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Heeeee’s Baaaaaaaaack!

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As crazy as this electoral season has been, it almost seems appropriate that Ross Perot has emerged from his secret hiding place to resume his campaign to educate the American people regarding the perilous condition of the economy.

It was Perot's no-nonsense views regarding the state of the purse which attracted Liberal Progressive me enough to join with economic conservative refugees from the Republican Party to become the Reform Party, and I supported his campaign for the presidency both in 1992 and 1996 – at least until he shot himself in the foot right as he had gained the momentum each time. Even though he demonstrated both times a lack of suitability to be selected as the Chief Executive, that doesn't weaken or demean his economic lessons.

His primary message: We cannot continue to spend beyond our means.

If you go to check out his new web site, PerotCharts.com, Perot goes into detail about what shape the federal budget is in and a bit about how it got that way using his famous chart techniques. If one allows the presentation to auto-play (explanations are given at the start as to what to do if you don't wish to surrender control of your monitor), it would take about an hour – even on a T-1 connection during prime time, as I experienced. Nothing is spoken that isn't also available for direct reading, so my recommendation is to read at your own pace and shut off the audio and auto play features.

As for the charts, the pictures are worth more than anything else. It's fairly clear where the money is going inside a few broad categories. It also becomes quickly clear where the message is headed, even if no conclusions are drawn for you (you are clearly expected to understand the material well enough to create your own). Neither does the presentation take a partisan stance – no current candidate support is even hinted. It's strictly Perot's version of Deep Throat's directive to "Follow the money!"

So where is Perot's message leading us? What items are to be sacrificed in the name of fiscal responsibility?

If you guessed Social Security and Medicare (especially if you made your choice after seeing the presentation), you would be correct. If all roads lead to Rome, all Perot solutions lead to eliminating both entitlements. It is here that our trails follow separate paths.

To Perot, security is only that which emanates from a gun. He's very wealthy (it only took about three months to replace the $60 million he spent on one year's campaign), so knowing where his next meal is coming from is never in doubt. He also has plenty of moolah in his medical expense account, some of which went to support John McCain's first wife Carol after her horrendous accident (McCain was still lodged in the Hanoi Hilton at the time), so he isn't concerned about whether to eat or pay for drugs.

Having wealth leads to a paranoid certainty that everyone – especially the government of We, the People – is out to take your money from you, so you locate your Armored Airstream in a free fire zone, festooned with enough Rusty Bob to resemble the mythical Fred Sanford's junkyard empire, and you expect your Republican government hired Blackwater thugs to take from those weaker than you in order to protect you from those weaker. Maybe that's why Blackwater recently bought fighter planes from Brazil's Embraer?

This irrational fear can only grow. Eventually, "them" becomes every other nation on Earth, or else why would the United States be spending $583,283,000,000 on our military [2008 figures] after the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that in 2007 the US spent $540,700,000,000. During the same time span, the total world military expenditure was $1,200,000,000,000 [2007] and $1,158,000,000,000 [2006] respectively. That amount continues to grow, ravenously out of any rational control, every single year.

If one includes the costs of Chicken George's Terror War Against Terror ("It takes a real pussy to lead TWAT!") – as Global Security does – then the cost of supporting a huge standing killer attack military is more like $623 billion – almost ten times that of the next ranking nation, China, which only spends about $65 billion. Considering that a Chinese Song-class submarine went undetected until it surfaced within lethal attack range of the USS Kitty Hawk during exercises, which nation is getting better value for its expenditure?

If I were Ross Perot, I'd be far more concerned that my beloved military wasn't being fleeced by a bunch of unscrupulous neo-con shoddy merchants instead of expecting the sick and elderly to bear the largest economic burden through the elimination of their old age support.

So certainly, changing the way our greenback dollars are being managed is in dire need of improvement – just like the views concerning which expenditures are unnecessary needs to be updated. Another voice (besides mine) needs to be raised in defense of people over expensive military hardware. How about yours? A little thrifty political diplomacy in time just might well save 90 (million retirees) enough to make all the difference between a dignified retirement and abject poverty.

You know, like they have in Afghanistan: the other rich, white oilman's burden.

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About pessimist

  • bliffle

    I didn’t say you did, clav.

  • Hilarious link, Realist. “Hardship”. Nothing like using the historical, established hardship index. Dark red means high hardship.

    Lots of dark red on the map! Things must be hard!

  • Clavos

    “It doesn’t sound to me that Clavos’ cousins are suffering.”

    Never said they were, did I bliff?

    “Frankly, they are amazed that Americans pay anything in taxes given the poor services that the government provides to USA citizens.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Let’s quit…

  • bliffle

    Citizens everywhere and always complain about taxes. It doesn’t sound to me that Clavos’ cousins are suffering.

    I, too, have cousins in Sweden and while they say that the favorite sport of Swedes is to complain about taxes they wouldn’t give up anything, least of all Housing, Health Care and Pensions.

    Frankly, they are amazed that Americans pay anything in taxes given the poor services that the government provides to USA citizens.

  • David

    Solution to overbloated military budget:

    Scrap the DoD ENTIRELY. If we must have a standing army/navy, them let them only be based in the US. That would convince me that they are serving their country instead of the higher ups in government’s business interests. How about a Department of Peace, whose primary mission is to keep and promote Peace, instead of war, destruction and needless violence?

  • Based on the title of this piece, then, Realist is going to get taxed up the yin-yang!

  • Mooja

    Dan, that is a fantastic idea and I propose should be thrown in with the other carbon tax legislation comming up. What better way to generate government income than to tax the gas we exhale. This will also go a long way to curb those who are breathing more than their fair share.

  • Dan Miller

    Here, I believe, is a new approach to taxation. In addition to being a wonderful new source of Government revenues, it would doubtless curb carbon dioxide emissions and therefore limit man-made global warming. It is very simple, to boot:

    We all breathe air, and what we inhale has less carbon dioxide than what we exhale. SO, let’s impose a breathing tax. Devices could easily be fitted to each of us to measure and record our carbon dioxide emissions and transmit the quantities to the IRS, so that we could be taxed on them. Perhaps similar devices could be attached to cows and other domestic animals, although there might be opposition from PETA.

    Although perhaps a hot air meter could also be devised, that would never pass the Congress and so is not worth even considering.


  • Clavos

    What I’m told, Doc, is that taxation in Sweden is not just on income, but on net worth as well.

    The family I’m speaking of own a very large estate (hundreds of acres; I don’t know how many) on the Baltic (therefore waterfront), most of which they lease to a paper company which grows trees on the farm land. That is their primary source of income.

    My wife and I visited them a few years back, and my cousin explained that he’s taxed not only on the above income, but also on the value of the property. The government sends an appraiser around every year. On his property he has his own home, built in the early nineteenth century, and appropriately sized for the estate; most of it closed because they can’t afford the help necessary to keep all of it open. They also have the ruins of a medeival castle on the property, which is appraised for its historical value, though it’s not restored nor exhibited, and even a small church, still in use by the local village.

    On a side note: The castle ruins included some period statuary in relatively good condition. Years ago, the state came and seized (without recompense) the statues under the guise of their being historical artifacts “belonging to and to be enjoyed by, all the people.” They were taken to the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm and put in storage in the basement, where they have lain ever since, unseen by anyone.

    My cousin is property rich, but cash poor, and all those taxes amount to 90% of his income.

    Tax rates in Sweden are so onerous that the now-defunct Swedish group, ABBA, long ago moved to the UK and began to try (unsuccessfully, obviously) to shelter their substantial income from the Swedish government.

  • How on Earth are your cousins contriving to pay that much in income taxes, Clav?? I had a quick poke around online and as far as I can tell taxation in Sweden, even for top earners, is nothing like that high.

  • Clavos

    If we really want fiscal responsibility (I mean really, really want it, we should elect someone with a plan to eliminate Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.

    The entitlements are what will ultimately kill this economy, far more than the Iraq war or any other war we might get involved in, for as the boomers age, entitlement payments are going to swell to levels no economy, not even the US’s, can sustain.

    But, of course, no one wants their own ox gored, so that ain’t gonna happen.

    By the time my nephew, who turned 14 two days ago, is middle aged, he’ll be paying, as some of my cousins in Sweden already are, 90% of his income in taxes (not a typo), and the economy, what’s left of it, will still be dying.

  • Mooja

    From the charts it appears that defense spending is and has been decreasing with respect to GDP. I’m sure there’s pork to be found there but it is not the major problem. The problem is clearly social security. Now we have Obama pledging he will openly and willingly increase the SS tax on those that WILL RECEIVE NO FURTHER BENEFIT FROM IT. Where I come from that’s called charity. In fact that tax will eat into available charitable donations. SS needs to be severely curtailed now and hopefully eliminated some day soon.

  • I wonder where we would be if Ross had won those elections. (Yeah, I voted for him both times.) There’s something to be said for being fiscally responsible. Governments aren’t always concerned with keeping the costs down. They can always “manufacture” some money from somewhere else.

    Look at our state, Michigan. The government doesn’t have any money. Instead of cutting costs and being efficient, they tax and spend some more.

    I agree that there are some contractors getting paid more for their items than you can get elsewhere. That’s the nature of the beast, and it doesn’t just happen at the Department of Defense. When I worked at the Post Office, I saw the same wasteful stupidity.

    It has to start somewhere, but the problem is so massive, I’m not sure where it should start.

  • Dave, that surplus would’ve been built on the one that Clinton started originally. The “right” just can’t let it go that Clinton was found guilty of only one thing-lying about cheating on his wife… something every redblooded redneck in American would’ve done in the same situation.

    Everything else is just hearsay. And he was found innocent of all charges by a REPUBLICAN congress, that had tried every dirty and twisted trick to get him out of office AND FAILED.

    Give the man credit where credit is due.

    Bush would’ve killed this economy by handing out huge contracts to build aircraft carriers in his father’s name, airports in Reagan’s name, hundreds if not thousands of multi-billion dollar bombers and fighter jets, and god knows what else.

  • Ruvy

    Took a look at your patchwork nation index, Realist. I generally have little use for the Christian Science Monitor – in addition to being the mouthpiece for a dangerous practice of ignoring medicine, they are anti-Jewish and anti-Israel.

    But in this instance, they are not talking about Jews or Israel, and in looking at their map – particularly that of Minnesota, where I hailed from – I see that only the Twin Cities metro area fares well in the present economy. An island of prosperity in a state facing increasing economic distress.

    The service sector – where Burger King managers generally find themselves – seems to be suffering badly. The owner of the store I worked in probably has sold out to the Pakistani fellow with the biggest franchise in the area, and my former colleagues are being forced to produce profits or leave – bad economy or no bad economy. That’s how th big guys get to afford the gated estates with the electrified fences – by not giving a damn for anything but the bottom line and the quarterly numbers.

  • Ruvy

    without the wars, Bush would be running a surplus….

    Dave, If it were not for his wasteful little wars that are flushing the lot of you down History’s toilet, Bush wouldn’t even be president! The man is a certifiable idiot, a coward, a draft dodger, a bad manager who needed Daddy’s rich Arab friends to bail him out of his bad business decisions, and a wannabe tyrant to boot.

    He’s needed these little wars to keep him in office when he richly deserved to be tossed out for sheer incompetence. And if you happen to know the SOB personally, tell him all this from me. He deserves to hear it – again.

  • Dave, plant a nice leafy shade tree over your aluminum batty-brat cave! The sun is baking your brain to the point you wouldn’t know your own seared visage in a mirror, much less recognize the economic calamity your Chimpion has caused!

    I know you don’t want to see this, but others might.

    Now go back to sleep.

  • I have to say it again, without the wars, Bush would be running a surplus, so he’s not necessarily spending us into oblivion in any way other than on a war which he believes to be a matter of survival for the nation.

    Oh, and as for ‘aiding the working class’, the best way to do that is to make sure they have jobs, an area in which Bush has done relatively well.


  • Lee Richards

    One of Bush/Cheney/Rove’s top priorities(indeed, a neocon goal since Bush I) has been to spend all the money they could on things they like, so that they can one day soon drastically cut or eliminate those programs they have no use for, in the only viable way;they just can’t be funded any more.

    They like unlimited defense spending, faith-based initiatives, and corporate welfare, but not so much protecting the defenseless, funding unbiased science, or aiding the working class. (And before anyone tells me how wrong I am, you first need to defend the record-breaking national debt, Bush’s love affair with deficits, the unimagineable waste in Iraq, and the deline of the dollar in the world.)

    Their blatant plan to spend us into neocon heaven even got Perot fired up again.

  • bliffle

    We spend way too much money on bad defense projects, thus depriving good projects of funds. Unfortunately, defense contracts have turned into a sort of congressional welfare. Welfare which goes primarily into the congressmens pockets and their business constituents rather than the general citizen, worker and consumer.

    If Perot wants to save money he should attend to the excesses of the Defense Budget. That and the tax code.

    Looting Social Security and Medicare will be a one-time boost for Wall Street but will quickly disappear under a wave of rising prices manipulated by The Monopolies. The binge will be followed by the hangover of widespread economic distress after the Hedge Fund managers have taken their massive profits and disappeared with their well-laundered proceeds.

    Oh yeah, a lot of people will be ruined, but then, who cares about them?

  • Clavos

    Ruvy and B-tone,

    I was not addressing the central point of “Realist’s” article.

    I was only pointing out that the Chinese, if they had their druthers, would be delighted for the US to dismantle its military establishment entirely, as would Iran, N. Korea, etc.

    Therefore, to me, the opinion regarding our defense expenditures expressed by any nation inimical to US is of no consequence whatever; I find it laughable that “Realist” would use the opinion of thew Chinese to buttress his argument.

    That was the only point I was making.

  • Clav, this I guess is where we diverge back to our normal positions. I suppose the Chinese periodical is not the best support Realist could have mustered, however, I do support the point of his post.

    You are one of the most vocal regarding government waste and ineptitude. Do you believe that the amount of military expenditures by the U.S. are justified, or in line with the return on the dollar? Isn’t it likely that the American people suffer more “fleecing” from mis-spent military money than anywhere else in the budget – even including wasted dollars in entitlement programs, disaster relief, etc.?

    Actually, when it comes to the Chinese, they are currently far more intent upon world domination through commerce than through military might.


  • Ruvy

    Focus on the important stuff, Clavos. Perot is only telling you up front what your government will do to you behind your back – and that big sucking sound – it took a while to hear, but even in the mountains of Samaria, I can hear it.

    And it’s not Debbie doing Dallas, either.

  • Clavos

    It is to laugh.

    “Realist” links to an opinion piece in a Chinese periodical (Xinhuanet) which declares the US is spending too much on defense.

    Now, I wonder why the Chinese would be interested in US cutting our defense budget?