Friday, February 18, 2011

On solving the budget deficit

I haven't weighed in on the Presidents's budget. When a Democrat presents a budget that cuts heating subsidies to poor people in order to try to upstage Republican deficit scaremongers, why bother? Yeah, the Dems are better than the Republicans -- but only marginally. Neither bunch seems to think it is their job to help people get what they really want: a chance at a decent job, some security if they get sick or are growing older, a chance to live out unmolested lives with friends and family.

I've just heard that today the House, on a bipartisan vote, has eliminated all funding for the US Institute of Peace (USIP). This is not some hippie radical institution; it's a think tank Congress set up to study how to solve international disputes without war. Now that would be cost effective, besides being a good idea! USIP was responsible for the Iraq Study Group report in 2006 which was the establishment's vehicle for telling George W. Bush that he'd blown it with his little Mesopotamian adventure and should find a way out.

By voting down USIP funding, the government will save $42 million. That's about the cost of keeping 42 soldiers in Afghanistan for a year. Nobody has succeeded in explaining what those personnel are doing besides dodging roadside bombs, killing people, and ensuring that Afghans hate us for killing their family members. We have about 100,000 troops there at the moment, plus perhaps an equal number of contractors. Meanwhile, Congress plans to fund the wars to the tune of $158 BILLION this year. It's very hard to believe Congresspeople of either party give a damn about saving money or balancing the budget.

When politicians start in with the "precarious" condition of the national budget and the terrible deficit, there are two mantras we need to throw back at them, however many times it takes until they listen.

1. Stop throwing money down the military rathole. End the wars. Bring home the troops from the 155 countries where the U.S. has bases. Cancel expensive high-tech armament boondoggles. Reduce the nukes. When you can blow up the world, the difference between having 100o and having 100 is marginal. The U.S. spends more on maintaining military superiority than the rest of the countries in the world combined. This is mostly waste, amounting to theft from the taxpayers.

2. If the government needs cash to do what it should be doing, get it from the people who have it: rich people. U.S. rich people pay some of the lowest tax rates in the world. They should have to pay for the privilege of enjoying their wealth in this country. During the Eisenhower presidency, rich people's tax rates varied between 70 percent and 91 percent of annual income. Ever since, they've been buying politicians to let them hang on to more and more of their take. But if the country is in trouble, they could start paying what they are able again.

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