US Government to Kill Its Own Economy

Hey, is this a great recovery…or what?

Stocks fell again yesterday. The Dow went down 69 points, closing below 10,000. Gold rose $15…closing above $1,200.

The two are still $8,800 apart. But give them time. They’ve been working their way closer for the last ten years. They’ll get there…

Single family house prices fell for the 6th month in a row, reports The Washington Post.

And get this: “Private pay shrinks to historic lows as government payouts rise,” says USA Today.

This is the big story. As a share of personal income, never before has the private sector contributed so little. Thank god for the government. Without those checks from the feds, we’d all be broke.

The story as told by USA Today:

“Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in US history during the first quarter of this year, a USA Today analysis of government data finds.

“At the same time, government-provided benefits – from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs – rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.

“Those records reflect a long-term trend accelerated by the recession and the federal stimulus program to counteract the downturn. The result is a major shift in the source of personal income from private wages to government programs.

“The trend is not sustainable, says University of Michigan economist Donald Grimes. Reason: The federal government depends on private wages to generate income taxes to pay for its ever-more-expensive programs. Government-generated income is taxed at lower rates or not at all, he says. ‘This is really important,’ Grimes says. “

That’s the trouble, isn’t it? The feds don’t really have any money. They don’t make anything. They don’t create any wealth. So they can only send us checks by taking the money from us – one way or another.

And that, dear reader, is the story of the most important trend of our time. The feds are taking a bigger and bigger share of the economy. And the bigger the share they get, the less the rest of it is worth. Because an economy run by politicians and bureaucrats is not a healthy economy. It’s a sick economy…it limps along. It wheezes and coughs. And if the trend towards more and more federal control continues…the economy finally dies.

If you want the government to take care of you, said Jefferson, “you will soon want bread.” He didn’t say it exactly that way. We improved it.

The feds don’t make decisions on the basis of fair play and rational economic choices. Instead, they’re political choices – such as bailing out the big banks because they are said to be “too big to fail,” or bailing out the big auto companies because they employ too many voters, or bailing out the mortgage industry because too many people would lose their houses if the mortgage industry were allowed to go whither it should.

Even in the best of times an investment is a risky thing. Sometimes it will produce a positive return (above the real cost of funds). Sometimes it won’t.

Imagine what happens when decisions are made by functionaries, political appointees and GS-12s? Capital is then allocated to the wrong projects for the wrong reasons…which result in the wrong outcomes.

Bad economic decisions produce bad economic results. Bad economic results lower the value of capital assets…and make almost everyone in the economy poorer.

We say, “almost everyone,” because the government’s employees, lobbyists, and contractors are in a class apart. They are the ruling party and its apparatchiks. While everyone else gets poorer, they get richer.

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning