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Obama, Taxes, Small Business & Your Money -- 6 Articles


The Age of Prosperity Is Over--This administration and Congress will be remembered like Herbert Hoover.

Get Ready for the "New" New Deal - Obama is much more dangerous to economic freedom than FDR.

Socking It to Small Business - The Obama plan is an incentive to hire fewer workers.

Obama and the Tax Tipping Point - How long before taxpayers are pushed too far?

Obama Talks Nonsense on Tax Cuts Revenues will inevitably be diverted from Social Security.

Get Ready for the "New" New Deal - Obama is much more dangerous to economic freedom than FDR.


What is a Small Business? Download the Small Business Administration definition


Shame, Cubed - Three separate reasons to be appalled, each more disgusting than the last.


By Bill Whittle
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YmFhYzIzMGQ1Y2FlMTA4N2M1N2VmZWUzM2Y4ZmNmYmI=
October 27, 2008

The Drudge Report this morning led off with a link to audio of Barack Obama on WBEZ, a Chicago public radio station. And this time, Barack Obama was not eight years old when the bomb went off.

Speaking on a call-in radio show in 2001, you can hear Senator Obama say things that should profoundly shock any American — or at least those who have not taken the time to dig deeply enough into this man’s beliefs and affiliations.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Barack Obama, in 2001:

You know, if you look at the victories and failures of the civil-rights movement, and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples. So that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it, I’d be okay, but the Supreme Court never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.

And uh, to that extent, as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution — at least as it’s been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted it in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties: [It] says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.

And that hasn’t shifted, and one of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil-rights movement was because the civil-rights movement became so court-focused, uh, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. And in some ways we still suffer from that.


A caller then helpfully asks: “The gentleman made the point that the Warren Court wasn’t terribly radical. My question is (with economic changes)… my question is, is it too late for that kind of reparative work, economically, and is that the appropriate place for reparative economic work to change place?”

Obama replies:

You know, I’m not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. The institution just isn’t structured that way. [snip] You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues, you know, in terms of the court monitoring or engaging in a process that essentially is administrative and takes a lot of time. You know, the court is just not very good at it, and politically, it’s just very hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard.

So I think that, although you can craft theoretical justifications for it, legally, you know, I think any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts.”

The article continues below.

The WBEZ audio:




THE FIRST CIRCLE OF SHAME

There is nothing vague or ambiguous about this. Nothing.

From the top: “…The Supreme Court never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And uh, to that extent, as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical.”

If the second highlighted phrase had been there without the first, Obama’s defenders would have bent over backwards trying to spin the meaning of “political and economic justice.” We all know what political and economic justice means, because Barack Obama has already made it crystal clear a second earlier: It means redistribution of wealth. Not the creation of wealth and certainly not the creation of opportunity, but simply taking money from the successful and hard-working and distributing it to those whom the government decides “deserve” it.

This redistribution of wealth, he states, “essentially is administrative and takes a lot of time.” It is an administrative task. Not suitable for the courts. More suitable for the chief executive.

Now that’s just garden-variety socialism, which apparently is not a big deal to may voters. So I would appeal to any American who claims to love the Constitution and to revere the Founding Fathers… I will not only appeal to you, I will beg you, as one American citizen to another, to consider this next statement with as much care as you can possibly bring to bear: “And uh, to that extent, as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution — at least as it’s been interpreted, and [the] Warren Court interpreted it in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties: [it] says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.

The United States of America — five percent of the world’s population — leads the world economically, militarily, scientifically, and culturally — and by a spectacular margin. Any one of these achievements, taken alone, would be cause for enormous pride. To dominate as we do in all four arenas has no historical precedent. That we have achieved so much in so many areas is due — due entirely — to the structure of our society as outlined in the Constitution of the United States.

The entire purpose of the Constitution was to limit government. That limitation of powers is what has unlocked in America the vast human potential available in any population.

Barack Obama sees that limiting of government not as a lynchpin but rather as a fatal flaw: “…One of the, I think, the tragedies of the Civil Rights movement was because the Civil Rights movement became so court-focused, uh, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. And in some ways we still suffer from that.”

There is no room for wiggle or misunderstanding here. This is not edited copy. There is nothing out of context; for the entire thing is context — the context of what Barack Obama believes. You and I do not have to guess at what he believes or try to interpret what he believes. He says what he believes.

We have, in our storied history, elected Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives and moderates. We have fought, and will continue to fight, pitched battles about how best to govern this nation. But we have never, ever in our 232-year history, elected a president who so completely and openly opposed the idea of limited government, the absolute cornerstone of makes the United States of America unique and exceptional.

If this does not frighten you — regardless of your political affiliation — then you deserve what this man will deliver with both houses of Congress, a filibuster-proof Senate, and, to quote Senator Obama again, “a righteous wind at our backs.”

That a man so clear in his understanding of the Constitution, and so opposed to the basic tenets it provides against tyranny and the abuse of power, can run for president of the United States is shameful enough.

We’re just getting started.

THE SECOND CIRCLE OF SHAME

Mercifully shorter than the first, and simply this: I happen to know the person who found this audio. It is an individual person, with no more resources than a desire to know everything that he or she can about who might be the next president of the United States and the most powerful man in the world.

I know that this person does not have teams of highly paid professionals, does not work out of a corner office in a skyscraper in New York, does not have access to all of the subtle and hidden conduits of information … who possesses no network television stations, owns no satellite time, does not receive billions in advertising dollars, and has a staff of exactly one.

I do not blame Barack Obama for believing in wealth distribution. That’s his right as an American. I do blame him for lying about what he believes. But his entire life has been applying for the next job at the expense of the current one. He’s at the end of the line now.

I do, however, blame the press for allowing an individual citizen to do the work that they employ standing armies of so-called professionals for. I know they are capable of this kind of investigative journalism: It only took them a day or two to damage Sarah Palin with wild accusations about her baby’s paternity and less time than that to destroy a man who happened to be playing ball when the Messiah decided to roll up looking for a few more votes on the way to the inevitable coronation.

We no longer have an independent, fair, investigative press. That is abundantly clear to everyone — even the press. It is just another of the facts that they refuse to report, because it does not suit them.

Remember this, America: The press did not break this story. A single citizen, on the Internet did.

There is a special hell for you “journalists” out there, a hell made specifically for you narcissists and elitists who think you have the right to determine which information is passed on to the electorate and which is not.

That hell — your own personal hell — is a fiery lake of irrelevance, blinding clouds of obscurity, and burning, everlasting scorn.

You’ve earned it.

THE THIRD CIRCLE OF SHAME

This discovery will hurt Obama much more than Joe the Plumber.

What will be left of my friend, and my friend’s family, I wonder, when the press is finished with them?


Socking It to Small Business - The Obama plan is an incentive to hire fewer workers.


By The Wall Street Journal
http://sec.online.wsj.com/article/SB122455021772252457.html
October 21, 2008

Barack Obama declared last week that his economic plan begins with "one word that's on everyone's mind and it's spelled J-O-B-S." This raises the stubborn question that Senator Obama has never satisfactorily answered: How do you create more jobs when you want to levy higher tax rates on the small business owners who are the nation's primary employers?

Loyal Democrats have howled over the claim that small businesses will get soaked by the Obama tax plan, so we thought we would seek an authority they might trust on the issue: Democratic Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus of Montana. Here is what Mr. Baucus wrote in a joint press release with Iowa Republican Charles Grassley on August 20, 2001, when they supported the income tax rate cuts that Mr. Obama wants to repeal:

". . . when the new tax relief law is fully phased in, entrepreneurs and small businesses -- owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, S corporations, and farms -- will receive 80 percent of the tax relief associated with reducing the top income tax rates of 36 percent to 33 percent and 39.6 percent to 35 percent."

Then they continued with a useful economics tutorial:

"Experts agree that lower taxes increase a business' cash flow, which helps with liquidity constraints during an economic slowdown and could increase the demand for investment and labor."

Twelve Senate Democrats voted for those same tax cuts. And just to be clear on one point: An increase in "the demand for investment and labor" translates into an increase in J-O-B-S. So if lowering these tax rates creates jobs, then it stands to reason that raising these taxes will mean fewer jobs. From 2003 to 2007 with the lower tax rates in place, the U.S. economy added eight million jobs, or about 125,000 per month. The Small Business Administration says small business wrote the paychecks for up to 80% of new jobs in 2005, for example.

Mr. Obama's tax increase would hit the bottom line of small businesses in three direct ways. First, because 85% of small business owners are taxed at the personal income tax rate, any moderately successful business with an income above as little as $165,000 a year could face a higher tax liability. That's the income level at which the 33% income tax bracket now phases in for individuals, and Mr. Obama would raise that tax rate for those businesses to 36%.

Second, the Obama plan phases out tax deductions (the so-called PEP and Pease provisions), thus raising tax rates imposed on this group by another 1.5 percentage points. Finally, Mr. Obama would require many small business owners to pay as much as a four-percentage-point payroll tax surcharge on net income above $250,000. All of this would bring the federal marginal small business tax rate up to nearly 45%, while big business would continue to pay the 35% corporate tax rate.

Mr. Obama responds that more than nine of 10 small businesses would not pay these higher taxes. Last Thursday he scoffed in response to the debate over Joe the Plumber, saying that not too many plumbers "make more than $250,000 a year." He's right that most of the 35 million small businesses in America have a net income of less than $250,000, hire only a few workers, and stay in business for less than four years.

However, the point is that it is the most successful small- and medium-sized businesses that create most of the new jobs in our dynamic society. And they are precisely the businesses that will be slammed by Mr. Obama's tax increase. Joe the Plumber would get hit if he expanded his business and hired 10 to 15 other plumbers. An analysis by the Senate Finance Committee found that of the filers in the highest two tax brackets, three out of four are small business owners. A typical firm with a net income of $500,000 would see its tax burden rise to $166,000 a year under the Obama plan from $146,000 today.

According to a Gallup survey conducted for the National Federation of Independent Business last December and January, only 10% of all businesses that hire between one and nine employees would pay the Obama tax. But 19.5% of employers with 10 to 19 employees would be socked by the tax. And 50% of businesses with 20 to 249 workers would pay the tax. The Obama plan is an incentive to hire fewer workers.

For many months Mr. Obama and his band of economists have claimed that taxes don't matter much to growth or job creation. But only last week Mr. Obama effectively admitted that even he doesn't believe this. His latest "stimulus" proposal includes a $3,000 refundable tax credit for businesses that hire new workers in 2009 or 2010.

So what sense does it make to offer targeted and temporary tax relief for some small businesses, while raising taxes by far more and permanently on others? Raising marginal tax rates on farmers, ranchers, sole proprietors and small business owners is no way to stimulate the economy -- and it's certainly no way to create J-O-B-S.


Obama and the Tax Tipping Point - How long before taxpayers are pushed too far?


By ADAM LERRICK
http://sbk.online.wsj.com/article/SB122463231048556587.html
October 22, 2008

What happens when the voter in the exact middle of the earnings spectrum receives more in benefits from Washington than he pays in taxes? Economists Allan Meltzer and Scott Richard posed this question 27 years ago. We may soon enough know the answer.

Barack Obama is offering voters strong incentives to support higher taxes and bigger government. This could be the magic income-redistribution formula Democrats have long sought.

Sen. Obama is promising $500 and $1,000 gift-wrapped packets of money in the form of refundable tax credits. These will shift the tax demographics to the tipping point where half of all voters will receive a cash windfall from Washington and an overwhelming majority will gain from tax hikes and more government spending.

In 2006, the latest year for which we have Census data, 220 million Americans were eligible to vote and 89 million -- 40% -- paid no income taxes. According to the Tax Policy Center (a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute), this will jump to 49% when Mr. Obama's cash credits remove 18 million more voters from the tax rolls. What's more, there are an additional 24 million taxpayers (11% of the electorate) who will pay a minimal amount of income taxes -- less than 5% of their income and less than $1,000 annually.

In all, three out of every five voters will pay little or nothing in income taxes under Mr. Obama's plans and gain when taxes rise on the 40% that already pays 95% of income tax revenues.

The plunder that the Democrats plan to extract from the "very rich" -- the 5% that earn more than $250,000 and who already pay 60% of the federal income tax bill -- will never stretch to cover the expansive programs Mr. Obama promises.

What next? A core group of Obama enthusiasts -- those educated professionals who applaud the "fairness" of their candidate's tax plans -- will soon see their $100,000-$150,000 incomes targeted. As entitlements expand and a self-interested majority votes, the higher tax brackets will kick in at lower levels down the ladder, all the way to households with a $75,000 income.

Calculating how far society's top earners can be pushed before they stop (or cut back on) producing is difficult. But the incentives are easy to see. Voters who benefit from government programs will push for higher tax rates on higher earners -- at least until those who power the economy and create jobs and wealth stop working, stop investing, or move out of the country.

Other nations have tried the ideology of fairness in the place of incentives and found that reward without work is a recipe for decline. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher took on the unions and slashed taxes to restore growth and jobs in Great Britain. In Germany a few years ago, Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder defied his party's dogma and loosened labor's grip on the economy to end stagnation. And more recently in France, Nicolas Sarkozy was swept to power on a platform of restoring flexibility to the economy.

The sequence is always the same. High-tax, big-spending policies force the economy to lose momentum. Then growth in government spending outstrips revenues. Fiscal and trade deficits soar. Public debt, excessive taxation and unemployment follow. The central bank tries to solve the problem by printing money. International competitiveness is lost and the currency depreciates. The system stagnates. And then a frightened electorate returns conservatives to power.

The economic tides will not stand still while Washington experiments with European-type social democracy, even though the dollar's role as the global reserve currency will buy some time. Our trademark competitive advantage will be lost, and once lost, it will be hard to regain. There are too many emerging economies focused on prosperity and not redistribution for the U.S. to easily recapture its role of global economic leader.

Tomorrow's children may come to question why their parents sold their birthright for a mess of "fairness" -- whatever that will signify when jobs are scarce and American opportunity is no longer the envy of the world.

Mr. Lerrick is a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.


Obama Talks Nonsense on Tax Cuts Revenues will inevitably be diverted from Social Security.


By WILLIAM MCGURN
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122455061443852529.html?mod=special_page_campaign2008_mostpop
Ocober 22, 2008

Now we know: 95% of Americans will get a "tax cut" under Barack Obama after all. Those on the receiving end of a check will include the estimated 44% of Americans who will owe no federal income taxes under his plan.

APIn most parts of America, getting money back on taxes you haven't paid sounds a lot like welfare. Ah, say the Obama people, you forget: Even those who pay no income taxes pay payroll taxes for Social Security. Under the Obama plan, they say, these Americans would get an income tax credit up to $500 based on what they are paying into Social Security.

Just two little questions: If people are going to get a tax refund based on what they pay into Social Security, then we're not really talking about income tax relief, are we? And if what we're really talking about is payroll tax relief, doesn't that mean billions of dollars in lost revenue for a Social Security trust fund that is already badly underfinanced?

Austan Goolsbee, the University of Chicago economic professor who serves as one of Sen. Obama's top advisers, discussed these issues during a recent appearance on Fox News. There he stated that the answer to the first question is that these Americans are getting an income tax rebate. And the answer to the second is that the money would not actually come out of Social Security.

"You can't just cut the payroll tax because that's what funds Social Security," Mr. Goolsbee told Fox's Shepard Smith. "So if you tried to do that, you would undermine the Social Security Trust Fund."

Now, if you have been following this so far, you have learned that people who pay no income tax will get an income tax refund. You have also learned that this check will represent relief for the payroll taxes these people do pay. And you have been assured that this rebate check won't actually come out of payroll taxes, lest we harm Social Security.

You have to admire the audacity. With one touch of the Obama magic, what otherwise would be described as taking money from Peter to pay Paul is now transformed into Paul's tax relief. Where a tax cut for payroll taxes paid will not in fact come from payroll taxes. And where all these plans come together under the rhetorical umbrella of "Making Work Pay."

Not everyone is persuaded. Andrew Biggs is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Social Security Administration official who has written a great deal about Mr. Obama's plans on his blog (AndrewGBiggs.blogspot.com). He notes that to understand the unintended consequences, it helps to remember that while people at the bottom pay a higher percentage of their income in payroll taxes, they are accruing benefits in excess of what they pay in.

"It's interesting that Mr. Obama calls his plan 'Making Work Pay,'" says Mr. Biggs, "because the incentives are just the opposite. By expanding benefits for people whose benefits exceed their taxes, you're increasing their disincentive for work. And you're doing the same at the top of the income scale, where you are raising their taxes so you can distribute the revenue to others."

Even more interesting is what Mr. Obama's "tax cuts" do to Social Security financing. As Mr. Biggs notes, had Mr. Obama proposed to pay for payroll tax relief out of, well, payroll taxes, his plan would never have a chance in Congress. Most members would look at a plan that defunded a trust fund that seniors are counting on for their retirement as political suicide.

And that leads us to the heart of this problem. If the government is going to give tax cuts to 44% of American based on their Social Security taxes -- without actually refunding to them the money they are paying into Social Security -- Mr. Obama will have to get the funds elsewhere. And this is where "general revenues" turns out to be a more agreeable way of saying "Other People's Money."

When asked about his priorities during the second presidential debate, Mr. Obama said that reform of programs like Social Security would have to go on the back burner for two years or so. "We're not going to solve Social Security and Medicare unless we understand the rest of our tax policies," he said.

The senator is right. But you have to read the fine print of his tax cuts to know why.


Get Ready for the "New" New Deal - Obama is much more dangerous to economic freedom than FDR.


By PAUL H. RUBIN
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122455099434052597.html
Ocober 21, 2008

In 1932, Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president as the nation was heading into a severe recession. The stock market had crashed in 1929, the world's economy was slowing down, and all economic indicators in the U.S. showed signs of trouble.

The new president's response was to restructure the economy with the New Deal -- an expansion of the role of government once unimaginable in America. We now know that FDR's policies likely prolonged the Great Depression because the economy never fully recovered in the 1930s, and actually got worse in the latter half of the decade. And we know that FDR got away with it (winning election four times) by blaming his predecessor, Herbert Hoover, for crashing the economy in the first place.

Today, the U.S. is in better shape than in 1932. But it faces similar circumstances. The stock market has been in a tail spin, credit markets have locked up, and a surging Democratic presidential candidate is running on expanding the role of government, laying the blame for the economic turmoil on the current occupant of the White House and his party's economic policies.

Barack Obama is one of the most liberal members of the Senate. His reaction to the financial crisis is to blame deregulation. He even leverages fear of deregulation onto other issues. For example, Sen. John McCain wants to allow consumers to buy health insurance across state lines. Mr. Obama likens this to the financial deregulation that he alleges got us into the current mess.

But a President Obama would also enjoy large Democratic majorities in Congress. His party might even win a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, giving him more power than any president has had in decades to push a liberal agenda. And given the opportunity, Mr. Obama will likely radically increase government interference in the economy.

Until now, this election has been fought on the margins, over marginal issues. But it is important to understand how much a presidential candidate wants to move the needle on taxes, trade and other issues. Usually there isn't a chance for wholesale change. Now, however, it appears that this election will make more than a marginal difference. It might fundamentally change America.

Unlike FDR, Mr. Obama will not have to create the mechanisms government uses to interfere with the economy before imposing his policies. FDR had to get the Supreme Court to overturn a century's worth of precedents limiting the power of government before he could use the Constitution's commerce clause, among other things, to increase government control of the economy. Mr. Obama will have no such problem.

FDR also had to create agencies to implement regulations. Today, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Labor Relations Board (both created in the 1930s) as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and others created later are in place. Increasing their power will be easier than creating them from scratch.

Even before the current crisis, there was a great demand for increased government regulation to limit global warming. That gives the next president a ready-made box in which to place more regulation, and a legion of supports eager for it.

But if the coming wave of new regulation from an Obama administration is harmful to the economy, Mr. Obama will take a page from FDR's playbook. He'll blame Republicans for having caused the market crash in the first place, and so escape blame for the consequences of his policies. It worked for FDR and, so far in this campaign, blaming Republicans and George W. Bush has worked for Mr. Obama.

Democrats draw their political power from trial lawyers, unions, government bureaucrats, environmentalists, and, perhaps, my liberal colleagues in academia. All of these voting blocs seem to favor a larger, more intrusive government. If things proceed as they now appear likely to, we can expect major changes in policies that benefit these groups.

If those of us who favor free markets for the freedom and prosperity they bring are right, the political system may soon put our economy on track for a catastrophe.

Mr. Rubin is a professor of economics and law at Emory University. He held several senior economic positions in the Reagan administration, and is an unpaid adviser to the McCain campaign.


The Age of Prosperity Is Over--This administration and Congress will be remembered like Herbert Hoover.


By Arthur B. Laffer
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122506830024970697.html
Ocober 27, 2008

About a year ago Stephen Moore, Peter Tanous and I set about writing a book about our vision for the future entitled "The End of Prosperity." Little did we know then how appropriate its release would be earlier this month.

Financial panics, if left alone, rarely cause much damage to the real economy, output, employment or production. Asset values fall sharply and wipe out those who borrowed and lent too much, thereby redistributing wealth from the foolish to the prudent. This process is the topic of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book "Fooled by Randomness."

When markets are free, asset values are supposed to go up and down, and competition opens up opportunities for profits and losses. Profits and stock appreciation are not rights, but rewards for insight mixed with a willingness to take risk. People who buy homes and the banks who give them mortgages are no different, in principle, than investors in the stock market, commodity speculators or shop owners. Good decisions should be rewarded and bad decisions should be punished. The market does just that with its profits and losses.

No one likes to see people lose their homes when housing prices fall and they can't afford to pay their mortgages; nor does any one of us enjoy watching banks go belly-up for making subprime loans without enough equity. But the taxpayers had nothing to do with either side of the mortgage transaction. If the house's value had appreciated, believe you me the overleveraged homeowner and the overly aggressive bank would never have shared their gain with taxpayers. Housing price declines and their consequences are signals to the market to stop building so many houses, pure and simple.

But here's the rub. Now enter the government and the prospects of a kinder and gentler economy. To alleviate the obvious hardships to both homeowners and banks, the government commits to buy mortgages and inject capital into banks, which on the face of it seems like a very nice thing to do. But unfortunately in this world there is no tooth fairy. And the government doesn't create anything; it just redistributes. Whenever the government bails someone out of trouble, they always put someone into trouble, plus of course a toll for the troll. Every $100 billion in bailout requires at least $130 billion in taxes, where the $30 billion extra is the cost of getting government involved.

If you don't believe me, just watch how Congress and Barney Frank run the banks. If you thought they did a bad job running the post office, Amtrak, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the military, just wait till you see what they'll do with Wall Street.

Some 14 months ago, the projected deficit for the 2008 fiscal year was about 0.6% of GDP. With the $170 billion stimulus package last March, the add-ons to housing and agriculture bills, and the slowdown in tax receipts, the deficit for 2008 actually came in at 3.2% of GDP, with the 2009 deficit projected at 3.8% of GDP. And this is just the beginning.

The net national debt in 2001 was at a 20-year low of about 35% of GDP, and today it stands at 50% of GDP. But this 50% number makes no allowance for anything resulting from the over $5.2 trillion guarantee of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac assets, or the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Nor does the 50% number include any of the asset swaps done by the Federal Reserve when they bailed out Bear Stearns, AIG and others.

But the government isn't finished. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- and yes, even Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke -- are preparing for a new $300 billion stimulus package in the next Congress. Each of these actions separately increases the tax burden on the economy and does nothing to encourage economic growth. Giving more money to people when they fail and taking more money away from people when they work doesn't increase work. And the stock market knows it.

The stock market is forward looking, reflecting the current value of future expected after-tax profits. An improving economy carries with it the prospects of enhanced profitability as well as higher employment, higher wages, more productivity and more output. Just look at the era beginning with President Reagan's tax cuts, Paul Volcker's sound money, and all the other pro-growth, supply-side policies.

Bill Clinton and Alan Greenspan added their efforts to strengthen what had begun under President Reagan. President Clinton signed into law welfare reform, so people actually have to look for a job before being eligible for welfare. He ended the "retirement test" for Social Security benefits (a huge tax cut for elderly workers), pushed the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress against his union supporters and many of his own party members, signed the largest capital gains tax cut ever (which exempted owner-occupied homes from capital gains taxes), and finally reduced government spending as a share of GDP by an amazing three percentage points (more than the next four best presidents combined). The stock market loved Mr. Clinton as it had loved Reagan, and for good reasons.

The stock market is obviously no fan of second-term George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ben Bernanke, Barack Obama or John McCain, and again for good reasons.

These issues aren't Republican or Democrat, left or right, liberal or conservative. They are simply economics, and wish as you might, bad economics will sink any economy no matter how much they believe this time things are different. They aren't.

I was on the White House staff as George Shultz's economist in the Office of Management and Budget when Richard Nixon imposed wage and price controls, the dollar was taken off gold, import surcharges were implemented, and other similar measures were enacted from a panicked decision made in August of 1971 at Camp David.

I witnessed, like everyone else, the consequences of another panicked decision to cover up the Watergate break-in. I saw up close and personal Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush succumb to panicked decisions to raise taxes, as well as Jimmy Carter's emergency energy plan, which included wellhead price controls, excess profits taxes on oil companies, and gasoline price controls at the pump.

The consequences of these actions were disastrous. Just look at the stock market from the post-Kennedy high in early 1966 to the pre-Reagan low in August of 1982. The average annual real return for U.S. assets compounded annually was -6% per year for 16 years. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a bear market. And it is something that you may well experience again. Yikes!

Then we have this administration's panicked Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, and of course the deer-in-the-headlights Mr. Bernanke in his bungling of monetary policy.

There are many more examples, but none hold a candle to what's happening right now. Twenty-five years down the line, what this administration and Congress have done will be viewed in much the same light as what Herbert Hoover did in the years 1929 through 1932. Whenever people make decisions when they are panicked, the consequences are rarely pretty. We are now witnessing the end of prosperity.

Mr. Laffer is chairman of Laffer Associates and co-author of "The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy -- If We Let it Happen," just out by Threshold.
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