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Of Vote Buying and an MIA Economic Recovery

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Speaking of vote buying: kinda makes all you Democrats/liberals/progressives (DLP) proud, doesn’t she, when she refers to “ObamaPhones?” While the “ObamaPhone” program is misnamed, the cost of the program has risen from $772 million to $1.6 billion under Obama. The program, originated in 1984 under Ronald Reagan, was originally a means for low-income families to have 911 and emergency access. The program was expanded in 1996, under Clinton,and included wireless cell phones in 2008, under Bush. This web site offers two things: information on the program, as well as a good laugh. By the way, TracFone CEO F.J. Pollack is/was a big Obama donor.

So the current program is nothing like the one begun by Reagan. All you DLPs who want to say it’s Reagan’s program are only kidding yourselves.

Two other examples of vote buying can be seen in the 32 percent increase in welfare spending under Obama. The increase, in addition to increasing federal government dependency, makes welfare the largest budget item, exceeding Medicare and defense spending. And, as this chart illustrates, food stamps expenditures did not begin with Obama, but he greatly expanded expenditure increases and dependency. In fact, Obama has spent more on food stamps in four years ($290 billion) than Bush did in eight years ($237 billion).

But the most damning observation comes from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) via the chart on the cover of its report, as well as the CBO comments. Further, all you DLPs cannot (legitimately) dismiss the CBO as “some right-wing nut case” source.

This economic recovery has been a big disappointment relative to what the United States has usually experienced after a recession. Growth has been 9 percent below what was seen in past recoveries on average in its first three years. The new CBO report claims that two thirds of the underperformance of the economy over the past three years compared to a typical recovery is due to a slower rate of growth in potential GDP. Only one third, in this analysis, is due to factors related to this recession.

Why is the CBO report cited? As the CBO chart illustrates, the economic recovery is NOT as robust as in the past, meaning less job creation, meaning higher unemployment, meaning greater government dependence and greater vote buying opportunity.

In February 2009, on the NBC Today show, referring to economic recovery, Obama said, “If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”  But in September 2012, Obama claimed that he always said it would take more time to fix the economy. There is a word for what Obama did: equivocation.

So, with the economy in shambles, with Obama’s economic failure, what does he do? He Increases government dependency and buys more votes.

So, yes, DLPs, via Obama, bought enough votes to win the 2012 election. But at what cost? Families in Ohio, a swing state that Obama won, will see a reduction in food stamps benefits, starting in January 2013. It’s true that the Republican- controlled House of Representatives voted in May 2012 to reduce expenditures on food stamps, federal workers’ benefits, and other domestic programs in order to avoid reductions in defense spending due to sequestration. But I have always said that having no country or a way to defend it because of give away programs is, at best, senseless.

And we are seeing many employers, such as Papa John’s, reduce employees and employee hours due to the ObamaCare mandate, er, tax, er, mandate. But I look any day now for a Papa John’s competitor that will provide healthcare benefits to vast numbers of its employees. And I look for DLPs to found companies to fix the economy.

OK, DLPs, y’all won. Now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Or is buying votes easier?

But that’s just my opinion.

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  • Dr Dreadful

    Funny, I would have thought you’d be pleased about a program costing only $1.6bn that gives low-income people phone access and a means of looking for jobs so that they can rejoin the workforce, get off the welfare rolls and start boosting the economy.

    It’s also rather amusing that you seem to think “vote-buying” is some novel and appalling thing that Obama and/or the Democrats just invented. I could provide you with any number of examples of what might be construed as vote-buying, from both sides of the aisle and throughout almost the entirety of US history. Most topically, we have those members of Congress with big aerospace and defense employers in their states and districts, who were at the heart of Romney’s pledge to increase military spending far above what the DOD stated they actually needed.

    Finally, I hardly think it shocking that welfare spending should go up during a Democratic administration and down during a Republican one. That’s just a reflection of the parties’ respective ideologies.

  • Doug Hunter

    ‘Funny, I would have thought you’d be pleased about a program costing only $1.6bn that gives low-income people phone access and a means of looking for jobs’

    The issue plays with the middle and lower middle class who are very resentful of the welfare and working poor classes because much of the means targeted welfare is directed at them. Many of the things they struggle to afford are offered free to the poor. Working wages have stagnated for decades while welfare has grown substantially for the bottom, bringing those two groups standard of living a little too close for many’s liking. It’s based on envy and jealousy and shouldn’t play in a perfect world, but there is a nugget of truth there.

    People aren’t perfect, they feel like they made the right decisions… (at least what used to be considered right) finishing school, getting married, going to work, etc. but all the hard work in the world with only a high school diploma doesn’t get you far ahead. They see the new paradigm, single mothers with the government paying to raise the kids, government paying for healthcare, government paying for food, government paying for phones, government paying for rent, utility discounts, first dibs on pre-K and preschool programs, free breakfast and lunches, and on and on and they simply don’t think it’s fair… they feel almost like they’re being punished for doing what they were told was the correct thing, all their hard work hasn’t led to the American dream or any saving or a standard of living in many ways that’s as high as the previous generation… it’s only made them ineligible for what the single part time mother working at Walmart gets without the attendant free time to spend with the kids.

  • Dr Dreadful

    You bring up a number of interesting issues, Doug, not least of which is the divide between the struggling middle class and the poor.

    I think historically there’s been a reluctance on the part of working families to accept welfare and other benefits they might be entitled to because of the stigma that this is something only poor families do. Applying for TANF might feel like an admission of failure for the newly-unemployed head of a middle-class family, whereas for someone from an impoverished background it isn’t such a big deal because it’s always been a part of their experience.

    Nevertheless, the increase in food stamp recipients and welfare spending in general does indicate that more middle-class families are going down that road. Whether we are to interpret this as an enlarging of the poorest classes or a blurring of social lines is a question worth discussing.

    The American Dream was always bullshit anyway. For every Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergey Brin and Thomas Peterffy there are millions of immigrants – and non-immigrants – who don’t possess the abilities and gifts that made those people successful, and who stay at the bottom of the ladder or not too many rungs up it.

  • Doug Hunter

    To put some numbers behind my point, let’s imagine a single mother of 2 who works hard, full time at Walmart for a gross of $20,000 per year compared to a married couple with 2 kids making $60,000 a year between the two adults.

    Tax Treatment:

    Single Mother receives back $6352 more than what she paid for various refundable tax credits, family of four pays in $2069.. all this assumes standard deducations. Source: Taxbrain

    Running Total SM: $26,352 F4: $57,931


    At the indicated income the single mother and children should qualify for medicaid and or Chips in most states and pay nothing whatsoever for healthcare. The married couple will not qualify for benefits and will need to buy healthcare on the open market. It is widely reported that healthcare cost for a family of 4 is now $20,728 Additional searches on healthcare plan comparisons back up that assumption. The low deductible plans I looked at on healthcompare.com were in the neighborhood of $15,000 in premiums with a total risk of $6000 for out of pocket costs but those plans didn’t cover dental and other services offered through the state, so $20K seems a reasonable value.

  • Doug Hunter

    Oops, hit the wrong button.

    The point of the post would be clear though if I were to continue, by the time you add the value of food stamps and healthcare, and phones, and energy assistance, and renter assistance, etc, etc, etc. you find out that the working class only has a disposable income above the ‘poor’.. perhaps a few small hundred a month. They can afford a little nicer apartment, perhaps a small home, and a couple years nicer car.

  • Doug Hunter

    My preview button is working remarkably like the post button. Perhaps it’s an issue with my machine, just letting you guys know.

  • Doug Hunter


    My view is it’s probably not good to blur the lines between workers and non workers… the old moral hazard thing. Could be a myth though. I’ve noticed a trend, maybe you have too. People tend to do things you pay them to do. No one wants to come fix my plumbing when it’s backed up and fecal material is everywhere, but pay enough money and someone will. It’s very few peoples calling to throw garbage bags in trucks, or clean incontinent seniors depends, or a long list of other chores, but people do them for money… as they will most anything.

  • Doug Hunter

    Arg, stinking preview button.

    Quickly finish the point, then I’m out. If you means test everything and only pay people for essentially not meeting certain income standards then people will continue to do that. If the government picks up the tab on children of single parents while married parents struggle to pay the bill themselves (plus the tax for the other) the trend of single parenthood will continue, the longer and higher the unemployment benefits the longer people will stay employed, same with low wage service jobs taking food stamps, etc. etc. People will do what the money dictates (that’s the power of the government over us) so it’s important to make sure you’re not paying people solely for failure… unless of course that’s what you want more of.

    ** I will duly note that Obamacare is actually good in this measure. It’s targeted more towards the middle class as the poor already receive free healthcare. Score one for Obama and his continued political genius. If it fails, he can point out it was basically a Republican idea (mandates, Romneycare, etc) and say he wanted single payer all along and this was an intermediate step. If it succeeds, he gets full credit for it despite its origins (which the republicans have freely given… stupidly). He outsmarted the Reps in either case as he continually has in the last 5 years or so.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Doug @ #4:

    The point I think you’ve overlooked is that the working middle-class couple probably have jobs with employer-subsidized healthcare plans, whereas our Wal-Mart single mom does not.

    That brings Mr and Mrs Middle’s out-of-pocket down to $8584, rather than the $20,728 quoted. However, I don’t know if this number includes employee contributions to healthcare plans or just actual expenses. That one might be hard to figure out. My wife, for instance, pays nothing for her health insurance; the premiums at my job, in contrast, are rather high.

  • Re: comment # 7, Doug, you are correct about people doing jobs they are paid to do. The old myth about illegal immigrants “doing jobs Americans won’t do” is, indeed, fecal material. But why should Americans do those jobs when the government provides everything they need?

  • Re: comment # 9, Doc, you say, “…employer-subsidized healthcare plans…” Are you really that out-of-it? Who do think pays for employer-subsidized healthcare plans? And how does employer-subsidized healthcare plans differ from government-subsidized healthcare plans? So, those with jobs (becoming more rare under Obama’s economic “recovery”) pay for government-subsidized healthcare plans, as well as any other taxes Obama can think of. Buying votes marches on.

  • Doug Hunter


    True. You can only deduct $8000 there then. We still haven’t touched on food stamps, section 8, free phones, discounted heating, and the list goes on. My claim isn’t that it’s inverted at the points I mentioned (although if you cherry pick a number around $27K for the poor and $50K for the middle the benefit it gets really flat), it’s that there’s maybe not enough perceived reward and that people are resentful.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Who do think pays for employer-subsidized healthcare plans?

    Employers do. What’s your point?

    as well as any other taxes Obama can think of.

    Yes, Warren, that’s what the President does. Sit around the Oval Office all day dreaming up new taxes.

    And you reckon I’m the one who’s “out-of-it”…

  • Re: comment # 13, Doc, Thanks!

  • Dr Dreadful


    I’m just curious, Warren: Do you have any idea what Doug and I are talking about?

  • Dr Dreadful

    We still haven’t touched on food stamps, section 8, free phones, discounted heating, and the list goes on.

    You’re correct that a lot of these programs are the source of resentment on the part of the middle class. The threshold to qualify for Section 8, TANF, food stamps, homeless programs etc. is extremely low. I’d make two observations here. One, the thresholds are low because Republicans have historically been unwilling to approve legislation expanding welfare programs. And two, again, even when they might qualify for them middle-class families are often unwilling to do so because of the perceived stigma.

    When I first moved to the US, for example, my wife was a penurious student and I didn’t yet have a work permit. We actually qualified for a discounted home energy program, but I remember feeling quite guilty about accepting the assistance because it didn’t feel to me as if we were a poor household.

  • Re: comment # 15, Doc, your comment in # 13 can cause me to ask you the same question of you.

  • Dr Dreadful


  • Doug Hunter


    Yes, there is some talk in the government about how to eliminate that feeling, the stigma associated with taking benefits, as well as how to increase enrollment… so they’re working on it. That’s not something I necessarily see the value in, if someone takes pride in their ability to take care of themselves without assistance I don’t know why we need to tweak that… the opposite doesn’t seem a very appealing alternative.

  • Re: comment # 18, Doc, I said (in comment # 11), “Who do think pays for employer-subsidized healthcare plans?” You respond (in comment # 13), “Employers do.” Your response shows that (1) you are liberal; (2) you are, indeed, clueless; and (3) you have no idea about what Doug and I are talking. That is why (in comment # 14), I said “Thanks.” Plus, I notice that you did not/will not/cannot explain the difference between employer-subsidized healthcare plans and governmen-subsidized healthcare plans.

  • zingzing

    if you’re about to make the point i think you’re about to make, warren, you certainly are teasing out the old chestnut with enough dramatics to bore a dead horse. although if you do make the point i think you’re about to make (once you teased it out enough), what happens to another claim you hold dear? that claim? you’ll have to wait for my magical reveal!

    *poof of smoke*

  • Re: comment # 22, Zz, you are correct! I gave Doc far too much credit about getting my point. Sorry about the “teasing.”

    And I must ask you to reveal another claim that I hold dear. Or are you “teasing” me?

  • Dr Dreadful

    Warren, thus far on this thread you and Doug have not talked (as in dialogued) about anything at all. The reason I asked is that your sole acknowledgement of Doug was your #10, in which you go rattling off on some non sequitur about illegal immigrants.

    Employers do pay for employer-subsidized healthcare plans. That is why they are called employer-subsidized healthcare plans.

    And I don’t know where you got the idea that I need to explain the difference between employer-subsidized health plans and government-subsidized health plans, since this has nothing whatsoever to do with the discussion Doug and I were having about middle-class resentment of the benefits the poor receive.

    I will remark that this morning has been quite a surreal experience so far, what with my simultaneous arguments with the BC conservative regular I respect the most and the one I respect the least. I’ll leave y’all to divine which is which.

  • zingzing

    “Or are you “teasing” me?”

    you are a quick one…

  • Doug Hunter

    To be fair, my comments have been somewhat scattershot and incomplete. Doc does seems to get the gist of them anyway. My tendency is to type something out real quick then hit the preview comment to proofread it and edit it so it’s somewhat more sensible. For some reason the preview button immediately posts today, out of habit I keep clicking it anyway so you get cut off thoughts a bit. Probably should just switch browsers or close and reopen this one.

    The point in question definitely had nothing to do with illegals or jobs americans won’t do or wage levels and what not, it was to point out graphically that people’s behavior is very responsive to money as a reward… best be very careful what you incentivize.

  • Re: comment # 26, Doug, well said, my point exactly. By buying votes, DLPs continue to incentivise voter “gimmie” behavior and continue to ignore the fact that the bill will eventually come due.

  • Zingzing

    So giving benefits to the poor constitutes buying votes while giving benefits to the more affluent doesn’t.

    And Warren, if employers don’t pay employer-subsidized health care, why would employer-subsidized health care threaten employers at all? I know you think I’m handing you something there, but I’m really saying you can’t have it both ways.

  • Must be your browser, Doug. Mine will let me preview comments as normal; however, for some reason it’s decided it would be fun to forget my name and URL, so I had to go digging for the link to my Blogcritics writer’s page (I never search for myself since I usually know where I am).

    It strikes me that the federal government and other manna-providing agencies are over-careful what they incentivize. As I said, the thresholds to qualify for welfare and social assistance programs is often extremely low, as are the benefits themselves. That doesn’t dovetail very well with your observation that if you pay someone enough they will do anything, whether it be garbage collection, picking cotton in 110 degrees with no shade or sitting around on their arse.

    Feel free to set aside the churchiness if you wish, but this article does a pretty good job of dispelling the myth that welfare encourages laziness.

  • Well, whaddaya know. My comment skipped Preview and went straight to publish too. So it’s not just you after all, Doug. And it forgot my name and URL again.

  • Clavos

    My wife, for instance, pays nothing for her health insurance; the premiums at my job, in contrast, are rather high.

    When I worked for the airlines, my health insurance was company-paid; my wife worked for an insurance company (life, not health), and her insurance had to be paid. So we dropped hers and just had mine. We kept it that way until I retired, by which time she was working for a private university which, like my airlines, paid her insurance, so we wound up not paying a dime for health insurance for more than forty years.

    Now, I’m self employed, she’s dead, and I’m on the gummint dole, (social security and medicare) and for the first time in my life I’m paying for my health insurance, which runs me close to $500 a month. (Medicare premium, Supplement premium, prescription insurance premium and dental premium.

    Thanks, Gummint!!

    Since I was included on my wife’s plan at no cost, at first I ignored the notices from Medicare trying to sign me up for nearly a year, at which time they sent me a threatening letter telling me I HAD to accept Medicare, and even started calling every few days. I hate the nanny state!!

  • Igor

    @27-Zing: You’re right. The recent report from the “Congressional Research Service” proves that tax cuts to the rich don’t improve the economy. Meanwhile, old and well confirmed econometrics results show that aid to the poor has a disproportionate benefit to the economy. Generally, each dollar produces about $3 of demand because of the high Economic Multiplier.

    I remember that 30 years ago Economists were greatly concerned that US worker productivity was rising about 2-3% per year without accompanying increases in wages, so they were worried that US production would outstrip demand and we would all be poorer. Fortunately, advertising saved the day by stoking peoples hunger for goods and services plus overshooting house lust. It all had to end sometime. But 30 years ago economists were talking about creating a “Spending Class”, whose duty would be to spend enough money to keep the factories open and workers working.

    My modest proposal was to reduce the workweek to spread earning and spending around among more people, which is what Germany did.

  • But you see, Igor, that’s the Catch-22 logic conservatives prefer to see the poor caught in. A poor person not in receipt of benefits is unlikely to be able to afford anything much, and so contributes little, if at all, to economic growth.

    Yet if you give a poor person a welfare check, thereby freeing up more of his other income which he then uses to stimulate the economy by purchasing, say, a big screen TV, conservatives will then complain that they didn’t fork over their hard-earned income in taxes so that some freeloader could splurge on luxuries.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Warren –

    As the CBO chart illustrates, the economic recovery is NOT as robust as in the past, meaning less job creation, meaning higher unemployment, meaning greater government dependence and greater vote buying opportunity.

    Never mind that the Great Recession was much worse than any other recession, and was only a few days away from being a new Great Depression. Obama should have been able to just wave his magic wand and make eight years of Republican mismanagement disappear overnight.

    So, with the economy in shambles, with Obama’s economic failure, what does he do? He Increases government dependency and buys more votes.

    Never mind that the deficit is FALLING faster than at any time since demobilization from WWII. Never mind that instead of LOSING 800K jobs per month – which is what we got from YOUR guy – we’re GAINING 150K jobs per month. Never mind that our federal tax burden is lower now than at any time since the early 1950’s, our corporate tax burden is lower than at any time since 1972, and our government is growing slower than at any time since Eisenhower was in office.

    Never mind all that! Obama’s left the economy in a SHAMBLES! How do we know this? Because (NEVER MIND what he’s actually DONE) it’s obvious – he’s not a Republican, and that means that he CAN’T be good for America! That’s how we know this! Ignore the numbers – all you need to know is that Obama doesn’t have an (R) behind his name and you thus have Warren Beatty’s permission to hate him with the heat of a thousand white-hot suns!

  • Igor

    The annual budget deficit has decreased every year since Obama took office.

  • Clavos

    it’s obvious – he’s not a Republican, and that means that he CAN’T be good for America!

    How could he be? He’s not Mexican…

  • You’ll be sorry you said that in four years when we Blogcriticians start a viral write-in campaign and you become the next president.

  • Clavos


  • Igor

    The quickest way to goose the economy is to give money to the poorest people. Even if you have to take it away from the rich to do that.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    President Clavos – has a nice ring to it, hm? Wonder how he’d deal with the we-don’t-like-brown-people Tea Partiers….

    And for Igor –

    No, that’s not true. The quickest way is to use that money to hire the poor and put them to work on our infrastructure.

  • Igor

    I don’t know what problems the author is worried about, but here are some things I’ve discovered:

    1-Tracphones are cheap. I have one that I bought for about $10 and it costs me about $6/month to make short impromptu calls. I think it’s great.

    2-telephone companies are no longer required to provide emergency service or provide low-cost out-calling. That, in spite of laws still on the books requiring emergency service. They are simply ignored. For example, if you are out on a country road someplace where copper wires provide service, you used to be able to call the telco for service without any problem. If you didn’t pay a bill youu might have incoming calls cut off, but you’d still be able to call out (presumably to get service, or for an emergency).

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    I don’t know what problems the author is worried about

    Easy – in Warren’s eyes, it is flatly impossible that anyone who is not a Republican to do anything positive for America. Warren is one of those who cannot escape the Faux News echo chamber…and seeing as how he’s white and knows the MS Delta at least as well as I do, chances are he doesn’t think highly of black folks, either. Note that I didn’t say that he IS racist, but ‘chances are’, just based on my personal experience that most whites in the Delta are to some degree or another racist (but that’s a story for another time).

  • Igor

    @39-Glenn: you’re being victimized by the “shovel ready project” myth. There simply are very few jobs for unskilled workers.

    If you look at old films of GG bridge construction, Boulder Dam construction, etc., there are laborers crawling all over, doing everything. But that is no longer true. Look at any modern consstruction project. Few laborers are required these days. Even crafts like auto repair are being automated by computers.

    Even entry-level white-collar jobs (which used to be down-graded by importing coolies and teaching them to copy the skilled worker about to be fired) are falling.

    In 1955 Norbert Weiner (one of Americas greatest engineers, famous for inventing the glass ribbon delay line for removing ground clutter from radar so as to expose oncoming enemy aircraft at low altitudes) said that there is no wage low enough for a laborer to compete with a steam shovel.

    The fact is that there is only one way to maintain full employment: cut the work week at the same rate that productivity increases.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    I’m not referring to CCC-type projects, but to contract work that is meted out by almost every branch of the government. For instance, the government often doesn’t want to hire a GS employee to perform building maintenance, but more often offers contracts to small businesses. You’ll find this on almost every military base here and overseas, and in most federal buildings.

    And it doesn’t stop there – in cities where transportation budgets have been slashed and bus drivers and mechanics laid off, the federal government could boost those budgets, and the people would be put back to work. Same thing goes for education budgets that have been under attack by the Republicans seemingly ever since the written word was invented.

    I hope you get my point.

  • Igor

    @43-Glenn: It is precisely the kind of ‘privatisation’ you described in the first paragraph that I am opposed to. It would be better if the government directly hired a worker and that worker reported directly to a government manager.

    Privatisation hides too much. It grants a contract to a private firm, which is expert in dodging its responsibilities and expert at writing contracts that are biased heavily in its favor.

    Privatisation is responsible for much of the widespread deterioration of government and business operation. By creating (at least one) new layer of management, privatisation engenders ‘collective irresponsibility’ (IIRC, C. Wright Mills).

    Glenn: I’m not referring to CCC-type projects, but to contract work that is meted out by almost every branch of the government.