How the White House Website Is Tricking You

by Gerri Willis

Time for the State of the Union again - the long-winded to-do list offered by the President in January to a joint session of Congress. And that got me thinking about last year's State of the Union.

What did the President promise - what did he actually succeed at making happen? It's time for a report card -- the President's report card.

First things first: One of Obama's big themes last year was national unity - his speech came in the wake of the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.

Obama pleaded for Americans to come together in the wake of the tragedy. But, in the end, the rhetoric just got worse.

Giffords, by the way, just announced she will resign her congressional seat to continue her recovery.

Other initiatives that the President promised to pursue that have failed to see the light of day: replacing no child left behind with a better education law, making a tuition tax credit permanent, rewriting immigration laws, eliminating tax subsidies to oil companies, reforming the tax system. Much of this list got caught up in the debate over the budget and spending.

Now the President's list of accomplishments is shorter -- and the goals less ambitious:a free trade deal with South Korea, killing an ObamaCare reporting requirement for small businesses, creating a website to show taxpayers where their tax dollars go.

It's a laudable goal to create a website to help people understand how their tax dollars are used -- but it's not quite what I'd call a stretch goal.

According to Scott Hodge of the Tax Foundation, the website is a good attempt at educating people but it does not reflect reality. Here's what he had to say:

1)If you select one of their examples, say a family earning $50,000 with one child, it shows them with an income tax liability of $260. While that is probably accurate, that family is getting far more in government services and benefits than $260 - probably ten times as much. See the chart below on how much people get in government spending for every dollar of taxes they pay. On the flip side, if I put the amount of taxes that I pay into the calculator, it will show how my $18,000 was spent. However, at my income level I probably got less than $18,000 worth of benefits or services from government. The calculator does not reflect that.

2)The deficit. The government is borrowing .40 cents of every dollar it spends. Meaning, everyone in America is getting 40% more government than they are paying for. So if I pay $1,000 in taxes, I'm actually getting $1,400 worth of government. The calculator doesn't reflect that.

Bottom line, Lots of people are getting more government than they are paying for and some are getting a lot less than they are paying for (it's called redistribution). And we are all getting more than we're paying for thanks to the money that is being borrowed from our kids because of the deficit.

Here's another reality: 2010 was a year of modest goals and modest attainment for the president.

But then frankly, there are a lot of initiatives here that I am glad the President didn't get done. Barack Obama's idea of tax reform, for example, probably doesn't match my own.

The Dangers of Government Handouts

by Gerri Willis

The trouble with government handouts is that once you get hooked on the free money - it's really hard to give it up.

And it doesn't matter what kind of entitlement you're getting -- just this week, for example, we learned that the executives at Solyndra applied for a second government grant after wasting half a billion dollars in federal loans.

The stereotype of somebody on the government dole is a welfare mother living in urban poverty but the reality today is that it could just as easily be a graduate of Stanford University who holds an MBA -- that's a fair description of Brian Harrison, the CEO of Solyndra.

Government dependency, it seems, is a disease that is spreading. Census data shows nearly half of U.S. households have at least one member receiving some type of government aid or benefit.

That percentage has skyrocketed over the last few decades - only about a third of American households received that kind of support back in the 1980s.

And that 48.5% is four percentage points higher than during the height of the recession in 2008! So we are more hooked on Uncle Sam now than ever.

While it's true that the population is aging and more people are receiving Social Security -- we know they are receiving benefits they've spent a lifetime paying for. But there are other ways that people get public dollars - like ObamaCare. There are also the government's stimulus programs and other benefits. So who gets what?

The average American got more than $7,400 in benefits last year. That's up from under $4,800 in 2000. And under $3,700 in 1990.

The Wall Street Journal points out: Lower income households were the largest share of recipients. More than a third of Americans lived in a home that utilized food stamps, welfare, Medicaid - and other means-tested programs.

Also, more than 14% have someone on Medicare... And nearly 16% are receiving Social Security benefits. Couple all this with record high unemployment - and you get nearly half of American households paying no federal income taxes this year!

And interestingly, the fastest growing proportion of people paying no taxes is in the middle class -- people making $75,000 to $100,000 a year - because of the burgeoning number of tax loopholes and deductions.

Look, this Administration prides itself on "looking out for the little guy" not having the government turn its back on any American in need. But when the President says he needs $447 billion for a jobs bill - somebody has to pay the price - that's us the taxpayer!

The overabundance of handouts and ridiculous spending is putting this country in need - and that could have disastrous consequences for us all.

What the White House Hopes You Won't Notice

by Gerri Willis

For any journalist or news junkie for that matter, the Friday before a long holiday weekend is typically the time that you brace for a big story to break. That's because any public relations executive worth their salary will wait until just that moment when the media has its attention set on vacation to release info they hope you don't notice.Today, no bombshells, but an interesting report. The White House late this afternoon released its 2011 report to Congress - mostly notable for its table of salaries of people working for the president. Plenty of folks are making six figures -- top aides can make $172,000 - looks like no one would pay more taxes under the president's plan - which has $200,000 as a threshold.

Here's the report: http://www.whitehouse.gov//briefing-room/disclosures/annual-records/2011

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