It is tax week 2015. If you completed your tax return on time and wrote that check you'd much rather leave in your account, why not pour yourself a cup of coffee (or maybe a bottle of antacid relief) and plop yourself down in your favorite easy chair and sit a spell. You deserve it. While relaxing, why not take a minute to entertain yourself and learn how your hard-earned money was spent.
Now-retired Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) "Wastebook 2014" reports the government spent $856,000 to teach mountain lions how to run on a treadmill, $171,000 to teach monkeys how to gamble and $387,000 to give rabbits massages. It spent $331,000 to see if spouses are more likely to stab "significant other" voodoo dolls when hungry, $15,000 to attract Colorado young people to the symphony by funding the creation of "Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series." While we're on that high note, the IRS paid $4.2 billion in tax refunds to identity thieves and the Defense Department paid $1 billion to destroy $16 billion in unneeded military-grade ammunition.
"Waste Watch," a publication released by Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) discovered things like $456,669 million was spent on a firing range in Afghanistan that "melted" away after it rained. Another expenditure you probably missed in 2014, was a $100 million "bailout" the State Department discretely transferred to the Afghanistan government without much explanation. An example of how cracked the system is, in 2013, the State Department paid $207,297 to Humpty Dumpty Institute to fly young Iraqi filmmakers to Los Angeles to show them how filmmaking is done, resulting in the production of an anti-American film. more >>
This column was originally published in The Des Moines Register.
On Saturday at the Iowa Agriculture Summit, I called on Washington to put American workers first.
Critics say I'm a "populist," but the truth is I'm a nationalist. I put America and its workers first. Too many in the political class put Wall Street and Washington elites first. They aren't fighting for American workers. more >>
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Certain labor unions are among the strongest opponents of comprehensive immigration reform, according to experts at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
A Thursday panel called "Immigration: Can Conservatives Reach a Consensus," panel featured U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Mario Lopez of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, and Alfonso Aguilar of the American Principles Project.
In his remarks, held at a meeting room at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, Aguilar talked about the opposition unions had to certain immigration reform ideas. more >>
A temporary timeout was called this week in the on-going Greek debt tragedy. Euro-zone officials and Greek politicians agreed on Friday to a four month extension of the default deadline to give themselves more time to find a solution to the intractable problem that the Greek government owes more debt than it can pay back. This exercise in can-kicking spurred me to read the 1977 book, Democracy in Deficit, by Nobel Laureate James M. Buchanan and Richard E. Wagner. I'm interested in their insights into how western democracies have gotten themselves into so much debt, and if they see a possible path out of the woods. I'm only five chapters into the book, with seven to go. But already, the authors have revealed the complete change in the mindset of western society wrought by the economic ideas of Lord Keynes.
Buchanan and Wagner describe the mindset of the public, including government officials, prior to the ascendancy of Keynesian economics. They call it the Old-Time Fiscal Religion, an appropriate description for the commonly held and faithfully adhered to principles of public finance, prior to the Keynesian revolution. As they briefly describe the old "fiscal constitution", it had three main principles.
First, frugality in public finance was considered a virtue, and profligacy was not. Calvin Coolidge was our last truly frugal President, although President Eisenhower might qualify as frugal (there were three years of budget surplus in his eight years in office) when compared to the record of Presidents since he left office. more >>
Recently released statistics say that the percentage of adults younger than 30 who own a private business is the lowest in a generation. Today only 3.6% own a stake in a private company, compared to 6.1% in 2010. Even more troubling, this number was 10.6% in 1989.
This trend of a lost generation of entrepreneurs has profound implications for the growth of our economy. John Davis, chair of the Families in Business Program at Harvard Business School, worries that this trend will cause the U.S. economy to be less vibrant. He calls the plunge in business ownership a "worrisome finding."
We have a generation averse to risk and hard work. More of them want a government job or a disability check. Forty years ago we rode dirt bikes and bumper cars, our popular rides of choice, at the county fair. Today, the most popular rides are those motorized carts at Wal-Mart. more >>
The Dow Jones Industrial Stock Index started the week on Monday, January 26 standing at 17,672.6, where it had closed the previous Friday after a 141.38 sell-off. Monday morning it lost another 100 points, but by the end of the day it had recovered and was up 6.1 points. On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Index lost 291.49 points. On Wednesday the index lost another 195.84 points. Thursday seemed brighter, with the index moving up 225.48. Alas, the Dow Jones Industrials fell 251.9 points on Friday, to end the week at 17,164.95, a loss of 513.75 for the week, and a loss of over 650 points if you add in the previous Friday.
To put these numbers into perspective, the Dow would have to rise an average of 27 points per week to gain an 8% return for the whole year, close to its historical average return. The last six trading days wiped out nearly a half-year of average gains.
There are many explanations. Oil prices, Fed statements, European currency moves, elections in Greece, violence in the Ukraine, etc, etc. But these are not satisfying to the average Sally and Joe. They just want to get off the roller coaster, and find a safe place for their retirement savings. They would just like to earn a little more than inflation, to improve their life in retirement. more >>