VP Mike Pence either issued an empty threat, or else…

Today, Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea against further provocations that might “the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region”, citing the recent U.S. attacks against targets in Syria and Afghanistan as examples of our new administrations toughness.

This is horrifying. Or it should be.

In Afghanistan, we recently dropped a single (albeit, quite large) bomb on insurgent forces who have almost no means to projecting force against anything of value to us, while in Syria, we launched a more diverse strike of 59 Tomahawk missiles against a single target. And, as in Afghanistan, Syria is more or less incapable of sustained attacks against us or our allies.

Not saying that Israel isn’t a U.S. ally, but because their military forces would overwhelm Syria’s, they are borderline immune to Syrian reprisals.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula is vastly different.

We can’t drop a single 15,000lb bomb on a North Korean target, sit back and pat ourselves on the back. Nor can we launch a few cruise missiles into the DPRK and exclaim how we offered a show of force.

Either of those scenarios would lead to instant reprisal against our allies, South Korea and Japan. Afterall, the north has an estimated 13,000 pieces of artillery positioned along their southern border, along with missiles capable of reaching Japan.

There shouldn’t be any need to speculate about the consequences of either or both of those actions – it should be clear that the results of any strike against the North create a cascade of events that would be catastrophic to all – South Korea, Japan, China, and we can’t forget the people who continue to suffer under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.

I only hope that cooler heads in the Administration prevail upon our President and Vice President to not chalk up their recent “successes” in Syria and Afghanistan as reason to rattle their sabres toward a country who’s guns are pointed outwards and whose leadership has everything to lose if they DON’T respond to a provocation.

Outrage over the Debt: The greatest Republican lie of them all

I found this old essay on my computer, updating it a little bit and posting it here for posterity sake.

The “traditional wing” of the Republican party feigns total outrage about the level of debt and the size of our annual deficits. It doesn’t take too much investigation to see that this outrage is baloney, and that their outrage only presents itself when it is a Democrat presiding over the growth in the debt.

Take the parties idolization of Ronald Reagan, for instance. Our national debt stood at $998 billion on September 30, 1981, the first year in that the Reagan administration had say over the budget. To put it in perspective, when faux-conservatives claim that the debt is the highest its ever been, $998 billion was the highest that our debt had been up until that point as well. In fact, every time we’ve looked at it we’ve looked at it, it’s always higher than the year before.

Ronald Reagan attempting to explain something. (Source: Wikipedia page on Reaganomics
Ronald Reagan attempting to explain something.
(Source: Wikipedia page on Reaganomics)

Back to the numbers – the $998 billion we owed on when Reagan took the reigns had grown to $2.857 trillion by the time he exited office. That’s right, Reagan presided over a near tripling of the national debt. And no, he is not demonized for such results, but instead is revered among the Republican pantheon of deities.

In fact, from the beginning of Reagan’s first term to the beginning of Obama’s first term, with Republicans in control of the Oval Office for 20 of the those 28 years, our national debt grew from $998 billion to nearly $12 trillion. The loudest outrage we heard from the Republican party was when they revolted under the first President Bush when he reversed from his “no new taxes” pledge.

Further, during those 28 years, the national debt grew slowest under President Clinton. Not only that, Clinton raised taxes and went on to preside over the one of the largest economic expansions we’ve had in recent years, a fact which thoroughly debunk the Republican Myth that taxes hikes can kill the economy.

Former Vice President Cheney should have received a medal when he mouthed the Republican philosophy as honestly as we’ve ever heard it, when he said that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter”. And that’s correct, in the Republican mind, the only time that deficits matter is when they can be blamed on the other party.

Thank you, Donald Trump! You’ve shown us how inadequate the 1978 Ethics Law is.

Here’s an idea for bringing about some sorely needed unity between the two parties, on January 20th, when (Hillary Clinton) the next President takes office, I propose that (she) they immediately sit down with the leaders of the House and Senate to amend the 1978 Ethics in Government Act with a new “Trump Rule” to account for newly discovered inadequacies in financial disclosure requirements. Shouldn’t be too difficult, since he’s on the bad side of both parties.

Continue reading Thank you, Donald Trump! You’ve shown us how inadequate the 1978 Ethics Law is.

TABLE: Annual Growth (%) of the National Debt by President by Year

Today’s table is a simple one that shows the annual growth of the National Debt (on a percentage basis) by year and by president, from 1971 to 2015, a period where our national debt grew at a rate of 9.1% annually. More strikingly, the growth of the debt has accelerated under EVERY Republican president since Nixon, while it has slowed dramatically under EVERY Democratic president. This should not even be open to debate.

First, a few notes:

Start Year: The start year is 1971, because that marked a fundamental change in the world’s financial system, when countries moved from gold-backed currencies to the fiat currencies in use today.

Presidency: I only note the President in office at each annual interval. Certainly Congress bears some responsibility for the deficits that caused the debt to grow, but I’m highlighting the occupant in the Oval Office because they are the person who receives the most blame for those deficits.

Percentage Growth: While pundits love to speak in dollar terms, I believe that this is a fundamentally dishonest approach. Because the cost of inputs rises every year due to inflation, every dollar spent years ago could purchase far more than todays dollar. Therefore, the only way to compare the fiscal responsibility of each president honestly is to talk only in terms of percentages.

Notes: I attempted to include a note about any extenuating circumstances that were occurring at the time, but due to space constraints, there are numerous other pieces of data that I would have like to include, but can’t, including: Party control of the House and Senate, borrowing rates, etc. I’m simply countering the myth that the debt grows more under Democrat presidencies than under Republican presidencies.

If I failed to include something that you think is relevant, please let me know!

 

Growth of National Debt By President:

President Annual Growth
of National Debt
Nixon 6.4%
Ford 14.3%
Carter 10%
Reagan 14.7%
Bush #1 11.8%
Clinton 4.3%
Bush #2 7.4%
Obama 9.0%

 

Growth of National Debt By Party:

Party Annual Growth
of National Debt
Nixon 7.2%
Ford 10.5%

 

Growth of National Debt By President, by Year:

Year Increase President Notes
6/30/71 7.3% Nixon U.S. exitted Bretton Woods System; Vietnam War
6/30/72 7.3% Nixon Vietnam War
6/30/73 7.2% Nixon Vietnam War; Arab Oil Embargo
6/30/74 3.7% Nixon Vietnam War
6/30/75 12.2% Ford Vietnam War
6/30/76 16.4% Ford
9/30/77 12.6% Carter
9/30/78 10.4% Carter
9/30/79 7.1% Carter
9/30/80 9.8% Carter Iranian Revolution
9/30/81 9.9% Reagan
9/30/82 14.4% Reagan
9/30/83 20.6% Reagan
9/30/84 14.2% Reagan
9/30/85 16.0% Reagan
9/30/86 16.6% Reagan
9/30/87 10.6% Reagan
9/30/88 10.7% Reagan
9/29/89 9.8% Bush Fall of Berlin Wall
9/28/90 13.2% Bush First Persian Gulf War
9/30/91 13.4% Bush
9/30/92 10.9% Bush
9/30/93 8.5% Clinton
9/30/94 6.4% Clinton
9/29/95 6.0% Clinton
9/30/96 5.0% Clinton
9/30/97 3.6% Clinton
9/30/98 2.1% Clinton
9/30/99 2.4% Clinton
9/30/00 0.3% Clinton 2000 stock market crash
9/30/01 2.3% Bush 9/11; Afghanistan Invasion; 2000 stock market crash
9/30/02 7.2% Bush 2000 stock market crash
9/30/03 8.9% Bush Iraq Invasion
9/30/04 8.8% Bush
9/30/05 7.5% Bush
9/30/06 7.2% Bush
9/30/07 5.9% Bush
9/30/08 11.3% Bush Financial Crisis
9/30/09 18.8% Obama Financial Crisis
9/30/10 13.9% Obama
9/30/11 9.1% Obama
9/30/12 8.6% Obama
9/30/13 4.2% Obama
9/30/14 6.5% Obama
9/30/15 1.8% Obama

References:

TreasuryDirect.gov: Historical Debt Oustanding

 

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Pondering a tax-free existence

It’s hard to miss. In nearly any discussion about politics, there is sure to be at least one person in the group that proclaims “Taxation is theft”, followed by “Abolish all taxes”, and when questioned about it, proclaim “The U.S. government only started collecting taxes in 1914, it did just fine without them before, it can do it now”.

Sound familiar?

Continue reading Pondering a tax-free existence