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Real Crash 2014
Obama
Posted by Peter Schiff on 02/11/2014 at 7:47 PM

In our current age of spin and counter-spin, there is no contortion too great for a politician to attempt. On occasion, however, the threads of one story become entangled with another in a manner that should deeply embarrass, if the media were sharp enough to catch it.

This happened last week in response to the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) bombshell report on how Obamacare incentives could reduce the size of the labor force by more than two million workers by 2017. While the report did not reflect the Republican spin (that the law will cause employers to kill jobs - -it will, but for reasons not detailed in the report), the reaction of the White House and congressional Democrats set a new mark in rhetorical boldness. In the ultimate act of making lemonade from lemons, they described the findings as unabashed good news. But to do so, they had to contradict their previously expressed views on unemployment insurance.

Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the low cost of Obamacare health insurance will give workers the flexibility to leave the work force if they choose. He agreed with the CBO's opinion that many individuals work at jobs that they don't really value solely because the positions provide health insurance. So, whereas Obama once said, "If you like your health care plan you can keep it," he is now saying, "If you don't like your job, you can leave it."

The subsidies built into Obamacare are exceptional in their severity. As has been noted by many observers, even relatively small increases in income can result in substantial losses in federal subsidies. With health care costs eating up increasingly large portions of personal incomes, it is easy to see why health care subsidies could be the deciding factor for many people to stay home.

But this dynamic is the opposite of what the President and his allies are arguing in the ongoing debate about extending unemployment benefits. Republicans have pointed out that people are discouraged from taking marginal jobs because weekly government checks represent a more attractive option. The White House has responded with deep derision, with the President himself saying that he never met a single American who would prefer a check from the government to a check from an employer. (Perhaps he should get out more?)

In fact, he has accused Republicans of insulting the unemployed by insinuating that they are lazy. However, he is now guilty of the same thing.  Of course, it was never about the unemployed being lazy, but about them not being stupid.  If the government pays you not to work, either with cash or health care, some would be stupid to pass up the offer.  Even more absurdly, Democrats have said that unemployment benefits keep people in the labor force by requiring them to look for a job in order to receive benefits. (This ignores the simple fact that job search claims are self-reported and that the government has no mechanism to verify their authenticity.)

But what is the difference between quitting a job you don't really want, because the government provides you with a health care subsidy, and not taking a job you don't really want because the government gives you an unemployment subsidy?   While it's true that most Americans would gladly give up unemployment benefits if a good job came along, it is also true that the same people may pass on an unattractive job as long as they could get by without it. In fact, very low wage jobs can't compete at all with the full spectrum of benefits offered by unemployment, such as unlimited personal days, zero commuting costs, and lack of oppressive bosses. And while it may be rational for some individuals to hold out for something better, is the economy really better off with people deciding not to work?

The Obama administration is arguing that Americans who leave the labor force voluntarily will benefit the overall economy by their ability to take care of family members, get advanced degrees, or chart their career development without regard to the need for immediate employment that health concerns often require. That is wishful thinking. The economy is already being hamstrung by the lowest labor force participation rate since the late 1970's. Should we celebrate the likelihood that Obamacare incentives will knock it down even further? By showing how the participation rate will likely fall further as a result of Obamacare, the CBO study shows that law will put upward pressure on the federal deficit for years to come.

It's ironic that the Obama administration is claiming credit for liberating women from the workforce. But before 1960s, most married women already enjoyed those luxuries.  But when taxes and inflation rose to pay for the roll out of the welfare state, the single income household went the way of black and white TV. In the 70's and 80's the huge influx of women into the workforce was heralded as a great boost to the economy. Oh how times have changed.

The truth is that most people would prefer not to have to work, and many plan their lives so they can leave the workforce at their earliest convenience. Being freed from the drudgery of daily labor as a result of rising productivity (as was the case for much of our history) is clearly a positive development. More stuff with less work means higher living standards. To the extent that individuals drop out due to accumulated personal savings, society benefits both from the work required to generate the savings, and the productive investments it supports. But if people leave the labor force due to government transfer subsidies, our collective standard of living must drop, as fewer people contribute into the economic pot and more people take from it.

The bottom line is that any society will get more of what it subsidizes and less of what it taxes. By providing a low-income subsidy, Obamacare will encourage some people to take a pass on the drudgery and inconvenience of working. Unemployment insurance does the same, at least temporarily. The White House should learn to keep its story straight. 

Peter Schiff is the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, best-selling author and host of syndicated Peter Schiff Show. 

Catch Peter's latest thoughts on the U.S. and International markets in the Euro Pacific Capital Winter 2014 Global Investor Newsletter!



Tags:  obamaSubsidiesunemployment
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The Trillion Dollar Trick
Posted by Peter Schiff on 01/15/2013 at 8:19 PM

The birth, and the apparent death, of the trillion dollar platinum coin idea may one day be recalled as a mere footnote in the current debt crisis drama. The ultimate rejection of the idea (which was to use a loophole in commemorative coinage law to mint a platinum coin of any denomination) by both the the President and the Federal Reserve seems to offer some relief that our economic policy is not being run by out-of-touch academics and irresponsible congressmen. In reality, our government has been creating more than one trillion dollars out of thin air every year for the past five. The only difference is that the blatant dishonesty of a trillion-dollar platinum coin is so easy to understand that the public simply couldn't be expected to swallow it. The American people are more than willing to be fooled, but they won't tolerate so simple a ruse.    

People have a long and intimate history with coins. Some of us collected them as kids, and we all touch and see them every day. Unlike currency bills, we know intuitively that a coin's value is supposed to come from its metal content. That's why quarters are bigger than dimes.  As a result, most people have viscerally rejected the platinum coin idea. To assign an arbitrary, sky high, valuation to a small piece of metal strikes most people as a deceitful, desperate act. They are right.  

However, the same people have no problem with images of thousands of crisp paper notes flying off the printing presses. The acceptance is not impacted by how many zeroes the bills contain. People simply believe that paper money derives value from the numbers, not the paper. This was not always so. Paper money originally entered the public awareness as promissory notes to pay different amounts of gold. Once people got used to the paper, few really cared when the gold backing was finally removed. As a result, the public would likely have been much more accepting of the Fed printing a trillion dollar bill than the government minting a trillion dollar coin. But there was no legal pathway for the Fed to simply give that money to the government.  

The government, not the Fed, mints coins, so they did not have to rely on the Fed to create value out of thin air. That is why the platinum coin idea was so seductive, if ultimately unsellable.   

But the Fed does the exact same thing all the time using sophisticated accounting and state of the art computing.  The Fed "expands its balance sheet" by buying government bonds from private banks. In exchange for these securities, the Fed credits the banks with funds it creates out of thin air. The banks then pass the funds to the general public through loans.  But it's important to realize that the Fed does not have any money to actually buy the bonds in the first place. The funds are "created" by a Fed computer. The process is easier (and equally duplicitous) than minting a trillion dollar coin (which at least requires the production of something other than computer code).  The only difference is the lack of window dressing. It's a shame that the platinum coin episode did not result in a wider recognition of this brutal truth.  

A similarly silly and meaningless distinction is being made with respect to raising the debt ceiling. In his press conference yesterday, President Obama said the Republican reluctance to raise the debt limit was the equivalent of a diner who had ordered and enjoyed a meal who then decides to leave the restaurant without paying the bill. The President is actually arguing that if the diner had no cash on hand, it would be much more responsible to simply use a credit card. In taking this moral high ground, the President ignores the fact that the diner (who has indebted himself through habitual restaurant meals) intends to pay his credit card bill with another card, and then repeat the process until he runs out of cards. So in the end, it's not the restaurateur who gets stiffed, but the issuer of the last card the diner is able to acquire.  As with the platinum coin, this is a distinction without a difference. 

Currently the Federal Government counts more than $16 trillion in funded obligations. Over the next 10 years we are expected to add another $10 trillion or more. At no point in the foreseeable future are we expected to approach balance in our annual budget. All of our future bills are expected to be paid by future borrowing on a massive scale. Anyone with an ounce of integrity would have to plan for the possibility that an ever increasing debt rollover is a limited prospect. Such an understanding will mean that eventually someone will get stuck with the bill. How is this any more responsible than dining and ditching?    

In truth, a failure to raise the debt ceiling is not a commitment to renege on obligations. It is simply a decision to stop borrowing. The government could still meet obligations by cutting spending, raising taxes, or making reforms to entitlements. But it chooses not to take this difficult step. 

More important than that is the message America is sending its creditors. By informing them that the United States will not use its taxing power to repay its debts, but will only rely on its ability to borrow more (ironically from the same creditors), it effectively admits to running the world's largest Ponzi scheme. It's a shame that more people can't seem to grasp these very simple truths.


To order your copy of Peter Schiff's latest book, The Real Crash: America’s Coming Bankruptcy – How to Save Yourself and Your Countryclick here.

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Tags:  debt ceilingfederal reserveobama
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Legal Gimmickry Rescues Obama
Posted by Peter Schiff on 06/29/2012 at 11:04 AM

Despite the celebrations among Democrats, yesterday a majority of Supreme Court justices ruled that the Constitution does not allow the government to force Americans to buy health insurance. However in providing the swing vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) Chief Justice John Roberts broke with the four other justices who shared that view by declaring that the methods chosen to get individuals to buy insurance were not penalties but taxes. He declared that the government wasn't legislating behavior, but simply taxing it. In reaching this tortured decision he erred by declaring the penalties to be taxes and then compounded the mistake by classifying them as "indirect taxes" that are not imposed on individuals. Apparently Roberts feels that these two wrongs will make a right. But his mistake will cost this country dearly.

The Obama administration admits that because the law makes it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions it eliminates the incentive for healthy people to buy insurance. Any rational healthy person would simply forego expensive insurance until they were old enough or sick enough to actually need it. Since insurance companies need the money they make from healthy people to compensate for the money they lose from sick people, the plan would collapse if the government did not devise a mandate that would convince or compel all individuals to buy insurance.

In selling the plan to the public, President Obama repeatedly claimed that these burdens were penalties, not taxes. In addition to the stated intent of the lawmakers, the standard legal definitions that separate taxes from penalties make it clear that the new financial burdens are penalties, not taxes. A tax is an exaction to raise revenue. If its primary purpose is to compel behavior then it is considered a penalty. 

But Roberts argued that since the "tax" on not buying is lower than the actual cost of insurance, then the penalty will not force anyone to buy. He did not specify a level at which the "tax" would become determinative thereby becoming an unconstitutional penalty. However, since Congress can raise the tax anytime it wants, the mechanism is already in place for it to do exactly what the Supreme Court ruled it can't. Does Roberts expect to review the case every time Congress raises the penalty? The fact that Roberts feels that the penalty is ineffective is irrelevant. It is not the Court's job to judge the efficacy of legislation, just its constitutionality.

Robert's conclusion that the Federal government can't require that people buy health insurance but can impose a tax on those who don't is a distinction without a difference. After all, if the tax was high enough, individuals would have no choice but to comply. It has been clearly established that Congress can't do with the tax code what it lacks the constitutional authority to do with legislation. That is why the Constitution had to be amended in order to ban the sale of alcohol. Prohibition would have been much easier to achieve by simply raising alcohol taxes sufficiently to eliminate its sale. But such a tax would have been unconstitutional. The same principal applies to health insurance. Congress can't simply use taxes to force Americans to buy health insurance.  

Even if you buy Robert's logic that the penalty is a tax, he still should have ruled it unconstitutional because all direct taxes, except income taxes as described by the 16th Amendment, must be apportioned. The government's power to tax is not absolute. Taxes fall into two classes, direct and indirect, and there are specific rules for each. Alcohol and tobacco taxes are indirect taxes, and are subject to the rule of uniformity. You only pay them if you buy the products, and you do so indirectly through the merchants who sell them. If you do not buy the products you pay nothing.

However, the only way to avoid paying the tax for not buying health insurance is to buy a product that you do not want. So either way you pay. And since the taxpayer pays the tax directly to the government, it's a direct tax, which must be apportioned by state according to each state's percentage of the nation's total population.  

Roberts allowed the government to free itself from this straightjacket by redefining the meaning of a direct tax. He asserted that the tax for not buying health insurance is indirect because it affects not all Americans but only those who fail to buy health insurance and who have sufficient income to pay.  But the percentage of people who are subject to a tax has nothing to do with the class to which it belongs. The 19th Century income tax was declared unconstitutional because it was an unapportioned direct tax. The fact that less than 2% of the population was initially subject to it was beside the point.  

As with Prohibition, to impose an unapportioned direct income taxes on individuals the government had to amend the Constitution. It should have to do it again to impose another unapportioned direct tax on those who fail to buy health insurance.

The Supreme Court has ruled (incorrectly in my opinion) that estate and gift taxes fall into the category of indirect taxes, even though they are paid directly to the government. The court ruled that these are not direct taxes on individuals, but excise taxes levied on the privilege of giving gifts or bequeathing property. They could try to apply the same twisted logic to health insurance, but it would be quite a stretch to classify the right not to buy health insurance as a privilege.

In the final analysis, since the court ruled that the government cannot force Americans to buy health insurance, and that the stated purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to do precisely that, it is clearly unconstitutional, regardless of the legal trickery the court used to declare otherwise.

If the government had tried to slip an unconstitutional penalty by the Court by disguising it as a tax, then Obama may have been on the wrong end of yesterday's decision. Instead he chose a losing argument but Roberts found a loophole to uphold it anyway. Despite his stated preference for restraint, this is the ultimate in judicial activism. This awful ruling makes it more evident that the ballot box provides the only remedy for freedom loving Americans. 

I offer more on this topic in my latest video blog.



Tags:  health insurancehealthcareobamaobamacaresupreme court
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Unprecedented Presidential Posturing
Posted by Peter Schiff on 04/12/2012 at 11:35 AM

Last week, responding to President Obama's latest populist assault on the wealthy, I issued a commentary in which I explained why his ideas about American economic history were fundamentally flawed. As dangerous and erroneous as those views are, at least I can cut the President some slack for commenting on a subject in which he really has no basis for expertise. Hailing from academia and local community organizing, Barack Obama likely did not spend huge amounts of time boning up on economic history. However, there are other subjects where he should find firmer footing. Constitutional law certainly comes to mind. After all, Obama rose to national prominence based on his status as a legal scholar. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was elected president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. He went on to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School, one of the top ranked schools in the country.

 

Based on these achievements, it is simply stunning that he made so many fundamental errors last week in his analysis of the Supreme Court's review of his sweeping health care legislation. Not only did he make grossly inaccurate statements with regards to the health care legislation, and the history of Supreme Court decisions that relate to it, but he also showed little understanding of the very purpose that the Court serves within the constitutional framework of the U.S. government. These remarks either indicate that a Harvard degree isn't worth the paper it's written on or that there is nothing Obama won't say to advance his political agenda.

 

In his apparently off-the-cuff remarks he stated that "I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what will be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress." Before even turning to the more nuanced parts of that statement, I would ask the President what he considers to be a "strong majority?" His health care legislation (dubbed "Obamacare" by Republicans), passed the House of Representatives in March 2010 on a nearly party line vote of 220-221 (some would call this result "a squeaker.") What's more, just six months later, the slim majority that voted to pass the legislation was voted out of existence. Not only would the law stand no chance of passage in the current Congress, the majority of Americans still show misgivings about the expansion of federal power that the law involves.  So much for a groundswell of national support. But that's just the appetizer.

 

Obama claimed that it would be "unprecedented" for the Supreme Court to overturn a law passed by Congress. Is he kidding? Every seventh or eighth grader who has taken a civics course knows that the Supreme Court acts as a check on the executive and legislative branches of government (who can often disregard the Constitution in their quests for votes and power). The intent of the framers of the constitution was affirmed in 1803 by the landmark case "Marbury v. Madison" in which Chief Justice John Marshall established the doctrine of "judicial review," whereby the Court can strike down any law that it feels to be unconstitutional.  Is it possible that they never got around to that case at Harvard?

 

Since Marbury the Supreme Court has undone sweeping economic policies many times. Perhaps the most significant example was in 1895 when the Income Tax Act of 1894 was undone by Pollock v. Farmers Loan and Trust. By ruling that the new income tax did not conform to the taxing powers delegated in the Constitution, the Supreme Court derailed the revenue seeking agenda of the federal government. Proponents of the tax had to revert to the constitutional amendment process, a workaround that took 18 years and ultimately resulted in the 16th Amendment.

 

Forty years after Pollock the Supreme Court struck again when it invalidated the National Recovery Act (NRA), Franklin Roosevelt's signature piece of Depression Era legislation. The NRA was truly an "unprecedented" intrusion into the commercial lives of Americans which injected U.S. government micromanagement into almost every facet of commercial activity. It told merchants and industries how much they could charge for particular products, how much they should pay workers, how long workers could work, how employers could negotiate with unions, and established "codes of fair competition" for all business to follow. 

      

In a unanimous decision in the 1935 Schechter Poultry Corp v. United States, the Supreme Court threw out the NRA. The Court ruled that the Act's draconian economic engineering was too broad an interpretation of the Constitution's infamous "commerce clause." After the ruling, Justice Louis Brendeis (not known for his strict adherence to conservative constitutional interpretation) famously remarked to a presidential aide, "This is the end of this business of centralization, and I want you to go back and tell the President that we're not going to let this government centralize everything." Wow, President Obama, now that's a whole lot of precedent.

 

What is perhaps even more shocking than Obama's ignorance on these subjects is the media's reluctance to really hold his feet to the fire. Imagine if Sarah Palin had made similarly ignorant statements during the presidential campaign of 2008. She would have been absolutely crucified in the press for her lack of understanding of the basics of federal checks and balances. But Sarah Palin would have had an excuse, she was a sports reporter, turned small town mayor, turned one-term governor of Alaska. She never taught a class in constitutional law at an elite law school.   

 

Although subsequent statements by the President and his spokespeople have attempted to "clarify" (and soften) his originally indefensible remarks, the impression he made will be hard to erase. My hope is that his attempt to intimidate the court into upholding his law will backfire, and what is left of judicial independence will save us from Obama's impractical health care plan. If so we will have John Marshall to thank. 

 

To save 35% on Peter Schiff's new book, The Real Crash: America's Coming Bankruptcy - How to Save Yourself and Your Countrypre-order your copy today

 

For in-depth analysis of this and other investment topics, subscribe to Peter Schiff's Global Investor newsletter. CLICK HERE for your free subscription.



Tags:  congressobamasupreme court
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Obama's Pretzel Logic
Posted by Peter Schiff on 04/05/2012 at 2:35 PM

As this fall's presidential election takes shape as a contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the rhetoric out of both camps is becoming sharper and more ideological. Looking to exploit Governor Romney's increasingly close association with Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan (who has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential nominee), the President dedicated a lengthy address earlier this week to specifically heap scorn on Ryan's budget plan (Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee). The attack lines used by the President not only reveal a preview of the fall campaign but also offer a glimpse of Obama's skewed views of the social and economic history of the United States. 

 

 

The President laid bare his beliefs that America's source of economic strength has been her historical embrace of collective action, wealth redistribution, and government policies that have protected workers from the ravages of the wealthy. To reiterate, he was talking about the United States, not Soviet Russia. He asserted that prosperity "grows outward from the middle class" and that it "never trickles down from the success of the wealthy." Accordingly, he concludes that our recent struggles stem from the Republican-led abandonment of these successful policies.

 

In reaching these conclusions Obama relies on classic "wet sidewalks cause rain" reasoning, and assumes that an effect can be the father of the cause. But as we debate how to move the American economy out of the rut in which it is trapped, it's important to know where to put the cart and where the horse.

To illustrate his point, Obama singled out auto pioneer Henry Ford, who famously paid among the highest wages in the world at that time his company began churning out Model T's. By paying such high wages Obama believes Ford created consumers who could afford to purchase his cars, thereby giving business the ability to grow. Based on this understanding, any program that puts money into the pockets of the average American consumer will be successful in creating growth, especially if those funds can be taxed from the wealthy, who are less likely to spend. Obama argues that Republican proposals that reign in government spending, and cut benefits to the middle or low incomes, are antithetical to this goal.

While it is true that the American middle class rose in tandem with her economic might, it was the success of the country's industrialists that allowed the middle class to arise. Capitalism unleashed the productive capacity of entrepreneurs and workers, which brought down the cost of goods to the point that high levels of consumption were possible for a wider cross section of individuals. While Henry Ford, as Obama noted,  paid his workers well enough to buy Ford cars, those high wages would never have been possible, or his products affordable, if not for the personal innovation he, and other American industrialists, brought to the table in the first place.

The economists that Obama follows believe that business will only create jobs once they know consumers have the money to buy their products. But just as wet sidewalks don't cause rain, consumption does not lead to production. Rather, production leads to consumption. Something must be produced before it can be consumed.

Human demand is endless and does not need to be stimulated into existence. Suppose you want a new car, but then you lose your job and you decide to forgo the purchase. Has your desire (or demand) for the car lessened as a result of your diminished employment circumstances? If you are like most people, you still desire the car just as much, but you may decide not to buy it because of your reduced income. It's not that you no longer want the car (if someone offered it to you at 90% below the sticker price, you might still buy it). It's that you have lost the ability to afford it given its price and your income. The best way to transform demand into consumption is to lower prices to the point where things become affordable. Efficiently operating industries increase supply and bring down prices. This is what Ford did 100 years ago and Steve Jobs did much more recently.

But by introducing revolutionary manufacturing processes for the mass production of low-end vehicles, Ford was able to drastically lower the price of a product (cars) that were previously available only to the wealthy. Ford didn't create desire to buy cars, that existed independently. But he greatly expanded the quantity of inexpensive cars which allowed that demand to be fulfilled through consumption. In the process he created wealth for himself and his workers (his efficient techniques meant that workers could demand high wages) and higher living standards for society as a whole.

Obama believes that prosperity came only in the 20th century after the government began redistributing wealth from rich people like Henry Ford to the middle and lower classes. He ignores the fact that America's greatest growth streak occurred in the 19th rather than the 20th century, and that America had become by far the world's richest nation before any serious wealth redistribution even began.

The unfortunate part for the President is that wealth must first be produced before it can be redistributed. But redistribution always creates disincentives that result in less wealth being created. All societies that have attempted to create wealth through redistribution have failed miserably. This should be obvious to anyone who spends more than a few minutes studying world economic history. But the President is on a mission to get reelected and his ace in the hole is to fan the flames of class warfare. It's a tried and true political strategy, and he looks ready to ride that hobby horse until it breaks.

 

To save 35% on Peter Schiff's new book, The Real Crash: America's Coming Bankruptcy - How to Save Yourself and Your Countrypre-order your copy today

 

For in-depth analysis of this and other investment topics, subscribe to Peter Schiff's Global Investor newsletter. CLICK HERE for your free subscription.



Tags:  deficitjobsobama
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Obama Gets Real
Posted by Peter Schiff on 12/09/2011 at 11:32 AM
For most of his time as a national political figure, Barack Obama has been careful to cloak his core socialist leanings behind a veil of pro-capitalist rhetoric. This makes strategic sense, as Americans still largely identify as pro-capitalist. However, based on his recent speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, the President appears to have reassessed the political landscape in advance of the 2012 elections. Based on the growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the recent defeat of Republicans in special elections, he has perhaps sensed a surge of left-leaning sentiment; and, as a result, he finally dropped the pretense.

According to our President's new view of history, capitalism is a theory that has "never worked." He argues that its appeal can't be justified by results, but its popularity is based on Americans' preference for an economic ideology that "fits well on a bumper sticker." He feels that capitalism speaks to the flaws in the American DNA, those deeply rooted creation myths that elevate the achievements of individuals and cast unwarranted skepticism on the benefits of government. He argues that this pre-disposition has been exploited by the rich to popularize policies that benefit themselves at the expense of the poor and middle class.

But Obama's knowledge of history is limited to what is written on his teleprompter. And his selection of the same location that Teddy Roosevelt used to chart an abrupt departure into populist politics is deeply symbolic in the opposite way to that which he intended. It is not by some genetic fluke that Americans distrust government. It is an integral and essential part of our heritage. The United States was founded by people who distrusted government intensely and was subsequently settled, over successive generations, by people fleeing the ravages of government oppression. These Americans relied on capitalism to quickly build the greatest economic power the world had ever seen - from nothing.

But according to Obama's revisionist version of American history, we tried capitalism only briefly during our history. First, during the Robber Barron period of the late 19th Century, the result of which was child labor and unprecedented lower-class poverty. These ravages were supposedly only corrected by the progressive policies of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. We tried capitalism again in the 1920s, according to Obama, and the result was the Great Depression. This time, it allegedly took FDR's New Deal to finally slay that capitalist monster. Then, the account only gets more farcical. Apparently, we tried capitalism again under George W. Bush, and the result was the housing bubble, financial crisis, and ensuing Great Recession. Obama now argues that government is needed once again to save the day.

This view is complete fiction and proves that Obama is not qualified to teach elementary school civics, let alone serve as President of the United States. I wonder what other economic system he believes we followed prior to the 1890s and 1920s (and during the 1950s and 1960s) that that he now seeks to restore? Capitalism did not start with J.P. Morgan in 1890s or John D. Rockefeller in the 1920s as the President suggests. In fact, it was about that time that capitalism came under attack by the progressives. We were born and prospered under capitalism. The Great Depression did not result from unbridled capitalism, but from the monetary policy of the newly created Federal Reserve and the interventionist economic policies of both Hoover and Roosevelt - policies that were decidedly un-capitalist.
 
The prosperity enjoyed during mid-20th century actually resulted from the incredible progress produced by years of capitalism. Contrary to Obama's belief, the New Deal and Great Society did not create the middle class; it was, in fact, a direct result of the capitalist industrial revolution. The socialist programs of which Obama is so fond are the reasons why the middle class has been shrinking. America's economic descent began in the 1960s, when we abandoned capitalism in favor of a mixed economy. By mixing capitalism with socialism, we undermined economic growth, and reversed much of the progress years of laissez-faire had bestowed on average Americans. The back of the middle class is being broken by the weight of government and the enormous burden taxes and regulation place on the economy.

America's first experiment with socialism, the Plymouth Bay Colony, ended in failure, and our most successful colonies - New York, Virginia, Massachusetts  - were begun primarily as commercial enterprises. When the founding fathers gathered to write the Constitution, they represented capitalist states and granted the federal government severely limited powers.

Apparently, Obama thinks our founders' mistrust of government was delusional, and that we were fortunate that far wiser groups of leaders eventually corrected those mistakes. The danger, as Obama sees it, is that some Republicans actually want to reverse course and adopt the failed ideas espoused by great American fools like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.

The President unknowingly illustrated his own contradictory thinking with the importance he now places on extending the temporary payroll tax cuts. If all that stands between middle-class families and abject poverty is a small tax cut, imagine how much damage the far more massive existing tax burden already inflicts on those very households! If Obama really wants to relieve middle-class taxpayers of this burden, he needs to reduce the cost of government by cutting spending. After all, there is no way to pay for all the government programs Obama wants by simply by taxing the rich.

History has proven time-and-again that capitalism works and socialism does not. Taking money from the rich and redistributing it to the poor does not grow the economy. On the contrary, it reduces the incentives of both parties. It lowers savings, destroys capital, limits economic growth, and lowers living standards. Maybe Obama should take his eyes off the teleprompter long enough to read some American history. In fact, he could start by reading the Constitution that he swore an oath to uphold.


Tags:  capitalismcommunismconstitutionfounding fathersobamasocialismsocialist
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THE POLITICS OF GOLD INVESTMENT
Posted by Peter Schiff on 11/03/2011 at 7:37 AM

I think I know some lab mice that have received less examination than the 2012 Republican primary candidates. It seems with each passing cycle, the campaigning starts earlier, there are more debates, and the media frenzy gets more intense. Yet, with all the pyrotechnics and pageantry, it becomes difficult to figure out what these tricksters actually think when they're behind the curtain. Since the gold price is inextricably linked to the long-term fate of the US dollar, it's rather important for gold investors to be able to forecast how each candidate, if elected, would conduct his/her monetary policy.

 

Monetary policy is not nearly discussed enough in debates or television appearances - partly because too few viewers care about it, and partly because most candidates simply don't understand the subject. The most common monetary policy platform amounts to little more than, "I'm opposed to China's currency manipulation, and America needs a strong dollar!" (Little do they know that these two goals are right now in opposition.)

 

As we examine three frontrunners, it's important to remember that their future policies can be difficult to distil, but that their past records are likely to be a more effective indicator than their present rhetoric.

 

HERMAN CAIN: THE FED CHAIRMAN

 

Cain's lucky he's known as "The Guy Who Makes Pizza" instead of "The Guy Who Prints Money."

 

Herman Cain was Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City from '95 - '96, and held the positions of Deputy Chairman and Board Member during the preceding six years. This was the heyday of Alan Greenspan's bubble economy, and there is little record of Cain dissenting. While some have remarked that Cain knew little about economics when he joined the board, he has had ample time to learn. Yet, when challenged to name his favorite Fed Chairman at this year's debates, Cain still chose Greenspan!

 

Cain's flagship "9-9-9 Tax Plan" is drawing headlines, but it contains no in-depth discussion of monetary policy, other than brief allusions to a "strong dollar." No mention of quantitative easing or the money supply. No condemnation of artificially-low interest rates.

 

Even if Cain were able to reduce taxes considerably, the spending would continue. Like many Republicans, Cain talks generally about spending cuts, but does not specifically target any budget items. We can assume any actual cuts he gets through Congress would be of the "slow the growth of future spending" variety.

 

With continued spending and record of inflation tolerance, Cain will most likely turn to the Fed to monetize the extra debt. This means a Cain presidency is likely to be very bullish for gold - with the mitigating factor that if given free reign, Cain might at least try to move the country back on a sustainable path.

 

Cain Presidency:

 

Bullish for gold

Bearish for USD

 

MITT ROMNEY: THE CLOSET DEMOCRAT

 

Consider the following quote: "My experience tells me that we were on the precipice, and we could have had a complete meltdown of our entire financial system, wiping out all the savings of the American people. So action had to be taken."

 

It sounds like Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, or Paul Krugman. President Obama himself has said exactly the same thing countless times. Yet, this quote comes from Mitt Romney at a recent Republican debate.

 

Romney supported the TARP bailouts. Romney defends the Federal Reserve. Romney even implemented socialized medicine as Governor of Massachusetts. He says he would conduct monetary and fiscal policy "differently" than Obama, but when you're car is headed over a cliff, it doesn't much matter whether you drive on the right or left side of the road!

 

Just as with Cain, Romney still does not understand the terrible precedent set by the bailouts, and the devastating consequences loose monetary policy has on the US dollar and global economy. Worse yet, Romney hasn't even offered a credible plan to reduce government involvement in the economy. Romney's campaign slogan might as well be, "A New Face for the Status Quo." And the status quo is a collapsing dollar and skyrocketing gold.

 

Romney Presidency:

 

Very bullish for gold

Very bearish for USD

 

RON PAUL: THE GOLD STANDARD

 

If Ron Paul were elected President, he would immediately move to cut spending drastically. This is clear based on his 35-year record of acting on his promises, and his recent campaign pledge to cut $1 trillion from his first proposed budget. He would face stiff resistance from both parties, for sure, but such a move would change the entire direction of public discourse.

 

Now, it's important to remember that $1 trillion is only two-thirds of the 2011 deficit. So, even if President Paul got his entire budget approved, we still would be facing a growing debt of around $16 trillion at that point. While President Paul could order the Treasury to begin selling its toxic assets that are impeding economic recovery, he wouldn't have direct control over the Fed - which, under Bernanke, would likely announce even more money-printing to counteract the President's tough medicine.

 

But President Paul's real silver bullet would come two years into his term when he would get the opportunity to nominate a new Fed Chairman. As someone who entered public life in response to the end of the gold standard under Nixon, Paul is certain to appoint the most hawkish Fed Chairman the country has ever seen. This would immediately reverse the misfortunes of the US dollar and could impact gold's rise.

 

But remember, even in this pie-in-the-sky scenario, it will still take years for Bernanke's devaluation damage to fully circulate around the global economy. That means gold could still appreciate well into a Paul presidency.

 

Ultimately, a Paul presidency could also lead toward a gold standard monetary system. In such a case, gold is likely to carry an even higher value as the premium for serving as the international reserve asset.

 

Paul Presidency:

 

Bullish for gold

Bullish for USD

 

RICK PERRY: THE BIG SPENDER

 

Rick Perry is a career politician now in his 11th year as Governor of Texas. He claims to be a tax-fighter, but he has signed several tax increases as Governor. To the extent that he has held the line on taxes, he's overseen a more than doubling of Texas state debt. And not all of this money was going to pay for schools and roads. For instance, he created the $435 million Texas Enterprise Fund to subsidize politically connected businesses.

 

As a candidate, Perry has adopted Ron Paul's rhetoric being critical of the Fed's quantitative easing programs. He's even gone as far as accusing Bernanke of "treason." But he doesn't show a deep understanding of what makes the Fed's policies so destructive, and his campaign website makes no mention of monetary policy at all.

 

Still, Perry at least knows which way the wind is blowing, and he does have a record of vetoing expensive legislation. Overall, it's hard to tell what kind of President he would be - a lot like it was for the last Texas Governor that become President. In the latter case, President George W. Bush claimed to be for small government and a humble foreign policy, but went the exact opposite way once elected.

 

Perry might make an attempt to change Washington's direction, but he has neither the depth nor the steadfastness to really make it happen. Thus, the current gold/dollar dynamic would be likely to continue.

 

Perry Presidency:

 

Bullish for gold

Bearish for USD

 

NEWT GINGRICH: THE BENEDICT ARNOLD

 

In the mid-'90s, Newt Gingrich gained a reputation as a radical reformer after he led the Republicans to their first House majority in 40 years. He wrote a Contract with America, and made a good faith attempt to pass all of its provisions. This movement could be credited with stopping Hillarycare, enacting welfare reform, and reducing certain key taxes.

 

But in the years since, he has vocally supported programs like the costly Medicare Part D, teamed up with Hillary Clinton on healthcare, and supported mainstream Republican candidates over Tea Party challengers.

 

What happened? Clearly, Gingrich has been building bridges in order to be seen as a moderate candidate for his Presidential run.

 

If only he had kept to his original firebrand style, he might have had a shot at getting something done in the White House. Unfortunately, trying to become part of the establishment is a game with no end, and therefore Gingrich is likely to continue "reaching across the aisle" to author costly legislation. If he announces a Contract with Austerity, maybe I'll change my tune.

 

Gingrich Presidency:

 

Bullish for gold

Very bearish for USD

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE PRESIDENT?

 

Despite what the media would have you believe, the President is not all-powerful. In fact, a President only has limited powers compared to Congress. Without the support of Congress and the American People, a President can be rendered a lame duck early on - like Jimmy Carter was.

 

The direction of gold under most candidates is fairly easy to predict - it will continue appreciating against the falling US dollar. This is simply because these candidates will not even attempt to address the disastrous fiscal and monetary policies that have brought us to this point.

 

The price direction under Ron Paul (and also Gary Johnson), however, would be less predictable. I believe both men would try their best to reverse the US decline that my strategy is insulating against.

 

In any case, even an authentic campaigner who understood the calamities of money-printing would be hard-pressed to actually save the dollar at this point. The history of fiat currencies has few - if any - examples of monetary debasement being reversed before the currency falls apart - and many cases of gold proving the superior asset.   

BARACK OBAMA: THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO

 

There is one candidate in 2012 that we can be sure won't even try to save the dollar, and that is President Obama. From his doubling down on the bailouts to his faithful support of Chairman Bernanke, Obama has done almost everything in a President's power to hasten the dollar's demise.

 

If he is re-elected, which still seems like a possibility, then you better put on your mining hats because the gold rush is on!



Tags:  caingoldobamaperrypolticspresidentromney
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How the Government Can Create Jobs
Posted by Peter Schiff on 09/15/2011 at 4:28 PM

Testimony by Peter D. Schiff

Offered to the House Sub-Committee on Government Reform and Stimulus Oversight

September 13, 2011

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking member, and all distinguished members of this panel. Thank you for inviting me here today to offer my opinions as to how the government can help the American economy recover from the worst crisis in living memory.

Despite the understandable human tendency to help others, government spending cannot be a net creator of jobs. Indeed many efforts currently under consideration by the Administration and Congress will actively destroy jobs. These initiatives must stop. While it is easy to see how a deficit-financed government program can lead to the creation of a specific job, it is much harder to see how other jobs are destroyed by the diversion of capital and resources. It is also difficult to see how the bigger budget deficits sap the economy of vitality, destroying jobs in the process.

In a free market jobs are created by profit seeking businesses with access to capital. Unfortunately Government taxes and regulation diminish profits, and deficit spending and artificially low interest rates inhibit capital formation. As a result unemployment remains high, and will likely continue to rise until policies are reversed.

It is my belief that a dollar of deficit spending does more damage to job creation than a dollar of taxes.   That is because taxes (particularly those targeting the middle or lower income groups) have their greatest impact on spending, while deficits more directly impact savings and investment. Contrary to the beliefs held by many professional economists spending does not make an economy grow. Savings and investment are far more determinative. Any program that diverts capital into consumption and away from savings and investment will diminish future economic growth and job creation.

Creating jobs is easy for government, but all jobs are not equal. Paying people to dig ditches and fill them up does society no good. On balance these “jobs” diminish the economy by wasting scarce land, labor and capital.  We do not want jobs for the sake of work, but for the goods and services they produce. As it has a printing press, the government could mandate employment for all, as did the Soviet Union. But if these jobs are not productive, and government jobs rarely are, society is no better for it.

This is also true of the much vaunted “infrastructure spending.” Any funds directed toward infrastructure deprive the economy of resources that might otherwise have funded projects that the market determines have greater economic value. Infrastructure can improve an economy in the log-run, but only if the investments succeeds in raising productivity more than the cost of the project itself. In the interim, infrastructure costs are burdens that an economy must bear, not a means in themselves.

Unfortunately our economy is so weak and indebted that we simply cannot currently afford many of these projects. The labor and other resources that would be diverted to finance them are badly needed elsewhere.

Although it was labeled and hyped as a “jobs plan,” the new $447 billion initiative announced last night by President Obama is merely another government stimulus program in disguise. Like all previous stimuli that have been injected into the economy over the past three years, this round of borrowing and spending will act as an economic sedative rather than a stimulant.  I am convinced that a year from now there will be even more unemployed Americans than there are today, likely resulting in additional deficit financed stimulus that will again make the situation worse.

The President asserted that the spending in the plan will be “paid for” and will not add to the deficit. Conveniently, he offered no details about how this will be achieved. Most likely he will make non-binding suggestions that future congresses “pay” for this spending by cutting budgets five to ten years in the future. In the meantime money to fund the stimulus has to come from someplace. Either the government will borrow it legitimately from private sources, or the Federal Reserve will print. Either way, the adverse consequences will damage economic growth and job creation, and lower the living standards of Americans.

There can be no doubt that some jobs will in fact be created by this plan. However, it is much more difficult to identify the jobs that it destroys or prevents from coming into existence. Here’s a case in point: the $4,000 tax credit for hiring new workers who have been unemployed for six months or more. The subsidy may make little difference in effecting the high end of the job market, but it really could make an impact on minimum wage jobs where rather than expanding employment it will merely increase turnover.

Since an employer need only hire a worker for 6 months to get the credit, for a full time employee, the credit effectively reduces the $7.25 minimum wage (from the employer’s perspective) to only $3.40 per hour for a six-month hire. While minimum wage jobs would certainly offer no enticement to those collecting unemployment benefits, the lower effective rate may create some opportunities for teenagers and some low skilled individuals whose unemployment benefits have expired. However, most of these jobs will end after six months so employers can replace those workers with others to get an additional tax credit.

Of course the numbers get even more compelling for employers to provide returning veterans with temporary minimum wage jobs, as the higher $5,600 tax credit effectively reduces the minimum wage to only $1.87 per hour. If an employer hires a “wounded warrior”, the tax credit is $9,600 which effectively reduces the six-month minimum wage by $9.23 to negative $1.98 per hour.  This will encourage employers to hire a “wounded warrior” even if there is nothing for the employee to do. Such an incentive may encourage such individuals to acquire multiple no-show jobs form numerous employers. As absurd as this sounds, history has shown that when government created incentives, the public will twist themselves into pretzels to qualify for the benefit.

The plan creates incentives for employers to replace current minimum wage workers with new workers just to get the tax credit.  Low skill workers are the easiest to replace as training costs are minimal. The laid off workers can collect unemployment for six months and then be hired back in a manner that allows the employer to claim the credit. The only problem is that the former worker may prefer collecting extended unemployment benefits to working for the minimum wage!

The $4,000 credit for hiring the unemployed as well as the explicit penalties for discriminating against the long-term unemployed will result in a situation where employers will be far more likely to interview and hire applicants who have been unemployed for just under six months. Under the law, employers would be wise to refuse to interview anyone who has been unemployed for more than six months, as any subsequent decision not to hire could be met with a lawsuit. However, to get the tax credit they would be incentivized to interview applicants who have been unemployed for just under six months. If they are never hired there can be no risk of a lawsuit, but if they are hired, the start date can be planned to qualify for the credit.

The result will simply create classes of winners (those unemployed for four or five months) and losers (the newly unemployed and the long term unemployed). Ironically, the law banning discrimination against long-term unemployed will make it much harder for such individuals to find jobs.

At present, I am beginning to feel that over regulation of business and employment, and an overly complex and punitive tax code is currently a bigger impediment to job growth than is our horrific fiscal and monetary policies. As a business owner I know that reckless government policy can cause no end of unintended consequences.

As I see it, here are the biggest obstacles preventing job growth:

  1.  Monetary policy

    Interest rates are much too low. Cheap money produced both the stock market and real estate bubbles, and is currently facilitating a bubble in government debt. When this bubble bursts the repercussions will dwarf the shock produced by the financial crisis of 2008. Interest rates must be raised to bring on a badly needed restructuring of our economy. No doubt an environment of higher rates will cause short-term pain. But we need to move from a “borrow and spend” economy to a “save and produce” economy. This cannot be done with ultra-low interest rates. In the short-term GNP will need to contract. There will be a pickup in transitory unemployment. Real estate and stock prices will fall. Many banks will fail. There will be more foreclosures. Government spending will have to be slashed. Entitlements will have to be cut. Many voters will be angry. But such an environment will lay the foundation upon which a real recovery can be built.

    The government must allow our bubble economy to fully deflate. Asset prices, wages, and spending must fall, interest rates, production, and savings must rise. Resources, including labor, must be reallocated away from certain sectors, such as government, services, finance, health care, and educations, and be allowed to into manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, agriculture, and other goods producing fields. We will never borrow and spend our way out of a crisis caused by too much borrowing and spending. The only way out is to reverse course.
  2.  Fiscal policy

    To create conditions that foster growth, the government should balance the budget with major cuts in government spending, severely reform and simplify the tax code. It would be preferable if all corporate and personal taxes could be replaces by a national sales tax. Our current tax system discourages the activities that we need most: hard work, production, savings, investment, and risk taking. Instead it incentivizes consumption and debt. We should tax people when they spend their wealth, not when they create it. High marginal income tax rates inflict major damage to job creation, as the tax is generally paid out of money that otherwise would have been used to finance capital investment and job creation. 
  3. Regulation

    Regulations have substantially increased the costs and risks associated with job creation.  Employers are subjected to all sorts of onerous regulations, taxes, and legal liability. The act of becoming an employer should be made as easy as possible. Instead we have made it more difficult. In fact, among small business owners, limiting the number of employees is generally a goal. This is not a consequence of the market, but of a rational desire on the part of business owners to limit their cost and legal liabilities. They would prefer to hire workers, but these added burdens make it preferable to seek out alternatives. 

    In my own business, securities regulations have prohibited me from hiring brokers for more than three years. I was even fined fifteen thousand dollar expressly for hiring too many brokers in 2008. In the process I incurred more than $500,000 in legal bills to mitigate a more severe regulatory outcome as a result of hiring too many workers. I have also been prohibited from opening up additional offices. I had a major expansion plan that would have resulted in my creating hundreds of additional jobs. Regulations have forced me to put those jobs on hold.

    In addition, the added cost of security regulations have forced me to create an offshore brokerage firm to handle foreign accounts that are now too expensive to handle from the United States.  Revenue and jobs that would have been created in the U.S. are now being created abroad instead. In addition, I am moving several asset management jobs from Newport Beach, California to Singapore.

    As Congress turns up the heat, more of my capital will continue to be diverted to my foreign companies, creating jobs and tax revenues abroad rather than in the United States.

    To encourage real and lasting job growth the best thing the government can do is to make it as easy as possible for business to hire and employ people. This means cutting down on workplace regulations. It also means eliminating the punitive aspects of employment law that cause employers to think twice about hiring. To be blunt, the easier employees are to fire, the higher the likelihood they will be hired. Some steps Congress could take now include:

a. Abolish the Federal Minimum Wage

Minimum wages have never raised the wages of anyone and simply draw an arbitrary line that separates the employable from the unemployable. Just like prices, wages are determined by supply and demand. The demand for workers is a function of how much productivity a worker can produce. Setting the wage at $7.25 simply means that only those workers who can produce goods and services that create more than $7.25 (plus all additional payroll associated costs) per hour are eligible for jobs. Those who can’t, become permanently unemployable. The artificial limits encourage employers to look to minimize hires and to automate wherever possible.

By putting many low skill workers (such as teenagers) below the line, the minimum wage prevents crucial on the job training, which could provide workers with the experience and skills needed to earn higher wages.

b. Repeal all Federal workplace anti-discrimination Laws

One of the reasons unemployment is so high among minorities is that business owners (particularly small business) are wary of legal liability associated with various categories of protected minorities. The fear of litigation, and the costly judgments that can ensue, are real. Given that it is nearly impossible for an employer to control all the aspects of the workplace environment, litigation risk is a tangible consideration. Given all the legal avenues afforded by legislation, minority employees are much more likely to sue employers. To avoid this, some employers simply look to avoid this outcome by sticking with less risky employee categories. It is not racism that causes this discrimination, but a rational desire to mitigate liability. The reality is that a true free market would punish employers that discriminate based on race or other criteria irrelevant to job performance.  That is because businesses that hire based strictly on merit would have a competitive advantage. Anti-discrimination laws titled the advantage to those who discriminate.

c. Repeal all laws mandating employment terms such as work place conditions, over-time, benefits, leave, medical benefits, etc.

Employment is a voluntary relationship between two parties. The more room the parties have to negotiate and agree on their own terms, the more likely a job will be created. Rules imposed from the top create inefficiencies that limit employment opportunities. Employee benefits are a cost of employment, and high value employees have all the bargaining power they need to extract benefits from employers. They are free to search for the best benefits they can get just as they search for the best wages.

Companies that do not offer benefits will lose employees to companies that do. Just as employees are free to leave companies at will, so too should employers be free to terminate an employee without fear of costly repercussions. Individuals should not gain rights because they are employees, and individuals should not lose rights because they become employers.

d. Abolish extended unemployment benefits

In addition to being a source of  emergency funds, unemployment benefits over time become more of a disincentive to employment than anything else (although the disincentive diminishes with the worker’s skill level -- i.e. high wage workers are unlikely to forego a high wage job opportunity to preserve unemployment benefits). For marginally skilled workers unemployment insurance is a major factor in determining if a job should be taken or not.

Even if unemployment pays a significant fraction of the wage a worker would get with a full time job, the money may be enough to convince the worker to stay home. After all, there are costs associated with having a job.  Not only does a worker pay payroll and income taxes on any wages he earns, the loss of unemployment benefits itself acts as a tax. Plus workers must pay for such job related expenses as transportation, clothing, restaurant meals, dry cleaning and childcare, and they must forgo other work that they could do in their free time (providing care for loved ones, home improvement, etc.).

Understandably, most people also find leisure time preferable to work. As a result, any job that does not offer a major monetary advantage to unemployment benefits will likely be turned down. This entrenches unemployment insurance recipients into a class of permanently unemployed workers.

It is no accident that employment increases immediately after unemployment insurance expires for many categories of workers. In fact, many individual will seek to max out their benefits, and remain unemployed until those benefits expire. If they work at all, it will be for cash under-the-table, so as not to leave any money on the table.

Watch the full testimony here:



Tags:  congressjobsobamaqestimulustestimony
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More of the Same
Posted by Peter Schiff on 09/11/2011 at 7:22 PM

Although it was labeled and hyped as a "jobs plan," the new $447 billion initiative announced last night by President Obama is merely another government stimulus program in disguise. But semantics are of supreme importance in American politics...some could argue that word choice is the only thing that matters. As a result, despite the fact that this plan bears no substantive difference from previous stimulus bills, the President never once mentioned the word "stimulus" in his hour-long speech. But a rotten banana by any other name still stinks.

 

Like all previous stimuli, this round of borrowing and spending will act as an economic sedative rather than a stimulant. Running up the deficit in the short-run will not grow the economy, but will merely dig it into a deeper hole. A year from now there will be even more unemployed Americans than there are today, likely resulting in additional deficit financed stimulus that will again make the situation worse.

 

The President asserted that the spending in the plan will be "paid for" and will not add to the deficit. Conveniently, he offered no details about how this will be achieved. Most likely he will make non-binding suggestions to future congresses to "pay" for this spending by cutting budgets five to ten years in the future. History is absolutely clear on one point: politicians never pass cuts promised by prior politicians. In other words...the check is in the mail. So I will make the fairly riskless assumption that the plan will be financed by deficit spending. If so, the negatives associated with greater deficits will overwhelm any perceived benefit the spending will generate.

 

President Obama claims he wants to put money into the pockets of American consumers. The problem is the government's own pockets are empty. In order to put money in the pocket of one American, it must first pick the pocket of another. The problem is that it takes more from the pockets it picks than it puts into the pockets it fills. 

 

In the meantime money to fund the stimulus has to come from somewhere. Either the government will borrow it legitimately, or the Federal Reserve will print. Either way, the adverse consequences will damage economic growth and job creation, and lower the living standards of Americans.

 

There can be no doubt that some jobs will in fact be created by this plan. However, it is much more difficult to identify the jobs that it destroys or prevents from coming into existence. Here's a case in point: the $4,000 tax credit for hiring new workers who have been unemployed for six months or more.

 

The subsidy may make little difference in effecting the high end of the job market. An employer will not pay a worker $50,000 per year simply to qualify for a one-time $4,000 credit. But the effects will be felt on minimum wage jobs where rather than expanding employment it will merely increase turnover.

 

Since an employer need only hire a worker for 6 months to get the credit, for a full time employee, the credit effectively reduces the $7.25 minimum wage (from the employer's perspective) to only $3.40 per hour for a six month hire. While minimum wage jobs would certainly offer no enticement to those collecting unemployment benefits, the lower effective rate may create some opportunities for teenagers and some low skilled individuals whose unemployment benefits have expired. However, most of these jobs will end after six months so employers can replace those workers with others to get an additional tax credit.

 

Of course the numbers get even more compelling for employers to provide returning veterans with temporary minimum wage jobs, as the higher $5,600 tax credit effectively reduces the minimum wage to only $1.87 per hour. If an employer hires a "wounded warrior" the tax credit is $9,600 which effectively reduces the six month minimum wage by $9.23 to negative $1.98 per hour. This will encourage employers to hire a "wounded warrior" even if there is nothing for the employee to do. Such an incentive may even encourage such individuals to acquire multiple no-show jobs from numerous employers. History has shown that when government creates incentives, the public will twist themselves into pretzels to qualify for the benefits.

 

The plan creates incentives for employers to replace current minimum wage workers with new workers just to get the tax credit. Low skill workers are the easiest to replace as training costs are minimal. The laid off workers can collect unemployment for six months and then be hired back in a manner that allows the employer to claim the credit. The only problem is that the former worker may prefer collecting extended unemployment benefits to working for the minimum wage!

 

The $4,000 credit for hiring the unemployed as well as the explicit penalties for discriminating against the long term unemployed will result in a situation where employers will be far more likely to interview and hire applicants who have been unemployed for just under six months. Under the law, employers would be wise to decline interviews with anyone who has been unemployed for more than six months, as any subsequent decision not to hire could be met with a lawsuit. However, to get the tax credit they would be incentivized to interview applicants who have been unemployed for just under six months. If they are never hired there can be no risk of a lawsuit, but if they are hired, the start date can be planned to qualify for the credit.

 

The result will simply create classes of winners (those unemployed for four or five months) and losers (the newly unemployed and the long term unemployed). Ironically, the law banning discrimination against long-term unemployed will make it much harder for those people to find jobs. 

 

Another problem is the President's intention to help under-water homeowners refinance their mortgages with lower rates. While this will certainly be good for the borrowers, it will be horrific for the banks holding the loans. The borrower's gain is simultaneously offset by the bank's loss. This will further impair the solvency of our banking sector, exacerbating the losses and failures when rates rise, thereby increase the costs to taxpayers of the next round of bailouts.

 

Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, the President claims his payroll tax cuts will not endanger the Social Security Trust Fund, as the government will replace the lost "contributions" with transfers from general revenue. In other words, the government will borrow money, put it in a phony trust fund, then borrow the same money back from the trust funds and spend it on the stimulus. It is amazing the theatrics the government will go through to maintain the illusion that trust funds actually exist. The tragedy is that Americans continue to buy the charade and even heap scorn on those, like Rick Perry, who has the temerity to point out that the emperor is naked.

 

The truth of course is that no real economic growth or job creation is going to occur until the failed policies of both Obama and Bush are reversed. In his speech the President mourned the death of the American dream. Obama should stop killing it. To revive that dream we need to revive the American spirit that produced it in the first place. That means returning to our traditional values of limited government and sound money. Unfortunately we are still headed in the wrong direction.

 


Tags:  bailoutdollargoldjobsobamaqestimulus
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Job Killer in Chief
Posted by Peter Schiff on 09/02/2011 at 12:46 PM

This morning many on Wall Street were stunned by the big fat zero put up by the August jobs report, the worst showing in 11 months. The data convinced many previously optimistic economists that the United States will slip back into recession. I believe that we have been in one giant recession all along that was only temporarily interrupted by trillions of useless and destructive deficit and stimulus spending.  Unfortunately, the August numbers will increase the talk of government efforts to stimulate the economy.

 

But while President Obama prepares to unveil a new plan for the Federal Government to create jobs, evidence is rapidly piling up on how his Administration is actively destroying jobs with stunning efficiency. Recent examples of this trend are enough to make anyone with even a casual respect for America's former economic prowess hang their head in disgust.   

 

The assault on private sector employment began in April when the democrat controlled National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint seeking to force Boeing aircraft to move Boeing's newly opened non-union production facilities in South Carolina back to its union controlled plants in Washington State. Although Boeing simply says that it is looking to open a cost effective domestic manufacturing facility (an endangered species) to employ American workers, the NLRB alleges that the company was punishing union workers in Washington for past strikes. Despite a lack of any direct evidence that Boeing was being punitive, and the fact that the company was not laying off any union workers, the NLRB has not backed down. Against little public support and nearly universal revulsion among business leaders, the NLRB is continuing its campaign to keep Boeing from exercising its freedoms and to employ people in a manner that makes sense for its business. 

 

The Boeing move served notice that the Obama's loyalties were firmly tied to the Union interests that were so critical to his election in 2008. This week, the anti-business tendencies of the administration came into even sharper focus.

 

In the telecommunications industry, service provider AT&T made the seemingly essential move in its attempt to acquire wireless specialist T-Mobile. But the Justice Department sued to block the $39 billion deal on antitrust grounds, saying that the merger between the second and fourth largest cell phone providers would unfairly restrict competition and raise prices. 

 

In so doing, the DOJ seems to be operating under the assumption, without any direct evidence, that at least four companies are needed to provide healthy choice in the marketplace, and that three providers simply won't cut it. More broadly, competition may increasingly come from outside the telecommunications sector (in particular from cable and satellite industries). Plus, with the speed of technological change, who knows what types of competitors will arise in the years to come. The situation reminds me of the broken merger in 2004 and 2005 between Blockbuster Video and Hollywood Video. Based on antitrust concerns emanating from the Justice Department, Blockbuster backed off from the deal. Of course, just a few years later the whole sector was made obsolete by Netflix, and any advantage Blockbuster would have gained would have only been temporary.   

In light of the current and future competition that is sure to change the way consumers talk with one another over great distances, AT&T and T-Mobile are much better positioned to survive as a combined entity. In any event if AT&T can't buy T-Mobile, someone else will. The company's parent, Deutsche Telecom, has stated its intention to divest itself of its American subsidiary.

 

So why not help American business survive in an increasingly competitive market? Most likely antitrust lawyers at the DOJ have been otherwise bored with the lack of merger deals to scrutinize (another downside to a weak economy), and this transaction just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the legal activism will certainly cost jobs. Even the unions recognize this and have supported the merger.

 

But the absurdity of the current environment reached a peak when the DOJ, and agents from, get this, the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service, raided the Nashville factory of the legendary Gibson Guitar company. The raid resulted in agents carting off more than a half million dollars of supplies and essentially shutting the company down. The take down of one of America's commercial icons apparently resulted from Gibson's purchase of partially finished ebony and rosewood guitar fingerboards (these endangered trees are carefully managed) from an Indian supplier.

 

Now here's the interesting part. The Indian government had issued no complaint about the transactions and there was no evidence that the company had violated U.S. law. The DOJ acted simply on suspicion that Gibson had violated Indian law. Since when do U.S. companies have to make sure that they comply with laws of every country in the world before they produce a product? 

 

I had the good fortune on interviewing Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson on my radio show this Thursday. 

 

After speaking to him, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the stunning economic incompetence of our government officials, who in the cause of arbitrary regulatory nitpicking, seem willing to sacrifice the reputation and prospects of one of the few remaining American manufacturers. God help us all.

 

On the other side of the coin, the government's own efforts to create jobs in the private sector have met with little success. It was announced yesterday that Solyndra LLC of Fremont California, a manufacturer of solar panel has filed for bankruptcy protection and has laid off its remaining 1,100 workers. The development is notable because the company was a veritable poster child of the Obama Administration. The president himself visited their facilities in May of 2010 and touted the company as the template for America's "green technology" future. As a result of its politically advantageous profile the company was able to secure $535 million in loans guaranteed by the government.

 

But apparently government blessing does not guarantee market success. Unfortunately, Solyndra could not sell its products profitably despite the government support and cheerleading. Instead $535 million in investment capital was diverted from potentially money making enterprises to a money losing enterprise. This is what happens when government calls the shots.

 

When it comes to the financial sector, the government can't seem to decide whether it wants to preserve jobs or destroy them. After bailing out the banks three years ago (and making some of them too big to fail), it was reported today that the government is preparing to launch a multi-billion dollar lawsuit to recoup losses that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac suffered on mortgage backed bonds (loans that the government itself encouraged the banks to make). If the government were to prevail, job losses would surely emerge in the sector, and the government may need to bail out the banks once again!  

 

So as we wait with eager anticipation as to what the President may reveal in his jobs speech next week, you can be sure that it's not going to help America regain its competitive edge. The sooner we regard the government as a job killer rather than a job creator, the sooner we can all get back to work.



Tags:  jobsObama
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