Sam Zell says Brazil is like ‘US in the 1950s.’ CNBC reports:
Brazil is booming and brimming with business opportunities—like the “US in the 1950s”—billionaire businessman Sam Zell told CNBC Wednesday. He said if Brazil continues on the same course, he predicts that the “fiscally conservative” nation will soon be one of the top two countries in terms of growth.
The real estate tycoon said Brazil has 8 percent debt, compared to 70 percent (of GDP) in the US. The country has a AAA rating from several major credit-rating institutions.
Why must we look for Brazil to be the US of the 1950s? Why can’t the US be like the US of the 50s? Let’s examine some changes that have occurred to the US in the last 50-60 years.
In the 1950s, government spending at all levels averaged 27.0 percent of GDP. Non-defense spending averaged 15.5 percent of GDP. Today, government spending is 43.9 percent of GDP and non-defense government spending is 37.7 percent of GDP. So government spending as a percentage of GDP has risen 62.6 percent in the last 50 years and non-defense government spending has risen 143 percent in that time. (You don’t hear these number reported to you on the news, do you?) Click here to see a chart of non-defense government spending.
The government now confiscates more of your money through taxes to pay for this largess. In the 1950s, government at all levels took in 26.6 percent of GDP. Now, government takes 30.4 percent of our money, a 14.3 percent increase.
But that’s not all. In the last fifty years, regulation has increased dramatically. Back in 1950, there was no Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Credit Union Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Federal Energy Administration, Farm Service Agency, Food and Consumer Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, Federal Grain Inspection Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Rural Development Administration, to name just a few. Not only do these agencies cost money, they put an added burden on consumers, businesses, and employees which costs the United States $1.5 trillion each year. That’s like an added hidden 10% tax on the economy, which would bring the real rate of taxation up to 40.4 percent.
In the 1950s, government welfare spending accounted for 1.57 percent of GDP. Today, it accounts for 5.21 percent, a 231% increase. Wikipedia explains how LBJ’s Great Society caused this massive increase:
After the Great Society legislation of the 1960s, for the first time a person who was not elderly or disabled could receive a living from the American government. This could include general welfare payments, health care through Medicaid, food stamps, special payments for pregnant women and young mothers, and federal and state housing benefits. In 1968, 4.1% of families were headed by a woman on welfare; by 1980, this increased to 10%.
Lastly, the United States government has actively pursued a policy of limited oil production. Back in 1950, the US produced 5.9 million barrels a day of oil and had net imports of 545 thousand barrels, 8.4 percent of the total consumptions. In 2009, US production had risen only 21.8 percent over the previous 59 years to 7.2 million barrels a day. But consumption had risen 162 percent to 16.9 million barrels. As a result, imports increased 1,680 percent to 9.7 million barrels a day. At a current price around $70 a barrel, that adds up to $248 billion a year sent overseas, about 1.6 percent of GDP. Thus, over the last 60 years, trillions of dollars have left this country, to be spent primarily by unfree societies overseas. See oil data here.