Tag Archives: Basic Economics

Donald Trump plans to default on our debt and/or embrace hyper-inflation

Donald Trump with some of his supporters
Donald Trump meeting with some of his alt-right economic policy advisers

In the past, I’ve given reasons to social conservatives to explain why no social conservative could vote for Donald Trump, even to stop Hillary. Trump is “very pro-choice”, favors partial birth abortion, is liberal on gay rights, is an unrepentant adulterer and a serial divorcer.

But, fiscal conservatives can’t vote for Trump either, and that’s because Trump knows less about basic economics than what you flush down the toilet. This is because inheriting wealth from Daddy does not give you an understanding of basic economics.

The radically leftist New York Times reports: (H/T ALL MY DEMOCRAT CO-WORKERS)

After assuring Americans he is not running for president “to make things unstable for the country,” the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, suggested that he might reduce the national debt by persuading creditors to accept something less than full payment.

Asked on Thursday whether the United States needed to pay its debts in full, or whether he could negotiate a partial repayment, Mr. Trump told the cable network CNBC, “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal.”

You could make a deal with creditors – you could offer them less than what they borrowed – declare bankruptcy, in effect. That’s just what he did as a businessman – over and over and over.

More:

Such remarks by a major presidential candidate have no modern precedent. The United States government is able to borrow money at very low interest rates because Treasury securities are regarded as a safe investment, and any cracks in investor confidence have a long history of costing American taxpayers a lot of money.

Experts also described Mr. Trump’s proposal as fanciful, saying there was no reason to think America’s creditors would accept anything less than 100 cents on the dollar, regardless of Mr. Trump’s deal-making prowess.

The Weekly Standard notes who will bear the brunt of the damage:

It’s odd for the candidate who promises, seriously, to eliminate the $19 trillion national debt in eight years—without reforming entitlements—to tell America’s creditors (read: mostly Americans) to accept less than they were promised.

If it weren’t a sad-but-true situation, that could be a more honest Trump campaign slogan: Accept Less Than Promised.

Seniors, of course, being savers, would bear the brunt of a Trump debt writedown—if such a thing could happen. But the real losers would be, well, everyone. Were Trump elected, ignoring the market shocks that the likelihood of that would bring, signalling that the U.S. might hedge on repaying its sovereign debt in full would be, effectively, a default on our debt.

He’s a lunatic. Defaulting on our debt would not just destroy the wealth of Americans, it would disrupt the world economy. But since he was on “The Apprentice”, I guess Trump supporters think we can let it slide.

Oh, but his ignorance of basic economics is much worse than that.

Here is the latest Trumpfoolery reported by CNN:

Donald Trump declared Monday the U.S. never has to default on debt “because you print the money,” while trying to clarify his strategy for managing the national debt.

Got that? He’s decided now that he’s not going to default on our debt, he’s going to print more money so he can buy back all our debt with printed money.

So, now, we’re going to inflate our way out of a $20 trillion debt. Why not? It worked in Germany with the Weimar Republic. It worked more recently in Venezuela, Argentina and Zimbabwe. Why not elect a cretin to the highest office in the land? He’s confident, and he has orange skin and hot supermodel wife.

We can blame the low-achieving college drop-outs who voted for Trump for this. They own it. Their stupidity caused this.

Desiring God asks: is socialism in conflict with Christianity?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

My friend Kevin sent me this amazing article about socialism, which appeared at Desiring God (!!!), of all places. It was authored by Phillip Holmes, who – I see from his picture -has dark skin like me, which is awesome!

In the past, I have given Desiring God and John Piper a lot of heat for not connecting Christianity to the real world. This was especially annoying to me during elections, or when legislation of interest to conservatives was being debated. But I’ve noted that Piper is now much better than he was before.

Anyway, here’s the intro to the article:

Socialism is trending in the minds of many Americans. Some love it, some hate it, and others are indifferent to it. Some Christians argue that it’s evil, while others argue that it’s morally good or neutral. Those that argue for its wickedness often fail to condemn the crony capitalism and corporate welfare that is widespread in the United States; therefore, their arguments often fall on deaf ears with socialist sympathizers. The arguments for its moral good or neutrality typically appeals to emotion, rather than evidence, which is considered insufficient for those that oppose it.

Then they quote John Piper for the definition of socialism – and it’s a great definition, it really captures what is interesting for us as Christians about socialism:

A social and economic system that through legal or governmental or military coercion — in other words, you go to jail if you don’t do this — establishes social ownership at the expense of private or personal ownership and/or you could say where coercion is used to establish social control — if not ownership, at least control of the means of production in society. And thus, through control, you effectively eliminate many of the implications and motivations of private ownership.

In other words, Socialism borrows the compassionate aims of Christianity in meeting people’s needs while rejecting the Christian expectation that this compassion not be coerced or forced. Socialism, therefore, gets its attractiveness at certain points in history where people are drawn to the entitlements that Socialism brings, and where people are ignorant or forgetful of the coercion and the force required to implement it — and whether or not that coercion might, in fact, backfire and result in greater poverty or drab uniformity or, worse, the abuse of the coercion as we saw in the murderous states like USSR and Cambodia.

F. A. Hayek says that the rule of law and private property are the foundations for all other rights, even religious liberty. So, Piper’s focus on property rights is right on the money. This is what we should care about when it comes to socialism, because it impacts our other liberties. The more free the free market is, the most Christians can follow their consciences. But the more the government takes hold of private industry, the harder it is for Christians to earn a living without toeing the secular government’s line. Take a look at what is happening to doctors and nurses in socialist countries like Canada. They are forced to perform abortions, they are forced to assist with assisted suicide. Why? Because government is running the health care system, and there is no other company you can run to that will respect your views. There is no escape when a secular government takes over large parts of the private sector.

This part is my favorite part, the author quotes my favorite economist, Thomas Sowell:

Despite the good they seem to do in some cases, I can’t in good conscience embrace them as a necessary means to escaping poverty. In my experience, I’ve witnessed it hinder more families than it has helped. We give social programs too much credit and the importance of family and faith too little. As a matter of fact, some economists assert that it was during the welfare state the condition of a particular group of its recipients began to decelerate. As the black economist Thomas Sowell pointed out:

The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.

Sowell continues to attack the myth that social programs improved the conditions of blacks in America:

The economic rise of blacks began decades earlier, before any of the legislation and policies that are credited with producing that rise. The continuation of the rise of blacks out of poverty did not — repeat, did not — accelerate during the 1960s.

The poverty rate among black families fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent in 1960, during an era of virtually no major civil rights legislation or anti-poverty programs.

Evidence seems to suggest that the families that have eliminated the poverty cycle while on social programs would have very likely done the same without the programs. While there have been numerous instances of grave injustices towards minority groups in our country that have hindered progress (slavery, Jim Crow), social programs don’t seem to be the cause of any significant improvements. Therefore, I want to humbly provide three practical reasons, based on my Christian worldview, why more social programs could actually substitute the family, empower the government, and hinder the church.

This is correct. Attempts to help the poor by redistributing wealth from those who produce to those who cannot or will not actually make things worse – by drawing more people “on the margin” into dependency.

One last snip:

Social programs are a slippery slope that could lead to unjust governments, more broken homes, and dead churches. Therefore, I simply can’t embrace them. A free society under a just government gives us plenty of options. We love our neighbors by starting non-profits, building hospitals, and opening schools that address the needs of the people without using the force of the government. What I’m proposing is not easy, but it is a biblical alternative that will require sacrifice, vision, newfound conviction, and a radical shift in how we view church, family, and government.

See, he sees private, voluntary charity as an option to government-run redistribution. An option that encourages economic growth, while safeguarding liberty and conscience for Christians.

I really love this article. The problem with me is that I don’t think enough about how to make my views palatable to well-meaning people on the other side. The author of this article does know how to defuse potential objections gently and graciously.

If Sweden and Germany became US states, they would be among the poorest states

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

There seems to be a lot of talk among Democrats and native young people to the effect that European countries have less “income inequality” thanks to bigger government, higher taxes, and more social spending. Is there a downside to this?

The Mises Institute takes a look at it:

The battle over the assumed success of European socialism continues. Many European countries like Sweden have gained a reputation as being very wealthy in spite of their highly regulated and taxed economies. From there, many assume that the rest of Europe is more or less similar, even if slightly poorer. But if we look more closely at the data, a very different picture emerges, and we find that the median household in the US is better off (income-wise) than the median household in all but three European countries.

[…]Using the BEA’s regional price parity index, we can take now account for the different cost of living in different states…
[…]We now see that there’s less variation in the median income levels among the US states. That makes sense because many states with low median incomes also have a very low cost of living. At the same time, many states with high median incomes have a very high cost of living.

Now that we’ve accounted for the low cost of living in Mississippi, we find that Mississippi ($26,517) is no longer the state with the lowest median income in real terms. New York ($26,152) is now the state with the lowest median income due to its very high cost of living.

This has had the effect of giving us a more realistic view of the purchasing power of the median household in US states. It is also more helpful in comparing individual states to OECD members, many of which have much higher costs of living than places like the American south and midwest.  Now that we recognize how inexpensive it is to live in places like Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky, we find that residents in those states now have higher median incomes than Sweden (a place that’s 30% more expensive than the US) and most other OECD countries measured.

Once purchasing power among the US states is taken into account, we find that Sweden’s median income ($27,167) is higher than only six states: Arkansas ($26,804), Louisiana ($25,643), Mississippi ($26,517), New Mexico ($26,762), New York ($26,152) and North Carolina ($26,819).

We find something similar when we look at Germany, but in Germany’s case, every single US state shows a higher median income than Germany. Germany’s median income is $25,528. Things look even worse for the United Kingdom which has a median income of $21,033, compared to $26,517 in Mississippi.

Meanwhile, Colorado ($35,059) has a median income nearly identical to Switzerland ($35,083), and ten states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Washington State) show higher median incomes than Switzerland. Luxembourg ($38,502), on the other hand, shows a median income higher than every state except New Hampshire ($39,034).

None of this analysis should really surprise us. According to the OECD’s own numbers (which take into account taxes and social benefits, the US has higher median disposable income than all but three OECD countries. Sweden ranks below the US in this regard, as does Finland and Denmark.

The fact that the median level in the US is above most OECD countries thus makes it no surprise that most of these countries then rank below most US states. The US states that have income level above the median US level will, not surprisingly, outpace many OECD countries by a considerable margin.

What’s going on here? Well, it turns out that when you have fewer regulations on business, lower business taxes, and an emphasis on working rather collecting welfare, that people have more money in their pockets and a better standard of living. The trouble with Europe is that too many able-bodied people can get by without working. In the United States, we put more emphasis on making your own way, earning your own pay, and spending or saving your money as you please.

In America, the system is geared towards equipping each person to serve their fellows in the private sector workplace. More people working means more wealth is produced, and more wealth produced means that people have a higher standard of living. You wouldn’t have a higher standard of living in a country where most people didn’t work, and just relied on the few who did work. There isn’t enough to go around in society where most people don’t work.

Donald Trump’s plan to introduce tariffs is just a tax on consumer goods

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

What are the consequences of adopting tariffs for all of the people who are affected? What happens next, after stage one?

Here’s a lesson in basic economics from Joe Carter, writing for the Acton Institute.

He writes:

Both Sanders and Trump propose increasing tariffs on goods imported from other countries — and increase them significantly.* This isn’t that surprising for Sanders, a socialist who, on the issue of economics, is one of the most ill-informed candidates in modern history. But Trump should (and probably does) understand the detrimental impact tariffs have on the poor. And yet he has proposed an economy-crippling, poverty-increasing tariff.

In 2012, Trump proposed a tariff on China of 25 percent. In 2016 he bumped it up to 45 percent. (He later tried to lie and say he never proposed the 45 percent increase, but there is audio of him making the proposal.) A tariff is simply a tax on imports or exports, so Trump is proposing to raise taxes on imported goods by 25 to 45 percent. (To keep this point in mind, I’ll hereafter refer to tariffs as “taxes.”)

You might be thinking, “ So what? That’s a tax the Chinese have to pay.” But that’s not the way tariffs works. China doesn’t pay the tax — you do. If a tariff on Chinese goods is increased by 25 to 45 percent then you pay 25 to 45 percent more for those goods.

Here’s a way to think about it. Imagine there are two hamburger stands in town. One is owned by the mayor’s wife, Veronica, and one is owned by a woman who lives in the next town over, Betty.

Of the two, Betty makes the tastier burger. She is also able to charge $1 a burger since she is able to buy her supplies in her own hometown for much cheaper. Veronica’s burgers aren’t quite as good and cost more to make. She has to charge $1.30 per burger.

The mayor decides to implement a new tax of 45 percent on producers (like Betty) who don’t live in the city limits. Since Betty’s profit margin is already low, she has to pass the bulk of the 45-cent tax on to her customers. Instead of $1 she now has to charge $1.35.

So who is better off in this scenario? The only winner is Veronica. Since her burgers are now cheaper, she is likely to sell more. And who is worse off? The customers who now have to pay 30 to 35 cents more for every burger. That is money they could have used to buy other products or services. Now they have to spend additional money on this new tax.

The same principle applies to taxes on goods and services imported from other countries. Customers simply have to pay more for goods and services they used to get much cheaper.

To understand how Trump’s tax increase would affect consumers, take a trip to Target or Wal-Mart and add 45 percent to almost all the prices. That’s money that comes directly out of your pocket into the hands of the federal government — all to punish you for buying goods that are cheaper to make in China.

Harvard University economist Greg Mankiw explains what most professional economists agree on. The economic benefit of free trade tied for first place, with 93% agreement:

The recent debate over the stimulus bill has lead some observers to think that economists are hopelessly divided on issues of public policy. That is true regarding business cycle theory and, specifically, the virtues or defects of Keynesian economics. But it is not true more broadly.

My favorite textbook covers business cycle theory toward the end of the book (the last four chapters) precisely because that theory is controversial. I believe it is better to introduce students to economics with topics about which there is more of a professional consensus. In chapter two of the book, I include a table of propositions to which most economists subscribe, based on various polls of the profession. Here is the list, together with the percentage of economists who agree:

  1. A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)

  2. Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)

He is the author of his “favorite textbook”, which is published by Harvard University Press.

This is not controversial among professional and academic economists. Economists across the ideological spectrum understand that free trade lowers the prices of consumer goods, and allows individuals, families and businesses to get more quality for their dollars. We can do better than Donald Trump and his naive, populist economic pablum.

Related posts

New study: Bernie Sanders’ budget would raise taxes $13.6 trillion over a decade

Democrats took control of government spending in 2007
Democrats took control of government spending in 2007

It’s very strange to me that young people seem to like Bernie Sanders’ rhetoric so much. Have they really considered what his budget would require?

Here’s an article from the Washington Free Beacon that talks about a non-partisan study from the Tax Foundation think tank.

Excerpt:

(I., Vt.) proposed tax plan would raise taxes by $13.6 trillion over the next decade and reduce the economy’s size by 9.5 percent, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation.

While on the campaign trail, the senator has proposed $18 trillion in spending over the next decade. His plan includes $15 trillion for a government-run single-payer health care plan and trillions more for Social Security, roads and bridges, higher education, paid family and medical leave, and private pension funds, to name just a few.

Sanders’ proposed tax plan will increase marginal tax rates and the cost of capital, a move that will significantly reduce GDP, lower wages, and eliminate jobs.

According to the Tax Foundation, Sanders aims most of his tax provisions at high-income households, creating four new income tax brackets with rates of 37 percent, 43 percent, 48 percent, and 52 percent. Additionally, Sanders would tax capital gains and dividends for households with income over $250,000 and create a 2.2 percent income-based health care premium.

However, as Sanders has admitted, his plan also includes tax increases on the middle class. “We will raise taxes. Yes, we will,” Sanders said at the CNN town hall last weekend.

“A majority of the revenue raised by Sanders plan would come from a new 6.2 percent employer-side payroll tax, a new 2.2 percent broad-based income tax and the elimination of tax expenditures relating to healthcare,” the analysis explains.

According to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office, even without Sanders’ tax plan the nation’s economy is projected to expand at a rate much lower than in recent decades. Sanders’ plan would lower the growth rate further, as its proposed marginal tax rate increases on labor and capital would reduce GDP by 9.5 percent in the long term.

“At the center of my campaign is how we’re going to raise wages,” Sanders said at the first Democratic debate. “Yes, of course, raise the minimum wage, but we have to do so much more, including finding ways so that companies share profits with the workers who helped to make them. And then we have to figure out how we’re going to make the tax system a fairer one.”

“And in my view what we need to do is create millions of jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; pay equity for women workers; and our disastrous trade policies, which have cost us millions of jobs; and make every public college and university in this country tuition-free,” he said.

After accounting for reductions in economic growth, Sanders’ plan would lead to 12.84 percent lower after-tax incomes for all taxpayers, 6 million fewer full-time jobs, and an 18.6 percent smaller capital stock.

Let’s take a look at a few of these from the perspective of a non-clown.

Minimum wage

You know, you don’t have to be an economics genius to understand that this man is a fool – the equivalent of a clown trying to take control of a nuclear power plant. Just look at his position on minimum wage. Every economist understands that raising the minimum wage causes businesses to lay off workers. Why? Because they have to pay for the higher minimum wage somehow. Either they lay off workers and scale back their business, or they charge consumers more. When you charge consumers more, they buy less of what you’re selling. So, usually it means laying off workers.

This Daily Signal article explains what happened when liberal cities raised their minimum wage rates.

Payroll tax

Raising the rate o the employer payroll tax means that employers will basically have to pay more for the same labor. They X labor out of their employees now, and paying Y wages. After Sanders, they will be getting X labor still, but paying a higher Y in wages. What will they do? They will simply let go of their least productive employees and scale back their business, maybe expanding abroad and sending jobs to a country where they are taxed less.

This article from the Fraser Institute explains what happens when companies have to pay more to employ workers.

Tariffs

Bernie Sanders thinks that consumers should pay more for consumer goods. That’s what happens when you slap tariffs on goods manufactured in other countries. Consumers and businesses end up paying more for the same product, leaving less money for other things that you need for your family.

Here’s a post that explains why free trade is best for consumers.

Single payer health care

Single payer health care is supported by economic illiterates in the Democrat and Republican parties – both Sanders and Trump support it. What single payer does is allow government workers to take a cut of every transaction between you and your doctor, effectively imposing a tax on medical treatment without adding any value. It would be as if every transaction between you and Amazon.com were to be funneled through the government to see if you were allowed to buy what you wanted, and for how much. Obviously, we would have to hire government workers to make decisions about your Amazon purchases, to make you wait in line behind others who wanted the same items, and to process payments to Amazon.

Just read this Boston Globe article about the costs of Vermont’s (failed) proposal to have single-payer health care.

Public Works

Henry Hazlitt’s book “Economics in One Lesson” explains the problem with taxing the private sector to build public works.

Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, chapter 4, entitled “Public Works Mean Taxes”.

Excerpt:

Therefore, for every public job created by the bridge project a private job has been destroyed somewhere else. We can see the men employed on the bridge. We can watch them at work. The employment argument of the government spenders becomes vivid, and probably for most people convincing. But there are other things that we do not see, because, alas, they have never been permitted to come into existence. They are the jobs destroyed by the $10 million taken from the taxpayers. All that has happened, at best, is that there has been a diversion of jobs because of the project. More bridge builders; fewer automobile workers, television technicians, clothing workers, farmers.

And consider Chapter 5 as well, entitled “Taxes Discourage Production”.

In our modern world there is never the same percentage of income tax levied on everybody. The great burden of income taxes is imposed on a minor percentage of the nation’s income; and these income taxes have to be supplemented by taxes of other kinds. These taxes inevitably affect the actions and incentives of those from whom they are taken. When a corporation loses a hundred cents of every dollar it loses, and is permitted to keep only fifty-two cents of every dollar it gains, and when it cannot adequately offset its years of losses against its years of gains, its policies are affected. It does not expand its operations, or it expands only those attended with a minimum of risk. People who recognize this situation are deterred from starting new enterprises. Thus old employers do not give more employment, or not as much more as they might have; and others decide not to become employers at all. Improved machinery and better-equipped factories come into existence much more slowly than they otherwise would. The result in the long run is that consumers are prevented from getting better and cheaper products to the extent that they otherwise would, and that real wages are held down, compared with what they might have been.

There is a similar effect when personal incomes are taxed 50, 60 or 70 percent. People begin to ask themselves why they should work six, eight or nine months of the entire year for the government, and only six, four or three months for themselves and their families. If they lose the whole dollar when they lose, but can keep only a fraction of it when they win, they decide that it is foolish to take risks with their capital. In addition, the capital available for risk-taking itself shrinks enormously. It is being taxed away before it can be accumulated. In brief, capital to provide new private jobs is first prevented from coming into existence, and the part that does come into existence is then discouraged from starting new enterprises. The government spenders create the very problem of unemployment that they profess to solve.

Why anyone would consider a man who has never held a private sector job for any length of time is beyond me. That article explains that Sanders has only ever collected unemployment or worked in government jobs. My cashier at Chick-Fil-A understands more about economics than this fool.