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You get what you pay for

January 4, 2014

[J.P.'s Moment of Common Sense. For list of subscribing radio stations, click here.]

Now that we're into 2014 and staring at the abyss—huge government deficits, a health care system ruined by Obamacare, cities and states staring at bankruptcy, and petty tyrants manning the controls of government agencies—there is one proverb with the wisdom to save us from doom:

You get what you pay for.

It's perfect advice for government. Look at unemployment compensation: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says extending unemployment benefits will be the first thing on his agenda Monday. Unemployment benefits formerly lasted 26 weeks but under Obama, Reid, and Nancy Pelosi's unfettered control of the federal government during 2009 and 2010, they extended benefits to 99 weeks. Two years, for God's sake.

You get what you pay for: while we've been paying people for 99 weeks of not working, the real unemployment rate (the U-6 rate, which is total unemployed) has gone up about six percentage points, to around 20%. (Unemployment numbers are not precise because the government flagrantly lies about them.) We haven't seen rates that high since the Great Depression.

Any kind of government welfare creates the same problem. For example, giving people food stamps buys a populace dependent on food stamps. In 2008 Democrats relaxed the standards for qualification, then in 2009 they boosted the amount people get. Meanwhile, states have made it extra convenient by issuing debit cards instead of actual stamps... so recipients won't be embarrassed at the grocery store. The result is almost 50 million Americans currently being fed by the government. In 2005, just eight years ago, the number was only 25 million. Isn't that great? We managed to double the number of people on food stamps. We got exactly what we're paying for: a nation of fat, lazy dependents who get fed by the government.

You know who else gets fed by the government? Inmates. Just sayin'.

Student loans are another form of welfare, this one cleverly designed to ruin the character of people and institutions. Student loans encourage our brightest kids to ignore the cost of education (and whether it's worthwhile) and just spend, spend, spend. Student loans didn't exist when I went to college—at least not at the undergraduate level. I worked and saved every dime in the summer, lived frugally during the school year, and Dad stepped in if my savings ran short. Other kids had to work during the school year. Nobody looked to the government to pay for anything.

Now, students are graduating from college hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Instead of bright promising futures, they face loan payments, bankruptcy, and despair. Democrats in Congress are so happy with this outcome, they keep trying to throw more money into the same hole. President Obama, in 2010, signed a bill making student loans a government monopoly—no more private lenders—while also reducing the amount of loan payments and eliminating payments after twenty years even if the loan hasn't been repaid.

What a deal—now it's "Katy, bar the door!" With the government shoveling money out the door as fast as it can, students have no incentive to restrict spending and colleges have no incentive to restrict the prices they charge. Everybody involved in higher education has become a gluttonous hog at the federal trough. The result: between 2000 and 2013, student loans outstanding went from $220 billion to $1.2 trillion—that's trillion—while the average cost for one year of college went from less than thirteen thousand dollars to more than twenty two thousand dollars.

The examples are endless. The mortgage market collapse that ruined the economy in 2008 was caused by the federal government shoveling money into high risk mortgages. We got what we paid for: a bunch of high-risk mortgages that went bad.

Every year the United States spends hundreds of billions on foreign aid to other countries, many of them disgusting cesspools of government tyranny and dysfunction. Guess what: when you send billions of dollars to dictators, thugs, and thieves, you get more dictators, thugs, and thieves.

Leading citizens of Africa have actually started asking the United States to stop sending foreign aid.

Barack Obama came into office clamoring to spend a trillion dollars on green energy and stimulus projects run by political cronies. When you spend money on people who make their fortunes sucking on the government teat, that's what you get—more people sucking on the government teat. Guess what: the area with the fastest growing population of millionaires is the area wrapped around Washington, D.C., like a suckling piglet.

Speaking of Obama, we have a lazy childish president more concerned about his golf game and his next vacation than his job. Maybe that's because we pay for those golf games and vacations. Right now, six years into the longest-running recession in American history, with millions of people facing the tragedy of losing health insurance because of his signature legislation, our president is on a 17-day vacation in Hawaii, golfing, body surfing, and relaxing.

If nothing else comes out of Obama's eight years in the White House, I hope Congress takes a long hard look at the notion that presidents should get a blank check for travel and family vacations.

We pay for the president's golf games and vacations, and we got what we paid for.

That's... today’s dose of common sense.

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." — Galatians 6:7

"All unemployment compensation should be tied to a job training requirement. Now the fact is, 99 weeks is an associate degree." — Newt Gingrich

"He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money." — Benjamin Franklin

From Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA       

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