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Americans Are Missing Crucial Critical Thinking When it Comes To The Federal Budget

The federal budget in 2016 was $3.8 trillion dollars. That’s a lot of money. Roughly two-thirds of that money goes to mandatory spending (Social Security, Medicare, Transportation, Veteran’s Benefits and the like). A little less than a third ($1.1 trillion) goes to discretionary spending. Of that the biggest piece (55%) goes to the military.

*Click below to enlarge (charted by Statista)

2016 military expenditure by country and share of global total. Statista
2016 military expenditure by country and share of global total.

We outspend the Chinese 3:1. We outspend the Russians 9:1. To hear it from our senators and representatives, we’re failing in the military arms race against the rest of the world, yet we’re outspending the next top 8 countries combined. If you include nuclear warheads and national defense we’re closer to $700 billion. This figure ($611 billion) doesn’t cover the war in Afghanistan or Syria. It doesn’t cover Homeland Security; it doesn’t cover Veteran’s Benefits.So one question to be asked is: how come other countries are seemingly so much better than us at military spending? Why is it we are worried about the Chinese whom we outspend 3:1? Why are we quaking when the Russians are spending a paltry $70 billion on their military? One answer is that fear and uncertainty help guarantee large military increases, help maintain these high costs (it’s also a budget within which we have people getting fat selling the government $1200 toilets and $3000 coffee pots. Yes, American companies are ripping off American taxpayers!).

Roughly a quarter of the $611 billion pays salaries. Ok. A third is operations and maintenance (doesn’t cover the war budgets, that’s a different part of the budget); and slightly more than a third is for “major weapons systems”.

So, now, think of this: what would happen if we dropped the military budget to, say, $400 billion. We could still pay salaries. We’d force the military to be a more efficient in operations and maintenance and we get lean and mean over new weapons systems.But think of the benefits! With that $211 billion in hand, free college becomes achievable. We come closer to free health care. Roads get fixed, bridges are repaired, subways work again.

A healthier better-educated population designing, building (and using) modern infrastructure would be a much better answer to more jobs and better salaries.

On Campaign Financing and Super PACs

So the Supreme Court in the name of free speech allowed money to swallow up free speech and opened the door to free-speech-gobbling Super PACs. We’ve always been proud of whatever it is we think denotes being American (and some folks do have profoundly different ideas on what that is). So maybe there’s a way to return to normalcy. Maybe there’s a way to switch this whole thing on its head. Just for the sake of unintended consequences. Just because we’re Americans and our proudest heritage is we keep on getting it wrong until we finally get it right.

It may be just the time to get it right.

So you want free speech, you want better political candidates who aren’t beholden to big money interests, candidates who won’t vote and support greed and big business but actually do the right thing, vote for the future? Tired of watching a Congress bickering over issues which the American people don’t consider issues? Tired of watching politicians vote so out of touch with the way the country is leaning? Do you believe you’re willing to take on a little pain if it means a better tomorrow, a more intelligent tomorrow?

Okay …..

EatingSpaghetti

Well, seems to me the little guy, the common American, has the wherewithal to defeat the Super PACs at their own game. Pretty easily without giving up too much. Again, pretty easily without much sacrifice.

In 2014 Americans spent:

  • $70 billion on Casino gambling
  • $70 billion on lottery tickets

Remember now, $70 billion Casino gambling figure

is what the casinos took in. That’s after they paid everything out. So they aren’t hurting and there are a bunch of folks out $70 billion dollars.

So it’s not difficult to see where I’m going with this. Instead of buy $10 worth of lottery tickets, buy $5 and send $5 to the new ApplePieAmerica PAC (more on this in a moment). Better yet, send $5 to the new Smart America PAC and save the $5 for your kid’s college or your retirement. The Huffington Post says a person’s chance of winning the lottery on a single ticket is one in 175 million. The odds of getting struck by lightning in your lifetime, being injured by a toilet this year, getting killed by a shark, and killed by an asteroid or comet are much more likely. And the lottery gurus are making it more difficult to win because that drives jackpots higher.

The idea is you cut back gambling & lottery tickets by 1/2 or 1/3. You keep some you give the rest to the new neutral ApplePieAmerica PAC. Just a 10% reduction would result in a Super PAC capable of spending $14 billion dollars. That would shut up all of the special interest groups in America.

What would the new Super PAC want to accomplish? What would be its platform? Well, that would be up to you.

 

 

 

Solving the Oil Crisis

Uh-oh, seems like a dropping price in oil is a bad thing, because it must mean that economies are slowing down! Are we nuts?

Ok, America uses 60% of all the oil produced every day. That’s a lot of oil. If you remember, 3 years ago GM announced that they had invented a car that could get 230 mpg. That could go a looooong way in reducing oil consumption by us fat cats and be more responsible. But I think this car is vaporware.

So I have a better idea: ban individually wrapped slices of American cheese. Think of all the oil that must go into creating the plastic sheets that get luxuriously folded around each slice of cheese.

Plus, if you’ve ever actually eaten cheese, you’ll come to realize, this stuff is not really cheese anyway.

Lack of Olympic sporting events

I guess Friday didn’t have enough sporting events going on for NBC as they started their taped 3-hour coverage segment with a mushy 15 minute tribute to the 1996 women’s gymnastic team. Really?

Add to this that, NBC crammed what felt like 20-25 minutes of advertising into each hour and you find that there was only about 95 minutes of viewable sporting news coming out of the Olympics on Friday. How about showing events in which USA is not expected to win gold? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

No? Hmmmm …

On balancing the federal budget ….

Cutting the budgetAs much as we all may distrust the 536 folks charged with setting policy, there are rational agenda-free offices within the government doing a bang up job and quietly making interesting though potentially controversial suggestions on fixing the very institutions they work for. More on these folks later.

Our sputtering economy is tops on everyone’s minds these days. And I applaud both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements for venting their frustrations. This is America; this is a country built upon the premise that everyone has a voice. The problem with both movements is that in their frustration they rail against institutions that grant these rights and freedoms and their stridency while applaudable is not built upon promoting actionable solutions. Instead they are founded on the premise that that which they find objectionable must be torn down or removed. The government just can’t stop spending money tomorrow. Wall Street can’t stop working tomorrow or pull all paychecks. It’s not black and white, it’s 256 shades of gray. And it’s in recognizing and solving for gray that real workable solutions can be achieved.

Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, we’re all (well, maybe almost all) in this together and there are always workable solutions. This is a country that came of age and became a world leader because we were more industrious, more clever. We threw caution to the wind and came up with better more effective solutions. The time is ripe for being clever again. The time is ripe for making tough decisions and leading again by example. There is no better way to lead than by putting your money where your mouth is.Lincoln Memorial under construction

Let’s take the deficit and our debt issue…..

Continue reading On balancing the federal budget ….

New use for TV

Yes, I an an inveterate complainer about television (because it could be so much more, so much more). And I rail against the media a lot because they have strayed so far from just giving us the facts and letting us do the thinking (there’s a concept). But recently I was finally able to put television to good use.

Every couple of years we get introduced to a wacky bird. Ten plus years ago it was a cardinal, seven years ago it was a sparrow, now it’s a robin. The sparrow found an outdoor light it liked on the porch and decided to build its nest there. We found the nest a little too late. Once the nest was built and the eggs laid down, we were screwed. Bird poop everywhere and for several years after that the mom or the kids would always come back to the same light and build a new nest (in the interim we would attempt to remove every trace of the nest), drop off a couple of eggs, hatch them, poop all over and then take off. Yeah, nice knowing you too.

The cardinal as well as this new robin found their adversary in their reflection in the window. The cardinal was actually very entertaining because it was my office window right behind my desk and the cardinal was bright, bright red. I love the color red, especially a flitting-about bright red on a summer’s day against all the vegetation green. It always brings a smile to my face and so did the cardinal for about three to four years. He always came back, attacked his image in the same window, the same pane. Blunted knock, knock, knock against the window. He never beat his adversary, the adversary never left. The two of them just entertained.

Now we come to this year’s robin. He found his opponent in the door off the deck, which was unusual but again entertaining, for about a week. Then I happened to go out on the deck and see all the bird crap all over the furniture and on the door jam.

So I did the man thing: attempt to outwit the bird. I moved all the furniture away from the door so at least the bird now couldn’t come to rest on the furniture, see its reflection and go on the beak-butting attack. In theory it worked. The bird though flew a little farther down and came to rest on the railing, happened to look around and, lo and behold, saw a foe in the side window and attacked. Now there’s bird crap all over the railing and elsewhere. I outwitted myself in other words.

But I was not about to be bested. It happens that the room with the door and window is the family room which has a TV in it. My thinking now was that maybe the light of the television would interfere with my crapping robin’s reflection enough to discourage its behavior. I didn’t need sound, I figured, just image.

Son of a gun, don’t you know it worked.

Children’s shows (bright lights) seem to work best. I knew there had to be some good in television, I just wasn’t looking hard enough.