By Patrick A. Heller
Commentary on Precious Metals Prepared for CoinWeek.com
In past commentaries, I have discussed many of the accounting and financial sleight-of-hand gimmicks used by the US government in order to paint a rosier picture of federal finances. When doing so, I tried to give specific references and sources so that readers could double check my information. While I have received numerous compliments on such articles, there is a minority who apparently believe that when I quote data from the Federal Reserve, US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, and similar sources that I am an extremist who should be ignored.
Today, let me try to explain the financial condition of the US government in the most favorable light, relying almost exclusively on data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
In projections released last year, using only the overly optimistic cash flow basis of accounting used by the federal government instead of the more accurate accrual basis, the CBO projects that the current spending of the US government will rise from 23% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to more than 35% by the year 2035. At the same time, revenues and tax collections will rise to a bit over 19% of GDP by 2014 and level off there. As a result, the federal budget deficit is projected to rise from about 4% of GDP in 2014 to almost 16% of GDP by 2035!
There are two scenarios for trying to manage this economy-destroying rise in the annual budget deficit that are being promoted in Washington. The first is to do nothing except inflate the money supply. The problem with this is that it will inevitably result in soaring consumer prices. As repeated past experience in the US and other countries has demonstrated, high inflation of the money supply results in destroying the income and wealth of working people and retirees.
The second scenario is to raise taxes. As of yet, no politicians are yet willing to reveal just how high taxes would have to rise to cover the projected cash flow deficits, but the CBO has spelled it out. The lowest personal income tax bracket of 10% would have to rise to 19% by 2050 and 25% by the year 2082. The middle bracket tax rate would increase from the current 25% to 47% by 2050 and all the way up to 63% in 2082. The top income tax bracket would rise from 35% today to 66% in 2050 and soar to 88% in 2082. The corporate income tax rate would also rise from 35% now to 66% in 2050 and 88% in 2082. Keep in mind that these are only federal income taxes. Collections of state and local taxes are on top of these rates.
I think most people would agree that when federal, state, and local taxes approach 100% of income, that most people would lose the incentive to work to earn that income. Yet, in order for the optimistic CBO estimates to be achieved, people in current high income tax brackets must continue to work even when virtually their entire income is seized. Therefore, even as scary as the CBO projects might be, I think common sense tells us that the results will be much worse.
Stated simply, Uncle Sam is broke.
According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, federal spending in 2011 for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other mandatory entitlement programs was projected to total $2.4 trillion. This consumed close to 100% of federal tax collections and revenues.
Last year, the August increase in the federal debt limit included a provision to establish a Congressional super-committee to come up with a token amount of spending reductions. This super-committee totally failed. Even in the middle of a crisis, Congress proved ineffective to accomplish any real spending reductions.
If you won’t believe me when I say that the US government is bankrupt, maybe you will believe the Congressional Budget Office or someone like David Walker (the US Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008) when they say the same thing.
You may close your eyes, ears, and minds because you don’t want to consider the implications of the US government’s financial mismanagement. But ignorance or wishful thinking will not make the problem go away. Instead, you owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and others to take a sober look at reality. Then prepare yourself. In my thinking, owning physical gold and silver is part of the solution.
Patrick A. Heller owns Liberty Coin Service and Premier Coins & Collectibles in Lansing, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Numismaster (http://www.numismaster.com under “News & Articles). His award-winning radio show “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com.
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During the Eisenhower period, high income earners were taxed at a rate of about 90%, yet there were plenty of successful rich people then, and the average person was in better shape than they are today. I do not favor that rate and neither do any of the current presidential candidates from either party. At some point, a more normal rate of economic growth should resume, and that will result in a lot more tax revenue, and a lowering of the deficit. The deficit and debt are not only rising because of spending. They are rising because the economic crisis has resulted in a huge reduction in the amount of taxes collected, which also contributes to our bankruptcy.
I really wish I could be as optimistic about the economy writ large as Jeremy Smith is. He’s right about tax rates, but there were many many brackets then, and the top marginal rate was only paid by extraordinarily high income earners. Now there are effectively only three marginal brackets, plus another quasi-bracket by eliminating “normal” deductions for the very highest earners. What is indisputable is that the super-high earners now pay very similar rates to average folks, often less due to preferential capital gains treatment.
It used to be true that as income differentials increased, so did federal revenues, because the high earners paid far higher rates. That’s no longer true. We need to decide if we still want to tax incomes at all, because if we still do, we SIMPLY HAVE TO increase the progressivity of the rates, because if income is skewing to the top, and it is, unless they pay higher rates, there will never be enough revenue to support the new needy.
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, IS THE AGENDA of people like Patrick Heller. The “hard money” crowd is all about comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.
Reminder: At January F.U.N., Patrick Heller predicted silver at $60 by the end of May. By my calculation, since it’s just a tad over half that with 87 days to go, by my HP 17bII+ calculations, in order to get there, silver will now need to escalate at an annual rate of about 977%.
Good luck with that.
Just before the great gold and silver run-up of the late 1970’s, William E. Simon as Treasury Secretary promised members of Congress a tour of Fort Knox, then he intentionally reneged on that pledge. Simon’s huge biographical listing in Who’s Who volumes show a stunning constellation of top level international levers of power he had his hands on, including being a governor of the International Monetary Fund, an organization known for hostility against the gold standard. Simon was a member of the world’s premier financial organization, The Pilgrims Society, founded from the wills of South African diamond operator Cecil Rhodes, to be “a secret society gradually absorbing the wealth of the world” (Review of Reviews, New York, May 1902, pp557-558).