Thanks, George W. Bush

Eight years ago, there was the promise of a new presidency. I (and many others) thought that George W. Bush had the potential to be one of the greatest presidents in history–that he was at least in the same ballpark as Ronald Reagan.

In the end, we were left with mostly disappointment. Promises such as Social Security reform never even got out of the starting gate; we saw massive increases in the commitments of the Federal Government without the resources to cover them; we continue to fight a war that, if fought properly, would have been over long ago. Instead, it has become a wildly unpopular war.

His crowning achievement is that we have gone more than 7 years without a follow-up to the 9/11 attacks. I don’t think this is an accident and I don’t think it should be minimized.

I think that history (long after we are all gone) will judge George W much gentler than we have. Another massive terrorist attack would have tanked the economy even more than it has been already.

Despite some obvious failures, I do not think we can doubt his character, his intentions, or his love for this country. Despite the pundits, I really believe he did what he thought was right all along. I don’t believe any of it was self-seving.

He could have earned much more in the private sector than he did as president. No, I believe that this last 8 years was a labor of love. The overwhelming majority of us could not handle this job–nor tolerate it vs. the pay given.

GW took on the challenge and did the best that he could. For that, we need honor and thank him for his commitment to his country.

Thanks George W. Bush, for your service to our country.

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Here’s Who You Should Vote For

Who should I vote for?

I’ve seen a lot of quizzes out there that are supposed to help you decide who to vote for, but most of them seem pretty seem pretty lame. However, I’ve found one that may be a step above the rest. No tool like this is perfect, but it may be a useful educational tool. It’s called Glassbooth. You start off by weighting 14 issues. You have 20 points in which to allocate among the issues. If you are a single-issue person, you can allocate all 20 point to one issue. Otherwise, spread around the points as you see fit.

When you are happy with your point allocations, you move on to the questions. The questions are chosen based on the issues that you allocated points to. Your answer is on a 5-point scale from Strongly Oppose to Strongly Support. Answer those question and you are given the top 3 candidates that match you the closest by percent.

From there, you can drill into each issue and find out why they agree or disagree with you. They support their assertions with speech quotes and actual votes on bills, so you can understand why they think you match up or don’t with a particular candidate.

You are not limited to evaluating the top 3. They give you the ability to look at how you match up with any of the current candidates and many of those that have dropped out.

In case you care about my quiz (I know you don’t), first here’s how I allocated my 20 points among the issues:

  • Medical Marijuana and Drug Policy: 0
  • Civil Liberties and Domestic Security: 3
  • Crime and Punishment: 0
  • Iraq and Foreign Policy: 3
  • Trade and Economics: 2
  • Environment and Energy: 2
  • Gun Control: 0
  • Immigration: 3
  • Health Care: 0
  • Social Security: 4
  • Taxes and Budget: 3
  • Education: 0
  • Gay Rights: 0
  • Abortion and Birth Control: 0

Here are the top three candidates it spit out based on my answers to the subsequent questions:

  • Mike Huckabee: 71%
  • Ron Paul: 65%
  • John McCain: 65%

I checked out the other two remaining candidates to see how I match up with them:

  • Hillary Clinton: 44%
  • Barack Obama: 38%

I’d be interested in seeing what John and anyone else interested comes up with on this quiz.

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

Christmas Wish List For The United States

We’ve got a lot of problems in our country today and it doesn’t seem like the politicians are paying any attention to the real issues. So with Christmas coming up, I’d like to give Santa my wish list for our country. Maybe he can do what the politicians won’t.

Build the border fence

This is such a no brainer that I don’t see why it’s not getting done. Illegal immigration is going to destroy this country if we don’t stop it. It’s draining our resources in terms of additional strain on social programs as well as exporting billions of dollars that are sent to Mexico. More importantly, we risk that terrorists are going to cross into the country from either Mexico or Canada and instigate an attack that will make 9/11 look like a day in the park.

Fix Social Security

The Social Security system is on a course for disaster. Everyone knows it, but it seems that we can’t get our politicians to do address it. If we don’t do anything, we’re going to end up with drastically lower benefits for retirees, sharply higher taxes for workers, or crushing debt for our children and grandchildren. In all likelihood, it will be a combination of all 3 of these things. It’s time to move toward privatizing the system while guaranteeing that current retirees and those nearing retirement get the benefits we have promised them. I have been in the workforce for almost 17 years and I would be happy to opt out of Social Security right now and redirect future withholdings to my 401k plan.

Lower the corporate income tax

The United States has the highest corporate income tax rate in the world. This is one of many reasons that jobs are being shipped overseas. A sharply lower tax rate would help slow, or maybe even reverse, this trend.

Eliminate the personal income tax

The current tax system is incredibly costly and onerous to comply with–not to mention that it is profoundly unfair. We need to scrap the current income tax system in favor of a national sales tax. With a sales tax, you would get your entire paycheck. From that point on, you determine how much tax you pay: The more you spend, the more tax you pay. If you choose to save your money, it would grow tax free.

So there you have it Santa. Can you give us a hand? There are plenty of other issues, but take care of these first while I work on compiling the rest of the list.