Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Reid: It’s government jobs we need to create

Posted by Richard on October 20, 2011

It’s obvious to anyone who looks at how the 2009 stimulus bill spent $800 billion and how this year’s so-called jobs bill would spend another $450 billion that the jobs the Obama administration wants to “create or save” are government jobs and government contractors’ jobs. The only thing surprising about today’s outrageous statement by Sen. Harry Reid is that he’d admit this — and offer an absurd justification (emphasis added):

The Senate Majority Leader dropped this stunner in the context of explaining why Congress must drop everything and spend more money we don’t have to prop up public sector jobs.  Because, Reid apparently believes, government workers are the real victims of the great recession.  Ladies and gentlemen, the Democrat Party mentality, distilled:

“It’s very clear that private sector jobs have been doing just fine.  It’s public sector jobs where we’ve lost huge numbers.”

The private sector’s official unemployment rate has been stuck above 9%, and the real rate (accounting for all the people who’ve given up and left the labor force or are involuntarily working part-time) is at least 16% and maybe over 20%. Sen. Reid thinks that’s “just fine.”

Meanwhile, the government worker unemployment rate is 4.7%. And that’s where Reid and the Obama administration want to “create or save” more jobs, by spending another few hundred billion dollars we have to borrow from the Chinese — or take away from people whose spending and investments might otherwise create private sector jobs.

I’ve tried in the past to remember Hanlon’s (or Heinlein’s) Razor (“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity”). But the Socialist Democrats have demonstrated through both their words and their actions that their purpose is to create more jobs in government, where unemployment is at 4.7% (effectively full employment), and that they don’t give a rat’s ass about the 9-16% (or higher) unemployment in the private sector.

In fact, their massive new regulatory schemes can only make private sector unemployment worse.

Shrinking the private sector while growing government: The sum total of the evidence strongly suggests that this isn’t stupidity or happenstance — it’s their intent.

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The Bernanke crash

Posted by Richard on September 22, 2011

Ronald Reagan famously said that the most frightening words in the English language are "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." Yesterday, Ben Bernanke declared "I'm from the Federal Reserve and I'm here to help." The S&P 500 has dropped over 6% since. I think we may have reached the point where investors react with panic whenever the government threatens yet again to "fix" things.

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Full Tilt Poker vs. Social Security

Posted by Richard on September 20, 2011

The Justice Department has accused the executives of Full Tilt Poker, an online poker site, of operating a Ponzi scheme that defrauded poker players out of $300 million (emphasis added):

In the motion to amend the complaint, the government alleges Full Tilt executives misrepresented to the website's players that the money the company was supposed to be holding in player accounts was safely held when it was actually being used for other purposes, including payments to owners.

Rick Perry was roundly criticized, even by some of his fellow Republicans, when he recently described Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. So let's compare and contrast Full Tilt Poker and Social Security, shall we?

 Full Tilt Poker  Social Security
Executives assured customers that the money being held for them was safe. Politicians assured citizens that the money being held for their retirement was in a "trust fund" or "lockbox."
Executives used the money from new customers to pay off the old and for other purposes, including enriching themselves. 

Politicians used the money from young workers to pay off the old and for other purposes, including rewarding their favored special interests and buying votes and support. 

Executives cheated willing customers whom they had persuaded to trust them.  Politicians used the police power of the state to force everyone (except a few favored special interests) to pay into the system.

So as you can see, Social Security isn't a Ponzi scheme like Full Tilt Poker. A Ponzi scheme only fleeces willing participants.

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Dr. Doom educates Congress

Posted by Richard on September 20, 2011

Peter Schiff (a.k.a. Dr. Doom), who predicted the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the collapse of the housing bubble and auto industry, has wrapped up his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Government Reform and Stimulus Oversight. I strongly urge you to watch this 22-minute video of some of the highlights of his testimony last week. If you’re familiar with Austrian economics or Frederic Bastiat, some of what he says may ring a bell.


[YouTube link]

Schiff is the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital and the son of famed tax protestor Irwin Schiff. He has a blog* and an internet radio show, and is a frequent guest on cable news shows. I really like this Schiff quote, which channels Bastiat:

You can always see the jobs that government creates. What you don’t see are the jobs that they destroy.

Ryan Swift has a nice post about Schiff’s testimony, along with a couple of alternative video excerpts of his testimony (there’s a fair amount of overlap with the video above, which I found at Zero Hedge).

There’s a compelling 5-minute reason.tv interview with Schiff here.

* This post originally linked to an unofficial blog that’s not Peter Schiff’s. Thanks to Anthony Nelson of SchiffGold.com, I’ve corrected the link so that it points to Peter Schiff’s actual blog.

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Pass this bill instead

Posted by Richard on September 15, 2011

When the President addressed Congress a week ago and exhorted them 17 or 18 times to "Pass this bill!" there was no bill to pass. No actual written legislation. Nothing at all on paper, only talking points on his teleprompter. After that was pointed out, staffers hastily drafted a bill, and the President has been waving the 150-page document ever since as he endlessly repeats "Pass this bill!"

The title of that belatedly drafted bill is the "American Jobs Act of 2011." But here's the funny thing: A dozen or two times a day, the Prez calls on the House (where it must originate) to pass that bill — now, not later! — and exhorts his followers to call their congresscritters and tell them to pass that bill. But no Democrat ever introduced the bill. The Prez keeps urging the House to pass a bill they can't pass. 

Yesterday, Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-1) decided to rectify that situation. He introduced his own bill, only two pages long, named the "American Jobs Act of 2011." It changes the corporate tax rate (and alternative minimum tax) to 0%. 

Brilliant. I love it. Call or email your congresscritters and urge them to pass Rep. Gohmert's "American Jobs Act of 2011" (H.R. 2911). It would create far, far more jobs than the President's amalgam of recycled tax increases, tax incentives for favored groups/behaviors, and "stimulus" spending. 

Warner Todd Huston thinks either Obama is incredibly incompetent or cynical and duplicitous: 

If Obama were an effective president Rep. Gohmert would never have been able to appropriate Obama’s bill name for his own. If Obama was effective he’d have crafted his jobs bill, delivered his speech that night, and lined up at least one Democrat, if not the whole Democrat Party, to introduce his bill the very next morning after the speech.

But Obama did no such thing. Not only was there no bill when he delivered the speech, even this many days after the speech the bill has never been introduced in the House of Representatives where such bills might begin the legislative process.

Of course, it is also possible that President Obama never intended to submit any bill named the “American Jobs Act of 2011″ in the first place. It is possible he never wanted such a bill debated for real because all he was doing was using it as a political ploy for his reelection campaign.

Whichever is the case, the best defense is a good offense, and Rep. Gohmert has mounted a marvelous offense. Let's help him out by talking up his "American Jobs Act of 2011" (H.R. 2911) as a sensible alternative to the President's as-yet unintroduced, as-yet unnamed "Son of Stimulus" bill. Contact Congress!

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More shovel-ready spending

Posted by Richard on September 9, 2011

I got home just a bit ago from a wonderful Stock Show sponsors dinner, which beat the heck out of watching the President's jobs infomercial. On the way back, I heard the bottom-line on the radio: another $450 billion for all the stuff that he spent $800 billion on already — infrastructure, teachers, high-speed trains — only to enventually admit that "those shovel-ready jobs weren't so shovel-ready." But this time, it'll work. Really!

Vodkapundit's drunk-blogging of the event provided more detail, and certainly more entertainment than the actual speech. Obama promised that all those new shovels-full of spending would be paid for. Stephen summarized how: 

4:23PM It will be paid for by future, unspecified spending cuts, that the GOP congress will have to come up with.

4:24PM And it will be paid for by tax increases “on the wealthiest Americans.”

So he's going to create jobs with more of the same profligate spending that has utterly failed to create jobs, and he's going to pay for it by penalizing the people who could, if unshackled, really create jobs.

And those unspecified spending cuts that the House Republicans are expected to come up with? I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that, during the election campaign, the Dems will berate the Republicans endlessly over every dime of those spending cuts, trotting out the geezers eating dog food, the children with no shoes, the lepers who can't afford their medicine, etc., etc., etc. 

Aw, to hell with politics. There's a football game on. 

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“Not part of the deal”

Posted by Richard on August 9, 2011

Jimmy Kimmel, commenting on Monday's precipitous stock market plunge:

For years, we've been told that our kids and grandkids would have to pay for our out-of-control spending. Now we're being told that we have to pay for it?? That was not part of the deal!

There's a lot of painful truth in that joke. In response to concerns about the long-run consequences of his economic policy recommendations, Lord Keynes famously sneered, "In the long run, we are all dead." The long run has arrived. And we're not dead yet.

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Bloodbath on Wall Street

Posted by Richard on August 5, 2011

A few minutes before market close, the Dow is down over 450 points (nearly 4%) and the S&P 500 is down 55 points (over 4.25%). 

With apologies to Instapundit: They told us Tea Party people that if we opposed raising the debt ceiling the stock market would plummet … and they were right!

UPDATE: The Dow closed down 512 points (-4.31%) and the S&P 500 was down 60 (-4.78%). The broader Russell 3000 lost over 5%. And this evening comes news that Asian markets are tumbling.

ABC Nightline's Bill Weir had the line of the day: "President Obama picked a hell of a day to turn 50."

"As ye sow, so shall ye reap." 

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It’s the spending, stupid!

Posted by Richard on July 11, 2011

So far, John Boehner is hanging tough on his "no new taxes" pledge. But can we count on him and the GOP establishment to continue to do so? I certainly hope so, but I think it depends on people like you and me keeping the pressure on.

The President is arguing that trillions of dollars in tax increases must be part of a "compromise" solution to the deficit problem, along with a significant bump in the debt ceiling. So he's basically arguing that the government must be allowed to borrow more, tax more, and spend more. That's irresponsible, immoral, and outrageous. 

The Fiscal Year 2007 budget (the last budget before the Democrats took over Congress, and subsequently stopped passing actual budgets at all) was about $2.7 trillion. FY 2011 spending will be about $3.8 trillion, with a deficit of about $1.6 trillion. So about $1.1 trillion of this year's deficit is due to the massive spending increase, and about $0.5 trillion is due to the drop in revenue. 

Or to put it another way, for more than 50 years, with rare exceptions and regardless of tax rates, federal revenue has remained around 17-19% of Gross Domestic Product, and spending has been about 18-20% of GDP (see here for historical data). But the Obama administration (with a kick-start from Bush, when his Treasury secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson, threw him into a panic in late 2008) has exploded federal spending to more than 25% of GDP. And he now wants to claim that that's the new normal, and raise revenues to match. 

It will never happen. The 17-19% of GDP revenue number has persisted regardless of whether the top marginal tax rate was 28%, 39%, 50%, or 70%. Contrary to the wishful thinking of the left, tax rates affect people's behavior, and if tax rates go up, they just adjust their affairs to reduce the bite.

Right now, due to the recession, the revenue rate is unusually low, at around 15%. Personally, as a libertarian, I think that's more than enough (the Christian God only asks for 10%). So I signed on to WorldNetDaily's No More Red Ink campaign, which opposes any increase in the debt limit. That wouldn't cause a default or world-wide crisis, as the MSM would have you believe. It would simply require the federal government to reduce expenditures to match its revenues. I think that's a good start. 🙂

But in the spirit of compromise, I'd settle (for now) for this: cut federal spending back to its historical average of 19% of GDP in return for increasing the debt limit by enough to accommodate the difference between that and expected revenue (at current tax rates) for the next two years. As long as it's coupled with a significant roll-back of all the new federal regulations, which (along with the burden of massive federal borrowing) are one of the reasons the economy is so sluggish (and thus revenue is so far below the historical norm). 

So here's what you do, Speaker Boehner: Pass a bill that (1) caps federal spending at 19% of GDP and raises the debt ceiling by however many hundreds of billions that amount is above the projected revenues for FY 2012-2013, and (2) rescinds significant portions of the economy-stifling regulations the Obama administration has enacted in the past 2.5 years. Then dare the Senate to reject it or the President to veto it. Make it clear to both that there is no Plan B — it's a take it or leave it proposition. 

My friends, we can't continue on our current path. And we can't allow federal spending of 25-26% of GDP to become the new "baseline." At a minimum, we have to go back to the historical norm of 18-19% of GDP.

Preferably, we should simply refuse to increase the debt ceiling and force the federal government to cut expenditures to match current revenues (as a first step to fiscal sanity). That's really all that not increasing the debt ceiling does: it imposes a "balanced budget amendment" (which lots of Republicans claim to favor) immediately. No need for a Senate super-majority or ratification by the states. All it takes is for the House of Representatives to not increase the debt ceiling.

I have little hope that the Republicans have enough stones to go that far. But maybe if we keep the pressure on, they'll at least pass a bill along the lines of my compromise proposal. 

Sign onto the No More Red Ink campaign. And go to AFP's SickOfSpending.com to get your free "Cut Spending Now" bumpersticker. Membeship is free, but if you make a donation, you can choose to have the corresponding number of bumperstickers distributed on your behalf or sent to you to distribute. 

I know you've heard this before (and with far less justification), but it really is for the children. And the grandchildren.

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Bad jobs needed

Posted by Richard on July 10, 2011

Walter Russell Mead thinks the inner city today faces three key problems, and one of them is lack of jobs. But it's not more good jobs our large cities need, according to Mead, it's more not-so-good jobs:

Think of the path to successful middle class living as a ladder; the lower rungs on that ladder are not nice places to be, but if those rungs don’t exist, nobody can climb.  When politicians talk about creating jobs, they always talk about creating “good” jobs.  That is all very well, but unless there are bad jobs and lots of them, people in the inner cities will have a hard time getting on the ladder at all, much less climbing into the middle class.

Many sensitive and idealistic people in our society work very hard to keep from connecting these dots and admitting to themselves that bad jobs are something we need. Quacks abound promising us alternatives (“green jobs” is the latest fashionable delusion), but ugly problems rarely have pretty solutions.  We need entry level jobs that will get people into the workforce, and we need ways that they can learn useful skills at affordable prices that will help them climb the ladder and move on.

To get these jobs, we have to change the way our cities work.  Essentially, we have created urban environments in which the kind of enterprises that often hire the poor — low margin, poorly capitalized, noisy, smelly, dirty, informally managed without a long paper trail — can’t exist. …

Read the whole thing.

HT: Rand Simberg, who notes that, in addition to the factors Mead mentions, the minimum wage is part of the problem.

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Few jobs at a high cost

Posted by Richard on July 6, 2011

The President's Council of Economic Advisors released a jobs report on Friday, right before the holiday weekend, so you know they hoped no one would pay attention to it. And with good reason. According to Jeffrey H. Anderson, it shows that the jobs "created or saved" by the almost $900 billion in "stimulus" spending cost nearly $300,000 each (emphasis added):

The report was written by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama, and it chronicles the alleged success of the “stimulus” in adding or saving jobs. The council reports that, using “mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus” (which it describes as a “natural way to estimate the effects of” the legislation), the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs — whether private or public — at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job.   

In other words, the government could simply have cut a $100,000 check to everyone whose employment was allegedly made possible by the “stimulus,” and taxpayers would have come out $427 billion ahead. 

Furthermore, the council reports that, as of two quarters ago, the “stimulus” had added or saved just under 2.7 million jobs — or 288,000 more than it has now.  In other words, over the past six months, the economy would have added or saved more jobs without the “stimulus” than it has with it. In comparison to how things would otherwise have been, the “stimulus” has been working in reverse over the past six months, causing the economy to shed jobs.

That's the good news! The bad news is that the economy lost many more jobs than originally reported

From 2007 to 2010, initial reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) told us that the economy lost 4.201 million jobs. BLS revisions have thus far ramped up the number of jobs lost by 2.43 million. The four-year total is now 6.631 million — a stunning 58% increase. As seen above, the bureau’s revisions to the 12 months of the real recession (July 2008 through June 2009) have shot reported job losses up by almost 1.9 million, a jaw-dropping average of 158,000 per month.

They’re not done yet. Every February, BLS performs a comprehensive “benchmark revision.” The next one will affect the period from March 2010 through December 2011. Considering the results of the past four years showing average additional job losses of 415,000, the next benchmark revision seems destined to push the figures even higher.

Is this sort of depressing jobs data revision typical? Well, no, not during the Bush administration:

By contrast, from 2003 to 2006, initial BLS reports told us that the economy added 5.103 million jobs. After all revisions, the four-year total rose by 1.605 million to 6.708 million — a 31% increase. The sum of all benchmark revisions during that time was a positive 675,000.

The observant reader might conclude that if the government's statistics are off by 58% in one case and 31% (in the other direction) in another, maybe they're just not very good at this econometrics crap. And the observant reader would be correct. 

Be that as it may, there's a more fundamental problem with the administration's claims regarding jobs "created or saved." It's the "broken window fallacy" identified by Frédéric Bastiat in his 1850 essay "That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen." Newsmax quoted a nice modern formulation from the Richmond Times-Dispatch (emphasis added): 

The effects of the stimulus have long been argued. Writing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, A. Barton Hinkle reported that nobody could seriously argue that it had had no effect on the economy.

However, he likened it to a purse snatcher who took a handbag containing $500 and spent the money on a new television.

“It is categorically undeniable that the theft has created a sale for the TV store. Conservatives who pretend the stimulus has not created any jobs whatsoever stand in the position of an observer trying to deny the TV has been sold,” Hinkle wrote.

“Yet the liberal analysis lacks any recognition that the purse owner now has $500 less to spend on the laptop computer she was going to buy. The theft has generated one sale only by destroying another.

“The first effect is easily seen. The second is not,” Hinkle added. “But only the economically illiterate would conclude that just the first effect occurred, and that therefore the way to increase consumption is to encourage more purse-stealing.”

Exactly right. The Obama administration's strategy for improving the economy amounts to promoting purse-stealing. 

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Another sorry presidential press conference

Posted by Richard on June 30, 2011

It's a good thing Congressman Joe Wilson wasn't in attendance at today's presidential press conference. He would have gone hoarse shouting "You lie!" so many times.

The president whose party has refused to introduce, much less pass, a budget the last two fiscal years, and who still hasn't proposed a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, chastised the Republicans for not solving our budget problems. Are you kidding me? 

The president who increased federal spending by more than 35% in two years to an astonishing 26% of GDP (a level unprecedented except during World War II) insisted that the problem is not enough revenue. Are you kidding me? 

The president who threw $800 billion of "stimulus" money largely into "infrastructure investments" to create "shovel-ready jobs" (which never materialized) says we need to invest more money into fixing our infrastructure. Are you kidding me? 

The president who included a tax break for corporate jets in his $800 billion "stimulus" bill now repeatedly inveighs against that tax break for corporate jets as part of his renewed effort to promote class warfare. Are you kidding me? 

The president whose profligacy promises to put the U.S. into a solvency crisis comparable to Greece's, possibly before his first term is up and certainly in his second (if, God forbid, he gets a second), wants to address the deficit "not just on the 10-year window but also the long term," as if ten years isn't nearly long enough to solve the problem. Are you kidding me?

I could go on, but I'm already both bored and disgusted. This poltroon is making Jimmy Carter look like a great president and Bob Dole look like a great communicator. God, I hope the inept party, a.k.a. GOP, doesn't blink on this debt ceiling issue. And I sure hope they don't nominate another McCain or Dole and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in 2012. This country is barely going to survive four years of Obama. Eight would spell doom.

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Boeing opens South Carolina Dreamliner assembly plant

Posted by Richard on June 12, 2011

On Friday, ignoring a lawsuit brought by the Obama thugs running the National Labor Relations Board, Boeing opened its new $750 million final assembly plant in North Charleston, SC:

Under a blistering sun and facing a heated court battle, Boeing snipped the ribbon Friday on its new 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in North Charleston six months ahead of schedule.

Company officials, politicians and workers hailed the aerospace giant's $750 million production facility as the start of a new era in the Lowcountry.

"Everybody is so geared up," said Raffie King, of Summerville, who works in Boeing's emergency operations. "This is our house. That's what we call it."

To the loud roar of applause from the hundreds of workers and guests seated and standing outside the cavernous facility the size of 11 football fields, Boeing Vice President and General Manager Jack Jones said, "This building is open for business."

The building is something else. It can hold two rows of four jumbo jets. 

One thing rarely mentioned in the media coverage of the NLRB-Boeing story: the new Charleston location, like the existing Everett, Washington, assembly plant, is just where final assembly of the planes takes place. The incredible array of components that make up the plane is manufactured at Boeing and subcontractor facilities throughout the country (North Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Arizona, Minnesota, …) and across the globe (Canada, Japan, UK, Sweden, Italy, France, Australia, …). We live in a global economy, folks, and we're all better off because of it (per Ricardo's law of comparative advantage).  

In fact, the aft quarter of the 787's revolutionary fiber composite fuselage is built by Vought Aircraft Industries right next to the new Charleston plant:

The first pieces of the 787 wide-body jet, other than the aft and mid-body sections built next door, will arrive next month as 4,000 workers already hired begin to piece together the first completely assembled model of the airplane outside of Washington state.

"This is the first time we are actually going to send an aft and mid-body across the street instead of 3,000 miles away," Jones said. "Lots of good things are going to happen. This is history."

Boeing is still hiring in South Carolina. And in Washington, too, as this looks to be the most successful commercial jet ever, with over 800 already on order. South Carolina, Washington, the whole country — heck, the whole world — will gain from this.

Unless there's truth to the rumor that the President is going to appoint Wesley Mouch as his new Economic Opportunity Equalization Czar, and Mouch will then declare the Dreamliner "a national resource."  

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Goo-goo-goolsbee, goodbye!

Posted by Richard on June 8, 2011

The funny thing about the resignation of Austan Goolsbee is his sense of timing. He announced it after several days of insisting that last week's terrible economic news was just "a bump in the road" and that the recovery is right on track.

The sad thing about his resignation is that he's going back to teaching his thoroughly discredited neo-Keynesian economics ideas to more young skulls full of mush. 

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Four big lies about the debt ceiling

Posted by Richard on June 7, 2011

Tea Party Patriots, the wonderful umbrella organization of Tea Party groups across the country, is challenging head-on both Republicans and Democrats with regard to the so-called debt ceiling crisis:

At this very moment members of congress are trying to decide what pieces of America's future they will trade away as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling. We've had the chance to talk with many of them. And even most of those who claim to be on the side of fiscal responsibility are giddy with excitement that they can trade their vote on this debt ceiling "crisis" in exchange for a handful of magic beans offered by the liberals.

Our answer is simple.

It is not acceptable to use the future of America as a bargaining chip.
Do not raise the debt ceiling.
PERIOD.

They've identified four big lies that, in countless variations, we're going to be told over and over again in the coming weeks: 

Big Lie 1 "The current financial crisis was inherited."

Bush created all of these problems.  We are trying to solve them but it's much worse than we thought and it will take years for our solutions to have an impact."

Big Lie 2 "There's no way to cut enough spending. So we must raise the debt ceiling."

"There's no way to cut enough spending. So we must raise the debt ceiling. If we don't raise it America will not be able to pay back its creditors and the rest of the world will never trust us with money again. It will be a disaster!!!"

Big Lie 3 "We can haggle for some really great deals now that we have them over a barrel."

Members of the republican "leadership" will tell you this lie.

"Raising the debt ceiling is inevitable; and the democrats want it so badly they're willing to give us some really great deals in order to get it. We can take advantage of it and get some cool stuff in exchange for our votes. It'll be great!"

Big Lie 4 "You just don't understand all of the complicated details. Let us handle it. We're smart."

Their responses to the first three lies are excellent (I haven't see the fourth part yet). 

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 (I'll update with links to 3 and 4 when I have them, but I suspect they'll appear on the home page at some point). And please donate what you can to help them counter these lies. If you care about your future, your children's future, your grandchildren's future — this battle is very, very important.

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