This one infographic illustrates America’s financial peril

Ricochet’s Jon Gabriel put together this infographic illustrating the extreme state of America’s finances, brought to you by a bipartisan coalition of fast-spending Republicans and Democrats:

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A sobering infographic, to be sure, but it pales in comparison to this Wall Street Journal article from last year that details how the federal government’s true liabilities are around $87 trillion. And to help explain why extreme national debt has consequences, Heritage chimes in with an assessment of the real dangers of soaring national debt.

‘Progressive’ policies still sapping the economy

I have documented on this blog a set of facts to argue that liberal public policies are undermining recovery of the economy, effectively depriving millions of people, especially low-income families, of gainful employment that would increase their income and improve their lives. Sadly, the harmful impacts of these “progressive” policies have contributed to a new record. (Post continues below graphic.)

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Study: Low levels of government debt is good economic policy

MoneypileSuppose you have a financial crisis that devours a large part of your income, putting you and your family at risk.

Would you rather have financial flexibility to respond to this situation, with low levels of credit card and personal loan debt? Or would it be preferable to have maxed out the credit card and gone into significant debt to finance growing “needs” before your crisis hit?

Common sense says the former is better … and new research backs up common sense when it comes to recessions and government debt.

A new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research examined data on private credit, public (i.e., government) debt, and recessions, reporting that: (1) “high levels of public debt … slows down the economy after financial crises,” and (2) when combined with a boom in private sector credit, “high levels of public sector debt typically leads to considerably deeper recessions and slower recoveries.”

In short, if you have high levels of government debt going into an economic downturn, more people lose jobs, income, and wealth, and people go longer without the ability to support their families via steady employment.

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This is why depending on D.C. is a bad idea

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

US_Capitol_from_NWIf all the wailing and gnashing of teeth surrounding the partial government shutdown shows anything, it’s that we’ve become overly dependent on Washington, D.C. And while that’s not well and good, I’m wondering at what point did we stop wanting to look after ourselves?

Utahns have a strong tradition of taking care of our families and communities, but over time there’s been an insidious multi-generational trend to the point where today’s generation almost automatically expects the government to solve our problems, make our hard choices, and shield us from the bad (and only the bad) outcomes of our actions. All too often it seems that money from Washington, D.C. – and the strings that come with it – has become the default answer to whatever challenges we might face. This shutdown is shining a light on why that’s such a bad idea.

Most Utahns like to think that we’re independent, rugged, individualists bred of the hardy stock who settled this land. But that picture has changed dramatically over the past few generations. Like most of the rest of the nation, we’re ceding a lot of our basic responsibilities to faraway government bureaucrats who know little to nothing about us, don’t care anything about us, and who increasingly don’t share our values or ambitions.

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Loss of federal funds might uncover a silver lining

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By Carl Graham

Last week I ran across a Salt Lake Tribune story telling how some local governments and water districts are feeling the pinch as their state funding, which is dependent on federal funding, begins to dry up.

State and local dependence on federal dollars is nothing new. Utah gets about 30 percent of its budget from D.C., most of which is channeled downstream to the local level for everything from water testing to health care and much, much more.

So is dependence bad? As with most things, it depends (insert your own diaper joke here).

Kids are dependents. The old, the infirm, even the unlucky may come to rely on their fellow man. Truth is, we’re all dependents at some points in our lives. But it’s usually a condition, not a choice, and when it is a choice, most of us tend to see it as something to get out of, not to get comfortable with. As Thucydides said, there’s no shame in poverty, only in not trying to escape it.

So why do our state and local governments pursue rather than eschew dependence on federal dollars and accept all the strings that come attached to them? Why do they trade their freedoms for an annual appropriation?

It’s a tough question, but it’s one that will have to be answered as federal discretionary spending inevitably tightens. Our state and local governments now need federal dollars to meet their budgets, and as those dollars shrink, either the goods and services that those dollars buy will shrink, or our taxes will go up to fill the gap. We’ve enjoyed the fruits of dependence for quite a while, and just like teenagers off to school we probably won’t realize how good we had it until it’s gone. Which brings up another point.

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Detroit and the irony of liberal largesse

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One of Detroit’s vacant buildings.

Last week, Detroit made history by becoming the largest American city to declare bankruptcy. How can a city go from being the richest per capita in 1960 to bankrupt and broken down in half a century? Many of you probably remember how Detroit used to be. It was the home of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, the largest automakers in the world for decades. During World War II, Detroit was retooled to produce ships, planes and arsenal critical to winning the war.

Motown produced a head-spinning number of chart-topping groups in the ’60s and ’70s: Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Diana Ross & The Supremes, the Jackson 5, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Marvin Gaye.

But today, other numbers are used to describe Detroit. Really, the numbers are staggering and heart-wrenching when you consider the human cost.

Detroit’s population was nearly 2 million in 1950. By December 2012, it had plummeted to less than 700,000. There are 78,000 vacant buildings in the city. Sixty percent of children in Detroit are living in poverty. Half the city is functionally illiterate. A third of the city is vacant or in complete disrepair. Detroit’s unemployment rate is 18 percent. Motown’s crime rate is at a 40-year high. Residents wait an average of 58 minutes for police to respond to their calls. The national average is 11 minutes. That’s what a city looks like when civil society disappears.

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Spending $24,696 per minute: The 2013-14 Utah State Budget

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In 41 hours, the Utah state spending has already burned through nearly $61 million of the state budget.

With the dawning of Utah’s new fiscal year, we’ve reset our state spending clock to show you, real time, how quickly the state spends our tax dollars. We understand governments have a legitimate and vital role to play in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. And we also understand the inherent and insidious “spending bias” created by the very nature of our political system.

That system is built to collect tax dollars from taxpayers to “solve” apparent “needs” in the service of the common good. The desires that drive this system are human. Legislators perceive a public need and determine resources to try to solve that need. The issue, of course, is that those resources aren’t created by government. They are created by we, the people. Those resources are otherwise sacred.

What elected officials do with these resources comes, rightly so, with increased scrutiny.

The idea of civil society within a democratic republic is that government provides an ordered framework for a free society to thrive and flourish, and lets the people voluntarily do what they do best: deliver the highest quality of life ever known to mankind. This is a very symbiotic relationship. Unfortunately, governments can turn toxic, hurting their citizens through excessive regulations, overly burdensome taxes, market manipulation, cronyism, preferential tax breaks and government competition with private enterprise. Read more

Utah ranks 34th in amount of state debt per capita

According to an analysis of data by the Tax Foundation, Utah has the 34th highest amount of state debt per capita at $2,577. Compared with our Mountain West neighbors, we fare better than Montana ($4,290), New Mexico ($3,914), and Colorado ($3,214), but worse than Idaho ($2,489), Wyoming ($2,409), Arizona ($2,197), and Nevada ($1,548).

To see where Utah ranks compared with other states, see the map below.

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Update: After posting this state debt map, we were pointed (hat tip: Robert Gehrke) to some data on state debt as a measure of gross state product (GSP), which measures the size of the state economy. Read more

National liberal fiscal insanity, or why Utah needs a spending amendment

Whlogo1As noted on The Weekly Standard blog, the acting director of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget wrote an op-ed published across the country, as well as put up on the White House blog, claiming that “the President’s Budget … shows how we can live within our means while further growing the economy, strengthening the middle class, and securing the nation’s future.”

This budget, according to White House budget projections, adds nearly $5.3 trillion to the national debt between 2014 and 2023 and creates annual deficits ranging from $439 billion to $744 billion over that time period. For perspective, adding $5.3 trillion to the national debt is the equivalent of adding nearly $17,000 in debt for every man, woman and child in America in 2012. And this, to America’s liberal political leaders, is what “living with in our means” looks like. Read more

Special interests go to extremes against spending limits

MoneypileThe following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations:

For the last few years, Sutherland Institute has been working on proposed legislation that would use state constitutional powers to limit government spending and create guidelines that prioritize how tax dollars are spent in surplus revenue years. As you might guess, this government spending limitation amendment has had a tough time capturing the imagination of state legislators.

Utah has a statute that’s been on the books for a few years that requires certain spending limits, but big-ticket items like education and transportation are exempted. Sutherland’s plan would limit all state spending and, while giving the state Legislature control over spending priorities, it requires a three-fifths majority vote of the Legislature to override constitutional restraints on spending. Read more