Monthly Archives: September 2016

THE BUDGET DEFICIT TIME-BOMB

When the subject of budgeting and government financial deficits comes to the forefront, most people suddenly develop a condition known as MEGO- my eyes glaze over. Yet it’s a subject well worth exploring because the growth and size of the U.S. budget deficit is such that it has become a ticking time-bomb in our midst that could explode within a few years. And when it does most people will be severely burned where it hurts the most, right in their pocketbooks.  It will especially affect younger people just starting out in new jobs and careers. A tidal wave of overwhelming deficits could sink the stock market and most American’s savings and investment accounts, leading to a severe economic crises. It could make the 2008-2010 financial downturn look like a romp in the park on a Sunday afternoon. So lets try to figure out how we’ve arrived at this unenviable point in our history.

First a little perspective. The accumulated U.S. budget deficit in the nearly 200 years from the beginning of George Washington’s presidency to the end of Jimmy Carter’s reign in January 1981, stood at just under one trillion dollars. This despite the U.S. fighting in two world wars as well as the Korean and Viet-Nam wars which were extremely costly. In the ensuing 35 years, however, from Ronald Reagan to the end of Barack Obama’s term, the deficit will have mushroomed to just under $20 trillion, with annual deficits  running at about half-a-trillion a pop. It was the the supposedly ultra-conservative Ronald Reagan that started us on the path toward major budget-busting. Under the 12 years of the Reagan and George Bush the Elder presidencies, the budget deficit grew from one to four trillion dollars, a 300% increase. Reagan accomplished this stupendous feat by hugely increasing military spending while significantly cutting income taxes, especially for the rich. Hmmnn. I wonder if it ever dawned on people within the Reagan Administration that if make large increases in expenditures while sharply cutting revenues, bad things were likely to ensue, budget-wise. Reagan believed he could make up the difference by curtailing social spending, but that turned out to be a total non-accomlishment.

The following 8 years under Bill Clinton’s presidency saw the budget-deficit monster actually being tamed. In 2 of those years, the Government surprisingly ran a budget surplus, a rarity never again seen. The period that Clinton was president, from 1992-2000, were probably the best years of peace and prosperity that the U.S. has experienced since at least the end of WWII, and perhaps in its entire history. Starting in 2001, however, when George Bush the Younger ascended to the White House, (even though Al Gore had actually won the election) we once again began to travel on the yellow brick road of financial irresponsibility. Bush began piling up large deficits the old-fashioned way, again by tax cuts for the rich and large increases in government spending. This time it was by enacting a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. The Bush presidency was further marred by an over-heated economy, especially in the housing market, which finally led to the collapse of the behemoth Wall Street investment firm known as Lehman Brothers, which further led to the collapse of the U.S. economy as a whole, and ensured the election of a rookie senator named Barack Obama to the Oval Office.

Contrary to popular belief, the large budget deficits that have accumulated under the Obama Administration have not been due to sharply increased spending; but instead were caused by a large drop in revenues due to the financial crises that lasted from 2008-20012.  All those people that were out of work were certainly not paying any income or FICA taxes. Now that we’re back to near full employment, however, we’re still running half-a-trillion in the red, annually. All the while U.S. infrastructure  is slowly but surely crumbling into disrepair. Roads are becoming alarmingly over-used with bumper-to-bumper traffic everywhere; bridges are virtually disintegrating before our eyes; water and sewer piping, some of which was built at the end of the 19th century, is rusting away to nothingness; the electrical grid is over-taxed, outdated, and highly susceptible to a terrorist attack; the list goes on and on. Just think what a joy your life would be if electricity ceased to exist. But where will we get the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to repair our aging infrastructure. Well, one solution might be to increase the revenue side of the equation.

But, you might say, we’re already being taxed nearly to death.Besides income and FICA taxes, there’s property taxes (even if you rent it’s in your monthly payment), taxes on all the utilities used, taxes at the gas pump, taxes on your cell phones and land lines, taxes in your internet provider’s fee; death taxes; the list is endless. Sort of reminds me of a song by the Beetles in the 1960s, called the “Taxman.” Some of the lyrics go as follows: “If you drive a car I’ll tax the street; If you try to sit I’ll tax your seat; If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat; If you take a walk I’ll tax your feet.” That pretty well sums up where we are on the revenue side of the balance sheet.

Over 80% of our annual 3.5 trillion dollar budget consists of only 5 items. Namely, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Defense and Homeland Security, and interest on the debt. You can’t screw with interest on the debt or no one would ever lend to us again. The likely next president of the U.S. says he want’s to sharply increase spending on defense and homeland security, not decrease it. As well as increase infrastructure spending. Both candidates regard tampering with SS or Medicare to be the third rail of politics which invites instant execution. And so the budget deficit time bomb keeps ticking away.

I used to think that the only benefit of growing old was that I didn’t have to have colonoscopies anymore. But I’ve now discovered another benefit. I likely won’t have to be around when the financial roof of this country eventually  collapses on our heads due to uncontrollable deficit spending.

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Categories: Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Ronald Reagan | Leave a comment

FROM CALIGULA TO TRUMP: A TALE OF NARCISSISM

Eugene O’Neill, the famous American playwright, said that: “There is no present or future-only the past happening over and over again.” Never has the validity of this wisdom been better demonstrated than in the 2016 American political campaign unfolding before our eyes. One has to go deep into the past, back to the days shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus, to find another prominent figure whose narcissism matches that of today’s probable winner in the U.S. presidential race. I’m talking, of course, about Caligula, the emperor/tyrant that ruled the ancient Roman Empire for a brief period  before he met an untimely death.

Caligula’s bloodline was that of the Caesars that so despotically governed Rome when it was at its acme of power, around the time that Jesus was preaching his sermon on the Mount. He thus inherited the throne in 37 A.D. but only ruled for 4 years. For the first few months of his reign, Caligula was considered almost a breath of fresh air by the Roman populace because they had been treated so cruelly by previous despots. But there was one problem. Caligula was a total narcissist who could not by abide having his ego bruised. He lashed out at those that offended him. After those first few months of goodwill, he became known for his focus on cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversity, and as a person who would kill his perceived opponents, often on a whim. He unconstitutionally further concentrated the political power of the emperor to the point where his proclamations became absolute law. He was described by scribes of that era as an insane, power hungry emperor, constantly angry and self-absorbed, who treated any criticism as treasonous that subjected the critic to execution. His despotic reign became so poisonous that even his inner circle could no longer tolerate his erratic behavior. He was finally murdered in 41 A.D. by his own guards, after 4 years of tyrannical rule.

But, if, as Eugene O’Neill said, the past keeps repeating itself, we see it happening in the U.S. 2000 years later when another total narcissist is just weeks away from becoming the most powerful figure on the planet. That Trump’s narcissism was established early on during this presidential campaign is beyond dispute. That he lashed out at Megyn Kelly, Ted Cruz, the parents of a dead soldier who died in Iraq fighting for the U.S., a sitting judge  because of his Hispanic heritage, and many, many others, is beyond dispute. That, once in office, he intends to concentrate all political power in the office of the presidency, the way Caligula did as emperor, is also quite evident. How do I know this? Just look at the people Trump has surrounded himself with.

His new campaign manager is a man named Steve Bannon who has a history of spousal abuse and anti-semitism. He was hired from an extreme right-wing fringe group known as Breitbart News. Years ago when his wife, (now his ex-wife) wanted to send their children to a certain private school, he refused saying the school had “too many fucking Jews.” She also claims he was physically abusive toward her. Trump’s second in command is a fellow named David Bossie who made his extreme right-wing chops by singularly pursuing and publicizing the extra-marital affairs that Bill Clinton supposedly had over the years. Some were true, some were pure fiction. Previously, Trump’s campaign manager was Corey Lewandowski, whose ties with Trump goes back to the 2012 campaign, when he advised Trump to seek the White House by becoming a “birther,” i.e. someone who believed that Barack Obama was born in Kenya rather than in the U.S. When that effort fizzled, Lewandowski was back in 2015 urging Trump that his path to the presidency lay in demonizing undocumented Mexicans as “rapists and murderers.” In that, he appears to have hit the nail squarely on the head. Taking the lowest possible mud-slinging road finally paid off for Trump. Although Lewandowski was ostensibly released from the Trump campaign after the primaries were over, he is said to still provide input and advice.

You think that men such as those, once they’ve acquired the taste of power inherent in the Oval Office, would ever agree to relinquish such power? Look for 2016 to be the last ostensibly democratic election to occur in the U.S. Once Trump plops his body down on the bed in the Lincoln bedroom, even the faux democracy we live under now in the U.S. will come to an end. Rather Trump will emulate his buddy, Vladimir Putin, that I’ve written about earlier in a piece called “A Fine Bromance.” As I’ve stated before, Putin rules Russia Mafia-style, where he’s the godfather or boss of bosses. He runs a system of crony capitalism, where his cronies get all the capital and the rest of the populace is left to drown their sorrows in Russian vodka. He’s responsible for the deaths of thousands in the Ukraine, and outright took the Crimea from that hapless country through military adventurism. Just last week, Putin also threw into jail a blogger that was critical of his actions. Yet, Trump, on several occasions has expressed his admiration of Putin’s leadership style. To reciprocate, Putin has also expressed his fondness for Trump.

Russia does have presidential elections, but they are so fixed that it’s a forgone conclusion that Putin will be re-elected each time. Look for that same system of phony, rigged elections to be incorporated into the American electoral process once Trump becomes president. After all, he has to reserve access to the “throne” for sons Eric and Donnie Jr. when he decides to finally retire. Hence the Trump dynasty will begin.

Of course, the Democrats are making easy for Trump’s ascendency, as they seem to be coming apart at the seams. Hillary Clinton is probably the worst political campaigner of all time. Mired in a bundle of political scandals and health issues, which she has failed to properly address, she also is lackluster on the campaign trail. She totally lacks husband Bill’s easy-going facility in connecting with masses of people at political rallies. That she’s even remotely in the game thus far is a minor miracle in itself. But in the end, the total narcissist will probably win. And remember, like Caligula, he really, really hates to allow his ego to be bruised.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, human affairs, Isis terrorist attack in Paris,, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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