Record Revenues! Record Debt! Why is $3.25 trillion not enough?

The numbers for fiscal year 2015 for the US Government are staggering. It has collected an all-time record of 3.25 trillion dollars. This is far and away the largest amount any government in history has ever collected from its people. Let’s look at that number again:

3,250,000,000,000

The American people and American corporations are paying more money to the government than ever before, and what do they get for it?  More debt.

That’s right. Even record revenues isn’t enough to stave off the ever-growing lust for spending coming out of Washington. Party politics matter not. Everyone gets in on the spending.

The Democrats tout the Obama administration for reducing the deficits in Washington by record levels. But I’m sorry, it’s hard to get excited about the deficit reduction when you look at it logically.

George W. Bush’s last full year in office was 2008. The budget deficit for that year reached an all-time high, a monstrous figure slightly beyond the $450 billion range. Ballooning the debt a half a trillion dollars a year seemed unfathomable. How naive we were!

The following years, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 all had budget deficits of three times that amount – each year in excess of $1.2 trillion. What? What just happened? To be fair, the bulk of the 2009 budget should be put on Bush’s lap because he signed the fiscal budget for Obama’s first year.

And now, in 2015, as the Democrats are lauding the reduction of deficits, where are we? We’re back down to that 2008 figure! So in eight years, we’ve set unbelievable deficit records and have ended by patting ourselves on the back for bringing the figure down to the highest in history prior to 2009 – and that when our treasury is collecting money at record levels! Sorry, I don’t see a whole to get excited about.

The Republicans are no better. They have controlled Congress for most of Obama’s presidency. All spending bills originate in the House of Representatives. The Republicans are the ones who always go on about reducing the size of government and reigning in spending, but they too can’t help themselves. They pass untold programs and bills which feed their narrow constituencies or back-scratch their cronies.

Should a country with a revenue of 3.25 trillion be able to live within its means?

Absolutely!

And now in this ultra-politicized presidential campaign season, the politicians are promising the world – free this – free that.

The reality is, as the deficits of the past nine years pile up on each other, we find ourselves worrying about crossing the $20 trillion debt threshold with no ending in sight.

Think of it. A country in debt $20,000,000,000,000.

Get your freebies while you can because pay-back day is coming.

In Support of Pluralism

I was reminded again this weekend the wide range of views that people, even in my circle of friends, tend to have on various topics.

The hot topic this past weekend was President Obama’s remarks about the Crusades and Inquisition at the a prayer breakfast. The views from the right wanted to crucify him for making “unnecessary comparisons” while the left quickly came to his defense by reminding the world of the terrible actions committed by Christians throughout history.

While I do have particular views on this topic, they are extraordinarily not important in the light of the beautiful concept of pluralism – a great mix of diverse views being espoused.

Yes, pluralism can be maddening at times. It can bring “progress” to a halt. (I have to put that word in quotes because of the dizzying array of connotations that it drags along with it.) The U.S. Congress has pluralism through the roof – even without parties there is diverse ideas and disagreements.

Let’s face it, we all would love to live in a non-pluralistic society ONLY if we, ourselves, got to be the dictator. If we could live out our “rightness” then what a great place it would be (for us, that is). But the reality is that if we are able to have discussions and freely disagree with our friends and enemies, then we life in a pretty great country.

Democracy necessitates pluralism. And the amount of pluralism that a country has indicates how free of a democracy it really is. Sometimes, a high degree of pluralism seems to be showing the weakness of the society, but being able to see the weakness is exactly one of the reasons why a country is strong.

Think about it. When a country goes out of the way to put on its best face possible to show how strong it really is, you can be sure it is a country that has an authoritarian central government. Look how wonderful life is in North Korea! The North Korean government will prove it by telling you so!

Embrace disagreement and dialogue. Encourage discussion and debate. Do so respectfully and civilly. Pluralism is a wonderful tool where we can challenge our own biases and perhaps even grow in our beliefs and convictions. This will in turn give us more opportunity to debate some more.

Go ahead and lament the slowness of pluralistic bureaucracy, but never wish for anything else.

20 Years of Losing – in Political Terms

As you may have gathered, I’m a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan. I don’t typically write about sports on my blog, but I couldn’t let the momentous passing of the worst losing streak in the history of North American sports pass without some sort of commemoration. On Monday night, the Pirates beat the Rangers and clinched their 82 victory of the year, ensuring themselves their first winning season since 1992. So not to bore you non-baseball fans out there, I thought I’d put it in political perspective to see just how long their losing streak was. (Come to think of it, I might bore more people talking about politics. Oh, well.)

Their losing streak started in October of 1992 when they lost the National League Championship Series in a heart-breaking fashion in game seven.

At that time, billionaire Ross Perot was campaigning to be president.

A month later, Bill Clinton was elected, but┬áMonica Lewinsky wouldn’t become a household name for another six years.

The World Trade Center in NYC would be attacked for the first time about a year later.

1994 – The Republicans took over Congress in overwhelming fashion.

1996 – Clinton was re-elected for his second term.

By the end of the 1990s, the Federal Government was running a yearly budget SURPLUS! Now doesn’t that seem like forever ago!

2000 – We all broadened our vocabulary by learning what a “hanging chad” was. Thanks Florida. And the presidency was decided by the Supreme Court. And why not? CNN couldn’t make up its mind on its own about who won.

2001 – 9/11

Then came Afghanistan, then Iraq, then Iraq some more, then Bush’s re-election in 2004. Then the surge two years later.

The bubble burst. Housing foreclosures and economic downturn. Don’t forget stimulus. I was in Malaysia and got a check from the government. ??? I thought that was bizarre.

2008 brought our first African-American president.

Record deficits. More record deficits.

Obamacare.

Iraq withdrawal. More with Afghanistan.

John Roberts ticks off conservatives.

The never-ending election of 2012.

Then 2013. The end of 20 losing seasons. Politics can once again be pushed aside, allowing American’s bloodiest sport (politics) to finally once again (for me) take second fiddle to America’s purest sport.

Their losing streak lasted 6 election cycles – 4 presidents – two censuses – the deaths of three presidents (Ford, Nixon, Reagan). (And don’t forget the Internet explosion – Thanks, Al Gore.)

Finally put to rest. 2013.

What a year!