Medicare

The (Two) GOP #SOTU Responses

Well, this is awkward, but in our always fair and balanced way, we present the two sides of the GOP's response to Obama's SOTU - the 'official' Marco Rubio response and Rand Paul's Tea Party Express response, with speech excerpts and streams...

“If Congress refuses to obey its own rules, if Congress refuses to pass a budget, if Congress refuses to read the bills, then I say: Sweep the place clean. Limit their terms and send them home!”

#SOTU - The Summary: Minimum Wage, Maximum Genomes, Macs, And Moar Cyber-Security

5% fewer words, slightly shorter than last year but just as hope-full. From a hike (and inflation-indexed) in the minimum wage to a 140x multiplier of genome sciences investment (now that is Keynesian awesomeness); from extending homeownership (and refinancing plans) even more to energy independence; from Apple, Ford, and CAT's US Manufacturing to Bridge-Building and infrastructure spending; and from Trans-Pacific and -Atlantic Trade to cyber-security; it's all gonna be great - because as President Obama reminded us at the start... "Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding," and this won't add a dime to the deficit... oh and that Student loan bubble - no worries, there's a college scorecard so now you know where to get the biggest bang for your credit-based buck. Summing it all up: Guns 9 : 3 Freedom ; Jobs 31 : 17 Tax ; Congress 17 : 40 Work ; Recovery 2 : 0 Unicorns ; Spending 3 : 2 Cutting

Guest Post: Show This To Anyone That Believes That "Things Are Getting Better" In America

The economic collapse is not a single event.  The economic collapse has been happening, it is is happening right now, and it will continue to happen.  Yes, there will be times when our decline will be punctuated by moments of great crisis, but that will be the exception rather than the rule.  A lot of people that write about "the economic collapse" hype it up as if it will be some huge "event" that will happen very rapidly and then once it is all over we will rebuild.  Unfortunately, that is not how the real world works.  We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and once it completely bursts there will be no going back to how things were before. But other than that, everything is rainbows and lollipops, right?

Guest Post: Why Reforms Won't Work

The list of public/private institutions that desperately need structural reform is long: the Pentagon, healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare), Social Security, the complex mish-mash of programs that make up the Welfare State, the 73,000 page tax code, public pensions and the financial sector, to name just the top few. Regardless of the need for reform, it isn't going to happen for these structural reasons.

What The US Government Spent Its Money On Last Quarter

The most vocal justification provided for the disappointing Q4 GDP print by the mainstream was an increase in US government "austerity" resulting in a decline in the government contribution to the economic bottom line in the last quarter (or first fiscal quarter of 2013). Ironically, both total spending and total debt issuance in the past quarter increased, which means that far from being austere, the US actually spent more, not less, i.e., the opposite of austerity. And while it is true that Defense spending declined by a tiny amount in the past quarter compared to the year ago, it was more than offset by a surge in Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Social Security, or, as they are better known, welfare. And, as the CBO yesterday showed, these two components of US spending, which together account for half of all US spending and which couldn't be funded by all US revenues even if the government spent $0.00 for all other programs, which will soar in the coming years as US society ages, as more workers retire, and as more are reliant on Uncle Sam for the payment of every bill. So the next time someone say that the US has a defense spending problem and nothing else, show them this chart.

Harry Reid Picking Winners In Fiscal Cliff Deal

Buried deep in the bowels of the much-heralded last-minute fiscal-cliff deal, that saved us from a fate worse than death and raised taxes on 77% of Americans, was a quiet little provision, inserted at the last minute, that sharply slashed Medicare payments to brain-tumor radiation provider Elekta by 58% while leaving its main competitor Varian's payments unchanged. As the WSJ reports, the provision was put through by none other than Harry Reid - who has a 'deep relationship' with Varian (the winner). Whether crony capitalism is alive-and-well is up for debate - as Varian suggests this 'levels the playing field' but it is the fact that Varian beefed up its outside lobbyists to 18 (from 10) and the provision was not added until the last day suggests this stinks. Once again, it appears, our government is picking winners - and losers (with Elekta as a foreign company unable to participate financially in American elections). As the WSJ notes, the insert looks like the kind of provision helping a specific company or industry that lawmakers have repeatedly vowed to halt. Nonetheless, even in the budget bill tackling the so-called fiscal cliff, lawmakers found time to craft such provisions.

Guest Post: Hope Has Changed - It Died

Hope is dying in the US. The performance of financial markets affects everyone. For savers and investors, these markets represent the means to an improved life, at least as they define it. We are twelve years into this new century and Americans are losing their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Twelve years in, the S&P 500 has returned a total of 14%. That puny return has not come close to covering the decline in purchasing power of the dollar during the same period. The country's financial condition is deplorable and cannot continue much longer. So, too is virtually everything else the government has touched whether it be education, Amtrak, the post office, Social Security, Medicare, ad nauseum. Nothing government has done has not been a Ponzi scheme dependent upon additional theft from taxpayers to keep going. The system is now broken. There is no one to blame for this other than government. Despite this obvious conclusion, government is still seen to be a savior by a large proportion of the country.

Eric Sprott On Ignoring The Obvious

The purpose of asset purchases by the Fed might no longer be improvements in the real economy, but rather a more subtle financing of U.S. government deficits. However, in the long run, expanding the money supply inevitably leads to inflationary pressures. Luckily for the Fed and the U.S. government, there is so much slack in the labour market that inflation might be years away. And, if we are right about the long run unemployment rate being structurally higher, then the Fed has all the room it needs to continue Quantitative Easing (QE) to infinity. This might allow them to continue to hide the true financial position of the government for many years to come. Nonetheless, the rising GAAP deficit and the sheer size of the U.S. Federal Government’s liabilities to its citizens makes it clear that one day or another, services (health care, social security) will have to be cut. Financial alchemy can hide reality, but it does not provide any tangible services. Europe’s (unresolved) experience with its debt crisis provides an insightful window into the future. Austerity measures in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece have caused tremendous pain to their citizens (25% unemployment rates) and wreaked havoc in their economies (double digit retail sales declines). Are we going to ignore the obvious?

Obama Address Word Cloud: "America People Must Believe"

We thought it useful to succinctly summarize the words that have been spewed forth from The Capitol today (and in the past). There is plenty to consider; from Reagan's "freedom" and "government" to Schumer's unfortunate random use of the words: "America", "Today", "Finished", "People" and finally Obama's somewhat ironic punchline that "we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character." Maybe the invisible hand of wordclouds was right when it suggested from today's 2,078 word address that "America Must Believe."

Guest Post: Fiscal Farce, Failure, Fantasy, & Fornication

After witnessing the fighting of undeclared never ending wars, passage of freedom destroying legislation like the Patriot Act & NDAA, approval of pork barrel spending to the tune of hundreds of billions, rule by Executive Order, using ZIRP to extract hundreds of billions from senior citizen savers and give it to criminal Wall Street banks, forcing the American people at gunpoint to replenish the Wall Street banks with $700 billion after they had committed the greatest financial fraud in history, and a continuing trampling of the U.S. Constitution, the American people continue to remain willfully ignorant of the truth. The American Dream is dead. We’ve allowed a rich, privileged, elite few to achieve hegemony over our economic and political system with their control of the media and manipulation of our financial markets. They will collapse the country because they will never be satisfied with the amount of wealth and power they’ve accumulated. Their voracious greed will be their downfall.

Frontrunning: January 18

  • Foreign Hostages Die in Algeria’s Battle With Terrorists (Bloomberg)
  • The latest bank to soon join the currency wars: McCafferty Says BOE Must Keep Open Mind on New Policy Tools (Bloomberg)
  • US debt talks complicated by timing (FT)
  • BOJ eyes open-ended asset buying, agrees new inflation goal (Reuters)
  • AmEx Says U.S. Card Income Fell 42% as Loss Provisions Increased (BBG)
  • Call to raise age for US’s Medicare (FT)
  • Obama Promise to Raise Middle Class Living Already Seen in Peril (BBG)
  • China Exits Slowdown as Quarterly Growth Tops Forecasts (BBG) - actually, as new Politburo says to make it appear that way
  • Britain to drift out of European Union without reforms (Reuters)
  • Republicans weigh interim debt-limit hike (FT)
  • Abe's aide says Japan shouldn't fret if yen falls to 100 vs dlr (Reuters) ... and it was 90 just a few days ago
  • PBOC May Seek More Liquidity Operations (Dow Jones)