>US Government Debt Ceiling, the Deficit, and Social Security

>Here’s something I keep hearing, “We need to raise the Government’s Debt-Limit so that we can get to work on reducing the Deficit.”  How exactly does that work?  I’d really like to know because I think it’d be grand to get the credit limit raised on all of  my credit cards so that I can spend more in order to bring down my overall debt.  Apparently they think we are stupid enough to swallow that garbage.  We don’t need higher debt-limits or new taxes; what we need is for everyone to pay their fare share and reduced spending on special interests.  It is ridiculous that General Electric has earned Billions of dollars in profit for the past two years but has paid no taxes and people who earn ten times what I do, pay less in taxes.  With only 51% of US households paying taxes and the top 7 profiting US companies paying none, the answer is NOT to tax us more; it is to get rid of the loopholes.  But, I digress; back to reducing spending.  I think the National Endowment for the Arts is a place to start; if you aren’t capable of producing art that someone wants to buy, then you should find a new job.  Why do my tax dollars go for supporting people making paintings with bodily fluids and sculptures that everyone finds to be in poor taste?  If you choose to be an artist and fail at it, the American People should not be giving you what amounts to welfare.  Hey, I want to be a lottery winner, but I’m not succeeding; maybe there should be a National Endowment to support me.  Another place that I think some money could be saved is in foreign aid.  We are giving Pakistan $2 Billion this year; the same Pakistan that has gotten pissy since we killed Osama bin Laden and who likely harbored him in their borders for the last decade.  Really?  Tom Coburn (R-OK) compiled a list of 100 wasteful government programs and projects, that’d be another few places to save some cash; some examples are:  a $700000 grant to study cow farts as a source of methane emissions, $23 million per year to print the Congressional Record that no one reads in print, and a $2.5 million Census Bureau advertisement during the Super Bowl.

This whole business of threatening to withhold Social Security payments if the Debt-Ceiling isn’t raised smacks of thuggery to me.  Seriously, SS isn’t even budget-funded; it is simply a threat of “do what I want or I will hurt people and it’ll all be YOUR fault.”  Furthermore, the Congress needs to keep their hands out of the SS Fund.  They have “borrowed” nearly $2 Trillion from it since 1993.  This is akin to people borrowing from their retirement fund to buy a car.  It takes years to pay back the loan and after it’s paid they are only back to where they were when they took the loan.  Imagine what SS would be if they had left that $2 trillion in there to grow naturally.The simple fact is that our Government has a problem with seeing any money in the Peoples’ pockets without developing a strong urge to take some of it. 

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>Illegal Immigration, Tearing the Fabric of America

>It is often said that illegal immigrants in the United States are just hard-working people trying to find a better life; and that they do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do.  But, when you look at the facts, illegal immigration is costing Americans far more than what the country and society get in return. 

Many illegals do indeed perform jobs that most Americans don’t want, but many are also taking jobs that Americans would be happy to do.  A large number of the Illegals that work in industries with heavy reliance on sub-contracting work under the table; that is, they pay no payroll taxes.  This is where businesses see the advantage in hiring undocumented workers; they are able to pay them less than prevailing wage, have no worries about unions, do not have to pay health and retirement benefits, etc.  But the true cost of these savings are millions of Illegals collecting at least one form of Government welfare (they have no documented income afterall), medical care provided through emergency room visits (raising the costs for everyone else), children in families that pay no taxes being educated and fed in our schools, and the fact that these people do use other government services for which they have not paid taxes (police, fire, roads, parks, etc).  Additionally, with no safety nets for most of them a lost job or injury that keeps them from working gives them practically no option for support other than turning to criminal activities. 
Statistics say that at least a million and a half Illegals actually receive benefits such as housing subsidies, WIC, free school lunches, and even TANF, SSI, and food stamps.  Many of them get these despite the fact that there are actually workers in the family; but because their work is undocumented, they qualify.  A recent study, widely endorsed by the media and others, estimated that the average American household pays $1117 dollars per year in taxes that are spent on illegal immigrants.  When you consider that only just more than half of American households pay any income tax at all, that must mean that closer to $2000 of the taxes that you personally paid last year was spent on Illegals.  I don’t know about you, but I could definitely find a better use for $2000 extra in my budget.
The trend recently found through anti-gang efforts throughout the country has been that an increasing percentage of the gang members apprehended have been illegal immigrants.  The numbers, based on arrest statistics, are generally approaching 40% on average throughout the country.  Many of these gangs are not  only involved in the importation and distribution of illicit drugs, but increasingly they are being arrested for crimes like car-jacking, kidnapping, muggings, assault, and organized prostitution.
The millions of Illegals that enter our country yearly are mainly coming from countries with poor healthcare standards and generally no programs for inoculating their public for killer diseases.  Diseases never before seen in US outbreaks have been seen in outbreaks across the country recently.  American children have contracted diseases, such as Tuberculosis, in school from improperly screened illegal immigrant children.  Many Illegals work in three industries involved with the US food supply; picking crops, meat processing, and restaurant kitchen workers.  Those picking crops often work without facilities for using the bathroom and washing hands; think about that next time you don’t thoroughly clean your lettuce or tomatoes.  Personal hygiene standards are often very much lacking in their counties of origin and they bring their habits here.  My neighbors had their roof redone a few years ago.  The crew who did the work had not one person able to speak English, they all spoke Spanish.  I witnessed throughout the two days men hiding behind my shrubs to urinate.  One guy, I’m pretty sure, was going to do worse until I coughed loud enough that he knew I was there.  Illegals working in restaurant kitchens  mostly can not read that sign that says, “Wash your hands after using the bathroom”.  So, do they; in many of their countries people still commonly urinate in public and do not wash their hands afterward.  In some countries outdoor or even public defecation is still not uncommon.  So, the influx of people with poor hygiene and poor medical care throughout their lives is a health hazard to us all.  Let us hope that the World Health Organization’s declaration that smallpox has been eradicated is true; we in the US mostly stopped inoculating our children for smallpox more than a decade ago.  Without a doubt though, we will continue to see disease outbreaks, most commonly TB, that are the direct result of illegal immigration.
Honestly, I would rather pay more for lettuce, restaurant food, a new roof, and lawn service than continue to foot the bills for practically uncontrolled illegal immigration into our country.

>Givers

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The freedoms that all Americans enjoy, and often take for granted, have all been won and preserved by those who were willing to put their lives at risk and wear the uniform of the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marine Corps.  Countless families throughout our history and many today are torn asunder as loved ones have left for foreign soil to combat tyrants or otherwise protect American interests.  Many families have forever lost their loved ones, who paid the ultimate price for freedom by being killed or lost in war. 
These are the foremost Givers to our society, and nothing that we have today would exist without their sacrifices.  My two favorite quotes regarding this subject follow, I hope you enjoy them.

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing …which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” –John Stewart Mill

“It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.” – Father Dennis Edward O’Brian, USMC

>Idle Hands Do the Devil’s Work

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Generally speaking, aside from their ethical values, hard-working people are too tired at the end of the work day to commit robberies, muggings, or many other crimes; it is the idle population that is responsible for most property crimes.  By continuing to pay handouts to people who do not work, we are setting-up society for continued rises in crime.  Studies conducted on crime rates correlation to unemployment show that as fewer people have jobs, more people become the victims of theft. 
The feeling of entitlement that is being fostered amongst the welfare segment of the American citizenry is certainly not helping matters.  We pay to house them, feed them, educate them, send their kids to summer camp, we buy them cars and cell phones, and much more.  I think that because they are given more than the basic necessities, they develop a warped sense that they are entitled to have what others work to obtain.  Look at the rash of mob robberies occurring in Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago.  Go check-out the videos and you will see for yourself a few simple facts; no one committing the crimes appears to be starving or even underfed, the items being stolen are not basic necessities, and they are generally well dressed.  The lists of mob-robbery stolen items that I have read to date include designer denim clothing, cell phones, touch pad computers, beer, beef jerky, potato chips, ice cream, candy, and jewelery; desperately hungry people would have taken more basic foods, this is clearly people taking things that they feel they should have but aren’t willing to work toward affording.  And, truthfully, most of the time it seems that “munchies” are the main targets; leading me to believe that these are often people supplying themselves for a night of partying.
I used to have to drive past a section 8 housing development (the projects) to get to work.  At 07:30 the parking lots were full and there was not a person to be seen.  Whenever I had need to go home for lunch for lunch there’d be a couple of people seen, checking mail, and stuff like that.  When I passed by at 16:45 the place would be hopping; literally hundreds of people sitting on their park benches in the shade, drinking beer, and smoking (mostly cigarettes, but it was easy to see many people passing marijuana).  On the occaisions that I had to work late and didn’t pass by until after 18:00 the party would always be in full swing; loud music, dancing, people wrestling and chasing each other, cars choking the roadway while they stopped (to converse or often trade money for little packets and baggies).  I can only imagine what happened as the evening grew later and the beer or munchies ran out.  So, here was a whole development of people who slept past noon daily which makes me think they did not work, but they always had beer cigarettes, pot, and nice audio equipment.  Furthermore, at least half of the cars in the parking lots were newer and in much better shape than the old pick-up I was driving.  When the curtains or doors were open I often spotted bigscreen TVs (can’t miss a 60″ flat panel when you are waiting for the  drug transaction in front of you to finish so you can get home).  So, the question is, how do people in government subsidized housing afford beer, cigarettes, bigscreen TVs, $1400 wheels and obviously expensive sound systems for their cars, and drugs?  It had to be criminal activity; they were either selling food stamps or drugs or committing theft to get these luxury items.
A person working two minimum wage jobs to support their family is generally not partying and committing crime when not at work.  Probably they are trying to get some needed sleep after a quick meal and mowing the lawn.  This is why I have always felt that welfare benefits should only be provided to the working poor.  Give that Mom and Dad each working two or more jobs food stamps, housing assistance, and educational grants.  Those people would then be able to maybe just work one job each and spend some time with thier families or go to school to learn new skills.  The jobs they vacated would be perfect for all the formerly non-working welfare recipients to move into to qualify to continue receiving benefits.  I would rather pay for day care for their children while they worked, than give them the free handouts they get now.  If my gut feeling that these are the people committing a majority of the crimes is right, we should also see a nice drop in crime rates because they’ll all be too tired to spend the energy to form-up the posse to go mugging people or breaking into cars and homes.

>And yet more Takers

>This is one of my favorite recent news stories.  Welfare recipients in Fairfax County, Virginia are being housed in Luxury Condos at taxpayer expense. 

The first link is to the Fox 5 report, while the news Reporter interviews a man obviously coming from work, waiting on a bus to take him home; we get to hear about the pool tables, swimming pools, indoor basketball courts, and beautiful landscaping that welfare recipients (and some honestly disadvantaged people) are being provided with his (and everyone else’s) tax dollars.

The second link is another article that shows some good pictures of the properties in which welfare people get housed while many working tax payers can not afford anything near as luxurious.

Fox 5 Investigates report
Kingstowne Patch article

>A quick diversion to "Living Wage’ versus "Minimum Wage"

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I just finished reading a piece by someone espousing the idea that the US needs to set the minimum wage standard to a “Living wage” level.  By the author’s calculations based on living expenses, the new minimum “living” wage should be $48000 per year.  I am posting my response to this socialistic, entitlement-minded idea.
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How does an employer pay someone $48000 per year for making $20000 worth of cheeseburgers?  The only way this is possible is to raise the price of products and services sufficiently to cover the costs of payroll and benefits and still make a profit.  So, it becomes a vicious cycle.  You have computed the living wage $48000 annually, in order to pay that companies must raise prices, they must also raise prices additionally to cover the increase in operating expenditures caused by every other company charging more for products and services, and the government must raise taxes because they are also paying more for products and services; with the higher prices and taxes $48000 is no longer a “living wage” according to your formula.  So, do we raise the living wage again to, say, $65000 and start the whole chain reaction over? 
The same is true for Universal Healthcare.  Only 51% of American households pay any federal income taxes; how can half of country afford to pay for their own and the other half of the country’s healthcare?  Universal Healthcare will make medical care more affordable in the way that mandatory automobile insurance made the insurance more affordable; it didn’t.  The only thing Universal Healthcare will accomplish is to raise the price those who aren’t getting it for free will need to pay to maintain their own health insurance and increase the taxes on the half of the country that actually pays any.  And to exacerbate the situation, millions of people who currently maintain insurance would stop paying for coverage that they can qualify to get for free under UHC.  Many employers that pay some form of healthcare for their employees currently would either drop coverage because the fines would cost them less than actually paying for health benefits or drop employees to maintain the profitability of their companies.  The addition of more unemployed, non-taxpaying people and shrinking pool of those actually paying into health benefits funds would precipitate a rise in the overall cost for those who actually pay for healthcare benefits, and the increased expense would require the government to raise taxes to cover the costs of providing healthcare benefits to those who do not pay for themselves.
Back to your main subject, the living wage; another thing happens when lower skill-tier wages are arbitrarily raised; people who are earning something between the current and new minimum wage rate become disgruntled.  A person who works a job that requires some skill to do or is undesirable due to being physically demanding or having harsh work conditions was compensated for having the necessary skills or willingly enduring the rigors of the job.  Now that these people can earn the same or better income and benefits for doing a job that requires less skill and knowledge or is in a considerably nicer environment, they will either leave the harder jobs for easier ones or demand higher compensation.  Those who leave will create a deficit of needed minimal staffing levels, which in turn drives the prevailing wage for those positions upward because employers are forced to pay high enough wages to entice people back into the positions.  And then the same thing happens at the next higher tier of jobs; everyone who was paid more than the people who just got raises because their jobs require even more skill or have even harsher work conditions will go through the same progression until they are again earning more than the tier II Skill/Environment group.  And it continues up the pyramid until everyone again earns proportionally the same that they did before the living wage adjustments.  The bottom line is that you can not pay someone mowing lawns the same that you pay a person working in a steel mill because we need steelworkers and no one is going to do it if they can make the same pay selling pants at the mall.  By the same token we need surgeons, but it requires far more training, skill, and knowledge to be a surgeon than it does to work on the rolling mill lines; who would endure the time and expense of the years of training, deal with the stress of doing surgery, expense of malpractice insurance, re-certification, etc., etc. if they could make the same living by driving a delivery truck? 
For the most part, prevailing wages are at the levels they are due to market forces; supply of people able and willing to do a job versus the need of companies to employ some one to perform a certain function while maintaining a profitable margin.  It will never be possible to pay people a living wage for performing unskilled work because it drives up prevailing wages for harder jobs and the overall costs of doing business, thus driving-up prices and eventually resulting in the same proportional distribution of buying power and earnings value that existed prior to the change.

>Takers part III ( I promise I’ll get to "Givers" soon)

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Through the years I have occasionally forgotten that I should not go to the grocery store on the first weekday following the first of the month (when the welfare benefits get paid).  Without fail, every time that I have been at the grocery during the welfare shopping-spree, I have endured being witness to the same scenario.  I am ALWAYS in the checkout line behind paired women who have four or five grocery carts between them.  Inevitably, one woman will whip-out her welfare card and pay for all of the groceries and the two will then divide the carts and head off for their cars.  Twice, I have personally witnessed the food stamp paying woman get cash payment from the other woman.  Without qualms, in the open for all to see, they had no problem with apparently defrauding the welfare system by basically selling food stamps.
The last time was the best though.  Before the cash-for-food-stamps-purchased-food transaction took place, I had the honor of listening to the women’s conversation.  Apparently the woman who was on welfare was in a pickle; she was not going to have enough money to go with her friend on a vacation to Florida if she had to pay her cell phone and cable bills herself.  Luckily, her friend was able to give her a long list of local churches, county offices, state programs, etc that would likely contribute to her cell phone and cable expenditures.  She was reminded that her phone was needed to get emergent calls from the school regarding her children and from her mother if there were a crisis; and that cable TV was important for getting information regarding weather or civil emergencies, and provided lots of educational programming to help her eventually get a job. 
I was relieved that by the time they left it was looking like the Florida vacation was probably going to happen; because Grandma was going to get to spend two weeks with her grandchildren while “Mom” got some much needed and deserved rest time away from the rigors of finding others to pay her bills and selling enough food stamps to buy her beer, cigarettes, and vacation funds.