Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The State of the Union Address: a few thoughts

Everybody's talking and reading about Obama's speech last night, applauding his attempt to reach beyond the language of partisan politics, and I agree that his ability to do such a thing is impressive and important. I can list a dozen policy considerations that the President made that I agree with...stopping subsidizing oil companies and use the money to invest in clean fuel technology was big to my ears...High speed rail and internet, VERY GOOD....

But I honestly have no faith that our representatives represent our best interests, that they will make the cuts that need to be made to invest in investments that we need for the future to create jobs and a more prosperously healthy and educated population.

There is one thing that comes to my mind that is a necessary but incredibly opposed cut to be made.

The first, of course, is military spending. All you have to do is Google it and you'll see that we spend close to, before private contracting which doesn't get included, over 700 Billion Dollars a year for military. It's more than all annual domestic spending including social security, medicaid and medicare, municipal pensions, etc...., ok? And for what have we created a fully fallow economic environment? Are we actually stemming the tide of Islamic fundamentalism? I think not even close. We can't kill enough, and we can't persuade these people because we tried to kill them first before persuasion(they don't trust us, and who can blame them), and even if you think there's a chance for success(what does THAT look like?), how long's that going to take, really? It's a dead end. Military culture is fundamentally a dead end culture that costs untold sums of money and Precious Treasure on both sides of whatever war we're fighting, and it does absolutely nothing to create true Freedom and Liberty for beings. Cut it!

Here's some ideas from Kevin Hassett who is director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. His column is distributed by The Washington Post News Service with Bloomberg News.

"First, it’s finally time to take on farm subsidies, which topped $15.4 billion in 2009, according to the Washington-based Environmental Working Group.

This doesn’t mean America’s farmers have to be left to fend for themselves.

Canada has experimented with a program that provides government matching funds for farmers’ deposits into savings accounts that help them buffer their incomes against the ups and downs of farm prices. Such a program in the U.S. could achieve the objective of helping family farmers survive while enabling policy makers to withdraw billions of subsidies to big agriculture.

These changes, plus closing the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service, would save about $19.5 billion. Not a bad start.

Next, target energy subsidies, which might make us feel good but make little economic sense. If Congress wants to encourage innovation in energy, it should tax carbon, not subsidize politically favored approaches such as ethanol. Riedl says cutting energy subsidies would save about $6.5 billion.

Justice Department block grants — annual sums given to state and local governments, which largely get to decide how to spend them to achieve a certain goal — have also been targeted for cuts, and then saved, again and again. That’s $7.3 billion in savings.

Would Americans really suffer if taxpayer-funded travel by federal employees was slashed? I doubt it. Riedl counts $22.5 billion in savings from that and from cutting in half the cost of maintaining vacant federal properties.

The easiest cuts are to money not yet spent. There are various competing estimates of how much remains unspent from the great stimulus of 2009. I’ll take the most conservative estimate, $12 billion — the biggest chunk of which would go toward high-speed rail.

We’re two-thirds of the way to $100 billion.

Just because we’re all tired of hearing about alleged “waste, fraud and abuse” doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of it. Riedl estimates that a $5 billion investment in updated computer systems could halve errors in government payments, saving $44 billion. That lifts our spending cuts to $111.8 billion: target achieved, with wiggle room to boot. "

Also, after talking to a friend about Municipal Pensions and their costs, states going bankrupt, one has to ask the question if this can be sustained? I recommend guaranteeing current municipal union contracts. But effective immediately we should make contracts 25-30 years. People live longer, and are perfectly able to work at the age of 45 and 55 years old. If you get a job at 25 the idea that you'd get Municipal pension at 45 is preposterously early. I can maybe imagine making exception for high stress jobs like Policeman and fireman, but people should not be encouraged to leave a working life before retirement age unless they have some spiritual journeying to do. Most American folks end up on the golf course and in front of a tv when they retire.... sorry, it's true.

I have other thoughts that I'll share later. If you have any to share I'd be happy to have them posted.

No comments:

Post a Comment