By on September 25, 2008

I believe the current economic crisis is the inevitable result of easy credit. Leading this charge (in all senses of the word): the U.S. government. Uncle Sam and his state, county and city-based cousins have been living beyond my means for decades, lavishing tax money on lobbyists’ love interests like Hugh Hefner doling-out big-breasted Bunnies to a grotto full of coked-out film producers. Yes, voters enable this behavior. Yes, companies and private individuals have also been on a drunken spree. But at this time, when two aspiring presidents are yakking about the importance of leadership, neither Senator nor ANY of their cohorts are discussing the importance of reholstering the federal teat. I find it astounding that the House of Reps can slip $25b low-interest “loans” for a doomed domestic auto industry into a housekeeping bill. It’s emblematic of all that’s wrong with our current system: digging ourselves deeper into debt to get ourselves out of debt, without making the tough choices that balancing the books requires. These days, when GM sneezes, America says bless you! And hands it The Mother of All Tissues. That ain’t right.

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16 Comments on “Daily Podcast: Motown Mooch-oirs...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    …neither Senator nor ANY of their cohorts are discussing the importance of reholstering the federal teat.

    Let’s look at the elephant in the room, shall we? The bulk, by a large amount, of the US budget goes to defense, either directly or indirectly. Not social security, health care, education, bail-outs to industry or internal administration costs.

    Defense.

    The problem with cutting back defense spending is that, well, no one else is going to do it, either. Practically speaking, either the rest of NATO would have to step up it’s game, or the UN would have to somehow stop being dysfunctional when it comes to dealing with problems that require armed intervention. Never mind that, after decades of cold war spending, the US political system and much of the economy is hardwired to run this way. You’d have had an easier time turning the Titanic.

    That said, I’m sure that there’s a huge amount of pork and fat in the defense budget that smarter spending could cure. And then there’s Medicare, which somehow costs more per capita than fully socialized medicine, but delivers much worse service. Universal health care would probably shave a few billion off the top right there.

    And then there’s the War On Terror and War On Drugs. I suspect there’s a few billion that could be saved there, too. We could probably give ten million dollars (or the equivalent in hookers and blow) to every potential suicide bomber and still spend much, much less than we do now in trying to blow them up in a controlled manner.

    In fact, why not sell drugs to terrorists! Problem solved!

    In all seriousness, yes, fiscal discipline and “asking the hard questions” aren’t the fashion of the day. But it’s not like this hasn’t been building for yearsdecades, it’s just that every eleven or so years it comes to a head.

    Funny how that seems to happen, huh? You’d think we could predict it (stares at Andex chart on wall…)

  • avatar

    While I agree with this post, I have to take issue with your choice of analogy.

    like Hugh Hefner doling-out big-breasted Bunnies to a grotto full of coked-out film producers.

    Playboy bunnies were protected from having sex with Playboy customers. One of my friends was a bunny years ago, before she became an internationally known immunologist who should get a Nobel, or at least a MacArthur. Sex was never part of it. She did once get squired around Colorado for a couple of weeks by a wealthy fellow who shared her interest in dog training techniques (she wins national sheep dog trials with her border collies these days when she’s not in the lab) under Playboy auspices, and again, sex just wasn’t part of the deal.

  • avatar
    geeber

    psharjinian: The bulk, by a large amount, of the US budget goes to defense, either directly or indirectly. Not social security, health care, education, bail-outs to industry or internal administration costs.

    No. This is incorrect. Even the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that defense spending accounted for 29.2 percent of federal spending in 2008.

    Meanwhile, spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid accounted for 43.2 percent. And one reason these figures aren’t higher is because the federal government has been shifting more costs to the states. (Other, non-defense spending accounts for 27.2 percent.) This will undoubtedly accelerate as Baby Boomers begin to retire and place more demands on Social Security and Medicare.

    psharjinian: And then there’s Medicare, which somehow costs more per capita than fully socialized medicine, but delivers much worse service.

    Again, this is wrong. Medicare does not deliver worse service than government-run health programs in other countries. The Europeans, in particular, are quietly cutting back on services and instituting co-pays for seniors.

  • avatar
    melllvar

    psarhjinian:

    Social Security: $581B (21%)
    Medicare & Medicaid: $561B (21%)
    Defense: $549B (20%)

    (FY2007)

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Again, this is wrong. Medicare does not deliver worse service than government-run health programs in other countries. The Europeans, in particular, are quietly cutting back on services and instituting co-pays for seniors.

    No.

    Seriously, no. I don’t know how anyone can look at the US healthcare system with a straight face and say it doesn’t suck compared to socialized medicine. Even from a business perspective, the US system is a dog: it costs corporations a lot of money, both in tax dollars and group insurance.

    Every healthcare quality metric that doesn’t have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo disagrees with your assesment. The US healthcare system in fundamentally broken, and even with cutbacks in Europe and Canada, both areas spend less and get more, especially discounting the amount that Americans (both individually and through group insurance) pay outside of Medicare.

    Health care is never perfect, but there are second-world nations’ systems that score better than the US.

    Social Security: $581B (21%)
    Medicare & Medicaid: $561B (21%)
    Defense: $549B (20%)

    You’re omitting veterans benefits and discretionary “War On Terror” spending, including Iraq, from that figure. Just sayin’

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    A very large part of discretionary federal spending goes to defense, probably a majority. That is, Social Security and Medicare have specific taxes that pay for them. There’s no tax on my paycheck that says “Defense Spending” or “Iraq War”-it comes out of the general fund, and it uses up a very large part of it. There are specific taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and, in theory, one puts in money while one works to get money and services after one has retired. Now, in practice things go into a pot, but if one actually eliminated Social Security and Medicare, one would eliminate the specific taxes that pay for them as well.

    The United States spends approximately the same amount of money on our armed forces as all the other 190+ countries in the world do on theirs, combined. I would propose that’s a bit too much.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Agree totally wiht the original article. With regards to the follow-up, does anybody know what we spend on debt service? It seems to me that is over 20% of the budget, as well. For me defense is a sticky subject. Once we entered the world stage with standing armed forces to fight for truth, justice, and the american way at the conclusion of WWII, we embarked on a road to a slwo bleeding of our economy into non-productive avenues, war. It’s a problem that has been recurring for hundreds of years, most recently before the USA, the British had an emmense empire that they were unable to sustain. The French and the Spanish prior to Great Britain. The Hapsburg Empire prior to that. With Russia always lurking somewhere close to the top. Just like those empires before, when you start spreading yourself all around the globe, you will invariably over extend yourself to stay “on top.” It would be nice if we could reduce military spending to 3% of our GNP like European countries or practically zero like Canada, Mexico, Japan, and a number of other countries that rely on us to protect them, but, unfortunately, it ain’t gonna’ happen. My best hope is that our politicians wake up to the fact that we can’t afford the cost of policing the world.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    As an aspiring health educator, I believe that focusing on prevention would help quite a bit. Too many people in America are overweight (3/4 of adults now), smoke and drink heavily. That has to contribute to the problem more than anything. Also, I don’t think anyone’s broken down how much illegal immigration factors into America’s health care costs. 12-20 million people that can be treated at no cost (to them) at their local ER.

    As for Canada’s health care system, doesn’t each province have their own rules about which procedures are covered, to further complicate matters?

    I don’t think it’s quite as cut-and-dried as our resident lefty likes to think it is. Few things are.

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    I find it hard to be moved by your indignation over spending money to prop up one of the major pillars of the U.S. economy while we are in the process of rewarding financial institutions for a lack of due diligence – to the tune of one Trillion dollars.

    It would be so much easier if we stopped pretending we had a free market economy and just accepted the fact that we are no more free market than the French, the Swedes, or at this point possibly the Russians.

    If you are a rich cry-baby capitalist crony, (or, as they call them in Russia, Oligarchs), the U.S. Treasury pays you 5 percent of GDP. If you are one of the ten thousand people per day losing a home to foreclosure, or losing your life because you can’t pay for cancer treatment, you get bubkas.

    There is no free market in the U.S. There is only socialized risk for anyone rich enough and social Darwinism for the rest of us.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    As for Canada’s health care system, doesn’t each province have their own rules about which procedures are covered, to further complicate matters?

    Unfortunately, yes, that’s true. And it’s getting worse as people start looking at nickels and dimes and ignore dollars and sense. Canadian healthcare is suffering for it’s move towards a more Americanized model.

    I don’t think it’s quite as cut-and-dried as our resident lefty likes to think it is. Few things are.

    Da, comrade.

    I think that people trot out the immigration and personal health points as a red herring. Americans spend far too much on health coverage, both in taxes, in personal insurance, and through their employers’ contributions to group insurance. A lot of this money goes into administrativia, rather than to providing actual care, which is a shame.

    I don’t think a red cent should ever be spent deciding if someone or something should be covered. That’s wasted money, and it’s inhumane to boot.

    I think the same is going to happen with this bail-out, and it’s why I really wish they’d just call it such, rather than passing it off as a technology incubation solution. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands will be spent allocating funds, and even more will be eventually spent auditing the results. Write the cheque and use it as an excuse to force operational improvement and real accountability within the automakers.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Figures vary but the economic drain of millions of illegal aliens is substantial, along with the harm done to America’s working-poor, as I experienced for many years until I fled my home state for greener pastures.

    Kinda’ sad having to become a refugee in one’s own country.

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    Oh my god he said “teat” again. That word gets used here as much as “hoon/hooning” does on Jalopnik.

  • avatar
    Jeff in NH

    It would be nice if we could reduce military spending to 3% of our GNP like European countries or practically zero like Canada, Mexico, Japan, and a number of other countries that rely on us to protect them

    Thank goodness for Daddy ‘merican, for without his charitable actions these nations would be unceremoniously sucked into a frenetic terrorist vortex and immediately destroyed. And every citizen thereof would cease to exist, suffering the terminal effects of intrinsic worthlessness. I’m so happy to be resident in this Godgasm-drenched land! Ahem.

  • avatar
    geeber

    psharjinian: You’re omitting veterans benefits and discretionary “War On Terror” spending, including Iraq, from that figure. Just sayin’

    You originally said that defense spending accounts for “the bulk” of federal spending. Even if you blend those figures in with defense spending, it is still dwarfed by spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

    And please note that part of the “War on Terror” spending would include things like airport security, or cost of running CIA and NSA investigations, all of which existed before September 11, 2001. I seriously hope that you are not suggesting that we cut back on airport security spending, or dramatically reduce intelligence efforts.

    psharjinian: Seriously, no. I don’t know how anyone can look at the US healthcare system with a straight face and say it doesn’t suck compared to socialized medicine.

    Because we’ve studied this issue, and even have relatives in Europe who are using their systems. Every European who can afford to do so supplements their government insurance with private insurance, and European governments have been quietly instituting co-payments and cutbacks in care.

    psharjinian: Even from a business perspective, the US system is a dog: it costs corporations a lot of money, both in tax dollars and group insurance.

    Of course these private plans cost more – they generally provide more benefits.

    Ask yourself why, if the UAW is hot for nationalized health care, it doesn’t simply require retired UAW members to switch to Medicare? After all, retiree health care is a huge cost for GM, and it if could shift this cost to another party, it would greatly benefit. And the UAW does not want GM to go bankrupt.

    Then compare what GM retirees receive through their company plan to what Medicare beneficiaries receive.

    The UAW leadership knows that Medicare doesn’t provide nearly the level of benefits that the current GM plan does. And those wonderful socialized plans in Europe and Japan don’t, either.

    psharjinian: Every healthcare quality metric that doesn’t have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo disagrees with your assesment.

    And you don’t think that groups and individuals who support nationalized care aren’t torturing statistics and omitting key facts to make their case…?

    psharjinian: The US healthcare system in fundamentally broken, and even with cutbacks in Europe and Canada, both areas spend less and get more, especially discounting the amount that
    amount that Americans (both individually and through group insurance) pay outside of Medicare.

    Health care is never perfect, but there are second-world nations’ systems that score better than the US.

    The true test of a health care system’s effectiveness is the survival rate of people after they have been diagnosed with a serious condition. Virtually any system can fix a broken limb or treat the flu. The simple fact is that for every serious condition or disease except diabetes, the U.S. survival rate for patients is better than the survival rates for other socialized systems. (The problems with diabetes may stem from the greater incidence of obesity in the U.S.)

    Another area where the American system supposedly looks bad compared to other systems is the newborn mortality rate. This is because we make more efforts to save premature babies. If they die, this boosts the newborn fatality rate, as newborns that die immediately after birth are counted a different way.

    Merely looking at statistics, or taking “studies” at face value by groups favoring nationalized health care doesn’t give one the full picture of this complicated subject.

    psharjinian: And it’s getting worse as people start looking at nickels and dimes and ignore dollars and sense. Canadian healthcare is suffering for it’s move towards a more Americanized model.

    It’s moving towards a different model because Canada increasingly can’t afford the old one.

    Incidentally, if care under the Canadian nationalized health system is so great, then why did a group from Quebec sue to be allowed to purchase private insurance to go outside the state system, and recently win?

    psharjinian: I don’t think a red cent should ever be spent deciding if someone or something should be covered. That’s wasted money, and it’s inhumane to boot.

    Do you really believe that anyone in Europe just goes to the doctor, is diagnosed, and receives any type of procedure, without any questions asked, or without any concern for cost? If you do, then see how easy it is to get a kidney transplant in Great Britain if you are over the age of 55. Or a knee replacement in Germany if you are over the age of 85.

    Meanwhile, in the U.S., my 95-year-old grandmother is covered by private insurance. Her doctor said she should have a knee replacement. Her insurance would not only pay for the operation, but also the necessary therapy. The only reason she isn’t having it done is because SHE doesn’t want to go through the therapy at her age.

    My great aunt recently died at the age of 90. She was covered by private insurance. Her doctor wanted her to undergo regular dialysis. The insurance would have covered the cost, no questions asked. But SHE didn’t want to undergo that treatment. She was ready to die.

    Geotpf: That is, Social Security and Medicare have specific taxes that pay for them. There are specific taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and, in theory, one puts in money while one works to get money and services after one has retired.

    The problem is that, in the real world, it isn’t working out that way…

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    An observation here about socialized medicine for the US:

    It is a mistake to look at Canada as a model solution. The reason is that Canada doesn’t exist in vacuum. Most Canadians live within 100 miles of the US. Canadians with money have the option of going down the the US to get medical services. In brief, they have the best of both worlds.

    A better model of what the US can and should do is Australia. Aussies can’t simply drive 100 miles to get US style “best money can buy” health care. The Aussies have a hybrid system of socialized medical care with private insurance on top. So everyone is covered, but those with the means can buy better levels of service. And the insurance companies have to compete for those customers.

    Just my 2 cents…

  • avatar
    blindfaith

    My niece will become a nurse because doctors in Canada do not get payed much more than nurses and she could not pay back the student loans for medical school. She is moving to Canada

    When Loser Clinton was president he did reduce military spending avoided all conflict and we ended up in surplus. The terrible debt was starting to be paid off. When bush took over did not reduce taxes, he stopped collecting them and drove us to a 9 trillion dollar deficit. The taxes plus interested are now the problem.

    The republicans changed the commodities market rules and the mutual funds started investing in oil because of those rules. Now we have high gas prices because of these rule changes.

    The banks change the way we proved we could support our mortgage notes and the banks now are holding all these mortgages for property that not worth the value of the mortgage.Then they allowed people to take equity loans out on their homes when the homes were given over market value worth.

    The idea that SS should be privatized is rediculous now that my $700,000 IRA is now worth $350,000. McCain said the baby boomers did not pay their way. Well the SS trust fund was created to cover the extra cost of baby boomers retirement and the government wrote the laws for the trust fund so the government had spend the money!!!!!!!!! No more trust fund :(

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