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I am a graphic and web designer in the Hudson Valley. That used to be a profession. In our challenged times, it’s has now become quite working class. I am neither a politician or a economist. But I am a husband, father and  a home owner. Well I own a mortgage at least... But that means I have made some choices about my life and take responsibility for them. I am also a martial artist, an occupation that promotes health,  responsibility and high personal standards, and if done right, ethics and empathy. Hence my handle, “SamiraiArtGuy.” [ Which some on the Right have been critical over. Meh. ]

Bear with me, I'll get to the point but it takes a little setup.

One of my dojo buddies pointed out to me that the three BIG slices of our National Budget are Military Spending, Social Services and service on the National Debt.

Social Services are defended by Liberals and the Democratic Party. While Military Spending is sacred on the Conservative Right and the GOP. So both tend to be untouchable in the partisan political tension over Federal spending.

While there’s little to do about the debt service, since that’s on money we’ve already spent, there would seem to be a valid logical case for revisiting both our Military and Social spending. Our military spending dwarfs the next several countries combined, and most of the planet resents it. That, along with our “do as we say, or we might bomb ya.” foreign policy of the last few decades. But whatever policies we pursue, its BIG money and BIG politics.

Social Services are a growing portion of our national spending, and has become the lion’s share driver of State and Local deficits. These programs are popular, even more so as more and more Americans find themselves increasingly challenged by a damaged economy.

"The other reason everybody thought the inaugural address was so capital L liberal, liberal, liberal was because of the president’s shout out by name of Medicare and Social Security, which in the beltway are horrible, embarrassing profligacies that are mostly good for divining who counts as a serious person in Washington because you cannot be a serious person in Washington -- according to the Beltway -- unless you want to get rid of those programs, or at least you see those programs as a problem that
needs to be addressed.

"President Obama in his inaugural not only name-checked Medicare and Social Security in a positive way, he defended them. He said he will support them and that they are good for the country.

"The only people other than a liberal like Barack Obama who likes Social Security and Medicare is everybody. Really, it’s only in Washington where these are controversial programs. If you ask the country, the country’s kind of in love with Social Security and Medicare and thinks that they work and thinks that we should not cut them.

"Broadly speaking, most Americans do not call themselves liberals if you ask. But broadly speaking, most Americans are in favor of liberal ideas. The marquee signifiers of liberal policy are broadly accepted as good ideas by most of the country."

—Rachel Maddow, The Rachel Maddow Show, 24 January 2013
(Video link above, text transcript here.)

The prospect of revisiting social spending continually re-emerges in each round of budget debates again and again. Social Spending is widely viewed as a liberal cause, but the majority of Americans, including conservatives, generally poll massively in favor of social programs. But the continuous rise in social spending is patently unsustainable as the tax base condenses, and more and more Americans are forced to rely on the social safety net to stay afloat.

Corporate economic and labor policies do not help much. Take Wal-Mart for example, praised as an American Success story and a Job creator. But their labor policies have them paying their typical worker so low that a large percentage of them go on public assistance, to survive and necessarily have to use medicaid to access Health Care. All of this of course in the public tab, making Wal-Mart a benefactor of corporate welfare, a fair chunk of their profit margin is supported on the taxpayers shoulders.

TANSTAAFL. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.  

– Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, 1966

"TANSTAAFL, on the other hand, indicates an acknowledgment that in reality a person or a society cannot get "something for nothing". Even if something appears to be free, there is always a cost to the person or to society as a whole even though that cost may be hidden or distributed. For example, as Heinlein has one of his characters point out, a bar offering a free lunch will likely charge more for its drinks." - Wikipedia

"Any person with even a modicum of intelligence can see how obvious that thought is.  Unfortunately our political leadership (from both parties) has made providing everyone a "Free Lunch" a standard campaign promise."  — Jim Yardley, TANSTAAFL, American Thinker.

To try to make the system more viable, efforts could be made to make the systems fairer, go after fraud, tie benefits more closely to need, and more closely scrutinize the eligibility and fitness of recipients. Furthermore, is it reasonable to suggest that recipients of benefits be more responsible in their lives? If not, perhaps people might be steered to the appropriate programs to help them pull their lives together. Like most people I do not want my fellow Americans, or anybody else to suffer, but I would prefer that people take more responsibility for their lives.

Of course weeding out bureaucratic waste, and pursuing organizational and technical efficiencies could net considerable savings as it has in the private sector.

 All of these things do seem perfectly possible. Of course, unlike quick legislation wrapped around partisan slogans, they are HARD, requiring hard work and in-the-trenches digging into the actual operational issues.

Oh yes, that point I mentioned... In Washington, the debate always seems to center on binary, zero-sum, winner-take-all terms expressed in sound bites and nasty campaign commercials. Only cutting benefits and slashing programs is mentioned, instead of discussing thoughtful and informed reform. But the current flavor of Congress seems incapable of cooperative discussion on just about anything at all. 

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-)

    What th' heck do I know, I work for a living...

    by SamuraiArtGuy on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 10:10:19 AM PST

  •  the mic and the debt service (0+ / 0-)

    are the problem, and both of them are based on what the usa owes to global capitalism run by the world's owners

    never put the social safety net in the same class

    you're a regular guy who has a mortgage, it's a mistake for you to identify with those who've run this country as their private fief

    •  If you read carefully... (0+ / 0-)

      I was not identifying with the plutocratic elites, but was just making some observations. Many of my other diaries, especially the one I linked – are rather critical of the 1%.

      But it would be impossible to increase the efficiency of the social safety net, or make even simple sane reforms if the only political options available are "untouchable" or "eliminate entirely" advocated by the Democratic Left and the Conservative Republican (is there any other kind any more?) Right respectively. However, common sense inside the Beltway has become so rare it's practically a frakkin' super power.

      However the Dept Service portion of the budget can only be realistically reduced by reducing the Debt that's services. Of course our Military expenditures can CERTAINLY do with some trimming!

      What th' heck do I know, I work for a living...

      by SamuraiArtGuy on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 04:18:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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