Fudging The Numbers (As Usual)

Townhall posted an article today about President Biden’s plan to pay for his massive spending programs. He plans to close the gap between what taxpayers legally owe and what the IRS actually takes in.

The article reports:

Commissioner Rettig’s testimony appeared to provide groundbreaking new information that the tax gap has reached $1 trillion, with major media outlets like the New York Times taking this statement as gospel — even though it’s nearly three times what had been previously estimated by the IRS. Rettig’s statements were soon followed by a plan from Biden to raise $780 billion over the next decade by spending $80 billion on increased enforcement.

But the context of Rettig’s statements show that it was not a new agency estimate. Rettig was asked by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to state his “personal opinion” on the size of the tax gap, and responded by saying that “it would not be outlandish to believe” that the tax gap “could approach or possibly even exceed $1 trillion.” Note also that the IRS Commissioner made this statement while trying to secure increased agency funding.

While this statement may be interesting, to portray it as equivalent to an official IRS estimate is absurd. Less than two years ago, the IRS estimated that, after factoring in enforcement and late payments, the net tax gap was $381 billion. Clearly the gap hasn’t more than doubled in just over 18 months.

The article notes that increased funding of the Internal Revenue Service would bring in some additional revenue, but nowhere near what is needed:

The government’s official budgetary scorekeeper, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), does believe that some additional revenue could be raised by increasing tax enforcement spending. But the CBO estimates that increasing IRS funding by $40 billion would increase collections by just $103 billion over ten years. Based on that, the Administration’s claim that it could raise $700 billion on net is ludicrous.

The article concludes:

All of this means that closing the tax gap is not as simple as grabbing revenue the IRS thus far simply has not bothered to collect. It would cost money and would end up targeting a broad swath of taxpayers, not just the wealthiest. That means auditors combing through the lives of thousands of Americans, many of whom would be lower income. And it would probably yield far less than Americans are being led to believe.

Biden’s promises of easy revenue from tax cheats are overblown at best. While enforcing owed tax payments isn’t inherently bad, throwing more money at the problem than the IRS would know what to do with is impulsive and wasteful.

Has anyone considered that the way to cut the deficit might be to examine the budget for wasteful spending (and end earmarks again)?

The Cost Of A $15 An Hour Minimum Wage

What would be the cost of waging the minimum wage nationally to $15 an hour? Townhall posted an article today about the consequences.

The article notes five negative consequences of a $15 an hour minimum wage:

It will destroy jobs

According to the Congressional Budge Office upwards of 1.4 million jobs will be lost if the minimum wage goes to $15 an hour. The cost of doing business will increase and the number of jobs will decrease.

It will hurt low-skilled workers

Low-skilled jobs will be the ones being lost, denying low-skilled workers entrance to the work force.

It will cause inflation

When the cost of doing business goes up, the price of the item produced goes up.

The rich will get richer

Bid companies can absorb the additional cost; small businesses probably cannot. This helps big corporations get rid of their competition.

It will hurt red states the most

Generally speaking, red states are well run and have a lower cost of living than blue states. A sudden increase in the minimum wage would skew their economic profile, causing a sharp increase in their cost of living.

The article concludes:

Yes, people are struggling. I’m not denying that. But an oft-hidden fact is that employers are struggling too … to find workers willing to work … and they are adjusting their rates accordingly. Indeed, the average hourly wage has risen from just under $14 per hour in 2000 to over $25 today. If employers could get workers for less, they would. Instead, the MARKET has forced them to gradually raise wages in order to compete with other employers for labor. Working against this, ironically, is Democrat-encouraged immigration, which serves to dampen wage prospects for lower-skilled employees forced to compete with counterparts used to making less than 50 cents on the hour.

If we’re suddenly jumping from $7.25 to $15, it’s hard not to ask why they wouldn’t just go all out and say $20? Hell, why not $30, or even $50? Everyone in America should have the ‘right’ to a six-figure income, right? No? The same problems anyone with an IQ above 60 could see with such a proposal apply just as much at $15. Of course, none of this has ever been about logic, just politics.

We need the people in Congress to study economics.

Policies Have Consequences

So far the Biden administration has not been kind to American workers. If you work in the energy sector of the economy, you are in danger of losing your job–if you haven’t lost it already. Now there is another policy idea that will increase unemployment in America.

CNBC reported the following yesterday:

Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, as President Joe Biden has proposed, would cost 1.4 million jobs over the next four years while lifting 900,000 people out of poverty, according to a Congressional Budget Office report Monday.

The impact on the employment rolls is slightly higher than the 1.3 million employment estimate from a 2019 report from the CBO, a nonpartisan agency that provides budgetary analysis to Congress.

The number has been disputed by employment advocates who cite the benefits from the raise and say businesses will be able to handle the costs.

Biden has acknowledged that the plan to phase in the new federal wage floor likely won’t make it through the $1.9 trillion spending plan he is pushing through Congress, though he remains committed to the increase.

The CBO report estimates that the employment reduction would happen by 2025 and come as employers cut payroll to compensate for the increased costs.

Along with the reduction in employment, the federal budget deficit would increase by $54 billion over the next 10 years, a fairly negligible level considering the fiscal 2020 shortfall totaled more than $3 trillion.

There are a few facts being left out in this discussion. The minimum wage exists to allow new unskilled workers to enter the workplace. It exists for high school students looking for part-time jobs. It allows new unskilled workers to learn some basic skills that are applicable in any job–showing up on time, dressing appropriately, being reliable, taking responsibility, etc. Jobs that pay the minimum wage are not supposed to be career jobs–the people in those jobs are expected to increase their marketable skills and move up the employment ladder. Raising the minimum wage will result in a lot of high school students not being able to get jobs and learn the skills they need to succeed in the business world. Although raising the minimum wage sounds like a wonderful idea, the consequences will not be wonderful.

Pro-growth Or No-growth

Guy Benson posted an article at Townhall today about the impact of the Trump Tax Cuts on the American economy. As has been pointed out by anyone with a brain, any deficits in Washington are caused by a spending problem–not by a lack of tax revenue.

The article includes a chart showing revised economic growth estimates based on the growth that has already occurred because of the tax cuts:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now projects 156.8 million jobs in America by year-end 2027—2.6 million more jobs than in its June 2017 Budget and Economic Outlook. CBO attributes an average of 1.1 million additional jobs over the next 10 years to the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

On April 10, I posted an article detailing the Democrats plan to roll back the tax cuts and increase both personal and corporate taxes. That will bring us back to the slow economic growth we experienced under President Obama. The Republicans need to make sure that the American voters understand that–a vote for a Democratic Congressman is a vote for economic slowdown.

Economic policies do have consequences. That has become very obvious in the past year or so.

The Cost Of The Wall

One of the recent talking points used against those people who actually want to control our borders is the cost of building a wall. Obviously, Mexico will not directly pay for a wall–they enjoy having people come here illegally and send money back to Mexico. There is no incentive for them to put a stop to that behavior. So how do we pay for the wall?

Paul Sperry posted an article at The New York Post on Saturday that offers one possible solution.

The article reports:

Mexico won’t have to pay for the wall, after all. US taxpayers won’t have to pick up the tab, either. The controversial barrier, rather, will cover its own cost just by closing the border to illegal immigrants who tend to go on the federal dole.

That’s the finding of recent immigration studies showing the $18 billion wall President Trump plans to build along the southern border will pay for itself by curbing the importation of not only crime and drugs, but poverty.

“The wall could pay for itself even if it only modestly reduced illegal crossings and drug smuggling,” Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Post.

Federal data shows that a wall would work. A two-story corrugated metal fence in El Paso, Texas, first erected under the Bush administration has already curtailed illegal border crossings there by more than 89 percent over the five-year period during which it was built.

The problem is not only illegal immigrants–it’s drug smuggling. How much money and how many lives do the illegal drugs coming into America cost?

The article concludes:

While Democrats complain the $18 billion price tag for the Trump wall is too high, the “Dreamers” amnesty bill they want Trump and Republicans to pass in exchange for funding the wall (or ideally in spite of the wall) would cost US taxpayers even more than the construction of the border partition over 10 years.

“The cost of the DREAM Act has been estimated as very large — a $26 billion net cost in the first 10 years,” Camarota noted.

Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that 3 million DREAM Act recipients would receive an estimated $12 billion-plus in ObamaCare subsidies, more than $5.5 billion in Medicaid benefits, $5.5 billion in earned-income and child-tax credits and more than $2 billion in food stamps.

A bipartisan bill incorporating the deal was defeated in the Senate last month by a vote of 54-45. Trump rejected the proposal in favor of a tougher border bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), which limits the number of DACA beneficiaries to 1.8 million, curbs family visas, or so-called chain migration, and phases out the diversity visa lottery, while earmarking $25 billion in funding for the wall and other border security.

The problem is not the money–the problem is the spending priorities.

This Is Not A New Idea

On Friday, The Daily Signal posted an article about a proposal before Congress asking taxpayers to make loans to private, union-run pension plans. This is a really bad idea. We have seen what has happened to the college loan program since the government took it over. Just in case you think the idea of the government bailing out union pension plans is far-fetched, I posted an article about this idea in October of 2010.

The article reports:

The Butch Lewis Act—a proposal to bail out private-sector pensions through loans as well as direct cash assistance—acknowledges the high probability of default by stipulating that pension plans that have trouble repaying their loans after 30 years of interest-only payments will be eligible for forgiveness or alternative repayment plans.

A loan with a zero-consequence default option for the borrower is not a loan—it’s a bailout.

But it’s not just defaults that taxpayers need to be concerned about. There’s also the cost of providing highly subsidized, low- or no-interest loans for 15 to 30 years, as well as the risk that plans will increase—rather than decrease—their unfunded liabilities over the course of their loans.

These features could lead to loans to insolvent pension plans costing taxpayers more than direct cash bailouts.

But those costs won’t be apparent in the official government score because the Congressional Budget Office is required to score loans under the assumption that insolvent pension plans are essentially riskless borrowers.

In reality, loans to insolvent pension plans could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. The most liberal proposals—which supplement loans with direct cash assistance—could cost more than the entirety of multiemployer pensions’ half-trillion-dollar shortfall.

Does anyone really believe that these loans will be paid back? Union membership is down, and various courts are hearing cases that will make the mandatory payment of union dues by non-union members who work in a union shop illegal. Both of these factors will make the union retirement plans (actually a true Ponzi scheme) unsustainable.

The article concludes:

Coping with roughly $500 billion in private union pensions’ unfunded promises will not be easy. There are ways to minimize losses to workers who have earned pension benefits and protect taxpayers from paying for private pensions’ broken promises.

Policymakers should look to improve the solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.’s multiemployer program through premium increases and other reforms; end union pensions’ preferential treatment; enact and enforce sound funding rules; hold pension trustees liable for financial decisions; act sooner rather than later to enact needed reforms, including benefit reductions; and explicitly prohibit federal pension bailouts.

None of these actions provide a costless cure-all, but they offer more fair and rational solutions that don’t treat taxpayers as guarantors of private-sector promises or set the stage for even more mismanagement and reckless behavior.

There is no reason every American should pay for the fact that the unions have not sufficiently funded their retirement plans!

Losing Health Insurance Because You Want To

Yesterday National Review posted an article about the claims the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is making regarding the number of people who would lose their health insurance if ObamaCare were repealed.

The article states:

Do you want to repeal every word of Obamacare and replace it with nothing? CBO says 22 million fewer people would have health insurance. Do you prefer replacing Obamacare with a system of flat tax credits, in which you get the same amount of assistance regardless of your financial need? CBO says 23 million fewer people would have health insurance. Do you prefer replacing Obamacare with means-tested tax credits, like the Senate bill does, in which the majority of the assistance is directed to those near or below the poverty line? CBO says 22 million fewer people would have health insurance.

22 million, 23 million, 22 million—these numbers are remarkably similar even though the three policies I describe above are significantly different. Why is that?

Thanks to information that was leaked to me by a congressional staffer, we now have the answer.

Nearly three-fourths of the difference in coverage between Obamacare and the various GOP plans derives from a single feature of the Republican bills: their repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate. But the CBO has never published a year-by-year breakout of the impact of the individual mandate on its coverage estimates.

So actually, a large percentage of the people who would lose insurance coverage if ObamaCare is repealed would choose to lose coverage because they would no longer be penalized for not having insurance. Basically, the CBO report is spin! There is also the matter of ObamaCare requiring people to pay for coverage they don’t need. Generally speaking senior citizens do not need maternity coverage or pediatric dental coverage. They should not be asked to pay for it!