Looming Federal Fiscal Crisis: A Wake-up Call

Here at DITH, the topics are normally pretty light. However, today I have come across some information that you just aren’t hearing anywhere else and you need to. It quite literally involves the financial survival of our nation. Please realize that I don’t make such a statement lightly. I know this is going to be pretty dry information and not something any of us wants to think about. But please bear with me through this. This is an important topic.

Setting the Stage

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a federal office charged with keeping the government’s financial books and keeping government accountable to the people. David Walker is the Comptroller General of the United States–basically the head accountant for the federal government. This is a non-partisan, professional position. He was appointed by President Clinton and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. I say all of this so that we can establish that this is not a politician and that he has nothing to personally gain or lose by the information he is sharing.

Mr. Walker has been on a Fiscal Wake-up Tour since 2005, and will continue through the elections. He is attempting to educate the public on the dire financial straits the US government is in. His hope is that if we are aware of the situation, that we’ll demand action from our elected officials. Let’s look at a some of the information he is sharing.

Cooking the Books

You probably heard that the federal deficit decreased from $412 billion in 2004 to $318 billion in 2005. That is technically true using the cash accounting method. However, using the accrual method (the method the federal government requires businesses to use), the actual 2004 deficit was $616 billion and it increased to $760 billion in 2005. You see, the federal government keeps two sets of books: one that the politicians share with us and another that they are required to use when accepted accounting methods are needed (dealing with bond markets, etc.)

Okay, how about the debt? You’ve probably heard that it’s just over $9 trillion dollars right? Again, that’s technically correct. That is our current outstanding debt. Once again, corporate America could not get away with this kind of accounting. What the politicians are not telling you as that we have about $46 trillion in unfunded commitments. That is, we have a $46 trillion shortfall in our upcoming commitments to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (that is up from $20 trillion in 2000). Add our unfunded commitments and our debt, and our actual liability is about $53 trillion. That’s a big number. Let’s put it in perspective: If we divided it up, that would be $411,000 per US household.

The Grim Future

That’s all very alarming and disturbing, but it is an important setup for a look at the future. According to GAO projections, by 2015 federal spending on just Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Interest will consume nearly all of the revenue coming in. And that’s assuming that no new programs are added in the interim.

We are on a path that is simply unsustainable. We have heard for many years that the entitlement programs are growing. Our politicians promise reform, but then fail to do so. We are at the end of our rope. Mr. Walker thinks we have 5 to 10 years at most before it all comes collapsing down.

The Solution

Well, it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be painful for all of us. Those who think our economy will grow enough to solve the problem are kidding themselves; tax increases alone won’t solve it–this would require an immediate $11,000 per year increase per household; cutting programs alone won’t solve the problem, and the pain would be far too deep. In fact, it’s going to require a combination of all 3. The sooner we get started the better, because the price tag gets higher every day we wait.

So What Can You Do?

Mr. Walker has been a lone voice in the wilderness on this. He has been trying to get the word out, but the media has largely ignored it. Our politicians aren’t going to talk about it of their own accord, because bad news doesn’t get votes. We need to do everything in our power to get out the word and then force our elected officials to act quickly and decisively.

Here are some thoughts on what you can do:

Become Informed

  • Check out Mr. Walker’s 11-minute talk on this topic. I know it’s a lot of time to ask you to invest, but he lays it out very nicely and has graphics to help illustrate his points.
  • If you have the time and interest, his Fiscal Wake-up Tour page has some other presentations and information.

Tell Others

  • Make a similar post on your blog. If you don’t have the time to write new material, copy my post. This is too important for me to worry about plagiarism.
  • Talk to people
  • Write a letter to your newspaper

Take Action

  • Talk to every elected official you can and demand immediate action
  • Talk with those running for office to make sure they are on the correct side of this issue
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Obama: Stop Escalating the Religious Rhetoric

According to an article at cnn.com, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is aggressively battling an e-mail campaign falsely labeling him a Muslim. Unfortunately, I think his response to this “smear campaign” is a mistake. He is playing into the idea that there is a significant portion of the population that hates Muslims. He said:

“I think it ‘s very important for people not to buy into the kinds of dirty tricks that we’ve become so accustomed to in our politics, and people need to understand I’m not and never have been of the Muslim faith.”

“I think that those who are of the Muslim faith are deserving of respect and dignity, but to try and feed into this fear-mongering and try to question my faith commitments and my belief in Jesus Christ, I think is offensive.”

Calling someone a Muslim is not a “dirty trick” nor does it “feed fear-mongering”. In this case, it is simply a lie. His best course of action would have been to either ignore it or issue a simple denial. Unfortunately, his rhetoric here simply escalates this to no good end. He may very well end up offending the Muslim community with these remarks.

Here’s a bulletin to Obama: This is the 21st century. The overwhelming major of people are not so stupid as to discriminate against someone based on their religion. I don’t care what religion you practice. As long as you are a good, decent person and I agree with a good deal of your policies, I’m going to consider you. Religion will not, and should not, having any bearing.

Crazy Atkins Diet Experience

Thanks to John for his fad diet post to spark my memory of this experience. 

You probably remember that the Atkins Diet was all the rage a few years ago. You probably also remember that your local supermarket was suddenly filled with dozens of low-carb alternative foods to support the diet.

I was on the diet for probably about 6-9 months. It seemed like a dream come true: meat, cheese, eggs. What more could I want? And it did work for me? It did, at least initially. I was taking weight off at a good pace. However, in the end, I did end up missing those carbs and fell off the wagon.

However, the story I want to tell you about was my Atkins breakfast routine. I love having a sausage, egg, and English muffin sandwich for breakfast. However with Atkins, the English muffin is off limits. So I found some low-carb bread at the local store. It tasted roughly like cardboard–it was great. But I was committed to the diet, so I was going to use it. One morning, I microwaved the sausage and egg. Then I slapped it on my delicious low-carb bread. Finally, I wrapped my sandwich in a paper towel as I headed out for my commute to work.

I enjoyed my delicious sausage, egg, and cardboard sandwich while I was driving. (I know, I shouldn’t eat while driving–pipe down.) When I arrived at work, I grabbed the empty paper towel so I could drop it in the trash by the front door. It was then I noticed that I had eaten about 1/4 of the paper towel along with the sandwich. Yes, that amazing low-carb bread was so good that I couldn’t tell the difference between it and a paper towel.

Beer Night?

I was reminiscing with a friend about a bowling league we were on several years back. (Our team was called the Pin Doctors, and yes we wore scrubs). He started out a sentence with “And on beer night, we…” What a classic slip of the tongue. I promise, we did bowl a little bit on beer night. 😉

The Strange And Wonderful Land Of Search, 1st Edition

I have been keeping an eye on the search phrases that are bringing traffic to my blog. Some of them are hilarious others are a bit disturbing. Here’s the “best of” so far, categorized for your convenience.

Get A Life

funeral homes – who cleans them?

unexpected uses for green tea

non strenuous jobs for retirees

bathroom items beginning with m

Disturbing

hot dauter dance

“snap it off” toilet

daughter and dad in bath

trend bathroom 2008   (whatever it is, let’s hope it doesn’t involve Larry Craig)

WTF? 

is film on headlight illegal in Canada

anita renfro, william tell

guidance+winds+post+headlight

my dog ate garland

And this one sounds like a fun science experiment: comic strip film canister alka seltzer

Introducing A New Acronym: DITH

I’m getting tired of typing out Dad In The Headlights (I chose too long of a name I guess). So in posts, you’ll now see me refer to this blog as DITH for short. I expect that this will be added to the next edition of Webster’s dictionary.

Posted in Random. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

How Well-Rounded Are You?

Thanks to Matt for this one.

I’m quite round thank you very much. Oh…you mean culturally. Below are 40 question to see how well-rounded I am. I’d love to hear your answers. Feel free to post to your blog, give me a shout, and I’ll go take a look.

1. Been to a play: Yes, at pretty much all levels (elementary school through professional). I was even in a play: I played a very small part in a high school production of South Pacific when I was probably about 10 (I thought it was the coolest thing at the time).

2. Bungee jumped or something similar: No way. That kind of stuff scares the crap out of me.

3. Been a mentor/big brother/big sister: Nope.

4. Read at least one of the classics (War and Peace, The Great Gatsby, The Red Badge of Courage, Beowulf, Crime and Punishment, etc): Don’t think I have. How about I watch the movie instead?  J

5. Stood up for someone publicly: Trying to think…I guess not.

6. Been on a major roller coaster: The only one so far is the one at California Adventure. It’s the one that does a couple of upside-down loops on Mickey’s ears. Scared the crap out of me/loved every minute of it.

7. Been to a drive-in movie: Yes and I love it. A truly American experience that everyone needs to do.

8. Done something at a drive-in movie other than watch the movie: I wish.

9. Done volunteer work: Nope, not very much. Not proud of this fact either.

10. Given a toast at a wedding, a eulogy at a funeral, or some similar, meaningful speech: No, and am not interested in doing so. I’ve got big time stage fright.”

11. Been to a major sports playoff game: I’ve been to maybe a couple dozen Portland Trailblazer games.

12. Thrown a costume or theme party: We hosted a murder myster party several years back. It was a ton of fun. Gotta do it again sometime.

13. Been on or near the set of a major motion picture: Nope. Mostly lived in po-dunk towns very far away from movie filmings.

14. Taken a compliment well: Yes, I try to. I’m usually uncomfortable inside, but do the best I can.

15. Planted a tree: I planted a couple last summer, then accidentally murdered one with the lawn mower L.

16. Been stung by a jellyfish or something similar in/near the ocean: Thankfully, no.

17. Quit a crappy job:  Kind of. I quite a job at a gas station when I was in college when I didn’t get a promised raise. Then I went crawling back not too long after that.

18. Been on a blind date: No way!

19. Done something kind and unexpected for a stranger: Nothing of note.

20. Had a major surgery: Does an appendectomy count? I had this done when I was in college. My roommate was kind enough to bring me home from the hospital. Unfortunately, the electricity was out in the dorm and I had to climb 8 flights of stairs after a major surgery…ugh!.

21. Taken a car/truck road trip that covered at least 6 states: Not since I was a kid. We drove from Oregon to Arkansas for Christmas one year. It was not pretty.

22. Been in 4 or more countries: Just made the cut here. Of course, I live in the United States; I’ve been to Canada and Mexico for pleasure; and I’ve been to Japan for business.

23. Spent New Year’s Eve somewhere special: I’m always with special people, but never anywhere particularly special. I want to do Times Square just once.

24. Visited an ancient landmark: No.

25. Been face to face with a celebrity by chance: No.

26. Given to charity in the past two years: Yes.

27. Helped a stray animal: Yes, I’ve got a bunch of bleeding-heart animal lovers in the household, so it seems we are forever helping some hapless creature.

28. Dated someone you met online: When I was dating, there was no such thing as “meeting online”. Despite my pleas, my wife doesn’t really appreciate me looking for chicks online (or offline as far as that goes).

29. Won money on a long shot: Won $500 once in a state lottery game.

30. Won your office/family/friends NCAA tournament pool: Nope, I suck at those things.

31. Won an award/medal (even if something “small”): I was in the “Who’s Who Among American High School Students” in 1986. I’m not sure it’s a legitimate honor—I think it’s just a ploy to get proud parents to buy a book.32. Driven a foreign sports car: No.

33. Been in the front row for a concert: Nope.

34. Attended a symphony orchestra performance: Yes, I’ve seen Boston Pops a couple of times. Fabulous.

35. Caught a criminal in the act and did something about it (reported it, smacked them in the head, etc): Nada.

36. Sung solo on a stage: Never, and let’s not let that happen.

37. Witnessed something supernatural: No, and have no interest in doing so.

38. Covered for someone (who deserved it) at work: No.

39. Overcome a major fear: Yes, I had a fear of flying for many years. Overcame it about 4 years ago with the help of a friend and by just investigating the facts on how air travel works and how truley safe it is.

40. Mailed a surprise care package to a loved one: Sheesh, I suck. No

Wow, thanks for reading all the way through. Now go fill out yours!