Sunday, July 31, 2011

Obama's Indirect Tax Through Keynesian Economics

Even this tax-and-spend President has agreed that raising taxes during a weak economic period is a bad idea because it would further exacerbate an already languishing economy. But, indirectly, that's exactly what he and his previous completely Democrat-controlled Congress did through a massive "stimulus" spending program.

John Maynard Keynes, certainly the pure consciousness of Keynesian economic theory, correctly assumed and stated that the total aggregate demand (spending) in any economy is a direct result of the spending activity by (1) the public sector (state, local, and federal governments) and (2) the private sector (consumers and business). Further, he theorized that "if" private sector demand fell during an economic downturn, the economy could be righted, again, by simply increasing the amount of spending by the public sector; and, thus, offsetting any loss of demand in the private sector. In theory, it seems so elegantly simple and logical. Thus, we have the basis of "stimulative" spending that almost every Democrat believes to be the key to good recession-beating economics.

But, what Keynes (and the Democrats) totally missed the boat on, is the fact that all that stimulative spending would severely devalue our currency. In fact, in the last 2-1/2 years, the the U.S. dollar has lost more of its value against a market-basket of other key currencies than it had in the 15 years prior to Obama taking office. And, in an economy, like ours, which is so dependent on consumer spending and with a consumer who is so dependent on imported goods, this is pure economic poison.

In our economy, the consumer reigns king; normally representing about 70% of our total economic activity. The remaining 30% is comprised of a combination of public sector and private business spending. So, if, in any way, you hamper the consumer's ability to spend money by diverting a bigger chunk of their paycheck to either higher or new taxes or through higher prices, the economy would be doomed to falter; a fact that we are now seeing after having spent trillions to supposedly "stimulate" the economy.

The reality is that the consumer's paycheck has been under assault by the continuing devaluation of the dollar; which, in turn, has driven import prices higher and higher. In fact, in the last Import Price Report, the "average" of all import prices rose 13.6% -- year over year -- while the American paycheck has remained fairly stagnant. As a result of this inflation, the American consumer has seen their gasoline expenses double under Obama's watch; with the "average" 2-car family now paying about $2000 more per year. (Please note: The doubling of gasoline prices is only partly driven by the dollar's loss in value. The rest of the price inflation is due to the speculation that future demand could outstrip supply; eventually making world oil prices skyrocket. The demand side of this speculation is also being driven by the increasing need for oil by some rapidly emerging economies such as China and India. In addition, the instability in the Middle East could result in supply shortages. Also, there are foreseen supply limitations in this country due to Obama's anti-drilling policies; especially since America, with only 5% of the world's population, uses 25% of world's entire oil supplies.)

On top of higher oil prices, the consumer has seen their average food bill rise by almost 30% since 2009. That's because much our nation's food bill is for imported products. For example, 70% of our seafood comes in from other countries. Most all of the nation's fresh, off-season fruits and vegetables are imported. Even that morning caffe latte is dependent on coffee being brought in from places like Columbia. In addition, food prices are also very sensitive to rising energy prices. That's because gasoline and diesel fuels and electricity are heavily involved in every aspect of food production and in the delivery to market. While I have not been able to determine an exact number, my guess is that an average family of four has seen their food bill rise by at lease $2200 a year since the value started dropping in 2009.

Also, in a surprising way, domestically grown foods and food products are seeing prices rise as a result of the devalued dollar. That's because, as the dollar weakens, our farm goods and our manufactured goods actually become cheaper; overseas. That may seem like a good thing; and, for the most part, it is. But, it also has an adverse effect by increasing the demand for all those now-cheaper American farm goods that are supply-limited due to the fixed available acreage that can be dedicated to that products production. In effect, as our products get cheaper overseas, we find ourselves competing with the rest of the world for our own farm products. As a result, the extra demand -- given effects of the Law of Supply and Demand --- causes prices to rise domestically. Sometimes, farmers, seeing a more lucrative opportunity for an exporting farm good, will switch crops to a more attractive and profitable exportable product. When this happens, a supply-void occurs for the farm product being abandoned. As a result, that product, too, will see its prices rise as supplies decline.

The bottom line is that the stimulus package, by virtue of a weakened dollar, is actually having the opposite of its intended effect because it, for the most part, hurts the primary driver of the economy: the American consumer. Added to this, consumer spending is being further eroded by all the new taxes and increases on existing taxes that are being applied by individual state, county, and local governments across this country, as those governments try to push back against their rising deficits. But, as in the case of the weakened dollar, raising taxes just causes the economy to decline even further; thus, conversely, causing deficits to increase from an economy that gets even weaker.

I believe that the adverse effects of the stimulus spending (and taxes) can be clearly seen in the chart (below) which shows that our economic activity declined as more and more stimulus money (and taxes) is applied:

Prior to the application of any stimulus funds, the economy was actually on the mend as noted by this chart of Gross Domestic Spending:

Visually, there is an obvious change in our economy's direction as the stimulus money rolls out. The chart above clearly shows how the economy was recovering and, if left alone without stimulus funds, it would probably be doing fine right now. Instead, we are on the verge of going negative; once again.

I just think the economy would have been better served by reducing the amount of Federal spending; not increasing it. In that way, import prices would have actually fallen because the dollar would have strengthened. This, then, would have promoted increased consumer activity and that would have resulted in renewed hiring instead of the increased unemployment we have now. While it is a fact that exporting corporations might have been hurt by strengthening the dollar -- making their products more expensive in the world marketplace -- that fact could have been easily mitigated by reducing the corporate tax rate. Furthermore, Congress could have helped stimulate corporate business activity by passing legislation that would have allowed multinational companies to return profits back to the U.S. without any penalty of Federal taxation. Right now, those profits would not only be taxed in the foreign country in which they were earned, but also by the U.S government; should any of those profits be returned to this country. As a result, much of those funds are used to help the economies of the countries of origin and not the United States.

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