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Archive for January, 2013

The Lukewarmer’s Way

Posted by Jeff Id on January 25, 2013

When a climate scientist claims that 2 + 2 =5 and the rest of the scientists tell them it doesn’t, CS turns a blind eye.   Michael Mann’s hokey stick nonsense drives those of us who actually read math completely wild.  When they add extreme need for compulsory planet wide behavioral change to correct for the  new fact that 2 + 2 = 5, those of us who read math are unimpressed.   Adding the even less convincing concept that “5″  is really bad for your health, education, economic success etc., leaves the ordinarily math-competent individual in a ball of confused tears ;D

However, even in today’s science 2 + 2 does still approximately equal 4, and despite the dragon slayers best efforts, that is more than zero.

A lukewarmer is born.  (link on right)

Based on this reasoned logic, Tom Fuller has started a new blog based on a lukewarmer’s perspective. Tom is an excellent writer and it is worth checking out.

—-

On lukewarmer status.  I still cannot accept my card, not that I would not be happy to.   From my perspective, it would be comforting to accept a middle ground on the matter of climate science.  Who doesn’t like fresh air or happy non-threatening wildlife?  As this blog has endlessly beaten to death, I agree with all of the premise of CO2 warming, I agree that the “recent” data leads to the middle ground,  but I’m not convinced that warming won’t actually be greater than the low trends thermometers have been measuring.   I’m also not convinced that long term trends won’t be less than we are measuring. So my Id is still stuck without a home, however, were I to bet $1000, I would put it on Tom’s side.  Climate does seem to me to have a middle ground with far less damage or consequence than the IPCC has presented, and it looks like GOD might just be putting his thousand bucks on being a lukewarmer as well.

On another subject, we bought a 360 HP Taurus SHO with an eco-boost engine this fall for my wife.   At 18 MPG, it is a bit more “boost” than “eco”.  Our company has a huge parking lot which is “private property” for me, so I have had a bit of fun over the past several months.   I’ve read of some of the extremist climate goofs not lighting pilot lights on their water heaters and not taking showers every day.   I wonder if the stinky geniuses would agree that since I am owner of a “green” company that saves more CO2 than they ever will, that it’s ok for me to spend a little extra on fuel…!  haha.

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A Reasoned Rejection of Science, Explaining the Tragedy of Data to the Experts

Posted by Jeff Id on January 20, 2013

Ex-spurt is a commonly misunderstood term.   The true definition of Ex-spurt is, “A drip under pressure”, or perhaps in past tense form, “a drop under pressure.” Often an ex-drip will self-identify as a spurt, but on closer examination he is really just a drip.  Reader (Alan D McIntire) left a link on the Yellow Science thread, to a “scientific” paper written by this latter sort of expert, which is a rather humorous contribution to science.   The paper was message-motivated its conception, but the inspiration to write this post came from the machinations the authors exhibited in trying to rationalize the unfortunate data they collected.

The full paper can be downloaded here – The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Culture Conflict, Rationality Conflict, and Climate Change

Dan M. Kahan is the main author of the “work” which employs statistical techniques to interpret a questionnaire.  Anyone can critique a question, and many readers of the technical climate blogs do, but the reasoned questioning of a stupid question makes me glaze over so that is not the topic of this post.  What is interesting is that the authors really attempted to discern why the public has expressed such a wide rejection of “climate science™” in the face of the “National Academy of Science”, and how better to communicate their (the authors) own beliefs.

The paper uses a lot of obtuse language which will dissuade most casual readers from actually parsing the intent.  Psychology is likely to be a permanently soft science due to the difficulty and occasional unwillingness to define well qualified, limiting parameters for statistical tests.  This is the central reason that psychology has never actually achieved the true “gold star” rating of physics.  There is simply too much room in the field for opinion to interpret weakly fulcrumed data.  e.g. you write a question which intends to differentiate subjects and then interpret the question with complex statistics.   The actual result of both the question and the statistics are beyond most human scientists abilities to interpret, but that doesn’t stop any of us.

Meh…

Reality doesn’t change funding, the authors note states:

Authors’ Note. Research for this paper was funded by the National Science Foundation, Grant SES 0922714.

The abstract begins:

The conventional explanation for controversy over climate change emphasizes impediments to public understanding: limited popular knowledge of science, the inability of ordinary citizens to assess technical information, and the resulting widespread use of unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk.

Translation:

The people which the authors regularly associate with state that skepticism of climate change alarmism is rooted in misunderstanding of science, inability to access the technical results mentally, and the general stupidity of the population.

The rest of the abstract indicates quite obtusely when the “science” ends and the activism begins:

On the whole, the most scientifically literate and numerate subjects were slightly less likely, not more, to see climate change as a serious threat than the least scientifically literate and numerate ones. More importantly, greater scientific literacy and numeracy were associated with greater cultural polarization: Respondents predisposed by their values to dismiss climate change evidence became more dismissive, and those predisposed by their values to credit such evidence more concerned, as science literacy and numeracy increased. We suggest that this evidence reflects a conflict between two levels of rationality: The individual level, which is characterized by citizens’ effective use of their knowledge and reasoning capacities to form risk perceptions that express their cultural commitments; and the collective level, which is characterized by citizens’ failure to converge on the best available scientific evidence on how to promote their common welfare. Dispelling this, “tragedy of the risk-perception commons,” we argue, should be understood as the central aim of the science of science communication.

Translation:

Those who understand science and math, are less likely to see climate change as a serious threat to their existence, but those who are predisposed by their “values” to reject climate science, have a stronger correlation to rejection of science.   The authors “suggest” that the subjects lack of rationality is caused by cultural commitments which override reason.  The individual understands the collective need, yet overrides it with individual interest.

Old song eh?

I do love that song.  But why does the increased rejection of a conclusion by “cultural rationale” make any point regarding the rejection by scientifically literate individuals?   Culture and reason are uncorrelated by definition.      To those of us who value data over result, the fact that the correlation is higher for cultural rejection of climate science, has literally zero influence on the scientific rejection of the same.  Still, the current bed-wetting phase of psychological science allows plenty of room for motivated, sophistic, discussion as to why people make decisions that others, particularly authors, don’t agree with.

The “irrationality” of every human are defined in the paper as:

But an even more fundamental objective is to advance a more precise diagnosis of the kind of irrationality that afflicts public deliberations on climate change. “Irrationality” describes a state of antagonism between an agent’s goals and the decision-making capacities that the agent uses to attain them.

So, in climate science,  “public deliberations” are some kind of irrationality…. Because an agent’s goals don’t match the authors “expected” results.

The meat of the paper is shown in the following sets of graphs:

ScreenHunter_02 Jan. 20 09.27

Interesting that the more adept a person is in science and math, the less likely they are to agree with climate change!  A similar result was found for nuclear power as well:

ScreenHunter_03 Jan. 20 09.50

The more educated people are, the less worried they are about nuclear power.   The problem the authors have though is that they cannot understand how education on climate change results in less concern.   They don’t seem to suffer the same personal disdain regarding nuclear power, but the issues discussed in this paper were comprised entirely of current US liberal (egalitarian-communitarian) hot-button topics.  On reading, it is no stretch to assume that these are the issues which the authors deem important concerns for society.

The cultural cognition theory also generates a testable prediction. This theory posits that persons who subscribe to a “hierarchical, individualistic” worldview—one that simultaneously ties authority to conspicuous social rankings and eschews collective interference with the decisions made by individuals possessed of such authority—can be expected to be skeptical of claims of environmental and technologi-cal risks. Such people, according to the theory, intuitively perceive that widespread acceptance of such claims would license restrictions on commerce and industry, forms of behavior that Hierarchical Indivi-dualists value. In contrast, persons who hold an “egalitarian, communitarian” worldview—one that favors less regimented forms of social organization and greater collective attention to securing individual needs—tend to be morally suspicious of commerce and industry, which they see as the source of unjust disparities in wealth and power. They therefore find it congenial, the theory posits, to see those forms of behavior as dangerous and thus worthy of restriction. On this view, then, we should expect Egalitarian Communitarians to be more concerned than Hierarchical Individualists with climate change risks (Doug-las & Wildavsky 1982).

The authors point out here that politics affects peoples opinion to a greater degree than education.   However, in the near standard circular-reasoning mode of soft-science, the authors imply the correct answer for both the nuclear and the climate change cases, and generate conclusions from there.   They fail to notice how their own bias affects their conclusions.  For instance, climate change:

The result is the failure of the public—or at least a large propor-tion of it—to form the views of climate change risk held among more knowledgeable, dispassionate ex-perts (Weber & Stern 2011).
We will call this position the “public irrationality thesis” or “PIT.” Our claim is that PIT is con-trary to empirical evidence of who believes what about climate change.

And on nuclear:

This result is arguably consistent with PIT. Historically, members of the public have been understood to be more concerned about nuclear power than they should be based on the best available scientific evidence. If, consistent with PIT, we attribute the public’s view to deficits in reason, then we should expect to see concern with nuclear power risks abate as science literacy and numeracy increases.

So the authors are self-certain that the graphs above mean that the smart people got Nuclear power more right, but climate change wrong.

Unfortunately, this is absolutely a climate change activist paper, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking anything else of it.  It also has a strong communitarian leaning. The concept of it is entirely centered around using psychology to empower science to act on our behalf and direct the public as they see fit.  Irrational decision making based on political views are fingered as the culprit for the publics “incorrect” decisions on climate change.

The authors of the paper do make some good points of course but again, nothing which jeopardizes the authors intent.  The following paragraph correctly notes the anti-industrial stance of the “communicators”, the fake carbon-emission limit “solutions” but again blames only misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the science based on non-communitarian political views for the disagreement.

In fact, such inattention can deepen polarization. Citizens who hold hierarchical and individualis-tic values discount scientific information about climate change in part because they associate the issue with antagonism to commerce and industry. That association is aggravated when a communication identi-fies carbon-emission limits as the exclusive policy remedy for climate change (Kahan in press). Individu-als are prone to interpret challenges to beliefs that predominate with their cultural community as assaults on the competence of those whom they trust and look to for guidance (Kahan, Braman, Cohen, Gastil & Slovic 2010). That implication—which naturally provokes resistance—is likely to be strengthened when communicators with a recognizable cultural identity stridently accuse those who disagree with them of lacking intelligence or integrity.

I Believe that in their humorous machinations on irrational decision making, the authors have missed a simpler alternate explanation that happens to fit their own data better.

Negative slope of the risk with increased education. 

This means that the generally dumber people see nuclear power and climate change as more risky.  Sorry dumb people! The smarter people, who didn’t need much education to answer the brain-sorting questions, see it as less risk (slightly).  To be fair to the study, there is an extreme bifurcation of risk in climate change between the individualistic and the communistic groups.  This large-scale bifurcation of risk assessment on climate change, combined with a negative overall slope WRT education, is not an insignificant fact and the huge differential of opinion is not satisfactorily explained by the authors.

My explanation is that the smart people are more right……

Genius!

Climate change science is a self-sorted group of communitarian personalities, funded by government with a strong belief that they know best for society.   Of interest to me was that general climate science results and beliefs, are at the extreme end of the data collected in this paper.  The dangers are systematically exaggerated, and their solutions to the problems posited are singularly anti-industrial.  Additionally, these authors made the false claim that the climate scientists are the least-emotional and biased source.  A brief review of the general public behavior of climate scientists as well as private emails, indicates that fact the opposite is true.  You don’t hide the decline, if you aren’t interested in a particular result.

It takes little imagination to understand that communitarian personalities see climate change as their best chance to enact global changes to energy and governance.  Backing this point up, there is substantial evidence that their decision process is based heavily on emotion.  For example, we know low-energy density technologies like biofuels, wind and solar don’t do anything to solve the “scientific problem” yet viable high-output technologies like nuclear and natural gas are held back by the same people. These are examples of “feel good” science.  All of these examples point directly and singularly to rationality of decisions for political gain by the anti-industrial communitarians.

Let’s look briefly at how this alternate conclusion has explained the data in the paper.   Climate risk is being heavily exaggerated by the climate science community as evidenced by their opinions being on the extreme end of the collected data, and smart recognize it.   Communitarians, also at the extreme end of the spectrum, emotionally approve of the result and see the advantage of the argument which they help exaggerate to their own perceived benefit.   Individualists look at the same data, recognize that climate science has NOT made an adequate case for any danger whatsoever, and further recognize that the political goals of the science are highly-destructive to their economic well-being. Logically, the individualist still sees the lack of an adequate argument as still having some risk associated with it.

We shouldn’t forget that there isn’t a single piece of evidence that anyone has been hurt by global warming — anywhere — ever.  We are often told the opposite is true by the communitarian scientific thinkers, against all evidence.   Hurricanes, drought, shrinking fish, sheep etc…  All fake results today, which may start to show trends in the future.   In the case of nuclear energy, the communitarian groups have consistently and dramatically overestimated risk.  The situation is so bad that all nuclear is lumped together into a single concept completely ignoring the realities of differing technologies.  To me the anti-nuclear people are completely delusional, and some even express concern about the nuclear pollution of space!   Dumber than hell in my opinion.   Still there is less political advantage to be had in fighting nuclear power than fighting for climate change “solutions”, and the two groups in Figure 2 above are much closer in conclusion.

So there you have it, an explanation for the authors results which requires zero irrational thought on anyone’s behalf.   It explains the huge discrepancy between the different political viewpoints on climate change, without resorting to making decisions that are not in their own best interest.  It also employs the fact that “climate science™” sits at the extreme end of the risk spectrum, despite having literally zero evidence of any damage to date and substantial evidence of models running too hot.  It does all that while providing a rationale for political bifurcation on nuclear power being closer together than climate.

Adding irrationality to explain why people don’t converge on the most extreme end of climate change opinion, makes no sense whatsoever, and shows a form of irrationality by the authors of this paper. A loose and irrational(adjective) variable called “irrationality”, added to a paper to create a perceived data fit, without messing up the authors world-view.

And this concludes another episode of communitarian climate change insanity brought to you by the “experts” of the crazy world we live in.

 

 

 

 

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Yellow Science

Posted by Jeff Id on January 16, 2013

Reader Skiphil has left a link to some incredible commentary by our good friend Stephan Lewandowski who apparently holds a PhD in bovine scatology.  There is nothing wrong with being educated in scatology, however, Stephan’s propensity to practice his chosen craft publicly leaves one wondering if anyone actually believes his nonsense.  Still, the Journal of Psychology took the time to interview this obviously dimwitted man, and then publish his answers under the guise of “observations”.  What grabs my attention about his (and his coauthors) “work” is the delusional self-referencing that the paper and commentary glosses right over.  The full paper is linked here.

The gist of the paper, which must seem complicated to the authors, is that information repeated, is assimilated better than information that is not.  Also, information which “makes sense” to you,  is more likely to be accepted by you.  Haha… who would have guessed.   Unfortunately, they took this basic concept of psychology and turned it into a highly biased political article which tells us more about the authors than about the population they allege to study.

From his interview:

Your paper indicates that social networking is a contributor to misinformation. Do you think that social media can also act to counter misinformation?

In principle, yes. And indeed there are some terrific science blogs with large numbers of twitter followers (e.g., skepticalscience.com) that have made it their mission to combat misinformation in specific arenas, such as climate science.

Now we all know that Skeptical Science is nothing but a political propaganda outlet designed to attack any reasoned discussion on global warming, which doesn’t support the alarmist agenda.   Not just the science, but the agenda, and like politicians “helping the poor”, the blog’s name has nothing to do with its intent.

Do mainstream media outlets care about retracting misinformation?

In my experience, sadly, not always. Some media outlets are better than others, but in my experience some media outlets act quite irresponsibly with far-reaching consequences: There is fairly good data to suggest that, overall, viewers of Fox News are the most misinformed across a range of crucial issues whereas listeners of National Public Radio are the least misinformed.

It seems to me that in the past year this sort of commentary on Fox News being a disinformation outlet has become a commonly repeated theme in the leftist dialog.    Although, I get my news from all sources, I strongly disagree with Stephan’s claim because Fox is the only source which doesn’t require a full blown dissection to remove the biased nonsense, not that some parsing isn’t required.  Each time I watch/listen to a leftist news outlet like CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CBS, or National Public Radio, I hear literally dozens of twists and half-truths and it leaves me wondering just what kind of uneducated people don’t recognize that they are being repeatedly lied to.   Compound that with the nearly 100% leftist print media, and the entire globe is saturated with repeated left-wing dogma.  Hell, China state news is more conservative than the New York Times.  So then Lewandowsky, with obviously extreme political views, writes that Fox news viewers are misinformed, in a paper which purports to be analyzing the difference between reality and endlessly repeated misinformation.   It is a funny world when lies have changed places with truth even in science.   It has become a modern fact that yellow journalism is empowering yellow science, and to me the government/media/science collaboration can only lead only to very bad places.

The paper is rife with similar points for which their veracity can be discussed ad-naseum:

In one study, retractions of nonfictitious misperceptions (e.g., the mistaken belief that President Bush’s tax cuts in the early 2000s had increased revenues; the idea that there were WMDs in Iraq) were effective only among  people whose political orientation was supported by the retraction (Nyhan & Reifler, 2010). When the corrections were worldview-dissonant (in this case, for Republican participants), a “backfire” effect was observed, such that participants became more committed to the misinformation.

I mean, isn’t the issue of taxation/revenue more complicated than a snapshot statement.  After all, the economy lags any impetus by some amount of time. Bush inherited a recession, so the question becomes did the tax cuts create more revenue than the government would have received from the point they were enacted to the far future, not whether they immediately gained more.   Still, it is stated here as though lost revenue from tax cuts were fact.  It is a true irony that this “fact” of lost revenue is heavily repeated in left-wing media outlets and comports with the authors worldview.  While the revenue of the federal government shows an initial drop in the 9-11 recession (blue line below), they quickly rose upward until the 2008 recession.  Certainly, this alleged “fact” deserves some proper discussion, yet it is presented as a known reality in their paper.  What’s worse is that economics are also polluted by the same “cash for results” feedback which exists in climate science.  More economic tax papers are blatantly leftist than neutral or conservative, and like Steig’s Antarctic work, it is not because of their superior accuracy.

Lewandowsky’s left-saturated mental state seems to penetrate every aspect of his thoughts.

Is there a correlation between misinformation and education?

Not necessarily. In fact, when it comes to global-warming misinformation, there are data to suggest that education can have an ironic effect. Specifically, for Republicans, increasing education translates into a decreasing concern with climate change and a greater willingness to accept misinformation over the true state of the science—so worldview trumps facts, and education can increase that disparity.

This paper is chock full of half-truths and blatant falshoods.  I compare it to a MSNBC report on climate change or  listening to  an Obama speech on gun control.  To read it properly, you must check every sentence for accuracy or exaggerated meaning.  For example:

Similarly, people who oppose climate science because it challenges their worldview may do so less if the response to climate change is presented as a business opportunity for the nuclear industry (cf. Feygina, Jost, & Goldsmith, 2010). Even simple changes in wording can make information more acceptable by rendering it less threatening to a person’s worldview. For example, Republicans are far more likely to accept an otherwise identical charge as a “carbon offset” than as a “tax,” whereas the wording has little effect on Democrats or Independents (whose values are not challenged by the word “tax”; Hardisty, Johnson, & Weber, 2010).

So the first sentence indicates that most people who understand the really obvious anti-industrial bias in climate science, and further recognize that the proposed “green” solutions are malarkey, also recognize that nuclear energy is the only economically and physically functional improvement we can technologically do that can even dent the issue.  Lewie twists it into something else entirely. The second sentence indicates to me that either that the language in the questionnaire tricked some people, or the study is statistically biased as government funded left-wing studies so often are.  Yellow science stated as fact.

For other examples of the disease penetrating government science, Obama is about to legislate more funding for gun control studies.  Does anyone really question whether these government funded studies will garner more left-wing authors than conservatives or what these studies will conclude?   How many will tweak the stats, and how many citations will they get from Lewandowsky?  The same is true for the fake second hand smoke studies which have been repeated so often that left-saturated people like Madonnna flip out on stage at the sight of  a cigarette.   These ideologically saturated actors and musicians do heavy street drugs, yet are panicked about second-hand smoke at a distance!  All caused by government funded yellow science.

I like to make controversial statements here, in case you didn’t notice, so I’ll add another.   The yellow journalsim, misinformation and yellow science are far more prevalent in the left-wing agenda than the conservative.   This fact occurs just for the reason stated in Lewandowsky’s paper.   The leftist-version of “facts” are repeated over and over in the global media so often that they cannot be escaped by the public and retractions are not even considered.  Higher tax = more revenue, business = anti-little guy, global warming = doom, etc…  Additionally, their thought process is based on central government control of every aspect of the population empowered politicians are the beneficiaries of the groupthink and are all too  happy to provide funding for more of the same.   It is an obvious feedback loop which I don’t expect we can escape from easily.   In my opinion, Lewandowsky is just an unknowing halfwitted cog in the human grinding machine.  The function of his cog to use taxpayer money to create yellow science that promotes the left-wing central planning agenda.

 

 

 

 

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Common Sense on Government Spending

Posted by Jeff Id on January 3, 2013

UPDATE: This link is relevant to the discussion below.   http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/conservative-fantasy-world/

——

Tom Fuller and I have always had a cordial relationship despite the fact that his politics are Pelosi-left.   He left a comment on the last thread in relation to taxes and the deficit which depicts exactly how the left-wing media is trying to portray our current debt situation.   While he is refreshingly honest in his beliefs, they do not match objective reality.

Hiya Jeff (and all…)

If I can focus first on the debt argument here, I must say I am not at all worried by American levels of public debt.

Our debt has been higher in the past as a percentage of GDP, which is the only sane metric to use. The people who are lending us money are in line to do so. They have more confidence in our ability and intention to pay than maybe you do. They like us so much they’re willing to lend us money at effectively zero interest.

If America were a ‘household’, its debt would be considered very manageable–a bit more than 100% of annual income. Anybody reading this who has a mortgage may well hold a much higher percentage of debt.

What worries me is that our obligations are set to grow dramatically, to help seniors stay out of poverty and get some sort of medical care. That is why I am not overly upset at taxes returning to levels last seen during the Clinton administration, when we managed to grow the economy quite well, even with taxes at a respectable level.

We’ve had much higher debt in the past and done just fine. We’ve had much higher taxes in the past and done just fine. We have problems ahead that we need to prepare for–but we can and we will.

Happy New Year!

On Taxes

Now the only time in history that debt hit a higher percentage of GDP in the US was in WW2.  I like this first graph because it doesn’t try to blame one party or the other for spending but it does show how serious the situation is in recent years.  Everyone likes to hate Bush Jr. because that is what is popular today, but unlike most people, my beef with him was that he didn’t fight congress enough on spending.  You can see that as a percentage of GDP, he barely tweaked the debt level until the last two years of his presidency when the Democrats controlled two branches of government and massive spending bills were passed under the false guise of “saving the economy”.    The 2012 point at the end of the graph is an out-of-date estimate.

So when you look at that plot, the only time we had a debt level this high was when we were in the middle of a world war.   Not just an ordinary little war, a world-wide battle for our lives.

The next graph shows the continual cancer-like growth of the largest and most powerful government in world history as a percentage of its populations Gross Domestic Product (GDP).   Note that the plot is of “total government receipts” rather than the receipts from income tax so popular in leftist newspapers.   Receipts from income tax have remained flat, and the media continually confuses its audiences with this tax fact that represents a small fraction of the picture.  Total government receipts, is the Federal-only tax load on the economy in dollars, and does not include State taxes.  When discussing historic tax levels, this is the majority of the real tax that you should be looking at, as these are the actual tax dollars being sucked out of the “free market” by our “limited” central government.

Tom wrote – “We’ve had much higher taxes in the past and done just fine.”.  While his opinion that taxes were “much higher”, is an admittedly widely held belief,  it is flatly incorrect.    The total governmental tax load on the US economy is the highest it has been in history, and as Tom pointed out,  the future load already put into law is much greater.

So the next time you hear that US taxes were much higher in the past….

Now there are a number of countries with higher receipts as a percentage of GDP than this, that the left likes to use as examples.  However, these countries are either very much business repressed or in unusual economic circumstances like Denmark experiences, where exports provide the funding to allow a relatively successful left-wing society on a very tiny scale.   I like the Denmark example because its often used as a counter example to a US style of government, yet it is comprised of 5 million people who are ironically dependent on oil and gas for their funding.  There is nothing wrong with that in my opinion, but it cannot be scaled to function here as the amount of gas and oil required to support the same system for 300 million people would quite literally “flood” the market. You might even need an actual boat! We also have that little problem that the left seems to think CO2 emissions are killing the planet so instead of moving forward with common sense production of gas, there is great resistance to it.

On Causes

I like this next graph taken from usgovernmentrevenue.com. It depicts several of the primary sources of income for the US governement and you can see fairly clearly where the increases in figure 2 above come from.

The blue line is total revenue, red indicates income taxes, green is business and other revenue, gray is ad valorum  (property tax), and yellow is social security/medicare tax.  Now we often look at the volatility of a timeseries while studying climate here, note the extreme fluctuations at the most recent end of the graph.   These are caused by dynamics in the economy as the government borrows and spends to try and prop up our over-taxed free market economy.   Notice the business and income taxes are the lines which create the recent short term variability in the total, not the social tax, and not the property tax.   These taxes are profit based tax, rather than asset based.  This fluctuation represents extreme losses of income in the private sector (loss of profitability).  This income loss was unequivocally created by government loads on the economy which come in all forms.  e.g. People like to say the housing “bubble” was the cause in 2008, but providing housing to those who couldn’t afford it, was just one of the many government loads created nearly exclusively by the Democrat party in the interest of fairness.  Of course there are other examples as well but that one is a pet-peeve of mine.

One theme here is that ever-tightening regulations are also taxes on the economy.   These costs are true and real expenditures from business (taxes), and real checks are written to pay for them, yet the increases in cost are not shown in the plot above.  These costs should not be ignored lightly but are difficult to quantify as they are not easily tracked.  I find that today’s anti-industry climate makes the Democratic party completely deaf to the consequences of these realities, and while we are about to experience them in very clear and unfortunate economic terms over the coming decades, the yellow journalism of today will not discuss the problem.

On Debt

So now that we have figured out that taxes as a percentage of the US economy have never been higher, let’s look at the total government debt.   Tom wrote, “We’ve had much higher debt in the past and done just fine.” This seems reasonable at first glance but let’s look a little closer at figure 1.  In World War II, the US debt skyrocketed over 4 years from 52 percent to 121 percent of GDP.   This expenditure was massive and I think even most Germans of today would admit it was necessary.  Reading an expanded view of the graph, the WWII expenses took 16 years under a booming economy to pay them off to pre-war levels.  Our net government revenue at the time was under 25% of GDP, and the hidden social/regulatory costs to operate a business were far lower than today.

So in reality, we paid much less tax in the 50′s than today and it took over a decade to recover from the WWII expenditure in a booming economy.   To me this indicates that Tom is right, we can recover from our current debt, yet in order to do it we have to bring government spending, anti-business regulations and taxation down dramatically.  If we don’t reduce business regulation, the same government revenue means that you have a hidden net-higher rate than a numerically comparable rate in history.

Let’s look again at Figure 3 above to see if we can tell what is responsible for our currently massive tax levels.  After WWII, income taxes were increased dramatically.  Overall tax rates were low enough that the economy continued to grow, yet this is the time when Social Security programs were enacted.  Social Security was a liberal social program designed with the best intention and the yellow line represents the tax level for social security as a percentage of GDP.   What I notice is a continued growth of social security income to nearly ten percent of the total economy before 1990.  Visually this represents the majority of the federal tax increase between 1960 and 1990.

I am pretty sure that we are fully stuck with the SS and Medicare tax for the foreseeable future, yet it is very clear that by looking to emergency spending of WWII, we are overspending in an unprecedented manner. Don’t forget that even with the high taxes, the social programs are famously under-funded.

Together these plots show that we are currently spending more money as a percentage of GDP than we were in WWII and that taxation growth up to 1990 was largely a function of liberal social programs. In WWII, we were smart enough to stop the spending and rebuild our economy. At that time, we had reduced tax law that favored manufacturing and did not have the insane employment laws, environmental laws and compliance costs we have now.  The plots indicate to me that nothing about the US situation is even remotely similar to history.  The addition of an underfunded Obamacare expense to our budget is a guarantee that everything will not just be alright in the future either.  To sum up, we have government expenditures in excess of a WWII scale, during peacetime, with nothing but increases in spending and taxation as far as the eye can see.

What’s more is that the information in the graphs above, combined with the present recession, is a strong indicator that we are on the wrong side of the Laffer curve.  Ignore that little detail at your own peril.

On Debt vs GDP

So Tom then wrote this statement which also needs discussion: “If America were a ‘household’, its debt would be considered very manageable–a bit more than 100% of annual income. Anybody reading this who has a mortgage may well hold a much higher percentage of debt.”

This is also a complete misnomer often sold by left-wing media that many reasonable people believe.  Gross Domestic Product is not “Income”, it is gross sales.  The profit on GDP is Income, and it is a tiny fraction of GDP. The comparison is therefore a non-sequitur.  If you sell a box of oranges to your friend for the same cost at which you bought them, how much of your personal GDP (gross sales) from the oranges, is available for payment of debt?

It is more sensible to look at the national debt other ways.  If we take the 16 trillion of debt and divide it by the 300 million population, we get a nice low number of $53,000 usd per man, woman and child.  This is not a bad number to work with and doesn’t sound insurmountable by itself.  Unfortunately, only working people pay taxes, and they only work for a fraction of their lives.  Currently we have about 110 million employed people in the US which brings the total debt that working people owe to the government to 145,000 dollars per working person.  There are about 110 million households so this is very similar to the dollars owed per household as well.

But the annual deficit is what contributes to debt, and our government spending is so massive that and we are presently borrowing $10,000 per household per year.  This means that every home needs to send $833 more per month to the federal government in taxes just to break even with our current expenses, and does not include the coming spending increases with Obamacare.  Most readers will agree that that is a fairly huge amount of money for the government to be borrowing on our behalf during peacetime.  Those households on social security would really need to tighten their belts to pay that bill.

None of this includes the also massive debts being incurred by left-wing State governments like California and Illinois.  Illinois currently carries a debt of 55,000/private worker for example.

The financial situation of this country is terrible.  The latest tax bill was full of payoffs to left-wing campaign supporters for Obama.   I have never witnessed the kind of quid-pro-quo corruption of his administration, like Benghazi, that doesn’t even make a footnote in the media today.  The media excoriates big business conservatives, then giggles as the Democrats hand out huge piles of cash to big business, right after receiving campaign cash from them.

Common Sense Solutions

While people can interpret the numbers above differently, the range of reasonable interpretation does not include the possibility that what our government is doing might somehow be ok.   It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to work out what we need to do to fix it.   It also doesn’t take much of a crystal ball to see what the future will bring if we don’t change our ways.

Spend less, tax less, spend less, control less and spend less and we will all have a better future.

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