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      07-01-2019, 01:41 PM   #1
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Government Spending = Spending your money poorly

Some points to consider before my example:

1) All wealth is initially created in the private sector, and government spending is the wasteful consequence.

2) We know it’s wasteful because we know that bad ideas in government almost never die. What’s mindless persists. Government is the polar opposite of superrich Silicon Valley.

3) Remember, all government workers used to not be government workers.

4) All money that funds government activity used to not be held by government until politicians taxed it away for political consumption.

Stated simply, government spending is the private sector minus merit, and minus the persistent failure and possibility of failure without which talent and innovation cannot be realized.

Which brings us to a front page Wall Street Journal article from Tuesday. Even though airplanes can transport passengers from Chicago to St. Louis in less than 1 hour, Amtrak (our national train service) has a train route in place that can similarly transport passengers between the two cities. The problem is that what takes less than an hour by plane takes 5 ½ hours by train. Sadly, the Amtrak story gets worse.

As the Journal went on to report, “a fast-rail project is under way in Illinois.” It’s hard not laugh while typing, but this project will push the top speed of Amtrak trains traveling from Chicago to St. Louis up to 110 miles per hour, thus “shaving just an hour” off a trip that as previously mentioned takes 5 ½ hours. Fear not, the story gets even worse.

You see, $2 billion was spent so that Amtrak trains traveling between STL and Chicago would take 4 ½ hours instead of 5 ½. Unsurprisingly, this non-improvement isn’t or won’t impress passengers. The present expectation is that, assuming top speeds of 110 mph, “the share of people who travel between the two cities by rail could rise just a few percentage points.” On its own, American Airlines already flies seven times per day from Chicago to St. Louis. In an hour.

=================

Remember, with government spending, it’s not a Democrat or Republican thing. Politicians exist to spend, so the cost of government grows and grows regardless of the Party in charge. It cost Amtrak $2 billion to “improve” service that was never necessary, while $500,000 was all it took for Peter Thiel to purchase 10 percent of Facebook in 2004. With the long history of nosebleed federal spending very much in mind, how many Facebooks have been suffocated by government waste that economists laughably tell us stimulates economic growth?

This is not a partisan issue. It’s one of common sense. Government, whether run by Republicans or Democrats, can only mis-appropriate what’s precious. Sane people on each side should energetically oppose the falsehood that is “government spending” simply because it’s not government spending.

/Rant over.

WE. NEED. LESS. GOVERNMENT.


I'm curious as to what others think - specifically those who tend to vote more heavily with the Democrat tickets. I understand that our current and previous Republican administrations have been poor fiducaries of our tax dollars as well, but at least the government grows 'slower' with them than with the Democrat leaders when they are in charge.

Is there a fix for this? I don't see one.
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      07-01-2019, 01:57 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Run Silent View Post
[3) Remember, all government workers used to not be government workers.
From a career standpoint, NOT true in my case. I was recruited from high school to work for the local Navy, and have been a government worker since 84, with a brief period where I was a contractor for a government agency.

Although, in my "yout" I did have a paper route, and washed dishes at the local yacht club.
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      07-01-2019, 02:00 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by UncleWede View Post
From a career standpoint, NOT true in my case. I was recruited from high school to work for the local Navy, and have been a government worker since 84, with a brief period where I was a contractor for a government agency.

Although, in my "yout" I did have a paper route, and washed dishes at the local yacht club.
LOL - well, yeah - but what I mean by that is that all government worker 'jobs' used to not be government worker jobs. But even in your case, you previously did some form of employment before working for the government and you certainly would be doing some sort of employment if you didn't work for the government now. As such, the government took your labor away from the private sector and is now likely using you less efficiently than the private sector would have.
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      07-01-2019, 02:04 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Run Silent View Post
LOL - well, yeah - but what I mean by that is that all government worker 'jobs' used to not be government worker jobs. But even in your case, you previously did some form of employment before working for the government and you certainly would be doing some sort of employment if you didn't work for the government now. As such, the government took your labor away from the private sector and is now likely using you less efficiently than the private sector would have.
IT is IT, doesn't matter who the employer is, really. If you have a computer, you need a geek. Government didn't take that job from anyone, and I still hire on specialists to help me with certain tasks.

So, you're saying that because I'm on BPOT all the time, I'm not being used efficiently
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      07-01-2019, 02:11 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by UncleWede View Post
So, you're saying that because I'm on BPOT all the time, I'm not being used efficiently

well..............
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      07-01-2019, 06:05 PM   #6
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Interesting Amtrak story. I had to take a business trip to Boston from upstate NY for a week. If I took my car, it would have been a three hour drive but downtown parking was $34/day. Including mileage reimbursement, it would have been about $375.

Flights out of NYC were all $99 round trip, plus $40 for the commuter train to/from the airport. Factoring in the TSA-suggested arrival times, it would have been 5-6 hours each way for maybe $160 after taxi fares at Logan. My employer knows that I won't fly PERIOD for a very good reason, so this was off the table.

Taking the Amtrak Acela Express was about $275 round trip for business class, plus the $40 commuter train. It would be the same 5-6 hours as flying because of the TSA-suggested arrival times, and a bit cheaper than driving after factoring in the parking fees.

Sadly, even the Acela is not a decent example of high-speed rail between NYC and Boston. Only the tracks in Massachusetts that the state paid to upgrade were capable of the train's speed capability, and toddling along the Connecticut coast at slower speeds was the bulk of the trip. The leg between NYC and DC is supposedly faster.

It also bears mentioning that the Acela is Amtrak's only profitable route in the entire country.

Now, keep in mind that California is wasting a gazillion dollars of federal money building a high speed rail line to nowhere.

On the topic of government wasting your money, why do government employees still get benefits like it's the freaking 1970's in 2019? Find me a private employer who still gives out pensions, allows retiring with full pension after 20-25 years, pays 100% of your medical benefits, and gives out insane paid vacation/sick times. Millennials living the "gig economy" (1099 life) will never see a paid sick day, and most middle-aged professionals are lucky to have a 5% match from their employer into a 401(k). Something to think about as you spend hours standing in line at the DMV watching the workers move at glacial paces and take frequent breaks.....
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      07-01-2019, 06:16 PM   #7
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At the US Federal level, I agree with the OP in principal and in general, but there are examples of government spending that have and do work out well. To get there, we have to accept that government does not spend to be efficient; markets are much better at that. Government also does not seek to efficiently allocate resources; again markets are usually much better at that. What government does well is spend for specific programs, which might not be accomplished at all or in good time by the private sector, or might benefit from central design, planning and execution. Military is one pretty obvious example; not efficient, but highly effective and I’m sure glad I sit on this side of the US military!

Rural water and electrification programs also were and largely continue to be effective, and as can be seen with broadband today, were necessary because there is insufficient profit in serving these sparsely populated areas. These are generally public-private partnerships, with the government providing funds (loans and some smaller grants) with strings and controls, and private businesses (most often locally-owned cooperatives) executing.

When the federal government goes beyond what it can do well, like funding research and data collection (BLS, for example), and gets into picking winners and losers (rail these days, Solyndra, etc), it does a poor job.

A lot of the federal government could go away and most Americans wouldn’t notice. Taxes wouldn’t go down, however, but the deficit might shrink slightly. We’d want a transition program for federal workers, like the ones they implemented for steel workers, auto workers, coal miners, et al. [sarcasm]

Like most things, its not black and white. But I think we can probably find some common threads to the things government does well or must do for a well functioning society, and some common themes for things government should stay out of, at least in the Unites States.
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      07-02-2019, 09:20 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Run Silent View Post
Some points to consider before my example:

1) All wealth is initially created in the private sector, and government spending is the wasteful consequence.

2) We know it’s wasteful because we know that bad ideas in government almost never die. What’s mindless persists. Government is the polar opposite of superrich Silicon Valley.

3) Remember, all government workers used to not be government workers.

4) All money that funds government activity used to not be held by government until politicians taxed it away for political consumption.

Stated simply, government spending is the private sector minus merit, and minus the persistent failure and possibility of failure without which talent and innovation cannot be realized.

Which brings us to a front page Wall Street Journal article from Tuesday. Even though airplanes can transport passengers from Chicago to St. Louis in less than 1 hour, Amtrak (our national train service) has a train route in place that can similarly transport passengers between the two cities. The problem is that what takes less than an hour by plane takes 5 ½ hours by train. Sadly, the Amtrak story gets worse.

As the Journal went on to report, “a fast-rail project is under way in Illinois.” It’s hard not laugh while typing, but this project will push the top speed of Amtrak trains traveling from Chicago to St. Louis up to 110 miles per hour, thus “shaving just an hour” off a trip that as previously mentioned takes 5 ½ hours. Fear not, the story gets even worse.

You see, $2 billion was spent so that Amtrak trains traveling between STL and Chicago would take 4 ½ hours instead of 5 ½. Unsurprisingly, this non-improvement isn’t or won’t impress passengers. The present expectation is that, assuming top speeds of 110 mph, “the share of people who travel between the two cities by rail could rise just a few percentage points.” On its own, American Airlines already flies seven times per day from Chicago to St. Louis. In an hour.

=================

Remember, with government spending, it’s not a Democrat or Republican thing. Politicians exist to spend, so the cost of government grows and grows regardless of the Party in charge. It cost Amtrak $2 billion to “improve” service that was never necessary, while $500,000 was all it took for Peter Thiel to purchase 10 percent of Facebook in 2004. With the long history of nosebleed federal spending very much in mind, how many Facebooks have been suffocated by government waste that economists laughably tell us stimulates economic growth?

This is not a partisan issue. It’s one of common sense. Government, whether run by Republicans or Democrats, can only mis-appropriate what’s precious. Sane people on each side should energetically oppose the falsehood that is “government spending” simply because it’s not government spending.

/Rant over.

WE. NEED. LESS. GOVERNMENT.


I'm curious as to what others think - specifically those who tend to vote more heavily with the Democrat tickets. I understand that our current and previous Republican administrations have been poor fiducaries of our tax dollars as well, but at least the government grows 'slower' with them than with the Democrat leaders when they are in charge.

Is there a fix for this? I don't see one.
There were no real consequences for Dorothy when they exposed the Wizard. If you keep this up you'll get, "disappeared", for sure.

Think about your family, my friend. Them's fighting words. For those in DC lying sideways in the public trough of our money feeding like the insentient pigs they are...almost no matter the party.

Great post, as usual!!
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      07-02-2019, 09:30 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2000cs View Post
At the US Federal level, I agree with the OP in principal and in general, but there are examples of government spending that have and do work out well. To get there, we have to accept that government does not spend to be efficient; markets are much better at that. Government also does not seek to efficiently allocate resources; again markets are usually much better at that. What government does well is spend for specific programs, which might not be accomplished at all or in good time by the private sector, or might benefit from central design, planning and execution. Military is one pretty obvious example; not efficient, but highly effective and I’m sure glad I sit on this side of the US military!

Rural water and electrification programs also were and largely continue to be effective, and as can be seen with broadband today, were necessary because there is insufficient profit in serving these sparsely populated areas. These are generally public-private partnerships, with the government providing funds (loans and some smaller grants) with strings and controls, and private businesses (most often locally-owned cooperatives) executing.

When the federal government goes beyond what it can do well, like funding research and data collection (BLS, for example), and gets into picking winners and losers (rail these days, Solyndra, etc), it does a poor job.

A lot of the federal government could go away and most Americans wouldn’t notice. Taxes wouldn’t go down, however, but the deficit might shrink slightly. We’d want a transition program for federal workers, like the ones they implemented for steel workers, auto workers, coal miners, et al. [sarcasm]

Like most things, its not black and white. But I think we can probably find some common threads to the things government does well or must do for a well functioning society, and some common themes for things government should stay out of, at least in the Unites States.
I can agree with the vast bulk of your response, sir, and perhaps I should have been more clear in that I was primarily referencing federal government and to some degree, state government.

Local governments seem to be more directly intertwined with the people they represent, and while there are certainly cases that contradict this, many local governments tend to avoid the bloated and ever expanding nature of the federal government.

I think I mentioned this in the OP, but happy to emphasize - I believe we have far too much government on all levels in this country and it continues to grow at an exponential rate - but I don't think we need to have no government. It has it's place, but it's place should be minimally intrusive and considered a necessary evil, rather than a benefit to the overall economy of a country.
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      07-02-2019, 10:55 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vreihen16 View Post
On the topic of government wasting your money, why do government employees still get benefits like it's the freaking 1970's in 2019? Find me a private employer who still gives out pensions, allows retiring with full pension after 20-25 years, pays 100% of your medical benefits, and gives out insane paid vacation/sick times.
I am continued to be amazed, as a government employee, how much opposition there is when I make the suggestion that our "leadership" group take a lead and change from defined BENEFIT (pension) to defined CONTRIBUTION (401k). As an employee, if I were to get the $$$ that the government pays into PERS for my own 401k, not only do I believe *I* would benefit from better choices with MY money, but also the government budget projections could be brought into control. When I glance back at any 5-year projection that is more than 6 minutes old, it's wildly under what has to be paid to PERS, because they can't make a valid projection of earnings, and so the local government has to make up the difference. With payroll/pension costs running nearly 60% of budget these days, the goose will run out of golden eggs very soon.
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      07-02-2019, 11:41 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vreihen16 View Post
Interesting Amtrak story. I had to take a business trip to Boston from upstate NY for a week. If I took my car, it would have been a three hour drive but downtown parking was $34/day. Including mileage reimbursement, it would have been about $375.

Flights out of NYC were all $99 round trip, plus $40 for the commuter train to/from the airport. Factoring in the TSA-suggested arrival times, it would have been 5-6 hours each way for maybe $160 after taxi fares at Logan. My employer knows that I won't fly PERIOD for a very good reason, so this was off the table.

Taking the Amtrak Acela Express was about $275 round trip for business class, plus the $40 commuter train. It would be the same 5-6 hours as flying because of the TSA-suggested arrival times, and a bit cheaper than driving after factoring in the parking fees.

Sadly, even the Acela is not a decent example of high-speed rail between NYC and Boston. Only the tracks in Massachusetts that the state paid to upgrade were capable of the train's speed capability, and toddling along the Connecticut coast at slower speeds was the bulk of the trip. The leg between NYC and DC is supposedly faster.

It also bears mentioning that the Acela is Amtrak's only profitable route in the entire country.

Now, keep in mind that California is wasting a gazillion dollars of federal money building a high speed rail line to nowhere.

On the topic of government wasting your money, why do government employees still get benefits like it's the freaking 1970's in 2019? Find me a private employer who still gives out pensions, allows retiring with full pension after 20-25 years, pays 100% of your medical benefits, and gives out insane paid vacation/sick times. Millennials living the "gig economy" (1099 life) will never see a paid sick day, and most middle-aged professionals are lucky to have a 5% match from their employer into a 401(k). Something to think about as you spend hours standing in line at the DMV watching the workers move at glacial paces and take frequent breaks.....
Your travel times echo my thoughts.

The pensions? That scares me as much as the national debt. It should scare everybody.......
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      07-02-2019, 01:32 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Schwarzschild Radius View Post
The pensions? That scares me as much as the national debt. It should scare everybody.......
Shouldn't. My wife is a FED and pulls down about 60% of what she can (and did) make in the private sector. So, would you take a 40% pay cut to get a great benefit package and pension plan praying that some day your employer won't screw you out of it?
And with government... it's even a bit more risky. Remember furloughs? Budget cuts? Compulsarary powers to force you to work unpaid? Do you trust your government that much that if they decide to screw you, you will be utterly f'd over? They don't have a glowing record... but at least probably won't dissolve or get gobbled up in a buyout.
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      07-02-2019, 01:45 PM   #13
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Shouldn't. My wife is a FED and pulls down about 60% of what she can (and did) make in the private sector. So, would you take a 40% pay cut to get a great benefit package and pension plan praying that some day your employer won't screw you out of it?
And with government... it's even a bit more risky. Remember furloughs? Budget cuts? Compulsarary powers to force you to work unpaid? Do you trust your government that much that if they decide to screw you, you will be utterly f'd over? They don't have a glowing record... but at least probably won't dissolve or get gobbled up in a buyout.
If you say that the government has a terrible track record (and rightfully so, as they do), why do still promote a defined benefit plan (pension). Do you somehow think that (a) this government will suddenly become altruistic and honest and pay what is owed via the pension? or (b) will be a better fiduciary of the money and mange the investments better than you? Both of these, are of course, fallacies.

Over time, it has been well documented that the funds in public pension funds generate a much poorer return than those managed by the individual via defined contribution plan (401k, 403B, et al).

The funding requirements of the government pensions are going to bankrupt most of them, just as it has done already with some locals (such as Detroit).
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      07-02-2019, 02:55 PM   #14
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There is something I know about the government. Once something gets incorporated as policy, it is damn hard for them to get rid of it. And unlike a corporation that goes under and there is no one to sue, it is doubtful the federal government will disappear. So there is some safety built in.
Additionally, at least with HUD, the employees can join the Union. That means collective resources and bargaining. So pension is probably there to stay; maybe not for new employees down the road, but for the existing ones it’ll be hard to strip. Risk for my wife as an employee is low.
As for how it gets paid for… I don’t know enough. I know you have to buy into it. A quick wiki says it’s 4.4% out of every paycheck (bi-weekly).
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      07-02-2019, 02:58 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Run Silent View Post
If you say that the government has a terrible track record (and rightfully so, as they do), why do still promote a defined benefit plan (pension). Do you somehow think that (a) this government will suddenly become altruistic and honest and pay what is owed via the pension? or (b) will be a better fiduciary of the money and mange the investments better than you? Both of these, are of course, fallacies.

Over time, it has been well documented that the funds in public pension funds generate a much poorer return than those managed by the individual via defined contribution plan (401k, 403B, et al).

The funding requirements of the government pensions are going to bankrupt most of them, just as it has done already with some locals (such as Detroit).
I think the answer to your question (why still promote a DB) is in the law: contributions to a DB are essentially unlimited, contributions to a 401(k) are severely limited. And government employees have fewer qualifying plan types than non-government, obviously have no stock incentives, options, etc either. As an employee it doesn’t matter how poorly the government retirement plans are managed, the benefit is essentially guaranteed and that’s what matters. As a taxpayer, I have a different view!

Thinking more broadly, the DB is a part of a total compensation plan and work/life equation which needs to be competitive to attract and retain employees. Government work isn’t glamorous, cannot and should not lead to riches and great wealth, and typically has much lower base salary than anything comparable in the private sector. The offsets are less career time to retirement, better benefits including the DB, and short work days (only 8 hours) with little productivity requirement. So if you have a service mentality, want a very favorable work-life balance, aren’t particularly ambitious but want a good (not great) living and retirement, government might be for you. Change one part of this equation, especially a significant one like the DB plan, and other parts have to be rebalanced - like a much higher salary to allow more employee saving, after tax, on their own.
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      07-12-2019, 08:14 AM   #16
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      07-13-2019, 01:21 AM   #17
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I'm not sure I completely agree with all of your foundational statements...

1) All wealth is initially created in the private sector, and government spending is the wasteful consequence.

I don't believe that all government spending is wasteful. For example, much of the defense spending is useful, as well as spending on infrastructure, police, fire, etc. I also think that good governance can increase the creation of wealth. I think the opportunity for businesses to make money in America would be significantly less if, for example, there wasn't the infrastructure and emergency services to support the movement of goods, or the strong military to deter instability (more of a stretch maybe).

2) We know it’s wasteful because we know that bad ideas in government almost never die. What’s mindless persists. Government is the polar opposite of superrich Silicon Valley.

While there are certainly anecdotes of bad ideas persisting, there are also many examples of those ideas dying, and good ideas being established. Also, there are tons of examples of superrich companies going bust for doing absolutely stupid things. The government doesn't have the market on wastefulness and stupidity cornered.

3) Remember, all government workers used to not be government workers.

Remember, all private sector employees were once deadbeats that lived of their parents. ;P

4) All money that funds government activity used to not be held by government until politicians taxed it away for political consumption.

We the people elect politicians, in part, (as you point out) specifically to take money from us in the form of taxes, and spend it to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

I also disagree with you that money is what is precious - if that is what you are in fact saying. Money is a means to an end, not the end itself. For example, I think nature is precious, and I believe my money is very well spent preserving and maintaining national parks. I also think the money to compensate farmers for lost profits was well spent, although that could have been avoided.

I don't disagree that we could do with less government in a number of ways. But I also don't think it is all wasteful spending.

As for the train - I used to take AmTrak from Virginia to Connecticut all the time when my wife was going to school up there. It took a lot longer, but I strongly preferred it to flying. It cost far less, it was far more relaxing, and I didn't really lose any time because I traveled over night.

Airports absolutely suck these days, and if you are talking about a 4-5 hour trip on a train from Chicago to SL, I would absolutely take it. It may actually work out to less time in transit when you figure getting to the airport early, traffic, lines, etc. Was the money to reduce the time by an hour well spent? The people who take that train probably think so...

Edit: Are you JT Crowe? https://moneyandmarkets.com/governme...-saps-freedom/
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