“The National Debt Is ‘Unsustainable’ and the Pentagon’s Finances Are a Total Mess, Federal Audit Says”

Eric Boehm @ Reason Magazine reports:

The federal government’s books are in such bad shape that auditors can’t even do their jobs, and the national debt is growing at an “unsustainable” rate, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned in its annual comprehensive review of the government’s financial statements.

The GAO singled out the Pentagon—as it has every year since 1990, when federal auditors first started trying to peer into the black hole of military spending—for “serious financial management problems.” That includes more than 1,300 new issues raised during this year’s incomplete audit of the Defense Department. Despite those persistent financial problems, the Pentagon has seen a huge boost in spending under the Trump administration.

Of the 24 federal departments and agencies subject to annual audits under a 1990 law, only the Pentagon and the Department of Housing and Urban Development failed to get a clean review this year. Note that a clean review does not mean there was no wasteful spending—merely that auditors at least were able to see where the spending was going.

“Resolving the problems outlined in our audit report is of utmost importance given the federal government’s reported fiscal path,” wrote Gene L. Dodaro, U.S. comptroller general and the head of the GAO, in a letter to Congress and President Donald Trump. “Absent policy changes, the federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal path.”

Measured as a share of the entire U.S. economy, the national debt has doubled in just 12 years and is on pace to grow to historical highs within the next decade. The federal government’s budget deficit—the gap between how much revenue it raises and how much money it spends—is expected to exceed $1 trillion this year.

“While the estimated magnitude of the fiscal gap is subject to a substantial amount of uncertainty, it is nevertheless nearly certain that current fiscal policies cannot be sustained indefinitely,” the GAO’s report concluded. The sooner the growth of the deficit and debt can be slowed or reversed, the less those policies are likely to affect economic growth.

But is anyone listening? Lawmakers from both major parties have worked together in recent years to pass budgets that exploded annual deficits and added to the debt. Democrats running for president are promising to hike federal spending by trillions of dollars to pay for free college, government-run health care, and the fight against climate change—and even though they are also promising to raise taxes, the math doesn’t add up. That means deficits will continue to grow. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has abandoned any pretense of fiscal conservatism, and most of his party has followed suit.

But the report is right there for them to see. When the past decade’s fiscal recklessness hits the fan, they won’t be able to claim that no one saw this coming.

Source:Eric Boehm @ Reason Magazine https://reason.com/2020/02/28/the-national-debt-is-unsustainable-and-the-pentagons-finances-are-a-total-mess-federal-audit-says/

“Senator Sanders Is Wrong on Cuban Education and Healthcare”

by Marian L Tupy & Chealsea Follett @ Cato Institute:

The current frontrunner among the contenders vying to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (D‑VT), sang Cuba’s praises in a recent 60 Minutes interview on CBS. Senator Sanders applauded Cuba’s education and healthcare system. Potential Sanders supporters should know that Cuba’s literacy rate and healthcare system are nothing to lionize.

First, consider literacy. According to Sanders, “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?” Sanders is surely old enough to know that all communist dictatorships throughout history have ensured that their people were literate—in part so that the people might take in the disinformation printed by government propaganda ministries.

Furthermore, a look at the data reveals that all of the progress regarding literacy that happened under communism in Cuba would almost certainly have happened under a different political and economic system. While trustworthy data, defogged of Cuban propaganda, are difficult to come by, the U.S. Department of State tried to do just that by comparing improvements in human well‐​being in Cuba between the 1950s (the last decade of the hated Batista regime) and 2000.

Accordingly, Cuba’s literacy rate rose by 26 percent between 1950/53 and 2000. But literacy rose even more, by 37 percent, in Paraguay. Food consumption in Cuba actually declined by 12 percent between 1954/57 and 1995/97. It rose by 19 percent in Chile and by 28 percent in Mexico over the same time period. Between 1954/57 and 1995/97, the rate of change in car ownership per 1,000 people in Cuba declined at an annual rate of 0.1 percent. It increased at an annual rate of 16 percent in Brazil, 25 percent in Ecuador and 26 percent in Colombia.

Next, consider healthcare. Sanders has repeatedly extolled Cuba’s healthcare system, opining that in Cuba the communist revolutionary and dictator Fidel Castro “gave them [the Cuban people] health care, totally transformed the society, you know?” Yet a recent study has found that Cuba’s seemingly impressive health performance is partly due to data manipulation and coercion.

Life expectancy is the best proxy measure of health. According to Cuba’s official data, it rose by 25 percent between 1960 and 2017. Yet life expectancy increased even faster in comparable countries: in Mexico it improved by 35 percent, in the Dominican Republic by 43 percent, and in impoverished Haiti by 51 percent.

The data make clear that Cuba’s education and healthcare system are unremarkable. Cuban‐​Americans and others familiar with Castro’s record are rightly appalled by Sanders’ apparent affection for socialism on the island.

Full Commentary @ Cato Institute https://www.cato.org/blog/senator-sanders-wrong-cubas-education-healthcare?utm_source=feedotorg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fee_partners

Larison:”Bloomberg’s Warped Perception Of China”

Center for American Progress/Flickr

FEBRUARY 27, 2020|

11:04 AMDANIEL LARISON

Bloomberg is determined not to call Xi Jinping a dictator:

In a CNN town hall on Wednesday, Bloomberg declined to call Chinese President Xi Jinping a dictator, saying “it’s a question of what is a dictator,” and that while China is not a democracy, leaders are still chosen by a small group of people and are replaced periodically.

“I think the question is, if your definition is a democracy where people vote and pick their leaders, that is not what China is about,” Bloomberg said. “They like their system, and I think they’re wrong, I think they’d be better off opening things up.”

Bloomberg’s unwillingness to use the word dictator to describe the head of a one-party authoritarian state is strange. This isn’t a matter of diplomatic politesse. It is possible to call things by their right names and still pursue cooperation with another government when our interests and theirs overlap. The former mayor is sticking to his Politburo defense:

Well it’s a question of what is a dictator. They don’t have democratic — a democracy in the sense that they have general elections, that is true. They do have a system where a small group of people appoint the head, and they churn over periodically.

If you go back and look at the last two or three decades there’ve been a number of people that had the same position that Xi Jinping has.

It’s true that Xi has had predecessors in the same role. It’s also true that this periodic change in leadership doesn’t make their system any less of an authoritarian dictatorship. Bloomberg also ignores how much Xi has consolidated power over the last seven years. Under Xi, they have removed term limits, so he will probably be able to remain in that position for the rest of his life. Xi has cultivated a cult of personality around himself more than any previous leader since Mao:

President Xi Jinping, poised to rule over China indefinitely, is at the center of the Communist Party’s most colorful efforts to build a cult of personality since the death of People’s Republic founder Mao Zedong in 1976.

Xi’s image dominates the front pages of state newspapers, hours of state television broadcasts, magazine covers, posters sold at markets, billboards around parks and signs posted along sidewalks.

On television, Xi is often depicted as being wildly adored by anyone from factory workers and farmers to space engineers and soldiers who typically applaud Xi for several minutes.

This is common knowledge, and it has been going on for years. Bloomberg must know this, but he hides behind this idea of a periodic “churn” in leaders as if that matters. The problem here is not just that Bloomberg refuses to use the accurate term, but that his refusal reflects an unwillingness to tell the truth about what the Chinese government is because so much of his business is tied up in their market. This is not Bloomberg’s failing alone, but he is representative of business leaders that bend over backwards to avoid offending the Chinese government. Bloomberg’s perception of the Chinese government is unavoidably warped by his dealings with them, and it raises the fair question of why anyone should trust his judgment about the U.S.-China relationship.

Source:Daniel Larison @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/bloombergs-warped-perception-of-china/

Harsanyi:Why Bernie Sanders’s Praise of Fidel Castro Matters

He’s defended virtually every Communist tyrant he’s ever been asked about over the past 50 years.

Did you know that infamous Nazi Hermann Göring was a great lover of animals, a protector of birds, and head of the forestry service in Germany? Unless you’re a history buff, probably not. After all, almost no one feels the need to preface their comments about the Third Reich with “Sure, the authoritarianism was pretty bad, but, boy, that Göring was one hell of an environmentalist!”

Western elites, however, like to use this kind of absurd criterion whenever they talk about socialism, ignoring its vast failures and praising its piddling and alleged successes — you know, “Denmark,” but not Algeria, Albania, Angola, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burma, Cambodia, China, Congo, East Germany, Ethiopia, Hungary, Latvia, Mongolia, Romania, Somalia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, and so on and on.

And unlike many modern progressives, Bernie Sanders is old-school, still in the habit of praising old comrades. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?” Bernie told 60 Minutes this past weekend, reacting to criticism of his near-complete praise of the dictator back in the 1980s.

The answer is: Yes, massive literacy programs instituted using the machinery of a tyranny are, indeed, a bad thing. For one thing, you can institute massive literacy programs without authoritarianism, just as you can build impressive highways without fascism or alleviate most poverty without collectivism. Just ask the United States, or any other capitalistic nation with wealth and high literacy rates.

Even then, Sanders is regurgitating Communist propaganda. Cuba already had the highest literacy rate in Latin America before the revolution, and it basically kept trending in the same direction as every other nation in the region. When Castro triumphantly entered Havana in 1958, he didn’t bring truckloads of books; he ordered thousands of arrests and summary executions. When Castro “came into office,” he canceled elections, terminated the free press, and turned Cuba into the island prison that still exists today.

Full Commentary by David Harsanyi @ National Review https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/02/bernie-sanders-praise-fidel-castro-why-it-matters/#slide-1

Pipes:”Nevada unions don’t trust ‘Medicare for all’ to manage their healthcare”

Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute reports:

Nevada’s culinary union, an influential force in the state’s upcoming caucuses, just fired a shot across the bow of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. In flyers, emails, and text messages, the union warned its members that Sanders’s “Medicare for all” plan would “end Culinary Healthcare.”

The culinary union has good reason to oppose Sanders’s plan. It provides top-tier benefits to 130,000 workers and their families. “Medicare for all” would destroy these benefits and saddle union members with far worse coverage.

Unions across the country have negotiated hard to provide generous health coverage to their members. In 2018, three-quarters of union members had access to dental benefits, compared with just half of nonunion workers. Some unions have even negotiated premium-free health benefits.

Sanders’s “Medicare for all” proposal would invalidate union health plans and force all their members into the same government-run plan as every other person.

In Nevada, that would mean the end of the Culinary Health Fund, which provides some of the best coverage in the state. Benefits include access to a members-only clinic that provides 24/7 urgent care, along with dental, vision, and pediatric care. Union clinics like this tend to offer high-quality care and have helped members save hundreds of dollars a month.

The Sanders campaign says union health clinics would remain open under “Medicare for all.” The campaign has also promised that unions could claw back any savings employers realized under “Medicare for all,” relative to what those employers would pay under the new government-run plan.

But because “Medicare for all” would unleash virtually unlimited demand for care without increasing its supply, everyone (union members included) would face the prospect of interminable waits. What good are those top-notch clinics if it’s impossible to get an appointment?

For years, Democrats have proudly identified as the party of labor. If they keep up their assault on private health benefits, they may not have unions on their side much longer.

Source:Sally Pipes @ The Washington Examiner https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/nevada-unions-dont-trust-medicare-for-all-to-manage-their-healthcare

Trump to Spend $5.4 Trillion in 2021 – Chris Edwards

President Trump’s new budget projects that federal spending will rise to $4.83 trillion in fiscal year 2021. When Trump came into office in 2017, spending was $3.98 trillion. In just four years under this president, spending will be up $850 billion, or 21 percent.

In reality, however, federal spending in 2021 will be more than $4.83 trillion. That figure is “net” outlays, but “gross” outlays will be $5.41 trillion, as shown in the chart. Reporters and budget wonks usually use the net figure, but the gross figure is the government’s actual total spending.

The difference is “offsetting collections” and “offsetting receipts” from the public. These revenues are netted against spending at either the program level, agency level, or government‐​wide level. Some examples are national park fees, postal service revenues, and Medicare premiums. There are hundreds of such cash inflows to the government that are deducted from spending before reaching the widely reported net.

Net outlays in 2021 will be 20.7 percent of gross domestic product, while gross outlays will be 23.2 percent. The latter is a better measure of the share of the economy controlled by the federal government through spending.

The Office of Management and Budget buries gross outlay data in the budget here, while the Congressional Budget Office does not report it. But citizens are entitled to full information about the government’s large footprint on the economy. OMB and CBO should highlight gross outlays in their main budget tables.

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Source:Chris Edwards @ Cato Institutehttps://www.cato.org/blog/trump-spend-54-trillion-2021?utm_source=feedotorg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fee_partners

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on Legalizing Marijuana

Have you or someone you loved gone to jail or gotten a criminal record for marijuana?

Do you believe addicts should be rehabilitated rather than punished?

The failed war on drugs is an attack on our values of freedom and fairness as Americans. In recent years, many states have taken initiative by legalizing marijuana, reforming drug laws and sentencing guidelines, and winding down the “War on Drugs.” Now it’s time for the federal government to do the same.

Tulsi’s record:

Quotes

  • “The fact that marijuana’s still a Schedule I drug is unacceptable in the harm that it is causing to the people of our country and to taxpayers as well. The impact this has on individuals, potentially leading to criminal records that impact them, their families, their ability to get a job, housing, financial aid for college–the impacts of this are great. That’s not to speak of the impact on states, small businesses and banks in those states that have legalized some level of marijuana.” (Link)
  • “There’s no question that this overall war on drugs has not only been a failure, it has created and exacerbated a number of other problems that continue to afflict people in this country.” (Link)
  • “I believe firmly in every person’s freedom to make their own choices, and that people should not be thrown in jail and incarcerated or made into criminals for choosing to smoke marijuana whether it be for medicinal and non-medicinal purposes.” (Link)

Legislation

  • H.R.1588 — Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019 to limit the application of Federal laws to the distribution and consumption of marijuana, and for other purposes.
  • H.R.1456 — Marijuana Justice Act of 2019 to amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide for a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marijuana, and for other purposes.
  • H.R.712 — VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2019 to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a clinical trial of the effects of cannabis on certain health outcomes of adults with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and for other purposes.

Source:https://www.tulsi2020.com/issues/marijuana-legalization

Welch:Can’t Remove Trump, Why Not Take Away His Power?

Now that Democrats have failed in their attempt to remove the president from power, it’s worth asking why they haven’t seriously considered the reverse: removing power from the president.

We have seen, over the 33 months since Donald Trump took the unusual step of firing FBI Director James B. Comey, any number of behavior-specific explanations for why the 45th president must go: For coordinating with the Kremlin, obstructing the Russia investigation, making “racist comments” about four congresswomen, saying he would accept “dirt” from foreign governments about his domestic political opponents and finally the House’s two impeachment articles: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

But what we have not seen is anything like a structural critique of ever-accumulating executive branch power itself. Democrats don’t like the way Trump uses his authority, but that doesn’t mean they want any less of the stuff in the White House, particularly when they get back the keys. To the contrary.

In his response to Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, leading presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) lamented that the tariff-happy president wasn’t being punitive enough toward American companies. “The NAFTA 2.0 deal that he recently signed,” Sanders said, “will not prevent a single corporation from shutting down factories in the United States and moving them to Mexico.”

In her official Democratic Party response, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer focused not on Trump’s monarchical gestures during the speech — granting a scholarship, promoting a veteran, presenting a Medal of Freedom on the spot, theatrically reuniting a military family — but rather, on all the things Democratic governors are accomplishing by executive fiat in defiance of their legislatures.

“Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers unilaterally increased school funding by $65 million last year,” Whitmer bragged.

Full Commentary by Matt Welch @ Reason https://reason.com/2020/02/08/instead-of-removing-trump-from-power-remove-power-from-the-presidency/