No Minister

Posts Tagged ‘Healthcare

Civil liberties have gone to the dogs

“The problem with Australians is not that so many of them are descended from convicts, but that so many of them are descended from prison officers” — Clive James

In New South Wales and Victoria at least, judging by the following various bits of news, including this:

Several impounded dogs due to be rescued by a shelter have instead been shot dead by a rural council in NSW under its interpretation of COVID-19 restrictions, alarming animal activists and prompting a government probe.

The reason for this is even more insane:

Bourke Shire Council, in the state’s north-west, killed the dogs to prevent volunteers at a Cobar-based animal shelter from travelling to pick up the animals last week, according to council’s watchdog, the Office of Local Government.

Despite the fact that the shelter volunteers had COVID-safe measures in place to handle the dogs, one of which was a new mother.

But perhaps the situation demanded it, after all, Polar explorers were known to have killed dogs for food.

According to NSW Health, there have been no recent locally acquired COVID-19 cases in Cobar, although fragments of the virus have been found in the area’s sewerage system.

Well yeah. That’s what the laboratory-specified PRC test will do. Run across an entire population it would likely find the remains of virus fragments from every virus you’ve ever caught.

Remember that the same sort of human beings who did this are the ones who have done the following:

Please spare me the excuse that there is a difference between the likes of the Premier’s of these states and low-level government officials of a rural council

Or for that matter ordinary people who have had their minds pushed into a world of paranoid fears by said government. Here in NZ we were having a discussion with our friends and neighbours a couple of days ago during a walk and found out that their son in his Canterbury university dormitory had been instructed to stay in his room between 11:59pm and 6:00am each night, as were all such residents. Not even a “bubble” on the floor, let alone the whole residence. Unlike the Auckland University situation there was not even a case.

The parents promptly got on the phone to the people in charge to find out what the hell was going on. They were especially concerned because they were already worried about their son, who seemed depressed, as many of the kids are at the moment in what was supposed to be the normally fun and exciting First Year of varsity.

The phone call rapidly went up the chain from the 19 year old, 2nd Year bloke in charge of the floor to the 24 year old manager of the whole complex, and then rapidly escalated as he huffed and puffed about the need for the team of Five Million to pull together, and got parents arguing how insane such a restriction was, plus threats to call the likes of Radio New Zealand and other media outfits if nothing changed.

Fortunately in this case, the manager backed off, and of course it was only his interpretation (and others in the “team”) of what a Level 4 Lockdown means.

Back in Australia the Prime Minister, perhaps sensing that things are starting to spin out of control, has announced that:

“We can‘t stay in the cave forever. That’s not sustainable,’’ he said.

“We have to move forward. We cannot hold back. Our task between that day and now is to ensure that we ready ourselves for that next phase.

“Cases will not be the issue once we get above 70 per cent. Dealing with serious illness, hospitalisation, ICU capabilities, our ability to respond in those circumstances, that will be our goal and we will live with this virus as we live with other infectious diseases. That’s what the national plan is all about, was always about, that’s how we designed it.”

With the rate currently at about 30% it’s going to be a while, perhaps a few more weeks, and that depends on how much the Australian public gets its back up about the whole situation:

Mr Morrison said he understood some would try and undermine the end to the lockdowns but it was now a case of “if not now, when?”.

“We must make that move and we must prepare to make that move and we must prepare the country to make that move,‘’ he said.

“The lockdowns now being endured are taking an extremely heavy toll both on the mental and physical health of Australians and on the economic success of Australia. It is taking a heavy toll and so they must only continue for as long as they are absolutely necessary and not a day more.

I like that Morrison’s adult approach lacked mention about “kindness”, “saccharine laced platitudes masquerading as announcements”, “waffling presentations” and all the rest of what Peter Dunne described as the “extraneous, embellishing drama” that is the New Zealand Prime Minister’s approach.

Given that I always thought that Dunne was a pompous windbag it’s saying something that even he’s reached his limit.

Meanwhile back in the land of Oz.

Leaving aside the crack at the mentality of Australians in that Clive James quote, don’t think for one moment that we’re not capable of the same level of insanity here, if we’re not there already.

Never Forget.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 24, 2021 at 5:39 pm

Freedom, Consequences and Responsibility

Eighteen months ago one of the most powerful arguments in favour of lockdowns was that it would be utterly irresponsible for people to freely move around when they could catch Chinese Lung Rot and pass it on to vulnerable people – in this case the elderly – who could die from it.

The advent of vaccines in record time, thanks to President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, mean that argument is no longer valid. While the vaccines will not prevent a person from catching the virus or spreading it, they do quash the chances that you’ll die from it even if you are one of the vulnerable.

So it’s all good. What happens now? Well it turns out that The Powers That Be (TPTB) just can’t let go of the giddy sense of power involved with controlling entire populations. Not everybody is getting vaccinated, new variants of the disease are appearing all the time and so the goalposts are changing, as Jim Treacher so aptly sums it up on Substack:

1. Absolutely do not wear a mask

2. You must, must, must wear a mask or you’re killing Grandma

3. Don’t leave the house or you’re killing Grandma

4. If you can’t avoid leaving the house, stay at least six feet away from any other human being you see or you’re killing Grandma

5. Wash your hands 20 times a day

6. Do not touch your face or anything else, ever

7. Get vaccinated so you don’t have to wear a mask

8. You have to wear a mask even if you’re vaccinated

9. When the above rules change, and then change back, and then change back again, shut up about it or you’re a stupid MAGA-head

10. Don’t forget to vote Democrat!

In that article Treacher writes that he’s vaccinated and thinks those who don’t want to be are idiots. He’s also always been anti-Trump, but not to the TDS-stage. It also turns out that it’s not the stupid MAGA-heads that are the problem…

There are other charts showing similar “not the narrative” results for young vs old, non-religious vs religious, White vs Black and Hispanic.

Combine that with the Delta variant (and others to follow), plus MSM hysteria and politicians who see long-term blood on their hands as preferable to short-term blood, and you get the inevitable:

Melbourne, a major Australian city, just entered its 6th lockdown. (Yes, you read that correctly). It joins many of the nation’s other major metropolises, such as Sydney and Brisbane, in once again restricting its economy and social life. According to the BBC, the lockdown will be in place until at least August 28 and “bars people from leaving their home except for essential exercise, shopping, caregiving and other reasons.”

It’s mind-boggling that the Australian government is practically placing its citizens under house arrest and outlawing their incomes over five deaths per day. It’s particularly bizarre given that countless studies have shown the ineffectiveness of stay-at-home orders and lockdown policies. (In fact, most COVID-19 spread happens at home.) 

In Sydney the army has been pulled in to force people to stay in their homes, even going with the cops on door-to-door compliance checks. Police helicopters are overhead, warning people in parks with police action and fines. It’s worked too; there is genuine fear over being caught outside without a permissible excuse. Nobody is allowed more than 5 kilometers from their home address, only one person per household may leave to purchase supplies once a day, and Sydney-siders are not permitted to speak to friends; they may only get what they need and return home. All this for about 250 cases from more than 100,000 tests, plus five deaths a day in a city of millions.

Then there’s Fortress NZ for ever?:

Fortress New Zealand can begin to open in early 2022 provided all New Zealanders have had the chance to be vaccinated, according to the Government’s hand-picked group of scientists advising on reopening New Zealand to the world.

But that travel should be at first restricted to vaccinated Kiwis going overseas from New Zealand for short trips, and should begin with shorter stays in managed isolation.

This is about more, much more, than the specific actions of any specific government on this specific disease.

This is about a new ruling class in the West, one that can do all these things to the people while still itself being able to have maskless fun in close proximity with friends and donors in one of the most expensive restaurants in the world (California Governor Newsom), send their family off to Florida while locking down Illinois (IL Governor Priztker), or allow their top aides escape to Florida while warning about the people of her state traveling (MI Governor Whitmer), or having a big bash 60th birthday party (former President Obama) because, as the NYT put it, he had invited “a sophisticated, vaccinated crowd” who were “following all the safety precautions.”

Back to Jim Treacher, Democrats Don’t Need Masks Because They’re Better Than You:

“The virus knows. It knows what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and it only punishes people who don’t read The Atlantic or listen to NPR. If you can recite a MyPillow ad from memory, you need to wear a mask when you’re told to wear a mask. But if you can pick Lin-Manuel Miranda out of a lineup, you don’t have anything to worry about. That’s how COVID-19 works. That’s just the settled science.”

Or more generally:

Last year at Encounter Books, we published an admonitory book by Joel Kotkin called The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning To The Global Middle Class. Some people thought Kotkin was overstating things with his talk of an increasingly stratified society in which a tiny elite lorded it over an increasingly pauperized and disenfranchised mass. It turns out, though, that if anything Kotkin understated the trends. The weaponization of public health diktats, their enforcement by a vast and increasingly overbearing cadre of nanny-state bureaucrats, is simply the latest manifestation of the profoundly anti-democratic spirit that has taken hold in Western societies. 

In the USA I see that Senator Rand Paul, who has had Covid-19, has spoken out against what he sees coming with the Delta variant:

“I think the tide is turning as more and more people are willing to stand up. I see stories from across the country of parents standing up to the unions and school boards. I see brave moms standing up and saying, ‘My kids need to go back to school in-person.’ I see members of Congress refusing to comply with Petty Tyrant Pelosi. We are at a moment of truth and a crossroads. Will we allow these people to use fear and propaganda to do further harm to our society, economy, and children? Or will we stand together and say, absolutely not? Not this time. I choose freedom.”

For his troubles Paul got a massive kickback from the US Left on Twitter, with more than a few people praising his former neighbour who broke six of his ribs (causing a piece of his lung to be cut out). That’s where we are in the West and I can’t blame governments for this when we have so many people who think like this.

But for me it’s actually this guy, Scottish archeologist and historian Neil Oliver, who sums it up:

For me, it’s all and only about freedom. For me without freedom, there is no point in anything. So take away all the numbers, all the statistics, all the models and predictions, all the promises and threats; all the steel hand in velvet glove coercion. Take all of that away. To me it all boils down into something simple.

I declare that I am a free man.

I was born 54 years ago into part of the world, just a relatively small part of the world, but I was taught that my freedom had been won for me by men and women who had fought and died to make it so. I was born just 22 years after World War II into a world, still full of those men and women who had fought for my freedom and lived to tell the tale

English writer Mervyn Peake said “To live at all is miracle enough.” It’s a good line and I’ve quoted it for years, but but now I see merely to live at all is not enough, not nearly. A caged bird is alive but without the freedom to fly the Limitless sky, it is denied everything that makes a bird in the first place. To be alive is not enough. What matters is to live in freedom. A bird is such a fragile creature. It’s really all and only about movement. Take away a bird’s movement and it’s a handful of feathers and air.

Freedom is not negotiable. You’re either free or you’re not.  Freedom is not even safe. Those who’ve been imprisoned are often terrified of freedom. All those choices, for all of our personal responsibility. This is why ex-cons often reoffend, to go back behind bars where it feels safer, out of harm’s way.

I have three children. Teenagers all. Often I think I would like to keep them close by me forever, where I can stop them doing stupid things. Dangerous things. If I kept them in the house no stranger would hurt them, but that would be no life. Not for them and not even for me. I would be their jailer and they would be my caged birds. As it happens, this past year-and-a-half has let me see what happens to children kept safe in the house. It’s not good, not good at all. And so if I didn’t know it before, I know now that I have to let them go into a world that is full of all manner of things, danger included.

Here’s the thing is, if your freedom means that I might catch COVID from you, then so be it. If my freedom means you might catch COVID from me then so be it. That’s honestly how I see it. For the sake of freedom…I will cheerfully risk catching COVID. That is a chance. One among many that I am prepared to take and happily. Life is not safe, freedom is not safe. For the sake of freedom, yours and mine together, both freedoms being of equal value, I will cheerfully risk much else besides.

Because it’s Thursday

Otherwise known as clearing my spindle of things that I’ve collected on the Web but which can’t justify a post of their own.

First up is the development of a new test for the Wuhan Flu, and given that this test comes from the nation that originated the virus, it seems appropriate. It’s a hell of a way to introduce 2021.

I’m sure it’s backed by Science, because we know how science goes nowadays.

Sadly, not even philosophy, the ancestor of science, can withstand the winds of modernity, if the following Surrealist version of the classic ethical test, The Trolley Problem, is any indication.

Oh well, as one my fellow bloggers knows, in times of trouble it’s nice to just hit the road and get away from it all, though with the Labour Of Love RV shown below, I’m sure there’d have to be a minimum of twelve hours before driving after using the pot belly stove.

Wonder if Gravedodger is jealous?

Written by Tom Hunter

February 4, 2021 at 5:19 am

Posted in Humour

Tagged with , ,

Swedish Death 2020 – and Lockdowns

The last in this series.

As usual it takes until well into January before a nation’s death statistics are settled, and this is even more true of Chinese Lung Rot deaths.

Here then the final update for Sweden’s death toll in 2020, both total and for Covid-19.

The annual death rate for 2020 was 0.94%, compared to the average of 0.92% for the previous decade. Moreover the death toll is lower than it was in 2010-2012 and the same as 2013. I don’t recall any great wave of hysteria about those years.

You’ll recall that it was predicted that Sweden was going to suffer worse than other nations because it had not gone full lockdown (true) and was instead going for “herd immunity” (false). Actually they went for “social distancing” and kept their schools, cafes and the like open. To put it bluntly, the excess deaths are just not there: the people who died with or of Covid-19 would have died of the flu or Pneumonia instead, just as they do every other year. The Swedes can be well satisfied that they didn’t crush their economy with extremist lockdowns.

Speaking of which, this miracle happened the other day in the USA.

So now that OrangeManBad is safely gone the US MSM can start reporting stories about the failure of the lockdown approach and key politicians in the USA can start saying that they have to re-open their cities and states before they completely destroy their local economies – even as those states face levels of Covid-19 case numbers and deaths that triggered the original lockdowns months ago. In some cases, worse.

Also, so much for the Leftie theory that the virus was done with urban areas (controlled by Democrats) and was now sweeping into the lands of the Low Sloping Foreheads (controlled by those hick Republicans).

As noted months ago by Professor Johan Giesecke (one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, former Chief Scientist of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and an advisor to the director general of the WHO):

Getting out of the lockdowns will be the big challenge since the question is around which restrictions can be lifted, followed by watching for upticks in cases and deaths at each stage, with increases met by what? Reinstating the restriction?

And even with vaccines it seems. These people just can’t let go of their sense of control. Here’s the UK, which went for extreme lockdown – and still is.

And New Zealand:

Interesting that in the UK and NZ the death rate has been slowly increasing in recent years, apparently the result of ageing populations and declining birth rates.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 22, 2021 at 7:00 am

Swedish Numbers Update

Since I wrote this post on November 6 about Sweden’s death toll from Chinese Lung AIDS – And in Other Numbers – there has been some excitement among the commentariat with the appearance of the expected second wave of the virus as the Northern Winter commences.

Herewith the good old Worldometer graph for the nation:

As a result I thought it time to update my spreadsheet from October 30 to December 4th (the latest date for which Statista has Total Deaths from all causes) and see where Sweden stands:

The numbers speak for themselves. Even if the current daily death rate from Chinese Sinus Rot continued to December 31 – and of course it is dropping – Sweden’s annual death toll will be almost exactly the average population death rate for the last decade of 0.92%.

And in US news on this matter of counting deaths., here’s the John Hopkins medical article that was rapidly pulled – but not fast enough to miss the WayBack Machine – A closer look at U.S. deaths due to COVID-19.

Genevieve Briand, assistant program director of the Applied Economics master’s degree program at Hopkins, critically analyzed the effect of COVID-19 on U.S. deaths using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in her webinar titled “COVID-19 Deaths: A Look at U.S. Data.”

……

She explained that the significance of COVID-19 on U.S. deaths can be fully understood only through comparison to the number of total deaths in the United States.

After retrieving data on the CDC website, Briand compiled a graph representing percentages of total deaths per age category from early February to early September, which includes the period from before COVID-19 was detected in the U.S. to after infection rates soared. 

Comparing to total deaths is the smart thing to do as well as looking at what has happened to other types of deaths. And the result?

Analysis of deaths per cause in 2018 revealed that the pattern of seasonal increase in the total number of deaths is a result of the rise in deaths by all causes, with the top three being heart disease, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia.

“This is true every year. Every year in the U.S. when we observe the seasonal ups and downs, we have an increase of deaths due to all causes,” Briand pointed out.

When Briand looked at the 2020 data during that seasonal period, COVID-19-related deaths exceeded deaths from heart diseases. This was highly unusual since heart disease has always prevailed as the leading cause of deaths. However, when taking a closer look at the death numbers, she noted something strange.

As Briand compared the number of deaths per cause during that period in 2020 to 2018, she noticed that instead of the expected drastic increase across all causes, there was a significant decrease in deaths due to heart disease. Even more surprising, as seen in the graph below, this sudden decline in deaths is observed for all other causes.

Looks like the USA has discovered an incredible cure for elderly people who die from heart disease and other diseases.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 10, 2020 at 8:17 am

And in Other Numbers

And while we watch the good little Democrat machines of Philadelphia and Atlanta slowly, slowly creep Biden’s numbers closer to Trump’s here are some other numbers to discuss.

Some months ago when the fighting over the Swedish approach to Chinese Lung Rot disease was first cranking up I decided to start a spreadsheet tracking the death tolls of that country, as reported by Worldometer for covid-19 and Statista for total deaths, population and so forth.

First up is the latest decade of Annual deaths and the population for Sweden, plus the resulting daily death toll and Annual death rate.

As you can see the annual deaths are fairly stable around 90,000 per year from all causes. As the population has increased the death rate has slowly declined from about 0.95% to 0.90%.

Then we come to 2020. According to Statista the total deaths from all causes as of October 30 was 75,644, or 249 per day. The years 2015 and 2016 had the same daily death rate of 249, and the ten-year average was 248.

Subtracting out all the covid-19 deaths as of October 30 (5,972) – and assuming for the moment that these were people who would not have died but for the disease – yields an expected year-end death toll much lower than anything in the last decade: 83,881.

But of course it’s a false assumption that the Swedes who died of Covid-19 would not have died of something else, likely something similar that attacks the lungs like influenza or pneumonia as is the case every year.

So I’ve added those back in and then added on the current 7-day moving average deaths from Covid-19, currently four per day, for the rest of the year of 62 days from October 30.

The result is a predicted total death number – from all causes – of 90,101. And with Sweden’s estimated population for 2020 that’s a death rate of 0.87%.

Which are numbers completely in line with the previous decade and a death rate that is actually below the decade’s average. That is the result of course of extra care and attention paid to infectious diseases this year by the Swedish population, even if they did not go for the extremist lockdown positions of other nations. Businesses stayed open, as did restaurants and cafes, and kids continued to go to school. Mild “social distancing” occurred at the discretion of the population, who followed medical advice but were not under orders or threats from the Police. There was no panic or hysteria among public figures, the public, or their MSM. All very Swedish!

There is no covid death spike on the horizon that would change these basic numbers very much at all by December 31.

The key takeaway here is that if you had never seen or read anything but these numbers you would have no idea that there had ever been a disease epidemic called Covid-19 in Sweden in 2020.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 6, 2020 at 2:16 pm

“It is too early to say”

Zhou Enlai’s famous quote, made during Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to China in 1972, in response to a question about French revolts, was actually not referring to the French Revolution of 1789 but the revolts of 1968.

I was reminded of this while watching the following scenes of people fleeing Paris just the other day before the commencement of a new curfew and lockdown process in response to a second wave of Chinese Lung Rot cases and deaths.

The reason is contained in this graph.

That chart is more than a month old and things have not improved since then for France, or the rest of Europe for that matter. Well – with one notable exception:

Sweden is also experiencing the expected increase in cases, but thanks to their previously despised herd immunity strategy these new cases are not translating into deaths, which is why Sweden is not hitting the panic button and locking themselves into their homes. It’s also why this chart is so painful to look at.

The real tell will come in early January 2021 when the final figures for all deaths in Sweden are confirmed and the excess deaths are seen. If that number is low or statistically insignificant then we’ll know that the Swedish people who died from Chinese Sinus AIDS were the people who would have died from influenza and pneumonia, diseases so similar to Covid-19 that the CDC in the USA has, from the start, tracked daily deaths as “PIC” (Pneumonia, Influenza, Covid-19), knowing how hard it is for post-mortem analysis to confirm the culprit.

Still, even the Europeans must be grateful they’re not run like the US Democrat states of New York and New Jersey.

Incidently, the Zhou link contains probably the best explanation of the reason for the common misinterpretation of Zhou’s comment on France, and also perhaps the perfect explanation for the lockdowns.

“I cannot explain the confusion about Zhou’s comment except in terms of the extent to which it conveniently bolstered a stereotype (as usual with all stereotypes, partly perceptive) about Chinese statesmen as far-sighted individuals who think in longer terms than their Western counterparts,” Freeman said in a follow-up email. “It was what people wanted to hear and believe, so it took” hold.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 31, 2020 at 10:01 am

The Great Crash of 2034

One of the first things I wrote about here at NoMinister was an article on the disastrous debt situation in the USA, This is not going to get better.

Amidst the charts of tax revenue vs rates and the vast, unfunded liabilities that lay in America’s future, courtesy of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – “these three giant machines running on automatic” – I wrote the following:

The good news is that government revenue is increasing, likely hitting 16.5 percent of GDP this year, increasing to 17.4 percent in 2025, and 18.3 percent of GDP in 2029. Of course this is all built on economic models and we know how those go with assumptions of economic growth rates and so forth. For all the talk about econometric models the reality is that they’re often little different to the spreadsheets ordinary people put together. So they’ll contain smooth changes from month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter. But did anybody throw in even a bog-standard recession, something just on the order of the 1990-91 deal, with a couple of % GDP foregone?

And here we are. And we’re not looking at a 2% GDP drop but probably something much worse courtesy of government reactions to the Wuhan Flu.

You can look at that old article to see the histories of US income tax revenue vs the highest income tax rate or corporate tax revenue vs corporate tax rates, but here I want to focus on US spending and then debt, starting with this chart published just last year in 2019.

Note the sidebar of assumptions underpinning this already frightening scenario: “no more wars, no recessions”, and so forth. Note also that the biggest increase in spending comes from non-discretionary spending, courtesy of the Big Three Machines mentioned earlier.

At the same time there was an article published that looked into a future much closer than 2049, The National Debt Death Spiral:

According to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Debt Management, the U.S. government is just five years away from the point of no return.  With the national debt spiraling quickly out of control, there are only a few years left before every single dollar the government borrows will go toward funding interest payments on the national debt.

Interest payments only: not for paying the debt down. This is Ponzi Scheme territory. More specifically it’s the tipping point for when the scam starts to collapse. It’s also why you can look forward to a temporary future of near-zero, zero or even negative interest rates: “temporary“.

And that’s just the Federal situation. There are a number of territories and smaller cities that have already plunged through this event horizon :

In bankrupt San Bernardino, a third of the city’s 210,000 people live below the poverty line, making it the poorest city of its size in California. But a police lieutenant can retire in his 50s and take home $230,000 in one-time payouts on his last day, before settling in with a guaranteed $128,000-a-year pension. Forty-six retired city employees receive over $100,000 a year in pensions.

Almost 75 percent of the city’s general fund is now spent solely on the police and fire departments, according to a Reuters analysis of city bankruptcy documents – most of that on wages and pension costs.

Larger cities like Chicago are rapidly approaching the same point, with their debt now rated at Junk Bond levels, and the state of Illinois unable to help because they’re in the same shape.

And then there’s the wider economic problem that derives from the government spending priorities:

A couple of years ago there was somewhat of a kerfuffle in the more sober precincts of the MSM when a story circulated that after his economic advisors presented these post-2024 debt tipping point arguments and data to President Trump his response was (paraphrased): “I won’t be President by then so what does it matter?“.

Naturally the articles lambasted Trump for this selfish and cavalier attitude to spending and debt, but that outrage only lasted a day because everybody knew the terrible truth.

  • It’s a bi-partisan attitude in D.C;
  • almost every politician there (bar Rand Paul and a few House members) is in on it;
  • all of them are too terrified of the fallout that would happen from trying to fix it.

Trump’s 2020 budget produced earlier this year went on to prove the point, as this article demonstrated with comparisons of the MSM coverage of Trump’s budget and the actual forecast numbers. First the MSM headlines:

.

.

 

Holy shit! Trump was proposing huge spending cuts in domestic programs? That’s great news!

If only it was true.

.

.

.

.

This would be the same under any President and any Congress, courtesy of those screaming headlines. Nobody dares to cut spending; even the “cut” of $4.4 trillion noted above was merely a plan to spend less than the baseline spending increases assumed at the start of the budget process.

And remember that all of the above was before the latest economic crisis hit the USA, which has produced the following astounding graph from the US Central Bank, the Federal Reserve:

As you can see the Fed had only just started to finally rid its balance sheet of the debt piled up from the GFC before the Chinese Lung Rot hit the fan. As this article pointed out:

The federal debt had topped $24 trillion for the first time on April 7, 2020.

It then climbed another trillion dollars in just 28 days, topping $25 trillion for the first time on May 5.

Only 35 days had elapsed from when the debt topped that $25-trillion threshold on May 5 to yesterday, when it topped $26 trillion for the first time.

It took about two hundred years for the USA to pile up $2 trillion in Federal debt, hitting that figure in 1983.

Now it has taken just 63 days.

The following chart shows how the debt load is not only increasing but even the rate of acceleration, as is the case with Ponzi schemes. No private business would see this as anything than the stuff of sleepless nights between daytime nightmares.

I’ll finish with this quote from John Stossell, which I especially like because it takes my original article title of “This is not going to get better” and sharpens it:

“We have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future,” warned Ronald Reagan. “We must act today to preserve tomorrow.”

Bill Clinton said, “We’ve got to deal with this big long term debt problem.”

Barack Obama called driving up the national debt “irresponsible” and then proceeded to do exactly that.

Donald Trump complained that Obama “doubled” the nation’s debt. But now, under Trump’s presidency and the new CARES Act, our debt will grow even faster.

This will not end well.

Even a so-called V-shaped economic recovery would not change this very much.

For all the talk of pandemics and now riots it is this story about the USA that should truly scare you. It is not Antifa or BLM or any other bunch of fanatics and idiots that will destroy the USA but the age-old problem of debt. Take your pick as to the crunch date, mine is 2034!

One of Adam Smith’s famous economic observations was made to a pupil concerned that the massive growth of debt in Britain during the Napoleonic Wars would ruin the nation. That debt would eventually reach 200% of GDP but Smith assured the student that “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.“, and that proved to be the case, but not without a lot of pain being inflicted in the following two decades.

Same here via Rand Paul’s “Pennies Plan” alternative Budget, although I can’t help feeling that the USA is pushing the outside of the envelope awfully hard on Smith’s maxim.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 14, 2020 at 7:00 pm

This is not going to get better!

The other day, Keith Hall, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), dragged himself up to the US Senate for the usual sad recitation of simple financial facts that all the Senators, and the House members already know.

Well, some of them anyway.

Well, I’ll be a poor, sad bastard!

He had to sit in front of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee and talk about the CBO’s recently released report on the Budget and Economic Outlook for 2019 to 2029.

The good news is that government revenue is increasing, likely hitting 16.5 percent of GDP this year, increasing to 17.4 percent in 2025, and 18.3 percent of GDP in 2029. Of course this is all built on economic models and we know how those go with assumptions of economic growth rates and so forth. For all the talk about econometric models the reality is that they’re often little different to the spreadsheets ordinary people put together. So they’ll contain smooth changes from month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter. But did anybody throw in even a bog-standard recession, something just on the order of the 1990-91 deal, with a couple of % GDP foregone?

The reason that’s important is that the big factor for tax revenue is simply whether the economy is growing or not. Tax rates and tax types don’t actually have much of an impact, as the last 80 years of IRS stats will show, with regard to the top marginal income tax rate, which is a good proxy for lower-band income tax rates.

Basically, US tax revenue fluctuates around 20%, no matter what you do with “taxing the rich”. Same with Corporate Taxes:

What is a lot more predictable than revenue however, is government spending. It increases – relentlessly – and the only thing a recession in the model would do to such spending would be to increase it further and faster. That Keynesianism for you. According to the CBO, federal spending will increase from 20.8 percent of GDP this year to 23.0 percent in 2029, when revenue might be 18.3%. In other words, the already scary deficits are going to get scarier. We’re not far away from having a $1 trillion deficit each year – in a good economy.

The main drivers are “the aging of the population and the rising cost of health care,” which are hammering the three big welfare programs, Social Security, Medicare (healthcare over 65) and Medicaid (healthcare for low income). These three are giant machines running on automatic. Congress has discretion – control – over a small, and shrinking amount of the Federal budget. And even that portion has a lot of elements that are basically out of their control and just increase. A couple of years ago I saw one calculation that the actual portion of the budget truly controlled with decisions, amounts to about 17% – and will shrink to 7% in the next decade.

Medicare/Medicaid are the monsters. They took a couple of years to crank up after being made law in 1965 so spending figures are from 1967 to 2018 and in nominal dollars:

Medicare collects premiums and other revenue, hence the net figure. Still, that’s a growth rate for the two programs of 12% per year, for fifty one years. The US economy has never grown at that rate for even one year. There is no prospect of this changing so future payments are going to be difficult to meet. As explained by the Medicare Trustees:

“The present value of a future stream of payments is the lump-sum amount that, if invested today, together with interest earnings would be just enough to meet each of the payments as it fell due. At the time of the last payment, the invested fund would be exactly zero.” 

They calculate on a standard 75 year timeline and have that value at $33.5 trillion right now  – and there’s no cookie jar to raid. Other scenarios (infinite horizon) are argued to be more realistic, but the low-ball figure is scary enough.

Social Security has another $20+ trillion of unfunded liabilities on the 75 year time frame, but that can probably be managed, because the government controls both the revenue and spending. The last changes were in the 1980’s when President Reagan and Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neill fought over, but ultimately agreed upon, myriad little changes to spending rates, adjustment rules, and the tax, to make it safe for another few decades. Such work will be required again soon, and should include the same gradual lift in eligibility age that other Western nations have implemented.

Medicaid‘s structure basically runs from year to year and the burden is shared with individual states, so unfunded liabilities are not its problem. But it too has to be paid for and while the Federal government has tried cutting rates paid for doctors and medical services, that’s just resulted in Medicaid patients finding no doctor, clinic or hospital to serve them.

Medicare has no such outlet: benefits cannot be specifically cut or even much changed, and there is no rationing system as with New Zealand Health or the British NHS – one other thing that the “Medicare-For-All” crowd never talk about. If it did have rationing it would become like Medicaid, which nobody boasts about. But even if such could be implemented – and Obamacare did cut Medicare rates over time – the Medicare Trustees warn of the result:

“By 2040, simulations suggest that approximately half of hospitals, roughly two-thirds of skilled nursing facilities, and over 80 percent of home health agencies would have negative total facility margins, raising the possibility of access and quality-of-care issues for Medicare beneficiaries”

Remember this roughly $50 trillion unfunded debt whenever anybody talks about the current Federal debt of $22 trillion. By the way, that infinite horizon analysis that’s endorsed by a large number of economists (incuding Nobel prize winners) produces an unfunded debt figure of $210 trillion.

The final cherry on top is the fact that as the debt rises, and as interest rates slowly return to normal, they’re going to drive up the federal government’s net interest costs, which this year sat at $364 billion. The Federal Reserve’s long-term average is about 5%: that translates to $1.1 trillion per year in interest payments alone.

And this is just the Federal level. I’ve not even mentioned the similar debts and unfunded liabilities of pension funds and healthcare schemes in the states, many of which are in poor shape, and some – like California and Illinois – frightening.

So where does all this end? It would be nice if the work started now, but the number of politicians willing to even broach these subjects in D.C., can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The rest don’t want to know and will continue to kick the can down the road. Admittedly the solution options are limited.

Forget just increasing taxes. The calculations already show that tax increases of 50%+ and spending cuts of 30%+ might produce enough money to plug the holes, but it’s highly doubtful that US voters would accept such unprecedented taxation or cuts, let alone both in concert.

And this is without considering some of the new doozies being dreamed up by D.C. politicians: the Green New Deal, a trillion dollars of student debt wiped, and of course, Medicare For All (MFA).

MFA won’t solve the problems unless it has rationing, and as the old British and NZ Labourites knew, that’s tough to do unless the government also owns the hospitals – and that assumes Americans will accept healthcare rationing. Moreover, there are already two such government owned and funded programs: Veterans Health Administration and the Indian Health Service. They’re both regarded as hideous disasters, so much so that laws have been changed to allow at least the VHA detainees to escape and spend their government funds on private providers.

In any case, it seems unlikely that the US government would spend more trillions buying out private hospitals and clinics. Nationalisation could be done but what sort of crash that would induce in stocks and bonds does not bear thinking about, and it would likely be killed by the courts. Very fine prescriptive controls over the private sector would require a huge bureaucracy, and would be even less effective than they’ve been in other industries.

Given the Federal nature of the USA, one answer may be to have many answers, with each of the 50 states allowed to experiment with different approaches. Some efforts have already been made with block grants for smaller welfare and healthcare schemes, but D.C. likes power so it’s questionable how far they’ll let states go. And the current problems in these areas in some states mentioned above, are not encouraging.

My crystal ball view is that while these systems are not going to collapse, they will be circumscribed at some point. Current estimates are that people in the 2040’s/50’s will get Social Security benefits at less than 80% of today’s pensioners. Medicare will certainly be below that. But that’s still better than nothing. At some stage – probably sometime in the 30’s/40’s – Gen Z and whoever follows them will realise the Ponzi nature of these Pay-As-You-Go schemes and have the voting muscle to override the remaining Boomers. They’ll ring-fence them for existing users and people about to retire, and force the development of private-public actuarial-based systems for both health and pensions.

This will all be very messy and clunky, but in a democracy there are no clean, one-shot solutions.

UPDATE I see one of our commentators has managed to use his lobed fins…

… to struggle on to land bearing some arguments that are worth addressing because of their prominence in Leftist mythology.

The budget could easily be reined in by reinstating taxes on the wealthy.

The long-term graph in the original article gives the lie to that BS, and that also applies to the other “wealth” taxes that applied at the time, on estates and such like, that I see Bernie is talking about bring back. Dear god, the old crank hankers for 1950’s America worse than Pat Buchanan.

The US “Defence” budget could be slashed 80% and that would still leave more than enough money for defence.

The 2019 US Defence Budget is $716 billion, so 80% of that would be $573 billion. Yowza!!! That almost pays for last years Medicare. The problem of course is that annual growth rate of 12% over the last fifty years. Let’s be generous and imagine that we can cut it to just 6% from now on. At that rate Medicare/Medicaid would eat up that annual increase in about 6 1/2 years.

Oh – and a defense budget of $142 billion would amount to about 0.6% of 2019 GDP, New Zealand is at about 1.1%. Modern warfare has long since wiped out the idea of massive cutbacks at war’s end and massive buildups when the next one starts. The stuff has to be there, ready to go or you lose.

Even at 0.6% GDP the sheer size of the US economy does buy more capabilities than NZ of course – but it would basically mean cutting the US military to the point where it could not defend the place, or sea trade routes, or anything overseas that it depends upon. And if your answer to that is an almighty cheer I invite you to think about what China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and others would do in terms of military buildup as most of the US Navy and Air Force mothballed itself: I sure as hell would not want to be in those areas to find out, and I doubt the USA would escape the consequences. Still – it would lead to massive increases in Australian defence spending and increased taxes for you, so Yay!.

Lastly, for all the endless Lefty yammering about US defence spending, the fact is that it has changed little since the early 1950’s in constant dollars, and has had substantial cuts on four occasions.

It has also constantly reduced as a % of GDP (not to mention as a proportion of the Federal Budget).

None of those things are true of Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid.

Written by Tom Hunter

February 5, 2019 at 7:02 pm