Social Security and Medicare Finances Worsen

The financial health of Social Security and Medicare, the government's two biggest benefit programs, worsened in the past year because of the severe recession.

Trustees of the two programs said Tuesday that Social Security will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in 2016, one year sooner than projected last year, and the giant trust fund will be depleted by 2037, four years sooner.

The trustees said Medicare was in even worse shape. They said that the trust fund for hospital expenses will pay out more in benefits than it collects this year and will be insolvent by 2017, two years earlier than the date projected in last year's report.

via Social Security and Medicare finances worsen – More politics- msnbc.com.

Fallacy Related to Health Care Costs

I'm seeing nascent signs of a new (but actually old) fallacy, namely that since health care costs can (will?) crush the budget, we don't have to worry so much about other expenditures. The mental story runs something like this: “if we don't cure health care cost inflation, it doesn't matter; if we do cure health care cost inflation, we can afford it.” That's exactly the kind of false mental framing that behavioral economics identifies as irrational in other settings.

via Marginal Revolution.

Tyler, too, fears increased taxes — but via something like a consumption tax (or value-added tax) *in addition to* the existing Federal taxes.

And people wonder why the Tea Party movement strikes such a chord.

A Sucker’s Rally?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has bounced an astounding 30% from its March 9 low of 6547. Is this the dawn of a new era? Are we off to the races again?

I'm not so sure. Only a fool predicts the stock market, so here I go. This sure smells to me like a sucker's rally. That's because there aren't sustainable, fundamental reasons for the market's continued rise.

Read the whole thing at Was It a Sucker’s Rally? – WSJ.com.

I have been saying for a while that I think things are going to get bad again, for at least a short period. I think we’re headed for a “W”-shaped curve (two significant drops before the real recovery starts). I hope I am wrong.

Indeed, I think that with the record-setting spending from this administration (President *and* Congress), we are headed for even *more* trouble later. There are only two possible ways to fund that spending: exorbitant inflation, or exorbitant taxation. Either one is horrible. And leftist commie socialists wonder why the Tea Parties strike such a chord.

Ruinous TARP

From PowerLine:

On April 21, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program Act of 2009–“SIGTARP”–submitted his quarterly report to Congress on his office’s activities in relation to the TARP program. The report is a disquieting document that should be read by every American–certainly be every taxpayer.

The Inspector General’s report documents the stunning and at least partly illegal expansion of TARP from the $700 billion originally allocated by Congress to what is now a $3 trillion complex of programs. This chart shows the various programs that are now included within SIGTARP’s oversight, and how they have expanded from the initial $700 billion. Note that some of the programs are still incipient; $3 trillion is by no means a final number.

What conclusions can we draw? 1) The government’s $3 trillion and counting TARP program represents the greatest opportunity for sharp operators to profit at taxpayer expense in history. 2) The Obama administration is either in favor of giving Wall Street sharks this opportunity or, at a minimum, doesn’t much mind doing so. (If this seems odd, remember where Obama got the biggest chunk of campaign contributions in 2008.) 3) It may be that the TARP complex of programs is the beginning of a national-socialist type takeover of the financial services industry by the federal government. Thus, 4) we can only hope that this turns out not to be the case, and TARP is only the biggest–and perhaps, by the end of the day, the crookedest–waste of taxpayer money in history. Finally, 5) so far the only person or organization who appears to be looking out for the taxpayers is the Special Inspector General. We will be reading his future reports with great interest.