Updating the Trillion Dollar Page

packs-163497When we first started Freedom Forge Press in 2012, the US government debt had topped $16 trillion, a number that is so large that it doesn’t have much meaning for people.

So we thought, why not use other things from the news, such as events, or items of interest that people could use as a visual for the volume of money that  government politicians are borrowing to pay for their spending schemes?

Items such as sporting events, dollar bridges to Mars, bottles of champagne, even iPhones and…Furbies!

But governments and politicians have been busy – doing what governments and politicians do – which is spending money they don’t have and adding record amounts of debt to our national balance sheet without regard for where the money is coming from or what burdens it will place on our children and grandchildren.

In January 2015, the US government owed $18 trillion dollars ($18,000,000,000,000.00), and so it is time to update our page.

Do you have an idea for an item or event that could be translated into national debt figures? Post your idea in the comments section for this post and give us a link to a page where we can find out what the item or event costs. (Even if you can’t find the page, give us your idea anyway, and we’ll try to figure it out.)

When you’re done, tell your elected officials that it is time to stop mortgaging our future and to get America’s spending and debt under control.

Then, tell a friend!

Budget “Deal” Shows Why You Shouldn’t Trust Politicians to Fix Anything

House Republican Paul Ryan and Senate Democrat Pat Murray proudly emerged from crafting their back-room budget deal. Finally, an end to the dreaded “sequester” budget cuts that were promised to be so intense and so devastating that the sky might literally fall if they were enacted. Finally, an end to the threat of another government shut down when the continuing resolution passed in October expires in mid-January.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor praised Ryan for “the hard work behind trying to get a deal in this divided government we’re in.”

Speaker John Boehner was so angry that conservatives in his caucus weren’t widely supporting the budget deal, he yelled “Are you kidding me?” at one point into a microphone at his press conference earlier today.

That’s funny. We think the question really should be asked of him and those who support the budget “deal” and think that something meaningful has actually been accomplished.  Maybe a better question is “who are you trying to kid?”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office scores the deficit impact of the laws Congress passes.  They evaluated this budget deal and reported the law would result in about $150 billion in deficit reductions. Over ten years.

Of course Representatives have two-year terms–meaning there will be five elections between now and the end of this projection. Even the Senate will go through nearly two full election cycles of its members during this timeline. What is the chance that the cuts enacted will be left in place? If you need a hint, the budget cuts that went into effect January 2, 2013 lasted until…well until about today, so not even a full year. What’s the likelihood that budget cuts enacted ten years from now actually remain in place?

This is the dishonesty of budget projections. All the budget pain is in the later years of the timeline. But politicians claim to have made “the hard choices” now and done “the hard work” now of getting a deal done today. They’re hoping you don’t notice when the cuts go into effect.

The “hard choice” made in the House today is to make NO change to the projected deficit in 2014. That’s right. Zero change. All changes take place after 2014. And we know 2014 is an election year, meaning in 2015, fresh faces in Congress may alter this budget blueprint at will.

The pie chart below shows the dollar value of deficit cuts in each year of the budget plan.  Yes, 2014, the year when Congress could have actually enacted something that would stick, is zero. As each year passes, the likelihood of the cuts remaining in place drops–so we shaded the chart to reflect lighter pie slices until 2023 when the final slice is a pale white-green color.

Seventy cents of every dollar in proposed cuts won’t take place until after the 5 year mid-point (2019) of the budget plan. We won’t even have the same president by then. The remaining 30 cents in cuts will be realized between 2015 and 2019.

But the size of the cuts themselves are unbelievably small. Sure, politicians will claim to have cut the deficit by $150 billion (…*cough*overtenyears*cough*…)

But what does that mean? Even if every penny that is proposed to be on the budget chopping block remains on the chopping block, the size of the cuts is insignificant.

Over the same 10 year period where Republicans and Democrats are slapping each other on the back over their $150 billion in deficit reductions (…*cough*overtenyears*cough*…) your government is expected to spend some $46.6 TRILLION. Suddenly the $150 billion in reductions (your turn! *cough*overtenyears*cough) is little more than an insignificant rounding error–just 0.3% of funds to be spent.

We colored the area of the rectangle below green in a sea of red to represent the value of the cuts as a percentage of expected spending. You might need to zoom in to find the cuts.

This inability of Congress to address the country’s fiscal woes will lead to economic ruin in the form of crippling tax increases, inflation, and a damaged US Dollar in foreign currency markets. These effects in turn limit the freedom we have to enjoy a fruitful and prosperous lifestyle as we have less disposable income, must pay more for basic goods and services with the money the government was gracious enough not to tax, and an inability to afford goods and services that are not produced here.

All of which begs the question of Speaker Boehner and those who voted for the measure, “Are you kidding us?”

This…Actually Won Money…Money…Money…

The US Department of Health and Human Services and Young Invincibles teamed up to spend a sum of some thousands (we think $5,000 but it’s not clear, if you can interpret the beaucra-speak from the contest prizes rules and press release let us know) on this mess…


Even the White House joined in the fun of ripping off a pop song to try to turn it into political propaganda for an age group that so far  is largely not interested in buying into Obamacare.

Here’s why the video isn’t worth whatever price the government and its unwitting partner paid:

1. The video, which received financial compensation, makes heavy and unattributed use of a copyrighted song by Jessie J without attribution. We’re pretty sure if a Tea Party group had used a copyrighted song to illustrate a point against the Affordable Care Act, that concerted teams of IRS agents, left-wing activists, media types, lawyers, FBI swat teams, heavily armed Predator drones, even Eric Holder himself would descend on the Tea Party group to capture those involved and dispense whatever mob justice seemed appropriate at the time.

2. The video’s chorus asks you to “Forget About the Price Tag” for a program that’s been plagued with upward cost estimate revisions since the president claimed it would cost only $90 billion per year. Coming up on 5 years and 5 revisions later the current estimate stands at $2.7 trillion (3 times the president’s original figure) factored in a 10-year CBO projection. Forget about that price tag, indeed…

3. The program’s signature product website healthcare.gov cost taxpayers more than $600 million, and was nowhere near ready for prime time on the administration’s launch date of October 1 of this year. Negligence and gross mismanagement abounded, but no one has been held accountable. But forget about the price tag; we guess it “ain’t about the uh-cha-ching cha-ching.”

4. Speaking of “cha-ching cha-ching,” the $600 million the federal government blew on a non-working website still has NO payment transfer mechanism to pay insurance companies those subsidies the federal government promised. As one observer has pointed out, the Armed Forces of the United States mobilized, deployed, fought, and defeated the Axis Powers, winning World War II in less time than it took the government to develop a non-functional website.

5. In a lilting exhortation, our singer says “there’s no excuse to be uninsured.” But the law applies to all Americans. You get a government-approved health plan, or you get fined. But “just stop for a minute to think.”  Do the super-wealthy like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet really need to purchase individual health insurance?

6. “Keep your mind at ease and get some security.” Like the 5 million+ people who had an individual health insurance policy and have had their plans cancelled due to the Obama Administration’s implementing regulations for the Affordable Care Act? But don’t worry about the “yeah bla-bling bla-bling”!

7. “We just wanna make it more fair with affordable health caaaare.”  But having an insurance policy that has the Obama administration’s gold (or maybe even red!) star seal of approval, does NOT mean you will be getting any health caaaare. It means you have coverage and now have to find a doctor that participates with that insurance program.

8. When coverage expands? Well coverage so far has only contracted with millions of cancellation notices and the president’s extra-legal request that insurers extend policies that his law, as his administration has chosen to implement it, are barred from having…  Even as Obamacare enters maturity as a federal program, the CBO projects we will still have 30 million some uninsured Americans.  But wasn’t that close to the number of uninsured before the government seized control of the health insurance industry?

9. “Take advantage of this opportunity!” What opportunity? Insurance actuarial tables work thusly: a population or risk pool pays premiums. Premiums are used to pay for the bad things that happen to members of the risk pool. Young people in general have far fewer health care requirements–and thus many could benefit from a plan offering catastrophic coverage and socking money into a Health Savings Account, which they control, for later in life when their needs, unfortunately, are destined to change. But like Social Security, the young are paying higher premiums into a program that will pay NOW for sicker people and will not have enough future money coming in to pay for the young when they advance in age and require more costly care.

10. “Why is everyone so oblivious?” Well, many aren’t. A recent poll suggests that only 1 in 4 young people (the target of the video) plan to sign up for “Obamacare,” suggesting that at least the remaining 3 out of 4 aren’t so oblivious and can do the simple math above and see that the program is not a good deal for them. It’s too bad we can’t count the video author among the un-oblivious.

11. “I know we’re in our prime. About time we opened our eyes.” Agreed!

We think the video’s author, Erin McDonald, could have gotten more benefit and closer to the truth if she had stuck with words from the original song:

“Seems like everybody’s got a price” (Like the Louisiana Purchase–Right, Sen Landrieu?)

“…when the sale comes first, and the truth comes second” (Ain’t that the truth? Right, Pres Obama? And your close to 40 recorded promises of “if you like your doctor/health plan you can keep your doctor/health plan.”

“It’s not about the money, money, money//We don’t need your money, money, money.” While Obamacare is precisely about the money, money, money, we’d much prefer a government that espoused this idea!

“Money can’t buy us happiness//can we all slow down and enjoy right now.” This sounds an awful lot like freedom to us. If government would stop worrying about what you and I do with our money and stop trying to steal it to buy votes, corruption, and political power, perhaps we could all just “make the world dance.”

“That Government of the People, by the People, for the People, Shall Not Perish from the Earth”

Seven and a half score (150) years ago, Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address, commemorating the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War.

He closed his speech by saying:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Fast forward from 1863 to 2013 and consider a Fox News Poll released yesterday 10/3. The last question of the poll is disheartening: “In the United States, the people are supposed to be in charge of the government. What do you think is happening today?”  Eighty-eight percent of those polled said “the government is in charge of the people.” Eight percent said the people are in charge of the government.

Set aside any passions you may have for the new healthcare law or the government shutdown for a moment and consider where “We the People” currently stand in our relationship with our federal government:

-It openly admits, in glaring contrast to the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment of Constitution, to a domestic spying program, with surveillance of American citizens’ web-browsing, email, and telephone calls.

-It has mortgaged the future of young Americans, amassing $17 TRILLION in debt and another $126 TRILLION in promises made to current tax payers with no realistic ability to pay them.

-It has hoarded an arsenal of billions of rounds of ammunition–more than would be needed for 24 Iraq Wars, and refuses to provide a justification for the purpose for such purchases. (With one purchasing official advocating a race war and still on paid leave…)

-It has, via the Internal Revenue Service, engaged in active harassment, tax audits, and discrimination against persons and organizations who do not agree with the current administration’s political views and policies.

-It has engaged in armed raids on private property, using heavily armed tactical agents at civilian agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

-it has enacted a complex, confiscatory, and redistributive scheme of federal taxation, spanning nearly 74,000 pages, ensuring that even honest, law-abiding citizens are guilty of some unintended offense.

-It has denied farmers operating on federally managed lands their proper allocation of water because of rabid adherence to an arbitrary environmental policy.

-It has engaged in surveillance of journalists, with a keen interest in those who do not support the current administration’s politics.

The list could go on and on and on. And as the details of the anti-constitutional Affordable Care Act become known, the government is going to assert more control than ever before over the supply and demand of medical services. To make matters worse, enforcement of the ACA will be overseen by the same agency that has a documented history of bias against the current administration’s political opponents.

All this begs the original question from the poll: Should the government be in charge of its citizens, or should the citizens be in charge of the government? Are Americans citizens, or are they subjects ruled by their betters from a dysfunctional and corrupt capital?

Reading the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we know that the United States federal government was established for one purpose:

(Declaration of Independence): We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

(US Constitution): We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It is time to remind government of their purpose. By calling, tweeting, “Facebooking”, and writing to your elected officials at all levels, by holding them accountable with your votes, and by speaking out against government injustice, we the people must retake our birthright of freedom and ensure that it is the government who works for us, and not we who work for them.

John Quincy Adams once remarked, “Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” And so we must. We must make good use of our freedom. We must do our part now to ensure “that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Atlas Shrugged II Premieres Friday 10/12

Whether you believe Atlas Shrugged is hyperbolic, cautionary, or even prophetic, it’s an important story to read to remind us of the freedom America offers—and to remind us how quickly that freedom can be taken.

Since Ayn Rand is not the most concise author, we’re fortunate that the book is being made into a film. Part One of the trilogy was released on tax day last year, and Part Two will be released on Friday.

To understand the genius of Rand’s work, it’s important to understand a bit about her life. Born in Russia in 1905, Ayn Rand was subjected to the culture of collectivism in Russia. Almost immediately after teaching herself to read, Rand discovered European fiction, which introduced her to the idea of the hero—the individual—something lacking in Russian culture. She saw two revolutions, and a resulting Communist victory forced her father’s pharmacy to be confiscated, causing her family to nearly starve to death. It wasn’t until her last year of high school that she was introduced to American history. The principles she learned led her to hold America as the paragon of freedom.

She continued her studies through college in Russia, but communists continued to take away students’ rights to freedom of thought. Rand took solace in Western films, once again holding Western culture as the paragon of free men. In 1926, she arrived in New York after telling Soviet authorities she planned only a short visit to America to visit family. Her intention was never to return, and indeed she remained in the United States for the rest of her life.

She moved to Hollywood to become a screenwriter, meeting Cecil B. DeMille and Frank O’Connor, her future husband and Hollywood actor, during her first two weeks there. She continued her writing career, creating characters and stories that illustrate the potential of the ideal man. Atlas Shrugged pits the government collective against individual businessmen.

Here is a synopsis from the producers—hope to “see” you at the show!

In Atlas Shrugged II, the global economy is on the brink of collapse. Unemployment has risen to 24%. Gas is now $42 per gallon. Brilliant creators, from artists to industrialists, continue to mysteriously disappear at the hands of the unknown.

Dagny Taggart, Vice President in Charge of Operations for Taggart Transcontinental, has discovered what may very well be the answer to a mounting energy crisis – found abandoned amongst the ruins of a once productive factory, a revolutionary motor that could seemingly power the World.But, the motor is dead… there is no one left to decipher its secret… and, someone is watching.

But, the motor is dead… there is no one left to decipher its secret… and, someone is watching.

It’s a race against the clock to find the inventor before the motor of the World is stopped for good.

Who is John Galt?