Tag Archives: budget

What we can and cannot afford

Can we afford health care for all, free education for all, housing for the homeless, food for the hungry, a decent and efficient national system of transportation, a clean and healthy environment, a fair and equitable distribution of our collective production, and a true democracy in which people decide their own fate and how their money is to be spent? Politicians of all stripes tell us we cannot. “Where will the money come from?” is their plaint whenever such measures are proposed.

But other countries have many of those things. There is a vast number of countries that have free or almost free universal health care, as can be seen in this list. And here is a list of 11 countries that have BOTH free universal health care AND free college. The list includes not only affluent countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, but relatively poor countries such as Greece, Argentina and Brazil.

Anyone who has traveled in western Europe knows that Amtrak is a bad joke compared HSRinChinato the extensive and efficient rail systems in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and elsewhere. China too has much better trains than the U.S. and has been rapidly expanding its transport infrastructure. According to Wikipedia, China already has “the world’s longest high speed rail network” which is “also the most extensively used, with 1.713 billion trips delivered in 2017 bringing the total cumulative number of trips to 7 billion.”

Way back in 2005 I rode from downtown Shanghai to the airport at  Pudong on the maglev train that reached speeds up to 431 kmph (268 mph).

Yet, when President Trump calls for an almost $80 billion increase to the military budget, hardly anyone asks, “where’s the money going to come from?” and the measure easily gains Congressional approval.

Here are the things we cannot afford:

  1. We cannot afford continuation of the Empire with its deployment of military forces around the world and endless overt and covert warfare.
  2. We cannot afford continuation of the interest-based, debt-money regime that forces unnecessary expansion of economic activity and centralizes power and concentrates wealth in the hands of a super elite.
  3. We cannot afford continuation of the environmental destruction and climate change that is caused by the fossil fuel based economy.

The $727 billion U.S. military budget for 2019 dwarfs all other segments and amounts to 61% of all discretionary spending. To trump2019_discpie_unbranded_largeput it in perspective, the U.S. spends many times more on military than any other country. According to the National Priorities Project, the next highest military spender, China, spends only about one third as much on its military.

I have written extensively about the defects inherent in the centrally controlled interest-based, debt-money regime, which is driving the endless expansion of debt that makes economic growth an imperative. See, for example, my article, Money, debt and the end of the growth imperative.

Ultimately, if we do not take appropriate action, nature will decide our fate. See the work of Joseph Tainter and Jared Diamond, starting with this interview of Joseph Tainter by Jim Puplava.

In a future post I will elaborate upon these points, but for now I recommend viewing the recent Jimmy Dore show at https://youtu.be/yHpN7X9iK3o.

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Showdown looming over shutdown

Once again, the Democrats and Republicans in Washington are facing off in a battle over the budget. The Republicans, who control the House, are demanding huge cuts that would pull the teeth from regulatory agencies, like the EPA, Fish and Wildlife, and the IRS, decimate social programs in health and education, including Medicare. Some of the details are provided in this New York Times article.

The elite agenda has long been apparent– to further concentrate power and wealth in their hands, to reduce the middle-class to serfdom, and to change the nature of our government to something more akin to imperial Rome or the fascist states of the 20th century. That agenda, since the start of the Reagan-Thatcher era of the 1980’s, has been advancing under both Republican and Democratic administrations with only moderate variations in its pace.

Here are the questions that come to my mind as we approach what appears to be a critical juncture:

1. Are the Democrats in Congress really making a sincere attempt to oppose the elite agenda and protect the general interests of all the people, or is their vocal opposition just for show?

2. How far will the American people allow themselves to be pushed before they will stand up for themselves and for the common good?

3. And when they do stand up, what form will their actions take, and will it be in time to avoid an ugly and destructive confrontation?

I have often thought that Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism in the 1930s by instituting a wide range of programs under the “New Deal” that curbed abuses of power by Wall Street and corporate leaders and provided for a more equitable distribution of the economic pie. There were a few hard liners who disagreed with that and actually tried to engineer a coup d’état to depose him. Fortunately, that attempt failed when Major General Smedley Butler refused to go along with it.

So, here we are again in the midst of an economic depression, but this time the redistribution of wealth is going in the opposite direction, which can only worsen our predicament. And, no, there will not be a new “New Deal.”

Many things have changed drastically over the past 80 years. Some of these like surveillance technologies and advanced weaponry have favored the presently dominant force of centralized control, while others like microcomputers, the internet, and cheap global person to person communications have favored the emergent force of decentralized power and global community. Society is being rebuilt from the bottom upward, community by community. Those efforts will need to be rapidly ramped up in the face of increasingly dysfunctional national governments.

As David Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, said to state and local political and business leaders a couple years ago, “Washington will become a fountain of harm as you struggle with our own problems.” And so it, not just in Washington, but in Athens, London, Rome, and capitals around the world.

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States face serious budget challenges; no help from federal government

In a speech delivered in Phoenix last Friday, David Stockman, budget chief under President Ronald Reagan, painted a gloomy picture for the economy.  According to the Arizona Republic, “Stockman told the assembled legislators, business and civic officials and others that the nation’s Capitol will offer no help and probably will complicate matters.”

“Washington will become a fountain of harm as you struggle with our own problems,” he said, but the article did not describe what might spew forth from that “fountain of harm.” It did mention that “His prescription for restoring balance to the federal budget calls for a mix of tax hikes, budget cuts and entitlement reforms, such as means-testing Social Security.” (read more here).

Why was there no mention of the bloated military and war budget, the maintenance of bases in countries around the world, or the enormous levels of wasteful pork barrel spending that Congress has become addicted to?

What is a state like Arizona to do?

The feds will do what they will do. The states will need to solve their own problems using their own resources, despite whatever destructive measures continue to emanate from Washington and New York.

In the coming weeks, we will be offering our own prescriptions for actions to be taken at the state level. These will outline basic measures that states need to implement in order to address their deepening financial woes and to make the inevitable transition to a steady-state economy. What we have in mid will be much more radical and salutary than anything being offered elsewhere. Stay tuned. –t.h.g.