Thursday, April 29, 2010

Deficits...and the Culture of Dependency

I am currently reading a book titled "I.O.U.S.A.", which as the name implies is about the amount of debt this country has saddled American citizens with over the last 40 years with no end in sight. In the book the authors refer to four deficits: The Federal Budget Deficit, The Savings Deficit, The Trade Deficit, and The Leadership Deficit. To read more on the four deficits click here.

The number people (government officials) throw out when talking about our budget deficit is currently $12.7 Trillion; which incidentally is a hell of a lot of money. But that figure does not account for the gap between future promised and funded Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as a range of other commitments and contingencies the federal government has pledged to support.

As of 1 April 2010, the Treasury Department spent so far this year $202 Billion of your money on interest payments to the holders of the National Debt (mostly China and Japan). Compare that to NASA at $19 Billion, Education at $53 Billion, and Department of Transportation at $73 Billion. Those numbers are scary in itself but our REAL national debt is more like $62.3 Trillion, or almost 5 times as much as the $12.7 Trillion number you usually read or here about. As of September 30, 2009, each American’s share (every man, woman and child in this country) of the $62.3 trillion national fiscal burden was over $200,000. And every year in which no down payments or reforms are made to these obligations and promises, the total grows by at least $2 trillion to $3 trillion – or $6,500 to $10,000 per person – on autopilot. I am not going to bore you with the details, but if you are interested in more details read here. Suffice it to say, SCARY, FREAKIN' SCARY.

I am working on a future blog post that will get into the "meat and potatoes" if you will, of the fiscal mess we have allowed our elected officials to get us into. In the meantime, I want to discuss the deficit in leadership and the culture of dependency they have burdened us with.

I came across the following video from a post on Facebook from a friend, Jason Guest. I don't think Obama even needed to be edited into the video to have the same effect on me as it did. It just seemed so relevant to the issues of today. Jason, I agree, I miss that man. Check it out:

I will repeat, our current two-party government system is broken. I wish the same Republicans who today are shouting about programs that we can't afford, would've had the balls to shout at the ridiculous amount of spending when Bush was president. I wish Democrats AND Republicans would not look at every issue as either black or white; or all good or all bad. More importantly, I wish there were term limits so maybe, just maybe, our elected officials would make the right choices even if they are difficult. As Ronald Reagan once said, "A leader, once convinced that a particular course of action is the right one, must be undaunted when the going gets tough". For politicians, throwing money at an economic crisis is far easier than creating a long-term model for growth that is less dependent on debt. For leaders in democracies it is always difficult to get elected on a platform of austerity and more difficult today, as many of their constituents have grown accustomed to government largesse.

That the leadership deficit now seems so chronic suggests that the problem goes deeper than the quality of the individuals who come to power. There is something in the culture that makes leadership even tougher and more perilous than it should be. Why, asked Thomas Jefferson, did the American Revolution create a budding democracy while the French Revolution—coming at virtually the same time and with similar values—ended in tyranny? The answer, he thought, could be traced as much to the quality of the followers as to that of the leaders: American citizens were more accustomed than the French to responsible self-government.

Today it is much different. The only time the word self is used is in the word selfish. Self reliant -- say what? Self-government -- who? Public policy helps determine the kind of society we are. The Obama Democrats, Progressives or New Democrats; or whatever, see a society in which ordinary people cannot fend for themselves, where they need to have their incomes supplemented, their health care insurance regulated and guaranteed, their relationships with their employers governed by union leaders. That is the culture of dependence. Obama Democrats are trying to permanently enlarge government and increase citizens' dependence on it.

And, invoking the language of the Founding Fathers, I believe that this will destroy the culture of independence that has enabled Americans over the past two centuries to make this the most productive and prosperous -- and the most charitably generous -- nation in the world. Seeing our political divisions as a battle between the culture of dependence and the culture of independence helps to make sense of the divisions seen in the 2008 election.

Interestingly, Barack Obama carried voters with incomes under $50,000 and those with incomes over $200,000 and lost those with incomes in between. He won large margins from those who never graduated from high school and from those with graduate school degrees and barely exceeded 50 percent among those in between. The top-and-bottom Obama coalition was in effect a coalition of those dependent on government transfers and benefits and those in what David Brooks of the New York Times calls "the educated class" who administer or believe that their kind of people administer those transactions. They are the natural constituency for the culture of dependence.

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson initiated the War on Poverty. Thus began the ever-expanding Welfare State. Today, 46 years later, we are no closer to winning that war. Instead, the “war” created a vast and ever-growing constituency that perpetuates the Welfare State — a permanent underclass, a network of government bureaucracies and bureaucrats to administer the welfare state, and, most toxic of all, a culture of dependency.

"My friends, some years ago, the Federal Government declared war on poverty, and poverty won. Today the Federal Government has 59 major welfare programs and spends more than $100 billion a year on them. What has all this money done? Well, too often it has only made poverty harder to escape. Federal welfare programs have created a massive social problem. With the best of intentions, government created a poverty trap that wreaks havoc on the very support system the poor need most to lift themselves out of poverty: the family. Dependency has become the one enduring heirloom, passed from one generation to the next, of too many fragmented families." ~Ronald Reagan from the State of the Union address in 1984.

And to sum it up...a letter (which some of you may have seen via chain emails)to the editor that was published by a Jackson, Mississippi newspaper, Clarion Ledger, on August 23, 2009. The writer is Dr. Roger Starner Jones, a physician who specializes in emergency medicine at the U. of Mississippi Medical Center. This is genuine, verified by

Dear Sirs:
During my last night’s shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with an expensive shiny gold tooth, multiple elaborate expensive tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B tune for a ringtone.
Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid.

She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer. And our president expects me to pay for this woman’s health care? Our nation’s health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture — a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. A culture that thinks “I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me.”

Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow.

Starner Jones, MD

I'm out...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The case against Republicans...AND Democrats.

A lot has happened since my last blog post...I wish I could say for the better, but not so. So, personally all is well -- we have our health, which is the most important thing; we have good jobs and are successful -- but not rich Mr. Obama. But I worry. I worry about the future of my family. I worry how much more the government is going to steal from my paycheck. I worry about the financial burdens that are being placed on us by OUR government today and the ones on my children and my children's children tomorrow. Ironically, I still have hope. I have hope because the American people are fed up with the status quo in Washington. I think (and hope) that people do not want to be classified as Republican or Democrat; or red or blue. We are free. We are Americans.

In a recent USA Today Gallup poll on April 20, 2010, the following are some of the findings that help confirm my hope:
  • 3 out of 4 Americans polled say they are dissatisfied with the country's direction.
  • A record low 28% say most members of Congress deserve re-election. The percentage who say their representative deserves re-election drops to 49%, only the second time it has dipped below 50%.
  • For the first time, both major parties are viewed unfavorably by most Americans. The anti-tax "Tea Party" movement has a favorable rating nearly as high as they do — 37% compared with 41% for Democrats and 42% for the GOP.
  • Fifty percent say Obama doesn't deserve re-election, and 26% say he deserves "a great deal" of the blame for the nation's economic problems, double the percentage in July.
  • And my favorite...the nation's fastest growing political party is "none of the above". The number of independent voters has grown faster in the past two years than Democrats and Republicans in at least 14 of the 28 states and the District of Columbia that register voters by party.
Will any of this translate to "real change"? I doubt it. As long as the two-party system exists, the system is rigged. Special interests run the show. And for my liberal friends, special interests do not only include "big business" or the military industrialized complex. It also includes Progressive organizations such as, etc. Understandably there are pitfalls with a third party -- especially for challengers of the incumbent. But I think times have changed. Geez, just look at the Tea Party movement.

Term limits would work for me in lieu of a third or fourth party or whatever. Power begets more power. And whomever is in charge would like to remain in charge, even if it is not part of the "establishment". So truly, we need to blow the system up and eliminate the two-party system. We need to enact term limits. We need campaign finance reform. Then maybe will we get a government for the people, by the people.