12-20-12 Waconia Patriot Letters to the Editor

Entitlement spending must be kept in check

To the editor:

I would like to comment on a letter published in your Dec. 13 paper from Bruce Helmer.
Mr. Helmer attempts to make a couple points that really surprised me. First of all he blames George Bush for the 16 trillion plus dollar debt that our country has. I agree that a portion of the underlying causes of the debt increases started under George Bush. Problem is, President Obama has not done a thing about it.
In fact, in less than four years, he has already more than doubled the debt accumulated by George Bush and there is no end in sight. Instead of focusing on solving the biggest fiscal problem our country has faced since WWII, he spent his time and energy giving us ObamaCare. By the way, most Republicans I know are quite unhappy with much of the unfunded spending initiated by George Bush.
A second point made by Mr. Helmer that surprised me even more is his statement that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid “have not significantly contributed to the current debt problem.” Without getting into the numbers, everything I read indicates that these three entitlement programs are by far the largest single share of federal government spending and MUST be reigned in if we ever expect to get back to a balanced budget.
While increasing taxes on the rich makes for good political rhetoric, it would only put a dent in the entitlement spending we are currently doing.

Steve Nielsen

Debt problems can be traced to both parties

To the editor:

The recent letter from Mr. Bruce Helmer on Dec. 13 exemplifies how the modern day liberal thinks. Mr. Helmer’s recitation of Democrat talking points and historical revision can be used as a teachable moment. While space doesn’t allow a full rebuttal, the more egregious assertions will be covered.
The reader must understand that to the left, George W. Bush is the source of all evils — past, present and well into the next millennium. While both parties supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, only now is spending an issue. Why? Because the left assigns those dollars to the 43rd President and all blame begins with him. When the war spending ends, do you for a moment think the “savings” will be put toward paying down debt?
President Bush did spend too much money elsewhere. Many on the right were not happy with some of his programs, including Medicare part D. The left, including Helmer, loves to blame the Bush Tax Cuts for the present debt. However the facts don’t support this contention.
Those cuts occurred in two waves, 2001 and 2003. According to the IRS, total revenue to the federal government rose from $793B in ‘03 to $1.16T in ‘07 — a 47 percent increase. Capital gains were cut in ‘03 by 25 percent but still revenues doubled by ‘05. On those numbers, the CBO was predicting surpluses by 2012. The IRS data continues — by showing 52 months of job growth with the creation of 8 million new jobs and an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. Business investment went up (6.7 percent) along with personal after-tax wealth (11 percent). The stock market added $7T in new wealth and the economy grew for 73 consecutive months. However, the housing bubble burst in 2008 due to the ill conceived Community Redevelopment Act and that put an end to the Bush era economic growth.
Of the $16 trillion in current debt, you can break it down this way. The first third can be attributed to the first 43 presidents, Washington to Clinton. The next third belongs to President Bush’s eight years in office. The last third is the responsibility of President Obama’s almost completed first term. On its present trajectory, economists predict something above $20 trillion at the end of his next term.
Helmer’s position is that the entitlements of SS, Medicare/Medicaid “have not significantly contributed to the current debt problem.” Well, lets go the facts once again. Last year SS payouts added $165B to the deficit. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring daily, that number is going to rise dramatically. Democrats like to believe that the “trust fund” is solvent to 2033. However the creative bookkeeping method in the form of IOUs are such that the OMB must conclude, “do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits.” That is a clever way of saying the federal ponzi scheme is broken. The SS Board of Trustees currently reports 1.75 workers per recipient. Compare that with 49 “covered” workers in 1945. The OMB further concluded that future benefits “will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing or reducing benefits and other expenditures.”
The Medicare Board of Trustees report isn’t any better. In their 2011 report, they state the Part A (hospital insurance) ran a $28B deficit and will be insolvent in 12 years. The unfunded obligations of the program is $42.7 T and dwarfs the “fiscal cliff.” Go look at Table II.B.1 if you don’t believe me.
All this before the sobering burden of Obamacare is fully implemented!
As long as the Democrats continue to keep entitlement spending off the table, the present “cliff talk” is just the tip of the iceberg! The left continues to play the class warfare game.
Helmer discounts any tax law revision that might expose your investments/pension to new taxes. Evidently he is not paying attention to the current discussion. Remember: what the IRS gives, it can take away.
Helmer also tries to lay blame on Sen. Mitch McConnell with the unilateral raising of the debt ceiling. The is an outright falsehood! Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner made the proposal on Nov. 29 as part of the “cliff” talks. The idea was to give Obama the power to raise the debt ceiling without Congressional approval. McConnell countered that with his Dec.6 parliamentary move to force the Democrats in the Senate to vote for this. Sen. Reid saved his colleagues this embarrassing vote by a filibuster move. Get your facts straight, Bruce! Congress needs to own up to its excessive spending by forcing themselves to raise the debt ceiling. Listen, there is plenty of blame for both parties!
Finally we come to the Clinton era/Helmer re-write of history. A summation of Clinton’s 1993 tax increases were: 1) raising the top marginal rate from 31 to 39.6 percent; 2) removal of the 2.9 percent Medicare tax cap, 3) increased the federal gas tax .043 cents and other additional taxes. The economy was in its 22nd month of growth when he took office. From ‘93 to ‘97 it grew at a paltry 3.3 percent. It was not until the ‘97 Republican led Congress which lowered capital gains tax from 28 percent to 20 percent. This opened the coffers for new investments, growth and economic expansion. Clinton was dragged kicking and screaming to the signing table but now basks in the historical revision.
I hope Mr. Helmer conducts his day job with more accuracy and seriousness than his fanciful discourse here. His penchant for fictional writing however, may do well in the children’s section. For his first effort here though, he deserves a lump of coal.
Merry Christmas to all the readers and say a prayer for the folks in Newtown.

Joe Polunc