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Mort Zuckerman: Brace For an Avalanche of Unfunded Debt
U.S. News & World Report ^ | December 28, 2012 | MORTIMER B. ZUCKERMAN

Posted on 12/30/2012 11:15:00 PM PST by neverdem

The fiscal cliff isn't as scary as the looming deficit and debt crisis about to swamp the country

All eyes have been on the clear and present danger of the fiscal cliff—understandably—but there's a sound in the mountain range that's even scarier than the cliff. It's the sound made by an avalanche, the trillions of dollars of debt that's heading our way, gathering speed and mass. For most people, it's out of earshot now, and that's the way our government prefers to play it in its financial statements. Liabilities are not set out there in accordance with the well-established norms of the private sector, where this overhang of liabilities would set off alarm bells in the markets, with boards of directors in emergency sessions.

We'll come to why that's not happening, but let's consider first why we should regard our predicaments as gravely as any private company does on the path to bankruptcy.

We are on a trajectory of cumulative fiscal deficits that cannot possibly be sustained. We have gone from being the world's largest creditor nation, with no foreign debt at the end of World War II, to the world's largest debtor, with roughly half of our public debt held by foreign lenders. Over the last four years, our national debt has grown by more than $5 trillion to over $16 trillion. We have to service that debt. The Federal Reserve is keeping rates historically low but here's the cost of paying interest on the debt for fiscal 2012: $359,796,008,919.49

What do you get for that? Nothing.

The greatest fiscal challenge to the U.S. government is not just its annual deficit but its total liabilities. Our federal balance sheet does not include the unfunded social insurance obligations of Medicare, Social Security, and the future retirement benefits of federal employees...

(Excerpt) Read more at usnews.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: debt; federalretirement; fiscalcliff; medicare; nationaldebt; socialsecurity; unfundedliabilities
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1 posted on 12/30/2012 11:15:15 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem
RE :”We'll come to why that's not happening, but let's consider first why we should regard our predicaments as gravely as any private company does on the path to bankruptcy. “

Since we print out own money and loan it to ourselves bankruptcy isn't possible.

Its just like the SS trust fund. We can cut FICA/SS payroll taxes when SS is already running deficits and it still is called 'fully funded as far as the eye can see'.

2 posted on 12/30/2012 11:24:42 PM PST by sickoflibs (Dems go for results, meaning winning. Rs go for symbolism and whining about losing.)
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To: sickoflibs

“Since we print out own money and loan it to ourselves bankruptcy isn’t possible.”

But hyperinflation is... And that’s worse.


3 posted on 12/30/2012 11:29:11 PM PST by babygene ( .)
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To: neverdem

Obama voters don’t care.

They want their benefits and they want them now!

Debt? What debt?


4 posted on 12/30/2012 11:36:17 PM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: neverdem

Mister Zuckerman is SPEAKING the TRUTH... but the GREATER question is... is ANYONE listening???


5 posted on 12/30/2012 11:40:52 PM PST by VideoDoctor
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To: neverdem
Mort is basically saying that the socialists have run out of other people's money, and confiscatin everything from people making over $66,000 / year as well as from corporations wouldn't even make a dent. Curiously, he still says taxes should be raised, "in a way that doesn't discourage effort or cause capital flight". Good luck with that. Mort also thinks entitlements must be "means tested".

The question is not whether we must make the tough choices to put our nation's finances in order. The question is whether we will do so before the market forces us to do so.

The politicians will do so only if forced to by "the market".
Ironic, isn't it?

6 posted on 12/30/2012 11:48:11 PM PST by Lancey Howard
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To: goldstategop
Obama voters don’t care. They want their benefits and they want them now! Debt? What debt?

Precisely.
That cartoon at the top of the pages of the Zuckerman column is a real head shaker. The cartoonist thinks 300 million Americans give a rat's behind about the deficit or national debt? Please...

As you noted, the Democrat moocher class couldn't care less about any of that crap.

7 posted on 12/30/2012 11:53:34 PM PST by Lancey Howard
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To: sickoflibs
SS isn't actually running deficits ~ the US government is running deficits.

But that's neither here nor there. We have a situation where the federal government can borrow virtually unlimited amounts from foreign sources interested in putting their money in our hands simply to protect its value.

We aren't really paying that much interest on it.

Remember, in normal times interest is an attractant but in times like these fear causes people with money to protect it from their own governments by handing it over to us.

That's been going on for most of two centuries!

8 posted on 12/31/2012 12:33:10 AM PST by muawiyah
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To: babygene

We continue to suffer from deflation across a broad sector of the economy.


9 posted on 12/31/2012 12:35:03 AM PST by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah

The U.S government cannot borrow unlimited funds! As our credit rating errodes
higher interest payments will be demanded by the debt holders.

This is pure fantasy. Greece, Spain wake up!


10 posted on 12/31/2012 1:00:40 AM PST by ChiMark (America no more)
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To: muawiyah
We aren't really paying that much interest on it.

Of course not. With interest rates at rock bottom it don't look too bad does it.

Raise interest rates a few points and suddenly your in nose-bleed country. that 359 bil goes to over a trillion PER YEAR. FOR ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Interest rates held artificially low by people appointed by the very same politicians that NEED, DESPERATELY to stay ahead of the ball, keeping the deficit as low as possible or they're gonna need those billion bullets they been buying over the last bunch a years.

And yet, every dollar that the govt borrows is another dollar that private industry CAN'T borrow to actually build jobs that could dig us out of this abyss.

Ain't NO way out of this hole.

Just gonna get worse.

11 posted on 12/31/2012 1:13:18 AM PST by HeartlandOfAmerica (Get in touch with your galtitude!)
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To: HeartlandOfAmerica
But we may not even get as far as the govt crash. Banks might crap out on us first to an extent that even the .gov's can't TARP their way out of, ie.:

Derivatives owned by the biggest banks in the country.

12 posted on 12/31/2012 1:24:03 AM PST by HeartlandOfAmerica (Get in touch with your galtitude!)
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To: muawiyah
“Deflation”

I don't see much deflation outside of wholesale commodity costs.

And when I do, it's related to oversupply issues, not monetary or normal demand issues.

Home prices are still drifting lower in southeast Florida, Las Vegas, and central California, but drifting higher or stable in just about every other region.

Wages and benefits are slightly lower for low skill jobs, but that is related to a massive oversupply of legal and illegal immigrants.

Desktop PC’s cost less, but that is because people are substituting notebooks, tablets, and smart phones.

Video game consoles are cheaper, but that's because of a host of new game playing options.

Taxes and interest rates are lower, but that is because of government manipulation, and could change instantly if we create a currency crisis.

On the other hand...

My rent is up 8% in 2012.

Food up 10%.

Gas up a little from last year.

Health and car insurance up.

Basic clothing up.

13 posted on 12/31/2012 1:41:46 AM PST by zeestephen
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To: Lancey Howard

“Curiously, he still says taxes should be raised, “in a way that doesn’t discourage effort or cause capital flight”. Good luck with that. Mort also thinks entitlements must be “means tested”.”

Mort Romney. They keep on trying. And not a word on 800,000 civilian “employees” of the Pentagon, and all the other bureaus and fed. agencies.


14 posted on 12/31/2012 2:01:45 AM PST by Varsity Flight (Extortion-Care is the Government Work-Camp: Arbeitsziehungslager)
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To: Varsity Flight
>>Our federal balance sheet does not include the unfunded social insurance obligations of Medicare, Social Security, and the future retirement benefits of federal employees...
15 posted on 12/31/2012 2:38:02 AM PST by Jacquerie ("How few were left who had seen the republic!" - Tacitus, The Annals)
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To: Lancey Howard
I, too, want taxes raised.....on the 47% that pay NO TAXES and most GET MONEY from us, the Taxpayer!!!

FLAT TAX....EVERYBODY needs some skin in the game!! ANd EVERYBODY needs to PAY THE SAME RATE!!!!

16 posted on 12/31/2012 2:52:13 AM PST by Ann Archy (ABORTION........the HUMAN sacrifice to the god of CONVENIENCE.)
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To: Lancey Howard
I, too, want taxes raised.....on the 47% that pay NO TAXES and most GET MONEY from us, the Taxpayer!!!

FLAT TAX....EVERYBODY needs some skin in the game!! ANd EVERYBODY needs to PAY THE SAME RATE!!!!

17 posted on 12/31/2012 2:52:13 AM PST by Ann Archy (ABORTION........the HUMAN sacrifice to the god of CONVENIENCE.)
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To: babygene

I wonder where this ends, America with a Hitler, America the enemy of liberty and freedom?


18 posted on 12/31/2012 2:56:56 AM PST by gotribe
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To: zeestephen
Thanks to tablets and i-phones your aggregate entertainment costs have dropped off the planet!

Tourism is down ~ PERMANANTLY. There was a time folks took formal trips and stayed precise amounts of time. Today they buy a new battery and lounge on the couch.

Clothing lasts far longer. Machine-made custom shoes are gradually infiltrating the market and they'll really drive down footware costs.

Some hidden costs, like 'design' have dropped precipitously and we still have a 15 year overhang in housing ~ the only place property values are increasing are in critical locations ~ like where I live. Super highway into the heart of WarshDC itssef, a ginormous subway station, and two different commuter rail systems are a walking distance away. This is the route of the helicopters from the Pentagon to Quantico and points in between. Beginning to look like that transport corridor in Futurama.

Deflation has every reason to not go away

19 posted on 12/31/2012 3:59:29 AM PST by muawiyah
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To: Ann Archy

ANd EVERYBODY needs to PAY THE SAME RATE!!!!


A flat tax is not the answer since the income/expenses reported are by the taxpayer and can be greatly manipulated.

The “Takers” don’t even report their income because the tax law states they don’t even have to report their income annually if they make an “adjusted” income less than $6,000 yearly. Notice the “adjusted.”

A national sales tax is the only fair tax because the tax would be collected as the sale was made by the retailer/wholesaler and the best part is that the “takers,” welfare cheats, whores, drug dealers, the underground economy and other parasites upon the tax paying hard working and honest citizens would have to pay each time they bought something.

The best thing is that the average American can save their money and only pay a tax as they spend it.


20 posted on 12/31/2012 4:13:12 AM PST by DH (Once the tainted finger of government touches anything the rot begins)
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To: neverdem

Brace for a socialist-induced/orchestrated event. (Why we shouldn’t even be talking about this nonsense,,,socialist-induced debt, socialist-induced drama...putting the socialists on center stage. DEPOPULATE socialists from the body politic. DEFUND their collectives, foreign and domestic.)


21 posted on 12/31/2012 4:54:42 AM PST by PGalt
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To: neverdem

Why should I be liable for debt I had no hand in creating?

Print up maps showing the way to the houses of all the fat-ass federal bureaucrats and politicians. Then hand them out to the 30 IQ Morlocks in the big liberal cities and see what happens. We’d need to write stuff on the maps like “Free money, free food, free Nikes” with big arrows pointing the way so that the genuises would get it.

Liberals devouring liberals.


22 posted on 12/31/2012 4:58:59 AM PST by sergeantdave (The FBI has declared war on the Marine Corps)
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To: PGalt

The democrat vote buying scheme has been perfected. Only some huge event will change anything. Or the repubs could just say screw it and go over the cliff. but that would just be a start.


23 posted on 12/31/2012 5:03:44 AM PST by refermech
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To: neverdem
“If the American public saw our financial statements in the same way that public companies report their pension liabilities, it would clearly see the magnitude of danger...”

No they wouldn't. Too many are blinded by immediate self interest and plain stupidity.

When Trouble grabs them by the back of the head and smashes their faces against the wall they'll start to develop an inkling that something’s wrong.

24 posted on 12/31/2012 5:20:09 AM PST by TalBlack (Evil doesn't have a day job.)
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To: muawiyah

This whole situation is creating huge bubble and distortions in our Economy. The US Treasury debt bubble is an obvious one. The flip side of it are the politically necessary policy off keeping interest rates near zero. In “normal” times, capital was scarce and you had to pay to get it. That increasingly less true. Now capital (debt) costs less and less because it is being financed with imaginary dollars. Which means that real dollars (e.g., those we own) are worth less and less—which is why interest rates are so low. If those rates tick up even a little, the curtain goes up on this charade.

Look for negative interest rates—which is effectively a tax on weath. Only a tax on wealth, not income, solves this problem. Because with negative interest, you pay the Government to keep your $$ safe in US Treasuries—so they actually makes $$ on the deficit.

This is why asset deflation is coming big time—to convince people to meekly accept this tax on wealth.


25 posted on 12/31/2012 5:21:02 AM PST by rbg81
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To: TalBlack

Quite right. While a majority [used to] say they want to lower the deficit, they can never agree on specifics.

If anyone proposes a fix, they are immediately demonized by the MSM. Out come the sob stories of people who would be hurt by this or that cut, no matter how minor. And the Public, especially the women, disapprove.

Now, I’m not even sure a majority consensus exists on this anymore. People just want their free stuff and don’t care much about how they get it or the consequences past next week. In the end, the American people will get exactly what they deserve. Too bad many of us are along for the ride.


26 posted on 12/31/2012 5:26:24 AM PST by rbg81
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To: goldstategop
"Obama voters don’t care."

"They want their benefits and they want them now!"

Things may get interesting if the price of a Big Mac rises to $200 and the next COLA adjustment is 8 months away. Have we ever seen a welfare state that's undergone high inflation or hyper-inflation?

27 posted on 12/31/2012 5:41:49 AM PST by Sooth2222 ("Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of congress. But I repeat myself." M.Twain)
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To: sickoflibs

“Since we print out own money and loan it to ourselves ...”

When our government “prints money”, is that money always distributed in the form of loans, meaning the loans are intended to be paid back, which would remove the “printed money” from the economy?

If that’s the case then my next question is how are the interest rates on the loans determined?

If anyone posts answers to these questions, please don’t use the terms “bond”, “note” or any other word that basically means “loan”.


28 posted on 12/31/2012 5:43:48 AM PST by cymbeline
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To: babygene
“Since we print out own money and loan it to ourselves bankruptcy isn’t possible.”

But hyperinflation is... And that’s worse.

It's called Pauperizing by Degradation of Current Worth

29 posted on 12/31/2012 5:56:02 AM PST by HangnJudge
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To: goldstategop

“Obama voters don’t care. They want their benefits and they want them now!”

We may as well be honest that a large number of supposed conservatives are in the same camp as Obama voters.

From the article:

“Our federal balance sheet does not include the unfunded social insurance obligations of Medicare, Social Security, and the future retirement benefits of federal employees.”

Far too many conservatives think that they “earned” Medicare, Social Security, and the sizable contingent of Federal Employees on FR certainly think they “earned” their federal retirement benefits, too.

They don’t comprehend, or even care that we are broke.

Well, we are broke. These “obligations” that Congress gifted to select citizens that come directly from the hard work of those that pay taxes cannot be paid by those that pay taxes - indeed, may taxpayers will jump on the gray train rather than work for those who do not.

That’s the story. It’s not just Obama voters, it’s “conservatives”, liberals and everyone in between who simply want “their” money. They don’t care that it’s not really “their” money.

Such stupidity deserves the consequences in store for them.


30 posted on 12/31/2012 6:08:53 AM PST by RFEngineer
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To: TalBlack
"No they wouldn't. Too many are blinded by immediate self interest and plain stupidity."

Indeed. Our government, our rulers, have promoted a value system of gimmie mine now, that beggars the future and encourages an eat the seed corn mentality. Even those who have an inkling of the future decide to get theirs now betting that they will die before the coming conflagration.

31 posted on 12/31/2012 6:25:00 AM PST by Truth29
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To: muawiyah
We continue to suffer from deflation across a broad sector of the economy.

Plus the Saudis and ChiCom leadership knows that they have to keep lending to us so that we can continue to buy gasoline and cheap crap at Walmart. Otherwise elites start hanging from lampposts.

Obama knows all this and is well-prepared to play it out over the long haul.


32 posted on 12/31/2012 7:00:22 AM PST by Buckeye McFrog
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To: muawiyah

There is deflation unless you buy fuel, groceries and education for your kids. Other than real estate there is no deflation...


33 posted on 12/31/2012 7:02:30 AM PST by central_va ( I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
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To: central_va

Electronics


34 posted on 12/31/2012 7:09:47 AM PST by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah

Electronics are deflationary due to other reasons. Inflation if properly reported would be 10%.


35 posted on 12/31/2012 8:06:02 AM PST by central_va ( I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
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To: DH
A national sales tax is the only fair tax because the tax would be collected as the sale was made by the retailer/wholesaler and the best part is that the “takers,” welfare cheats, whores, drug dealers, the underground economy and other parasites upon the tax paying hard working and honest citizens would have to pay each time they bought something.

Oh and you think then transactions would go unreported. And you think the IRS wouldn't be tracking EVERY TRANSACTION to expose barter or find cash. And you think there wouldn't be a black market in virtually everything that would make the drug war look like a family spat.

It's spending. Fix that or else.

36 posted on 12/31/2012 8:07:14 AM PST by Carry_Okie (GunWalker: Arming "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as well funded")
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To: central_va

Deflation is deflation. Inflation is inflation. Doesn’t matter except to specialists what causes either. Some prices are deflating. Other prices are inflating.


37 posted on 12/31/2012 8:29:09 AM PST by muawiyah
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To: sergeantdave
“Free money, free food, free Nikes” with big arrows pointing the way so that the genuises would get it.

LOL

38 posted on 12/31/2012 9:42:19 AM PST by VRW Conspirator (We were the tea party before there was a tea party. - Jim Robinson)
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To: Sooth2222
Have we ever seen a welfare state that's undergone high inflation or hyper-inflation?

I said this before. The welfare state are going to get hit the hardest (OT minorities and woman hit hardest). That big Mac does not have to get to $200. It will only take rising to $20, along with everything associated with it. And the welfare state will scream for mo' money.

39 posted on 12/31/2012 9:48:36 AM PST by VRW Conspirator (We were the tea party before there was a tea party. - Jim Robinson)
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To: neverdem; All

Most unfortunately cannot fathom that the New World Order is real and that a huge scam is being played on not just America but the entire world.

Conservatives cannot get their minds around the reality of a conspiracy that is actually real and is being aided by a media that has also been hijacked by this same “dark side”...

The bottom line is this - Its too late for a political solution, as the game has been rigged for so long that it can’t and won’t be undone.

The financial collapse that will usher in a new world currency is not an accident, but a well planned and thought out Marxist ploy to gain control of the worlds economic systems.

Don’t believe it....just wait.


40 posted on 12/31/2012 9:55:03 AM PST by Halgr (Once a Marine, always a Marine - Semper Fi)
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To: gotribe

Huey P. Long, Jr., said that when the American people got ready to embrace fascism, they would call the program in mind “anti-fascism.”


41 posted on 12/31/2012 11:08:37 AM PST by Theodore R. ("Hey, the American people must all be crazy out there!")
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To: VideoDoctor

I wish Schmuckerman would have clued us in Before He voted for the one who stated in Plain sight he is Going to fundementally Transform The United States Of America


42 posted on 12/31/2012 11:17:57 AM PST by ballplayer
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To: muawiyah; ding_dong_daddy_from_dumas; Impy; stephenjohnbanker; DoughtyOne; Gilbo_3; NFHale
RE :”SS isn't actually running deficits ~ the US government is running deficits.
But that's neither here nor there. We have a situation where the federal government can borrow virtually unlimited amounts from foreign sources interested in putting their money in our hands simply to protect its value.”

SS is taking in less money in FICA then it pays out so the US treasury must borrow that money from the Federal Reserve to make SS payments (buying back IOUS to itself) so in that way adds to the national debt.

What I find interesting is now that O is re-elected Democrats don't want to extend the FICA tax cut anymore and I heard lib MD House member Cummings on TV arguing that, but Obama is demanding extension of tax credits as part of his tax deal.

Yet for two years Dems been arguing on TV with little opposition that SS is fully funded for 15,20, 30 years into the future. But it turns out that they want the appearance that SS is pay as you go.

43 posted on 12/31/2012 11:38:09 AM PST by sickoflibs (Dems go for results, meaning winning. Rs go for symbolism and whining about losing.)
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To: muawiyah
I misunderstood your first comment about deflation.

In the context of Zuckerman’s essay, I thought you were advocating more money printing and more debt.

I completely agree that technology is driving down costs.

And the ever increasing management efficiency of American corporations is remarkable.

The Internet is also driving a consumer knowledge revolution.

Price discovery and quality comparison are now second nature to millions of Americans.

It takes only a small percentage of highly informed customers - maybe 15% - to completely transform the market for most products.

44 posted on 12/31/2012 11:47:37 AM PST by zeestephen
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To: Carry_Okie

Oh and you think then transactions would go unreported.


I believe you need to go out into the world and wake up.

I own a business. My business collects sales tax on taxable sales and at the end of each quarter, reports the gross taxable sales and forwards that money to the State of Texas.

No names are known. What was bought is not known to the state and the only thing they want is the money that I (as a collector for the state)forwards back to them.

The system has been in place in every state for many, many years and works well. The best part is the customer does not have to report anything he buys to the government.

The system is already in place. All that needs to be done is to kill the IRS and use the existing retail and wholesale businesses to handle the taxes as is done now.

I think you ought to lay off whatever you are smoking for awhile.


45 posted on 12/31/2012 11:51:54 AM PST by DH (Once the tainted finger of government touches anything the rot begins)
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To: DH
I believe you need to go out into the world and wake up.

I live in California, which you did not check before posting. I've owned a business. I've collected sales tax. We have a 9% sales tax already here. Add 35% more for a Federal tax. Now we're at nearly 50% tax. At that point, people will cheat a lot more than they already do.

With a Federal sales tax, there will be a black market, just as there already is in cigarettes and alcohol if you hadn't noticed. So apparently it is you who needs a shot of reality.

46 posted on 12/31/2012 1:31:05 PM PST by Carry_Okie (GunWalker: Arming "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as well funded")
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To: refermech

I agree.


47 posted on 12/31/2012 6:11:33 PM PST by PGalt
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To: rbg81
If anyone proposes a fix, they are immediately demonized by the MSM.

So true. Socialists propaganda machine will demonize any anti-socialist. DEFUND Big Bird (PBS)...(look at the ruffled socialist chicken-shiite feathers)...a million Big Turds will march on D.C. That would be target-rich IMO. DEFUND all their collectives foreign and domestic. We will live free AND prosper.

48 posted on 12/31/2012 6:22:58 PM PST by PGalt
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To: sickoflibs

Since we print out own money and loan it to ourselves bankruptcy isn’t possible.


The model is the USSR. We woke up one morning and they were out of business. Thus is our future also.....................


49 posted on 12/31/2012 6:32:32 PM PST by PeterPrinciple
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To: Sooth2222

Welfare state with hyper inflation —Weimar Republic


50 posted on 12/31/2012 8:58:59 PM PST by reg45 (Barack 0bama: Implementing class warfare by having no class.)
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