Third Party & Independents Archives

December 17, 2006

Defense Spending: Mirror, mirror on the wall...

We were told the 2006 Defense spending part of the budget would be $453 billion, advertised in the bill, H.R. 2863. What did our President and Congress actually spend? Try 200 billion more than the figure above.

How about the upcoming Defense appropriations bill for 2007? Adding the reported numbers up, it comes to between 566.9 and 586.9 billion. This doesn’t include unanticipated emergency supplementals.

Are we engaged in a vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy here? Is it possible, that the more we spend in preparation to engage the rest of the world militarily, the more conflicts we must engage in, and the more we must increase our military spending to do so, ad infinitum?

The U.S. now spends more each year on military spending than all of the rest of the world's nations summed together ($509 billion). Put in another way, 5% of the world's population (Americans) now spend more for war than the other 95% of the world's population. Should it be any great surprise that so many people outside the U.S. have come to view the U.S. as the single greatest threat to peace in the world? We spend well over 1/2 trillion dollars per year on war making and defense capacity, and our politicians still don't feel safe. Nor do they want the American public to feel safe for obvious military budget reasons.

There is a major disconnect here - and at its heart lies the paranoia of a mafia bully. Allow me to explain!

Let's call our mafia bully Mr. B. Now, Mr. B. makes his living intimidating, coercing, and attacking other people to extort and elicit from them actions which benefit Mr. B. Consequently, Mr. B. is very aware that those he intimidates, coerces, and attacks, would very much like to do him in - take him out - deep six his posterior! As a result, Mr. B. invests more of his revenues in more body guards, high tech surveillance equipment, snitches and informers, security protection for his vehicles and home, bribes to judges, police, and city council persons, in order to defend himself. Which in turn, drives up his cost of bullying others. Which Mr. B. will recover by expanding his extortion, intimidation, black mail, and black market covert revenue operations.

For Mr. B., this becomes a vicious cycle. The more people he bullies, the greater the retaliation threat against him. And to pay for additional security from the greater threat, he must bully ever more people. And round and round it goes. This is quite accurately what the United States has engaged in under the Bush Administration and Republican Congress regarding international relations.

Regardless of what we have been told, the truth is we cannot supply our own oil needs. That posed a problem. In such a dependent position, we were vulnerable to the whims and profit motives of the controllers of Middle East oil. In order to protect ourselves from price gouging by the Arabs, we introduced our military forces smack dab in the middle of the region, Iraq, and demonstrated the shock and awe power of our weaponry and military technology for all Arabs to witness. The effect was to intimidate Arab controllers of oil to the U.S. against believing that price gouging the U.S. on oil would be a wise act.

Following the example of Mr. B, the Mafia bully, it is clear what should have been expected as a result. The Arab leaders would find ways to fund and arm our terrorist organization enemies to fight us by proxy. It would be suicide for the Arab controllers of oil to defy America's intimidation directly. But, there are many ways in which those Arab controllers of oil, very smart persons most of them, can drive America's costs up in other ways. Expanding the terrorist organizations is one of many ways. Which in turn drives up our military investment costs.

Hence, our intelligence community tells us al-Queda has grown. Also, Hezbollah is growing, not only in Lebanon, but, they are crossing our southern border as well, masquerading as S. American illegal immigrants. America forced Russia to spend so much on counter defense, that its economy failed. It is logical to assume this lesson was not lost on the Arab controllers of oil? There are many ways to skin a cat, the old saying goes. And there are many ways to force the U.S. to spend its savings on oil by intimidation of OPEC, in other ways, and then some.

Therefore, one has to ask, are we not complicit in our inevitable bankrupting of our society (Soc. Sec., Medicare, education, infrastructure maintenance, etc.) through this self fulfilling prophecy of having to grow our military spending to unsustainable levels to protect ourselves from the ever growing and widening threats from the rest of the world? Are we not caught in Mr. B.'s vicious cycle of intimidation and defense spending without end?

How is it, China, without doubt the new growing superpower in the world, does not feel the need to even remotely consider spending the kind of money on defense that we feel we must? Is it perhaps, because China is not electing to intimidate, and invade, other nations of the world, but, rather, to build trading relationships which will be durable and mutually beneficial throughout the 21st century? Whether real or erroneously perceived, the new 21st century map of international relations is painting China as the darling superpower other nations (including the U.S.) wish to work and deal with, while the U.S. is being painted by ever more 100's of millions of persons each year as the single greatest threat to world peace and order.

America has a public relations problem. The White House knows it. The Congress knows it. Our military establishment knows it. What they don't seem to know is why? That is because the answer lies in their own decisions and behavior which are immune to self-criticism.

We ask in the mirror who is the fairest in all the world, and the answer we reply to our reflection is predictable; we are, of course! But a mirror's image is not reality. It is an opposite reflection of reality. The greatest threat to Americans in the 21st century is our own government, its politicians, and Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military who fail to see Mr. B. in the mirror.

Posted by David R. Remer at December 17, 2006 06:39 PM
Comment #199615

Excellent point, David. But…

Is it perhaps, because China is not electing to intimidate, and invade, other nations of the world, but, rather, to build trading relationships which will be durable and mutually beneficial throughout the 21st century?

There is that - but in a different light, China does not engage in UN peacekeeping missions, and we incur far greater expenses helping our allies than does China. Which is certainly not to say that we should be doing these things, but I think it should be made more clear that there is a difference between imperialistic intentions and imperialistic image. And how much money do we spend on technology that is specifically designed to minimize civilian casualties? Compare this with China’s expenditures on the same goal.

In other words, while I think you do make an excellent point, I also think you’ve cast a Pollyanna light on why China spends so much less on war costs. American politicians need to stow some of the good intentions, scale back military actions, and scale back military expenditures.

Posted by: Wulf at December 17, 2006 09:23 PM
Comment #199618
The greatest threat to Americans in the 21st century is our own government, its politicians, and Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military who fail to see Mr. B. in the mirror.
No doubt about it.
  • Posted by: d.a.n at December 17, 2006 09:39 PM
    Comment #199619

    David, this spend, spend, spend mentality seems to fit right in with the “drown the federal government in the bathtub” strategy the Administrations enablers encourage. Is there any one in Congress that can see through this and start cutting the military budget?

    Posted by: j2t2 at December 17, 2006 09:47 PM
    Comment #199620

    Wulf, they don’t need to spend billions on preventing collateral damage, because they aren’t invading nations in which collateral damage is a concern.

    Instead, they are investing in trade relationships with Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, all the places America isn’t investing its public relations in. That’s not to say we aren’t spending money in those areas, but, our money spent in those areas is overshadowed and doesn’t help our image, the way similar spending by China does since, its spending in those places is not overshadowed by preemptive invasions and bullying heads of state as in Syria, Iran, and N. Korea.

    China is walking softly and carrying a huge economic stick. The U.S. is walking boisterously and carrying a huge military stick. Which is more endearing to the people’s of the world? Which is more likely to garner peaceful trade relations in this century?

    But, you know, China is not the issue. Our government is its own source of our problems in large part. We chose the path of world policeman without recognized jurisdiction by the people’s of the world. That is our problem. Only we can remedy it. Removing Bolton from the U.N. was a baby step in the right direction. Removing Bush from the White House would be a much bigger positive step for our image in the world’s eyes.

    Everyday Bush remains in office, is another day the people of the world become convinced that the American people actually support Bush’s policies in the world. Which means everyday more people in the world distrust, dislike, and even grow to hate the American people, seeing no difference between them and the leader they retain at the helm.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 17, 2006 10:07 PM
    Comment #199621

    j2t2, quite right. The quickest and most efficient way neo-cons can end entitlement spending is to bankrupt it with military spending. Brilliant Neo-Con strategy, kill 2 birds with one stone.

    World military domination and an end to socialized policy in America, in one policy initiative to indebt the nation through military domination.

    So far, that strategy is working beautifully, except for the out of control vicious cycle I outlined as a consequence of Mr. B.’s actions. Just another Neo-Con unintended consequence.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 17, 2006 10:12 PM
    Comment #199626


    What percentage of Federal spending is defense? How does this number compare to 10, 20, 30 & 50 years ago?

    How cooperative is China in Darfur? Do the Chinese protect trading routes? Maybe they will need to if the U.S. stops. Today they ride free, as the U.S. did in 1880. You are right that we should not let them.

    Posted by: Jack at December 17, 2006 10:43 PM
    Comment #199632
    There is that - but in a different light, China does not engage in UN peacekeeping missions

    Yes, they do. China is part of the peacekeeping missions in Haiti and Lebanon and Africa.

    Good article, David. For sure all defense appropriations should go through the normal budget process which incudes debates and hearings over the US military’s role in the world.

    Posted by: American Pundit at December 18, 2006 12:41 AM
    Comment #199633

    Jack, sorry you missed the brunt of the article. I tried to write it so everyone could understand - it is not about China. It is about US and our giving away claim to leadership in the world for the pride of calling ourselves the Most!

    Rome did the same thing. And lost it all, in small, almost imperceptible increments very much as we are doing today. Only difference is the Roman Empire enjoyed leadership in its world for almost 5 centuries. The U.S. will do extremely well to enjoy 100 years of world leadership, marked by the end of WWII to the peak of the baby boomers retirement years.

    Like Rome, our militarist expansion will cost us all we enjoyed. In the end, the world will ignore Americans much as the world now ignores Russians, seeing its economic base bottom out to militarism and its people respond too little and too late for changing its priorities.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 12:44 AM
    Comment #199634

    Thanks, American Pundit. I share your hope that the Democratic Congress, along with some fiscally responsible Republicans, will indeed place all military spending on the table for examination and debate as to what paths such spending leads us down; what opportunity costs are attached; and what consequences will result.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 12:51 AM
    Comment #199637

    NEWS FLASH! Just in - Reuters. Condi Rice is reporting the following, in keeping with the gist of this article and comments:

    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday she would ask the U.S. Congress for tens of millions of dollars to strengthen the security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

    “We will request funding to support the security reform (of Abbas’s forces) and I think we will get support,” Rice said in an interview with Reuters, adding that the aid would be in the range of tens of millions of dollars.

    Not in the budget? No problem. That’s what emergency supplemental spending is for. And the creep just keeps on coming.

    So, we are funding Israel’s defense against the Palestinians, at the same time Rice wants to fund the Palestinians.

    The trick is to bankrupt entitlement spending programs with military spending. Doesn’t matter if we fund both sides to any particular conflict, so long as our spending on war and foreign based conflicts keeps increasing. That’s what’s important.

    We fund Abbas, Abbas buys weapons from American companies with American tax dollars, which keeps unemployment down, military production profits up, the war continues and our debt increases. As if the solution to Middle East violence is more weapons sent by American companies using American tax dollars.

    And the American tax payer gets screwed when it comes time to need Medicare or collect Soc. Security. See, it is just a matter of priorities.

    That’s the neo-con agenda in a nutshell. And all the while the Republicans yell it is entitlement spending that is threatening our future. What a perfect little shell game.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 01:47 AM
    Comment #199639

    David: the tens of millions of dollars is for the civil war about to begin in Palestine or whatever you want to call the place.

    We talk about the quagmire in Iraq but the real quagmire is in Washington D.C.

    I am sure the Democrats would love to cut the defense budget, but the Republicans would be all over them with the week on defense scam message and yes, it would probably cost the Democrats the election in 08.

    The people put the Democrats in office and made it perfectly clear that they wanted results. The Democrats have to produce results on the issues that are most important to the people such as SS, perscription drug bill, Iraq etc. They have a very full plate and I think the president will obstruct.

    Posted by: jlw at December 18, 2006 02:52 AM
    Comment #199641

    jlw, weapons in an abjectly poor region like Palestine flow like water uphill to the highest bidders. Iraq has taught us that, if nothing else. With or without a civil Palestinian war, those weapons will find use against Israelis. Weapons are currency in the Middle East, especially amongst the poor who can steal them, “lose” them, etc., and sell them. They have families to care for in a region where anything of civilized living costs dearly. And weapons fetch a dear price on the black markets.

    Flooding the Middle East with weapons made by American manufacturers subsidized by American taxpayer dollars may seem like sound strategy to America corporations and Neo-Cons, but, just as we armed Saddam Hussein to fight the Iranians, we, or our allies, will fight our own weapons.

    With Sen. Reid backing the short term escalation of the war in Iraq, it is difficult for me to see where Democrats differ much from Bush on what is taking place. Sure, there are the Murtha’s, but, it is beginning to look like a majority made up of both sides, are again going to put politics ahead of blood, politics ahead of fiscal responsibility, politics ahead of sound planning and strategy. I hope I am wrong. We will see.

    There can be no long term permanent results on the domestic front as long as foreign policy is sucking in ever larger deficits and growing the debt. The debt and deficits are the obstacles in the path of solutions to looming domestic problems which voters said they want dealt with.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 05:31 AM
    Comment #199654


    Once again, we can cut defense spending by 1/2 or 3/4 simply by recalling our troops and closing bases in the far-flung corners of the world. By persuing a course of military isolationism, we can concentrate on trade and financial integration with the world.

    We, the American People, do not have the will to win a military conflict, so why continue to try?

    Let’s take a page from the terrorist playbook and fight conflicts with proxies…with stooges…who die instead of American troops. Doing so, we could fight a minor conflict on the cheap. No dead American troops while spending comparatively few precious American dollars.

    Also, we could stop funding wasteful weapons development, which would save a ton of bucks. Why should we upgrade our military with the F-22 Raptor, when the American people have no will to use it? Bucks in our pocket!

    Another bonus of recalling all our troops is that we could station them along the Mexican border so all the xenophobic people would feel safe in their homes that were constructed with mostly Mexican labor and while they are driving their mostly Mexican made autos. Also, we could use the military to secure our seaports and airports. Sure would take a lot of heat off of Homeland Security, INS, etc.

    It is time to bring all our troops home from everywhere and cede the rest of the world to the terrorists.

    Until the American people develop the will to use the military, we do not need to put our troops in harm’s way and lose American lives needlessly.

    Bring ALL our troops home. Save lives. Save bucks.

    Posted by: Jim T at December 18, 2006 11:32 AM
    Comment #199659

    Why is the military budget the only one everyone wants to cut? You’d get the idea that the left, despite their gab, really does hate the military and would love nothing better than to see it to small and weak to even defend this country.
    I never hear of anyone wanting to cut the welfare budget. And if a check was done on it I’ll bet that there are at least as many emergency appropriations done on it as on the military and maybe more.
    And what about the Endowment of the Arts farce? What a wast of tax payer money.
    Our military is and should be second to none. Instead of cutting it’s budget and making it weak we need to make sure it stays second to none.

    Posted by: Ron Brown at December 18, 2006 12:05 PM
    Comment #199665
    Why is the military budget the only one everyone wants to cut?

    I would be up for cutting fat from anywhere. Unfortunately, that’s where all the fat is. There’s no more money to be taken from education, etc. We need to do what we have to get back in black.

    Can’t both parties agree (won’t they have to) that we’ll have to cut all the spending we can to get out of this debt?

    Posted by: Max at December 18, 2006 12:47 PM
    Comment #199666

    Jim T., wrong! The American people DID have the will to win once and for all in Afghanistan. This President DID NOT! That is why we are still playing hide and seek with the Taliban and al-Queda there. It wasn’t the American people’s idea to leave Afghanistan for Iraq, that was the Bush Administration’s idea.

    Don’t blame this president’s folly on the American people.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 12:51 PM
    Comment #199668

    Ron Brown, there is a chasm of difference between defending this country and aggressing against others in the world. No one is saying we need to do away with defense. What I and many others are saying is a whole lot less aggression can translate into less need for defense, down the road. China is a good example. They are Communist for Buddha’s sake. Why do they have less need for a vast military than we do? Simple, they aren’t playing world military cop or bully.

    Did you even read this article? Do you not recognize that we have created the need for a far larger military than was ever necessary had we NOT invaded Iraq?

    Now we are playing some of the same lead up with Iran and Syria as we did with Iraq. That is how you create need for greater military, rather than reducing the need. Some war hawks could not possibly imagine a military ever big enough or well enough armed. I call those folks paranoid with limited imagination even less touch with reality.

    I am all for being a very strong defending nation. We have a choice of whether or not we are going to be an aggressor nation in the world. It is quite another to say to retirees to go die in the streets because our foreign policy ate up your Social Security benefits, when we had a choice about foreign policy.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 01:03 PM
    Comment #199669

    Max is right. The OMB’s Comptroller said just a week or two ago, that the accounting system in the defense areas of our government are in such disarray, that figuring out where all the money is going is virtually impossible. That is where an awful lot of the fat is - in the form of non-competitive bidding and earmarks for defense industries in Congress person’s home states, which all the American people have to foot the bill for.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 01:06 PM
    Comment #199681
    … that the accounting system in the defense areas of our government are in such disarray
    That is by design. Abuse, corruption, and opportunities for abuse and self-gain thrive in chaos, disorder, and complexity.

    Look at Congress and the severely bloated (nightmarish) size of government.
    They can take anything simple and complicate it beyond all recognition, making it ripe for abuse, and self-gain. Our tax system is a good example. Military spending is a good example. Money simply disappears (like this $24 billion that the Pentagon can’t account for) , and no one is accountable because no one knows what is going on.

    Top 10 Examples of Government waste:
  • (1) The Missing $25 Billion:
    Buried in the Department of the Treasury’s 2003 Financial Report of the United States Government is a short section titled “Unreconciled Transactions Affecting the Change in Net Position,” which explains that these unreconciled transactions totaled $24.5 billion in 2003.
  • The unreconciled transactions are funds for which auditors cannot account: The government knows that $25 billion was spent by someone, somewhere, on something, but auditors do not know who spent it, where it was spent, or on what it was spent. Blaming these unreconciled transactions on the failure of federal agencies to report their expenditures adequately, the Treasury report con­cludes that locating the money is “a priority.”

    Where the money goes (graphic: 1.5MB)
    Notice the monstrous size of military spending.
    So we can keep fighting unnecessary foreign wars (perhaps even start an unnecessary war)?

    Posted by: d.a.n at December 18, 2006 02:55 PM
    Comment #199688

    Im not so sure the Taiwanese would agree with your assesment of the benevolent China.

    Posted by: JayTea at December 18, 2006 04:13 PM
    Comment #199704

    Given David Remers figures for US and other total global military spending, which i assume are correct, does it not appear odd to anyone why the US should be putting such vast resources into military spending? If you guys are investing more than the rest of the world combined, does that mean you intend to take on the rest of the world, combined?

    Is there any realistic prospect of the US and the rest of the world coming to conflict, all at the same time? If not, then why the need to squander such vast amounts of borrowed money on such unproductive assets. Assets which despite their might, cannot give the US victory in a relatively weak country like Iraq. Oh yeah, you may have made short work of Iraqs military in 2003, but you’re still fighting a dirty war there, and you’re further away from winning it now, than you were in the aftermath of the invasion.

    I read Chomsky’s book, “Hegemony or Survival, America’s quest for Global Dominance” a couple of years ago. He reckons that the idea is to so deplete the public purse, that all social spending programs will have to be dropped. Now I know that there are many in the States who regard Chomsky as the devil in disguise, but I have to say that he marshals his argument very powerfully indeed. I am not an acolyte of his, but I was very impressed with his book, the first of his I have read. And whether I am right or wrong, Chomskys thesis fits right into what I see of the Bush administration just by observing it. If this is wrong, then why the need to outspend the rest of the world combined???

    Posted by: Paul in Euroland at December 18, 2006 06:36 PM
    Comment #199718

    JayTea, I never said or implied that China was benevolent or acting in a benevolent manner. China is acting for China! Period! But, they seem to be following Truman’s advice, walk softly but carry a big stick. China’s military stick is growing proportionately with Japan’s. They have their own game of Mutual Assured Destruction going with a wrinkle. (Japan is not nuclear capable, yet, and relies on the U.S. for that balance. But, that may change in the next couple years as the U.S. competes in the global marketplace to sell nuclear technology.

    We just sold China our civil use technology through Westinghouse - which will likely have profound negative impacts on our nuclear industry’s competitiveness in 15 years, but, that’s another topic.)

    China’s subs have been tracking and dogging our battle cruisers of late. Japan has been monitoring every move China makes. Our forces track China’s subs. This is all part of the M.A.D. exercise.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 08:15 PM
    Comment #199719

    Paul good points. The true answer however is complex, as to why we are outspending the rest of the world in militarization. You and I have only touched on one or two. Political economy is another huge reason, military industry lobbyists effects on Congress persons for example. In part our government is the progenitor of the concept that if its new, we must have it. If someone anywhere can think of it, we must have it.

    But the lions share of the reason is the Mr. B. syndrome which dictates that the more we play world cop, the more enemies we create, and the more enemies we create, the more military development we must have. It is not a safe world out there to try to be dictating terms to. And we don’t have the political leadership that is capable of addressing the fundamental philosophical debate of balance when it comes military domination. More destructive is better. Bigger is better. Newest is best. These are philosophical determinants of our military development and deployment in the world, and they all were born out of the cold war strategy of Mutual Assured Destruction.

    The world has changed somewhat, but our strategy and philosophical drivers haven’t. Balance is no longer up for discussion when it comes to American military development. Therefore, our military growth, deployment, and usage is on track to torpedo our domestic economy over the next 25 years.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 08:30 PM
    Comment #199733

    David et al

    I did not write mostly about China either. That said, I think we vastly overestimate China, however. It manages to produce surpluses by keeping most of its people in a state of poverty we have not experienced in the U.S. with such environmental degradation that there is no place in the U.S. with air and water pollution as bad as a typical Chinese city.

    My main point was written to your main point. The percentage of the federal budget given over to the military is fairly small. The percentage given to entitlements is large.

    Last year defense made up around 20% of the budget outlays. Entitlements were close to 60%

    This is defense spending.

    Entitlements are here.

    I agree that we should try to think of ways to get all those foreigners to pull their own weight in security matters.

    Posted by: Jack at December 18, 2006 09:28 PM
    Comment #199759


    On the defense spending. Does that include all the additional supplemental stuff?

    And the fact that the Pentagon can’t figure out where the money is going is despicable. It should be a legal requirement for any branch of government/department to be able to account for every cent of the people’s money.

    You and your entitlements. Of course it will rise in correlation with the population. Maybe it wouldn’t rise so fast without so many illegals in this country?

    Posted by: womanmarine at December 19, 2006 12:54 AM
    Comment #199762

    I wondered the same. Do the defense spending numbers include the costs of Iraq?

    On the general topic of military spending:

    The transformational military of Rumsfeld has been an unmitigated disaster. We have built a hi-tech, mobile, small and agile military force, relying upon accurate, overwhelming firepower to win a conventional ground war.

    Just one problem.

    No one is about to engage the US in a conventional ground war.

    What we need in the case of Iraq is a military capable of fighting an insurgency. Traditional ratios for occupation of an urban area suggest a force of at least 400,000 would be needed in Iraq. The idea of a temporary surge making any difference in Iraq is ludicrous, and the JCS has already made that clear.

    In an event actually threatening national security, we could activate the reserve & guard, & place a large, trained military force in the field. However, the situation in Iraq does not constitute a direct threat to national security, and it does not call for a military solution. The insurgents live there. We do not.

    We remain utterly unprepared for 21st century warfare, which combines counterinsurgency with political & economic power (along with media manipulation, where we seem to be doing pretty well). Occupation and Counterinsurgency do not depend upon overwhelming military force; in fact, deploying it can be counterproductive.

    To succeed in occupation and counterinsurgency, we will need lightly armed peacekeeper forces, several hundred thousand, with knowledge of the local language and culture. Thomas P.M. Barnett discusses such a force in his book a few years ago. It is manpower-intensive force, and because it involves deploying trained personnel- trained in the local language- it also is an expensive approach.

    We are miles from implementing such an approach. Until we have the ability to field such a force, we have no business invading with the intention of occupying, no business imposing democracy by force, and no business prolonging a failed occupation.

    Posted by: phx8 at December 19, 2006 01:43 AM
    Comment #199763


    Don’t we already have the reserv and guard involved in Iraq?

    Posted by: womanmarine at December 19, 2006 01:51 AM
    Comment #199764

    David, great article and follow-ups on this complete outrage.

    “With Sen. Reid backing the short term escalation of the war in Iraq, it is difficult for me to see where Democrats differ much from Bush on what is taking place. Sure, there are the Murtha’s, but, it is beginning to look like a majority made up of both sides, are again going to put politics ahead of blood, politics ahead of fiscal responsibility, politics ahead of sound planning and strategy.”

    Yeah, and this makes me so sick. But honestly, we might have guessed. This is what is to be expected from members of the DLC Republican Lite — stupidity that seems hardly any different from the GOP.

    EuroPaul, phx8, Max, d.a.n. - great replies! Womanmarine, very good question.

    Ron Brown:
    “You’d get the idea that the left, despite their gab, really does hate the military and would love nothing better than to see it to small and weak to even defend this country.”

    What a bunch of left-baiting bunk. Ron, Get Real. Please.
    Answer me this: Why do we need to spend so bloody much on so very many nuclear weapons? Do you have any idea how many nukes we have and how many of our taxpayer dollars have been spent on them? Just how many nukes do you consider to be an effective “deterrent”? How about outrageously expensive junk like “Star Wars”? Do you think that’s been a good investment? Seriously, we need to take a giant axe to our military budget because too much of it is simply PURE WASTE.

    As womanmarine said:
    “the fact that the Pentagon can’t figure out where the money is going is despicable. It should be a legal requirement for any branch of government/department to be able to account for every cent of the people’s money.”

    Damn straight, and well put!

    Posted by: Adrienne at December 19, 2006 02:47 AM
    Comment #199765

    Jack said: “Entitlements were close to 60%”

    You ever ask yourself why they are called entitlements, Jack. You pay for a car, you are ENTITLED to own. You pay off your mortgage, you are ENTITLED to have the house solely in your name.

    Entitlements were bought and paid for by the people, for the people, Social Security was bought and paid for by one generation and its parents, for its parent’s generation as they retire. Medicare is paid for by the American people to help themselves and others who may suffer and not have the means to address that suffering medically.

    The people are being by far overcharged for Medicare, and they have been paying in surpluses to the Soc. Sys. and still are. They are entitled to those benefits, having paid for them, each according to their ability.

    I would hope that even MORE than 60% of our budget went to benefit the American people. I think 90% of our budget should benefit the American people including defense, infrastructure, and government operations and maintenance as well as the entitled assistance which the American people paid for when decent humane survival is on the line.

    What is needed to make government’s expenditures far more efficient, delivering more real service for each dollar spent, focus on our nation’s and future’s needs first and foremost and consider the needs of other nation’s people after our deficits have ended and our debt is zeroed out.

    Are you aware that smoking was banned for all the American people in federal buildings EXCEPT by Congresspersons and staff in their federal places of work? This is the kind of bullshit that must stop. We need to withdraw all federally paid medical health insurance for politicians UNTIL all other Americans are covered. That is putting governance’s priorities straight, and measures such as this would get politicians behind the kind of health care reform that is needed make health care affordable and available to all.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 19, 2006 04:07 AM
    Comment #199784

    What a great thread. A couple of points:

    I would be up for cutting fat from anywhere. Unfortunately, [the military budget]’s where all the fat is.

    This isn’t actually the case. The military is just one (albeit large) part of a government that won’t stop growing. But non-military spending has been ballooning as well. With Bush and a GOP dominated Congress, it grew faster than at any time in
    the last 30 years. Wealth redistribution is at shocking levels. (I don’t accept that these “entitlements” are beyond the scrutinous axe.) Considering that the GOP is the self-styled party of smaller government, I don’t see the trend reversing with Democrtats on the gavel - and especially if they win the presidency, ending the gridlock we may now have.

    Big government is a culture at this point. For both major parties. Yes, the military. But the rest of it as well.

    What I was awkwardly trying to say in the first comment is that America’s global image is a result of our collective Spiderman Complex (with great power comes great responsibility). Too many of the people and politicians in the USA want to help the world. Good intentions - where do they lead, again? To hell, of course, and to greater military expenditures than the rest of the world combined. Expensive ones, because we think that our policeman actions would be welcomed if only we didn’t kill so many civilians. No, it’s not about China, but they do make an excellent example, because they are acting in their own self interest. With no Spiderman Complex, they don’t get themselves into the same sticky and expensive issues we do.

    (American Pundit, thank you - I overstated the case, and I only meant that China isn’t involved in UN missions at anywhere the extent the US is. We needn’t quit those actions, but we do need to stop leading them.)

    But again, this is a cultural issue. I don’t believe that Americans are prepared to wash their hands of it and leave people to kill each other without our direct involvement. It makes us people feel helpless. We need to get over it, because the reality is that it costs us in dollars, lives, and global good will. I’m not optimistic right now.

    Posted by: Wulf at December 19, 2006 10:37 AM
    Comment #199788
    Adrienne wrote: Why do we need to spend so bloody much on so very many nuclear weapons?
    Good question. Unfortunately, it is very necessary for starting unnecessary wars.

    We started a war with Iraq because they supposedly had WMD.

    But, none were found. Yet, Bush said on 29-May 2003:

    We’ve found the weapons of mass destruction. You know, we found biological laboratories. We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.

    Did you see the so-called biological laboratory?
    There was nothing in it.”

    Yet, no evidence of chemical, nuclear, or biological weapons of any significance were ever found in Iraq.

    So, did we start a an unnecessary war, that now appears to now be turning into civil war and total chaos?

    So where are the Weapons of Mass Destruction? Perhaps were were looking in the wrong place ?

    When you look at all that military spending, is it all really necessary (provided we don’t continue to go around starting unnecessary wars) ? Especially in view of all these other pressing issues ?

    The hypocrisy of Congress is amazing.
    With all that military spending, some U.S. troops go without body armor and adequate medical care, while Congress is doing this sort of thing all the while (including giving themselves a raise 8 times between 1997 and 2006).

    But, we keep rewarding them by repeatedly re-electing them?

    Posted by: d.a.n at December 19, 2006 11:34 AM
    Comment #199811

    I think many people are vastly underratiing China. One way that they underspend us in defense is labor costs. Their troups don’t make the money ours do and ours are underpayed. A top notch engineer costs much less in China. The Chinese invest in a huge manned army who’s primary mission is domestic control. Although they have a nuclear deterrent, they haven’t gone hog wild over nuclear weapons. If they had a nuclear arsenal capable of destroy the population of the World ten or one hundred times over, we would probably be very leery of them and they would not be benefiting as much as they are from global free trade. China has however, seen the potential in space for both economic and defense purposes and they are investing in it.

    Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2006 03:28 PM
    Comment #199815

    jlw, I agree, it is far wiser err on the side of overestimating China’s future capacity then underestimating it.

    China has a far more efficient national infrastructure to meet 21st century needs than we do in the U.S. They have politburo quasi-authoritarian government which in many ways is far more efficient in getting things done, than is Democracy.

    Yet, they have married the economic future to a mix of socialism and capitalism (as we did during and after WWII) which does two extremely important things. 1) The socialism allows them the realistic hope of preventing another revolution. 2) The capitalism allows them to engage and compete in the international trade markets while motivating their people to a modified American Dream psychology which says if you act appropriately, work hard, and play by the rules, you can hope to be successful financially.

    One would be foolish in the extreme to underestimate the potentiality of China’s governance and economic infrastructure.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 19, 2006 03:57 PM
    Comment #199860


    Entitlements as a percent of the budget should not rise with the population. It is a percentage.

    Phx8 and woman

    Entitlements make up nearly 60%. Whether Iraq is include in defense or not, it is still part of that other 40%, which, BTW, includes ALL the other government services person inspecting your food to the ranger at Yellowstone Park and even all that money spend on Katrina.

    Re forces trained in local languages etc, the Brits did a very good job of that in their imperial times. Of course, they did not put up with so much crap from the locals.


    They call it entitlement because the government has no discretion about making payments. It does not mean that the individuals receiving the money earned it. It just means that some previous congress decided to give it to them.

    Re the budget, I agree that we should make serious cuts in discretionary spending too, but you will not find enough there alone. At the rate entitlements will grow if not changed (this is not an estimate; it is a projection based on systems already in place), entitlements will make up 100% of what we are spending today in adjusted dollars. That means by around 2030, if you cut ALL other spending, you could not cut the federal budget below what it is today.

    Re China

    That is just silly. No average American in his right mind would change places with an average person in China. Even if China grows an economy to equal ours, it will mean that it takes more than a billion Chinese to equal 300 m Americans.

    The country has a very corrupt government. It is growing rapidly at the expense of its environment and its people.

    I just do not believe in such an undemocratic authoritarianism. Nothing even the worst critics of Bush accuse him of doing would even raise an eyebrow in China. In China, corporations do not control the state; they are the state and the state is them.

    You can respect the Chinese achievement w/o the over the top praise for a horrible dictatorship, which has managed to create a free market without a free society. I do not underestimate them, but I do not want us to be more like them.

    I am really surprised about the China praise. The Chinese seem to have accomplished exactly what people proport to hate. They have a rapacious form of state capitalism combined with a lack of personal liberties.

    This use of the market with socialist government control was done fairly efficiently by the Nazis. If you want that sort of efficiency, that is your pattern.

    Posted by: Jackj at December 19, 2006 10:11 PM
    Comment #199866

    Related to the post. In 2002 I had a chance to hear the President of McDonalds Asia discuss one of their strategies on increasing McDonald’s brand recognition in Asia. Many know that McDonalds will have blocks of citizens (comrades) for grand openings.

    To the point, McDonalds is supplying rural cities in China with logo sports equipment. Soccer bals, basketballs, etc. The strategy, to get Chinese, rural citizens to make the pilgram to a big city to try the food and see the golden arches so prominently displayed on the equipment. At that time the strategy was in over 1,000 rural communities and untessted for success.

    Posted by: Edge at December 19, 2006 10:43 PM
    Comment #199888
    Yeah, and this makes me so sick. But honestly, we might have guessed. This is what is to be expected from members of the DLC Republican Lite

    Adrienne… First of all Reid (and Clinton and the Pentagon) only support sending more troops if it’s part of a comprehensive plan for victory. They do not support what Bush and McCain are proposing: a simple-minded increase of troops merely to do more of what they’re doing now.

    I think Reid has the right approach.

    I also think it’s great that Bush is finally talking about authorizing more ground troops for the military, as Democrats suggested years ago when it would have made a difference in Iraq. Better late than never — as long as the majority of new units raised are the Special Forces and Civil Affairs troops so necessary to win counterinsurgency campaigns and the war on terror.

    It’s a different kind of struggle we’re engaged in, and it requires a different kind of military. I hope future budget debates and hearings bring this debate to the general public.

    Posted by: American Pundit at December 20, 2006 01:44 AM
    Comment #199894

    “Adrienne… First of all Reid (and Clinton and the Pentagon) only support sending more troops if it’s part of a comprehensive plan for victory.”

    Expanding the war and the number of troops is not a comprehensive plan to extricate us from our occupation in the midst of a civil war in Iraq. The American people want out, they don’t want a Vietnam style expansion that kills more of our kids for no good reason and which costs many billions more in money we don’t even have. Because the people don’t want this, Reid is now having to backtrack. Or “clarify” if you will. In my opinion what Reid was trying to do was to play to the “middle” but he misfired. And the reason he did is because he didn’t understand where the middle actually is at this moment. They aren’t with expansion and troop surges any longer because that ship has sailed. It might once have worked, but it simply won’t work now. Also, keep in mind, they already surged the troops back in August and the violence only dropped for a short while, only to grow much, much worse.
    Their is no Victory in Iraq for the U.S. American Pundit, and even the people in the “middle” have come to understand this. The middle is now somewhere between pulling the troops out today and six months from now — not putting more troops in after we’ve had four grinding years of failure, disaster and quagmire.
    The people want withdraw, but it seems the “moderate Dems” are trying to put that conveniently out into the future. People are asking themselves if we’re going to start withdrawing troops in six months, why don’t we start today? “Six months, maybe” is a stalling tactic, and it’s complete bullshit, and everybody knows this.
    If the DLC Dems, like Bushco, are planning to keep us in as long as they possibly can, I wish they’d just come out and state it plainly. This way all of us on the left and in the middle will know that they too don’t have a freaking clue, or give a damn about our troops.

    Withdraw now. Save lives. Save money. Enough said.

    Posted by: Adrienne at December 20, 2006 03:45 AM
    Comment #199899

    Please look at this and tell me we can’t be spending our money better. There’s a lot of fat in the military. Did you know that a lot of your paycheck goes to maintaining obsolete weapons that cannot ever be used in Iraq?

    Posted by: Max at December 20, 2006 05:50 AM
    Comment #199901

    Jackj, you must not be a working person. All of us who work for a living pay into Medicare and SS, in return for the service, by contract with the government. Didn’t earn it, you say? You believe the 145 million working Americans don’t earn the money deducted from their income for those services?

    What an irrational and totally unrealistic comment you uttered, to say people didn’t earn their Soc. Sec. or Medicare. I could be wrong, but you sound very much like many Republicans. Totally out of touch with reality.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 20, 2006 07:36 AM
    Comment #199902

    American Pundit. We had and have enough troops to defend the United States. What we didn’t have and don’t have, are enough troops to fight other nation’s civil wars. And here you are, advocating we escalate doing just that.

    Frankly, I am a bit disappointed, unless you just didn’t think this one through.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 20, 2006 07:40 AM
    Comment #199917
    Adrienne wrote: Withdraw now. Save lives. Save money. Enough said.
    There are no good solutions. I tend to agree with that because:
    • Most Iraqis polled want us to leave (who you blame them?). 82% of Iraqis “strongly oppose” the continuing occupation, and 45% of Iraqis feel attacks against coalition troops are justified! The battle for hearts and minds has already been lost!
    • Our troops deserve better. It’s not right to subject our troops to danger for nation-building and baby-sitting civil wars. Iraq will have their civil war with or without us. We should pull out and monitor from a distance.
    • The severe incompetence of the civilian government, like in Vietnam and Korea, expect our troops to fight a war with one hand behind their back. They make the mistake of making military decisions for political reasons. Also, our troops and veterans are being mistreated. Many of our troops don’t receive adequate medical attention, promised benefits, and body armor, while irresponsible Congress votes on pork-barrel, graft, bribes, waste, corporate welfare (Halliburton still gets their checks on time), and votes themsevlves a raise 8 times between 1997 and 2006.
    • It’s a hornets nest. If you step on a hornets nest, do you stay and get stung over and over (to death). Leaving isn’t what some characterize as “cut and run”. It is just plain common-sense.?
    • This should trump all reasons. It isn’t fair to our troops, even if the U.S. made a huge mistake in starting an unnecessary war to start with. We have done enough. Even if we can discourage the civil war, it would mostly likely only be temporary. Iraq will have their civil war with or with out us. A big issue is made of training police and military. Well, who is training the insurgents? It is possible that the Iraqi people simply do not have the desire for peace, and prefer revenge and civil war instead … something that is very common in the middle-east.
    • Some will make the argument that Iraq will become another terrorist haven. We don’t know that for certain. If it does, whose fault is it? Also, with all of this, do we really need to be so worried ? If we are truly worried about terrorism, why are our ports and borders still wide open. Oil perhaps? Why so much interest in nations with oil when other nations have civil war, genocide, and human disaster too? Where’s the outrage at all of this hypocrisy?
    • The rising human cost of this war is unacceptable. Deaths of an estimated 100,000 Iraqis, 2950 U.S. troops, The numbers rise daily. Hundreds of thousands have been physically wounded or traumatized by chronic violence and insecurity. The path we are on has not and will not lead to victory. There are no winners, and there is no military solution. In spite of this, the U.S. continues to embrace military rather than diplomatic approaches. An immediate end to hostilities is essential to stem the carnage and loss of human life.
    • The U.S. occupation appears to be a catalyst for violence. That is what Iraqis believe, and most polled want us to leave, and insisting on continuing the occupation grows the numbers of Iraqis that are joining the resistance against occupation (doubling each year by some estimates).
    • The U.S. occupation is inflame divisions, deepen tensions, and civil war. Dissolution of the Iraqi army and police, leading to insecurity, looting, and violence didn’t help. Failure to dismantle militias, allowing the number of armed combatants to increase didn’t help. Support for Shi’a demands for regional autonomy, fueling the possibility of a break-up of the country along ethnic lines didn’t help. Blunder after blunder after blunder didn’t help. So, why does anyone think these blunders won’t continue?
    • Democracy can’t flourish under occupation when 82% (or more) of Iraqis want us to leave. Iraqis don’t see our presence as making things more secure. Iraqis don’t see our presence as making thier government less dysfunctional, the economy more stable, or their lives safer.
    • The U.S. has failed to rebuild Iraq or provide for Iraq’s basic needs. Tweleve years of economic sanctions (1991-2003) devasted Iraq’s infrastructure, which makes one wonder why anyone thought Iraq was a threat. These infrastructure problems causes deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The U.N. was corrupt party to it, undermining sanctions (Oil for Food scandal). Since the beginning of the U.S. occupation, things have only become worse. It is not due to a lack of money, but a lack of peace and many blunders every step of the way, and the refusal to change course. Much of the money for reconstruction disappears due to corruption.
    • Not only is it not fair to our troops, but unfair to future generations. The Iraq war and occupation waste resources needed in the U.S. The U.S. debt continues to skyrocket, building a massive debt for future generations of Americans.
    • The U.S. occupation of Iraq is destabilizing the entire the Middle East. The pre-emptive invasion of Iraq and subsequent U.S. occupation has profoundly damaged the United States’ relations with our allies and Middle East governments. None of them want to be seen as being aligned with the U.S. Especially when the massive number of civilian casualties in Iraq are caused by heavy weapon attacks in urban areans, and flesh-burning compounds such as white phosphorus. None of it builds respect from the international community.
    • The continued U.S. occupation, against world opinion, and the uncontrolled violence, diminishes international humanitarian aid to Iraqis, and the ability of Iraqis to rebuild. The U.N. and many humanitarian organizations can’t safely operate in Iraq (not even with the U.S. occupation).
    • The rest of the world wants the war and occupation to end now. The majority of the international community warned against the invasion of Iraq from the very beginning. Ignoring the international community deepens suspicions of interest in OIL, and increases the isolation of the U.S..
    • The U.S. occupation is NOT working. It is most likely making things worse.
    • A poll of U.S. troops in Iraq (released by the Zogby International polling firm) finds that 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should leave Iraq. In March of 2006, 25% of U.S. troops said the U.S. troops should leave Iraq immediately.

    Yet, Bush is still persisting “stay the course” and “we’re making good progress”.
    Bush isn’t just stubborn.
    He is dangerous.
    He is determined to make his failed plan succeed, no matter how many have to die to prove him right.

    Posted by: d.a.n at December 20, 2006 10:41 AM
    Comment #199919

    The cost of war and the overall U.S. debt problem problem should not be under-estimated.
    However, the outlook is dismal.
    It seems very unlikely, with Congress still consisting of 90% of the same incumbents, will suddenly start to adequately address the nation’s pressing problems.
    So many things are deteriorating.
    Yet, there’s still a ways to go before the Americans reach a pain level that motivates them enough to stop rewarding irresponsible incubment politicians by repeatedly re-electing them.

    Posted by: d.a.n at December 20, 2006 10:53 AM
    Comment #199925


    Jackj is just ordiary Jack (me) who is a bad typist.

    Re SS and medicare - the rule says that it is not a contract. The supreme court has actually spoken on that case. The congress can define entitlements. It has done nothing but increase them. If they were really contracts, current recipients would get a lot less and many people would not be covered at all.

    And entitlements such as medicaid are clearly not earned.

    Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2006 11:29 AM
    Comment #199932

    Iraq is not counted as part of the annual federal deficit. With the new round of increases, we will be spending an average of @ $465 million per day; or, to put it another way, over $3.2 billion per week on Iraq.

    Posted by: phx8 at December 20, 2006 12:07 PM
    Comment #199936

    You know why government isn’t worried about all the debt.
    Because they have every intention of printing more money.
    China is holding a $trillion in U.$. treasuries.
    So, who will get screwed by that?
    Inflation helps who?
    Oh sure, some will say 3% to 4% inflation is low, but EVERY year of it causes bubbles and instabilities.

    China could be creating a bubble of their own with so much inflation too.

    Just can’t help but wonder how long it can last.

    Future generations are getting screwed.
    It’s good that they don’t know what is going on … otherwise, we would probably have a revolution by morning.

    Posted by: d.a.n at December 20, 2006 12:26 PM
    Comment #199944


    Bush: U.S. needs bigger military

    Posted by: womanmarine at December 20, 2006 01:44 PM
    Comment #199945

    d.a.n, the coming rift between APT (Asian trade arrangement which excludes the U.S.) and APEC (Asian Pacific Economic something which includes the U.S.) may well be the trigger that interrupts the flow of goods and services between China and the US threatening regional conflicts and bringing about the global recession at the very least, that brings the paper backed debt holders to their knees (which would include the largest debtor nation in the world, the U.S.A.)

    China continues to lay down and reinforce long term strategic partnerships in a kind of mercantile regionalism, while the U.S. continues to force itself into short-term boxes by its own debt.

    China’s Achille’s heel is in securing long term strategies based on an ever increasing value and dependency on oil and other commodities, which may prove to be a fallacious strategy, bankrupting their long term strategies and contracts with regional partners. A single technological advance like cold fusion, could undermine the return value of China’s long term contractual arrangements. If however, such an advance eliminating dependence on and a gross devaluation of the price of oil for example, is not forthcoming, the U.S. will suffer its debt in horrible ways for the American people.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 20, 2006 01:47 PM
    Comment #199946

    Jack, a contract is an agreement of exchange with consideration changing hands. Medicare and Soc. Sec. are contracts in the minds of the American people, and the government’s politician’s definition’s are meaningless when the majority of the American people have defined a contract between them and their government.

    Which is precisely why Pres. Bush could not purchase any support for his privatization and elimination of the S.S. contract with the people. Reality, Jack, is far more powerful than rhetorical word games of politicians. One need only a cursory review of the French or American revolution to validate that statement.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 20, 2006 01:51 PM
    Comment #199948

    womanmarine, America only needs a bigger military if it intends to continue to meddle in the sectarian conflicts of other people’s and nations. In other words, the U.S. only needs a bigger military if it intends to force the people’s of the world to yield to its own perceived interests, values, and cultural values.

    We have a vastly sufficient military to defend our nation against other nation’s militaries, and from terrorist organizations (though our Homeland Defense posture is wholly inadequate to the task.)

    If Democrats buy into this world domination view of Bush’s which is the only justification for a larger military, we will need to eliminate an even greater number of their incumbents as well in 2008.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 20, 2006 01:58 PM
    Comment #199957


    I didn’t write it, I just thought it was interesting.

    As it stands right now, of course, the military is not big enough. God forbid something else should happen requiring our military, something like another attack? We’d be in dire straits.

    I’m not saying we need a bigger military, but if we DO stay in Iraq, we will.

    Posted by: womanmarine at December 20, 2006 03:10 PM
    Comment #199966


    The contract depends on the terms. Do you get what you put in? Does your benefit increase with inflation or with workers wages? What age can you collect?

    BTW - the French and American Revolutions were very different in causes and results (our succeeded, for example)

    Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2006 03:55 PM
    Comment #199970

    Jack said: “Do you get what you put in?”

    So far, folks have. And they can will continue to if Republicans stay away from it, and Democrats get a spine about halting deficits, bringing down the debt, and making the adjustments needed to preserve the system’s ability to pay back what payees put in. Clearly the enemy of Soc. Sec. is national debt.

    Which is why it is obvious that Republicans are intent on doing away with Social Security. What is a bit less obvious, is whether Democrats will be able to commit to a long term vision and short term discipline to insure Soc. Sec. can pay full benefits over the boomer retiree hump.

    “Does your benefit increase with inflation or with workers wages?”

    God forbid it should increase with real wages, since that would mean they would decrease for most workers. With inflation, yes, though how that is assessed and performed needs review.

    “What age can you collect?”

    At the age which society and the public deem is appropriate to the needs of the contract and conditions of health and worklife longevity. All contracts are subject to potential renegotiation as changing circumstances warrant and require.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 20, 2006 04:52 PM
    Comment #199999
    Expanding the war and the number of troops is not a comprehensive plan to extricate us from our occupation in the midst of a civil war in Iraq.

    Of course. And Reid wouldn’t support that. C’mon Adrienne, read between the lines. Reid isn’t “clarifying” his position. He said from the start that he’d support a surge if it was part of a plan for victory, but since there’s no plan for victory, a surge is a bad idea.

    This an issue where Democrats are going to have it both ways. It’s similar to McCain saying we should send another 100,000 troops knowing that we’ll never send another 100,000 troops.

    But the real tragedy here is that President Bush is in command of the US military, and he doesn’t have a clue what to do with them.

    Posted by: American Pundit at December 20, 2006 08:41 PM
    Comment #200008


    You really conceded a lot. The thing about age is the big one, but the one about the wages is bigger.

    When I was checking out SS COLA, I found this interesting tidbit. It may be how we can balance the SS w/o really doing much. The “contract” allows the government NOT to adjust SS by the full CPI, to wit -

    “Legislation enacted in 1983 may limit the COLA if the combined assets of the Social Security trust funds are below 20 percent of annual expenditures. (This limitation only applies to Social Security; SSI would be unaffected.) Such limitation has not occurred in the past, nor does it affect the current COLA determination.”

    In other words, before we go empty, we use inflation to cut benefits. So do not even bother to think about us baby boomers getting full benefits if we make the mistake of living too long. Still like that contract?

    Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2006 10:16 PM
    Comment #200019

    Sure, I like the contract. Because one party to it would never take that route, Jack. I said renegotiation - I didn’t say dictate. Dictate is what Bush tried, the People rejected it out of hand. Like a good Republican, you seem to be looking for the cheap and easy way out. Guess what? Soc. Sec. is very much like Iraq, there are no cheap or easy ways out for the politicians that created the mess.

    The way to save S.S. is for enough incumbents to lose their seats that both parties get the fiscal discipline message and save Soc. Soc. the old fashioned way, by putting the American people and the needs of the nation’s first and everything and everyone else in the back seat till the ride is over and the Soc. Sec. contract is saved for the people who paid into their entire lives.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 21, 2006 12:12 AM
    Comment #200027

    Poverty Levels:
    Year 1person _ 2persons _3persons_ 4persons_ 5persons_ 6persons_ 7persons
    1960 $1,490 __ $1,924 __ $2,359 __ $3,022 __ $3,560 __ $4,002 __ $4,9213
    1965 $1,582 __ $2,048 __ $2,514 __ $3,223 __ $3,797 __ $4,264 __ $5,2483
    1970 $1,954 __ $2,525 __ $3,099 __ $3,968 __ $4,680 __ $5,260 __ $6,4683
    1975 $2,724 __ $3,506 __ $4,293 __ $5,500 __ $6,499 __ $7,316 __ $9,0223
    1980 $4,190 __ $5,363 __ $6,565 __ $8,414 __ $9,966 __ $11,269 _ $12,761
    1985 $5,469 __ $6,998 __ $8,573 __ $10,989 _ $13,007 _ $14,696 _ $16,656
    1990 $6,652 __ $8,509 __ $10,419 _ $13,359 _ $15,792 _ $17,839 _ $20,241
    1995 $7,763 __ $9,933 __ $12,158 _ $15,569 _ $18,408 _ $20,804 _ $23,552
    1996 $7,995 __ $10,223 _ $12,516 _ $16,036 _ $18,952 _ $21,389 _ $24,268
    1997 $8,183 __ $10,473 _ $12,802 _ $16,400 _ $19,380 _ $21,886 _ $24,802
    1998 $8,316 __ $10,634 _ $13,003 _ $16,660 _ $19,680 _ $22,228 _ $25,257
    1999 $8,501 __ $10,869 _ $13,290 _ $17,029 _ $20,127 _ $22,727 _ $25,912
    2000 $8,959 __ $11,531 _ $13,470 _ $17,761 _ $21,419 _ $24,636 _ $28,347
    2001 $9,214 __ $11,859 _ $13,853 _ $18,267 _ $22,029 _ $25,337 _ $29,154
    2002 $9,359 __ $12,047 _ $14,480 _ $18,244 _ $21,469 _ $24,038 _ $26,924
    2003 $9,573 __ $12,321 _ $14,810 _ $18,660 _ $21,959 _ $24,586 _ $27,538
    2004 $9,827 __ $12,649 _ $14,776 _ $19,484 _ $23,497 _ $27,025 _ $31,096
    2005 $10,160 _ $13,078 _ $15,277 _ $20,144 _ $24,293 _ $27,941 _ $32,150

    How does that compare to the Social Security and Medicare benefits that people receive?

    And, why the caps on Social Security and Medicare taxes ?

    Some people are receiving several thousand per month in Social Security and Medicare benefits.

    Is Social Security supposed to be just enough to stay above the poverty level or is it supposed to be a government administered retirement plan?

    Something will have to change before too much longer. We don’t want the Fed and Government choosing to print more money to meet the looming shortfalls (a result of surpluses being plundered almost from the very beginning) in Social Security and Medicare. That Prescription drug plan was nothing more than bribing voters with their own money. Since many younger voters don’t bother to vote, the outcome wasn’t hard to predict.

    Based on the median income of about $46K, the Social Security and Medicare taxes are $7038 (15.3%). But there is a cap on $94,200 of income. Why is that? If we are all supposed to pay an equal percentage of income (which seems fair), why the cap? The graduated tax scale doesn’t seem fair, but all the tax loop holes remedy that (perhps too much?).

    Something has to give. Some (not me) think importing 100 million immigrants is the solution (more tax payers to prop up Social Security and Medicare).

    So, can we cut military spending?
    Sure we can.
    There’s a lot of stuff that can be cut.
    How many thousands of Trident W76 Trident warheads do we need?
    How many sea-launched W80 Sea Launched Cruise Missles do we need?
    How many Minute Men warheads do we need?
    How many Minute Men ICBMs do we need?
    How many B61 gravity bombs do we ?
    How many chemical weapons do we need (Yes, we have chemical weapons)?
    How many Peacekeeper missles do we need?
    How many B2 bombers do we need?
    How many Trident submarines do we need?
    Seriously. What nation is going to mess with us?
    Terrorism is bigger threat, and not all of that above is that useful against terrorists, since they usually are that easy to find, and never all in one place. Yet, if government is really concerned about terrorism, why are our borders and ports still wide open ?

    Oh well. Money is really not an issue. They’ll just print what they need. Inflation will be the result of all that borrowing, spending and money-printing. The debt will create pressure to print more money to increase inflation to reduce the debt. But, Congress will fail to cut spending, and the debt will grow larger, creating more pressure to print more money. But Congress will still fail to cut spending, and the debt will grow larger, etc.

    The federal government is so bloated and wasteful, and continues to grow and grow.
    Total federal debt ($22 trillion) is 164% of GDP ($13.4 trillion), which has never been larger. Yet, no one seems too alarmed about it. Strange. That’s because they have a plan. Simply borrow and print more money. When the card house finally collapses, what will happen to those nations that have invested in our national debt? It could be the U.S. is engineering a world-wide disaster. China holds $1 trillion of U.S. debt. What if they can’t ever collect? Was this a clever trick to have some control over China? Could all of these foreign nations (investing in the U.S. debt) be setting themselves in for a enconomic disaster?

    Posted by: d.a.n at December 21, 2006 12:46 AM
    Comment #200044

    How much WMD do we need?

    Posted by: jlw at December 21, 2006 11:37 AM
    Comment #200067

    AP re: Harry Reid
    “He said from the start that he’d support a surge if it was part of a plan for victory, but since there’s no plan for victory, a surge is a bad idea.”

    So, then it was a stupid to say he’d support a surge since there isn’t a plan for victory. Reid is the Democratic Senate majority leader — I’d prefer that he think twice, and then not say such stupid things.

    “This an issue where Democrats are going to have it both ways. It’s similar to McCain saying we should send another 100,000 troops knowing that we’ll never send another 100,000 troops.”

    People are sick of that kind of political BS. I know I am. Aren’t you?

    “But the real tragedy here is that President Bush is in command of the US military, and he doesn’t have a clue what to do with them.”

    I agree 100%. It would therefore be helpful if Democrats don’t start acting as clueless and idiotic as Bushco.

    Posted by: Adrienne at December 21, 2006 01:08 PM
    Comment #200096

    d.a.n, you are right, Soc. Sec. is in serious need of reform and adjustments to keep it a viable safety net.

    But, by magnitudes of order, Medicare/Medicaid are the real threat to our economic future and well being of our people. Health care reform is fundamental to saving our economic future. Every governor, think tank, and expert in the field will agree with that statement.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 21, 2006 04:13 PM
    Comment #200098

    I agree with Adrienne. When politicians, as they are want to do, don’t say what they mean and don’t mean what they say, an informed consent by the public is extremely difficult if possible at all. Reid had best get down to speaking honestly and straightforwardly with the people, or he will be targeted in 2008 as so many Republican incumbents were in 2006.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 21, 2006 04:16 PM
    Comment #200118


    The contract is already negotiated. The one side (the government) already has that right.

    As you say, both sides have rights and obligations.

    Congress defines the type of entitlement. The COLA was an addition made when every current recipient was already alive and it has that stipulation included above. Nothing needs to be renegotiated. And - BTW - who would be the parties to the negotiation?

    Posted by: Jack at December 21, 2006 06:27 PM
    Comment #200125

    You’re right. Looming shortfall in Medicare are more serious.

    And healthcare is important, but I’m not at all sure government and insurance companies (middlemen taking a HUGE cut) will do anything but make it worse.

    Consumers and health care providers need to start taking things into their own hands.

    Medicare fraud is rampant. Sen. Bill Frist’s HCA hospitals bilked Medicare out of a billion (of which half or more had to be returned). Frist is under investigation for insider trading of HCA stocks.

    The thing is, do we really need these middle men (government and insurance companies)?

    Some doctors and healthcare workers are getting squeezed too. Doctors in many states are leaving their practices.

    That is because government and insurance companies are ripping everyone off. There are millions of people in the insurance industry getting their cut and their salaries, without really providing anything of net value. In many cases, the insurance companies cheat patients, cheat the doctors, and try to make medical decisions.

    If healthcare providers and people would simply deal directly with each other, and cut out the middle men (insurance and government), costs could be reduced TREMENDOUSLY. If the government had any role in any of that, it would be perhaps only as an independent auditor. Not a guarantor of payment.

    If government takes over healthcare, there is no reason to believe it will be managed any better than Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. It will simply become another way for government to bribe voters with their own tax dollars. Waste and fraud will be just as rampant as it is in now. But, the main thing is, there is no need for the middle men. That represents millions of people that are essentially no better than parasites, tremendously driving up the cost of everything.

    Also, there needs to be common-sense limits that prevent the greedy, ambulance chasing lawyers from getting rich from other people’s misery, via ridiculously huge judgements. Some states require doctors have malpractice insurance, and these ridiculous judgements are running up the rates for all doctors, and running them out of business. Recognizing the problem, Florida eased that requirement for malpractice insurance. That’s a good step in the right direction. But, notice once again, who was running doctors out of business:

    • Government,

    • insurance companies,

    • and the greedy ambulance chasing lawyers.

    Cut out all of those middlemen and crooks.

    Consumers can form their OWN coalitions to create DIRECT PAY FUNDs that deal DIRECTLY with healthcare providers, and hospitals.

    Currently, insurance is getting so ridiculously expensive, it’s becoming better to take that monthly premium and put it into the bank, and start creating a self-insurance fund. And, if you create an HSA, you can get a tax deduction for it.

    I realize, in this era of increasing dependency on government …

    … that we seem destined to end up with a government-run healthcare system, but I seriously doubt it will make things better. Especially if you consider how Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are so terribly mismanaged now, and facing BIG troubles in the coming decades.

    What we are all about to discover is that it is not easy for all of us to live at the expense of everyone else, despite that myth perpetuated by pandering politicians, who are so skilled at bribing the voters with their own money, and dreaming up new ways to grow and grow and grow the severely bloated government ever larger, to truly nightmarish proportions. Just look how much government takes now annually (about 19% of GDP $13.4 trillion GDP), and how much debt government is heaping onto future generations ($22 trillion; about 164% of GDP $13.4 trillion GDP).

    Could another vast, mismanaged, corrupt, inefficient government-run program (i.e. government healthcare) finally be the last straw?

    Well, you know what they say. Sometimes, things can’t get better until they get worse. So be it. Bring it on. Let’s see this new government-run healthcare system. It will raise taxes and provide little in return, and create yet another huge system for the distribution of wealth. It will mostly likely become yet another failed monstrostity, proving what we should already know by now. Government can’t run these things correctly. These days, government, despite the half-a-trillion per year for defenese spending, can’t even secure the borders and ports, or keep airplanes from flying into buildings. So, why should we believe government can run a national healthcare system?

    Oh well. Perhaps it would at least cut out the insurance companies, eh?
    Do you think the health insurance companies will like the idea of a government-run national healthcare system? It will be fascinating to see the billions that the insurance companies will spend to protect their turf.

    Still, just looking at Medicare, and Social Security, the debt, spending, borrowing, waste, and general fiscal and moral bankruptcy of government, it seems unlikely that a national healthcare system will be worth the increase in taxes. Especially when taxes will likely have to be increased for the 77 million baby boomers on the way. We could be looking at a generational storm, as this nation selfishly continues to heap more and more onto future generations. And, to make things worse, those future generations are increasingly less educated. If our youth is our future, we could be in trouble. And then there’s the personal nation-wide debt too ($20 trillion).

    HHHHhhhmmmmm m m m … the more you look at it; at the big picture, the worse it looks, despite those saying everything is “good” or “very good”. That doesn’t mean much. It’s like the terminal patient sitting across from you in the doctor’s waiting room. They look fine at the moment, but their days are numbered.

    Posted by: d.a.n at December 21, 2006 07:13 PM
    Comment #200149

    Universal Health Care does not need to be government run, d.a.n.

    The idea is to provide basic well and emergency health insurance coverage to all.

    Now here is the cotter pin that holds it all together. The Government buys the computer systems and physical assets to maintain the universal health care system, but, private insurers compete and bid for the right to access and processing of claims through it on 3 year contracts. The winning bidder receives the competitive bid rate of profits and direct marketing access privileges in all billing for their private additional coverages for health care not covered by the universal plan.
    That insures healthy low bid competition for the right of insurance companies to administer the universal health insurance plan.

    A government agency of accountants must be created for one purpose only, oversight and audit of the plan. No other administration. They will report directly to the CBO and OMB.

    If the public wants extras, they pay for it out of their own pocket through a private insurance policy. Also, let’s not make the mistake we made with Soc. Sec.; make universal health care coverage means tested, but require all citizens to pay a flat percent into it. It’s the price of living in the best quality country in the world.

    This will also create a private insurance industry that will offer additional coverage outside the universal health care plan and compete like hell for the profit dollar, yielding excellent benefits at very reasonable costs.

    This plan could create the preeminent best health care system in the world today.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 22, 2006 04:24 AM
    Comment #200150

    Jack the parties to renegotiation are the people and their representatives. As always.

    What needs renegotiation? Age of benefits, FICA contributions, means testing of benefits. All need to be renegotiated toward the aim of saving the safety net’s ability to insure against abject poverty after one’s work life is spent.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 22, 2006 04:29 AM
    Comment #200192
    David Remer wrote: Universal Health Care does not need to be government run, d.a.n. The idea is to provide basic well and emergency health insurance coverage to all.
    Yes, that would be good if it can be done better than Social Security and Medicare.
    David Remer wrote: That insures healthy low bid competition for the right of insurance companies to administer the universal health insurance plan … . Also, let’s not make the mistake we made with Soc. Sec.; make universal health care coverage means tested, but require all citizens to pay a flat percent into it. It’s the price of living in the best quality country in the world.
    I’m not sure I understand. If tax payers pay taxes into the Universal Health Coverage Plan to fund it, why would government involve insurance companies. Wouldn’t it be better to keep insurance companies (unnecessary middlemen) out of it? If tax revenues are collected and exist to pay for healthcare, why would insurance companies be necessary? It seems it would be better to eliminate those unnecessary middlemen.
    David Remer wrote: A government agency of accountants must be created for one purpose only, oversight and audit of the plan. No other administration. They will report directly to the CBO and OMB.
    Yes, and in this DIRECT PAY FUND, that would also be the only involvement of government (oversight only).
    David Remer wrote: This will also create a private insurance industry that will offer additional coverage outside the universal health care plan and compete like hell for the profit dollar, yielding excellent benefits at very reasonable costs.
    Yes, that’s good. That would likely occur too with a DIRECT PAY FUND.
    David Remer wrote: This plan could create the preeminent best health care system in the world today.
    Well, I guess it can’t get much worse. Currently, many people don’t have coverage, and what they have is expensive and doesn’t cover much. As the cost skyrockets, a 20%/80% plan is almost useless if 20% of a fortune is still a fortune.

    It still seems if there is some way to cut out the middlemen (government and insurance companies) as guarantors of payment, and instead, patients and healthcare providers deal directly with each other, then we would truly experience huge savings. That was the way it was in the beginning, and it was successful. Hospitals approached employers and offered packages. Why can’t hospitals and healthcare providers offer packages directly to people? After all, think of the millions of people currently working in the health insurance industry. They collect premiums and pay healthcare providers, and keep a huge chunk for themselves. That’s a lot of people making a living off of the rest of us, while providing little (if any) net benefit. That is a large part of the reason why healthcare is too expensive … it is unnecessarily paying the salaries of people in health insurance companies. Healthcare providers could receive payment directly. Let the government merely monitor, but never be the guarantor of payment.

    It seems to me that insurance companies are one of the biggest reasons for high costs.
    The premiums are getting so ridiculous, it is giving rise to self-insurances (HSA’s).
    It seems we have been brainwashed to think insurance companies are necessary.
    For instance, my auto insurance is only $38 per month.
    My home insurance is only $78 per month.
    But health insurance is $181 per month and it doesn’t cover that much.
    But, it was only 8 years ago that insurance was much less
    It may be better to seed an HSA and put money in that instead, because if something happens, with a typical 20%/80% insurance plan, 20% of a fortune will still be a fortune, making the insurance essentially useless.

    Also, this would probably be a good thing for healthcare providers.
    It may improve their profits, since they wouldn’t be getting squeezed by the insurance company that also tries to make medical decisions.

    Based on track-record, it seems ANY and ALL attempts to control costs will fail if either the government or insurance companies are the guarantors of payment. A DIRECT PAY MEDICAL FUND PLAN eliminates all reliance on either the Government or insurance companies, and further eliminates all middlemen between the actual providers, i.e., doctors and dentists, and the patients. The only difficulty is convincing healthcare systems that it is also in their best interest and will also improve their own profits. This would also eliminate healthcare as a responsibility of employers.

    Of course, FOR-SALE politicians and insurance companies won’t like being cut out of the picture. Especially since FOR-SALE, bought-and-paid-for politicians in the pocket of insurance companies.

    As usual, most people (and supposed experts) recommend a system administered by the Government, such as in Canada or Britain. Those systems are not that great either. There is quite likely a better way. Removing the middlemen would reduce costs. Medical costs in the U.S. didn’t start to become ridiculous (increasing by double digit percetage rates) until the meddling government set up Medicare and Medicaid, making it the final guarantor of payment. The result has been skyrocketing costs, massive and institutionalized medical fraud, and an actual decline in the quality of medical care. Some doctors are refusing to take Medicare and Medicaid patients because it is not cost effective. Some doctors retire early. Also, some states require malpractice insurance, causing many doctors to seek other professions.

    With regard to Social Security, it should pay out the same benefit amount to everyone eligible, the amount should only enough to meet the poverty level, and there should be no cap on taxes. Tax Reform is needed too.

    The big picture is that producers (doctors and many healthcare providers) are getting squeezed by non-producers (government and insurance companies). In fact, in many cases, those non-producing middlemen are nothing more that parasites.

    I fear the more we ask government to do, the worse off we will all be. Government is needed for some things, such as making laws, enforcing laws, and national defense. But asking it to do so many other things, as we have witnessed, is a bad idea since it does them all so poorly.

    Posted by: d.a.n at December 22, 2006 12:54 PM
    Comment #200202


    I do not see how you can have a negotiation between “the people” and their representatives. Presumably the representatives represent at least the plurality of the voters. They have no capacity to negotiate with “the people” in the abstract.

    Right now “the people” have representatives who are spending the SS money. In future, they will have representatives who raise the ages, postpone COLAS and maybe even trim benefits.

    Posted by: Jack at December 22, 2006 02:24 PM
    Comment #200217

    Quite right, Jack, and just as the people contacting their Representatives stopped GW Bush dead in his tracks on privatizing S.S., the people will do the same with their representatives by assuring them they won’t be reelected if the people don’t like what is proposed.

    That is negotiation and it goes on between the people and their representatives either directly or through polling intermediaries all the time. That is the negotiation which the founding fathers wrote into the Constitution so the people could check and balance their own representatives.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 22, 2006 07:43 PM
    Comment #200338

    David R. Remur said:

    The greatest threat to Americans in the 21st century is our own government, its politicians, and Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military who fail to see Mr. B. in the mirror.

    Are you saying there needs to be a total revolution of change in our government. People scream for change with all their might and then they say the decision makers should have taken more time to think their actions through. So who can lead and transform the nation in a sustainable, internationally respected entity? Clearly you think the current administration isn’t prepared to deal with the task at hand. If your answer is “no one” then I am through here and will have to continue my search elsewhere.

    Posted by: Alastor's Heaven at December 24, 2006 11:54 PM
    Comment #200342

    Alastor’s Heaven, what I am saying is that the people must get control of their government, again. This was always the intent of the writer’s of our Constitution, that the people should be the ultimate check and balance on government.

    I don’t advocate overthrowing the government. Only reforming it through the electoral process in which voters ardently reject party line voting and politicians when the results of government fail to measure up to their expectations. As just happened in November’s election, in part.

    Change for change’s sake is not healthy. Change because the status quo has been rejected at least offers other options going forward. But, ultimately, concensus on certain priorities by the voters is what is required for governance which the majority of voters are comfortable with. Those priorities are elementary, peace, prosperity, security, and liberty for the greatest number of Americans possible.

    If voters will vote for those priorities and against politicians whose actions don’t reflect those priorities, the American dream can become much more reality.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 25, 2006 05:00 AM
    Comment #200379

    David R. Remer,
    I liked the article and commend you on it. It seems like Americans have always seen voting as a way to express their views in government. This is the core value of true democracy and in may ways it’s true. However, it seems lost on many voters that the “vote” includes far more than pressing a button in a booth. Any self repecting politician should be overjoyed when a person they represent contacts them immedietly following the start of their term in office. This is when the meaning of voting really surfaces. By getting to know ones politician, one is making themselves a part of every decision that representative makes in the future. A personal meeting is best, though for the most part only possible on the local level.
    So by discussing politics online do we neglect our duty as citizens? Unless we supplement this networking with time spent influencing our government we do neglect our duty. Only the dedicated among us will attack a problem from all angles, and only then will positive change occur. 60% study, 25% discussion, 15% action ALL AT THE SAME TIME
    That’s the hardest part.

    Posted by: Alastor's Heaven at December 25, 2006 10:50 PM
    Comment #200486

    Alastor’s Heaven, one of the reasons I founded the PAC, Vote Out Incumbents Democracy (VOID) in 2005. It was time to act.

    Excellent comment - action ultimately must take place, which is why political non-profits and PAC’s are so vitally important to our process - though some require ground rules with consequences to prevent abuse and gross misinformation.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at December 27, 2006 03:12 AM
    Comment #205945

    peace. the government runs in circles. it always has.

    what you fail to say is what can we do about it

    Posted by: sweetness22 at January 31, 2007 03:19 AM
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