British Pragmatism…

Since the second world war, British foreign policy has been built on its so-called special relationship with the United States, which emerged from that conflict as the world’s most powerful nation. This week, London showed it was attempting to build another special relationship, with China, the world’s fast-rising power that is on its way to challenge US dominance in global affairs….

Britain is known for its pragmatic diplomacy. For instance, it was not only the first Western nation to recognize the new communist republic in 1949, but did so even before the Soviet Union for fear of a possible communist military takeover of Hong Kong. British foreign policy is best summed up by the words of 19th-century prime minister Lord Palmerston: “We have no permanent allies, we have no permanent enemies, we have only permanent interests.

Source: ANALYSIS: Britain’s new ‘special relationship’ with China is built on pragmatism | South China Morning Post

Banner Pragmatists  I love the words “We have no permanent allies, we have no permanent enemies, we have only permanent interests.” It takes a pragmatist’s mind to come to that realization.  We have been in war after war in my lifetime and usually withing a score of years our enemies become our friends.  The big one for my generation was Vietnam. We lost over 50,000 boys in that war. Now Vietnam is one of the premiere travel destinations for many in this country.

While Great Britain (I don’t know if they call themselves “Great” anymore) was the world power they, like we do now, made many blunders but they always seemed to land on their feet so to speak. Because they have a parliamentary form of government they are used to forming coalitions to accomplish things. Their diplomacy follows suit. They recognize what needs to be done to further their overall goals and then proceed to make that happen.

Too many of us in the U.S. get stuck in a mode of thinking that seems impossible to get out of.  One of those things is socialism. Say that word to many here, including politicians, and all they can think of is the “evil empire” USSR. We came close a couple of times in destroying the earth over our differences so anything that they do must be wrong for us. Britain on the other hand embraces socialism as a pragmatic solution to many of society’s problems. Socialized medicine works well there and keeps the cost of healthcare much more managable that we have ever been able to attain.

Now Britain is using a pragmatic approach to China.  They realize that China is becoming a prime economic power in the world.  They don’t get stuck on the “communist” label as a reason for demonetization.

Pragmatism is one of those things that we need to import much more of if we hope to be relevant in tomorrow’s world. That and to finally come to the realization that we can no longer afford to be the policemen of the world before it breaks us under its load of debt.

Worrying About Debt….

2014-03-02_16-18-10“The time to worry about debt is before you get it, not after you got four-fifths of it.” – Will Rogers, 21 December 1932

These words of wisdom were just as ignored in Will’s day as they are today by almost all of us and especially by our government.

About The Debt…

We are three billion in the hole and will be three billion more next year, and not a Congressman has got the nerve to ask voters to pay part of it.  —  January 29, 1933    Will Rogers

Obviously this quote was said long before even Grover Norquist’s parents were born but it is equally true today as it was in Will’s time. The fact of the matter is up until President Bush, taxes have always gone up to help pay for our wars. But when so many  from the GOP crawled up to the altar of Mr. Norquist with their pledges to NEVER raise taxes this tradition was very unwisely flushed down the toilet. When will we ever learn to never say never? Sometimes it seems that those guys in congress love their party more than the love their country. I don’t know; I’m just a simple guy but it seems that way to me.

Here is some now insightful words from 2007:

Source: Bush Breaks 150-Year History of Higher U.S. Taxes in Wartime – Bloomberg.

Republican Senator John McCain said that while he’s “not averse to asking for more sacrifice,” he rejects a tax increase, even one on wealthy Americans, to help pay for the war. “I’m not sure what the point would be,” said McCain, who supports Bush’s troop buildup and may run for president in 2008. “I would ask them to make other sacrifices, but I’m not sure I would want to raise their taxes just because we’re in a war.”

Unlike apparently Mr. McCain I am a history buff and I firmly believe in learning from the past in order to keep from making the same mistakes over and over again.  The sharpest rise in the national debt in the last sixty years came as a result of taking President Bush’s wars “off the books”. It is the primary reason we are where we are today.

As Will says their  doesn’t seem to be a congressman, especially those of the GOP variety, who have the nerve to ask  at least some of the voters, especially those who have profited greatly during these times, to help pay for these wars.

It seems pretty simple to me that if wars are necessary then asking citizens to pay for at least part of them is the right thing to do. But maybe the problem with this one, and in fact most of them in my lifetime, is that none of them were really necessary.

When we get into hard times in this country we have always asked those who are much better off than the rest of us to chip in a little of their wealth to help out and in the past they have for the most part gladly done so.  There is a bible verse that goes something like this, “For those who have gained much, much is expected”.  When will we start living by that code again?

War Jobs vs Peace Time Jobs….

Source: Defense cuts could further dim US jobs picture – Life Inc..

There are thousands of civilian jobs related to the war effort, and cutbacks in defense spending have already led to reductions in these defense-related jobs, including direct government positions or those with defense contractors.

Outside of slightly more federal money spent on citizen’s safety nets the defense budgets are the biggest use of our tax dollars.  We spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined. As shown by the quote above and the source article one of the arguments our hawks give us for maintaining our military spending is that it creates much needed jobs. The graph below provided to me by my friends at the American Friends Service Committee show that the same money could produce many more jobs if spent outside of our military complex. The only reason we spend as much as the rest of the world combined on our military is because our politicians and generals have chosen to make us the policemen of the world.

We are expected to spend our money and our young people’s lives no matter where the conflict is in the wold. But can we really afford to do that even if we as a population want to which the majority of us clearly don’t? It has been shown time and again that given a choice between military spending and domestic spending the majority of us choose to reduce military budgets. So, why do we allow others to continue down this insane path of bankrupting ourselves to “make the world safe”? Shouldn’t we ask, or even require, those more affected by the conflicts to step up and bear more of the responsibility. Of course they won’t volunteer to do that as long as they can count on us to do it for them. Why should they spend their money and kid’s lives when we will so willingly do it for them?

The problem right now is who to vote for to make this change happen. It seems that the Obama administration has adopted the Bush wars as their own. At least they are finally putting a time line on the withdrawal of many of our troops.  But they don’t tell you about the thousands of our young men who will be left behind. We have so many troops spread out around the world that even that costs us $billions to maintain.

Nothing will change until enough of us say “enough”. Bring our troops home and out of harm’s way. They belong with their families not stationed around the world protecting many who don’t even want us there.  We simply can’t continue to put all the debt to maintain this absurd military/industrial complex on our grandchildren. Your voices are needed to make this happen.

RJ’s Doctrine….

Tonight is, thank heavens, the last debate for this presidential season. It will be on foreign policy. I can tell you in advance what will happen. Each side will tear into the other saying their opponents foreign policy will assure the total destruction of the United States. There will be little of anything but put-down and counter-put-downs.

If I were running for president I would give you very clearly what I would proudly call RJ’s Doctrine: Read more

About That Debt….

I know there is a lot of fury going on now about how President Obama has increased the national debt. So, when I came across this graph it got my attention. I have had several ranters here lately who proclaim that “that idiot Obama is bankrupting the country”. They go on and on about the increased deficit and how it is their sole reason to drive that “idiot” out of office. I am going to try and give you some insight into this situation but as President Clinton said recently you are going to have to pay attention…

Read more

Not Spending Enough???

Source: Economy Watch – Bernanke says demand too weak to bring down jobless rate.

Consumers are not spending enough and businesses are not investing enough to put a big dent in unemployment, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday

How many years have we heard about the dreadful effects of consumer debt in the country.  It is typically reported that the average family has more than $8,000 in credit card debt!  Everyone, including most economists, say we are just living beyond our means. But now here is the number one financial guy in the country saying we are in the trouble we are because we are not spending enough!

Someone needs to tell these guys that you can’t have it both ways without some serious increases in the average guy’s hourly wage increased spending won’t happen. Since wages haven’t gone up in almost twenty years now I don’t see us coming out of this high unemployment period anytime soon.

But what do I know….

Paying the Fiddler…

This would be a great world to dance in if we didn’t have to pay the fiddler. – June 27, 1930  Will Rogers

I haven’t heard the phrase “Its time to pay the fiddler” in years. When I looked it up on Wikipedia it was shown to be a country music song sung by Ernest Tubb among others. It goes something like this:

Well it’s time to pay the fiddler

And it’s sad to know we’ve danced it all away

But the warm night’s disappearing

Leaving nothing but the cold hard light of day

Since “paying the fiddler” is in this Will Rogers quote it must pre-date this song but I expect that the meaning has pretty well carried over. This relays the same message as “burning your candle at both ends” or to us more nuanced we might say that “you eventually have to pay for the consequences of your actions”.  I kind of like the fiddler one the best though. 😉

For philosophical reason, whatever that is, let’s put this saying into perspective. We in the U.S particularly, but in the whole world in general, have been living on borrowed money  for too long. So maybe now it is time to pay the fiddler and that is what is happening now. Our economy has contracted due to people unable to sustain past spending practices.  Our credit cards are maxed out and since we are paying  18- 24% interest on them, the banks and their owners are getting wealthy, but we who have this massive debt can no longer afford to keep spending. Unfortunately this sequence of events played out at the same time as the financial institutions were getting more creative in where they got their ever increasing profits.

So here we are paying the fiddler. How long will it take to get him paid off? No one seems to know but I would bet it is for at least a few more years if we have the patience to keep up the payments.  Unfortunately, we in the U.S. are not known for our patience. What’s going to happen is anyone’s guess but I would guess that nothing good will come from our future actions if we don’t realize that we’ve danced it all away leaving us nothing but a cold hard light of day.

Enough of this silliness but what do I know….

Living Debt Free….

The average consumer carries over $16,000 in credit card debt. And there is usually a mortgage and probably a car loan in the pile too. They say the total personal debt of U.S. consumers is over $11 trillion.  Unfortunately many of those are middle aged and moving into their retirement years. With all this debt they are obviously not putting away much for their later life.

It is quite startling how much debt many seniors today carry into their retirement! Four out of ten carry a mortgage with them into their golden years. Almost five out of ten carry a $6,000 credit card debt!  My father taught me to “put money away for a rainy day”.  While that message stuck with me it obviously didn’t with many of my cohorts.

What makes one person maintain a lifestyle that is debt free while another piles it on? My father and his generation were called Depression babies as he was  six years old at the onset of the Depression of the 1920s. My grandfather had a pig farm and was not seriously affected by the depression but I still remember Dad’s stories about some of his neighbors who were very much affected. Depression babies like my dad did not like debt but for the most part they are all gone now and quickly being replaced by us baby boomers. From the evidence it looks like many of us have not followed in our fathers’ footsteps about being debt free. Why are so many so ill-prepared for their senior years? I’m sure part of it has to do with “wanting it now”.

For some who are on retirement’s door it is already too late and that means they have to keep working whether they like it our not. Unfortunately, even among this group, there will be those who because of health or other issues will not be able to work in their senior years. What will happen to them. Most likely they will be trying to live on basically Social Security benefits which average usually a little over $1,000 per month. What would happen to those if even the Social Security safety net were removed?  According to some in the audience at the latest Republican presidential debate we should let them die! I hope and pray we never become a nation who lets that happen! But sadly I didn’t hear of anyone on the stage renouncing that idea!

I see the results of trying to live on Social Security alone weekly at the soup kitchen I volunteer.  Our lunch and dinner guests increase by about 25% the last week of the month when the checks are running out. We all would like to say “that happens to others” but I’m sure the “others” did not believe it would happen to them either.  No matter how close to retirement you are it is never to late to be reigning back some expenses in order to save a few dollars.