Friday, October 31, 2014

What If Politicians Couldn't Lie

Jim Carrey starred in a 1997 movie called Liar, Liar.  In the film, he was an up and coming defense attorney who often stretched the truth to win cases.  He also frequently made promises to his young son that he couldn't keep due to his work schedule.  That fact prompted his son to make a secret wish as he blew out his birthday candles.  As a result, Carrey was magically forced to tell the truth to everyone for 24 hours.  In an encounter with the police shortly after the wish had been granted, the following exchange took place:

Cop: Do you know why I pulled you over?
Carrey: It depends on how long you were following me!
Cop: Why don't we just start from the top?
Carrey: Here it goes. I sped, I followed too closely, I ran a stop sign, I almost hit a Chevy. I sped some more, I failed to yield at a crosswalk, I changed lanes at an intersection, I changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and SPEEDING!
Cop: Is that all?
Carrey: [Forced.] No. I have unpaid parking tickets

For Carrey, telling the truth to the cop was painful and costly.  I think it must be that way for people who hold elected office too.  After all, if they had been elected on a set of promises, then failed to deliver on those promises, and then had to stand up and proclaim that failure, without any external attribution, I can imagine that would be quite painful.  And I imagine it would also be very costly as they would not likely get elected again.  

But what if we could make a wish and pick one politician to have stand before us and make a speech where everything he said was true.  Who would you pick and what do you think he might say?  Well, my pick is the current president.  As for what he might say, Forbes magazine has done an excellent job with that below in an article called "If President Obama Told the Truth About the Economy":
"....First, I should admit that the recession of 2007-2009 was not clearly the worst recession since World War II. In fact, unemployment was higher at the end of the1981-1982 recession (10.8 percent versus 10.0). But telling you things were really, really bad helped build support for me to take actions that would not have been possible otherwise. Like Rahm Emanuel says, “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Because you believed the recession was so bad, we spent more money in government stimulus than the sum total spent responding to every previous recession in U.S. history (even adjusting all the past stimulus programs for inflation). I didn’t spend that money (the famous American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, over $800 billion) to help the economy recover, but on a liberal wish list put together mostly by then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In fact, more money went to keep public sector union members employed than was used for needed infrastructure projects. Paying them back for their hundreds of millions in campaign contributions was more important than fixing this country’s infrastructure.
That’s okay because I am more interested in redistributing wealth and income and in growing the size of government than I am in the health of the economy. Many of my policies have made the recovery slower and weaker than if I had done nothing, but it is accomplishing my goals. The auto bailout didn’t save the American auto industry (somebody would have bought the needed factories and still made enough cars to satisfy demand), but it did transfer $10 billion to the United Auto Worker union. Think about it: all the airlines and steel companies went bankrupt and yet the U.S. still has airlines and steel companies without the government having lifted a finger.
My policies are actually restricting jobs from growing faster, but I like people being dependent on government. Extending emergency unemployment benefits for four and a half years after the recession ended kept unemployment higher because people could take the government handout instead of a job. In fact, the one record this recession did set was for the number of long-term unemployed people. Obamacare penalizes companies for growing past fifty employees and makes hiring workers more expensive, but if people cannot get jobs then they will rely on government to take care of them (and vote Democrat).
In fact, while total employment is finally above its pre-recession high by 233,000 jobs, that is because of the increase in part-time jobs which are up by 2.9 million. So while I am bragging about the job gains, I may have failed to mention how many of them are part-time. I definitely didn’t tell you that the shift to part-time work has a lot to do with companies avoiding Obamacare requirements. So you may not have enough money to support your family, but I will give you subsidized health insurance.
My policies are achieving their goals. Dependency is way up and labor force participation is way down. In fact, dependency is the fastest growing sector of the economy.  We have increased the number of people on SNAP (what used to be called food stamps) by 16 million, the number on Social Security disability by 1.5 million (a 20 percent increase), and increased the number of people onMedicaid by 9 million even before the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare (we are still trying to count up those new government dependents; the new total should be about 12 million more people on Medicaid). The more people who are dependent on the government, the better. Obamacare is building on that model. Now millions more people rely at least partially on the government to pay for their health care. Are those people every going to vote for a smaller (Republican) government? I don’t think so. We used to just be able to scare seniors into voting for us by telling them that Republicans wanted to cut their Social Security, but now we have over 160 million people getting some kind of government check. That is over half the country (about 52 percent) and means there is a potential majority of voters we can bribe into voting our way by promising them bigger benefits.
Of course, none of this was free. After calling President George W. Bush unpatriotic for running up the national debt so much during his eight years, I have made him look positively frugal. The national debt is up $7 trillion while I have been President. By the time I am done, half of the national debt will have been run up in just my eight years. That debt is now equal to $55,000 per person.
But don’t worry about the fact that you owe somebody (China) all that money, because that is small change compared to the total liabilities of all our promises. If you factor in all the unfunded future costs of Medicare and Social Security, the federal government really owes about $127 trillion. That computes to about $1.1 million per tax return filed. So every married couple or single person filing a return owes $1.1 million. Since such a sum could never actually be paid, some future president and Congress are going to have to break some of those promises.
The huge pile of debt I built up means that interest rates have to stay low or the federal budget deficit would be even bigger than it is already. Unfortunately, the record low interest rates (thanks, Federal Reserve, for the assist) make it less expensive to automate production and replace workers with machines. Sure, low interest rates are hard on people who try to be responsible and save money. But remember, I want dependency, not self-sufficiency. Making it hard to earn money on your savings works in my favor. After all, the Reagan boom happened with interest rates on ten year Treasuries of 7 to 9 percent and the Clinton boom was during a period of 5 to 7 percent interest rates. Clearly, the economy and workers can do well without the Fed pushing down interest rates, but where is the gain for big government in that?

Finally, I would like to admit that my calls for a higher minimum wage have much more to do with pleasing my union supporters and lovers of income redistribution than any desire to help poor people. To help the poor, a much more effective tool is the Earned Income Tax Credit as none of that money goes to teenager minimum wage workers living in middle class or upper-middle class families. Raising the minimum wage to the $10.10/hour I proposed willredistribute about $100 billion while raising only 900,000 people out of poverty. That is an expensive policy. In fact, more money will go to families that earn over $60,000 per year than to families in poverty. However, many union contracts contain clauses for automatic raises whenever the federal minimum wage is increased, so the big gains will be for the unions who contribute so many millions of dollars to Democrat politicians.
In conclusion, my policies have led to more part-time jobs, more people collecting government benefits, a flat median household income (adjusted for inflation), and rewards and freebies for those who do little or nothing while productive and high-achieving people are punished with higher taxes. While campaigning, I openly stated that I favored income redistribution even if it hurt economic growth. Consider that one campaign promise kept."

Now that was refreshing.  But again, it would be painful and costly to the president and his party.

To be fair, this isn't a Democratic or Republican thing.  They all deceive us for their own gain. I just thought I get the obvious one out of the way.    

I should note that, as you might expect, Jim Carrey's character, as well as everyone around him, was much better off as a result of his forced honesty.  That fact wasn't lost on Carrey's character, who made a conscious effort to continue his truthful ways after the wish had expired.

Here's to the day when politicians and their constituents get the courage to tell, hear, and act on, the truth.

Let the wishing begin in the meantime.



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