Tag Archives: daniel j mitchell

Julia is a moocher

People need to try to better their own lives instead of asking the government to treat them like kids for the rest of their lives.

The Obama campaign’s “Life of Julia” ad is a disturbing sign. It suggests that political strategists, pollsters, and campaign advisers must think that the people living off government are getting to the point where they can out-vote the people paying for government.

If that’s true, America is doomed to become another Greece – which would be an appropriate fate since, for all intents and purposes, Julia is the fictional twin of a real-life Greek woman who thought it was government’s job to give her things.

In general, I think the best response to Julia is mockery, which is why I shared this Iowahawk parody and this Ramirez cartoon.

But we also need a serious discussion of why dependency is a bad thing, which is why I’m glad the Center for Freedom and Prosperity has produced this new “Economics 101″ video.

It’s narrated by Emily O’Neill, who contrasts the moocher mentality of Julia with how she wants her life to develop. To give away the message, she wants the kind of fulfillment that only exists when you earn things.

Emily’s view could be considered Randian libertarianism, conventional conservatism, or both. That’s because there’s a common moral belief in both philosophies that government-imposed coercion and redistribution erode the social capital of a people.

This is perhaps the key issue for America’s future, which is why I hope you’ll share this video widely. Otherwise, we my face a future where this Chuck Asay cartoon becomes reality. Speaking of Asay, this cartoon is a pretty good summary of what the Julia ad is really saying.

Too many riding in the wagon and not enough pulling

Too many riding in the wagon and not enough pulling the wagon. Is the USA heading down the same path as Greece?

U.S. Should Learn from Europe’s Welfare State Mistakes

by Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.

Added to cato.org on November 8, 2011

This article appeared in US News and World Report on November 7, 2011.

Our long-run outlook is grim, but at least we still have time to reform the entitlement programs and save America from Greek-style fiscal collapse.

The conventional wisdom among economists is that a nation gets in deep trouble when government debt reaches 90 percent of GDP. That’s generally true, but it would be much more accurate to say that a nation gets in deep trouble when debt approaches 90 percent of GDP and the fiscal outlook shows even more red ink.

But this distinction doesn’t really matter much for the United States and Europe. Thanks to a combination of entitlement programs and aging populations, both face a bleak fiscal future. A 2010 study from the Bank for International Settlement shows that government debt in most industrialized nations will soar above 200 percent of GDP (in some cases, much higher) within the next few decades.

At some point, investors are going to realize that the United States is on an unsustainable path.

The only major difference is that European nations are farther down the path to fiscal collapse. The welfare state was adopted earlier in Europe and government spending among euro nations now consumes a staggering 49 percent of economic output. This heavy fiscal burden, especially when combined with onerous tax systems, helps explain why growth is anemic.

But the United States is only a couple of decades behind. According to long-run forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office, the burden of federal spending will reach European levels as the baby boom generation retires.

At some point, investors are going to realize that the United States is on an unsustainable path. Whether that’s 10 years from now or 20 years from now is anybody’s guess.

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.

More by Daniel J. Mitchell

What we do know, however, is that Greece, Portugal, and Ireland already have stuck their snouts in the bailout trough, and it’s probably just a matter of time before Italy, Spain, and Belgium are in the same category. Heck, they’re already receiving indirect bailouts from the European Central Bank, which is buying up their dodgy debt in hopes of postponing the day of reckoning.

The one silver lining to this dark cloud is that the United States still can turn things around. Greece, Italy, and other welfare states have probably passed the point of no return, but it’s still possible for American lawmakers to fix the entitlement crisis by turning Medicaid over to the states , modernizing Medicare into a premium-support system, and transitioning to a system of personal retirement accounts for younger workers.

If those reforms don’t take place, the consequences won’t be pleasant. To be blunt, there won’t be an IMF to bail out the United States.

Bigger government hurts economic growth

The Cato Institute videos are always good and these are no different.

New Video Has Important Message: Freedom and Prosperity vs. Big Government and Stagnation

Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell

The folks from the Koch Institute put together a great video a couple of months ago looking at why some nations are rich and others are poor.

That video looked at the relationship between economic freedom and various indices that measure quality of life. Not surprisingly, free markets and small government lead to better results.

Now they have a new video that looks at recent developments in the United States. Unfortunately, you will learn that the U.S. is slipping in the wrong direction.

Uploaded by on Oct 11, 2011

Continue the discussion at http://www.facebook.com/economicfreedom

For years the United States has been a world leader in economic freedom. But runaway government spending and burdensome regulations have caused a decline in economic freedom in the United States. If our economic freedom continues to fall, how will it affect our quality of life?


The entire video is superb, but there are two things that merit special praise, one because of intellectual honesty and the other because of intellectual effectiveness.

1. The refreshingly honest aspect of the video is its non-partisan tone. It explains, in a neutral fashion, that Bush undermined prosperity by making government bigger and that Obama is undermining prosperity by increasing the burden of government.

2. The most important and effective argument in the video, at least from my perspective, is that it shows clearly that a larger government necessarily comes at the expense of the productive sector of the economy. Pay extra-close attention around the 2:00 mark.

It’s also worth pointing out that there are several policies that impact on economic performance. The Koch Institute video focuses primarily on the key issues of fiscal policy and regulation, but trade, monetary policy, property rights, and rule of law are examples of other policies that also are very important.

This video, narrated by yours truly, looks at economic growth from this more comprehensive perspective.

Uploaded by on Feb 17, 2009

Now that the so-called stimulus has been enacted, hopefully policy makers will turn their attention to policies that actually improve economic performance. This Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation video reviews the key finding in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World and explains that, contrary to the policies of Presidents Bush and Obama, smaller government and free markets are the way to boost economic growth. For more information: http://www.freedomandprosperity.org


The moral of the story from both videos is very straightforward. If the answer is bigger government, you’ve asked a very strange question.

Cato Institute:Spending is our problem Part 4

Should we spend more federal money to help the poor?

Uploaded by on Oct 3, 2011

The so-called War on Poverty has failed. Making government bigger and creating more federal redistribution programs has been bad news for taxpayers. But the welfare state also has been a disaster for the less fortunate, creating a flypaper effect that makes it difficult for people to lead independent and self-reliant lives. This Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation video shows how the poverty rate was falling after World War II — but then stagnated once the federal government got involved. www.freedomandprosperity.org

People think that we need to raise more revenue but I say we need to cut spending. Take a look at a portion of this article from the Cato Institute:

The Damaging Rise in Federal Spending and Debt

by Chris Edwards

Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress

Joint Economic CommitteeUnited States Congress

Added to cato.org on September 20, 2011

This testimony was delivered on September 20, 2011.

Baseline Projections Are Optimistic

In support of building a large “fiscal buffer,” policymakers should recognize that both short-term and long-term CBO projections are optimistic in various ways. Perhaps the future will include some positive budget surprises, but the big risk factors seem to be on the negative side.

In CBO’s baseline, federal deficits fall substantially over the coming decade, partly due to changes under the recent Budget Control Act. However, spending will be higher than projected if:

  • Policymakers lift caps in the Budget Control Act.
  • Policymakers launch new spending programs or respond to unforeseen crises or wars.
  • Higher interest rates push up interest costs, which is a risk that gets magnified as federal debt grows larger.
  • A major recession causes large cost increases in programs sensitive to economic cycles, such as unemployment insurance.
  • Policymakers respond to another recession with costly new “stimulus” plans. The persistence of Keynesian policy ideas in Washington is an important risk to the outlook for federal debt.

There are likely to be negative shocks in coming years that we don’t foresee. Consider that in its January 2008 budget outlook, CBO projected that U.S. economic growth would slow in 2008 but then rebound fairly strongly in subsequent years.15 CBO discussed the risk of a recession, but didn’t foresee the calamity that was already starting. The upshot is that policymakers should take a conservative approach and build a “fiscal buffer” with large spending cuts now before another recession causes the deficit to soar again.

CBO’s long-range projections — such as the “alternative fiscal scenario” (AFS) shown in Figure 1 — are also optimistic. In its basic projections, CBO does not factor in the negative effects of rising spending, debt, or taxes on GDP after 2021, but it does do that in a separate analysis.16 If spending actually followed the course shown in Figure 1, CBO estimates that GDP in 2035 would be up to 10 percent less than shown in the AFS, and GNP would be up to 18 percent less. In turn, spending-to-GDP and debt-to-GDP ratios would be worse than usually shown in long-range budget charts.

Under the AFS, rising deficit spending could reduce American incomes. The CBO finds that real GNP per capita could stop growing in the late 2020s, and then start falling after that. In a historic reversal, future generations of Americans would become successively poorer.

The way to ensure our continued prosperity is to cut federal spending and reduce debt. In a 2010 analysis, the CBO compared the high-spending AFS with Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” plan.17 The Ryan plan would restrain federal spending to roughly current levels for the next few decades, and then start reducing it. By the late 2020s, GNP per capita under the Ryan plan would begin rising above the flat and then falling levels under the AFS. By the late 2050s, GNP per capita would be 70 percent higher under the Ryan plan than under the AFS.18

15 Congressional Budget Office, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2008 to 2018,” January 2008, Chapter 2.
16 See Chapter 2 in Congressional Budget Office, “Long-Term Budget Outlook,” June 2011.
17 Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf letter to Paul Ryan, January 27, 2010, http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/108xx/doc10851/01-27-Ryan-Roadmap-Letter.pdf.
18 Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf letter to Paul Ryan, January 27, 2010, p. 16.

Cato Institute:Spending is our problem Part 2

But we also know that it is difficult to convince politicians to do what’s right for the nation. And if they don’t change the course of fiscal policy, and we leave the federal government on autopilot, then America is doomed to become another Greece.

The combination of poorly designed entitlement programs (mostly Medicare and Medicaid) and an aging population will lead to America’s fiscal collapse.


People think that we need to raise more revenue but I say we need to cut spending. Take a look at a portion of this article from the Cato Institute:

The Damaging Rise in Federal Spending and Debt

by Chris Edwards

Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress

Joint Economic CommitteeUnited States Congress

Added to cato.org on September 20, 2011

This testimony was delivered on September 20, 2011.

America Has a High-Spending and High-Debt Government

Some analysts say that America can afford to increase taxes and spending because it is a uniquely small-government country. Alas, that is no longer the case. Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that federal, state, and local government spending in the United States this year is a huge 41 percent of GDP.

Figure 2 shows that government in the United States used to be about 10 percentage points of GDP smaller than the average government in the OECD. But that size advantage has fallen to just 4 percentage points. A few high-income nations — such as Australia — now have smaller governments and much lower government debt than the United States.

Historically, America’s strong growth and high living standards were built on our relatively smaller government. The ongoing surge in federal spending is undoing this competitive advantage we had enjoyed in the world economy. CBO projections show that without reforms federal spending will rise by about 10 percentage points of GDP by 2035. If that happens, spending by American governments will be more than half of GDP by that year. That would doom young people to unbearable levels of taxation and a stagnant economy with fewer opportunities.

American government debt has also soared to abnormally high levels. Figure 3 shows OECD data for gross government debt as a share of GDP.3 (The data include debt for federal, state, and local governments). In 2011, gross government debt is 101 percent of GDP in the United States, substantially above the OECD average of 78 percent.4

3 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “Economic Outlook Database,” September 2011, Annex Table 32.
4 This is a simple average of OECD countries. The OECD publishes a weighted average, but that figure is, of course, heavily influenced by the United States.

Are rich people as bad as “Dirty Dan?”

Are rich people as bad as “Dirty Dan?”

The Little Rascals – “Fly My Kite” (1931) Part 1-2

Uploaded by on Apr 6, 2011

The gang loves Grandma, but her slimy son-in-law loves her money.When Dirty Dan tries to take away her retirement fortune, it’s the kids (and Pete the Pup) to the resue! Soon, the chase is on and Dan is caught faster than you can say “Granny get your gun”!


I enjoyed seeing that “Dirty Dan” got what was coming to him at the end of the episode below. If you listen to President Obama, and other liberals like John Brummett and Max Brantley then would get the impression that the mean rich folks don’t need to be so selfish and hand over the money to run the government for the rest of us.

Related posts:

War on poverty is a failure in USA

Liberals just don’t get it. They should listen to Milton Friedman (who is quoted in this video below concerning the best way to limit poverty). New Video Shows the War on Poverty Is a Failure Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell The Center for Freedom and Prosperity has released another “Economics 101″ video, and this one […]

The state of our economy under President Obama according to Cato Institute

It is truly said how far to the left our country has gone. Happy Fiscal New Year (with an Unhappy Obama Hangover) Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell Today, October 1, is the first day of the 2012 fiscal year. And if you’re wondering why America’s economy seems to have a hangover (this cartoon is a perfect illustration), it’s because […]

Is soaking the rich fair?

Is soaking the rich fair? Five Key Reasons to Reject Class-Warfare Tax Policy Uploaded by afq2007 on Jun 15, 2009 President Obama and other politicians are advocating higher taxes, with a particular emphasis on class-warfare taxes targeting the so-called rich. This Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation video explains why fiscal policy based on hate […]

Do you think protectionism would help, in the long run, if we don’t implement pro-growth reforms?

Do you think protectionism would help, in the long run, if we don’t implement pro-growth reforms? Sometimes I wonder what are the motives of those who oppose free trade. Eight Questions for Protectionists Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell When asked to pick my most frustrating issue, I could list things from my policy field such as […]

Three points where Brummett misses the boat in discussion versus Charlie Collins

Five Key Reasons to Reject Class-Warfare Tax Policy Uploaded by afq2007 on Jun 15, 2009 President Obama and other politicians are advocating higher taxes, with a particular emphasis on class-warfare taxes targeting the so-called rich. This Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation video explains why fiscal policy based on hate and envy is fundamentally misguided. […]

Obama wants to raise taxes on job creators

Uploaded by TheYoungTurks on Aug 6, 2010 Cenk Uygur (host of The Young Turks) filling in for Chris Jansing on MSNBC talks to Dan Mitchell of the Cato institute to compare Reaganomics to Obamanomics. __________________________ What should we do when we are caught in a slow economy? What did Reagan do in 1981? He lowered […]

Cato’s Jeffrey Miron: “The liberal hatred of the rich is a minority view…”

Maybe the tide is turning. Americans do not hate the rich like liberals would have us believe. Take a look at this article: Soaking the Rich Is Not Fair by Jeffrey A. Miron This article appeared on The Huffington Post on September 2, 2011. What is the “fair” amount of taxation on high-income taxpayers? To liberals, the […]

The Little Rascals – “Fly My Kite” (1931) Part 2-2

Did Steve Jobs help people even though he did not give away a lot of money?

Did Steve Jobs help people even though he did not give away a lot of money?

Uploaded by  on Sep 16, 2010

clip from The First Round Up *1934* ~~enjoy!!


In the short film above you can see that it was the kindness of the two “haves” to the other “havenots” that allowed everyone to eat. However, the article below shows that the best way to help people is give them a job instead of a one time gift.

Rich People Should Help the Poor by…Making Smart Investments and Earning Big Profits

Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell

There’s a very provocative article on the New York Times website that criticizes Steve Jobs for his supposed lack of charitable giving:

Surprisingly, there is one thing that Mr. Jobs is not, at least not yet: a prominent philanthropist. Despite accumulating an estimated $8.3 billion fortune through his holdings in Apple and a 7.4 percent stake in Disney (through the sale of Pixar), there is no public record of Mr. Jobs giving money to charity. He is not a member of the Giving Pledge, the organization founded by Warren E. Buffett and Bill Gates to persuade the nation’s wealthiest families to pledge to give away at least half their fortunes. (He declined to participate, according to people briefed on the matter.) Nor is there a hospital wing or an academic building with his name on it. …the lack of public philanthropy by Mr. Jobs — long whispered about, but rarely said aloud — raises some important questions about the way the public views business and business people at a time when some “millionaires and billionaires” are criticized for not giving back enough… In 2006, in a scathing column in Wired, Leander Kahney, author of “Inside Steve’s Brain,” wrote: “Yes, he has great charisma and his presentations are good theater. But his absence from public discourse makes him a cipher. People project their values onto him, and he skates away from the responsibilities that come with great wealth and power.”

But why, to address Leander Kahney’s criticism, should we assume that Mr. Jobs has done nothing for the poor? He’s built a $360 billion company. That presumably means at least $352 billion of wealth in the hands of people other than himself. And that doesn’t even begin to count how consumers have benefited from his products, the jobs he has created, and the indirect positive impact of his company on suppliers and retailers.

To give credit where credit is due, the article does present this counterargument. It reports that Mr. Jobs told friends, “that he could do more good focusing his energy on continuing to expand Apple than on philanthropy.”

This is a critical point. Do we want highly talented entrepreneurs and investors dropping out of the private sector and giving their money away after they’ve reached a certain point, say $5 billion? Or do we want them to focus on creating more wealth and prosperity?

Interestingly, Warren Buffett used to understand this point (before he started arguing that politicians could more effectively spend his money). And Carlos Slim Helu still does:

Mr. Jobs, 56 years old, is not alone in his single-minded focus on work over philanthropy. It wasn’t until Mr. Buffett turned 75 that he turned his attention to charity, saying that he was better off spending his time allocating capital at Berkshire Hathaway — where he believed he could create even greater wealth to give away — than he would ever be at devoting his energies toward running a foundation. And last year, Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecommunications billionaire, defended his lack of charity and his refusal to sign the Giving Pledge. “What we need to do as businessmen is to help to solve the problems, the social problems,” he said in an interview on CNBC. “To fight poverty, but not by charity.”

None of this is to say that charitable giving is wrong. I’m proud to say that my employer, the Cato Institute, refuses to accept money from government. This means we are completely dependent on private philanthropy.

But those of us who work at Cato understand that creating wealth—maximizing the size of the economic pie—is the most important priority. And if the pie is big, generous people then have more ability to make contributions to worthy causes such as school choice scholarship funds, the Salvation Army, or (ahem) America’s best think tank.

Minimum wage could be eliminating jobs

Minimum wage could be eliminating jobs

Liberals just don’t have a clue.

The Job-Killing Impact of Minimum Wage Laws

Uploaded by  on Jun 14, 2010

Minimum wage laws seem like a good idea, but arbitrarily mandating a certain wage can have terrible consequences. This CF&P Foundation mini-documentary reveals that business are not charities, so if the minimum wage is set above the market level, this eliminates job opportunities — particularly for the less fortunate members of society. Since employees and employers should have freedom of contract, the right minimum wage is zero. www.freedomandprosperity.org


Minimum Wage Hikes Deserve Share of Blame for High Unemployment

Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell

Even though the Obama Administration claimed that squandering $800 billion on so-called stimulus would  keep the joblessness rate below 8 percent, the unemployment rate today is almost 10 percent. There are many reasons for the economy’s tepid performance, including a larger burden of government spendingand the dampening effect of future tax rate increases (tax rates will jump significantly on January 1, 2011, when the 2003 tax cuts expire).

A closer look at the unemployment data, though , suggests that minimum wage laws also deserve a big share of the blame. In this Center for Freedom and Prosperity video, a former intern of mine (continuing a great tradition) explains that politicians destroyed jobs when they increased the minimum wage by more than 40 percent over a three-year period.

Mr. Divounguy is correct when he says businesses are not charities and that they only create jobs when they think a worker will generate net revenue. Higher minimum wages, needless to say, are especially destructive for people with poor work skills and limited work experience. This is why young people and minorities tend to suffer most – which is exactly what we see in the government data, with the teenage unemployment rates now at an astounding (and depressing) 26 percent level and blacks suffering from a joblessness rate of more than 15 percent.

In a free society, there should be no minimum wage law. From a philosophical perspective, such requirements interfere with the freedom of contract. In the imperfect world of politics, thought, the best we can hope for is that politicians occasionally do the right thing. Sadly, the recent minimum wage increases that have done so much damage were signed into law by President Bush. It’s worth noting that President Obama’s hands also are dirty on this issue, since he supported the job-killing measure when it passed the Senate in 2007. When the stupid party and the evil party both agree on a certain policy, that’s known as bipartisanship. In the real world, however, it’s called unemployment.

Balancing the budget can be done

Balancing the budget can be done.

Spending is the problem but it can be slowed in order to balance the budget.

It’s Simple to Balance the Budget without Higher Taxes

Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell

John Podesta of the Center for American Progress had a column in Politico yesterday asserting that “closing the budget gap entirely on the spending side would require draconian programmatic cuts.” He went on to complain that there are some people who “refuse to look at the revenue side of the ledger – while insisting that we dig the hole $830 billion deeper over the next decade by extending the Bush tax cuts.”

Not surprisingly, Mr. Podesta is totally wrong. It’s actually not that challenging to balance the budget. And it doesn’t even require any spending cuts, though it would be a very good idea to dramatically downsize the federal government. Here’s a chart showing this year’s spending and revenue totals. It then shows the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how much revenues will grow, assuming all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are made permanent and assuming that the alternative minimum tax is adjusted for inflation. As you can see, balancing the budget is a simple matter of limiting the annual growth of federal spending.

So how is it that Mr. Podesta can spout sky-is-falling rhetoric about “draconian” cuts when all that’s needed is fiscal restraint? The answer is that politicians in Washington have concocted a self-serving budget process that automatically assumes that all previously-planned spending increases should occur. So if the politicians put us on a path to make government 8 percent bigger next year and there is a proposal to instead limit spending growth to 3 percent, that 3 percent increase gets portrayed as a 5 percent cut.

This is a great scam, at least for the political class. They get to buy more votes by boosting the burden of government spending, but they get to tell voters that they’re being fiscally responsible. And they get to claim that they have no choice but to raise taxes because there’s no other way to balance the budget. In the real world, though, this translates into bigger government and puts us on a path to a Greek-style fiscal nightmare.

The goal of fiscal policy should be smaller government, not fiscal balance. Deficits are just a symptom of a government that is too large, as I have explained elsewhere. But the good news is that spending discipline is the right answer, regardless of the objective. I explained this in more detail for a piece in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Here’s an excerpt.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government this year is spending almost $3.5 trillion. Tax receipts are estimated to be less than $2.2 trillion, which means a projected deficit of about $1.35 trillion. So can we balance the budget when there is that much red ink? And is it possible to eliminate deficits while also extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts? The answer is yes. …It’s a simple matter of mathematics. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that tax revenue will grow by an average of 7.3 percent annually over the next 10 years. Reducing the budget deficit is easy – so long as politicians increase overall spending by less than that amount. And with inflation projected to be about 2 percent over the same period, this is an ideal environment for some long-overdue fiscal discipline. If spending is simply capped at the current level with a hard freeze, the budget is balanced by 2016. If we limit spending growth to 1 percent each year, the budget is balanced in 2017. And if we allow 2 percent annual spending growth – letting the budget keep pace with inflation, the budget balances in 2020. …Interest groups that are used to big budget increases will be upset if spending growth is limited to 1 or 2 percent each year. It means entitlements will need to be reformed. It means we might need to get rid of programs and departments that are not legitimate functions of the federal government. You better believe that these changes will cause a lot of squealing by lobbyists and other insiders. But that complaining will be a sign that fiscal policy is finally heading in the right direction. The key thing to understand is that there is no need for tax increases. Politicians might not balance the budget if we say no to all tax increases. But the experience in Europe shows that oppressive tax burdens are not a recipe for fiscal balance either. Milton Friedman was correct many years ago when he warned that, “In the long run government will spend whatever the tax system will raise, plus as much more as it can get away with.”