Archives For Off The Top

Random things that fly off the top of my mind

I know all you young folks out there who might accidentally come across my blog know very little about the history of prosperity but most of the older folks have recollections of more prosperous times.  I can remember the 1950s where everything seemed to be going well  for many of us. We couldn’t build enough houses or cars to meet our needs.  Instead of our returning vets coming home to unemployment, jobs were being created at a vigorous rate.

The 1960s was my decade for growth. Even though I was raised in the single parent household and my father was a milkman I managed to get accepted by a great State college and worked my way to a bachelor’s degree paying all the expenses by working in a dormitory cafeteria up to 40 hours a week. It was a struggling time but probably the happiest of my life. I made such good friends during those years before I became deaf.

In the 1970s things started to change. Good middle class jobs for those without a formal education beyond high school were starting to disappear.The Oil Embargo put a hamper on things and inflation was roaring along. Things were starting to change by the end of that decade and then came the 1980s.

The 1980s seemed to be a pivotal decade. It is the time when we elected a very conservative president who believed that government was the main problem in our society. It was a time when the elite among us began to get inordinate influence in our society. It was a time that the social conservative that seemed the dwarf the emphatic among us. It was a time when the rich started getting much richer.  It was also a time when the MBA college degree started taking root. The MBA degree taught that people where no longer to be considered valuable members of a company but instead liabilities that needed to be trimmed as much as possible.  At that point the middle class shrinking came fully into force.

The 1990s, or the Clinton years as I knew them, brought back prosperity at least the a degree and to a limited segment of society. These were my most productive years from a financial standpoint. My retirement funds and 401k’s grew at a rapid pace. The growth of the stock market rivaled that of the 1930s. A new thing called the Internet was taking hold of everyone including corporate America. I took advantage of the trend by re-purposing myself into an IT guy (information technology). I was suddenly in demand for my skills. but toward the end of the decade panic started. Luckily I got pretty much out of the stock market before the crash.

The 2000s were a very pivotal and dramatic decade that saw  the stock bubble burst and then years of a stagnant economy. When Mr. Bush came into the Oval Office the DOW Industrial averages were at 11,000, When he left eight years later it was at 8,000 and due to too much deregulation much of the banks were on the verge of bankruptcy along with a couple of our biggest corporations.

The 2010s finally ushered out the president who started two wars and huge increase in military spending. The new president managed to get us out of these two catastrophic emergencies and as a result in six years the DOW averages went from 8,000 to 18,000.

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So, studying the above graphs let’s recap all this. When the super rich were being taxed at up to 90% of their income we had prosperity. Then when that was reduced to about 30% things started falling apart. I think you should get the idea  that giving big tax breaks to the super rich is not a way to get us once again to prosperity.

I am way over my word limit here so I have to stop.

In a half-dozen nations, tyrants who once ruled by fear and repression have been toppled, unleashing centuries-old sectarian rivalries and bloody struggles for power. Syria’s horrific civil war is spilling into Lebanon and threatening Jordan and Turkey, while Iraq has effectively devolved into three nations — one Shiite, one Sunni, one Kurdish. In the chaos, a particularly malignant form of radical Sunni Islam, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq….

Why is that rivalry raging now?
It has fueled conflict and repression since the dawn of Islam in the 7th century, but was ignited into a bonfire in 2003. That’s when the U.S. overthrew the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Hussein had long brutally suppressed Iraq’s Shiite majority, and his fall turned that power dynamic on its head. The new Shiite-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki marginalized Iraq’s Sunnis, denying them any real voice in the new national government.

SOURCE: The grand Shiite-Sunni struggle.

I recently read an article about how Islam needs its own Reformation. The Christian Reformation began with Martin Luther posted ninety-five complaints against the might Roman Catholic Church over 500 years ago. Up until then there were only a handful of dominant Christian churches around and RC was the major one. They told you what to believe, how much money they wanted, and where you go after you die. A lowly monk just didn’t buy that and visibly told them so.  That started the flames rolling and the many different belief systems sprouting out that differed with the Roman Catholic church.

Today I am told that we have over 14,000 different versions of Christ’s church each saying they are the ones who have it right. We went from a handful to thousands because of the Reformation. Isn’t that what is currently happening with Islam. Isn’t ISIS just another version of Islam that has sprouted off the Muslim root? In some ways we don’t need an Islamic Reformation but instead an Islamic consolidation. We need some overall authority to reign in all this centuries old fighting among the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and all the other out there.

As the article above says some think the we the U.S. is responsible for much of the latest fighting in Islam. Before we invaded Iraq its leader kept an iron grip on the various Muslim sects.  Since that overthrow the Middle East has exploded into one religious sect fighting another and hating all the other versions of spirituality.

We don’t need a Muslim Reformation, but just the opposite. While that is happening it would be nice is somehow we managed to get all the 14,000+ Christian sects to agree to some core beliefs but that seems almost as impossible as the former. At least we are not fighting and killing each other as our Muslim brothers are doing..

I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This is the last of a six-part series from about a year ago about the importance of the Bible in my spiritual life. After a ten-year study I finally understand what millions of other have discovered before me…. It’s about Jesus, not the Bible…

2015-03-25_14-59-11Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period. Some of this growth can be attributed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the baseline or regular defense budget has also increased significantly. It has grown in real terms for an unprecedented 13 straight years, and it is now $100 billion above what the nation spent on average during the Cold War. The fiscal year 2012 budget request of $553 billion is approximately the same level as Ronald Reagan’s FY 1986 budget.

As a result of this “gusher” of defense spending—to quote former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—Pentagon leaders have not been forced to make the hard choices between competing programs as they traditionally have. And the ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained.

The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE: A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

In looking at the chart above it is obvious that two American presidents are primarily responsible for most of our outrageous military spending. I don’t think I have to tell you which ones those are. Sadly, for the most part those increases in spending were matters of choice. Yes, the Iron Curtain was up for one president but it had been up long before he came into office.  Yes, a rag-tag bunch of fanatics managed to kill three thousand of our citizens with some box cutters but in the world scheme of things  more people than that have died daily in the world from lack of food and drinking water. If we had just gone after the rogues instead of invading nations that had nothing to do with the tragedy our military expenses would never have risen to such mammoth levels.

Can we continue to spend such levels in these times of rising deficits? Aren’t the deficits causing us more harm than the enemies we are supposedly facing. Fear just seem to be the primary driver of our nation today. We have long forgotten one of our most meaningful American quotes “All we have to fear is fear itself”. We need to just get over this paranoid fear that has come to grip us so  forcefully…

Clinton-Bush Fatique

April 10, 2015

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Have you ever felt as if a mysterious black cloud of despair was rising from the great depths of the universe? That it was cresting over the horizons of your life, blotting out all sunlight as it closes in and paralyzes you in fear? And maybe you felt that this slow-motion tsunami of dread was a deserved punishment for you personally, and humanity in general. And you realized, as I have, that this unstoppable, groaning wave was a natural outgrowth of your own moral torpor — the listlessness you had demonstrated over and over again, allowing injustices, petty cruelties, and incompetence to extend their reign over everything you loved, until finally it crashed on you, plunging you into a darkness beyond the reach of light, hope, and redemption….

The inevitable Bush-Clinton presidential campaign is gathering itself along the horizon. It will be a boring, substance-less grind that turns on just which candidate’s operation can direct slightly more of the public’s disgust over the worst parts of the last two decades at the other candidate.

SOURCE:  Why a Clinton-Bush presidential race fills me with nothing but despair.

I remember a time, way back thirty years ago before President Reagan when there was not Clinton or Bush on the national scene. But for the last almost twenty years those two families seem to have dominated the news and as a result I have severe Clinton-Bush Fatigue. I am simply totally exhausted with all the vitriol ranting that has taken place in our country since these two families have been battling for the supreme Monarchy of the USA.  About two-hundred and fifty years ago we went to war to rid ourselves of a monarch and as far as I am concerned I don’t want to return to that state.

There is so much baggage surrounding these names that if they are nominated by the parties it will surely be the most dirty mud-slinging presidential election in our history. To me it would come down to which would cause the least harm to our country and right now that is probably a close call. Our country needs to get away from all this hatred surrounding us lately and Bush and Clinton are the source for much of it.  Surely the two parties can at least give us voters an alternative to these two but given that money pretty much controls all of our political processes now who becomes the candidates will probably be a done deal before we have our say.

Sadly because we have made running for public office such a rancid experience I’m not sure that any really qualified candidate can make it anymore or even want to make it for that matter. We are just stuck with the ones we get (sigh)… I hope not…

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I know there are many of U.S. citizens who have never known a time when our military spending did not dwarf everything else in our discretionary spending budgets. We just seem to be a nation that wants to be policemen of the world. We want to put our noses into every conflict we can find.  It doesn’t matter that in places like Iraq and Afghanistan they have been having the same battles for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. We just can’t seem to find a conflict that we think we stay out of or can’t solve with our military might.

Only those of us over the age of forty have ever know a time when our military budgets haven’t dominated everything else. But in reality the vast majority of our over-blown war spending can be attributed to just two presidents, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.  here is a little more about this. Check on the source to see the entire article.

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Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period….

The ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained.

The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE:  A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

Given that historically we can and have reduced our military spending. It just takes a different point of view to make that happen. I don’t think that the GOP’s combination of inert fear of others and the bravado of getting the bad guys will go away anytime soon but historically we can almost count on that eventually happening again.  The big question as to when, is all about when  we as voters finally realize that we fear way too much and we can’t solve thousand-year old tribal battles on the other side of the world with our million dollar plus smart bombs and drones. It is very possible to drastically reduce our military spending with little or no difference to our security. It just takes more voters at the polls who realize that possibility.