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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.

She just doesn’t get it

YankeeStadiumConcessionStandYankee Stadium, right smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer. My turn to go to the food court and get a couple of dogs and beers. A couple of long lines and one short one. Hmmm, tough choice.

Yeah, but I should have known better. Like schools of fish avoiding a barracuda, crowds figure out which lines to avoid.

So there’s one customer in front of me and the girl disappears. And she’s gone. And she’s gone, and we’re looking at each other wondering if she’s coming back. Ahh, she does, clears something on the register, gives the customer their food and receipt.

And as I finally make it to the counter, she takes a large can of beer drippings and heads off for the kitchen. Minutes go by. She returns with a mop. She disappears again. The folks in the line next to me ask me if I want to order. The guy handling the line next to me asks as well. I defer as she finally returns. The guy says to the girl, “Hey, you have customers.”

And she snaps back at him, “Customers are not as important as Clarisse, my boss. She can fire me.”

Sad, I thought. She just doesn’t get it.

 

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.

 

 

 

Who will you be?

MerryGoRound

Life is an old fashioned merry-go-round with the brass ring contest. The merry-go-round spins very quickly. There will be one who:

  • Grabs the ring before or as the ride begins
  • Grabs the ring as soon as possible
  • Grabs as many rings as possible
  • Tries to break the dispenser so no one else can get a ring
  • Helps someone else get a ring
  • Holds on tight to the horse and never lets go
  • Never grabs the ring because it was all about the ride not the ring
  • Commits to grabbing the next ring just as the ride stops

Who will you be?

HIV testing

So it’s a law in New York that if you are admitted into an emergency room in a New York hospital, the staff HAS TO ask you if you’d like a HIV test performed while you’re there.

  • Mind you, the hospital won’t pay for the testing, that’s on you (but they don’t tell you that, at least, initially).
  • Mind you, age is no barrier: they will ask you if you’re 12 years old (Sheesh!!).
  • Mind you, the law just states that they just have to ask and show proof that they did ask (appropriate forms must be filled).

My question: with all that’s going on politically, economically, socially in this country, in this state, who was the Einstein who came up with this brainstorm and then believed this little time-saving nugget of an achievement was worth authoring and fighting for?

The Ash Tree

He had a small house. So small it was easily dwarfed by the 40-foot ash tree that stood regally not 20 feet from the house in the backwoods. When people came down his driveway, they oohed and aahed over the sheer size and graceful stateliness of the arbor. Storms couldn’t budge the tree, but they caused the man to worry about his house, for should the tree fall, it would destroy the house and everything in it. Of that, the man was sure.

And one day the mother of all storms raced across the countryside. Warnings started a week in advance. People were told to evacuate from the lower areas closer to the water. The man had to leave his house and find shelter elsewhere fearing the worse. For 4 days he sat in a shelter listening to the winds and rain pummel the building, raising images of the tree cracking and swooping down on his home. He didn’t sleep for those 4 days, so sure was he that the tree had crushed his house and destroyed his belongings. On the fifth day, he was allowed to leave and return home.

When he got there, he saw, to his great relief, that the graceful, beautiful ash still stood watch over his house and no damage was sustained. The man ran up to the great ash and hugged it and thanked it.

And in celebration of the tree not falling on his house, the next day he had it cut down, so he would worry no more.