Tags: Entitlement | Cliff | Threatens | America | Medvedev | Gender Wage Gap | Israeli Official Obama Is Naïve

'Entitlement Cliff' Threatens America

By    |   Sunday, 11 November 2012 02:29 PM

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. 'Entitlement Cliff' Threatens America
2. Russian P.M. Medvedev 'Glad' Romney Lost
3. Gender Wage Gap Study Called Bogus
4. Israeli Official: Obama Is 'Naïve'
5. Teacher Unions Strongest in Hawaii, Weakest in Arizona
6. We Heard: Sen. Rob Portman, United Nations

1. 'Entitlement Cliff' Threatens America

Much has been said about the "fiscal cliff" coming at the end of the year, when tax cuts are set to expire and automatic spending cuts begin, but that "pales in comparison" to the "entitlement cliff" looming for the country in coming years, a new report warns.

Entitlement spending is already so high that the cost of all entitlement programs plus interest on the debt is nearly equal to total federal revenue. That means virtually everything else the government does is being paid for with borrowed money, the report from the Institute for Policy Innovation discloses.

Entitlements include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and means-tested welfare programs, plus veteran benefits, unemployment pay, disability pay, and more.

A number of these programs have grown substantially since President Obama took office. Medicaid has grown from 46.9 recipients to 56 million, disability beneficiaries have increased from 7.5 million to 8.8 million, and the food stamp program has grown from 32 million beneficiaries to 47 million.

All told, more than 120 million Americans receive entitlements of some kind, according to the Institute, a Texas-based think tank. Add to that an estimated 16 million new Medicaid beneficiaries resulting from Obamacare, and some 18 million people who enter the health insurance exchanges beginning in 2014.

The bottom line: For fiscal 2012, the federal government spent about $2.2 trillion of its $3.7 trillion budget on entitlement programs, while gross annual revenues stood at $2.6 trillion. Add interest on the federal debt of $220 billion to the entitlement payout, and that leaves less than $200 billion to pay for everything else, including defense, transportation, education, and homeland security. So the government makes up the shortfall by borrowing, or printing, money.

The problem will only get worse in coming years. Since 1980, Medicare and Medicaid have grown at more than 9 percent annually, and an estimated 77 million baby boomers are beginning to retire and collect Social Security.

At the same time, the pool of workers who pay for these programs is not growing. The Tax Policy Center reports that only 53 percent of households now pay both income and payroll taxes.

The Institute observes: "Attempting to collect enough money to sustain this level of entitlement spending will only result in a reduction in work effort, reduced employment opportunities, and more people moving onto entitlements."

The Institute offers several steps necessary to deal with the growing entitlement problem. One way is to reform entitlements into real safety-net programs that help those most in need and don't encourage continued reliance on welfare.

Another is to encourage economic growth by lowering personal and corporate income tax rates while eliminating loopholes, and lowering taxes on investment income.

Also, several programs could be transitioned into prefunded personal accounts.

The Institute's conclusion: "Any solution that maintains the current defined-benefit structure — unless it is for a small number of the poorest Americans — is only postponing the inevitable financial day of reckoning."

Editor's Note:

2. Russian P.M. Medvedev 'Glad' Romney Lost

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he is glad the U.S. presidential election had not been won by "someone who considers Russia enemy number one," according to the official Russian news agency — a clear reference to Mitt Romney.

Another top official expressed the same sentiment. Alexey Pushkov, chairman of the State Duma's powerful international affairs committee, said on his Twitter account that it was good the White House would not be occupied by someone who regards Russia as "the enemy."

Obama's victory was "better for the outside world," he said.

Medvedev and Pushkov were alluding to comments first made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last March, when he called Russia "our number one geopolitical foe."

Romney at the time was criticizing Obama for suggesting to Medvedev that he would be willing to make concessions to Russia on missile defense in Europe during a second term in the White House.

"This is my last election," Obama told the Russian. "After my election I have more flexibility."

The day after Obama's re-election, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated him on his win, invited Obama to visit Russia next year, and "expressed his hopes for continued constructive work together," the Kremlin said in a statement.

The following day, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told an international conference in Moscow: "We hope that President Obama after his re-election will be more flexible on the issue of taking into account the opinions of Russia and others regarding a future configuration of NATO's missile defense."

Writing on his Facebook page in October, Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion and leader of an anti-Putin movement, said Obama's so-called "reset" of relations with Moscow "has been a disaster, giving Putin everything he wants despite his support of the Iranian nuclear program, arming [President Hugo] Chavez in Venezuela, protecting murderous [President Bashar] Assad in Syria, and increasing crackdowns here in Russia.

"Romney was criticized for calling Russia the U.S.'s top geopolitical adversary, but he was correct — although he should have specified it is Putin, and not the Russian people, who oppose peace and cooperation with the West."

Editor's Note:

3. Gender Wage Gap Study Called 'Bogus'

A new report asserts that millennial women — those 18 to 29 years old — are paid just 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male peers.

The problem with that finding is that it is simply not true, according to prominent economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth.

The report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), authored by AAUW anthropologist Christianne Corbett and Director of Research Catherine Hill, states that just one year out of college, "women are paid less than men even when they do the same work and major in the same field."

In a column for the Washington Examiner headlined "Bogus AAUW Study Perpetuates Wage Gap Myths," Furchtgott-Roth observes: "Buried in the report is the finding that, accounting for college majors and occupations, women make 93 cents, not 82, on a man's dollar.

"The remaining seven cents, the authors contend, is likely due to discrimination, because they cannot explain it. So let me offer a possible explanation for them: The study's categories are too broad."

For example, the category "Other White Collar" includes lawyers, judges, social scientists and workers in the arts, entertainment, sports and the media. So the AAUW compares the pay of male lawyers with the pay of female librarians.

The "Other Occupations" category ranges from miners and construction workers to waitresses and cooks.

"In order to show discrimination, the report should document differences in salaries of men and women in the same job with the same experience," says Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

"The AAUW study didn't even look at men and women in the same field, much less on the same job."

The AAUW appears to be "twisting" the data to convince young women that they are victims of discrimination so they would vote for President Obama, who promised pay equity.

But since Obama assumed office, the percentage of employed women in the population has declined from 57 percent to 55 percent in September 2012, while the number of unemployed women increased from 4.4 million to 4.9 million.

P.S.: Women staffers in Obama's White House are paid 90 cents to a man's dollar, Furchtgott-Roth states, "if one calculates the figure incorrectly based on simple averages."

Editor's Note:

4. Israeli Official: Obama Is 'Naïve'

President Obama's re-election triumph "demonstrates that the state of Israel must take care of its own interests," says the deputy speaker of Israel's Knesset.

Danny Danon, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, told Middle East correspondent and talk radio host Aaron Klein after the U.S. election: "We cannot rely on anyone but ourselves. Obama has hurt the United States by his naïve leadership in foreign policy, which prefers the Arab world over the Western world, along with Israel. The state of Israel will not capitulate before Obama."

A senior Palestinian Authority negotiator claimed earlier in the week that if Obama won re-election he would campaign at the United Nations to renew Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and eastern Jerusalem, according to Klein's KleinOnline website.

He quoted the negotiator: "We were told that the negotiations for a Palestinian state will be a main goal for Obama. Netanyahu will be declared the main person responsible for the collapse of the peace process."

President Obama angered the Israelis in May 2011 when he expressed U.S. support for a future Palestinian state based on borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.

Editor's Note:

5. Teacher Unions Strongest in Hawaii, Weakest in Arizona

A new study offers a comprehensive analysis of American teacher unions' strength, ranking the states according to the power and influence of those unions.

Critics of teacher unions argue that they are too powerful and have too much influence on education politics, according to the study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. They are often able to torpedo state efforts to reform education in order to secure their jobs and other interests.

The study evaluates the unions in each state by looking at five broad areas:

1. Resources and membership, including the percentage of teachers who are union members, yearly revenue per teacher, and state spending on education.

2. Unions' involvement in politics.

3. Scope of bargaining, including the legal stature of collective bargaining and the right to strike.

4. State policies, including performance pay, employer contribution to pensions, and terms of employment.

5. Perceived influence over political campaigns and over spending.

Using these criteria, the Institute placed each state in one of five tiers of union strength. Tier No. 1 included the states with the strongest unions, led by Hawaii, which placed in the top 10 in four of the five areas.

Rounding out the top tier, in order, are Oregon, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, California, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, and Washington.

In the bottom tier, No. 5, Arizona was ranked last for union strength, placing in the 40s in all five areas.

Others in the tier, from strongest down to Arizona as the weakest, are Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Florida.

Strong unions have wide legal rights and can attract resources to education, while weak unions have restricted legal rights and an inability to defend their positions.

Editor's Note:

6. We Heard . . .

THAT Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is strongly considering a run for chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"He's gotten a number of calls from colleagues about it, and is considering it," a Senate GOP source who requested anonymity told Cincinnati.com, the website of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Portman's stock rose considerably when he played a high-profile role in Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, as his debate preparer and cable TV surrogate.

The NRSC is the Senate GOP's campaign arm, and the leadership role requires extensive fundraising, candidate recruitment, and political strategizing.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas has already said he will seek the position. The Senate GOP election is set for Wednesday.

THAT the United Nations General Assembly has elected Sudan to an influential U.N. agency — even though its president is accused of war crimes.

The Islamist regime in Sudan received more votes than the United States did in the election for 18 new members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the U.N. body that coordinates socio-economic affairs and is responsible for about 70 percent of the human and financial resources of the entire world body.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has been wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2009 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the conflict in Darfur. Genocide charges were added in 2010.

In Thursday's election, 176 countries out of the 192 total voted for Sudan, more than the 128 it needed to join the agency. The United States received 171 votes. Of the 18 countries elected to the ECOSOC, only three — Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Nepal — received fewer votes than the U.S.

U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer said Sudan's election "diminishes the credibility of the United Nations human rights system and casts a shadow upon the reputation of the organization as a whole. "This is a terrible decision."

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Sunday, 11 November 2012 02:29 PM
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