83 Unbelievable Numbers From 2013

Fed Up USA posted 83 numbers that they call “almost too crazy to believe”. Thanks to Fed Up USA for their work in compiling this end of year list of things you can believe or not.

During 2013, America continued to steadily march down a self-destructive path toward oblivion.  As a society, our debt levels are completely and totally out of control.  Our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino on the entire planet and our big banks are behaving even more recklessly than they did just before the last financial crisis.  We continue to see thousands of businesses and millions of jobs get shipped out of the United States, and the middle class is being absolutely eviscerated.  Due to the lack of decent jobs, poverty is absolutely exploding.  Government dependence is at an all-time high and crime is rising.  Evidence of social and moral decay is seemingly everywhere, and our government appears to be going insane.  If we are going to have any hope of solving these problems, the American people need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and finally admit how bad things have actually become.  If we all just blindly have faith that “everything is going to be okay”, the consequences of decades of incredibly foolish decisions are going to absolutely blindside us and we will be absolutely devastated by the great crisis that is rapidly approaching.  The United States is in a massive amount of trouble, and it is time that we all started facing the truth.  The following are 83 numbers from 2013 that are almost too crazy to believe…

#1 Most people that hear this statistic do not believe that it is actually true, but right now an all-time record 102 million working age Americans do not have a job.  That number has risen by about 27 million since the year 2000.

#2 Because of the lack of jobs, poverty is spreading like wildfire in the United States.  According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program each month.

#3 As society breaks down, the government feels a greater need than ever before to watch, monitor and track the population.  For example, every single day the NSA intercepts and permanently stores close to 2 billion emails and phone calls in addition to a whole host of other data.

#4 The Bank for International Settlements says that total public and private debt levels around the globe are now 30 percent higher than they were back during the financial crisis of 2008.

#5 According to a recent World Bank report, private domestic debt in China has grown from 9 trillion dollars in 2008 to 23 trillion dollars today.

#6 In 1985, there were more than 18,000 banks in the United States.  Today, there are only 6,891 left.

#7 The six largest banks in the United States (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.

#8 The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets.  The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and all of the other banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.

#9 JPMorgan Chase is roughly the size of the entire British economy.

#10 The five largest banks now account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.

#11 Right now, four of the “too big to fail” banks each have total exposure to derivatives that is well in excess of 40 trillion dollars.

#12 The total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 381 times greater than their total assets.

#13 According to the Bank for International Settlements, the global financial system has a total of 441 trillion dollars worth of exposure to interest rate derivatives.

#14 Through the end of November, approximately 365,000 Americans had signed up for Obamacare but approximately 4 million Americanshad already lost their current health insurance policies because of Obamacare.

#15 It is being projected that up to 100 million more Americans could have their health insurance policies canceled by the time Obamacare is fully rolled out.

#16 At this point, 82.4 million Americans live in a home where at least one person is enrolled in the Medicaid program.

#17 It is has been estimated that Obamacare will add 21 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

#18 It is being projected that health insurance premiums for healthy 30-year-old men will rise by an average of 260 percent under Obamacare.

#19 One couple down in Texas received a letter from their health insurance company that informed them that they were being hit with a 539 percent rate increase because of Obamacare.

#20 Back in 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 54.9 percent of all Americans are covered by employment-based health insurance.

#21 The U.S. government has spent an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.

#22 Incredibly, 74 percent of all the wealth in the United States is owned by the wealthiest 10 percent of all Americans.

#23 According to Consumer Reports, the number of children in the United States taking antipsychotic drugs has nearly tripled over the past 15 years.

#24 The marriage rate in the United States has fallen to an all-time low.  Right now it is sitting at a yearly rate of just 6.8 marriages per 1000 people.

#25 According to a shocking new study, the average American that turned 65 this year will receive $327,500 more in federal benefits than they paid in taxes over the course of their lifetimes.

#26 In just one week in December, a combined total of more than 2000 new cold temperature and snowfall records were set in the United States.

#27 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row.

#28 The rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row.

#29 Only 47 percent of all adults in America have a full-time job at this point.

#30 The unemployment rate in the eurozone recently hit a new all-time high of 12.2 percent.

#31 If you assume that the labor force participation rate in the U.S. is at the long-term average, the unemployment rate in the United States would actually be 11.5 percent instead of 7 percent.

#32 In November 2000, 64.3 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  When Barack Obama first entered the White House, 60.6 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  Today, only 58.6 percent of all working age Americans have a job.

#33 There are 1,148,000 fewer Americans working today than there was in November 2006.  Meanwhile, our population has grown by more than 16 million people during that time frame.

#34 Only 19 percent of all Americans believe that the job market is better than it was a year ago.

#35 Just 14 percent of all Americans believe that the stock market will rise next year.

#36 According to CNBC, Pinterest is currently valued at more than 3 billion dollars even though it has never earned a profit.

#37 Twitter is a seven-year-old company that has never made a profit.  It actually lost 64.6 million dollars last quarter.  But according to the financial markets it is currently worth about 22 billion dollars.

#38 Right now, Facebook is trading at a valuation that is equivalent to approximately 100 years of earnings, and it is currently supposedly worth about 115 billion dollars.

#39 Total consumer credit has risen by a whopping 22 percent over the past three years.

#40 Student loans are up by an astounding 61 percent over the past three years.

#41 At this moment, there are 6 million Americans in the 16 to 24-year-old age group that are neither in school or working.

#42 The “inactivity rate” for men in their prime working years (25 to 54) has just hit a brand new all-time record high.

#43 It is hard to believe, but in America today one out of every ten jobs is now filled by a temp agency.

#44 Middle-wage jobs accounted for 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession, but they have accounted for only 22 percent of the jobs created since then.

#45 According to the Social Security Administration, 40 percent of all U.S. workers make less than $20,000 a year.

#46 Approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

#47 After accounting for inflation, 40 percent of all U.S. workers are making less than what a full-time minimum wage worker made back in 1968.

#48 When Barack Obama took office, the average duration of unemployment in this country was 19.8 weeks.  Today, it is 37.2 weeks.

#49 Investors pulled an astounding 72 billion dollars out of bond mutual funds in 2013.  It was the worst year for bond funds ever.

#50 Small business is rapidly dying in America.  At this point, only about 7 percent of all non-farm workers in the United States are self-employed.  That is an all-time record low.

#51 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the bottom one-third of all Americans combined.

#52 Once January 1st hits, it will officially be illegal to manufacture or import traditional incandescent light bulbs in the United States.  It is being projected that millions of Americans will attempt to stock up on the old light bulbs before they are totally gone from store shelves.

#53 The Japanese government has estimated that approximately 300 tons of highly radioactive water is being released into the Pacific Ocean from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear facility every single day.

#54 Back in 1967, the U.S. military had more than 31,000 strategic nuclear warheads.  That number is already being cut down to 1,550, and now Barack Obama wants to reduce it to only about 1,000.

#55 As you read this, 60 percent of all children in Detroit are living in poverty and there are approximately 78,000 abandoned homes in the city.

#56 Wal-Mart recently opened up two new stores in Washington D.C., and more than 23,000 people applied for just 600 positions.  That means that only about 2.6 percent of the applicants were ultimately hired.  In comparison, Harvard offers admission to 6.1 percent of their applicants.

#57 At this point, almost half of all public school students in America come from low income homes.

#58 Tragically, there are 1.2 million students that attend public schools in the United States that are homeless.  That number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

#59 According to a Gallup poll that was recently released, 20.0 percent of all Americans did not have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed at some point over the past year.  That is just under the all-time record of 20.4 percent that was set back in November 2008.

#60 The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

#61 Right now, one out of every five households in the United States is on food stamps.

#62 The U.S. economy loses approximately 9,000 jobs for every 1 billion dollars of goods that are imported from overseas.

#63 Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.

#64 According to one survey, approximately 75 percent of all American women do not have any interest in dating unemployed men.

#65 China exports 4 billion pounds of food to the United States every year.

#66 Overall, the United States has run a trade deficit of more than 8 trillion dollars with the rest of the world since 1975.

#67 The number of Americans on Social Security Disability now exceeds the entire population of Greece, and the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.

#68 It is being projected that the number of Americans on Social Security will rise from 57 million today to more than 100 million in 25 years.

#69 Back in 1970, the total amount of debt in the United States (government debt + business debt + consumer debt, etc.) was less than 2 trillion dollars.  Today it is over 56 trillion dollars.

#70 Back on September 30th, 2012 our national debt was sitting at a total of 16.1 trillion dollars.  Today, it is up to 17.2 trillion dollars.

#71 The U.S. government “rolled over” more than 7.5 trillion dollarsof existing debt in fiscal 2013.

#72 If the U.S. national debt was reduced to a stack of one dollar bills it would circle the earth at the equator 45 times.

#73 When Barack Obama was first elected, the U.S. debt to GDP ratio was under 70 percent.  Today, it is up to 101 percent.

#74 The U.S. national debt is on pace to more than double during the eight years of the Obama administration.  In other words, under Barack Obama the U.S. government will accumulate more debt than it did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.

#75 The federal government is borrowing (stealing) roughly 100 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour of every single day.

#76 At this point, the U.S. already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain.

#77 Japan now has a debt to GDP ratio of more than 211 percent.

#78 As of December 5th, 83 volcanic eruptions had been recorded around the planet so far this year.  That is a new all-time record high.

#79 53 percent of all Americans do not have a 3 day supply of nonperishable food and water in their homes.

#80 Violent crime in the United States was up 15 percent last year.

#81 According to a very surprising survey that was recently conducted,68 percent of all Americans believe that the country is currently on the wrong track.

#82 Back in 1972, 46 percent of all Americans believed that “most people can be trusted”.  Today, only 32 percent of all Americans believe that “most people can be trusted”.

#83 According to a recent Pew Research survey, only 19 percent of all Americans trust the government.   Back in 1958, 73 percent of all Americans trusted the government.

Asian Trade Treaty Will Destroy America

In the same way Obamacare was foisted on America by creating a 2,000-page law that Democrats in Congress never even bothered to read, a new treaty about trade with Asia is going through the same process and poses as great, if not greater, threat to our economy, our judiciary, and our sovereignty.

Secrecy and outright deception is the hallmark of the Obama administration and a proposed Asian trade treaty must be stopped.

It is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and, writing on The Economic Collapse blog, Michael Snyder, notes that “This treaty has 29 chapters, but only 5 of them have to do with trade. Most Americans don’t realize this, but this treaty will fundamentally change our laws regarding internet freedom, health care, the trading of derivatives, copyright issues, food safety, environmental standards, civil liberties, and so much more.”

Snyder warns that “It contains a whole host of things that Obama would be unable to get through Congress on his own. But he is hoping to spring this on Congress at the last minute and get them to agree to this ‘free trade agreement’ before they realize all of the things contained in it.” This is a definition of governing by deception. It evokes the way Obamacare was put before a Congress that had not read it…and which passed by a straight party-line vote by Democrats.

The secrecy surrounding these treaty negotiations,” said Synder, “have really been unprecedented.” In fact, if Wikileaks had not secured access to the TPP draft there would be next to nothing known about it. It posted a 95 page, 30,000 word document that is a horror. Writing about it on his blog, Kurt Nimmo noted that is provisions for implementing “a transnational ‘enforcement regime designed to supplant national laws and sovereignty with a globalist construct. The TPP is by far the largest and most oppressive economic treaty devised so far.”

William F. Jasper, an author and a senior editor of The New American, calls the TPP “bigger and more dangerous than Obamacare” noting that “In November 2009, President Obama announced his intention to have the United States participate in a so-called trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I say so-called trade agreement because 80 percent of the proposed agreement deals with a great many issues beside trade,” deeming it “an all-out assault on our national sovereignty.”

“It would unconstitutionally transfer legislative powers from the U.S. Congress, our state legislatures, and our city and county governments to multi-national corporations and unaccountable international bureaucracies at the World Trade Center.”

“Incredibly, it would also transfer judicial powers from our federal and state courts—which are bad enough—to globalist TPP judges are regional tribunals and the WTO.” The treaty would “confer huge advantages on foreign businesses and large multinationals, while at the same time putting companies that operate here in America—especially small and medium enterprises—at a competitive disadvantage. American businesses would remain shackled by the regulations of EPA, FDA, OSHA, etc. while their foreign competitors could operate here unimpeded by those same strictures.”

Writing for Reason magazine, Zenon Evans warns that “Congress essentially gave up its constitutional authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations in 1974 with the introduction of a ‘fast track’ authority. This privileges the president to flip the bill-making processes on its head: The president introduces an international agreement that Congress votes on, but can neither filibuster nor amend. Although fast-track expired in 2007, the Obama administration has been pushing for renewal, specifically for TPP.”

“If the U.S. government were actually interested in promoting free trade,” said Evans, “it could entirely sidestep relinquishing legislative power to a hodgepodge web of nations. It could simply agree to lower tariffs in exchange for the same treatment. But, instead, we are facing a deal that would undermine the democratic process entirely, disenfranchising the voting public to whom our government is accountable.”

The secrecy surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a major warning against the harm this treaty would inflict on America and reportedly the fact that barely a handful of Congressmen have been given a look at its text is a warning that Obama does not want Congress to be fully informed. If they pass the TPP in the same way Obamacare was passed, the harm to the nation is incalculable.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Florida Military Retirees harmed by Murray-Ryan Budget Deal

Florida has over 1.6 million veterans, the largest population of veterans, percentage wise, in the nation. Florida is home to twenty-one active military bases. Any Congressional action impacting Florida’s veterans or the US military impacts Florida’s economy. It appears the Murray-Ryan Budget will negatively impact Florida’s veterans, their families and orphaned children. The budget deal will also harm Florida’s fragile economy.

In her column “Diet COLA: Murray-Ryan Budget Targets Military Retirees“, Julie Gillette writes, “On Wednesday, I received an email from the Air Force Sergeant’s Association (AFSA) CEO and in response posted this statement on my Facebook page: “Air Force Sergeant’s Association posted Paul Ryan proposed a cut of 1% in military retiree COLA pay each year until the retiree reaches 62. So, for me, that would be a 16% cut. I have never taken welfare or any other handout. All of my retirement is taken in taxes already. I’m interested to hear how much was slashed from the handout programs that didn’t require the recipients to give at least 20 years of their lives.” I received several requests to do an article and given the serious nature of this budget proposal and its devastating impact on all the military retirees that have served honorably and live on fixed incomes, I felt the need to heed that call.”

Gillette notes, “The Bipartisan Budget Act passed by the House on December 12, 2013, is the one put together behind closed doors by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan that will cut the retiree benefits effective 2015 with no grandfathered clause. Under their proposal, each year a retiree will lose 1% of the adjusted Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), an amount calculated to keep up with the Consumer Price Index, until the age of 62. At that time, COLA would be readjusted to the current level.”

The following bullet points were taken directly from the House website:

  • We make sensible reforms for civilian and military retirement programs.
  • On the civilian side, we ask future retirees to contribute a little bit more — still well below what’s common for state and local government employees—so taxpayers don’t have to pick up the entire tab.
  • And for younger military retirees, we trim their cost-of-living adjustment just a bit. It’s a modest reform for working-age military retirees.

Read more.

ABOUT JULIE GILLETTE

Julie Gillette is a retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant and disabled veteran currently living in Fairbanks, Alaska. She is active in Alaska state politics.

PODCAST: How Mother Nature will Accelerate the Looming Fiscal Avalanche

Many are writing about the looming fiscal cliff that Congress and the Obama administration will deal with upon return from the Thanksgiving break. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) warns of a looming fiscal avalanche.

In After Fiscal Cliff Comes Fiscal Avalanche, Rejection of U.S. Debt, Senator Lee writes, “While Washington is preoccupied with the so-called fiscal cliff, little attention has been given to the fiscal avalanche that will occur if we continue down an unsustainable, long-term path, causing markets to turn sour on U.S. debt and leading to a spike in interest rates.”

Senator Lee states, “The Congressional Budget Office projects that under the most likely policy scenario, in 30 years, net interest payments on the debt could total $3.8 trillion in today’s dollars. That is more than total government spending for 2011.”

Robert Wiedemer co-author of America’s Bubble Economy – Aftershock wrote America has suffered through a number of financial bubbles and the aftershock following each. To date each of these bubbles, the most recent being the housing bubble, have burst and fallen onto two other looming bubbles. These two bubbles are the “dollar bubble” and the “debt bubble”. Wiedemer predicts these two bubbles will burst when pricked by the pin called “inflation”.

The government fiscal policies which have lead the US to the fiscal avalanche may be helped along by mother nature.

Relying heavily on the research of experts globally, as well as his own original research that correctly predicted the change in the Sun’s behavior, Mr. John L. Casey has spelled out in his book Cold Sun a convincing case that a new cold era has arrived. In Cold Sun, Mr. Casey presents the evidence showing:

1. Global warming ended years ago.
2. The Sun has entered an ominous state of ‘hibernation.’
3. The Earth’s ocean and atmospheric temperatures are dropping rapidly and are now on a long term decline for the next thirty years.
4. Glacial ice worldwide is growing again and the threat of rising sea levels is over.
5. Why we should be preparing now for the coming cold and its ill-effects including record earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions as well as global agricultural devastation.

Mr. Casey’s predictions of mother nature taking her own course fly in the face of current government policies at the national, state and local levels. In this exclusive interview Mr. Casey explains how mother nature will have her way no matter what we try to do:

While government is focused on reducing CO2 emissions to prevent global warming, the earth is in fact cooling. According to Casey this cooling will shorten the growing season causing food prices to increase, require more fuel and energy to heat homes and businesses. The US will experience an increase in the number of natural disasters costing human life loss and property damage on a grand scale. The US ability to recover from such natural disasters here and globally will be restricted by our debt and cost to service that debt in the long term.

The world’s growing population depends on food. Brian M. Carney in his article for the Wall Street Journal asks, “Can The World Still Feed Itself?“. Mr. Carney interviews Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of Nestle’ the world’s largest food-production company. According to Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe, “Politicians do not understand that between the food market and the energy market, there is a close link.” That link is the calorie.

Carney reports, “The energy stored in a bushel of corn can fuel a car or feed a person. And increasingly, thanks to ethanol mandates and subsidies in the U.S. and bio-fuel incentives in Europe, crops formerly grown for food or livestock feed are being grown for fuel. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent estimate predicts that this year, for the first time, American farmers will harvest more corn for ethanol than for feed. In Europe some 50% of the rapeseed crop is going into bio-fuel production, according to Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe, while “world-wide about 18% of sugar is being used for bio-fuel today.”

What does this all mean?

If John Casey is correct in his predictions, and SSRC always is, then cold weather brings with it a shorter growing season and increased demand for fuel to keep people warm. Therefore, we must have policies that increase calories, not decrease the food supply.

These natural events will occur during the same 30 year period where our payments on the national debt will increase to $3.8 trillion.

RELATED COLUMN: Are we living in the Hunger Games?

Only One Thing Creates “A job” – A Profit

Governor Rick Scott is flying across the state of Florida with the mission of creating jobs. Daily I receive press releases from the Governor’s office touting one business or another expanding and adding jobs. The implication is that government and the Governor had a hand in creating those jobs. The only problem is government cannot create a single job without taking money from the private sector.

Any effort by government to create a job via subsidies is a form of wealth redistribution. Government takes money from those who are profitable and gives to those who are not.

The only thing that creates a job is a profit.

Taking profit from one company (taxes) and redistributing it to another company (incentives) with a promise of job creation is not the solution, it is the problem. Companies will only create jobs if they are profitable. When a company sells more products or services than it can produce, then and only then will it hire more people to meet market demand.

The practices of Enterprise Florida have come into question recently. Enterprise Florida is the organization most responsible for the state’s redistribution (incentive) program.

Government incentives have a poor record of job creation and return on investment.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) online incentive portal shows about 1,000 companies have taken advantage of state incentives, which are largely funded with taxpayer dollars. The portal presents an accounting of all the companies since 1996 that have agreements with the DEO executed.

The following map shows the unequal distribution of DEO incentives (subsidies) to Florida’s 67 counties. Hundreds of millions of subsidies.

The map breaks down how much the businesses in each county have received in corporate income tax refunds, direct cash payments and other economic incentives. Some agreements have pending payments, and funds given to a company but later repaid are not counted. The data is compiled from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. It does not include all economic incentives, such as sales tax refunds and incentives through other state agencies, such as Workforce Florida and the Office of Film & Entertainment.

Legend: From lightest to darkest shade

  • $0
  • $0 to $1 million
  • $1 million to $2 million
  • $2 million to $4 million
  • $4 million to $10 million
  • $10 million to $40 million
  • $40 million to $150 million

Government is best at creating jobs when government governs least. As Governor Scott pointed out in his inaugural speech that the axis of unemployment are: taxation, regulation and litigation. The more Governor Scott does to address these issues the more Florida will become a haven for business.

As businesses in Florida make more profit, more jobs will be created. That is the bottom line.

The Greatest Threat to Individual Property Rights: Regionalism

There is a new movement taking place in America that threatens the ideals of home rule and property rights. It is called regionalism.

In Florida and across the United States unelected regional bodies are making decisions rather than locally elected city, county and even state officials. Individual property rights are being consumed by “public private partnerships” that dictate how land is used in order to “ensure the sustainability of America’s land, water, wildlife and cultural resources”. As if individual property owners and local duly elected government officials cannot or will not do this.

Some see regionalism as a necessary step toward the ultimate goal of globalisation.

Proponents of regionalism say that strengthening a region’s governing bodies and political powers within a larger country would promote fiscal responsibility, develop a more rational allocation of the region’s resources for the benefit of the local populations, increase the efficient implementation of local plans, raise competitiveness and efficiency levels among the regions and ultimately the whole country, and save taxpayers money.

Regionalism is bigger government and “transcends political and jurisdictional boundaries”.

Regionalism is happening at both the state and federal levels. For example, in Florida we have five water management districts under the Department of Environmental Protection that cross county boundaries. These water management districts create rules that have the force of law, yet those making the rules are not elected. These rules cover important government functions such as: Beaches, Drinking Water, Ground Water, Mining and Minerals Regulation, Oil and Gas Rules, Stormwater, Surface Water, Water and Wastewater, Water Facilities Funding, Wetlands, Environmental Resource Permitting, Sovereign Submerged Lands and Wetlands Delineation. Each one impacts individual property rights and bypass local government control. The implementers are bureaucrats who expand their powers by making more rules – a perfect formula for bigger government.

A partnership of seven SE Florida counties has come together to regionalize under the title “Seven50“. Seven50 Consultant Andres Duany, from Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, speaks about the “hope for fascism in South Florida” and how Seven50 can take local communities and “tie them into nothing”. Again, with the objective of “sustainability”. Sustainability has become the new code word for bigger government, that is unelected and not responsible nor responsive to the people affected.

Regionalism at the federal level happened with Secretarial Order No. 3289, which established Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), “a network of public-private partnerships that provide shared science to ensure the sustainability of America’s land, water, wildlife and cultural resources”. According the Department of the Interior website:

Protecting the nation’s natural and cultural resources and landscapes is essential to sustaining our quality of life and economy. Native fish and wildlife species depend on healthy rivers, streams, wetlands, forests, grasslands and coastal areas in order to thrive. Managing these natural and cultural resources and landscapes, however, has become increasingly complex. Land use changes and impacts such as drought, wildfire, habitat fragmentation, contaminants, pollution, invasive species, disease and a rapidly changing climate can threaten human populations as well as native species and their habitats.

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) recognize that these challenges transcend political and jurisdictional boundaries and require a more networked approach to conservation—holistic, collaborative, adaptive and grounded in science to ensure the sustainability of America’s land, water, wildlife and cultural resources. [Emphasis added]

 Regionalism is associated with denying or preventing universalism. Universalism refers to religious, theological, and philosophical concepts with universal application or applicability. Universalism is a term used to identify particular doctrines considering all people in their formation. The US Bill of Rights best embodies the ideals of universalism.

The Bill of Rights states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Is regionalism destructive to unalienable Rights? Is is time to abolish regionalism in the name of  the People? With recent revelations about the IRS, NSA, DOJ, EPA and other federal agencies perhaps adding the Department of Interior to the list is appropriate? Is regionalism the Fascism?

RELATED COLUMNS:

Federal government land grab: Florida ranks 15th in total land owned by the feds

“Fascism” is the best way to implement Seven50: SE Florida Prosperity Plan

Hidden provision of Obamacare raises Florida’s minimum wage

As each day goes by there are new provisions of the Affordable Care Act that impact Floridians. The most recent has been discovered by the Heritage Foundation. In a column titled “Obamacare and a Minimum Wage Hike Pricing Many Unskilled Workers Out of Their Jobs” James Sherk and Patrick Tyrrell write, “The [federal] government has already effectively raised the minimum wage above $10 per hour—without benefitting workers.”

Sherk and Tyrrell note, “Obamacare requires many employers with 50 or more employees to offer qualifying health coverage[2] to their full-time workers. This health coverage is expensive. In 2015, it will add $2.24 per hour to the cost of employing a worker with single coverage. Those that do not provide coverage face a fine of $2,000 per employee per year (after the first 30 workers) that comes out of after-tax dollars. This equates to a $3,279 increase in pre-tax payroll costs—$1.64 per hour. The Administration has delayed the mandate’s implementation until 2015. When it takes effect, it will increase the cost of hiring unskilled workers.”

Table 1 below, courtesy of Heritage, shows the impact on Florida and the other states of this mandate. It shows minimum hourly employment costs for full-time workers in 2015, the year the employer mandate takes effect. In Florida full-time employees with qualifying health benefits will cost their employers at least $10.97 per hour (with single coverage). Employers who opt to pay the penalty instead will nonetheless pay at least $10.57 per hour for labor. Both are higher than the national average.

For a larger view click on the chart.

“From an employer perspective, the government has already raised the minimum wage above $10 per hour. In 2015, full-time workers who produce less than $10.30 per hour will, on net, cost their employers money. This will make it much harder for inexperienced and unskilled workers to find full-time employment. Businesses will not hire workers at a loss,” state Sherk and Tyrrell.

So how will Florida business deal with this increase in the minimum wages?

Sherk and Tyrrell suggest, “Businesses would respond by finding new ways to lower their labor costs. Part of this would involve replacing labor with capital, shifting to automated systems wherever possible. This could take many forms, such as increasing the use of the automated cashiers that have become common in stores across the country. Or it could involve the widespread adoption of newer inventions such as the Alpha, a robotic hamburger maker that cooks over 300 gourmet burgers per hour.”

Florida’s economy is based primarily on tourism, agriculture and construction. Automation does not fit these industries well. Fixing beds and cleaning toilets in hotels cannot be automated. Picking oranges and other citrus products require manual labor. Building a home or commercial building requires skilled labor.

While Governor Scott is working to diversify the economy by making the state pro-business a rise in the minimum wage can be damaging. Scott has focused on reducing regulation, taxes and litigation. This minimum wage by fiat may negate his efforts.

EDITORS NOTE: James Sherk is Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics and Patrick D. Tyrrell is Research Coordinator in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.

Oh goody! Florida’s health & property insurance premiums are going up in 2014

Milton Friedman wrote, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.” This holds true if you put the federal government in charge of healthcare and a state government in charge of property insurance. In five years we have seen a growing shortage of property insurers in Florida. Forecasts indicate the same will happen with health insurers.

Fewer private insurers means higher costs for all policyholders.

The September 2012 Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens) rate hearing reported, “Citizens lost nearly $1 billion on sinkhole losses occurring in 2007-2011 with a loss ratio for sinkhole business for 2011 of 877%. This created net loss for the PLA for year ended 12/31/11 and resulted in less financial resources to pay for future hurricanes.” The result for 2014 will be that Citizens will levy an emergency assessment (tax) on all Florida property owners to cover its losses.

Since the report Citizens continues to drop policyholders and issue bonds to cover losses.

Business Wire in May 2013 reported, “Reinsurance coverage from Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (rated ‘AA’ by Fitch) accounts for a significant share of Citizens’ pre-event resources for the personal and commercial line accounts, and thus any potential FHCF shortfall could affect Citizens’ own liquidity. The Florida insurance market is stabilizing but remains vulnerable. The larger, financially stronger insurers have either stopped writing new policies or are completely exiting the market, shifting the risk to the smaller, thinly capitalized, Florida-only insurers that are mostly unrated or low rated.”

Citizens recently issued bonds rated A+ by Fitch. Business Wire notes, “Ultimate security for the bonds is derived from Citizen’s ability to levy ’emergency assessments’ on nearly every insurance policy holder in the state for an unlimited duration and in an unlimited cumulative amount to pay debt service on the bonds.” Soon Floridians will run out of money (sand) to pay off these bonds should a major hurricane hit.

Add on top of this the revelation that the cost of health insurance in will go up. According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation:

In the document titled, “Individual Monthly Health Insurance Premiums Before and After PPACA,” the Office utilized two separate methods for calculating potential premium increases. The first method utilized a hypothetical mid-level “silver plan” created by the Office using adjustments to a standard plan in Florida, and compared this pre-PPACA silver plan to actual silver plans filed with the Office; this resulted in an average 35.2 percent increase with a range of 7.6 percent to 58.8 percent.

A second method compared company projected premiums to a marketplace average for policies without the 2014 PPACA provisions; this resulted in an average 39.3 percent increase with a range of 14.3 percent to 55.3 percent. It is important to note that neither of these methods incorporated any potential federal subsidies or credits that might be available to individuals.

 The US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reports from January to June 2013 the labor force in Florida declined, while the number of layoff events and the size of government increased.

While under Governor Rick Scott Florida’s unemployment rate is declining, there were 665,100 still unemployed in June. In January 2008 the unemployment rate stood at 4.8%, it peaked in January 2010 at 11.4% and now stands at 7.1%.

A recent AP survey documented a significant decline in economic security. If the costs of property and health insurance rise as predicted then employers will do what they must to remain profitable – cut staff and/or cut hours. Those actions will further undermine Florida’s economic security.

Gird your loins Florida for a double insurance premium whammy in 2014.

RELATED COLUMNS:

Fla insurance officials: rates will rise under ACA

Individual health insurance rates to rise 30-40% next year…

‘Cheapest’ ObamaCare Premiums Cost Twice As Much As Existing Plans

Taxpayers to foot bill for congressional employees’ health care…

Will pay 75% of premiums…

DEAL: ‘Exempt from Obamacare’…

You Want Fries With That Union Protest?

On Thursday, Dec 5, there will be protests in more than a hundred cities across the nation directed at fast food chains, demanding an increase of the minimum wage to $15.00. Those who may be interviewed for radio and television will talk of receiving “a living wage.”

In his 2013 State of the Union speech, President Obama called for an increase in the $7.25 minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. It should come as no surprise that one of the President’s most active supports has been the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). It was identified on the liberal website, Salon.com, as “a key player” behind the strikes.

Don’t expect the mainstream media to ask who’s behind the strikes or, if informed, ask what their agenda is. The reporting will be mostly people with sad stories. You are not likely to hear about the National Employment Law Project, a liberal activist group that, since 2000, has received more than $1 million from George Soros and his Open Society Foundations.

When the government cracked down on ACORN, community organizers with whom Obama was associated, one of its reorganized groups became the New York Communities for Change (NYCC). The director of NYCC is also the director of Fast Food Forward, a group that advocates for raising the minimum wage. What emerges is a network of Leftist organizations and unions who have their own agenda, the fundamental transformation of America.

Being poor is hell, but being unemployed is even worse … unless you are receiving government benefits from free cell phones to food stamps, disability insurance, et cetera. Across the nation, fast food chains provide employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands, but most especially as an entry-level job for the young.

The concept of minimum wage laws began back in 1938 when the Great Depression was raging (not unlike today). The Fair Labor Standards Act set the minimum wage at $.25 cents per hour. After a succession of increases, it reached $5.15 in 1997 and is currently $7.25 an hour.

Being conservative, I have some real problems with the government setting such requirements because there are often unintended consequences. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics has a section devoted to the minimum wage, noting that, while it can and does set wages, it cannot guarantee a job. Indeed, “several decades of studies using aggregate time-series data from a variety of countries have found that minimum wage laws reduce employment.”

The Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank, notes that “The problem with minimum-wage increases is that they reduce access to these entry-level jobs. It is a basic tenet of economics that when the price of something rises, people buy less of it.” Liberals seem incapable of understanding this. They are all about “fairness” in a world that was never fair. Equality before the law is not the same as equality of who your parents are, where you live, the education you received, or whether you possess the skills to secure a higher wage than others.

So, while you watch the TV coverage of the protesters, keep in mind that they are demanding a wage increase that will actually reduce the number of jobs available as businesses, mostly small to medium in size, decide to lay off workers or just not hire more through automation. Keep in mind, too, that the unions’ interest in this issue is one of signing up more members whose dues will contribute to the lifestyle of their leaders and ability to use that money to support and influence liberal candidates and office-holders.

“In addition to making jobs hard to find, minimum wage laws,” says the Encyclopedia of Economics, “may also harm workers by changing how they are compensated. Fringe benefits—such as paid vacation, free room and board, inexpensive insurance, subsidized child care, and on-the-job training—are an important part of the total compensation package for many low-wage workers.”

In the end, an increased minimum wage in fast food establishments might well doom the McDonalds dollar menu and other low-cost items offered by other chains. A recent article on The Daily Caller quoted Michael Saltsman, the research director at the Employment Policies Institute, who noted that “McDonalds in Europe replaced a lot of their workers with touch screens. So instead of placing your order with a person, you are placing it with a computer screen. There is even technology that exists now to automate burger-making.”

The FACTS clearly suggest that increasing the minimum wage runs counter to all the protester’s demands for “a living wage.” I suspect that many who are employed by the fast food chains and retailers like Wal-Mart are pleased to being receiving a regular check in these hard times, even if they have to hold down more than one job to get by.

Only the Left and the unions seem to have anything to gain from these protests. They, however, thrive on demonizing big corporations while the reality of those working for minimum wage these days—52%–work for small businesses with less than a hundred employees.

These protests—and there are more planned for the summer—are completely counter-productive for the low-wage workers and their families, but it is doubtful they have any understanding of this fundamental truth.

In the end, we are all in the same boat, a nation whose growing debt, spawned by too much government spending and borrowing, is the greatest threat.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Florida veterans hit with massive property insurance rate increase on Veterans Day

Many of Florida’s 1.6 million veterans have their property insurance with United Services Automobile Association (USAA). USAA’s membership base is primarily active duty military, military retirees, veterans and their families. Over the Veterans Day weekend policyholders received their new USAA policies. Florida’s veterans were shocked that, for a second year in a row, they are being hit with a massive increase in property insurance rates. Most of Florida’s veterans are on a fixed income.

Senior Chief Geoff Ross USN (Ret.) from Navarre, Florida in an email to WDW – FL writes, “Today your friendly Senior Chief got into a pissing contest with his homeowners insurance company USAA. They just can’t stop jacking up my rates this time almost doubling my policy. So in my polite and cordial tone I called them up and politely told them where to shove their new rate. The lady actually was very nice and tried very hard not to lose me as a customer after 14 years with this company.”

A Sarasota County veteran who has been a member of USAA for thirty-nine years, saw the property insurance on his modest home go up $741.95. According to his USAA policy, “Of this amount, $693.26 is due to a rate increase, and $48.69 is due to other changes initiated by you or us.” Nothing changed on his home in 2013, which was built in 1990, and he changed nothing on his policy other than increase his deductibles in 2012 to reduce his premium. He raised his risk to keep his costs down, as he is on a fixed income.

WDW – FL contributor Ruth Roman wrote, “Flood insurance premiums for Floridians are expected to rise sharply as the result of new rate hikes which have gone into effect October 1, 2013.  ‘They are not aware of what is about to hit them,’ said Pattit Latshaw of St. Petersburg-based Wright National Flood Insurance Co., the largest underwriter of federal flood insurance in the U.S. The repercussions of these hikes will be devastating for homeowners and small businesses alike.”

When the Sarasota veteran contacted USAA about why the dramatic and costly increase he was referred to paragraph 6 of his policy which states in bold letters, “IN RESPONSE TO FLORIDA LEGISLATION SB1486, LAW AND ORDINANCE COVERAGE IS AN IMPORTANT COVERAGE THAT YOU MAY WISH TO PURCHASE. YOU MAY ALSO NEED TO CONSIDER THE PURCHASE OF FLOOD INSURANCE FROM THE NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE PROGRAM. WITHOUT THIS COVERAGE, YOU MAY HAVE UNCOVERED LOSSES. PLEASE DISCUSS THESE COVERAGES WITH YOUR INSURANCE AGENT.”

The Sarasota veteran’s USAA policy also states in paragraph 9, “Your policy does NOT cover loss due to flood from any source. For information about obtaining flood coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), call USAA at (800) 531-8722, or contact the NFIP directly.”

The NFIP website states, “In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 which calls on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other agencies, to make a number of changes to the way the NFIP is run. As the law is implemented, some of these changes have already occurred, and others will be implemented in the coming months. Key provisions of the legislation will require the NFIP to raise rates to reflect true flood risk, make the program more financially stable, and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) updates impact policyholders. The changes will mean premium rate increases for some – but not all — policyholders over time.”

Florida is hardest hit as it is both flood and hurricane prone. The Sarasota veterans home is not in, but is near, a floodplain. The Sarasota, Florida veteran also noted that his property insurance policy includes coverage for: Volcanic Eruption; Weight of Ice, Snow or Sleet; Explosion; Riot or Civil Commotion; and Aircraft.

If the Sarasota veteran’s home is not in a flood plain then what caused such a dramatic increase in his annual property insurance premium? Answer: Surcharges.

His USAA policy statement under “surcharges” lists the following:

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT FUND $2.00
FL HURRICANE CATASTROPHE FUND (FHCF) PREMIUM RECOUPMENT $276.45
FL HURRICANE CATASTROPHE EMERGENCY ASSESSMENT $48.51
CITIZENS EMERGENCY ASSESSMENT $37.32
FL INSURANCE GUARANTY ASSOCIATION RECOUPMENT $22.12

Total – $386.40

Chief Ross noted something else strange when talking with his USAA insurance agent.

ross fish pond

Chief Ross’ Koi fish pond. For a larger view click on the image.

“Well what was interesting was this fact. I put in a Koi fish pond a few years ago in my backyard. Its pretty cool and it has fed many Blue Herons in the past that swoop in and steal my aquatic buddies. But check this out. The lady on the phone said I have a beautiful house and my back yard is lovely with a lovely pond. Let me tell you boys and girls I did not tell my insurance company I put in a Koi pond. There is only one way you can see this feature due to my location and that is from the air,” notes Ross.

Ross concludes, “Using my superior skills of decisive intellect and previous life hanging out with CIA operators I conclude these people took aerial pictures of my house to see if I am adding improvements, pool, etc.I am so isolated out here surrounded by trees etc. the only way to see in my back is from above. I asked the lady how did she know I have a fish pond in my backyard and she did not reply. I could here her shuffling the pictures of my home around in her hand. Boys and girls if you have homeowners insurance with USAA and you put in a swimming pool or add on a new room they will know about it…… look above you for the satellite taking pictures. Skinny dippers beware.”

So veterans across Florida are faced with either paying the higher premiums, taking on more risk to reduce their property insurance rate or cancelling their USAA policy. Happy Veterans Day 2013!

Have Senators Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson and Rep. Vern Buchanan turned Florida into a permanent state of dependency?

Three key members of Congress from Florida are Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL District 16). These three men are perhaps the most powerful and influential in the sunshine state. Each has voted in different ways which may have turned Florida into a permanent state of dependency. Each is key to major events occurring in Washington, D.C. such as the national debt, the sequester, government spending and amnesty.

Senator Rubio has become the face of immigration reform and amnesty. Senator Nelson has consistently voted in favor of amnesty and to grow and expand government. Representative Buchanan, along with 86 House Republicans, on October 16th voted to raise the debt ceiling, continue funding government via a continuing resolution and fully implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

According to ImmigrationReform.com, “What Republicans will get from amnesty and continued mass immigration is a lot of new voters who are likely to vote against them – like, about 32 million of them by 2036. Most of the new voters who could be added to the voter rolls as a result of amnesty and increased legal immigration are likely to support bigger government. Among Hispanic voters, whom some Republicans hope to attract by supporting amnesty, 75 percent say they want bigger government, which provides more services and benefits. Only 19 percent say they support smaller government. This is hardly fertile recruiting grounds for the party that stands for cutting the size and scope of government.”

Since 2000, Florida and those living in Florida legally and illegally have become more dependent on federal and state government benefits, grants, funding and largesse.

The Institute for Truth in Accounting state database for Florida, with charts, shows just how dependent the state is on federal programs and funding. Some examples include:

  • Medicaid enrollment has increased from 1.5 million to 3 million since 2000. Medicaid recipients are now over 15% of the population of Florida, up from 10% in 2000. (Under the Affordable Care Act more of those living in Florida will get benefits as eligibility has expanded.)
  • Medicaid spending in Florida has risen from $7.5 billion in 2000 to $17.5 billion in 2011.
  • The Florida poverty rate (ACS) has risen from 13% in 2000 to 17% in 2011 with the PCS poverty rate going from 11% in 2000 to 15% in 2011.
  •  Florida Food Stamp (SNAP) participation has gone from 900,000 in 2000 to over 3 million in 2011.  In 2011 Florida had 16% of its population on SNAP.
  • Federal funds distributed per capita was nearly $10,000 in 2009.
  • State government spending has risen from 8.5% in 2000 to over 12% in 2011 as a percentage of nominal GDP.
  • Total Florida expenditures has risen from $68 billion in 2005 to $82 billion in 2011.
  • Florida state debt has risen from 4.1% of GDP in 2005 to 5.9% in 2011 (it peaked at 6% in 2008).
  • Florida’s total retirement liabilities have risen from less than $.25 billion in 2009 to over $1 billion in 2012 with $13 billion undisclosed. This has happened even as the number of government employees has dropped from 6.1% of the population in 2000 to 5.8% of the population in 2012.
  • Total revenue has gone from $75 billion in 2005 to $102 billion in 2011. Total revenues dropped to $47 billion in 2009 and have doubled since then.
  • Intergovernmental revenues have increased from $19 billion in 2005 to $27 billion in 2011. Intergovernmental expenditures have gone from $17 billion in 2005 to $20 billion in 2011.
  • Expenditures on public education have risen from $14 billion in 2000 to $24 billion in 2010.
  • From 2000 t0 2012 personal income per capita has gone from $30,000 to $40,000.

Florida is becoming more dependent on federal funding to meet its obligations. Those living in Florida have grown to depend on federal and state programs to subsist. Florida now has three distinct classes: the wealthy class, the working class and the dependent class. This does not bode well for a efforts to reduce government spending, cut federal and state programs and reduce Florida’s dependence on government.

RELATED COLUMNS:

1 in 3 Florida retirees who receive Social Security survive solely on government checks – Sun Sentinel

Institute for Truth in Accounting finds Florida can’t pay its bills!

According to analysis by the Institute for Truth in Accounting (ITA), Florida does not have enough assets available ($59 billion), to pay the state’s bills, ($74 billion). The difference between assets and bills is $15 billion. That debt divided by the number of taxpayers reveals Florida’s per-taxpayer burden of $2,500 in 2012.  Only seven states–Alaska, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Nebraska, and Wyoming–achieved a per-taxpayer surplus in 2012.

“Florida lagged behind the 180 day goal time between the close of its fiscal year and release of its 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), publishing the report 221 days after the fiscal year-end,” according to ITA.

SNAPSHOT BY THE NUMBERS

Florida’s Bills Exceed Its Assets:

  • Assets *$179.24
  • Less: Capital Assets *$94.96
  • Restricted Assets *$24.80
  • Assets Available to Pay Bills *$59.48
  • Less: Bills *$74.29
  • Money Needed to Pay Bills *$14.81
  • Each Taxpayer’s Burden$2,500.00

The Bills Florida has Accumulated:

  • State Bonds *$39.48
  • Other Liabilities *$34.18
  • Less: Debt Related to Capital Assets *$12.75
  • Unfunded Pension Benefits *$6.80
  • Unfunded Retirees’ Health Care Benefits *$6.59
  • Bills *$74.29

* Figures in billions

More detail on Florida’s assets and liabilities can be found in the Florida State of the State (2011). Link to FL CAFR: Florida Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Publishing Entity:  Florida Chief Financial Officer. According to the ITA:

  • Florida’s per-taxpayer burden shrank to $2,500 in 2012, and the state’s rank remained 14th.
  • With an average personal income of $40,344, Florida’s taxpayer burden shrank marginally to 6.2% of a year’s income.
  • Florida’s unemployment rate was 8.6%, compared to a national average of 8.1% in 2012.
  • Outbound moves from Florida in 2012 were 45.3% of total moves, compared to inbound moves of 54.7%, meaning that the state attracted more people and businesses than the number that left.
  • Florida’s financial reports disclose only $1 billion of retirement liabilities, leaving $13.3 billion undisclosed.
  • Florida’s ‘Net Revenue’ (total general revenue less total net expenses) was positive in 2012 and was negative in only one of the past seven years (2009). This amount, however, does not include changes in liabilities not fully disclosed such as pensions and retiree health insurance. Read more on ‘Net Revenue‘.

ABOUT THE INSTITUTE FOR TRUTH IN ACCOUNTING

The Institute for Truth in Accounting has a unique, comprehensive methodology to analyze all state assets and liabilities, including unreported pension and retirement health liabilities.  The result is shown as the per-taxpayer surplus or liability, the difference in each state’s assets and liabilities divided by the number of taxpayers in the state. 

Benefit Corporations: The new government-industrial complex

President Eisenhower warned America about a growing military-industrial complex stating, “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Whenever and wherever government and industry partner Americans face “the acquisition of unwarranted influence”.

Most recently we saw how appointed officials working in partnership with a corporation can directly impact every Floridian. Robert Trigaux, Tampa Bay Times Business Columnist, in “At the PSC, a confederacy of yes men — and women” wrote:

The first thing we do is pass a truth-in-government law that changes the name of the Florida Public Service Commission [PSC] to the Florida Utility Suckup Club.

The PSC hearing held in Tallahassee this past week was beyond embarrassing. It was billed as a review and vote on a proposed settlement with Duke Energy Florida to finalize who gets stuck paying for the $5 billion wasted by the company on the broken Crystal River and the proposed-then-canceled Levy County nuclear power plants.

The vote: 4 to 1 in favor of the settlement agreement. Duke Energy’s Florida customers — victims would be a better word — will pay a whopping 64 percent, or $3.2 billion. Duke shareholders will pay just 20 percent, or $1 billion. The rest will be covered by an insurance policy.

This is a terrible precedent.

Trigaux and Floridians should be prepared for ever more “terrible” precedents.

Since Eisenhower’s speech in 1961 Florida has seen a government industrial complex with growing influence — economic, political, even spiritual — felt in every city, county and in Tallahassee. This greatest threat to one-man-one-vote and local control of government goes by many names: globalization, regionalism, sustainability and a new form of corporation called simply “B” Corp or “Benefit Corporation”.

According to the BenefitCorp.net website, “Certified B Corporations are leading a global movement to redefine success in business…Business, the most powerful man-made force on the planet, must create value for society, not just shareholders…Over 600 businesses have already joined our community, encouraging all companies to compete not just to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world. As a result of our collective success, individuals and communities will enjoy greater economic opportunity, society will address its most challenging environmental problems, and more people will find fulfillment by bringing their whole selves to work.”

Esquire magazine is quoted on the B Corp website, “B Corps might turn out to be like civil rights for blacks or voting rights for women – eccentric, unpopular ideas that took hold and changed the world.” B Corps want to fundamentally change American business.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have passed Benefit Corporation legislation. There is a move to pass Benefit Corporation legislation in Florida. The model Benefit Corporation legislations states, “This chapter authorizes the organization of a form of business corporation that offers entrepreneurs and investors the option to build, and invest in, businesses that operate with a corporate purpose broader than maximizing shareholder value and a responsibility to consider the impact of its decisions on all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Enforcement of those duties comes not from governmental oversight, but rather from new provisions on transparency and accountability included in this chapter.”

This fundamental change has been embraced by the Florida Chamber of Commerce in the form or regionalization. In July 2012, Dale A. Brill, Ph.D., wrote on the Florida Chamber website, “Let’s get the bad news out of the way: Too many participants in the private and public economic development arena are missing the considerable opportunity represented by regionalism when they insist on going it alone—even when there is insufficient economic density to make a real difference despite the best of intentions.”

Brill notes, “Let’s start with three straight-forward explanations of regionalism that you already know to be true but may not recognize as one in the same: ‘There is strength in numbers.’ ‘The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.’ ‘I get by with a little help from my friends.’ … Regionalism’s genesis can be traced to the increasing role played by coordinated investments as catalysts for economic development.”

Brill uses Harvard professor Michael Porter’s definition of economic regions, “Economic regionalism exists where geographically contiguous regions coordinate economic development activities tied to a comprehensive economic development strategy.  Economic regionalism focuses on the collaboration of organizations, governments, and businesses across multiple jurisdictions. These stakeholders work to manage the economic opportunities and constraints created by the geographic and social characteristics of a region.”

Regionalism, sustainability and “B” Corps are part of the idea of globalization. Everything feeds into a system that move power – economic, political, even spiritual – away from the city and county into regions that can have grave consequences that Florida is just experiencing with Duke Power – Florida.

Milton Friedman wrote, “Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.” What we are seeing is the government and businesses working in concert to protect each other at the expense of consumers. The Duke Power – Florida is a case in point.

As Trigaux wrote, “There are a few voices expressing opposition. But they are faint and few…I fear for Florida.”

EDITORS NOTE:

Florida League of Cities in addition to individual municipalities, leagues and organizations of local community authorities have also endorsed the Earth Charter. ICLEI – The Local Governments for Sustainability endorsed the Earth Charter – Sustainable Development in the year 2000. The Florida League of Cities, which is a voluntary municipal league comprised of 404 of Florida’s 408 municipalities and six charter counties, endorsed the Earth Charter in 2001. In the same year, the Earth Charter was also endorsed by the US Conference of Mayors, the official nonpartisan organization of the nation’s 1,183 cities with populations over 30,000.

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) serves as the national voice for regionalism. NARC advocates for and provides services to its member councils of government and metropolitan planning organizations.

RELATED: 

What is a corporation?

Benefit Corporations: The Demise of Free Enterprise

VIDEO: Florida Chamber of Commerce – The Importance of Regionalism to Florida’s Future

Regionalism and Fair Housing Enforcement

Walter Tejada Elected to National Association of Regional Councils to promote Regionalism

Community Progress Blog – The BUILD Act of 2013: How EPA brownfield funds can create more sustainable communities by Kate O’Brien, Groundwork USA

The top twelve deficit gimmicks the President & Congress use to defraud the American people

Joseph J. Dioguardi is a former member of Congress from New York and Certified Public Accountant. Dioguardi in his book “Unaccountable Congress: It Doesn’t Add Up” lists the top twelve gimmicks Congress uses to hide the true costs of government from the people. These gimmicks have been used for decades by both Republican and Democrat administrations, Congresses under both parties and government agencies.

The idea behind these gimmicks is to “[K]eep Americans in the dark (or – I should say – in the red!), writes, Dioguardi.

Dioguardi calls this “plastic budgeting”. As David A. Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Ronald Reagan, stated, “As the fiscal crisis has worsened and the political conflict intensified we have increasingly resorted to squaring the circle with accounting gimmicks, evasions, half-truths and downright dishonesty in our budget numbers, debate and advocacy. Indeed, if the Securities and Exchange Commission had jurisdiction over the executive and legislative branches, many of us would be in jail.”

Fast forward to the 2013 “fiscal crisis” and “political conflict” in Washington, D.C. since October 1st.

Dioguardi characterizes the government budget as, “[F]ar from rock solid. It is metaphorically, plastic budgeting, approved by people with little plastic cards and elastic standards of fiscal integrity.” He lists the following “dirty dozen” methods of “budget chicanery developed over the years.” The following are taken from Chapter 2 of Dioguardi’s book. Readers can point to current examples of each gimmick being used today by the President and Congress.

GIMMICK 1: FUDGING THE ECONOMIC NUMBERS

When you project a federal budget for a future year, someone has to arrive at a set of crucial economic assumptions…But what are the “best” numbers and assumptions to use? That depends in large part upon for whom one works. The OMB, the Executive Office of the President, tends to generate numbers that will make the president look good –  usually low inflation, high real growth, low interest rates, and a shrinking budget deficit. For example, the 1982 budget resolution forecast a $1 billion surplus for fiscal year 1984; in fact, there was a $175 billion deficit.

GIMMICK 2: OFF-BUDGET TREATMENT

If your spending program threatens to increase the budget deficit, there is a very straightforward way of neutralizing it: Put it “off budget.” A recent example of this technique lies in the operation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). It takes tax dollars to fill up the SPR with purchased oil, and that exacerbates the deficit. So in 1989 the Bush Administration simply declared the reserve to be off budget. That reduced the expected deficit by $3.7 billion, but the Treasury had to go out and borrow the money to pay for it.

GIMMICK 3: THE CURRENT SERVICES BUDGET

The 1974 Budget Act requires the president to submit a “current services” budget showing what it would cost to keep government running another year if there were no changes in policy. Congress’ trick is to make a change in policy to restrain spending, then brag about a cut, when in fact the only cut is to the projected level of spending under existing policy.

GIMMICK 4: THE MAGIC ASTERISK

The magic asterisk is probably one of the most notorious budget gimmicks, and also one of the easiest to understand. In his book David Stockman describes its invention in the crucial 1981 budget very candidly. The [Reagan] Administrations “Chapter Two” reductions fell far short of the $130 billion needed to meet the budget target. “Bookkeeping invention this began its wondrous works. We invented the ‘magic asterisk.’ If we couldn’t find saving in time – and we couldn’t – we would issue an IOU. We would call it ‘future savings to be identified.’ It was marvelously creative. A magic asterisk item would cost a negative $30 billion … $40 billion … whatever it took to get a balanced budget in 1984 after we totaled up all the individual budget cuts we’d actually approved.” That year the magic asterisk came out to equal $44 billion.

GIMMICK 5: THE FRAUD, WASTE AND ABUSES EXCUSE

Since there are few if any defenders of fraud, waste and abuse, a member of Congress can denounce such things with impunity, and sound very good to the constituents back home. Actually achieving savings by rooting out these costly activities is a lot more difficult. For instance, in the fiscal 1982 budget, the House Budget Committee simply invented savings of $6 billion the expected benefit from finding and eliminating the terrible threesome.

GIMMICK 6: TRUST FUND DEFICIT MASKING

This is a dandy little scam because it produces big numbers – mainly because the biggest trust fund is Social Security…Now one of the most cherished Social Security fictions is that the trust fund balance is invested to accumulate at interest for 30 or 40 years, until it is needed to pay benefits to future retirees. Of course, nobody had the faintest idea where the fraud, waste and abuse could or would be found. Congress just declared that eliminating it would produce this amount of savings…[T]here is no such trust fund in any meaningful sense: it is just the accounting equivalent of a large cookie jar filled with notes reading “Ma, I’ll pay the missing cookies back later – honest.

GIMMICK 7: THE GIVE-AND-TAKE

The debt limit increase bill of 1972 contained a bold, unequivocal provision, section 201(a), which declared that not a penny more than $250 billion could be spent on federal programs in fiscal year 1973. Immediately below it came section 201(b), which said the ceiling imposed by section 201(a) would become null and void one day after the bill was signed into law, along with any action taken during that one day – presumably by President Nixon.

GIMMICK 8: PHONY LIABILITY VALUATIONS

What if you unwisely lend your shiftless brother-in-law $5,000 to buy a used car, and soon after he skips town for Mexico. You are later asked by your bank for a net-worth statement so you can get a loan for a new home. On your statement, under “Assets,” you put “Promissory note – $5,000″…Unfortunately Uncle Sam makes this kind of bluff all the time. For example, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which insures your bank account to $100,000, collects premiums from banks to build up a reserve…But in the 1980s a massive contraction of agricultural land values and oil prices hit parts of the county… Banks started going under everywhere. The FDIC continued to value the loans of their insured banks at face value, even though the values obviously were plummeting.

GIMMICK 9: FRONT LOADING

A favorite trick of budgeteers is to front-load a new program – collecting taxes to pay for it for a year or so before the benefits begin to be paid out. Thus for a year or two the deficit is reduced by the new revenues. Only in the later years do the program costs overwhelm the revenues and add to the deficit – but, of course, that somebody else’s problem.

GIMMICK 10: RECONCILIATION SAVINGS

Some of the most creative work ever done by Congress comes in the statements by House committees as to how they propose to meet the guidelines of the first budget resolution. That resolution tells each authorizing committee of the House (and Senate) to adjust its program to meet a target number. “Bold face lying” would be too mild a term to describe the responses to this unwelcome instruction.

GIMMICK 11: SHIFTING SPENDING TO ANOTHER YEAR

This gimmick has been around for a long time and is very popular. If requires only changing the date of an expenditure to fall into a different fiscal year, so that the current fiscal year’s deficit objectives are more likely to be met.

GIMMICK 12: THE MONSTER BILL

The bigger and more impenetrable a spending bill is, the more likely it is to conceal lots of budgetary stinkers…The monster bill has another vice. Once passed by Congress, the bill either can be signed or vetoed by the president – there is no middle ground. Thus Congress is fond of throwing in lots of separate provisions that the president ordinarily would veto, but can’t, since he would have to veto the whole bill and shut down the government.

Americans are waking up to these gimmicks and others used to pull the wool over their eyes. Since Dioguardi wrote his book we have seen TARP, QE 1 and QE 2, massive fraud, waste and abuse in multiple government programs and bailouts of banks, investments in pet green projects and the auto industry. All gimmicks that cost taxpayers, not the members of Congress.

RELATED: The Most Expensive Credit Card in the World – A Congressman’s Voting Card

The Most Expensive Credit Card in the World – A Congressman’s Voting Card

As the government shut down debate rages inside the Washington, D.C. beltway over the continuing resolution, as there has been no budget for five years, and the debt ceiling, Floridians and Americans in general are seeing the true nature of a dysfunctional federal government. Many are concerned that Congress is exceeding the ability of taxpayers to pay for government.

As Thomas Jefferson, who faced huge personal debt throughout his lifetime, wrote in a June 1807 letter to John Norvell, “I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.”

When Congress fails to place economy as the first virtue, the economy suffers.

Terence P. Jeffrey from CNS News reported, “The U.S. Treasury needed to pay off a record of approximately $7,546,726,000,000 in maturing Treasury securities in fiscal 2013, which ended last Monday, according to Treasury’s official accounting. During the same period, the Treasury turned around and issued another $8,323,949,000,000 in new Treasury securities. The spread between the old debt held by the public that matured and was paid off during the fiscal year and the new debt that was sold to cover government spending over and above tax revenues, increased the net federal government debt held by the public by $777.223 billion during the fiscal year.”

This act by the US Treasury is the equivalent of paying off a credit card with a credit card. But how can Congress and the Executive Branch do this?

Simple according to Joseph J. Dioguardi, former member of Congress from New York and Certified Public Accountant. Dioguardi in his book “Unaccountable Congress: It Doesn’t Add Up” writes, “Now what if you had a charge card with no credit limit, one that sends you only one statement a year – and a confused one at that. And suppose that your weren’t required to pay the balance: you could postpone payment into next year or event to the next century. What would you say?”

US House of Representatives voting card

Dioguardi had one of these cards and so do 435 other Americans. It is a member of Congress’ voting card.

Dioguardi wrote, “And the best part of it: Once you’re a member of Congress, you never get the bill, and they don’t deduct the amount of your congressional spending votes from your paycheck…[I]ts the closest thing to financial Easy Street there is in America today.”

“There is one small annoyance with The Most Expensive Credit Card in the World. It’s called the debt limit or, more specifically, the Second Liberty Bond Act,” notes Dioguardi.

According to Dioguardi when the Congress, “borrows to finance the deficit, it never worries about paying it back. When its bond, notes and bills come due, the Treasury simply issues more bonds, notes and bills and uses the proceeds to redeem the old ones. This is the fiscal equivalent of what Ponce de Leon was looking for in the jungles of Florida – the Fountain of Youth.”

According to the Congressional Research Service, “Total debt of the federal government can increase in two ways. First, debt increases when the government sells debt to the public to finance budget deficits and acquire the financial resources needed to meet its obligations. This increases debt held by the public. Second, debt increases when the federal government issues debt to certain government accounts, such as the Social Security, Medicare, and Transportation trust funds, in exchange for their reported surpluses. This increases debt held by government accounts. The sum of debt held by the public and debt held by government accounts is the total federal debt.”

The public and the government are one in the same. The federal debt is held by every US citizen. According to the US Debt Clock that is $53,556 per citizen or $148,227 per taxpayer. This does not include the $1,100,984 per taxpayer for all unfunded liabilities incurred by Congress for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Dioguardi calls Congress a “House of Ill Repute.” It is difficult for WDW – FL to disagree with a CPA.

The waste, fraud and abuse in the Social Security administered disability program is highlighted in this CBS News 60 Minutes special investigative report: