Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Cry For Help, Look At Yourself

Critics drive me crazy.

The way I was raised, if you didn't have a better solution, you really have no right to go after the people implementing "bad" solutions. An example of this kind of behavior would be the Tea Party activists. Their rallying cries of "we're going to get spending under control" and "we're going to cut taxes" are just criticisms of government, not solutions to real problems.

The problems are very real. The solutions are not obvious. However, the screaming and clanging of bells tends to drown out the actual facts. I don't expect anyone besides me to actually read the budget of the United States Federal Government or the Statement of Public Debt, so I'll do my best to sum them up.

In the year 1998, the actual total budget authority (found in the 2000 Budget) of the US Government was about $1.6 trillion. Of that, about a quarter of a trillion was spent on interest. There was an actual surplus of about $69 billion. The actual debt stood at $5.5 trillion dollars.

To scale this back, suppose a household netted (after taxes) $35k. They have a mortgage (debt) of about $120k. They spent $6k on interest, but didn't pay down their mortgage at all.

In the year 2008, the actual total budget authority (found in the 2010 Budget) of the US Government was about $2.98 trillion. Of that, about a quarter of a trillion was spent on interest. There was an actual deficit of about $459 billion. The actual debt stood at $10.0 trillion.

Going back to our scaling example, our theoretical household is now a $60k household. They now have a $200k mortgage, and they just borrowed $10k to make ends meet (including paying about $6k on interest).

Pointing fingers (criticizing) is easy. Implementing change will be hard. No solution will be popular, because every good solution will be painful. Fixing the Social Security Ponzi Scheme will be an incredible task for any President. Health care is another issue that will likely be wrestled with again (and again).

Whatever mistakes have been made need to be corrected (without dwelling on the reasons the mistakes were made), and it's going to be more painful the longer we wait. In 1998, there was a budgetary surplus. For most of the 2000s, there was an actual deficit of $450 billion per year. The debt has climbed by over $1 trillion per year since 2008.

My solution would be to raise taxes, to reduce the deficit. Unpopular, yes. Would fix the problem? Also, yes. My original reason for looking up the budget was to find something to cut. Flat 10% across the board cut, and raise taxes. I don't have a solution. Before you vote this November (state and federal levels), please make sure the person you cast your vote for has a real solution, that addresses real problems; not just a "they screwed it up, elect me to fix it" platform.

I'd like to close with a statement from a Republican President (Theodore Roosevelt), on critics.
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
Until another time,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

And Together We'll Spread The News

Some guy in Florida is looking to have a book-burning.

(apparently, his sudden notoriety has overrun his expected bandwidth, and the site is down. Maybe this Google cache link will work)

This country is big believer in rights. He has every right to do this; it's a mode of free speech. However, the rest of the world is going to do their best to shout him down; also, a mode of free speech.

I do not see how inflammatory actions like this will result in any kind of positives. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind (as is is believed M. Gandhi once said). This is not turning the other cheek, nor is it "spreading the truth," as he claims he is charged by the Bible to do. This is ideological warfare, and firing a salvo of insults that will be used for extremist propaganda is just poor judgment.

All that can be said on this has already been said, and much of it was said by people who are far more eloquent than I am.

However, I hope someone sets up 1,000 chairs for the event. So that when 900 of them are empty, they appear in all the media.

When Christianity turned 1400 years old, the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery were starting. The world as they knew it was being reworked. As Islam turns 1400 years old over the next 20 years, what changes will be brought to that culture?

Until another time,

Monday, September 6, 2010

I Must Have Done Something Right

Tuesday, September 7th, my girl starts school. 

I've known since I had this blog, that this would be the post today. I didn't trust myself to type it out, my eyes quit seeing so well about halfway through (same for the title song).

During the time I read to find this, and while I was re-parsing it, I found some people claiming it a poke at public schools, and that you should home school your children.

That is patently ridiculous.

Your child's ability to deal with other people in an environment that is not your home is completely up to you, the parent. My wife and I have done a spectacular job giving our children the tools they need (at least, what they need at age five) to make it in this world. I'm really terribly sorry if you're too selfish or protective to allow your children the independence they need to do things themselves. I feel bad for your kids, that they had such a horrible experience in school because you, as parents, failed them, so you took them back under your protective wings so you could shelter them for twelve more years.

I realize there are good home-schoolers out there. I wish you all well, and I'm glad you have the freedom to educate your children in your chosen method. However, when someone decries my lifestyle, declaring that all publicly educated children are being turned into robots by the institution, it breaks my "Be Nice" filter. Name-calling, fin (copyright: Dan Cook).

This is about growing up. It's about letting kids into the world, in a (reasonably well-) controlled environment, for six hours a day...and the things they will learn, that cannot be taught by a parent. I have a lot to say about this, but I'm running out of space. Know this, internet: my daughter will still sing "Paradise City" at the top of her lungs when it comes on the radio; she will still want me to catch moths and throw them into the webs under the eaves, so we can watch the spiders eat; and she will still do her best (not anyone else's best), because she is my child, and that is what we do.

So, here it is, the over-played, over-hyped, heard-around-the-country-on-the-first-day-of-school poem by Dan Valentine.
Dear World:

I bequeath to you today one little girl ... in a crispy dress ... with two blue eyes ... and a happy laugh that ripples all day long and a flash of light blonde hair that bounces in the sunlight when she runs. 

I trust you'll treat her well.

She's slipping out of the backyard of my heart this morning ... and skipping off down the street to her first day of school. And never again will she be completely mine. Prim and proud she'll wave her young and independent hand this morning and say "Good Bye"... and walk with little lady steps to the schoolhouse.

Now she'll learn to stand in line ... and wait by the alphabet for her name to be called. She'll learn to tune her ears to the sounds of school-bells ... and deadlines ... and she'll learn to giggle ... and gossip ... and look at the ceiling in a disinterested way when the little boy across the aisle sticks out his tongue at her.

And now she'll learn to be jealous. And now she'll learn how it is to feel hurt inside. And now she'll learn how not to cry.

No longer will she have time to sit on the front porch steps on a summer day and watch an ant scurry across the crack in a sidewalk. Nor will she have time to pop out of bed with the dawn to kiss lilac blossoms in the morning dew.

No, now she'll worry about important things. Like grades ... and which dress to wear ... and who's best friend is whose. And the magic of books and learning will replace the magic of her blocks and dolls.

And now she'll find new heroes. For five full years now I've been her sage and Santa Claus and pal and playmate and father and friend. Now she'll learn to share her worship with her teachers ... which is only right. But, no longer will I be the smartest man in the whole world.

Today when that school bell rings for the first time ... she'll learn what it means to be a member of a group. With all it's privileges. And it's disadvantages too.

She'll learn in time that proper young ladies do not laugh out loud. Or kiss dogs. Or keep frogs in pickle jars in bedrooms. Or even watch ants scurry across cracks in the summer sidewalk.

Today she'll learn for the first time that all who smile at her are not her friends. And I'll stand on the front porch and watch her start out on the long, lonely journey to become a woman.

So, World. I bequeath to you today one little girl ... in a crispy dress ... with two blue eyes and a happy laugh that ripples all day long ... and a flash of light blonde hair that bounces in the sunlight when she runs. 

I trust you'll treat her well.
(I'm of the opinion this piece is by Dan Valentine, not Victor Buono. You'll find mixed reports on this, but I think the evidence is in Mr. Valentine's court.) 

Until another time,