For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Rob Douglas: Our national cancer is growing

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For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

While discussing our nation’s economic health before Congress on March 8, 2011, Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, said, “This debt and these deficits that we are incurring on an annual basis are like a cancer. And they are truly going to destroy this country from within unless we have the common sense to do something about it.”

Thirteen months later, our national cancer still is growing.

While there are many factors contributing to the rapidly declining economic health of our country, the largest contributors are our burgeoning federal retirement and health care entitlement programs.

Last Monday, the Social Security and Medicare boards of trustees released their annual reports for 2012. The reports paint a picture of an impending fiscal collapse when it comes to three of the major welfare programs Americans increasingly rely upon — Social Security, Medicare and disability.

According to the reports, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2016; the Medicare Trust Fund (specifically, Medicare Part A, which covers hospital stays) will be exhausted in 2024; and the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2033.

As if these dates are not imminent enough, the trustees warned the projections are overly optimistic because they are based upon unrealistic expectations of congressional action. And the trustees quantified the size of the cancer in dollars.

Social Security and Medicare currently have a combined unfunded liability (benefits promised minus payroll taxes and premiums collected) of more than $63 trillion. And once again, the trustees warned that this dollar figure probably is low because the calculation is based on the “highly uncertain” enactment of provisions within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare.

A more realistic figure for the unfunded liability is $100 trillion.

At the heart of this erupting volcano of debt is an inescapable demographic reality. We are a graying nation. Today, and every day for the next 20 years, 10,000 Americans will reach the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare.

There’s the rub.

Combine 10,000 additional retirees per day with historically low birth rates and historically high life expectancy, and you have a nation that no longer can expect to fund entitlement programs for an exploding population of seniors by shifting the costs to a dwindling population of working-age citizens.

So, how do we stop this economic crisis?

As a conservative libertarian, I think the costs of health care and retirement should be borne by the individual with charities for those incapable of providing for themselves. As a realist, I know our current welfare state will not return to a nation of individual responsibility overnight.

However, that should not stop us from immediately beginning to make changes that can save us from certain ruin.

The most important change must begin with each of us.

As much as we all like to blame our elected representatives in Washington for the current dismal economic state of affairs, the reality is we have trained our representatives that they get rewarded — re-elected — by satisfying our every desire, want and whim. And, yes, we all want something from Washington.

We as a nation must change that paradigm.

We must stop demanding that the president and Congress increase the size and burden of government and start demanding that they expeditiously and dramatically reduce the size of the federal government by returning the well-being of our lives to the states, our local communities and us as individuals.

Bottom line: When it comes to Medicare, Social Security and disability, we quickly are running out of time to correct a looming disaster. It is long past time that we take responsibility and demand less of our federal government and thereby avert what rightly has been called “the most predictable economic crisis in history” by Bowles and others.

Comments

Scott Ford 2 years, 7 months ago

Hi Rob - Nice column.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute recently released their 22nd annual Retirement Confidence Survey. It is not a pretty picture of the 2012 status. It indicates that 51% of those age 35 to 44 have less than $1,000 in savings or investments. In the next age group it does not improve very much. Of those age 45 to 54 46% have less than $1,000 in any form of savings . And for the folks age 55+ 31% have less than $1,000.

About 70% of Americans 55+ have less than $100,000 in any type of savings, investment, 401K, 403B, etc., and 69% of this group anticipates that Social Security Benefits will be the major source of income during retirement.

I wonder how many folks locally that fall into this less than $1,000 saved group went on Spring Break this week and used Visa or Master Card to finance their vacation? They likely went because everyone else was going and besides they deserved a break. Right?

I hope this group got well rested up over spring break- because they are going to need to stay healthy and active well enough to work well through their early 80's. What do you think the chances of that happening are? I guess there will always be a market for the cookbook that has recipes for 101 ways to prepare Alpo and love it.

This topic will likely make for a lively discussion around the coffee this weekend.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 7 months ago

I paid into Social Security for 51 years. I am entitled to get that money back if that is what you want to call it. I call it the thieving government giving me back some of my money that they confiscated for 51 years. I have much more savings than what you refer to but if my money had gone into any decent mutual fund for 51 years I would be a multimillionaire rather than merely comfortable. Why do'nt you write an article about the lifetime retirement benefits of the thieves in congress and the president? They serve one month in office and recieve retirement benefits that a working stiff can only dream about. Write about the gold plated health care plan these thieves recieve from their first day in office. I agree that government has to be changed but you do it on the backs of old farts who gave their money to the government for 51 years and then get nothing back and you may not like the results.

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George Fargo 2 years, 7 months ago

Here you go again. Every time someone wants to complain about the deficit, the first words out of their mouth are “Social Security”. Social Security is an off budget program that has not contributed one penny to the debt. Yes, the trust fund (a $2.6 Trillion dollar surplus) is currently projected to run out in 2030-something. And these projections look temporarily worse because of the recession – old folks thrown out of a job start drawing out and all those unemployed are not paying in. If the system doesn’t change, then we will take a 25% cut in pay – not nice but not like it goes to zero. Of course, the author and others are predicting the government won’t let that happen and will step in and fund the shortfall out of general revenues, thus adding to our deficit. But all this is if we are stupid enough to do nothing at all (unfortunately, highly likely).

There are several ways to easily fix this. Raise the cap on income taxed from the $100,000 range to say the $250,000 range or no cap – problem solved. Raise the rate from 6% to 7% gradually over 10 or 20 years – problem solved. Use some means testing. Raise the retirement age (already been done to most of us before). And there are probably several other methods. All these are economically viable and easily implemented. But politically, they will be difficult in this climate of partisanship. The Democrats won’t like the rate increases that hit the low-income workers and raising the retirement age. The Republicans will make sure their rich supporters don’t pay a penny more with the prospect of getting less.

And then there’s Medicare. It’s going to go broke – duh!!! Let’s see, the insurance company death panels long ago said we don’t want the old sick dying people, so the government had to step in. Insurance is nothing but a statistics game. You need healthy people to pay in so the sick can benefit. One solution is the insurance companies, which are reaping the profits of not having to insure old people, paying their profits into the Medicare system. Another might be universal single payer health insurance, which is what the health care bill should have been.

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kathy foos 2 years, 7 months ago

Insurance company's that hire detective's, just feed like barracuda's off all of us that have worked and paid in all of our live's.That is OK?The insurance company's are the vulture's ,not he American taxpaying people.

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mark hartless 2 years, 7 months ago

It is increasingly evident that todays generation lacks the character to sacrafice, even in a time of great peril.

Far worse, however, is that they also seem to lack even the small amount of brains necessary to form a mental picture of what happens to passengers on a sinking boat.

I believe this apathy comes from a misguided hubris with a somewhat patriotic flavor. Most Americans actually think this nation can not fail.

This misapprehension is primarily due to ignorance of history, which tells us plainly that great nations ALWAYS fall. They fall when they think they can not. They fall from within. And they fall because they repeat the follies they refused to learn from history.

"The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false." - Paul Johnson, noted author and historian

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Scott Ford 2 years, 7 months ago

When addressing this issue we often need to take a long hard and honest look at the individual in the mirror staring back every morning. Yes, we can complain about the government and we can vote – and we should do both, however, we need to be first and foremost aware of our own personal situation.

Ask the individual staring back at us in the mirror these questions: If I had some type of “emergency” that cost $7,500 could pay it without having to borrow it (“charge it”), dip into my IRA/401K or ask relatives?

Do I have a budget that I follow and do I know how much I am spending each month +/- 5%?

Of this monthly amount do I have 3 to 6 months of my living expenses socked away for a rainy day?

Do I have car/truck payments? The number one reason why we Americans struggle with savings is that owe too much. We work hard – we are not lazy. However – other people’s names are on our paychecks before it is even deposited in the bank.

The biggest thing in our control is car/truck payments. Vehicle payments can easily be the concrete shoes that keep folks from swimming out of their debt situation. Eventually after years of being in debt we begin to think being broke and deeply in debt is normal. This is in part why we tolerate that our federal government is in the same financial situation.

Do I use my credit card to pay for groceries? The myth that one uses a credit card to get “points” is simply a way the credit card companies get us to spend more. The financial intuitions of the United States are the smartest marketing machine in the world. People who think that they can outsmart them are the fools.

You cannot play with these plastic snakes and not get bit. The best thing you can do with these plastic snakes is cut them in half. Most stores including grocery stores still accept cash. Debit cards are OK; for the most part debit cards do not allow you to spend more than what is in your bank account at any given moment.

Locally, there are a lot of folks returning from Spring Break that realistically could not afford to go on spring break. Therefore should not have gone. As a result their vacation in the form of credit card bills and balances is going to follow them home for months to come.

It is simply good practice to say, "I cannot afford it at this time." No one is going to think less of you and if the rare individual does who cares what they think?

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mark hartless 2 years, 7 months ago

Scott F., All that is true, no doubt. If it were not for SS MC and Medicaid perhaps society would know how to do all those things now. With those safety hammocks in place not one in fifty people heed your good advice.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 7 months ago

Scott-- You are right of course at a personal level, however if the government keeps racking up debt and printing money it does not matter how frugal we are at home the national debt will eventually cause rampant inflation as our dollar will continue to be devaluated. Wages are stagnant but goods/services will continue to be more expensive so even the most frugal are going to be paying more just for the basics with less $$ therefore personal debt will increase. The tax code must be revamped to a modified flat tax and term limits must be instituted so Congress will do the people's business without wasting precious time on re-election campaigns. Income taxes should be less across the board, loop-holes extinguished and a national sales tax put in place (as in Brazil) . IMHO

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jerry carlton 2 years, 7 months ago

Cindy I agree that term limits should be instituted from the top to the bottom in this country. The ruling class in this country have made themselves into a privileged royalty on the back of us serfs. I can not understand why the 99% are not outraged over the salary, healthcare, retirement, and miscellaneous benefits that the Senate and House have provided for themselves.

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mark hartless 2 years, 7 months ago

"The Weimar Republic" by Ruth Henig gives a sobering look at inflation. At one point she gives an account of how something that cost 439 marks in July of 1922 cost 7,589 marks by December of that same year; check my math, thats over 1700% in six months! What is also interesting in the book is how people do survive and some actually thrive. Certain things are still in supply while others that were once valuable are burned for firewood, etc.

I am in the middle of an interesting book right now by Charles Murray called "Comming Apart". He looks at how the new wealthy power broker class is isolated and lives in a world where they not only do not interact with working-class people, but never will. They will never understand the 99%; only how to use us as pawns (serfs, as jerry says). Therefore, while I would welcome them, I do not think term limits will change anything. The replacements will be from the same elite class. Does anyone think Chelsea Clinton would be any better than Hillary, for example? Was GW Bush any better than his father? If Hillary had to step down as President in 2020, dont you think she would have it set up where Chelsea would be able to take over? Look at how it almost happened with Hillary taking over for Bill in '08. It happens all the time. The current Gov. of NY Andrew Cuomo, son of former Gov Mario. Senator Jay Rockefeller, great grandson of the oil tycoon John D. Rand Paul currently serving along side his father. Sen Alan Simpsons father Milward was also a senator. Even here in Northwest Colorado, didn't what's-her-name take her husbands seat recently without so much as a vote?

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cindy constantine 2 years, 7 months ago

Good points, Mark. However way to much time of our elected officials is spent on their collective re-election campaigns instead of doing the peoples business. Neither Clinton nor Obama were especially wealthy men--the privileged class as you call it--but they ran effective campaigns and got elected. Knowing you cannot be re-elected will put the emphasis on doing a good service to the nation--because guess what--you will soon be Joe Private-Citizen again and will have to find a job. And Jerry is right--public employees at all levels have what private citizens do not--better benefits and retirement programs. Just burns my a$$!!

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Rob Douglas 2 years, 7 months ago

For your consideration. Here is how Jack Abramoff (an infamous lobbyist who was convicted of bribing public officials) recommends dealing with the crony capitalism that dominates Washington. http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/ex-lobbyist-jack-abramoff-money-politics-163526731.html I would actually expand upon Abramoff's list, but his suggestions are the best I've seen to date. If you can, watch the video as he explains his points in more detail than the write-up accompanying the video. By the way. Abramoff didn't do anything different than most every lobbyist in Washington does every single day. I highly recommend his book if you're interested in this subject. see: http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/ex-lobbyist-jack-abramoff-money-politics-163526731.html

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 7 months ago

Yes these programs must be reduced. The need is greater than it was. But this is the worst time, both socially and economically, for such cuts.

If you are serious about mirrors, your mirror also holds other important information: Iraq. Tax cuts during Iraq. 30 to 1 leveraged banks, because banking oversight and regulation were gutted.

This list never bothered you.

Where were you conservatives when these other events were undermining our future?

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 7 months ago

Who of you complained of crony capitalism before 2008? With the prior Douglas Pilot column that ran before the crash, not a word on the hugely detrimental factors I listed above. Now the programs of seniors' security and health care for the poor are the "cancer" dragging this nation down.

Strong words allowed by self-serving amnesia. Our divide and inability to resolve issues only grows with such partisan writing.

The Pilot paid for this partisan column? They must plan to make a windfall before November in the wedge business.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 7 months ago

In my mind, Steve, your points are well taken, as always. The "entitlement" programs will not hold a candle in the very near future to the % of the national budget (if Congress would just approve one) as compared to the interest on the national debt--accruing interest at $3,000,000 per minute and growing. The only way to stop the interest from growing is to reduce the national debt as quickly as possible and hope interest rates that are paid on the Treasury Bills/Notes continues to stay artificially low. But mark my words, the World (China in particular) will soon lose their appetite for American debt instruments and to keep them investing will require higher interest rates. We are screwed. Dilly-dallying around with entitlements is but a minor part of the equation. We need total overhaul of the tax code including a national sales tax. If the 99% want the wealthy to pay their fair share, just look at who shops in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, buys expensive cars, boats, planes, etc? A national sales tax will even the playing field. How about this for discussion--I think you should have to qualify to even receive Social Security or Medicare. If you are retired (65yrs old+) and have done a good job with your estate planning in that you have $300,000 + per year of passive income you should not receive ANY benefits from the feds--I don't care how much you have paid in over your lifetime. Do you really think Mitt Romney, Bill Gates or Warren Buffett should get any return from the gov? They benefited throughout their lives from our Capitalistic system and that is reward enough.

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mark hartless 2 years, 7 months ago

"Who of you complained... before 2008? Answer: Ron Paul and libertarians, Steve.

Libertarians are the only ones, in my opinion, who have any credibility on this issue at all.

Furthermore, both other parties are essentially missing the real answer to getting out of trouble. Cutting won't do it because neither side has the guts to actually do enough of it. Taxes won't even come close. Both together will not even be enough.

What's left? The "Silver Bullet". GROWTH. Growth is to a recession what holy water is to a vampire. Growing the economy will expand the tax base and increase revenue while removing millions from the welfare rolls and eliminating the need for many to even need a safety hammock, Social Security, government health-care, etc.

Our current growth rates of 2-3% are not going to cut it. We need growth of 4, 5, even 6+% to keep the ship off the rocks.

And that's the left's Achilles heel.

Why? First because removing people from government dependancy runs contrary to the left's narrative and takes away voters.

Secondly, because the left, especially the environmentalist left, is adamantly opposed to growth. Growth means development which means pollution which is environmentalism's version of "sin".

This is true regardless of the fact that growth in America yields the most prosperity with the least pollution of any place on earth. To environmentalists that does not matter.

Since it is a "sin" to pollute it is a sin to expand, a sin to develop and a sin to GROW an economy.

Hence, we see all the stirring about milling over "green jobs" while nothing really happens. Last week the newspaper used the phrase "Motion is not Action". Nowhere could that be more aptly applied than to the current "green jobs" debacle, designed to do little more than make folks think there is action in an economy which most green supporters would rather kill while giving it lipservice.

And finally, growth will be unlikely until regulations are relaxed. No economy can grow with government's jack-boots on its chest. With government agents describing their desire to "crucify" large segments of it. With no business person knowing what the rules will be from one day to the next. Until the over-regulation is curtailed, something the left is ill-prepared to accept, growth will not reach levels needed to sustain our nations recovery and the cancer known as our national debt will continue to be the only thing growing.

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max huppert 2 years, 7 months ago

Mark you are so right about Ron Paul,, he is the man!!!

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jerry carlton 2 years, 7 months ago

Rob Douglas Once again, How about a column on the outrageous benefits given to senators and congressmen? The cancer that is destroying this country is the one% buying the government to further enrich themselves on the backs of the serfs. The "entitlement" you want to eliminate is me trying to get back some of my money that the government confiscated for 51 years and promised to give back to me in my old age.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 7 months ago

If you are fine with 30 to 1 leveraged banks, you are missing the fundamental element of the financial collapse. Scott Ford is heavy on individual prudence. A word on deregulating the banks?

Ron Paul is certainly not you. Rob's next column to mirror Ron Paul's advice on Iran? Who of you has bothered to come out against the bombing of Iran?

How many of you opposed the invasion of Iraq? Standing against that invasion on the courthouse lawn in Feb of 2003, the support I got from passing conservatives was the middle finger and curse words. My behavior was repeatedly labeled unpatriotic by your favorite news channel. Excuse me if I find your words hollow.

Do you support renewable energy industry or do you support its opposition by Republicans? When we backed our renewable solar industry with a $2.4 billion loan program. China responded with $30 billion in grants for theirs. Free markets would be good. But haven't been the case in our lifetime.

Looking forward to Rob's column on Iran.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 7 months ago

Calling out past decisions/mistakes is just a waste of air-space at this point in the discussion. The cancer debt is growing and is terminal. Unless real solutions are enacted soon the next generation might as well kiss the American Dream goodbye. The government cannot go further into debt coming up with "solutions". If we want to maintain some hope for future generations we have to PAY DOWN THE DEBT and no one should be immune from the pain. A collective sacrifice of resources. There is plenty of blame on all sides to pass around but arguing about it now is pointless!

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mark hartless 2 years, 7 months ago

Ron Paul warned all of you that reality would strike back. It did. The "blame game", as Cindy calls it is all the two parties have.

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Fred Duckels 2 years, 7 months ago

Steve, Before you cry for more regulation of the banks, was it their idea to loan money to deadbeat home buyers? If memory serves it was do gooder government lefties with a need to feel good, that pressured the banks. It was called affordable housing, ever hear of that? The banks would never have loaned if under less regulation. I realiaze that you are reciting talking points provided by your beloved Move On.org. Sadly many Republicans succumbed to this carnival atmosphere in order to get votes.

I repeatedly warned against this stupidity as it was all the rage locally and identified the proponents as "caring"and often facilitated their upward movement. Fools!

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

Fred, Your memory serves you poorly on the banks loaning to bad credit risks. They went after them because originating loans was hugely profitable as those mortgages were the source material to be bundled into further profitable complex financial instruments.

Goldman Sachs, which started that business nearly two decades ago because they found that the higher interest rates more than made up for those that went into foreclosure and then largely got out in 2007 when they started to see excessive risks, did not face any political repercussions. So the banks and financial institutions were politically free to get out of the business of writing risky mortgages. The fact is that they were intoxicated by the profits during the boom when a foreclosed house was the most profitable outcome because the value of the property had increased so much while the owner had failed to make payments. Look at the companies prior to 2008 that became big writing mortgages that were bought by the big banks. That was a search for profits, not the result of political pressure.

Also, a tiny portion of the bad mortgages written prior to the bust were related to affordable housing. The great bulk of the loaned money went to people that could have qualified for traditional mortgages, but gladly accepted features such as no down, minimum payments less than the accruing interest and the ability to use home equity as a revolving credit facility.

That said, the politicians screwed up bank regulation. They should have divided the banks into two groups, too big and small enough. The small enough banks could be left alone since if they go bust then they can wipe out their investors and FDIC can protect their customer's deposits. The too big banks that cannot fail without threatening the overall financial system should have been subject to the regulations to encourage them to restructure into distinct business groups that do not threaten the entire financial system. (JP Morgan had too much in other failing banks and if JP Morgan failed then Goldman Sachs would have failed).

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mark hartless 2 years, 7 months ago

Let's review... In the wake of the Great Depression the "Glass-Steagal Act of 1933" was passed. It created the FDIC and imposed banking reforms intended to control speculation. It was sponsored by senators Carter Glass (D) VA and Henry Steagal (D) AL. Around and after the 1960's federal regulators began to interpret the act to permit banks to engage in an increasing amount of securities activity. By the time Glass-Steagal was gutted by the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 many said it was already dead. Citibank, for example, had already been allowed to merge with Salomon Smith Barney UNDER GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS. Government allowed the Glass-Steagal Act to be gutted BEFORE it was ammended! None of that stopped the corruption and scandals yet to come.

The "Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Efficiency Acvt of 1994" was passed and signed into law by President Clinton (D). (don't you just love these safe, responsible, prudent-sounding titles?) It failed to stop the corruption and scandals that lay ahead.

In 1999 President Bill Clinton (D) signed the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. It's sponsors were all Republican. John Dingle (D) argued that banks would become "too big to fail" and boy was he ever right. Nonetheless it passed the House with a BI-PARTISAN vote of 343-86 with 138 democrats supporting the bill. To win support in the Senate the "Community Reinvestment Act" was added. This law, imposed by Senate democrats, "encouraged banks to lend" to those who SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN LENT MONEY! It then passed the Senate by a vote of 90-8. One area of serious contention in the act dealt with bank mergers that might adversley effect the CRA. President Clinton (D) said he would "veto any legislation that would scale back minority lending requirements" (ie don't stop making risky loans to those who should not qualify.) It did not prevent the financial turmoil that was to come.

In the fall of 1999 senators Schumer (D) and Dodd (D) agreed to ammend the FDIC act to allow banks merge or expand into other types of financial institutions. Hmmmmm.

In 2002, after the Enron, World Com and Tyco debacles, the House passed Sarbanes (D)-Oxley(R) bill by a vote of 423-3 and the Senate passed it 99-1. BI-PARTISAN to say the least. GW Bush (R) signed that bill saying it was "the most far-reaching reforms of American business since FDR". It did not prevent the housing and banking collapse of 2008.

In 2010 the Dodd (D)-Frank (D) Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was made law. It did not prevent President Obamas good buddy Jon Corzine from bankrupting MF Global and costing investors 1.6 billion! Hmmmmmm.

Between every one of these laws was dozens of others which created regulatory boards, commities and empowered hundreds if not thousands to oversee business.

None of them worked.

I am a libertarian for a reason.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

Mark, So why is it all a story of monied interests getting what they want in Washington DC except for CRA? CRA was mostly a PR move because community investing is a popular slogan. It did force some banks to stop redlining some districts and to accept some lower margin loans. CRA had nothing to do with the real estate boom and bust because the boom was worse in areas not affected by CRA. Vegas, Phoenix and so on didn't have insane building booms because of CRA. Nor was the boom primarily in affordable housing while luxury housing stayed stable because of stricter lending standards.

Just as the no down and maybe no income mortgages were booming so much to become low risk financial instruments that Fannie and Freddie were worried about losing market share and spread their money around Congress to get permission to enter that market.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 7 months ago

Cindy, Sorry. But $3 trillion for a counterproductive war does matter. Particularly following this column and its attack aimed entirely at the left.

Yes the deficit remains to be cured. Tighter spending can be too tight. Austerity is not proving to be effective at deficit reduction in Europe, as GDP's and govt revenues are falling too fast.

Tax revenues also reduce deficits. Not to be considered in the mix?

Unfortunately, a national sales tax would put the deficit cure more on the backs of the lower income earners and less on the wealthy.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 7 months ago

Steve, I totally agree with you about the war and it is one of my biggest disappointments with Obama (among many other disappointments). Even my three 20-something college educated daughters are disillusioned with him and "poor" to boot. Are you suggesting the government continue to borrow more money to boost the economy by putting more government employees on the payroll? And funding more enterprises to compete with what private businesses should be doing? I agree with Mark on this issue that less govt interference/regulation and most especially LESS uncertainty will boost the economy. There are billions and billions on the sideline waiting to be invested. The Fed and their monetary policies have done all they can do and now it is time Washington did their job on the fiscal side. I believe every line item in the national budget is discretionary EXCEPT interest on the national debt, so the solution is a combination of spending cuts, taxation and a pro-business policy by Washington. I am all for fair taxation and I believe a modified flat tax is the way to go. We should not have a 38,000 page tax code for god's sake. We should not be subsidizing the oil industry or farmers not to plant crops. And when I propose a national sales tax I would not include a tax on food nor utilities. A national sales tax will not keep the wealthy from spending but might make the poor/middle class think twice about that spring break trip they can ill afford to take as Scott F mentions above. This pain is shared by all Americans and I feel for future generations who are penalized by our mistakes. I stand by my feelings that the national debt and uncertainty will suck the life out of this country and both political parties share responsibility for this mess equally.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 7 months ago

And I am really surprised that no one has yet given me flack about the idea to quality for receiving social security or medicare based on the passive income you receive during retirement years.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 7 months ago

Cindy, Social Security paid will eventually be paired down by income as you mention. Its out there, and will have to happen.

I understand that less government regulation will boost the economy. I also understand the truly grotesque legacy of General Electric and others on the Hudson River. There are jobs, and then there are tradeoffs for jobs we should not accept.

Eliminating the EPA will be a boost to the economy that costs us clean air and water. Consider also the rancher near Walden, downstream from Lone Pine's 2 years of pollution, who has paid a land value price, and would pay further if the EPA hadn't stepped in. Creating jobs in trade for environmental degradation just means we will pay later with health and food supply problems. "We" who pay may not be "you", but it will occur and that should matter. We are impacting the food chain in ways we barely understand. Our granddaughters will live our choices on more than just the deficit.

The banking lobby writes banking legislation. Mark's argument is they would do it better if the citizens got out of the way. The SEC has never had sufficient funding to oversee Wall Street. It is corrupt. So the best move is to step aside?

The Republicans argue strongly for these big companies, and have for decades. Its disingenuous to support the gutting of oversight and then say the oversight is the problem.

The $3 trillion is what we spent on Iraq. Did you oppose that war? Obama has flaws, but on this count, I thought he fulfilled a campaign promise to end that war. But you are angry with Obama about it?

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 7 months ago

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20505949/colorado-bill-would-penalize-communities-that-curb-oil

"A bill in the Colorado House could bar communities from sharing in state severance-tax revenues if they enact oil and natural-gas drilling restrictions."

Put yourself in the shoes of that North Park rancher, or the residents of Milner downstream from the Camelletti wells.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 7 months ago

I mis-read the Iraq comment you made. I still have Afganistan on my mind as a war we cannot win---where we should not be. A modified flat tax will solve many of the corporate loopholes you discuss. GE should not net $8B and have no tax consequences, I agree. Especially when a high % of their jobs are offshore. But we do not need the size of gov we have. An example I am sure you are aware of. The San Francisco Airport wanted a private security firm to handle airport security. They petitioned the TSA and now have a private security firm. It has been wildly successful, more efficient less expensive. However, many other airports have petitioned to have the same alternative with no success at the federal level. Just one of many many examples where private companies should be doing the work that gov has the gall to think they can do better. HA! Government is too big and cumbersome to be doing the job privately held businesses could be doing more effectively and efficiently saving the taxpayers money. Doesn't the latest GSA scandal just make you steam? And it is but one small example of corruption and greed rampant in the federal government.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 7 months ago

The GAO (or GSA) waste of under a million dollars, the Secret Service chasing prostitute, yes these bug me. A little.

In the scale of things going wrong, they are political hot air getting attention that I would rather my newscasts spend on the billion dollar issues. The military weapons we will never need, a bi-partisan compromise that reduces our deficit, pork barrel projects of our representatives….

1000 things are more important than GAO parties and SS prostitutes. In regards to G.E. I think their pollution needs to be balanced by the EPA enforcing environmental laws, as well as their taxes restructured :) . Same for Big Oil of course.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 7 months ago

Lewi I opposed the Vietnam war, the Iraq war, the Afghan war, not because I am a pacifist but because they could not be won. I served in the Air Force during the Vietnam war but did not go to VietNam. The U.S. no longer has the will to win a limited war. The last war we won was WWII. That was because we used overpowering force on Germany and Nuclear weapons on Japan. We are too kind and gentle for that now. The Iranian problem would be solved with a small tactical nuclear weapon dropped on Tehran. Problem solved. The chances of that happening are equal to the Federal budget being balanced and the debt being paid off.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

Jerry, Afghan war was winnable if the objectives had remained a government opposed to Bin Laden. We started off allied with warlords on the premise that we just wanted our enemies gone. If our objective had remained that we accept warlords as long as they opposed Bin Laden and they didn't fight each other then that was winnable. When the war became democracy and women's rights then we put ourselves in opposition to the warlords and too much of their culture. That was unwinnable. Trouble now is how to get out without leaving the worst of the worst in charge.

After the first Iraq war we had the Powell Doctrine which was to pick achievable objectives and accomplish them with overwhelming force. We got Iraq out of Kuwait and reestablished the Kuwaiti government (without saying it must be democratic or have religious freedom or human rights acceptable to the US). Rumsfeld promptly forgot that and went into Iraq without support troops to maintain control of US occupied land. How we would have found enough support troops for a proper occupation was a huge problem, but invading without an occupying force was a faith based hope that the Iraqi population would act like US support troops.

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mark hartless 2 years, 7 months ago

Steve, "Republicans argue strongly for these big companies..." No Steve. They ALL argue for these big companies. They are ALL corrupt. Including, and sometimes especially, YOUR favorite emporer. Where is your sense of justice for "the commons" you are always talking about when it comes to Jon Corzine bilking investors out of 1.6 Billion? That's the "billions" you are wanting to address while pushing aside paultry sums of a million or less. These are the kinds of crimes perpetrated by folks YOU support, Steve. You are obviously unable to let go of the notion that somehow, if we just pile it higher, someday it will turn into a rose-garden. I do not share your delusion. I think it will remain a putrid, steaming tower of babel on the banks of the Potomac until it collapses in the not-too-distant future. I'm just not sure how that is going to help "the commons" or the children to whom you refer. A slightly polluted but fiscally solvent world beats a world of anarchy in flames, methinks.

Scott, CRA resulted in added liquidity in the market. It is irrelevant where the liquidity entered the bloodstream. When the tide comes in (even if by artificial means) it raises all boats. CRA absolutely played a part. As did Freddie and Fannie and local Affordable Housing efforts all across the country. All of which were pushed by democrats AND republicans.

Check out "The Housing Boom and Bust"

He clearly shows there is enough blame to go all the way around.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 7 months ago

Mark, Hyperbole is useless. Emperor, dung, delusion, putrid, anarchy, flames. Stark black and white terms are not the terms that solve. Corzine is my guy?

Do you want to rant or do you want reason? Regulation is not going to collapse anything into flames. Slightly polluted is not going to make such a difference either. But pollution without constraint becomes another Hudson River literally on fire. Where do you draw the line? Shell has a right to extract. Communities like Routt have a right to protect themselves from more pollution. Clean mountain air is part of our economy, attracting residents, location neutral businesses and tourists.

The deficit impasse last year could have made progress in reducing the debt if both sides would compromise. One side would not, is how I understand it. And we made no progress. We are worse off. Correct me if I have that wrong. Reagan accepted worse terms than were offered, right?

The is plenty of blame to go around. But government is the only party you blame. Seems like more hyperbole to me.

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mark hartless 2 years, 7 months ago

My descriptions are "hyperbole". Your singlinjg out "Republicans" as the source of corruption is... well... I'm sure some other, more sensible adjective.

There are plenty of solutions outside of government. But you can't seem to see any of them.

Yes, he's YOUR guy. Corzine is a democrat. You support democrats. You have said you will vote to re-elect Obama, who is happily accepting money raised by Corzine who, if he was honest would be raising money to re-pay those he bilked out of $1,600,000,000.00 ( that's 1.6 Billion dollars) when he bankrupted MF Global; something that couldn't possibly have even happened because YOUR GUYS fixed the law (Dood-Frank) so that this sort of thing would "never happen again". YOU and CORZINE are BOTH working for the same goal.

An interesting side note is that the Corzines of the world pay nothing in restitution. That we all see. Fewer of us recognize that the same thing happens when environmentalists, affordable housing advocates, race-pimps and other chicken-littles run from scene to scene leaving chaos in their wake.

You talk this great game about how oil companies should accept the COMPLETE cost of their opperations. How it all needs to go together, the bad with the good. Yet, you have some perplexed look on your face/ computer screen when I declare all democrats YOURS. He's YOUR guy, Steve.

I'm not trying to reason with you or change your mind. I'm just putting alternatives out there for those who's mind might actually be open and who might be wondering where their "Hope and Change" went.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

Steve, Yep, Mark nailed you. You are so clearly guilty by association. Guilt by association is so easy to prove and the claimed linked that Corzine and you are both Democrats is true. Thus, you are just as guilty as Corzine for whatever he did at MF Global, right?

Just as the Norwegian mass murder disliked liberals and so killed 77, mostly young adults. Mark Hartness dislikes liberals and thus he is just like the Norwegian mass murder and believes in killing liberals. What a nutcase.

Guilt by association is such a fun game. It can make anyone guilty of anything that anyone else has ever done.

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mark hartless 2 years, 7 months ago

Yes, Thus the old saying: "Birds of a feather can never be assumed to be of the same persuasion."

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jerry carlton 2 years, 7 months ago

scott wedel You said you were done with this forum. What brought you back?

Lewi and Mark I have been a lifelong ultraconserative all my life. No longer. Why can nobody see that both parties are so corrupt that neither deserve to survive? Anything would be better than the people serving {self serving} in the congress and the senate today.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 7 months ago

Rob Douglas Not too long ago you called Scott Wedel a "gutless coward" or something very close to that. Were you looking in the mirror when you posted that? You have participated very little in this discussion and responded to virtualy no one since the newspaper made the mistake of publishing your garbage.

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mark hartless 2 years, 7 months ago

JLC, I don't know where we disagree. I'd sooner take the first five hundred names out of the phonebook and put them in charge. No way it could be any worse.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

Jerry, Well, if there are people having an uncivil discussion with a lack of respect being shown toward each other then that is something i cannot resist. I simply cannot ignore being able to link someone too a mass murderer while also sounding like the voice of reason.

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

Jerry -- You continue to impress me, considering your conservative base when you'd bash me for slamming cops. I've come to realize, we've all got jobs to do.

I too was raised ultra-conservative Republican, despising tax-and-spend Democrats and shooting anything that walked, crawled, flew, or swam, on occasion -- pheasants and ducks with the proper stamp. I never shot a crane, however -- never saw one, with a gun in my hands, or I might have. That was the '60's, when there was plenty of everything, and it was all for us.

Times change, and so did I. My observations eventually indicated to me that BOTH parties are corrupt, out of necessity. Ours is a war-based economy; bombs and fighters keep the home fires burning, and without a war, our economy stagnates; inflation is rampant.

Since we don't have the ready cash to wage these wars (the more the better) we must borrow it from the Federal Reserve, a quite-private company mostly owned in England, but with member banks in many countries. Our taxes go straight to them, to be doled back to us, interest attached.

They are immune from everybody: Not the police, nor the FBI, nor the Supreme Court, nor even the President himself, may attend their meetings or dictate what they do.

They will kill to get their way, most recently on 9/11 (not counting the kids who die on their behalf in the Middle East every day) and go all the way to the top -- JFK abolished them with one stroke of the pen, three weeks before he was killed, and LBJ wisely reinstated them. He was in the next car; he heard the shots.

It's a mighty exclusive club, they've got going back east, and if you're in Congress and you play the game, you can go far and have fun. Just don't buck the Fed. THAT'S the cancer that has been growing in this country, since its inception in 1913.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 7 months ago

Scott You lost me on the mass murderer comment?

Mark Yes I have seen very little we disagree on. Can not remember anything.

Rhys We agree on most things except Pot snd misuse of police power. I am not so sure about the Fed/conspiracy theories but I will certainly not say that they are beyond possibility.

Rob Douglas Where are you?

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Rob Douglas 2 years, 7 months ago

A useful presentation/video from my friend Bill Frezza on the topic of Social Security. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=3604732849684

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jerry carlton 2 years, 7 months ago

Rob Very good presentation from Bill Frezza. His Dad and Mother probably did not like it much. I still do not consider it welfare when the government took my money for 51 years promising to give it back to me in my old age. Do you plan on collecting yours or are you going to tell the government to keep it? That is if it is still functioning when you are old enough to collect.

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Rob Douglas 2 years, 7 months ago

On the question concerning whether Social Security is welfare, I find Robert Samuelson (veteran economics columnist at the Washington Post) persuasive. see --> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/06/AR2011030602926.html

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cindy constantine 2 years, 7 months ago

Great link, Rob!! All Americans have to pay for this shared pain of debt and deficits, including seniors (and I am not too many years from being one myself)

Question for you Jerry--If you live longer than the SS you paid in should you be cut off from receiving any more benefits? If your wife did not work outside the home and pay into the system like my mom should she be receiving any benefits? My mom is getting over $600 a month in benefits. When my very elderly Dad went to get his benefits many years ago he told the desk person he only wanted 1 check for the amount he paid in--not even any interest on holding his money. No way would they even consider handling it in that manner so his lifetime benefits will far exceed any amount he paid in. His justification for receiving his and mom's checks each month is that they continue to pay quarterly income taxes so the SS payments end up going back to the government in a different form.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 7 months ago

Rob This link is total gargage. To say that I am recieving welfare like the unwed mother of 8 children by 8 different men who keeps having more to collect more is the height of absurdity. I will ask you one more time. Are you going to collect your social security or you going to tell the government to keep it? I have yet to see you respond to any question in this forum from anyone. You just keep posting links espousing your drivel. I will remind you once again of your post to Scott Wedel calling him a "gutless coward" . Were you looking in the mirror the day you made that post?

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jerry carlton 2 years, 7 months ago

Cindy If they inflated the dollars by the rate of inflation over the past 51 years, yes I would be willing th have my SS cut off when I had all my money out. If my confiscated money had been going into any decent mutual fund for 51 years I would now be a multi-millionaire and not need the social security like your father and mother. Incidentally, I am very happy for them. My Wife did work for 47 years so se deserves every penny she has been promised. Unlike Rob Douglas, I am not afraid to respond to questions. Now I have one for you. Without our SS benefits, last year our income would have been $16,000. Do we deserve to have our benefits reduced to "share the sacrifice"? Also tell me more about your ideas on "sharing the sacrifice". I have heard nothing but cut social security and medicare. If I hear from you I will give you my ideas on "shared sacrifice"

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Rob Douglas 2 years, 7 months ago

A fresh look at Medicare data (including some additional data on Social Security and Medicaid) that leads the author to conclude, correctly, that Medicare is on an unsustainable path.

The author writes: "What we have is a system where the full-time worker to beneficiary is already 1-to-1 and the system pays out 10 times more per person than it collects in taxes. The Medicare system would need about 10 workers for every beneficiary to be sustainable. Right now the ratio is just above 2 to 1. That simply is not sustainable."

For a full review of his perspective, see: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/which-unsustainable-will-go-away-medicare

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