're in deep need some significant entitlement reform and health care reform that contains real cost containments.  Getting out of the Middle East and scaling down the military to a size suitable for national defense wouldn't hurt either.  What's really at stake here is the standard of living for the average US worker going forward, Walker hit that nail on the head.  Either we're going to continue to subsidize the standard of living of retirees and foreign nations we've bombed to rubble and see everyone else's standard of living decline or we're going to change things so the people actually working can enjoy same benefits that previous generations have.  Something has to give here, the sheer size of the problem is beyond staggering.

 

David Walker is definitely one of few honest people left in politics.  He's been sounding off about this for years, across administrations and remained consistent of his criticism of policy over party.  He's absolutely about the first three words of the constitution too.  A lot of these problems have managed to take root due to years or apathy when it comes to dealing with issues in poor governance and the economy (thanks again boomers).  These issues aren't new, Ross Perot ran his campaign on them, as did Al Gore with his "lockbox".  People have buried their head in the sand about a lot of issues for far too long.  We've become a nation that buys most of it's goods from China, employs illegal immigrants over our citizens and then complains about unemployment.  The way half the food we eat is ridiculous unhealthy, but we allow it because once again it's cheap.  The collective savings of a generation has been spent by our government on poorly thought our military programs, tax breaks, and ill thought out entitlement increases.  Yet there's been hardly a peep the whole time.  That hole just continues to get deeper and deeper, largely because a lot of people are too afraid to look in the box and realize it's empty.  

 

We'll do anything to stretch that dollar and we're paying the price for it.  We need reform in government, but the hard truth of it all is that we've turned a blind eye to a lot of issues simply to save a few bucks in the short term.  There isn't a problem we face today that couldn't have been avoided by people advocating better for themselves as both voters and consumers.  Thomas Jefferson once said "People get the government they deserve."  I'm inclined to agree with him.  It's easy to live in denial, and that's what millions of Americans have been doing for years now.  It's time to wake up from the American Dream and start living in the American Reality.

 

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#6) On March 31, 2010 at 1:00 PM, TMFLomax (49.12) wrote:

russiangambit

Agreed. Major lessons should have been learned in 2008 but of course that doesn't appear to be the case, like a collective "wiping clean" of the memory banks and partying in the present (again!) like you said... things feel "good" again. Yeah, very irrational and kind of scary. 

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#7) On March 31, 2010 at 11:47 PM, Tastylunch (29.20) wrote:

 Thanks for posting this outoffocus. This issue can not be mentioned enough.

unfortunately no matter how many times or how well David Walker explains it those in charge continue to do nothing.

I have zero confidence that we are going to avert this calamity in time, there is zero political will.

I really really hope I'm wrong.

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#8) On April 01, 2010 at 8:23 AM, devoish (98.56) wrote:

First of all, what Walker predicts cannot be happening. In the 80's I was promised by the President of the USA that if we just cut taxes on the wealthy they would invest that money wisely, earn greater amounts for themselves and the economy, and fund our benefits at a lower tax rate on higher volumes.

What's really at stake here is the standard of living for the average US worker going forward, Walker hit that nail on the head.

I am absolutely curious what "standard of living" the average US worker has at stake here. Are we talking about having healthcare, a clean retirement, vacation days, travel, time to watch "dancing with Stars", parks to walk in or the right to buy them and put up no tresspassing signs, beaches for swimming, clean water, clean air, clean dirt for planting, internet access? Should we also be concerned about having five gallons of poisons in every house in every flood zone just waiting for a heavy rain? Is that what you mean by planning ahead? Should we be addressing endocrine disruptors and atrazine in the drinking water or continuing to mock "treehuggers" as anti-capitalists dogs? Should we address particulates in the air? Is that part of the "standard of living" that you would like to have for yourself? It's not like anyone we know is getting heart disease, cancer or asthma and having their "standard of living" adversely affected. Does "standard of living for todays workers" include standards for the workplace? Are we talking about office workers or iron workers or both?  I would also like to know who "the average US worker" is. Are we only rewarding college grads on this website? Only Valedictorians or Masters degrees? Do we include machinists? Assembly line workers and waitresses? Are we rewarding all workers, injured workers, the average worker or only the exceptional one?

Either we're going to continue to subsidize the standard of living of retirees and foreign nations we've bombed to rubble and see everyone else's standard of living decline or we're going to change things so the people actually working can enjoy same benefits that previous generations have.

Previous generations reached their standard of living you wish to duplicate for yourself by organising into unions and demanding safe working conditions, reduced hours, healthcare and pensions. You do not have the pensions or benefits my MIL and father are retired on or the unions to fight for them with, and until last week you did not have healthcare and still do not have good healthcare. You are working such long hours that you do not cook for yourself but instead choose to eat a meal supplied by someone who also works long hours for even lower pay and cannot buy the product you make.

"Standard of Living". Well, I guess we all want that.

 

 

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#9) On April 01, 2010 at 10:44 AM, USNHR (31.60) wrote:

There are a few dissendents but they are either too quiet for they are being completely ignored. 

 Obama is a selfabsorebed, narcissitic, left wing educated, idiot. Bush at least listened to his advisors, even if they were the wrong advisors to have.

Humans are really not very rational.

Yet more rational than any other animal on the planet.

Previous generations reached their standard of living you wish to duplicate for yourself by organising into unions and demanding safe working conditions, reduced hours, healthcare and pensions.

 Yeah, I'd love to working as a UAW member at Chrysler and Government Motors right now. Bethlehem Steel was a great gig for union members as well.

 

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#10) On April 01, 2010 at 2:29 PM, AbstractMotion (53.76) wrote:

This has zero to do with basic environmental standards and you know it devoish. I have not seen one person on this thread advocate stripping basic environmental and safety standards as a solution to the problems here.  Are you yourself going to take on the Fox news mantle of shouting out big scary phrases that are totally unrelated to the issue or are you actually going to add something of value to the conversation?  It's clear in the article and discussion that this is about entitlement and tax reform.  

 

Standard of living is pretty clearly defined as is, it's primarily a measurement of average income, access to education and access to healthcare.  Let's take a step back and look at the picture as it is currently and how it's likely to shape up going forward.  Healthcare costs have clearly been rising at an astounding rate, while the bill that recently passed will expand coverage and stop some bad practices it does little to actually address the price of healthcare.  Higher education costs have been rising even faster then healthcare, and have yet to be addressed at the national level.  Real income has actually been on a slight decline for quite a while now and the average household has a hell of a lot more debt to boot.  

 

Going forward we have massive shortfalls in our entitlement programs and a ballooning national debt that we're likely to see higher interest payments on going forward as interest rates return to a sane level.  The funny thing is almost all the things you listed are covered by a very tiny sliver of the budget, which oddly enough is what the President himself is looking to reduce in order to help balance the budget.  No one wants to touch the sacred cows of Defense, Social Security and most importantly Medicare.

 

The fact of the matter is that most people take home a lot less of their paycheck then they did in the 1950's.  Take home income has been eroded by a combination of growing FICA taxes and increasing benefits costs.  Personally I believe strongly that the foundation of the middle class and prosperity comes from individual economic empowerment, I'm sure you have a different take on things, but that's my view.  We've seen a large trend in money being essentially tied up or out of reach of the people who earn it, with the promise that eventually they'll get some of it back.  New workers going into the system, largely regardless of if they're union or not and their occupation, will be paying into benefits at higher costs for lower return, the FICA and Medicare taxes will have to rise to cover the shortfall that will occur due to their funding structures, the general fund (All other taxes) will be under stress from debt servicing costs and Social Security burning through it's "trust fund".  State and local taxes will likely be higher too since a lot of this healthcare reform relies on expanding Medicade coverage which is administered at the state level, as well as the fact that a lot of states have balance sheets in a pretty poor condition (Illinois and California being two of the worst).  All of these issues, both public and private will lead to workers getting a smaller percent of their paycheck with a lot of that money being directed primarily to retirees.

 

Workers have been and will to continue to compete more and more with nations like China as companies continue to offshore jobs and no one in Washington says anything, the same goes for domestic jobs that employ a high number of illegal immigrants.  Unions generally follow the same pattern of seniority being tied directly to pay and benefits while the new kid is shouldering the bulk of the costs with a substantially lower chance of long term job security.  There's no chip on the table to bargain with, it vanished when we started ignoring immigration laws and joined the WTO.  Without a concerted push to address the legal issues or to make US manufactured products preferable in the market, a lot of this isn't going to change.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but most of those politicians in D.C aren't looking out for the little guy, and the guys in the union just want to retire comfortably while they still can.

 

Quite frankly one shouldn't need a union either, a unions power doesn't come from the fact that it's a union, it comes from the combined rights of the workers it holds.  I write my congressman, I sign petitions that matter to me and if someone with a level head on their shoulders actually forms a decent protest in Washington I've got no problem making a day of it and driving up there to join them.  As it stands we're all already paying the salaries of the people who write our laws, the idea that we need some third party to negotiate any of this for us is incredibly contrived.  I've got no problem taking time out of my day the next time my congressman roles around to the local Sunrise(yeah 50% of my congressman's public speaking engagements have been hosted at retirement communities, who'd have thought?) and asking him exactly how we're going to fund Medicare and Social Security over the next 30 years.

 

On top of all that the last 10 years have been an absolutely brutal environment for savers.  Interest rates are still incredibly low, safe, investment grade fixed income hasn't had very good yield throughout this period.  Increasingly people have had to funnel money into riskier assets or count on the same rate of return.  And as recent recession has show there are real risks to having a lot of money in equities buy and hold style, if you can't devote a lot of time to following the market.

It's sad that a lot of money people are expecting to retire on isn't there and hasn't been for years.  I can sympathize with that, but frankly I don't view myself as having an obligation to pay double to compensate for that.  These problems need to be openly addressed.  The government and private businesses need to sit down and actually discuss and disclose what's happened and what the options are going forward.  Until they do, they're just making promises with other people's money.  There's a huge generational redistribution of wealth on the way.

 

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#11) On April 01, 2010 at 4:07 PM, russiangambit (29.12) wrote:

#8 - you are so right about unions, they are middle men and like all middle men they don't add anything productive , they skim the wealth off the top. It is ok, when the skimming is not too much but  all such acitivites tend to grow like parasites at the expense of the host. Unions introduce such an incredible beauracracy and inefficiency to everything that they outlived their usefullness. In many cases they alredy killed their hosts.

There is a russian folk tale which teaches about the usefullness of the middle men at the very early age. Two litte bears found a big head of cheese. They tried dividing it in two halfs but the halfs weren't exactly even. So, they kept arguing who should get the bigger half. Along comes a fox, and says  (every so helpful) - I'll help you divide your cheese. She talkes a big bite out of the bigger half. Now that half is smaller. So , fox need to correct it again to makes halfs equal. Fox kept taking bites trying to make the halfs equal until only two tiny pieces were left. Here you are , said the fox and happily departed.

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#12) On April 01, 2010 at 9:14 PM, devoish (98.56) wrote:

Abstract,

It is increasingly difficult to tell which of you "Gov't is the problem" guys are which sometimes. Many of you rant against the EPA as just another imposition of your rights.

That said, that was just one small part of my. I presumed you recognized that "standard of living" is not cash piling up like old newspapers in the dishwasher. I presumed "standard of living" meant yiou would buy some living with that pile of soggy newspaper. And frankly it does not matter one small tiny bit whether I get a check-up because Gov't paid for it out of my taxes, or I paid for it out my soggy pile. Personally I like being "entitled" to a decent standard of living and healthcare after 35 years of hard labor and long hours. I don't like depending upon the mood or manipulations of GS and other investors for those basics. Most productive Americans don't have time to waste or money to risk on that BS and for most it is a sorry life that requires them to, when they would rather be raising their kids.

Frankly, I've had enough of listening to it and I am enjoying saying so.

If you can find a country where-in 95% of residents have equal access to healthcare and clean retirements, I'll follow you to the policys that achieved that. And yes, illegal immigrants should get healthcare to, unless you want to pay alot more for your Florida tomatos. Frankly they should not have to subsidize your college education with cheap food. You are right, they should not need a union, but they do. Be aware that you will not have any freedoms you do not guarantee to them.

The fact of the matter is that most people take home a lot less of their paycheck then they did in the 1950's.  Take home income has been eroded by a combination of growing FICA taxes and increasing benefits costs.

Income taxes are lower now than they were in the 50's. We replaced those collections with mounting debt. It has long been my contention that if you want to reign in Gov't spending, collect the taxes, don't pretend that lower taxes will increase Govt revenues enough to pay the increase costs of Gov't or that a corporation will pay to clean its own pollution instyead of cutting costs unless every corporation does (is that your belief or david or flea, I don't know).

Healthcare costs were rising in the 50s to 70s because healthcare became a better value and frankly, it is expensive to clean hospitals and have top equipment, and disposable tongue depressors. No economic theory or Gov't action changes that.

In the 80's private insurers became Russians healthcare fox, not unions, not Gov't. Because they are still in the game President Obama will not get his wish - to be the last President who promises healthcare. The Gov't fox is under control, President Obama only makes $400k, and I can fire him. Only a lack of support for Gov't policys that benefit all Americans and a constant unrelenting media campaign of "bad Gov't" has made medicare or SSI unsustainable. I ask you. What do private uinsurers do to lower costs, or improve medicine, and do you really trust someone who thinks they deserve to make $56mil to decide if you should have a skin graft covered and they get more if they tell you know? Or someone else who has no financial interest in whether or not you get it. I swear I have no idea what or if you guys are thinking sometimes.

Personally I think the Gov't should totally screw with the natural flow of free markets and pay college for every kid who completes a medical degree in the next 10 years. I also think the Gov't should run a healthcare plan that covers "whatever your Dr says you need" and see if they can't do it for lower premiums than a private insurer who needs to pay executives multi-millions to pay lobbyists and publicity campaigns to stop Gov't from trying.

And as far as economic theory about printing money being inflationary - good. Who cares if the wealthiest people see themselves still be the wealthiest with a little less buying power. I don't. I just don't see funding the financial industry. If the Fed wants to put more cash into the system, pump it in through SSI or Medicare or retirees pensions or kids lunches or the school system first. There is no reason to give it to the financials to skim first that I can think of. Let the finance industry earn my money from me with higher interest rates on my savings or get  shovels and start digging ditches.  I care more about the guy on the shop floor next to me with two kids and no insurance. I know he works hard and he's a lot more likely to need a skin graft than a lobbyist. I've never seen hard work done at a corporate skybox and I've been there. Take that "business expense" away right now. If you've got a good product to sell you don't need a corporate skybox or box seats at Yankee stadium to sell it.

 There's no chip on the table to bargain with, it vanished when we started ignoring immigration laws and joined the WTO

Sold to Americans as freemarkets= good, Gov't protectionism = bad.

We've seen a large trend in money being essentially tied up or out of reach of the people who earn it, with the promise that eventually they'll get some of it back

Sold to us as trickle down economics. Low taxes on the rich = prosperity for all.

Personally I believe strongly that the foundation of the middle class and prosperity comes from individual economic empowerment,

I'm way to old and tired to let you throw that sweet sounding phrase out there without defining it, any more than I will let you not define "standard of living".

Hurrah for "individual economic empowerment" lets all go to Washington and demand some, whatever it is.

 State and local taxes will likely be higher too since a lot of this healthcare reform relies on expanding Medicade coverage which is administered at the state level.

Actually Congress tried to pay for this bill with higher taxes on incomes over 250K among other things (I know because I've heard people complain how unfair it is).

 Without a concerted push to address the legal issues or to make US manufactured products preferable in the market, a lot of this isn't going to change.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but most of those politicians in D.C aren't looking out for the little guy, and the guys in the union just want to retire comfortably while they still can.

 So vote for some that do care about the little guy. Not the ones who abdicate responsibility for the well being of Americans to an imaginary "free market" and hope someones self interest, which sometimes manifests itself as power tripping, will work out for you instead. Because it has not.

Without a concerted push to address the legal issues or to make US manufactured products preferable in the market, a lot of this isn't going to change.

Do you have an idea for a product that is preferable in the market? Because the only business plan I hear from you is to take "entitlements" from others, so you can have more for yourself.

As it stands we're all already paying the salaries of the people who write our laws, the idea that we need some third party to negotiate any of this for us is incredibly contrived.

Here we have agreement. I am absolutely discusted with congressmen who let corporations write laws. I would ban the second lobbyist from every corporation.

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#13) On April 01, 2010 at 9:59 PM, devoish (98.56) wrote:

This is for some perspective on the issue.

http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/5459 

I am sure we will all find it interesting and debatable.

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#14) On April 01, 2010 at 11:52 PM, AbstractMotion (53.76) wrote:

Economic empowerment refers to allowing the individual (citizen) the freedom to control their own money and making sure they can earn a good wage for their work.  I do not believe the mechanism for this is simply wealth distribution, but is instead allowing people to choose how they save and invest their money.  I feel that I've significantly narrowed it down to dealing largely with savings and health insurance as well.  I don't believe health insurance should be tied to employers, I'm fine with a non profit insurance company existing too.  I also don't believe that the government should be able to withhold part of my paycheck for 40 years on the promise that I might get back someday (assuming of course I don't make too much money).  I would rather have control over my own finances, if the government wants to insure them I'm fine with that as well.  If I feel like buying treasuries I will, and that option is open to every other American as well.

 

Do you have an idea for a product that is preferable in the market?

Look up consumer advocacy, that's what I'm referring to.  If people don't buy it, businesses won't sell it, simple as that.  You made a post not too long ago talking about how you switched from your previous bank to a credit union, that's what I'm referring to here.  Vote with your wallet.

 

Because the only business plan I hear from you is to take "entitlements" from others, so you can have more for yourself. 

This is flat out wrong.  The fact that they're deducted on my W-2 and someone else receives a check in mail confirms it.  That money you've faithfully poured into social security for years is long gone, and not one penny of it has gone to me.  Given that you're such a Regan fan perhaps you can beat it out of him.

 

Sold to Americans as freemarkets= good, Gov't protectionism = bad.

Let's be frank, this isn't about free markets.  We're the only ones really playing by the rules when it comes to half of these trade agreements.  As the entity that signed these agreements into power the government has the authority to renege on those obligations as well, contrary to your belief I don't simply view that government is a net negative.  There are some things that can be helped by the government exerting it's authority and this is one of them.  As is the corrosive effect illegal immigration has had on the wages of unskilled labor.

Actually Congress tried to pay for this bill with higher taxes on incomes over 250K among other things (I know because I've heard people complain how unfair it is). 

Time will tell how many of these funding mechanisms stick, personally I'm not counting on the 25% cut to medicare increases sticking around too long either, and that in essence is part of the problem when it comes to fiscal discipline in the Federal government.

 

Sold to us as trickle down economics. Low taxes on the rich = prosperity for all. 

These issues deal solely with how taxes are applied to workers and tax breaks are applied to businesses.  The government is fully capable of removing that tax break from businesses and giving it to individuals instead so they can buy their own insurance that moves with them, regardless of their employment status.

 

And as far as economic theory about printing money being inflationary - good. Who cares if the wealthiest people see themselves still be the wealthiest with a little less buying power. I don't. I just don't see funding the financial industry. If the Fed wants to put more cash into the system, pump it in through SSI or Medicare or retirees pensions or kids lunches or the school system first. There is no reason to give it to the financials to skim first that I can think of. Let the finance industry earn my money from me with higher interest rates on my savings or get  shovels and start digging ditches.  I care more about the guy on the shop floor next to me with two kids and no insurance. I know he works hard and he's a lot more likely to need a skin graft than a lobbyist. I've never seen hard work done at a corporate skybox and I've been there. Take that "business expense" away right now. If you've got a good product to sell you don't need a corporate skybox or box seats at Yankee stadium to sell it. 

 If printing money really worked like that with minimum repercussions that only hurt the wealthy then we wouldn't need anyone working.  The fact is the people hurt most wouldn't be the rich.  They own businesses and a lot of property that adjusts quite well with inflation.  The people that would be hurt is the retirees, who would see their nest egg and savings decrease.  The pension plans who have to hold most of their assets in AAA fixed income securities would likewise take a large hit.  Your neighbor's savings would too.  It'd benefit people working from paycheck to paycheck and constantly rolling over debt, but harm everyone else.

 

Only a lack of support for Gov't policys that benefit all Americans and a constant unrelenting media campaign of "bad Gov't" has made medicare or SSI unsustainable. 

Bullshit, the prolonged underfunding, poorly thought out expansion of benefits (Including part D and the new "doughnut hole" increases), and the borrowing against these funds by the government has made them unsustainable.  These programs are structured horribly and serve more as a dumping ground for treasuries then the type of sovereign wealth fund they were sold as.

 

 

Most productive Americans don't have time to waste or money to risk on that BS and for most it is a sorry life that requires them to, when they would rather be raising their kids.

And this is the essence of the problem.

 

And yes, illegal immigrants should get healthcare to, unless you want to pay alot more for your Florida tomatos. Frankly they should not have to subsidize your college education with cheap food. You are right, they should not need a union, but they do. Be aware that you will not have any freedoms you do not guarantee to them. 

I'd gladly pay more for a tomato if it gives someone a job so they don't have to end up on unemployment or welfare.  Keep in mind that all those fabulous European nations with their magnificent public system deport people in the exact same situation as illegal immigrants here in greater numbers.  Go ahead and ask Malta about it.  I don't think someone should be here having work as a wage slave, I don't care if it means something costs me a bit less.  I'll pay more at the store if it means someone who does back breaking labor can earn a decent wage and benefits.  I don't have a problem with that.  But as long as this system is allowed to persist where businesses hire them at lower overall wages and the government occasionally grants 6-10 million people amnesty for the next election, none of these problems are going to go away.  We also have a net surplus of labor in these fields as is.  I'm fine with legal immigration, but as a nation we have more then enough labor, what we need is scientists, doctors and engineers.  If they come from Mexico or Latin America that's fine with me, but things need to occur through proper channels and quotas maintained to avoid a lot of the problems we see in the labor market today.

 

I ask you. What do private uinsurers do to lower costs, or improve medicine, and do you really trust someone who thinks they deserve to make $56mil to decide if you should have a skin graft covered and they get more if they tell you know? Or someone else who has no financial interest in whether or not you get it. 

Not much currently since they aren't held responsible to the people who consume the product they insure.  Were this a real market and actual competition allowed I'm sure it'd be a different story.  How come the USPS is going broke and FedEx is doing great if private business is just greedy and inefficient?  I don't think the CEO deserves that kind of salary, I don't think I've ever defended it.  I've stated many times I'm all for standardized plans set by national policy, and that's actually part Obama's bill that recently passed (at some point in the future anyways), as is the funding pool for people with chronic/pre existing conditions.  I'm fine with the government acting as a basic arbitrator for it's citizenry when it comes to safety standards, medication, agriculture, environment.  As long as it's not hyper politicized into something that goes against the will of the voters they serve.   I try not to define oversimplify my views too much, I think you'd benefit from doing the same thing.  What I do believe with regard to private insurers is that there would be a visible market pressure and impetus to do right by their customers if the customer could switch providers if they were not satisfied with the service and benefits they had.  I don't believe insurers should be deciding what treatments are need or the government should be either.  I'm fine with doctors having that responsibility so long as they're bound properly by disclosure laws and the patient has the right to a secondary opinion (situation permitting).  Insurance can still cancel based on fraud and that's really the only right I think they need when it comes to doing their job.  The rest is risk modelling and efficiency.

 

I swear I have no idea what or if you guys are thinking sometimes.

 

The feeling is mutual.  I don't know where this magic money printing with no consequences, just tax someone else and it'll work out fine, I worked hard so the government ensure I have the retirement I want, land of oz is, but if you can find it more power to you.  If however the wizard fails to live up to his expectations just remember you can tap your heels to get back to reality.

 

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#15) On April 02, 2010 at 7:41 AM, devoish (98.56) wrote:

Wow.

That was a surprise. I said tomato and you also said tomato.

I don't think someone should be here having work as a wage slave, I don't care if it means something costs me a bit less. (you mean more, correct?) I'll pay more at the store if it means someone who does back breaking labor can earn a decent wage and benefits.  I don't have a problem with that.

What methodology does the free market have to do something to solve this? Or should Gov't have a role here?

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#16) On April 02, 2010 at 12:33 PM, AbstractMotion (53.76) wrote:

It's a government role, mainly with controlling immigration quotas which existed for years and years but haven't been as heavily enforced since 1965.  The problem with illegal immigration is that it essentially creates an labor black market, don't forget a fair amount of the human trafficking in the US is due to immigration.  It's very nature makes regulation difficult to impossible since it's all conducted in an illegal manner.  That basically leaves you with two options either amnesty to get them into the legal side of the system or deportation to remove them forcibly from the labor pool.  Regardless of which option one favors here it is necessary to adopt additional policies to control illegal immigration going forward to prevent the problem from reoccurring, which as been where our nation has failed to adopt a sustainable policy.  You can either throw the doors open for legal immigration or up border patrolling, deportation, and employer penalties going forward.  

 

I don't believe an open borders policy would out nearly as well as some people make it out, there's a surplus of labor in the industries illegal immigrants occupy currently.  All out immigration would worsen this problem and lead to further wage dilution, which tends to cause unrest among the citizens who end up either being unemployed or earning less.  In the past this has lead to some pretty nasty things (racism).  And was almost always resolved by either changing quotas or flat out banning immigration from a given country.  We need some enforcement or control to give the labor market some time to adjust and the economy to grow enough to accommodate more workers at these positions.  So yeah overall I believe this is a role government should fill.  The market might be able to handle the problem but the transition it would likely be unnecessarily rough and possibly violent.

 

 

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#17) On April 02, 2010 at 6:44 PM, devoish (98.56) wrote:

You can either throw the doors open for legal immigration or up border patrolling, deportation, and employer penalties going forward.

Wow, again.

I agree with you 100% on the open border policy. I don't even know of anyone who advocates for it.

Border patrolling has not been very effective and is very expensive. Plus, as long as there is rumor of a pot of gold at the end of the border crossing, people will be hungry enough to keep trying. Immigration is like a garage that has not been cleaned for a decade (more agreement!). I think the employer penalties response is likely the biggest gainer. Gov't enforcement with penalties - financial and criminal - for hiring illegal immigrants is probably the quickest way to success. Employers need to know they will do jail time for the worst abuses of immigration law and employees and have financial penalties for repeats of the mildest. Once a lot of energy is thrown into cleaning the gararge, less energy, less enforcement can be used (hopefully) to maintain the cleanliness.

Amnesty (or not) for illegal immigrants is stickier and for many an emotional/principle issue. I tend to tink if someone is here illegaly, has been holding a job , paying into SSI like most do, and excepting the immigration thing been on the right side of the law I'd be inclined to let them stay.

We could vote on that though.

Want to tackle another one, go straight to creating a long lasting peace in the middle east or quit and go have a beer?

(I'm having the beer regardless of what you do.)

 

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#18) On April 02, 2010 at 9:02 PM, AbstractMotion (53.76) wrote:

Employer penalties would help a great deal, I'm also an advocate of a new national id system.  For whatever reason that seems to scare the hell out of a lot of people though.  They seem to be afraid that they'd have to present it to buy something at the grocery store or something else ridiculous.  The funniest part is a lot of the same people argue that the social security cards we have are already "good enough" when it comes to identification.  Yet they don't have to present it everywhere they go.  To be frank I think a lot of people just don't realize how much of their lives is already logged and recorded (largely in a semi anonymous/profiled manner for marketing purposes).  I'm a pretty strong advocate of privacy rights too, but I really just cannot see the harm in modernizing our ID system for a few important procedures, especially given how incredibly rampant identity theft has become.  

 

That said I'm not a massive fan of amnesty myself, mainly on principle, but from an economic viewpoint it's cheaper and simpler to implement.  The main problem however is that it's become a vote buying tool, Clinton approved a few million during his terms and Obama is set to do it again.  The republicans also tend to avoid the issue because the agriculture and food processing industries tend to benefit very heavily from the cheap labor.  It isn't exactly uncommon to hear of politicians employing illegal immigrants directly these days either.  I just don't see any real pressure in any party to fix this problem because it benefits several of the big players at the top of the food chain.  Overall I think we'll be seeing a slower economic recovery and prolonged high employment for a lot of people who are directly affected by this particular issue, which will hopefully get some attention focused on it at the national level.  Given most of the recent debates in this country though I imagine it'll devolve into accusations of racism, statements of nationalism and a host of historical revision.

 

As for other issues, for what it's worth I agree with on interest rates being far too low for far too long.  My grandmother was a hard worker, but never what would be considered wealthy when it came to income.  Still she retired comfortably with a great deal of money to her name primarily by investing treasury bonds, that's not nearly as much of an option as it should be these days.  Our economy by in large has not properly encouraged savings for a very long time and that's something that needs to change.  I can understand rates being what they are currently, but I hope that going forward the President keeps proper pressure on the Fed and other regulators to make sure it is.  

 

As for peace in the middle east I have my doubts about that happening too soon, as a nation we have a good 50 years of Cold War politics weighing against us.  I'd say the best bet foreign policy wise would be to continue improving relations with nations that have moderated their approaches to certain issues in the region.  Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Bahrain come to mind, trying to build better relations with these nations and letting Middle Eastern democracy find it's identity is really the step that's needed.  I doubt the Israel/Palenstine conflict will be vanishing anytime soon, but we should be threatening to cut off aid or stop blocking sanction requests if they don't remove their settlements.  I don't think they'll be gaining much traction to be recognized as a legitimate nation in the area if they continue to act as a territorial aggressor.  

 

I feel a lot of the cultural incompatibilities tend to be exaggerated, save perhaps some of the glaring issues with women's rights in the region.  Western culture seems just as pervasive in the middle east as anywhere else.  Lowering the troop presence in the area would certainly help as well. Overall it'll happen, but it's a matter of identity for sovereign nations and religious figures to provide the framework for changes to take place that are compatible with the specific cultural identity of the region.

 

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