Friday, June 22, 2012

More Government Out-Of-Control Spending and Middle Class Welfare

Government impacts our lives in many ways. It also spends lots of money that we don't have to spend.

Meanwhile, it doesn't hold itself accountable or offer explanations or reasons, even bad ones, for what it does. We the People are just ignored and then presented with the bill, often long after the fact.

What our "public servants" do with OPM is despicable, disgusting and anything else you can think to call it as well. Except for one thing, that is. Government officials are not acting like drunken sailors when they act that way. But we'll wait and get to that one later.

I am 100% convinced that nobody in government bothers to quantify all of our promises or actual expenditures. And if they do make some kind of ridiculous budget estimate, they use erroneous assumptions and gimmicks (apply lipstick to the pig, in other words, making the pig appear to be pretty) to cover themselves in glory until such later time as the cost of the specific action has been forgotten and we've moved on to the next big thing.

What should the political class be required to do? Well, how about estimating, publishing and then regularly updating the totality of what will be spent against the totality of what is expected to be received in taxes or other income?

And then setting forth these guesstimates in the bright sunlight for all to see. And then updating in  public these estimates several times each year, along with an explanation of the changes in assumptions, actual expenditures and receipts.

That would only be right, but that's not what they'll do. Nor is it what they've ever done. And We the People have let them get away with this disgraceful behavior for far too long.

If our elected officials did these simple things, we'd all realize quickly that we don't have an unlimited amount of money to spend on all the "good" things we want to do. Our "public servants" would then be forced to make choices and establish priorities among the various alternatives, just like real people and real businesses have to do.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Education and Defense spending, along with interest on the national debt, are the biggies. But the postal service, student loan defaults, Pell Grants, losses on home mortgage guarantees, child care subsidies, ethanol, food stamps and countless other items are in the mix, too.

So it's in that spirit that I call to your attention the story of the expansion of the latest middle class welfare program, the food stamp program, aka SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

Food stamps are the specific story, but food stamps aren't the real story. The real story is our dysfunctional and contemptible government hard at work wasting our money without any effort whatsoever to act on behalf of We the People as a whole. Or even tell us what's happening and why it's costing what it's costing and doing what it's doing. OPM all the way.

Food Stamp Fiasco is an article about the continuing despicable behavior of our dysfunctional congress. This is yet another example of what our "public servants" do and their continuing disdain and disregard for e the People.

"The next time someone moans about Washington "austerity," tell them about the Senate's food stamp votes on Tuesday. Democrats and a few Republicans united to block even modest reform in a welfare program that has exploded in the last decade and is set to spend $770 billion in the next 10 years.

Yes, $770 billion on a single program. And you wonder why the U.S. had its credit-rating downgraded?

When the food stamp program began in the 1970s, it was designed to help about 1 of 50 Americans who were in severe financial distress. But thanks to eligibility changes first by President George W. Bush as part of the 2002 farm bill and then by President Obama in the 2008 stimulus, food stamps are becoming the latest middle-class entitlement.

A record 44.7 million people received food stamps in fiscal 2011, up from 28.2 million as recently as 2008. The cost has more than doubled in that same period, to $78 billion, and is on track to account for 78% of farm bill spending over the next decade. One in seven Americans now qualifies.

Once there was a stigma to going on the dole, and it was seen as a last resort. But now the Agriculture Department runs radio and TV ads prodding people to get the free food, as in a recent campaign that says food stamps will help you lose weight. A federal website boasts about strategies that have "increased program participation". . . .

In the 1990s Bill Clinton boasted that welfare reform took Americans off the dole. The Obama Administration boasts about how many it has added.

Enter Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, who proposed reforms to limit the worst excesses. One proposal would have established a federal asset test to ensure that food stamps aren't going to families that may not have an income but have tens of thousands of dollars in savings or may even live in a million-dollar home. Some 39 states have no real asset test for food stamps, which means wealthy families without anyone in the job market are eligible, and 27 have gross-income limits that are above 130% of the federal poverty guidelines.

That amendment lost 56-43 . . . .

Still to come is an amendment on another egregious practice that lets some 15 states automatically enroll families for food stamps if they get federal home-heating subsidies. Some states mail heating subsidy checks of as little as $1 a month so families can qualify for federal food stamp benefits of as much as $130 a month. That amendment too is expected to fail.

It's true that the recession and feeble recovery have expanded the number of people who need food assistance, but Mr. Sessions's reforms would have harmed no one who really needs help. His amendments would have saved at most some $20 billion over 10 years, which would still leave some three-quarters of a trillion dollars in outlays.

Earlier this year, House Republicans passed their own food stamp reform that will save some $34 billion over a decade. That bill will now go to a House-Senate farm bill conference, and perhaps some savings can be salvaged. But the news in the Senate vote is that the political class still isn't remotely serious about reforming government. The voters are going to have to clean out a lot more spenders in November if they want real change."

My Take

Our out-of-control big and unaccountable government knows best spending spree isn't about food stamps, and neither is it about helping people who need help.

Government officials are like the person who has an unlimited expense account yet still manages to overspend it.

Even worse, other than when making campaign speeches, they don't even fake fiscal responsibility.

The big spenders just continue to pile spending on top of spending, and more new debt on top of old debt.

And with no clue or remote idea of how the debt will be repaid, if ever, and how much the cost to future taxpayers will be to do so.

In this food stamp example, when the program began in the 1970s, 1 in 50 people were eligible.  Now it's 1 in 7. Wouldn't it be appropriate to have the government explain how the program became 7 times larger than its original design? But I'll guarantee you there is no plan to do that or anything like it either.

It's the same thing with the original intent of Pell Grants, established in 1965, to provide funds for low-income people to attend college. Today ~60% of college students receive these government grants. What percentage of attendees was the program designed to accommodate?

And so on.

Summing Up 

I wish that we could at least get our politicians to start acting like drunken sailors.

In that regard, to say that U.S. politicians spend money like drunken sailors is a complete insult to sailors.

That's because in the case of the sailors, at least it's their money they're spending.

When it's MOM versus OPM, MOM will win every time.

Thanks. Bob.

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