Tariffs: America’s Oldest Tax Plan Revisited

In history class, I distinctly remember talking about tariffs. It’s usually something you learn about first especially in American history. The American revolutionaries were unhappy with the tariffs being put on their exports by the British. This is what the revolution started over to a degree. You might not remember what a tariff or tariffs are. The definition of tariff is: tax or duty to be paid on particular class of imports and exports. In other words, a tariff is a tax on imported or exported goods. Every country typically imports and exports goods and services. The goods that are typically exported are those in surplus in that country. The goods that are imported are those which are either cheaper or not in supply in that country. Tariffs have been long a part of the American economy. Tariffs have even long been a part of the government.

In the post, I’m going to first review why tariffs were such an integral part of our nation’s history. Then I want to discuss how we went from a tariff based revenue system to the current system of income tax. After that I want to put forward an idea that seems to have been lost in time. The tariff in the United States was after the revolution used to fund the government. Almost as the sole source of income. Alexander Hamilton had designed the whole system. He set up and got funding for a series of lighthouses and inspection clerks up and down the Atlantic coast. There clerks were to inspect all incoming and outgoing goods. They also had to determine the tariff on each item. They were called Customs Officers. Hamilton became the Secretary of the Treasury and further install his government revenue engine on the back of the Tariff act of 1789. The act is simply explained in its first section:

“Whereas it is necessary for that support of government, for the discharge of the debts of the United States, and the encouragement and protection of manufactures, that duties be laid on goods, wares and merchandise:” — Section 1; Tariff Act of 1789

The tariff is essentially an indirect tax on goods coming and going out of the country. Hamilton saw the huge war debt from the revolution and knew that the US government had no source of income. There was no income tax or anything like that. (Wouldn’t come til 1912, I’ll explain later) So Hamilton being the genius he was, decided to convince President Washington to take out a loan and install the customs system (Tariff Act). He argued in one of many papers that America need to build credit. If you have a credit card or student loans like me then you know that building credit is paying off your debt. Hamilton’s system allowed the US government build credit, in fact one of the best credit ratings in the world for many years. Not everyone was on board with the plan. People like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. However, they couldn’t stop Hamilton’s plan because war debt was owed to France and other creditors. The US didn’t have many options at that time.

So tariffs were the main source of income from 1789 to about 1911. The US government added liquor taxes, postage taxes, corporate taxes, tobacco taxes and the Panama canal as other sources of revenue. In 1912, tariffs made up about 20 percent of the income of the government. In 1913, the government passed a law that changed the source of US government forever. The law called the Revenue Act of 1913 or the Underwood Act was passed to impose an income tax and lower tariff rates from 40 to 25 percent. This marked the end of tariffs making up a significant portion of US government income. This act was possible by the newly passed 16th amendment. (For another post, the 16th allows for income tax under the direct taxation requirements in the constitution, which was previously ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court) Since 1913, our tariff income has only been about 1 percent of revenue. This figure is according to this website here, it also breaks down the tariff income based on type of good. All in all, 2013 saw about 30 billion dollars of income. This is compared to 311 million in 1912. In 2016 dollars, that tariff income would be about 7 billion. Obviously, since the early 1900s the conditions of the economy and our government budget has exploded.

You might be asking yourself but isn’t 7 billion dollars in 2016 or 2017 (Happy New Year) like chump change for the US government whose budget is around 2 or 3 trillion dollars. My answer would be yes. However, if you look at these numbers in terms of percentage and scale then you can imagine a viable tariff system for 2017. Remember tariffs made up 20 percent of the 1912 budget. Now tariffs make up 1.7 percent approximately in 2013. So lets say for argument that our budget under President Trump is 3 trillion. Trump decides in order to cut taxes he needs to increase revenues. (In some alternate logical world) So Trump orders an increase on tariffs. His cabinet comes up with about 600 billion in tariffs or about 20 percent of the budget. I think that 600 billion dollars is a pretty nice chunk of change. Imagine what that could pay for? Social Security? War? Food Stamps? But what would those tariffs look like?

Obviously to understand the role of tariffs, you need have an understanding of the global economy. I think its obvious that the world is complex. A significant part of an economy is trade. The trade between two countries or more is essential because it allows scarce resources to be spread. It also widens the markets for such goods. Its been in the news a lot lately about all the trade agreements. These agreements in a basic way remove the barriers and allow trade to flow freely. One of those barriers can be tariffs. There are two types of tariffs. Import tariffs are a tax on goods that imported from other countries. Import tariffs are often seen as protective to a country economy. This was the primary tariff beginning in 1789 because it (artificially) protected the US economy. Export tariffs are a tax on goods being exported to other countries. Export tariffs are typically seen as way to limit the exports of a certain good. For example, if oil became very scarce then the US might want to put a high export tariff to help curb the sale of oil abroad and keep here in the US.  (An export tariff would increase the price of oil outside the US)

I believe that introducing a new tax plan including tariffs might be beneficial to the US. I think you have to carefully consider what to put tariffs on and what kind of tariffs. But its definitely a source revenue that is not used as it once was. Now we rely on income tax so heavily, its crushing many Americans. Its a liberal fallacy to think that you can tax your way out of poverty. Its an irony. Taxes create more poverty than eliminate. I think I need to do another post on the subject of trade because this post is merely just one part of it. I need to do some further research before I offer any specifics on what a tariff revenue might look like. So I will leave this post as to be continued, my next post will try to figure out how to successfully incorporate tariffs into a free trade world.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Economic Series Part 3: What is Gross Domestic Product?

Welcome to the third part of my economic series. This final part will explain what GDP is and why it is so often used as politicians go to economic figure of success or failure. Gross Domestic Product or GDP as I will call it by the acronym, is an economic indicator. It measures a very specific part of the economy in any given country. If you have not read parts ONE and TWO of this economic series I strongly suggest that you do. My first two parts of the series describe the arguments for and against minimum wage in part one. In part two, I  go over the basics of government budget and taxation. It’s important to recognize that economics is a very complex subject and many topics involved having an understanding of other topics. In this case, I think that GDP is definitely the most advanced of all the topics that I have covered thus far. In order to properly discuss GDP and the politics that usually surround it, I feel its necessary to explain how it come to be and what it involves.

The book that has inspired me to write on this topic and my primary source of information is called GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History by Diane Coyle. Coyle’s book gives a full rundown of everything GDP. I would strongly recommend it because this post won’t even cover 1/4 of what she does in this book. Coyle gives a simple word breakdown of GDP. Gross meaning not deducted as opposed to net (Her example was like net weight of a cereal box, it’s only the weight of the cereal without the packaging) Product meaning stuff made, and Domestic is simply at home.(Page 7) GDP is much more complex than the three simple words that make up its name. The history and founding of GDP begins at the start of World War II. However, the idea goes back throughout the ages.

One of the many controversies over GDP that still exist today was first explored by one of the greatest economic scholars to ever write. Adam Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations. In his book, he went over some relevent facts of GDP. His point to paraphrase is this: The manufacturer that produces something with their labor creates value and adds it to the economy. The person who employs many menial servants grows poor while the person who employs many manufacturers grows rich. The point here being that Smith sees the production of goods as adding value to an economy. He sees the services of a servant or a service in general adds nothing. GDP has often not included services because it’s too hard to measure the true output of a teacher. Also the word “Product” in GDP lends itself to the production of goods not services. (Page 10)

GDP’s history comes out of collection of statistical data and economists. Colin Clark calculated the expenditures and national income of the United Kingdom. Clark based his work on a publication by Alfred Marshall who wrote Principals of Economics before the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt encourage more research and work on the national income and expenditures during the Great Depression. This led to Simon Kuznets to work with the National Bureau of Economic Research, which earned him a nobel prize. One of things that Kuznets brought up is an important facet of GDP. Kuznets thought that he was working to measure welfare rather than just output. GDP is often used to measure the welfare of any given country. However, because like I said previously, GDP is typically measured by the output of an economic. The problem of welfare and GDP is one of modern criticisms of GDP. Coyle dedicates two chapters to the subject of GDP and welfare. (Page 12-14)

I want to focus more on the particulars of GDP and how it’s calculated. Coyle covers this topic quite well. I want to save welfare and GDP for another post because it’s too much for this post. Coyle goes over the three different ways to measure and calculate GDP. She gives a two charts. One chart shows how these calculations are done. Since I don’t have the chart, I will just describe each way. The first way is a Value Added production. Value Added production adds up the Gross Output. The gross output is the all the sales made in an economy. The gross output excludes the inventory because it’s counted by the next category of intermediate inputs. Which stuff like staffing, inventory, and other things that businesses pay money for to make their business work. Finally you get to a number that tells you how much value added each industry in an economy.

The second way to calculate GDP is through Income (by type) approach. This approach uses a set of different incomes and expenditures to make final figure of Total Domestic Incomes earned. There are rental income, profits and proprietors’ income, Taxes on production and imports, Less: Subsidies, Interest and miscellaneous payments, and depreciation. These are the categories of the Income (by type) approach. The third way to calculate GDP is through Final Demand (or Expenditures) approach. This approach uses the sum of these categories to make up the final sales of domestic product to purchasers. The categories are the consumption of final goods and services by households; Investment in plant, equipment, and software; Government expenditures on good and services; and net exports of goods and services (export-import). No matter how you calculate GDP, the measurement always is trying measure how much an economy produces and what kind of income the country who benefits from it makes. (Page 25-26)

The most popular and most used method in modern times is the Expenditures approach. Coyle also goes over the equation along with an awesome chart. The equation simply is GDP= C+I+G+(X-M). The letters stand for Consumer Spending plus Investment plus government spending plus exports less imports. (Trade deficit/surplus). Coyle also tries to show some problems with the GDP equation which is mostly that GDP is not so simple. The categories have multiple sub-categories. There is a lot of gray area. The numbers can be shaky. However, in the end GDP is the most reliable measurement of economy. Coyle mentions other indicators which can help round out the welfare aspect and government impact. The awesome chart I was referring is a two circles. On the left side there is the word “Individuals” and on the right side there is “Business”. The top of the circles, have two words. On the bottom circle it says Expenditures, and on the top circle it says Goods and Services. In the lower two circles, the top one says Income and the bottom says Labor. (page 26-27)

The story is that Individuals and Businesses interact in two different ways. The circles represent the different ways. The bigger circle with Labor and Goods and Services basically shows that Individuals supply the labor for business. The Business supplies the good and services. This is basic economics, it shows a supply/demand for labor and good and services.  The smaller circle with Expenditures and Income show that Businesses supply the Individual with income and the Individual supplies the business with Expenditures. The vice-versa is also true. Businesses make income on the Individual’s expenditures. This is a simple economics lesson that can help you understand GDP. (Page 27)

GDP is an important facet of economic measurement of any given country. As Coyle notes in later chapters which this post won’t cover, that GDP is not accurate in second and third world countries because of faulty accounting and statistics. She also covers a great deal of debate over whether welfare should be measured by GDP or not. These are more complex questions than I really want to go. I think the point of this post is to say that GDP is important to understand. GDP is not a true measure of welfare. It’s the statistical measure of economic input and output. As an example, GDP measures the number of phones that Apple sells after the release of the Iphone 7. It doesn’t take into account the welfare of the people who buy those phones. GDP is also a political tool especially when it comes to arguing over the economy.

Moving away from Coyle’s book in some ways, I want to briefly discuss why politicians like to use GDP. I think that much of the political controversy surrounding the use of GDP comes from the myths of GDP. Many people don’t realize the history of GDP. The misunderstanding of what GDP represents. Many politicans including present candidates for President seem to think that GDP shows how well the economy doing or more often how bad it’s doing. However, the reality is that GDP can fluctuate just based on how you calculate it. One increase or decrease in any given category there could be a 1-2 percent fluctuation. Another important myth to dispel is that government spending actually helps GDP. The debate that surrounds government spending and its effect on the economy is prevalent.

This is where I want to end this post and this series for now. My last words is that government spending doesn’t necessary make for the best economic move. The problem with government spending is that the government is NOT a business. Government makes their money from taxpayers. Its mandatory, you can’t just not pay taxes. It also makes a problem with counting the statistics for GDP. The government doesn’t have a real income with the exception taxes. This means that when the government tries to invest in anything it only represents an expenditure. If you recall the chart, the point of an economy is a cycle of labor into good and services that make income provided by expenditures. One example, that I know the best is that of the spending on the military. Military spending has often been one of the biggest items on US government budget. The national debt is nearly 20 trillion dollars. Some scholars have estimated that 16 trillion of that was spent during the cold war on military research and wars. The way that the DOD (Department of Defense) and the government have gone about spending this money is the problem. The military contracts assigned to military contractors during these years were given without little scrutiny. Many of the biggest contractors were able to contracts with no competition. The contracts included very little accountability or responsiblity especially in regards to money spent.

The point being is that GDP has actually suffered since the Cold War. This mainly due to stagnant economy. I mentioned that GDP doesn’t measure services which now is the most prominent feature of our economy. The reckless spending and bad fiscal policy by the government has given us some unfortunate consequences. GDP will always be controversial because of its complexity. I believe that its important to understand how GDP works. If you understand economics and GDP then you can understand that fallacy that politicians try to push on us. For me, this topic is fairly new but I wanted to try to introduce a little bit of the controversy and facts of economics and GDP.

Thanks you for reading! Have a great day!

 

Citation:

Coyle, Diane. GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History. Prinction University Press, 2014. 

 

Economic Series Part 2: Government Budget: Taxation and Spending

The most dreaded time of year is when everyone must file their taxes. Taxes are certain like death. Taxes are a necessary evil. To many people it seems that our taxes do very little for our own interests. Taxes are supposed to help the people who pay them but rather they seem to help special interests or people who don’t pay them. The responsible party of handing our taxes is the government. The IRS is the collector, Congress is the spender. I believe that this Economic Series Part 2 is probably one of the more important topics. This part will be a sort of contextual background for the last part of this series on GDP. (Gross Domestic Product) I think its very important to understand how the government balances or fails to balance the budget. The topic I choose is quite broad. However, I want to focus on why taxes are collected and how they are spent. I also want to point out how the national debt is growing and what we might do to stop it.

My own view on government taxation and spending is very much libertarian. I believe the government should spend as little as possible. This way our taxes are not the burden they have become. Government spending tends to go to ineffective programs and usually becomes wasteful. I think the best way to understand the federal government budget is by understanding some of the history behind. The creation of our federal budget and tax system was mostly implemented by one man. Alexander Hamilton is the responsible person for most our budget system.  If you remember from history class there was a lot of rebellion and distrust among the citizens of our new country. Many of Hamilton’s critics thought he wanted to become a pawn of the British or king of America through a tight relationship with England. Luckily for us, Hamilton’s set up turned out to be brilliant, and was kept in place until now.

One of the first ways that Hamilton helped set up the federal budget was by creating an import and customs service. It was necessary because when Hamilton became the secretary of treasury, the US had a war debt due to the revolution. In order to pay this war debt off, Hamilton created what is now the Coast Guard. He also set up customs and import agents along the ports. These agents were to collect the duties on the imports to America. The duties or tariffs were basically a tax on imported goods. This was the main source of income for the federal government after the Revolution. Another piece of the system that Hamilton created was the banking system. Hamilton realized that the US need a national bank. In part because of the debt and in part because of the wide range of currencies that existed among the former colonies. The Bank of America (similar to the one we have now) was created. Congress wrote a charter for it and it opened up by selling shares. These shares is how the bank made its money. The controversy came when it lead a lot money speculating among men who wanted to risk an investment in the bank.

The Bank of America also set up a line of credit for the federal government. This is was necessary because in order to pay back the war debt the US would need to take out a loan. Hence this created what we call credit. Hamilton’s system was much criticized by Republicans like Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. One of Hamilton’s primary supporters was actually George Washington. With increasing responsibility due to the growing population and turmoil in France, the US needed to increase its revenue. Hamilton proposed and got a whiskey tax passed. This whiskey tax would put a small tax on whiskey and liquor. This lead to the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. Hamilton himself lead a rather big militia to help quell this protest.

Hamilton’s role in the banking, budget and tax collection in the US is monumental. It is often forgotten that he nearly created the whole system by himself. An impressive feat. It wasn’t until the 16th amendment that make income tax a thing in the US. This was passed in 1913 long after Hamilton’s death. Woodrow Wilson brought us into the modern era of taxes with the 16th amendment and the Federal Reserve Act. The Federal Reverse Act created the Fed as its usually called. The Federal Reserve Act basically moderates the US dollar according to the economic conditions. It also prints and controls the US dollar. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve is mostly privatized. You may have heard the phrase “Audit the Fed” from politicians like Rand and Ron Paul. The problem is essentially, the Fed is undermining the US dollar and devaluing it. The Fed has its own agenda and nobody except the Fed knows what that agenda is. (Another post, another day)

Now in 2016, after over 200 years running our government, we find ourselves in 19 trillion-dollar debt. What could have gone wrong since Hamilton? The answer is hard to pinpoint. However, my working theory is that after War World 2, during the cold war, we started to spend more and more on defense. Defense spending became out of control and the Department of Defense was not held accountable. The DoD was allowed to “cook the books” on their budget numbers. Some estimates that I’ve seen put our spending during the Cold War at 16 trillion dollars. I would encourage you to check the national debt clock that shows our debt in real-time. It breaks down the debt into categories. The national debt being so high is due to overzealous spending and lack of accountability in the government.

As for a breakdown in spending and what we spend our tax money on. I found a nice infographic that shows how we spend our federal budget. It focuses on how the debt is effected by certain factors like raising and lowering taxes. You should definitely check it out right now. It’s from the Congressional Budget Office, a government agency. I think that paying taxes is obviously important however, I believe that some of our tax dollars are wasted. One of things that needs to happen is for the federal government to cut spending. Unfortunately, we don’t hold our government accountable for the money that it spends. A good analogy is like when you take your parents credit card and go on shopping spree. Your parents may give you the credit card with a reasonable expectation of what you will be spending it on.  Instead though, you spend it without any kind regard for how much or on what. Imagine if your parents never held you accountable for spending all their money. They would probably go bankrupt in most cases because without restrictions, then what’s the point of spending less?

This is how the federal government and taxpayer relationship basically works. The federal government is you as teenager with a parent’s credit card. The taxpayers are the parents. As taxpayers we are pretty irresponsible parents. We don’t hold our government accountable for their actions in spending money. The tragedy is that the US is in big trouble because of reckless government spending. The 19 trillion-dollar deficit is almost an insurmountable sum of money. Rather than discussing who is to blame for the problem, I think its more productive to discuss how to remedy it. The blame can be distributed to many people and government agencies. The blame can be put on US foreign policy too. However, there is a relatively easy and pain-free way to help cut the deficit and still keep our standard of living intact without raising taxes sky-high.

There are two primary solutions that I feel would work to greatly reduce our debt. One of those is a simple cut in unecesary government programs and spending. One of our biggest expenses is the military budget as you can see below:2016-budget-chart-total-spending2

So just imagine if we pulled back most of military troops from abroad and cut most of the unecessary research and development budet. I would only cut about half of the military budget. At nearly 634 billion dollars, let’s cut it down to 300 billion. The 300 billion left for the military would go towards the salaries of personnel mostly and all the war material necessary. In the case of an attack on us or our allies, then obviously the money could be restored. So where would that 334 billion that I cut off go to?

Take a look at the pie chart again. 60 precent of our budget is spend on healthcare and social security. Social Security, by the way is going bankrupt. So let’s put 334 billion into both of those. Approximately 150 billion to each service. In addtion, lets cut off the foreign aid to other countries and add another 30 billion to the pot. So imagine over eight years during just one president for two terms, with approximately 165 billion dollars going to sinking welfare programs. So in 8 years, the US would put nearly 2.6 trillion dollars into those welfare programs. You could even take a step further, take about 2 billion or 3 billion out of the 364 billion and put that into higher education. You could pay off the loans of all students each year. Just think about all this, this is just cutting the military budget by half. Which by the way, is nearly 10 times as big as the next country’s military budget.

My other option, which I have written about before and have over time, really have come to like is Basic Income. You should definitely read my post on Basic Income. I will explain in short, that Basic Income is basically a replacement for welfare. You cut all social programs including medicare and medicaid. Cut minimum wage. Cut everything related to social security.  Instead you give everyone over the age of 18 a check from the government for a certain amount each month. Now just imagine if we did as I describe in my basic income post and we cut the military budget. I truly believe that the effect of both of these actions could lower taxes and help eliminate the deficit.

The taxation and government budget problems are ones of responsibility and accountability. This in part comes from the lack of education how the taxes and spending work within the government. I hope that my brief explanation can help clear up some of the confusion and misunderstanding about how taxes and government budgets work. I mentioned that this series post prefaces my next topic of Gross Domestic Product. Its important to note that GDP is calculated without the input and outputs of the government. The government spending money on military war material and other research does not count towards GDP. This is a very significant fact in that it strongly affects the GDP numbers. As you will find out in my next post that GDP only measures the input of labor and the output of production by the private sector.

I would encourage you to research more outside of my post. Its a very interesting topic. Thank you for reading! Have a great day!

 

Economic Series Part 1: To Raise or not to Raise the Minimum Wage?

Welcome to the first part of my three topic series on Economics. If you haven’t read this blog before then you should check out my last two posts that explain exactly what this series will be about. One post is here, and the introduction to this series is here. I would also suggest reading some of my previous posts, many of which cover this very topic of Minimum Wage. In particular, this post and this post among others. I have already prefaced this topic on multiple occasions so in this post, I will dive straight into the question that I want to present both arguments for and against. I will briefly explain what the minimum wage is, first. Then I will give you brief history of it. The bulk of this post will be my arguments, however, it will be up to you to decide what side you are on.

The title of post implies that my question is about raising the minimum wage. This has been in recent years, a hotly debated and controversial question. My question is: Should the government raise the minimum wage? Now it’s not a simple yes or no question. If you say yes, then you have to explain why you think that raising it is such a good idea. Or If you say no then why not raise it?  The principle of minimum wage is fairly simple to understand. Minimum wage is the base wage of all workers in the United States. Typically, the federal government sets a standard wage. However, the states also have the ability to set their own wage higher than the federal government if they choose. Right now, the federal wage is 7.25 an hour. There are 29 states that have minimum wages above the federal level.

The history of the minimum wage starts in the beginning of 20th century. The progressive movement that help develop labor laws and other regulations on business helped bring about the minimum wage. Before the minimum wage existed, workers were paid based on how much skill their job involved. They were also paid according to market value. Just like today, typically the less skilled your work, the less pay you received. According to the Department of Labor website, the minimum was officially brought into law on June 26, 1940. The name of the act bringing it to life was called Minimum Wage and Maximum Hours Standards Under the Fair Labor Standards Act. It originally started out at 1 dollar then worked its up. In January 1980 it was $3.10 and by 2007 it had increased to $5.85. Now in 2016, we see movements to increase it even further from 7.25. This is where the controversy and debate starts.

There are two distinct sides, I want to present arguments for and against raising the minimum wage. I want to present it fairly. So I feel obligated to tell you that I am against raising the minimum wage. However, I’m not against raising a reasonable amount that is in accordance with the market value of labor. In other words, if the economy can handle a raise in the minimum wage then so be it. Let me first present the supposed arguments for raising it. This is even hotly debated among economists. So you can expect to be baffled by the contradictory arguments for each side.

For Raising the Minimum Wage:

The line of reasoning for raising the minimum wage is that it will help the poor and single parents. The various other reasons for raising it are that big corporations can afford it, CEO’s make too much and workers deserve it. Typically the Democrats champion these raises in Minimum wage. In recent years, there has been push to raise to 15 dollars an hour. You might hear about the rationale to raise it as a living wage. A living wage really means an increase that is adjusted for inflation. These are just some of the arguments made for the minimum wage to be raised. I want to quote some interesting pro-minimum wage Mythbusters facts from the Labor Department website. (I seriously couldn’t believe this government website sounds like a liberal Facebook page. Talk about propaganda) Without further or ado:

Myth: The federal minimum wage is higher today than it was when President Reagan took office.

Not true: While the federal minimum wage was only $3.35 per hour in 1981 and is currently $7.25 per hour in real dollars, when adjusted for inflation, the current federal minimum wage would need to be more than $8 per hour to equal its buying power of the early 1980s and more nearly $11 per hour to equal its buying power of the late 1960s. That’s why President Obama is urging Congress to increase the federal minimum wage and give low-wage workers a much-needed boost.

Myth: Increasing the minimum wage lacks public support.

Not true: Raising the federal minimum wage is an issue with broad popular support. Polls conducted since February 2013 when President Obama first called on Congress to increase the minimum wage have consistently shown that an overwhelming majority of Americans support an increase.

Myth: Increasing the minimum wage will result in job losses for newly hired and unskilled workers in what some call a “last-one-hired-equals-first-one-fired” scenario.

Not true: Minimum wage increases have little to no negative effect on employment as shown in independent studies from economists across the country. Academic research also has shown that higher wages sharply reduce employee turnover which can reduce employment and training costs.

Once again these are straight from the Department of Labor website. They tried to make the argument that the minimum wage being higher is actually good for the economy. I want to show just a few more for the sake argument. You might read all of this and say looks the minimum wage being 15 dollars an hour isn’t so bad?  If you believe the Department of Labor’s website then yes. Here those other myths before I move onto to the against argument:

Myth: Increasing the minimum wage will cause people to lose their jobs.

Not true: In a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders urging a minimum wage increase, more than 600 economists, including 7 Nobel Prize winners wrote, “In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.”

Myth: Small business owners can’t afford to pay their workers more, and therefore don’t support an increase in the minimum wage.

Not true: A July 2015 survey found that 3 out of 5 small business owners with employees support a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $12. The survey reports that small business owners say an increase “would immediately put more money in the pocket of low-wage workers who will then spend the money on things like housing, food, and gas. This boost in demand for goods and services will help stimulate the economy and help create opportunities.”

Let’s move onto why one might be against raising the minimum wage. The against argument will consist of a series of rebuttals. In my personal experience, I can rebuke quite a few of the arguments to raise minimum wage. Let’s start with the things I can agree with. I do agree that the public supports raising the minimum wage. More people are for it than against it. Its obvious why too, being paid more money is not something that most would have objections. However, I believe the Department of Labor website completely contradicts a different government agency report on raising minimum wage and the effects it would have on the economy. In order to keep this post from becoming a book, I will just list my rebuttals to the common Pro-minimum wage arguments:

  1. It’s true that minimum wage has not been adjusted for inflation, however, it’s not advisable to raise too quickly since businesses are used to the current level.
  2. It’s a false notion to say that minimum wage WILL NOT cause job losses because according to a Congressional Budget Office study done in 2014, a raise of the minimum wage to just 9 dollars an hour would lead to a short-term decrease in both employment and hiring of low skilled workers. In the long-term it would see the hiring of  higher-skilled workers. The effect would be a little more pronounced at 10.10 an hour and potentially more so at 15. However, the study only takes increases to 9 or 10.10 into account.
  3. The notion that people will won’t lose jobs once again is rebutted by the CBO study on minimum wage. (I will make sure to link the study to this post)  Also just based on a basic knowledge of economics you can make an argument. The way that businesses work and the economy works with the minimum wage is complicated but its a simple concept. Workers who make minimum wage are usually low skilled. Low skilled workers are needed in any capitalist market economy. They are typically the majority and typically short-term. Raising the minimum actually hurts them. Businesses are in business for profits. If they have to pay workers more than that hurts their bottom line. They either have to raise prices or cut workers. Which is different from a business raising their wages on their own.
  4. Small Business owners are for a minimum wage increase. This has to be bullshit because I work for a small business. I’ve worked in companies with low skilled workers. In fact, I am one of those such workers. Let me tell you that most employers in my experience would rather cut the hours or cut the workers than raise prices. A minimum wage increase would only cut employment for the majority of workers in low skilled positions.
  5. My last rebuttal, is that minimum wage will help the poor or single parents. This is the biggest lie ever told. Since the conception of minimum wage it has not helped anybody. Even if it was adjusted for inflation, money is always fluctuating in value according to the markets. Also if the minimum wage is let’s say 15 dollars an hour. That is the base wage for everybody in the country. If the base wage is higher than companies won’t keep their prices lower, they will increase their prices. Not only because they have to pay workers more, but also because people will have more money. So in the end, the rich get richer, the poor stay poor. Minimum wage can’t help poor people because when the government arbitrarily raises the price of labor it only hurts the workers and consumers.

There are my arugments for and against the minimum wage being raised. I know I said I am against it. However, I would be ok with a small increase because of inflation. According to the CBO study it would help a little bit at 9 dollars an hour. But I think there will adverse effects if we raise it to 15 dollars too soon. I also think that theres other options like Baisc Income. I would suggest you read my post on that. So consider my arguments and my sources. Look into some articles about minimum wage yourself. The problem is truly not that raising minimum wage is a bad thing, its only bad if the government is trying to force it on an economy that isn’t ready for it. Like I said if a business raises its own wages thats ok but because the business made that decision on its own. For example, Starbucks recently give all its workers a 5 to 10 percent raise. They also raised their prices. The cause and effect of minimum wage is more important than the amount of the wage itself.

Thank you for reading! Have a great day! My sources are linked below:

CBO Minimum Wage Study: 2014

Department of Labor Website Mythbusters

History of Minimum Wage; also DOL Website

US Foreign Policy: Candidates’ Terrorism Platforms

If you are just reading my blog for the first time, then you may want to go back to the very first post. If not, then you may want to read or re-read the first and second post of this US Foreign Policy series. In this series, I have offered some insight into our national security policies against Terrorism. I have also revealed our relationship with China and its vulnerability to change with a new president. In this third post of the series, I will try to wrap up the terrorism topic. Then I may write about other things for awhile until I can think of some foreign policy related posts to write. In other news, unrelated to this post, Donald Trump has indeed clinch the nomination and will go to the convention as the candidate. This is obviously not shocking given all his opponents have dropped out. I said in my last post that I would preview each candidates foreign policy platform and try to glean how that would play against ISIS. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump does not talk about ISIS specifically, so instead I will use his trade policy with China as a sample of his handling in international affairs.

Let’s being with Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state. She outlines a fairly specific national security plan. Instead trying to paraphrase it and make this post longer than necessary, I will instead just quote a part of it. The rest of it you read for yourself on her website, linked here. So here’s that quoted part:

 

  • Defeating ISIS. ISIS and the foreign terrorist fighters it recruits pose a serious threat to America and our allies. We will confront and defeat them in a way that builds greater stability across the region, without miring our troops in another misguided ground war. Hillary will empower our partners to defeat terrorism and the ideologies that drive it, including through our ongoing partnership to build Iraqi military and governing capacity, our commitment to Afghanistan’s democracy and security, and by supporting efforts to restore stability to Libya and Yemen.
  • Holding China accountable. As secretary of state, Hillary reasserted America’s role as a Pacific power and called out China’s aggressive actions in the region.  As president, she’ll work with friends and allies to promote strong rules of the road and institutions in Asia, and encourage China to be a responsible stakeholder—including on cyberspace, human rights, trade, territorial disputes, and climate change—and hold it accountable if it does not.

    ***

  • Strengthen alliances. From the Middle East and Asia to Europe and our own hemisphere, Hillary will strengthen the essential partnerships that are a unique source of America’s strength. That’s particularly true of Israel, which is why Hillary will continue to support Israel’s ability to defend itself, including with Iron Dome and other defense systems. If anyone challenges Israel’s security, they challenge America’s security.
  • Create partnerships for tomorrow. Hillary believes in free peoples and free markets. As president, she’ll invest in partnerships in Latin America, Africa, and Asia with people and nations who share our values and vision for the future. – Hillary Clinton

I quote two different sets of points. The two on the top are very controversial to me, because they are easier said than done and I will explain.  The bottom two essentially state the same goal but its actually a very encouraging sentiment to hear. Starting with defeating ISIS, it sounds like Hillary wants to use our allies in the middle east to help defeat them. (See the Italicized sentence) Although I find this to be a more tolerable policy then unilateral action, I still see problems. Naturally when trying to form a coalition to fight there will be disagreements. I think the real problems stem from who will pay for this fight and who actually can fight.

Let’s take Afghanistan for example, since the US handed over the reins of their newly installed democratic government, the Afghans still haven’t been able to re-gain full control. The insurgency is prevalent in interrupting day to day life. It also still requires a close relationship with US troops. If Hillary is counting on Afghanistan or even worse the center of ISIS in Syria to fight, then I think she is crazy. Now if we depend on other allies like Israel, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia; We might end up footing the bill. The sad reality is that typically the US does foot the bill for uni and bilateral action since we are the most powerful nation in the world. This is still leaves the question of would actually defeat ISIS?

In my humble opinion, I don’t think it would be enough. Nor would I say that invading would be effective either. I think Hillary should broaden the whole policy and include everyone across the world. Her stated policies of creating and maintaining allies and partnerships is the exact solution to defeating ISIS. The reason is that ISIS like other terrorism groups are fueled by fear and coercion. These two elements help a terrorism group achieve its goals. They are feared by the people, and they coerce governments into giving them what they want. So Hillary needs to make sure every ally that we can possibly have on board is ready to stand up against ISIS, not by fighting them but by not fearing or giving into their demands.

Before I talk about her policy with China, I want to highlight something I just said because its pretty much the point I wanted to make about the last two policies in the quote. The sentence in bold is why I like those policy points. Terrorism can only be fought with kindness not with violence. It seems to psychologically weird, however, the terrorism feed off of expensive wars and fear. Just look at Afghanistan. Now moving away from terrorism, I just want to make some quick points about her policy with China.

I have stated before that Hillary would follow in President Obama’s footsteps and continue the Asian pivot. If I am not mistaken it sounds like that is exactly what she wants to do. I believe that its a solid step in the right direction. However, I would add to her policy that we should become more economically independent by reducing our federal deficit. If you read my first two posts then you know that our relationship with China is securely hinged on interdependent economies. Speaking of China and moving into Mr. Trump’s policy, once again I will quote a part of it and link the rest of it, here on Trump’s website. Here is that quote:

Bring China to the bargaining table by immediately declaring it a currency manipulator.

Strengthen our negotiating position by lowering our corporate tax rate to keep American companies and jobs here at home, attacking our debt and deficit so China cannot use financial blackmail against us, and bolstering the U.S. military presence in the East and South China Seas to discourage Chinese adventurism. – Donald Trump

Mr. Trump lacks any sort of real national security issue on his website. However, this tidbit gives at least some clue as to how Trump would deal with foreign policy affairs. I find it interesting that his first statement is calling China a currency manipulator. Now its true, however, if anyone knows how to manipulate currency its Trump, see this heated post. I am not completely sure how he plans to get them to even talk about stopping much less punishing them. The reason why I feel such a slight chance of punishment is because the UN would be handing the sanctions. The problem is that the permanent security council that votes on sanctions in the UN, includes members like China. So obviously China would block anything  like that.

Fortunately, Mr. Trump’s second point makes a lot more sense if he can do right. One way to stop China from cheating to rely less on their economy. Trump is headed in the right direction with both the corporate tax rate and attacking the debt and deficit. However, let me hope that he doesn’t try to use his boneheaded and stupid plan that I blew up in a post recently. Of course, the right way to decrease our debt is to stop SPENDING. Just to set the record straight. The last part of Trump’s statement is a little controversial. Here it is again: bolstering the U.S. military presence in the East and South China Seas to discourage Chinese adventurism.

I’m not personally crazy on this type of policy because it could give way to a war that we don’t want. I wrote before when writing about China that the Chinese are preparing to try to enlarge their sphere of influence. The Chinese aren’t ruling out a war as the building of their navy would indicate. Once again, I think military build ups just lead to war. There is no way for diplomatic negotiations with increased military force in close proximity. I think that Trump and the US would be better off using economic measures to help combat the Chinese reach for world power.

I hope that this was informative and gave some insight on how these policies may affect us if they are put into use. The goal of this US foreign policy series to help educate people on the aspects of foreign policy. It should also make clear who you may want to vote for. A candidate’s knowledge of foreign policy is a highly regarded asset in political circles. I think that besides the economy, foreign policy is one of the hardest areas in politics. The complexity and multitude of variable factors is absolutely overwhelming. I will say that even I struggle to comprehend foreign policy at times.Fortunately, my background in History has prepared me well to understand it. I also feel that foreign policy can make or break a presidency. I’ll be honest with President Obama, he had almost no foreign policy experience. Yet he has done just alright, with a quite a few mistakes. The two bright spots are his Asian Pivot and his dealing with Syria and ISIS. Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed all the posts in this series, there will definitely be more in the future!

Thank you for reading!

Economic Intelligence: Politicans Lack it

Its occurred to me on multiple occasions that politicians seem to lack any sort of intelligence in regards to economics. My last post was a heated detest of Trump’s printing money comments. I scathingly scold him for being so stupid about messing with our currency and debt. Trump’s comment literally make me think that candidates running for President think that money grows on trees. In some magical way their tax plans and spending outlays will work out in some kind of utopian dream. Let’s be honest though, its not just Trump, its Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, even recently dropped out Ted Cruz and John Kaisch. I think for me, the biggest weight of decision on who to vote for is through economic policy.

As I usually do, I want to pose a question then slowly answer using historical and modern references. This time instead of posing any real question I just want to review a little historical background on who made our economy because its the subject this great biography on Alexander Hamilton. Then I want to review why the policies of both democrats and republicans alike are misguided. I may also dive into the problems with our economic system. The best starting point on a such a broad topic is to actually narrow it. More specifically, I want to discuss the taxation throughout American history. Then I want to get into the federal budget and debt.

On the subject of taxation, there is famous saying from the Revolutionary War that was a common rallying cry for independence from Great Britain. You may even remember this saying from middle school history: No Taxation without Representation!  The British heavily taxed the colonies to pay for their ever-growing debt. The monarch, King George III had many foreign wars and colonies to protect. As a result, high taxes were levied on the American colonies. The problem was that colonists had no representation in the British constitutional monarchy. When the colonist tried to gain influence and resisted the taxes, the British responded with even harsher taxes. In a simplified version, this lead to the Revolution and ended with the American colonist winning the war.

After the war, the issues of taxes came up again. The main proponent of America’s future financial stability was Alexander Hamilton, first secretary of Treasury. Hamilton wrote and pushed through many of today’s financial laws in government. Hamilton was able to establish excellent credit through the payment of debts. He was able to consolidate state debt and federal debt because each state held its own debt before the constitution was created. In order to make sure that the federal power came before the state’s power, Hamilton pushed for the consolidation. Hamilton also created bonds to help pay for the war debt. The main form of income in the early 1790s was import duties. Hamilton revamped the customs, invented the coast guard and cut down on the smuggling. (Smuggling was popular during the Revolution against the British.)

As the United States grew bigger its need for government revenue increased. Obviously this meant an tax on actual citizens. While Hamilton was still alive there was no such support for an income or land tax. Part of the reason that many rich landowners were against it, the same ones that were also in government. It was not until the Civil War that an actual income tax was passed.  The government also tried varies taxes on goods like alcohols. This only resulted in rebellions. These measures were never popular. Of course as we progress to the early 20th century we can see that taxes increase by each decade. One of main sources of income by the federal government was through bonds especially during the World Wars. If you don’t know how bonds work then its basically a government backed loan. You pay 100 dollars for a bond slip. In a certain period of time your able to cash it in with an interest rate.

In modern times, by this I mean post WW2, taxes are generally considered to be fairly certain like death. Taxes have always fluctuated, such as during the 1950s into the late 1960s with the Vietnam War saw taxes go high. Then in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan cut taxes and the trend of lower taxes continue up until about the early 2000s. Of course, our tax code is very complicated due to politicians messing with it. Many former presidential  candidates wanted to scrap this tax code. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse because I have talked about tax plans numerous times. To save my word count, I will just generally say that all three current candidates tax plans are either very wrong or very misguided or both. (scroll through my blog to find their tax plans)

Alexander Hamilton did a ton of good for America’s financial system. He also held the opinion that being in debt was a good thing. I honestly think that if he knew that we have accumulated 20 trillion dollars in debt, he would roll in his grave. America has always been in and out of debt through our history. You can typically identify times of debt with wars. I have also noticed that following a war, the debt will vanish due to economic dominance. The best example is probably World War 2. The post-war period saw America as the world’s number one creditor and business leader. This is mainly due to the fact that most of Europe and Asia had been destroyed. I believe that and many economists believe that our debt is way too big. It will nearly impossible to pay it off. Not to mention that people like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders want to wreck havoc with insane policies like printing money and spending as much as 10 trillion!

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So your probably wondering where exactly I’m going with all this history and modern references. (to the bank, of course!) First, I think that Economic Intelligence is more than just an understanding of economics. Economic Intelligence is knowing when your policy is working or not working. Its knowing that printing money will surly ruin us, DONALD TRUMP! Economic Intelligence is being smart about money, its being similar to Alexander Hamilton. I’m not saying that Hamilton is the end all–be all, but his wisdom on economics has endured over 200 years. The fact is that I could take any of the three clowns running for president and poke holes in their economic and tax plans. The problem is that really don’t understand how economics works. Repentantly, they haven’t been paying attention because the last 75 years have shown that their methods won’t work.

For example, Hillary and Bernie plans to raise minimum wage and use a democratic socialism platform has been tried before by countries of similar or larger size. Let’s take Russia for example under the Bolsheviks, Lenin, Stalin. All these communism leaders installed a socialist economic system or state run economy. The Russians faced problems of shortages, starvation and to add insult to injury, genocide. In a similar fashion to what Sanders wants to do, Stalin also wanted to take down the rich people. Guess what happened, he certain took them out by killing them. State run economies just don’t work. You need capitalism because the market should decide. I think economically speaking, I would rather have some poor and disadvantaged over having many poor and disadvantaged.

Unfortunately, economics dictates that re-distribution through unnatural means leads to more distress and poor. In addition, the biggest and most irritating issue that of spending and debt. I would love to understand how printing money won’t lead to disaster. Also how will spending MONEY decrease our debt that was created by SPENDING money? In conclusion, I want to underline the point that economic intelligence is necessary in a good presidential candidate. History has shown us both good and bad ways to make an nation economically viable. We need to choose carefully otherwise face consequences not unlike economic unintelligent nations before us.

Thanks for reading! Sorry it was so long!

 

The Appeal of Socialism- What is it?

Socialism seems to be all the rage now a days. As evidenced by the rise of Bernie Sanders and his socialist platform. This post will be merely an exploration in situations and circumstances that socialism claims to fix. Socialism is by definition, the government or community setting the goals for everything in everyday life. The goals are usually to achieve as close as possible a Utopian society that is controlled by the community. The idea that a community is able to control the political atmosphere dates back to Pluto and Socrates and ancient Greece. However, socialism usually some economic sacrifices for the good of the community. I can agree that socially speaking you should be able to do anything within the limits of reason. If it doesn’t hurt anyone then it should be allowed. The problems I have come with the economic goals and policies used.

For example, lets pretend that you have two countries of equal population, similar economies and similar racial makeup, diverse. In country A, you have a  political system that promotes equality in people, wealth and politics. Country A, has free education and free healthcare. But it also has a huge deficit, no job growth and high poverty. In country B, you have a subsidized education system, a private market healthcare system. Country B also has a wealth gap between non-managers and executives. It has low unemployment and a lower minimum wage than Country A. Country B doesn’t use race or origin to determine job status or eligibility but it uses merit. Country A uses an affirmative action program to help with diversity. So what is the difference between Countries A and B?

Country B is a capitalist nation and Country A is a socialist one. Obviously, America is somewhere in between. I want you to think about which country you would prefer? Keep in mind that Country B has low taxes and Country A has high taxes. Country B uses a flat tax at a percentage that everyone pays equally. Country A uses heavy taxes on everyone including wealthier to help pay for everything.  Which one sounds better?

If you picked B then congratulations, your a capitalist. If you picked A then I’m sorry but you may be socialist. My point is that America could go in either direction. The problem I have is that socialism doesn’t sound  that appealing. Let’s take employment for example. The employment rates are extremely different in capitalist and socialist countries. The reason for this is wages and taxes. The capitalist nation uses a flat tax that takes a percentage and taxes everyone across board on their income. This tax is fair and if loopholes are eliminated can be very effective. Meanwhile, the socialist nation has high taxes that take most of everyone’s income especially the wealthy. Its not fair nor right. I don’t believe in taxing one bracket more heavily than another. I believe that is called stealing.

However, aside from taxes you also the base wage or minimum wage. Capitalist let the market decide the wage. Of course, any good government needs to have some regulation and might set a standard. In any economy you don’t want your lowest level workers to make as much as more skilled and educated ones. In a socialist nation, the minimum wage is set high to ensure equality for all. The downside to this policy is that companies have to either lay off employees they can’t afford or raise prices. It seems to me that being in a capitalist nation would be more beneficial knowing I could start from the bottom and work my up. I won’t have to worry about being taxed more. In addition, I would have incentive to work because of the opportunity to make more money. I don’t find this same kind of incentive with a socialist policy. I know I will be doomed to work for minimum wage because everyone else who doesn’t the skills I do, can easily get the same job.

Okay, so you are not convinced that capitalist nation is better than socialist nation yet? Really? Oh you say “despite the high taxes and little advancement opportunity, I think the promise of free healthcare and free college education is amazing!” You might think that but when does the word “free” actually mean cost nothing? In this case, never. The socialist nation has a high taxes for a reason and that is to pay for those free programs. Healthcare is never free. The socialist government is merely using your taxpayer money to pool into a healthcare system for everyone even the people who are unemployed for 10 years on purpose. Free education also sounds great, except that once again the government is using your money. So my friends, nothing is free except Chuck Norris. (hahaha) BAM!

On the contrary to that system, there is way to affordable healthcare and education! If you move to the capitalist nation both healthcare and education are not free but reduced either by taxes or competition or both. Let me explain. So a private market healthcare system is where the healthcare providers compete for customers based on their services. If company A has a better program with a cheaper price then company  B will go out of business. The government’s role is to make sure its a fair competition and that the consumer is safe. Pretty simple right? What about education you ask. Well, in the capitalist nation, education is what we call subsidized. The government uses a small portion of tax money revenue to help students pay for college as needed. Instead of loaning the money out through big corporations or banks, the government grants the money to students starting with those who need it most. Each student gets a portion of his or her tuition paid for. Any student can apply and most would get it if their parents are within the income range. This is subsidized education.

I think that my point is well proven. I have illustrated some key issues using some fake scenarios and real solutions. Obviously, all of this is very general and non-specific. However, the reasons why I don’t find socialism are quite obvious to me. Socialism doesn’t offer the opportunity, freedom of choice, incentive or common sense to empower people to be truly free. It tends to limit the boundaries of what one can do. While I like the goals of making everyone be equal in pay and race. I also know that realistically it cannot happen. People are not perfect and neither is a system of government. You can’t force people to change instantly and you can’t make people forget about the past. All you can learn from past mistakes and hope to make a difference for the future. I believe that weight of racism and socioeconomic gaps is on you. Its on yourself to do something about it. The government can’t handle it and shouldn’t handle it. When the government tries to handle it, you get police oppression and riots.

So, I am speaking almost directly to Bernie Sanders supporters and all people from any party. But we need to seriously consider the consequences of using destructive policies in this great nation. We must remember that our country was built on capitalism and freedom of religion. It was built on a revolution that was established to break away from unfair taxes. Our founding fathers worked hard to develop a system of government that never had been used before. It turned to be the most successful. We should not turn our backs on capitalism because some government officials are out of line. We can fix the government and go back to what made us strong. In order to do that, we need to take back financial responsibility and accountability in our government.

Vote wisely, think independently. Thanks for reading!