To say that the U.S. government is a profligate spender of OMP – other people’s money – is such an understatement it borders on the hysterical.
Yes, our government has a spending problem. And because of that, it also has a management problem, a waste, fraud and abuse problem, and a taxation problem.
High taxes (well, for some income groups) feed an insatiable federal leviathan that then uses our money to pick certain winners in the corporate world (think incentives) while buying off key voter constituencies with taxpayer money (think welfare, SNAP, Obamacare and other government subsidies).
It’s all gotten quite out of hand. Our government has spent trillions more than it has taken in. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is out of whack (it is projected to be more than 105 percent next year). We have more Americans on food stamps and welfare now than at any time in our history. Means tested federal and state aid programs now number around 80. Through it all, poverty rates have only increased – even though nearly 70 percent of federal spending goes to dependency programs.
Enter Sweden. It, too, used to be an economic basket case. But at some point in the early 1990s, the elected leaders of Sweden decided that the future solvency of their country was a helluva lot more important than partisanship and power, so they got together and did something about it.
As noted in a new report by Per Byland in the Mises Institute’s The Free Market, Keynesian idiots like The New York Times’ Paul Krugman – who adore big welfare states and somehow think “government money” that is forcibly taken from productive Americans and given to unproductive Americans is good for the economy – refuse to acknowledge the historic failure of government to create wealth:
During the recent financial crisis, Sweden has emerged as one of very few financially sound economies. …
In September of 1992 the Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, raised the interest rate to five hundred (500) percent in a vain attempt to save the fixed exchange rate of the Swedish krona (Sweden’s currency). This drastic measure was taken in conjunction with large spending cuts and tax increases to address the free-fall of the nation’s economy. The economic meltdown was the culmination of two full decades of decline…
Since that time, Sweden has, across the board, seen consistent government cutbacks while increasing restrictions on welfare policies, deregulating markets, and privatizing former government monopolies. The country has instituted an overall new incentive structure in society making it more favorable to work. The national debt tumbled from almost 80 percent of GDP in 1995 to only 35 percent in 2010.
Sweden is an interesting case to study. We do indeed, as Krugman repeatedly tells us, have much to learn from it: from the long-lasting era of economic growth thanks to free markets to the rise and fall of the welfare state. The country’s recently (re)gained financial strength and its ability to resist a global recession are due, not to a strong welfare state as Krugman claims, but to the long-term rolling back of the expansive welfare that Keynesians so often praise.
There are some members of one party in Washington who still advocates cutting the size of the leviathan, reducing the welfare state, cutting regulatory burdens and getting the government out of the business of trying to run and manage business, and none of them belong to the Democrat Party. But they are regularly dismissed and derided.
If we are to have a prayer of preventing the United States from plunging head first into the fiscal abyss, priority number one has to be getting rid of the lunatics who are running the asylum. And that starts with the leadership in both parties.
While the people of Sweden pushed their leaders to act responsibly to prevent the kind of fiscal disaster that would have meant, literally, the end of Sweden, we know our own Socialist-in-Chief, Barack Obama, and his sycophantic love children in Congress and the federal bureaucracy, won’t willingly do what’s right.
So they will have to be forced to do it.
Becoming fiscally responsible and less reliant on big, fat, bloated government will cause some pain for a while, but it’s a pain we simply have to bear if we are serious about our survival.
Top 10 Travel Destinations to the Start the New Decade
For many, traveling offers an opportunity to disconnect from the everyday and experience new places and cultures. With the beginning of a new decade, it is the perfect time to start deciding your next travel adventures.
When booking your future destinations, consider these spots and tips recommended by travel expert and Bank of America ambassador, Lee Abbamonte, the youngest American to visit every country plus the North and South Poles.
From its deserts to tropical beaches, Australia is a beautiful country to explore. While many people might be familiar with the Sydney Opera House and the unique wildlife, there are many hidden gems in Australia.
“I’ve been to Australia 10 times and I still can’t get enough,” Abbamonte said. “One of my favorite cities is Melbourne. While it’s one of the largest cities in Australia, the heart of the city is hidden and secretive. It comes to life when you visit the alleys, laneways and arcades. The vibrant city has so much to offer: cafes, a unique street culture and street art.”
2. New Zealand
If you are going to New Zealand for the first time, Abbamonte recommends boogie boarding down the sand dunes, hiking up a volcano and visiting the Moeraki Boulders. However, if you are really interested in getting the blood pumping, take a leap from Nevis Bungy near Queenstown. It is among the highest bungy jumping experiences in the world, measuring 440 feet.
“Mexico City has two of my favorite things – great food and sports,” Abbamonte said. “The street tacos are to die for, and I love going to soccer games at Estadio Azteca.”
In 2020, there will be many festivals to explore. The city is a cultural hub with music, theater, dance and food events throughout the year. While experiencing the festivities, it is also an opportune time to take a step back and enjoy Chapultepec Park.
One of Abbamonte’s favorite waterfalls is Iguazu Falls located on the border of Brazil and Argentina. While Iguazu Falls might be well known, the falls themselves are truly unique. The waterfall system consists of 275 falls that stretch over approximately 1.68 miles. The Devil’s Throat is the tallest fall with a drop of more than 262 feet.
While traveling internationally can be fun and exhilarating, there are also places throughout the United States that offer memorable activities:
5. Scottsdale, Arizona
If you enjoy being outdoors, Scottsdale is an ideal place to visit. There are many trails to explore in Camelback Mountain, Papago Park and Hole in the Rock. After hiking, follow Abbamonte’s example and golf at The Short Course at Mountain Shadows.
“Scottsdale has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the States, and from The Short Course at Mountain Shadows, I get to enjoy the view while practicing my swing,” he said.
6. Boston, Massachusetts
“I love sports, so I visit Boston regularly for the professional games,” Abbamonte said. “I’m also fortunate that Boston is a beautiful city I can enjoy along the way.”
Boston is one of the oldest cities in the country. Founded in 1630, Boston is filled with history, museums and universities. If you are interested in a more unique attraction, check out the Warren Anatomical Museum, which is one of the last of its kind in the United States.
7. Portland, Oregon
What makes Portland unique are the bizarre and wonderful things you can do when you visit. For example, you can try bone marrow ice cream, stop by Mill Ends Park (the world’s smallest park) or attach your wish to The Wishing Tree.
“Portland is absolutely beautiful,” Abbamonte said. “It has a bit of everything – restaurants, bars, parks – and I enjoy the people watching. Portland has some of the nicest people while maintaining an edgy vibe.”
8. Tampa, Florida
Tampa might be known for its spring break party scene, but it has so much more to offer. For example, the city’s zoos and aquariums provide opportunities to interact directly with animals. Then you can take a break at Clearwater Beach, which is known for its soft, white sand and calm waters.
9. Santa Barbara, California
“I go to Santa Barbara when I want to recharge,” Abbamonte said. “I enjoy the food, walking around, talking to the locals and even watching a football game or two.”
There are wine tours, zoos, beaches, museums and restaurants. While taking in the city, also make time to visit the hidden gems such as Knapp’s Castle ruins.
10. England, Germany, Scotland, Azerbaijan and more
While technically more than one place, these locations have one thing in common: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Euro 2020. The international soccer event marks the first time the games will be held across the continent in 12 host cities.
“The year is a big one for sports,” Abbamonte said. “From sporting events in Europe to Japan, it is a fun year for travel and to enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”
US Vows 100% Tariffs on French Champagne, Cheese, Handbags Over Digital tax
The US government on Monday said it may slap punitive duties of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in imports from France of Champagne, handbags, cheese and other products, after concluding that France’s new digital services tax would harm US tech companies.
The US Trade Representative’s office said its “Section 301” investigation found that the French tax was “inconsistent with prevailing principles of international tax policy, and is unusually burdensome for affected US companies,” including Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.com.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the government was exploring whether to open similar investigations into the digital services taxes of Austria, Italy and Turkey.
“The USTR is focused on countering the growing protectionism of EU member states, which unfairly targets US companies,” Lighthizer said. His statement made no mention of proposed digital taxes in Canada or Britain.
The US trade agency said it would collect public comments through Jan. 14 on its proposed tariff list as well as the option of imposing fees or restrictions on French services, with a public hearing scheduled for January 7.
It did not specify an effective date for the proposed 100% duties.
CHAMPAGNE, ROUGE AND GRUYERE
The list targets some products that were spared from 25 percent tariffs imposed by the United States over disputed European Union aircraft subsidies, including sparkling wines, handbags and make-up preparations – products that would hit French luxury goods giant and cosmetics maker L’Oreal hard.
Gruyere cheese, also spared from the USTR aircraft tariffs levied in October, featured prominently in the list of French products targeted for 100 percent duties, along with numerous other cheeses.
The findings won favor from US lawmakers and US tech industry groups, who have long argued that the tax unfairly targets US firms.
“The French digital services tax is unreasonable, protectionist and discriminatory,” Senators Charles Grassley and Ron Wyden, the top Republican and Democrat, respectively, on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a joint statement.
Spokespeople for the French embassy and the European Union delegation in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.
But prior to the release of the USTR’s report, a French official said that France would dispute the trade agency’s findings, repeating Paris’ contention that the digital tax is not aimed specifically at US technology companies.
“We will not give up on taxation” of digital firms, the official said.
France’s 3 percent levy applies to revenue from digital services earned by firms with more than €25 million ($27.86 million) in French revenue and €750 million (£644 million) worldwide.
The USTR’s report and proposed tariff list follow months of negotiations between French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over a global overhaul of digital tax rules.
The two struck a compromise in August at a G7 summit in France that would refund US firms the difference between the French tax and a new mechanism being drawn up through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
But Trump never formally endorsed that deal and declined to say whether his French tariff threat was off the table.
Andrew Yang Wants You to Make Money Off Your Data by Making it Your Personal Property
Andrew Yang, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, plans to regulate the tech industry by prioritizing in giving people the right to own their personal data (“data as a property right”), thus allowing them to make money by sharing it with companies. Currently, companies entirely own users’ data – users do not have much control over it.
Yang said, “our data is now worth more than oil” and gave emphasis to the great amount of data people create and how companies make money over it. “By implementing measures to increase transparency in the data collection and monetization process, individuals can begin to reclaim ownership of what’s theirs,” he said.
He also cited a report saying that the collection and use of Americans’ personal data has become a $198 billion industry. Yang believes that people should have more control over their data, such as being able to see how their data is being used and having the freedom to opt out if they choose.
Yang added that we need politicians “who understand technology and a modern way to regulate it,” as reported by Engadget. “In order to regulate technology effectively, our government needs to understand it. It’s embarrassing to see the ignorance some members of Congress display when talking about technology, and anyone who watched Congress question Mark Zuckerberg is well aware of this,” said Yang.
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