We got lucky this time. Congress chose to let us keep our mortgage interest deductions for another two years. But, lest we become complacent, we should remember that Congress remains on the lookout to extort ever more of our money. They have not given up on their plan of doing away with the mortgage deduction, they have simply put it off for a while. There are other tax credits, such as the 401(k) and charitable gifts, that are in danger.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that a “tax deduction” is only a trick to allow us to keep more of our own money. It is not a gift from the government. Yet, even as the government considers these measures, it tries to present them as if they are for our own benefit. You see, “we” are on the hook for almost 14 trillion dollars. Let me rephrase that: 14,000,000,000,000 dollars. Why did “we” fall so deeply into debt? Because “we” spent too much or because “we” did not make enough to cover our expenses? A responsible person, balancing his budget each month, would make sure that his expenditures do not exceed his income. An irresponsible person circumvents such limitations by putting everything on his credit card and living for the now. This irresponsible person has a high time-preference. As far as he is concerned, the future exists on a different plane; it is nothing to be concerned about.
A high time preference, such as described above, comes naturally to the tropical races. As a matter of fact, it even makes sense to a certain degree. If one’s life-expectancy is only 30, and disease or war might strike him down at any moment, then a “live for today, for tomorrow we may die” attitude is a reasonable one. Of course, it is also the prevalence of such an attitude that perpetuates this sad state of affairs. Those who are out to kill you are willing to do so because they, too, do not care about tomorrow. The disease that might strike you down has no cure because nobody thought it worthwhile to spend the time and effort on technologies to develop a cure; would-be scientists were too busy raping and pillaging. This state of affairs was normal in Africa until recently and, in many places, still exists.
Within the system that is the U.S. government, we have the political equivalent of Africa in our midst. Politicians face no serious repercussions from bad decisions they have made. They are guaranteed a lifelong pension and even positions of prestige. They have no incentive to plan for the long-term welfare of the population that elected them. On a whim, they will vote to spend millions on trivial projects. The economic collapse blog gives us this list:
#1 A total of $3 million has been granted to researchers at the University of California at Irvine so that they can play video games such as World of Warcraft. The goal of this “video game research” is reportedly to study how “emerging forms of communication, including multiplayer computer games and online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life can help organizations collaborate and compete more effectively in the global marketplace.”
#2 The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the University of New Hampshire $700,000 this year to study methane gas emissions from dairy cows.
#3$615,000 was given to the University of California at Santa Cruz to digitize photos, T-shirts and concert tickets belonging to the Grateful Dead.
#4 A professor at Stanford University received $239,100 to study how Americans use the Internet to find love. So far one of the key findings of this “research” is that the Internet is a safer and more discreet way to find same-sex partners.
#5 The National Science Foundation spent $216,000 to study whether or not politicians “gain or lose support by taking ambiguous positions.”
#6 The National Institutes of Health spent approximately $442,340 to study the behavior of male prostitutes in Vietnam.
#7 Approximately $1 million of U.S. taxpayer money was used to create poetry for the Little Rock, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Chicago zoos. The goal of the “poetry” is to help raise awareness on environmental issues.
#8 The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spent $175 million during 2010 to maintain hundreds of buildings that it does not even use. This includes a pink, octagonal monkey house in the city of Dayton, Ohio.
#9$1.8 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars went for a “museum of neon signs” in Las Vegas, Nevada.
#10$35 million was reportedly paid out by Medicare to 118 “phantom” medical clinics that never even existed. Apparently these “phantom” medical clinics were established by a network of criminal gangs as a way to defraud the U.S. government.
#11 The Conservation Commission of Monkton, Vermont got $150,000 from the federal government to construct a “critter crossing”. Thanks to U.S. government money, the lives of “thousands” of migrating salamanders are now being saved.
#12 In California, one park received $440,000 in federal funds to perform “green energy upgrades” on a building that has not been used for a decade.
#13$440,955 was spent this past year on an office for former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert that he rarely even visits.
#14 One Tennessee library was given $5,000 in federal funds to host a series of video game parties.
#15 The U.S. Census Bureau spent $2.5 million on a television commercial during the Super Bowl that was so poorly produced that virtually nobody understood what is was trying to say.
#16 A professor at Dartmouth University received $137,530 to create a “recession-themed” video game entitled “Layoff”.
#17 The National Science Foundation gave the Minnesota Zoo over $600,000 so that they could develop an online video game called “Wolfquest”.
#18 A pizzeria in Iowa was given $60,000 to renovate the pizzeria’s facade and give it a more “inviting feel”.
#19 The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave one enterprising group of farmers $30,000 to develop a tourist-friendly database of farms that host guests for overnight “haycations”. This one sounds like something that Dwight Schrute would have dreamed up.
#20 Almost unbelievably, the National Institutes of Health was given $800,000 in “stimulus funds” to study the impact of a “genital-washing program” on men in South Africa.
The above list does not even take into account the immense waste in military spending, foreign aid and the costs of government programs such as affirmative action, out of control environmental laws and the education system. Yet Congress has the audacity to tell us to tighten our belts and give them even more money!
In her article “Are Africa’s Commodities and Economic Blessing?” BBC columnist Louise Greenwood details how the presence of valuable natural resources in Africa, rather than being a blessing, have been a curse. She writes:
In terms of natural resources, Africa is the most abundant continent on earth.
But rather than a blessing, most of Africa’s commodities have proved a burden; allegedly stoking conflict, funding wars and leading to rampant labour market abuse…
Oil, diamonds, Coltan, sugar and cocoa beans are all sources of strife in Africa, rather than tools to lift it out of poverty and misery. In a sense, Congress abuses its own artificial commodity, dollars, the same way. The African strongman says, “I’ve got all these diamonds. I’ll use them to pay off my henchmen, seize power for myself, put away some money in a Swiss account and live well for the rest of my life.” Congressmen do the exact same thing with dollars – and those dollars are actually the embodiment of our labor.