Friday, June 26, 2009

Stimulus Update

Several months ago, President Obama was here in Columbus holding a press conference to promote his stimulus package. He was with 25 police officers who's jobs had been saved because stimulus money was going to be used to pay their salaries for the next year. Here's an update on how that's working out:

So, now Columbus is saying they need to raise taxes (above the current 2% city-levied income tax) in order to prevent the layoff of nearly 300 police officers, including the 25 President Obama claims he saved. It's been just a few months, not a year, and we already need more money to keep going. This is yet another piece of evidence that large government spending is not sustainable. If you are in debt, it doesn't seem rational to believe that you can spend yourself out of the situation. Yet that's what we're doing, and what is the result? The problem is only being exacerbated. As a student, last year I paid well over 20% of my already meager income to fund government spending that still isn't making up for the deficit, and yet now I'm told I have to pay more to preserve a police force the stimulus package supposedly already funded. I don't have a problem paying taxes and contribution my fair share, but I certainly have a problem when its used in a futile attempt to spend our way out of debt.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The BCS and The Congress

Neither are organizations I have been particularly fond of lately, so it's tough to take sides in this debate.

Now, I hate the BCS system with a passion. I thought it was awesome when President Obama said that he wanted a playoff system. I'm all about, as fans of college football, pressuring the BCS to change their money-grubbing, discriminatory ways. I want a playoff. And I don't see why a 16 team playoff system doesn't work. (Sorry President Obama. If you want to be truly fair and non-exclusionary, 8 teams isn't enough.)

BUT, I am sick to my stomach (not swine flu, I checked that out already) that The Congress feels the need to have the government become involved. Senator Hatch is making Utah look like a whining baby. They just seal clubbed Alabama, ranked number 1 for most of last year's season, and proved just how good they are. Do we then need to bring legislation against the BCS to make our point??? No! They just need to continue to beat the BCS teams into submission and prove that we can play with the so-called big boys. That's what sports, and sportsmanship, is all about. That's why it's fun. Getting the political system involved is only sinking to the level of the enemy. Maybe even lower.

I laughed and laughed when President Obama started smack talking the BCS. But I worried and worried when, in a later interview, he looked quite serious and said he might use his "presidential weight" to shake up the BCS. Noooo! That's not what the President should be doing. And frankly, the idea comes across as completely arrogant. Just because you are the President doesn't mean you can do whatever you want. It means you are the highest level public servant, not a dictator. Not that Senator Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Barton (R-TX) are any better with their hearings and threats of legislation. Noooo! The government and legislation are not how we should be solving problems in this country. Whether it be the economy or the BCS, the people are the solution. True change happens when the people get together and pool their abilities, talents, and strengths. When the underdogs from Utah come together and decide that they can play with the big guys, then work and work to make it happen, that's when the foundations of the BCS crack. Not because the government said so, but because the people took a hammer to it.

Want to save the economy? Get out of debt and start working, earnings, and saving. Want to save the environment? Start conserving energy. Want to fix the BCS? Start beating their teams. Want to mess everything up? Turn it over to the government.


Friday, March 6, 2009

More On Rush

Now, I'm not a huge fan of Rush Limbaugh. Or rather, I don't listen to him that often. He's too Republican for my tastes. I've never been a huge fan of partisanship and I think he tends to deepen the divide between the right and the left rather than bridge it. That said, the DNC doesn't need to sink to his level as well. They must know that he actually enjoys getting them riled up. This is only going to encourage him.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Multipliers and Statistics

So, the recent mega-spending stimulus package is supposed to return every dollar spent back to the economy at a rate of 1.59 dollars. That is, it's a 59% return on investment. Based on this, we are dumping some 700 billion dollars, figuring it will increase our GDP by over 1.1 trillion due to what is termed the multiplier effect. To my understanding, this is based on past research dealing with the impacts of government spending.

Here's a few things to know, based on my understanding of the research, although I confess to not being an expert in this field.
  1. A 1.59 multiplier is not a fact, it's a statistic. Statistics and facts are, in my humble opinion, not the same thing. Statistics are more like educated guesses. The government has never spent this much money all at once ever before. Therefore, there is no precedent on which to predict its effect. To think that past estimates of a 59% return on investment will continue to hold true is to commit a grievous extrapolation error. That is, some studies suggest we get 59% on small spending packages, but studies say nothing about large spending packages. It's very possible that small and large packages have very different effects.
  2. If we really get $1.59 back for every $1 the government spends, why in the world are we in debt at all? It's because it depends on what you spend the money on. Precisely what it needs to be spent on is extremely unclear. What does seem to be clear is that it needs to be targeted very carefully. This is not a target I trust the special-interest-influenced political process to hit very accurately.
  3. The multiplier of $1.59 says nothing about the time it takes to realize the return. If it takes 50 years, then it doesn't really matter to our immediate financial crisis. I don't know how long it takes, but I suspect it's not a short period of time. Although, this is an aspect of the research I have not read thoroughly.
  4. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that deficit spending hurts our economy pretty bad as well. So which effect wins out? The multiplier or the negative impact of a deficit? I guess we'll have to let the statistics continue to argue this one out.
At the end of the day, I only trust a statistic about as far as I can throw it. This recent spending spree is catapulting the numbers far out of reach. $700 billion is a lot of faith in a statistic. A wise man once said, "There are 3 types of lies in this world: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a sizable check to write to the government to make good on my 2008 tax liability. I hope you're reading this, Mr. Geitner.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rush vs The Congress

Maybe I'm just sensitive to whenever politicians go after the media because they always seem to after the guys I listen to. Even still, things like the Fairness Doctrine scares me to death. It is as anti-free speech, anti-constitution, and anti-American as it gets. (Yes, I just said the anti-A word). I don't want the liberals off of TV, so why do we have to get the conservatives off of radio?? Now, this most recent fiasco doesn't concern the Fairness Doctrine specifically, but it runs right along the same vain. And granted it's only a petition, not a policy or a law, but still, it's the government behind the petition. If was a private citizen who started the petition, I wouldn't be angry about it.

Now, to be very clear, I am not a fan of Rush Limbaugh. I get just as angry listening to his show as I do watching Keith Olberman. BUT, is it really the place of the government to launch campaigns against a private citizen's right to express his opinion? If Limbaugh wants Obama to fail, fine, he's entitled to say that. I think it's a terribly juvenile attitude for him to have. We can't wish for each other to fail. It's not good and it doesn't get things done. I also think it was terribly juvenile for President Obama to invite GOP leaders for a bipartisan discussion and open it up by telling them they can't listen to Limbaugh. That seems to be to be a statement that carries with it the implicit assumption that Republicans are brainless.

The whole thing just frustrates me. If we are going to be bipartisan, we need to focus on ideas, issues, and policies. There should not even be a discussion of who is listening to who or anything like that. There should also not be wishing for people you don't agree with to fail. We need to realize that the only way to succeed to together.

Let's come to the meetings, sit down next to each other, and talk about issues. Maybe that's what they did and the media is bending this. In fact, that's always a possibility. The media doesn't help bipartisianship at all. But that's a rant for another day.


P.S. It has just come to my attention that it is not the Congressional Democrats launching the petition per se. It's the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- a committee that recruits and raises funds for congressional candidates. That's a little better than the government going after him. Still, I don't like it. I also concede that similar Republican Committees do similar things. I am of the same opinion concerning them. In fact, I recently returned a letter I received from a committee asking for donations with a response that said I will consider donating when they consider focusing on generating good candidates and policies and not on tearing down their opposition instead. I'm sure the lack of contributions from this poor grad student was enough to send shivers down their collective spines.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Another Interesting Article

Not to turn my blog into a list of links to other articles, but this one was way too good to pass up. It's a Wall Street Journal article about all of the recent government stimulus packages. The only modification I would make is wherever Dr. Barro refers to "Team Obama" or the "Democrats" I would also add "and the Bush Administration during his last two years in office."


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thoughts on the Inaguration

Listening to President Obama's inaugural address was interesting to me. I suppose I had always known this, but I realized it a little more clearly: At the end of the day, I want all of the same things he does. Really, our goals are almost identical and include things like strong national security, a healthy economy, efficient use of our resources, freedom and equality. For those reasons, I honestly hope he's successful.

Now, I don't often agree with him on the methods that he proposes to go about realizing those goals. Not that I don't think what he proposes will do what he says it will, but rather I think that the path comes at too great of a cost and there are better ways to do it. My interpretation of history, and my understanding of effective policy seems to be very different that his. The biggest difference that I see is, interestingly enough, probably the most hotly debated topic throughout history: I believe that the people, when left to themselves, eventually get it right. President Obama seems to believe that people don't, so it is necessary for the government to have a much more involved role in problem solving. The true answer to the problems he outlined is probably somewhere in the middle.

All that said, my support and prayers are with him and our country, as they are with any President of the United States. The nice thing about democracy and our system of government is that now President Obama gets a chance to try out his ideas and we'll see what happens. The debates will continue and, if we all remain open minded, we'll eventually figure out what works and what does it. That's why, even in the midst of a financial crisis and everything else, I'm actually quite optimistic about the future.


P.S. I was going to hold my tongue and not comment on the prayers at the inaguration, but I lack the will to do so. Rick Warren held back more than people thought he might, which was probably good, but he did lay it on pretty thick. Rev. Joseph Lowery, however, amazed me. "When white will do what is right?" I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure we just elected a not-white president. Are we still hung up on this? Good grief. If we really want to get rid of racism, we should stop referencing color all the stinking time! But I suppose that's a rant for another day...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Forecasting the Economic Situation

Here's a game on Economist Greg Mankiw's webpage:

It goes along with his Macroeconomics text book. You put in a couple of variables and see what that makes the economy do. Just for fun, I put in variables to (very) roughly estimate Pres. Bush's current bailouts and submitted them. The economy tanked. Then, in round 2, I put in variables to (very) roughly estimate Pres. Obama's proposed stimulus plan.

I was impeached immediately.

Give it a shot and see if you can keep the economy running. What you do depends on the situations given to you (it's random), but here's a general hint: find a balance between both low taxes and budget surpluses.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

States vs Feds

I just read this blog on Fox News that I found interesting. And it even stays relatively non-partisan until the last couple of paragraphs.