Sunday, February 2, 2014

If You Like Your Plan.......

The Article V Convention of the States can't come soon enough.  If there was any lingering sentiment that Barack Obama had any real interest in governing the country in accordance with his Oath of Office, it was pretty well erased in his latest State of the Union speech.

Curiously, the major media outlets all took up the narrative of reduced expectations promoted by the administration's spokespeople prior to the event, talking about how "low key" the President's remarks were, how "modest the agenda" was that he laid out.  Did they watch or listen to the same speech as the rest of us?  Being one of a shrinking percentage of Americans still in the labor force, I was working and didn't watch the speech on television, but I did hear most of it.  And what I heard was extremely troubling, from the viewpoint of the impact his remarks and his intended agenda could have on traditional American civil liberties, Constitutional rights, and individual freedoms.

He spoke about "climate change" being one of the greatest threats we face and declaring that it is "fact", despite evidence that no actual global warming has occurred over the past 17 years and the statements of several scientists, many of whom were involved in the initial studies, that the evidence for the claims of man-made climate change is sketchy at best, or non-existent and the admission that every climate change model has proven unable to predict accurately future climate data (in fact, many models fail to "predict" climate data even when the actual data is fed into the models after the fact!).  Nevertheless, he announced his intention to press forward with his initiatives to curb so-called "greenhouse gas" emissions, largely through the regulatory arm of the EPA, along with Executive Orders, where necessary.

He also made "income inequality" one of the cornerstones of his presentation.  Saying that it is the job of the government to "reverse the tides" of spreading inequality he said that he was offering "concrete proposals" aimed at helping the middle class and increasing employment opportunities (he's said the same every year) and announcing that he "won't stand still.... So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”  Translation: if Congress won't go along with his programs, he'll use so-called Executive Orders to bypass Congress and the legislative process.

One sign of his willingness (eagerness?) to begin the process of "going around Congress" to enact his agenda items was his declaration that he was unilaterally raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10/hr.  Now, I doubt that very many of these contractors actually earn the federal minimum wage, so the real world impact of this declaration is said by pundits to be minimal.  Perhaps.  It's most likely the intent of this policy announcement was to pressure other groups to go along with the program and raise their minimum wages, as well as to pressure Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to the same amount.  Something that is still (for now) solely within the province of Congress' powers.  The largest effect of a new law increasing the federal minimum wage is that many, of not most, union contracts contain a clause tying the union pay scale to the federal minimum, requiring that any rise in the federal minimum be matched by a rise in the union scale.  (The ripple effect of this increase in the costs of production would quickly result in an increase in the cost of living that would more than wipe out the increase in the earnings of those such a policy is supposedly aimed at helping, leaving them worse off that they were before.)

He made reference to several other program initiatives, including one truly disturbing item: the "MyRA".  The so-called MyRA is a proposal that would add yet another governmental layer to your retirement savings plans, calling for government to intervene in your investment choices in the name of protecting you from the risks of the market (incidentally, it also "protects" you from the ability to earn rates of return capable of outpacing the rate of inflation and generating any real wealth).  The MyRA is the brain child of one Theresa Ghilarducci, formerly a professor of economics at Notre Dame and currently with the New School for Social Research in New York City, a far left think tank and indoctrination center [my words] of Progressive ideology.

Her proposal, which she pitched to Congress in hearings as far back as 2001 & 2002 was for the government to partially nationalize the 401k, IRA, Roth, and other tax advantaged retirement accounts now held by private individuals.  Saying that Americans were both saving too little and in the wrong ways, that they were too unsophisticated to deal effectively with the vagaries of the market, leading to a future where millions will find themselves without adequate resources in retirement, she proposed the creation of a federal retirement savings program.  Participation in such a program would be mandatory, with a required contribution of 5% of gross wages (to start) and a choice of investment options out of the control of the participant, those options having been chosen by government-appointed "financial experts" and limited largely to various forms of U.S. government debt (T-bills, government bonds, etc.) and other "safe" investments.  In return, the government would guarantee a rate of return, to be determined at a later date, as circumstances dictate.  Also included in the Ghilarducci plan was the provision for those who earned too little to be able to save for their own retirement.  They would receive "subsidies" and "tax credits" that would be automatically deposited into their accounts.

Does any of this sound familiar?  It should.  It's largely the same plan as the already insolvent Social Security system, which started out as a similarly guaranteed savings vehicle, only to see the real money deposits received from the working people through government-mandated employer withholding quickly subsumed into the government's general revenue fund in exchange for Treasury Notes.

Government is always on the lookout for additional money to spend (usually buying votes and influence) and has long had it's avaricious eye on the trillions of dollars "on the sidelines" in these retirement accounts.  By some accounts, there's between $18T and $28T in these accounts, enough to pay off the national debt (not that anyone's even proposing such a radical use of such monies) OR to fund liberal Progressive social experimentation for decades (after all, other countries are becoming more and more reluctant to buy our debt, that's why Ben Bernanke is leaving the Fed with a balance sheet of over $4T).

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the entire spectacle was exhibited by the members of Congress, themselves.  Was I the only one struck by the enthusiastic response of half the Congress to each and every proclamation by this President of his intent to usurp their power and Constitutional authority?  Even among Republicans, there were a bare handful who dared speak up about the abuse of the Constitutional process and separation of powers and the disregard for any limits on Executive authority.

The use of Executive Orders is intended solely as an aid to the President in administering the laws as passed by the Legislative branch.  They are not, and were never intended to be, a way for the Executive branch to exert de facto legislative authority, either by writing law into existence or by unilaterally altering existing law.  Yet, that's exactly what this President has done and has pledged to continue to do, should Congress balk at the implementation of his agenda.

The President's supporters say that these actions are both Constitutional and necessary to combat the growing threats and crises facing our nation economically.  That it's government's obligation to step in and "do something" and this administration needs to use all the tools at it's disposal in the defense of the poor and the middle class and that fears of growing federal power and government intrusion into our lives is groundless fear mongering by the opposition.  If you have a retirement system in place and have managed to accumulate a nest egg, you needn't worry.  If you like your current retirement plan............

1 comment:

  1. I only followed the State of the Union via Twitter. Kept me from throwing things at the TV and kept my blood pressure lower I'm sure.
    On the global warming, if you haven't already seen this, I think you'll get a kick out of it.