Through a glass darkly...

Closely following the signs of the times


Virginia, United States
December 30
Marine, Christian, Libertarian and forty-something, suburban dad trying to make sense of the world around him.


DJohn's Links
JANUARY 26, 2011 9:36AM

Obama In Wonderland

Rate: 3 Flag

After watching the SOTU speech last night it has become obvious to me that Obama is in way over his head and he is quickly drowning. I listened to him intently to see if he "got it" and was amazed to see that not only does he NOT get it but he also doesn't know that he does not get it.

It is clear from his speech that he is living in some sort of fantasy land and I'm starting to think that he might be consuming way too much of his own Kool-Aid. 

In either case one thing became glaringly obvious to me: we are in deep trouble and this man has no idea how to get us out of it. 

At one point he proposed a spending freeze of non-descretionary spending that he said would save us $400 Billion over the next 10 years. There is only one problem with that. Becasue of the debt load that we have incurred were are currently paying $4 Billion a DAY on the interest alone. You can see how far the $400 Billion will go. It's a drop in the bucket.

He also talked about a renewed commitment to "out educate" the rest of the world so the future Americans could compete better on the global stage. Again, that is a fantastic idea. However, the facts prove the contrary. According to recent analysis of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, our government already spends more per capita on education than any other of the 34 wealthiest countries in the world. If education is bad now then what makes Obama think that throwing MORE money at this issue will produce different results? What we need to do is get rid of the Department of Education and let the states handle this on the local level. 

However, that alone will not get us out of this mess. What was perplexing to me was that Obama on the one hand wants to "freeze spending" (something he called for last year by the way) but at the same time he proposed new programs that would continue to ADD to the spending.

Over the past 40 years Congress has adopted a spending and borrowing plan for the United States that we now know is unsustainable. Both the Dems and the GOP are to blame. Remember, the President can only recommend spending initiatives or cuts but the Congress has to act upon them in order for them to take effect.

He also chose to pander to his supporters at times so that he could get tham back on board his bandwagon for the 2012 election. He spoke about make the $10,000 tuition tax credit for college students permanent. Again, where is the money coming for this? 

He also talked about cutting out the taxpayer subsidies for the oil companies and called for a renewed commitment to renewable green energy sources. GREAT!! How about we start by cutting out the Ethanol supplements added to our gasoline now that not only raises the price of gas but also raises the price of corn at the same time? Instead of paying farmers to grow corn for Ethanol let's let them grow corn for consumption again.

It has now become painfully clear that we are going to have to make some BIG TIME cuts in entitlements and some of these cuts are going to be painful. We've all been living on borrowed time and kicking the can down the road. It's time to pay the bill. There is no way around the fact that we will need to do something drastic about Medicare and Social Security. These are simply unsustainable into the future.

The President missed an opportunity last night for a real "presidential" moment. He could seized the initiative while in the national spotlight to have a frank and open discussion with the American People. He could have confronted this issue head on to get them to realize just how bad things are and how painful it is going to be to fix it. He chose platitudes and hyperbole instead.

His little "halftime speech" will do wonders for making people feel great about America again but the truth is things aren't great. Once these chickens come home to roost there is going to be hell to pay. Take a look at Greece and Ireland and the real trouble they find themselves in. Guess what? That is us in about a decade.

This conversation requires REAL political courage to pull off. This is one of those moments that will be remembered for generations. It may not be popular at first but it is necessary. By sugarcoating the mess we are in and by misleading the American People with catch phrases Obama has shown that he would much rather continue to kick this can down the road rather than confront the problem.

If you look far enough into the future, just over the horizon you'll see a massive cliff quickly approaching. Instead of stepping on the brakes in America we just put the pedal to the metal.

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DJohn, I gotta disagree here.

The president did some things I normally wouldn't expect, and I applaud him for it.

1.) He said nothing about gun control or gun violence...which made me very happy. He's proven to be very benign on the gun issue during his presidency, despite my fears to the contrary. (It won't stop me from buying my new 6.8SPC II upper receiver, but I'm glad he didn't jump on the BANwagon.)

2.) He worked very hard to say he was going to work hard with republicans. Sure that pisses off the Libertarians, but for too long Libertarians have thought in terms of absolutes instead of small victories leading to an overall victory. The key to success is one issue at a time.

3.) He promised to veto bills with earmarks, which is good.

IF it's not all hype, I think he's pointing in the right direction. I mean, we can't expect him to just turn into Regan, man. For a democrat he's doing o.k. here.
It could be worse.
It could be Carter up there.
Think about it.
Doug-He DID talk about gun violence when he spoke about Tucson. He just referred to it with subtlety so as to not appear like he was using the sympathy card to look better. The GOP did it as well.

He SAID he was going to work with REpublicans but he said that for the last two eyars. It took him almost half his term to even meet with them. NOW he wants to play nice because let's face it...he has to.

He promised to veto bils with earmarks. Great. Except The gOP had already stated that they would do that in this Congress as well. The new Speaker made it one of this priorities. Obama just pulled a Clinton and is trying to make it look like it was his idea first. Classic.

Obama is being crushed in the media today with good reason. last night was a show, nothing more. We have serious problems in this country and apparently nobody wants to do anything about it.
This was as sober, well written, and contemplative as anything in the mainstream media, which explains why you've not heard from the left on Open Salon. But I'm sure you will.

(I was an embedded reporter with the Marines at the start of the Iraq war. I salute you all.)
Oh now, if he hadn't said anything about the tradgedy, we would have slammed him for it. He didn't directly blame guns, which is a step up in my opinion.

As for as the rest, I still say at least he's not Clinton or Carter.

And as far as not doing anything about it, people are still joining the NRA, still voted republican in November and still plan to put somone in the WH in 2012.

I'm not saying re-elect the guy, I'm just saying he's not the boogie man.

Anyhoo, I'll agree to disagree on this one, you made some solid arguments. I just prefer my cheerios without pee in them.
"After watching the SOTU speech last night it has become obvious to me that Obama is in way over his head and he is quickly drowning."
And, this represents a change in your previously stated opinion in what way? How many times can you reuse the phrase "in over his head" and pretend like it is the first time you thought that? You have written all these sentiments many times before why are you pretending like you have come to some new conclusion after the SOTU speech?
BadScot-As a former Marine...I salute you!! Semper Fi!! Thank you for your comments.
Anthony-Maybe i can explain it this way. This man is a very talented orator and he has a gift to get people to follow him. He had a GOLDEN opportunity to do that last night. he didn't. I keep waiting for him to become "Presidential" but he seems incapable of getting there. Great speeches are just that...speeches. If there is no substance than it's jut a big show. That, is what I meant.
Doug-"As for as the rest, I still say at least he's not Clinton or Carter." You are missing the point here. He IS following in theri footsteps. He is currently in the process of "triangulation" just like Clinton did. He is playing the GOP. He will look to adopt most of what they want in an effort to 1) Take away their thunder and 2) Set himself up for the next election as the "guy in the middle." This is classic. It's a script that has been followed before. People say he is moving to the center. Really? Where? When? He is TALKING centrist. He has yet to move anywhere. You have to give it to him. He is a master.
rwnutjob-They said the same thing about Slick Willy. The man can give a speech. In today's celebrity culture we want our politicians to look good and sound great regardless of the message. I would rather have an honest stutterer than a smooth talking liar.
You plainly don't "get it."
How can you know Obama doesn't?

Even in a contest of political piffle, his piffle sells better than your piffle.

By the way, Social Security has never generated even a thin dime towards US debt. Conservatives have given us over 10 trillion, and that's just counting government debt. Include all unnecessary debt and that number doubles.
Obviously the answer is to look at how conservatives "govern," -- if I may use a nice word for "rob America blind" -- and Don't DO that!

It's just as obvious that we shouldn't call the arsonist to put out the fire.
Paul-"By the way, Social Security has never generated even a thin dime towards US debt." I never said it did. The problem with Social Security is it is going to reach its breaking point as the boomers retire in unprecedented numbers. The cuts are going o have to start somewhere. It's going to be painful for us all. The Conservatives have done their share of damage but the Liberals have had control of Congress for much more time in the last 40 years than the Conservatives ever did. There is plenty of blame to go around.
Conservatism first came to power with Reagan. That's when the debtfest began. It has included Democrats and Republicans, but the borrow and spend idea and the massive debt and economic emaciation is pure Con-ser-va-tism. Don't let the Dem-Repub labels fool you.
If it helps, it's really right-libertarian, as conservatism has no economic ideas. That makes it basically classical liberalism, expressed as neoliberalism. So Reagan's neoliberalism, and what flowed from that, exploded the debt and killed the our Founders would, ya the name of Liberty and Free Markets.

So, if you're label-sensitive and seek fairness and balance, you can blame all 3 of the popular labels. But Conservatism is the name of the economy-killing horse debt and collapse rode in on.

But Conservatism is the name of the economy-killing horse debt and collapse rode in on.

For the 10% that control 90% of the wealth that hoss looks damned fine. Like Secretariat.
Paul-That would be a great notion if it were true. However, the governments own accounting proves it to be false:

Date Dollar Amount

09/30/2010 13,561,623,030,891.79
09/30/2009 11,909,829,003,511.75
09/30/2008 10,024,724,896,912.49
09/30/2007 9,007,653,372,262.48
09/30/2006 8,506,973,899,215.23
09/30/2005 7,932,709,661,723.50
09/30/2004 7,379,052,696,330.32
09/30/2003 6,783,231,062,743.62
09/30/2002 6,228,235,965,597.16
09/30/2001 5,807,463,412,200.06
09/30/2000 5,674,178,209,886.86
09/30/1999 5,656,270,901,615.43
09/30/1998 5,526,193,008,897.62
09/30/1997 5,413,146,011,397.34
09/30/1996 5,224,810,939,135.73
09/29/1995 4,973,982,900,709.39
09/30/1994 4,692,749,910,013.32
09/30/1993 4,411,488,883,139.38
09/30/1992 4,064,620,655,521.66
09/30/1991 3,665,303,351,697.03
09/28/1990 3,233,313,451,777.25
09/29/1989 2,857,430,960,187.32
09/30/1988 2,602,337,712,041.16
09/30/1987 2,350,276,890,953.00
09/30/1986 2,125,302,616,658.42
09/30/1985 * 1,823,103,000,000.00
09/30/1984 * 1,572,266,000,000.00
09/30/1983 * 1,377,210,000,000.00
09/30/1982 * 1,142,034,000,000.00
09/30/1981 * 997,855,000,000.00
09/30/1980 * 907,701,000,000.00
09/30/1979 * 826,519,000,000.00
09/30/1978 * 771,544,000,000.00
09/30/1977 * 698,840,000,000.00
06/30/1976 * 620,433,000,000.00
06/30/1975 * 533,189,000,000.00
06/30/1974 475,059,815,731.55
06/30/1973 458,141,605,312.09
06/30/1972 427,260,460,940.50
06/30/1971 398,129,744,455.54
06/30/1970 370,918,706,949.93
06/30/1949 252,770,359,860.33
06/30/1948 252,292,246,512.99
06/30/1947 258,286,383,108.67
06/28/1946 269,422,099,173.26
06/30/1945 258,682,187,409.93
06/30/1944 201,003,387,221.13
06/30/1943 136,696,090,329.90
06/30/1942 72,422,445,116.22

So what happened in the '40's that cause the debt to skyrocket? This was the decade of MAJOR Government Tax Legislation and MAJOR entitlement programs. Coincidence? I think not. Oh and by the way...this was under the FDR years.
You're always good for a laugh. And another laugh.

The FDR debt wasn't entitlements. Perhaps you've heard of this, but there was a little thing called World War 2. FDR spent the debt up to 120% of GDP after Pearl Harbor and that messy German war in Europe. We won those, and the economic stimulus pulled us out of the Depression, and began paying down the debt.

Down, down, down went the debt, until Vietnam, which started it up again. Reagan ran on pissing and moaning about the debt, won, then ex--freaking-ploded the debt, sending it soaring upward.

Reagan's debt-jacking was based on an ideology --conservatism-- which is a proven failure. All it got us is this mess we have today.

You should look for an ideology that doesn't include jacking up debt and robbing the treasury blind. Then you can deal honestly with reality.

You just don't "get it," and probably never will, as you're an ideologue, not a thinker...but to forget WW2, and claim that spending was entitlements?

You belong on Fox and Friends.
Paul is, of course, correct- entitlement / social spending in the years you cite was minuscule, the debt was incurred to fight WWII. But I'll make a couple of additional points:

Entitlement programs of the 30's and 40's, like Social Security, electrification, aid to education, and (my favorite) the GI bill had significant economic benefits to the country as a whole. They more than paid for themselves in increased productivity, freedom from disease, and the innovation and entrepreneurship they enabled. My own father was a beneficiary- he grew up as a subsistence farmer, ploughing fields behind a mule. Almost nothing in his life would have seemed strange to a farmer of four thousand years earlier. But because of FDR's entitlements and the GI bill, he got to go to college. Before these changes, pretty much the only determinant of who got higher education was the wealth of their parents. These programs changed that. So instead of scratching out a living as a dirt poor farmer, my father became a lead designer on the Space Shuttle, and ended his career helping put up the GPS satellites. Very many of the Nobel prizes Americans won for work in that era were won by individuals who would have never been able to get an education but for those social entitlement programs. Entire industries were spawned as a result of those investments.

In spite of the increase in social spending, after WWII federal debt declined gradually, and tax rates also went down (the top rate was 90% when I was young). The country saw the greatest growth and increase in overall prosperity than any nation on earth has ever experienced. And the middle class grew larger and more prosperous- until Reagan. In an economic sense, Reagan did not cut taxes as a whole, but he did shift the tax burden disproportionately way from the wealthiest (by cutting top rates) and onto middle class wage earners (by increasing payroll taxes). And he vastly increased the size of government spending, without paying for it, and exploded the debt, not just in absolute terms, but as a % of GDP.

Fast forward to 2000. After the explosion of debt in the Reagan era and the Bush 1 recession of the early '90's, the Clinton administration had succeeded in not just balancing the budget, but in creating a surplus and beginning to pay down the debt. However, government entitlement programs were, taking the long view, slightly out of balance. Not by much, but we are living longer and demographics have changed. It is important that government balance the books over the long term. But it is beyond stupid to insist that it do so on an annual basis, because government is charged with doing things that take a long time, must take a long term view, and economic cycles can be lengthy- but over a generation, the budget should balance. Modest changes to retirement age, taxes, or expenditures were needed to bring things back into long term balance. The longer we waited, the more draconian the changes would have to be.

But George Bush did not make these needed changes. Instead George Bush fought two wars (one unnecessary and entered under false pretense)- and did not pay for them, or even acknowledging them in the budget.

Instead George Bush created a huge expansion of entitlement benefits in Medicare Part D- and did not pay for it.

What George Bush did instead was to cut taxes, in a way that mostly benefited the wealthy (payroll taxes, most of what most people pay, were not cut). Just as in the Reagan years, we were told that cutting taxes for the richest would result in more government revenue, not less, and just as in the Reagan years, this assertion proved false. What we did get was another huge increase in the national debt, both in absolute dollars and as a % of GDP, and an increase in the long term, structural deficit- the problem that really needed to be addressed.

Like Aesop's grasshopper, George Bush did not save in the good times (as Clinton had done), but spent and partied. George Bush did this because in his heart of hearts he did not believe that government entitlement programs, like the ones that enabled my father to become an aerospace engineer rather than a subsistence farmer, were a good thing. Like many conservative/ libertarians, he thought that government programs that provide education, fund research, build infrastructure, free people form the threat of crushing poverty if they experience misfortune, provide for cleaner water and air, and help to ensure public health and safety, that these programs "destroy incentives" or "limit personal freedom". As head of a corporation that designs technical products, I disagree. I know that the technical, social, and educational resources that enabled my company to be built would not exist without that collective investment in the "common welfare". But that's just me, an entrepreneur.

George Bush's policies of driving up debt in the good times meant that when the inevitable contraction came, there was no reserve left to draw on. The increase in debt we see in the last two years is not due to increased spending (even with the stimulus), but overwhelmingly due to the loss of revenue from low economic activity. People who supported George Bush and his policies of driving up debt do not have any right to criticize the very modest (too modest) investment in infrastructure spending the Obama administration is making. They forfeited that right when they failed to speak out against the way George Bush increased the debt in good times, without any sound economic basis. Current infrastructure spending is spending that merely takes assets that are not being used (cash and machinery and unemployed workers) and converts them into other assets (roads and bridges and technology) that can help create economic growth for many years into the future. It's a smart think to do, long term, and obvious to anyone who understands the difference between short term deficits and long term, structural deficits.

Lordy, DJohn, cut and paste is all well and good, but you need to have some coherent critical thinking ability to string it together, and some sense of historical context.
"What was perplexing to me was that Obama on the one hand wants to "freeze spending" (something he called for last year by the way) but at the same time he proposed new programs that would continue to ADD to the spending."

This may be "perplexing" to you, which only goes to show that you are the one in "Wonderland" and not the President. A spending freeze does not preclude creating new legislation for a couple of reasons. First, the freeze is a freeze of spending levels, not a freeze of literal spending. The government would cease to function if all spending stopped. The government can choose to replace funding, or, in what is more likely, pass a temporary freeze, and pass a law which begins after a particular time, or sunset a particular law to limit its cost. George W. Bush did this when he passed tax cuts for only 10 years and not make them permanent himself. Replacing "No Child Left Behind" is what the President proposed for education. This is not necessarily effected by a temporary spending freeze.

You are so invested in disagreeing that you cant manage to make a sensible disagreement statement. When you get back from Wonderland, you will notice that the DJI is nearly at 12,000, major corporations are profitable, domestic auto is thriving, jobs are increasing, the President's poll numbers are rising.

See you when you get back....if you get back.
Fantasy land? I don't get where you're coming from. Obama is rightfully, correctly optimistic. His speech pointed out what's important. I'm not sure what oil platform you're on, but I suspect you are one of the negatives...the pessimists like so many others. Y0u have a choice...get positive or go negative. 50/50 deal.
Paul-You are correct about Vietnam. Wait, who started that war again? Oh yeah...a Democrat.

"Reagan's debt-jacking was based on an ideology --conservatism-- which is a proven failure." Hmmm, if that's the case then it's bad news for you my friend. You see there are more people in this country that self identify with conservatism than any other ideology...and it's on the rise. Which is why the progressive agenda was handily sent packing in the mid-term election. Might be time to look for some more real estate.
Firsk-REALLY? Dude. Do you have your own blog? If not get one. Someone who leaves comments that can take up two screens obviously has something to say. Go say it.

I'm glad your dad ended up making his life better. I really am. However these government entitlements have caused people to drop out of life.

Before social Security people actually worked long into their lives and passed on their skills to the next genereation so that they could carry on behind them. it worked like that for generations.

Now people retire and say farewell and all that intellectual capital goes with them. We are about to see the largest loos of intellectual capital that this country has ever seen and it is going to happen with the boomers.

As they leave and "check out" there are less workers to take their places so you think we are in bad shape now? You haven't seen anything yet.

Social Security will be insolvent by 2037. Which means that the government is spending that money now and the people who will be expecting it will not have it.

Have you ever known anyone who lived off of Social Security? It's legal poverty. You know...the "fixed" income crowd. This is how the government screws you out of your money.

How many people do you think have dies who have paid into SS their entire lives only to die before they get to collect? It's the biggest racket going and the government knows it. The government gambles with your life because if you don't make it they win.

It used to be that family took care of you when you could no longer take care of yourself. Now we have seniors living in squalor who can barely take care of themselves because they can't afford to live off the paltry income they get from Uncle Sam.

From what you wrote you are obviously and Keynesian and believe that we will just spend our way out of this. Ok sure. Well I'm sure China loves to hear that. I think that is why Obama rolled out the red carpet for old Hu when he was here and praised them in the SOTU. It's not a good idea to piss off the benefactor.

You know what people do when they get a temporary sum of money added to their income? 99.99999% of the time they either save it or they pay off debt.

You know what States do when they get a "stimulus" from the government? The same exact thing. You know what that means? no surge in productivity because nobody is rushing out to buy a big screen TV or a washing machine. That is where we are right now.
Bill-yeah I get the whole spending freeze thing that's great. however, in breath he says he wants to freeze spending and the next he wants to make the 10k tuition credit permanent. I'm pretty sure that is going to cost something somewhere. He also wants us to all be driving electric cars. There are electric cares and hybrids now. Why don't people buy them? THEY DON'T WANT THEM.

Then he talks about high speed rail for the country. We already have's called Amtrak and it's broke. Just like everything else the government runs. If he REALLY wants to be serious about getting us out of this mess he would start closing down useless government agencies and shrink the government. The new health care law alone calls for another 100+ government entities just to administer the monster.

The jury isn't out on this one sorry. He is getting hit from the left , right and center on this one. He is doing what he does best...campaigning.

Funny how he all of a sudden realized that was actually another party in congress and that he actually had to acknowledge them. I guess bipartisanship is only really useful once your party loses control of Congress. Clinton 101.
Amtrak is not high speed rail, DJohn. I dont know where to begin with you. Pointless.
Many self identify as conservative, but those who would identify with what you believe are far fewer. There was a time when conservatism was represented by intelligent people, so many who pay little attention don't realize it has become an method of selling Metamucil to elderly simpletons.

I said it's a proven failure, but I guess I should qualify that, as it's not been a proven failure if the goal was to deplete the treasury, run up massive debt and strip us of adequate economic infrastructure.

In that, it's been tragically successful.

Firsk should do a post, I think. Firsk sure knows history better than you ever will.
Here's one thing you can take away from his comment:
In the 50s, at the height of applied New Deal Liberalism, Americans made more money, worked fewer hours, had less debt and single income families were completely content with the labor-government-business relationship. So were America's biggest businesses.

That was the Liberalism conservatism set about to destroy, and it did. Congratulations! Conservatism did what communism tried to do, but failed -- wreck the American economy and cripple capitalism.

I still think we should send y'all to China to destroy their's the least you should do, and it's what conservatives do best.

The American Conservative Movement -- led by two addicted disc jockeys and a shrill, ignorant-assed half term governor with a very limited vocabulary. No wonder we're so far down in a hole.
Djohn, sorry if I taxed your attention span, but another history lesson:

At the time Social Security was passed, relatively few lived long enough to collect . Average life expectancy in 1940 was 62.9 years. In 1930 it was less than 60. Only just over half those who reached adulthood survived past 65. So much for
"Before social Security people actually worked long into their lives and passed on their skills to the next genereation so that they could carry on behind them."

I support raising the retirement age. That alone could bring the system back into long term solvency. We live longer now, and we're healthier overall. The adjustments need not be major. The system is nowhere near so far out of whack as you have been told. People are lying to you and you are not checking alternate sources.

Social Security and similar programs such as unemployment insurance were never intended to function as retirement planning- they were to form a very basic safety net, to help keep people from the kind of crushing poverty and starvation that was quite common prior to these programs. You have never seen that kind of deprivation, not in this country, due to this social safety net. Sure, families took care of their own- except when they couldn't, or there was no family. They did after SS as well. If you think someone living just on Social Security NOW is in squalor- jeez, time to learn some history. Learn some history about what life was really like for a very large percentage of the population, about what these programs were really intended to address- it isn't your fantasy version.

You repeat the misconception that Social Security is a plan you "pay into". It isn't. Current workers support the fund for those currently collecting. It is a form of insurance, like fire insurance, not a savings plan. It's not a racket. People should have their own savings plans, Social Security insurance just represents a minimum floor.

Your tossing around terms like Keynesian- clearly without any understanding- and your comment about China just reveal basic economic ignorance. There are classes you can take. Hint- they are not taught on Fox or AM radio or on whatever websites you have been catching this drivel from.

Most rich people save extra money they get (as from lowering their taxes). I'm not going to go out and hire more employees just because I got a tax windfall- not unless there are customers demanding products. Demand is the key to economic motion. Middle class and poor people tend to spend more when they get extra $, because they need things.

Stimulus spending in an economic downturn can be effective if it's spent on valuable, long term goals, particularly durable infrastructure, or things like education that pay off over the long haul. Unfortunately the Republicans made sure that as much as possible was diverted to the rich or to corporate entities where it would have little to no effect.

BTW, my point, which you apparently missed, was that my father didn't just make HIS life better- he made YOUR life better, because of what government programs made it possible for him to become. Ever use a GPS, or a computer? Thank my dad, and the government.
Bill-"Amtrak is not high speed rail, DJohn." yeah, I know. However, just as the new high speed rail is being hailed as the future of transportation now Amtrak was marketed as the same thing when it came out. It's still a loser.

They wanted to put high speed rail in Florida between Tampa and Orlando when I lived there. However, to offset the costs for the project they estimated the cost of the ticket would be $30-40. Then when you get to the are you have to find another means of transportation which costs money and then you have to pay for the cost of admittance to the attractions: Disney, Universal, etc. The whole trip would cost roughly $150-$200 ONE WAY per person. Not to mention what you'll spend in the parks or the events you were going to. People rejected it. I can drive from Tampa to Orlando and back on one tank of gas, park in the area and enjoy myself in the park for half of what it costs to take the high speed rail.

High speed rails are great for urban environments where you have a localized population center but many states don't have that kind of situation.
Firsk-"You repeat the misconception that Social Security is a plan you "pay into". It isn't. Current workers support the fund for those currently collecting. It is a form of insurance, like fire insurance, not a savings plan." You are correct and I know that it is supported by workers. However, this is the problem. When SS first came out if was envisioned that roughly 16-20 workers would support the retirement (benefits) of the prior workers. Do you want to guess how many workers are doing that job now? According to the SS Administration there are now only 2.8 workers supporting SS. You can see where this could be a problem.

"At the time Social Security was passed, relatively few lived long enough to collect . Average life expectancy in 1940 was 62.9 years. In 1930 it was less than 60." Once again you are correct. However the reason for longevity was not better benefits through SS. it was advances in medicine and different procedures put into place to keep food, water and other necessities of life cleaner and free from disease. Some of those new procedure came out of our experience in dealing with mass casualties in WWII.

As far as China is concerned you are jut ignorant to their history. As one of the world's oldest civilizations they have been around the block once or twice. They have seen empires rise and empires fall. They are smart enough to know that a conventional war with the United States would indeed end up badly for both countries and it would cost millions of lives. However, they are currently waging war of a different kind by buying us piece by piece without firing a shot. It's a brilliant strategy...and it's working.

China continues to crank up its economic engine to consume more and more of the raw materials it needs. In turn that causes the DEMAND to increase which causes the need for more SUPPLY. As this cycle continues the United States is being gobbled up in a trade war because we can't keep up.
High Speed rail works most effectively over long distances, not high population density areas. You are 100 % wrong. Again, pointless.
Bill-"High Speed rail works most effectively over long distances, not high population density areas." Exactly. Which is why it is not supported in Florida. Sure, they are going to build it but they are very concerned that anyone will actually ride it. so much for that pristine Florida landscape. In order for this to be successful you would need a line that goes to Disney, then Universal, then Downtown, then the beaches, etc. It's just not practical.
This situation with China is a lot more complex than you are saying. It's more of a mutual co-dependence, and China has huge problems it has barely begin to solve. It is far from unified, nine nations really, with language an ethnic complexities that boggle the mind. It's being used as a political boogeyman by some in the US- which is not to excuse the debt that George Bush ran up with them. See or James Fallows' book Postcards from Tomorrow Square for more realistic views.

For one thing, the way we talk about balance of trade grossly distorts business reality in a hyper international market. An Asian Development Bank study shows that while an iPhone, for instance has its entire wholesale value (178,96,) counted against balance of trade with China- because that's where the final assembly was done- China gets very little from that transaction, compared with other countries. The expensive parts came from Japan, Germany, South Korea, and elsewhere. If you take a value added approach, the US actually ends up with a slight surplus relative to China on the iPhone. Vs. a negative 1.9 billion balance in 2009 using the standard approach.

So we are encouraged by these flawed statistics to scapegoat China as the problem. China actually reaps little income; far greater profits flow to already wealthy countries. While in the US, hourly wages are the same as they were in 1974- the first time in our history that increased productivity has NOT resulted in increased incomes for workers. Wealth becomes far more concentrated, and that wealth drives the political process in ways that further increase inequality. China blaming becomes a convenient diversion from the real problem, which is the failure of conservative economic policies.
It occurs to me that I should say this explicitly rather than just implying it. Blaming China, or our balance of trade with China, is just wrong. The US has allowed its manufacturing base to collapse. We have a balance of trade problem, but it is as much or more with other wealthy industrialized countries as it is with China. The myth that low wage China is responsible is false, as is clear when you look at where the actual value in imports comes from. Much of what we pay for imports goes to high wage industrialized countries, counties that provide their workers with better benefits, like full health coverage. But the China myth is useful if you are trying to force US wages down further.

When Reagan ripped the solar panels off the roof of the White House, it was a symbolic gesture. He also set in place economic policies that ripped the nascent solar industry out of the US economy and sent it overseas. At that same moment, Germany and Japan and Taiwan and Korea (later China) were encouraging the development of a solar industry in their economies. Guess where solar panels come from today.

In the US since the '80's, no matter what party was in control of congress or the White House, macroeconomic policy has been driven by conservative/ libertarian "free market" ideology. As a result our manufacturing (and jobs) have gone elsewhere. Absent regulation or deliberate policies, "free" markets will be driven to the bottom- wages, environmental standards, and worker safety will necessarily be sacrificed to competitiveness. Many low value jobs would have left anyway, but the loss of high value technical manufacturing is inexcusable.

Germany, for instance, set macroeconomic policies that encouraged their manufacturing industries. And their manufacturing economy is strong and their employment is high. They invested in education, particularly trade and vocational education, and made sure workers were well treated. They built infrastructure, including high speed rail and mass transit, they invested in their future. They have very strong trade unions, that are in fact the main owners of many of their industries.

The US has not lost its industrial base because of high labor costs- many of our competitors like Germany have higher labor costs, with vastly better benefits. It's not because of lack of productivity- US workers are much more productive than they were 30 years ago. But US workers are paid less than they were 30 years ago. The small percentage at the top- particularly in the essentially non-productive financial services sector- have reaped all of the economic gains. According to the Reagan/ Bush/ Conservative/ libertarian/ supply-side theory, that was going to result in everyone being better off. Instead it has resulted in the collapse of the middle class, a collapse that was masked only by the entry of women into the workforce in the 80's and 90's, and by the more recent sale of home equity (the only asset most ordinary folks have) to the banking industry to keep up consumption. Keeping to this path, the only place we have left to go is to re-institute child labor.

The politics you are being fed- and are regurgitating here- are designed to perpetuate that disproportionate distribution of wealth. As one of those closer to the top than the bottom, I see this as both morally wrong and incredibly short sighted. I need a healthy middle class to buy the products I design. If it means that I make a bit less in the short term, or have to invest in my country for education or infrastructure, then I'm all for it. Doing what we've been doing- heading for a banana-republic style oligarchy, will in the long term leave us all poorer- even the oligarchs.
Firsk-We are probably closer in agreement than you might think. I am no longer into the Left/Right paradigm because I have been awakened and realize that although the color (Red/Blue) may change in DC more often than not the "insiders" don't. Theya re one's behind the faces we see on TV. The ones that pull the strings and orchestrate the events that take place in order to get accomplished what they want.

Obama railed against Wall Street and we now know that mcu of the financial crisis was caused by the mismanagement of risk in many of those firms. However, as much as he demonized them he said NOTHING about them in his SOTU address (except to say that the Dow was booming) and then he goes and hires a Wall Street insider to be his new WH Chief of Staff. I no longer listen to politicians on the TV anymore because I realize that this is only a show. Instead I watch what takes place behind the scenes. Their actions speak volumes.

The simple fact of the matter is that the "rich" don't actually run the US. The "elite" do and have done so for over 100 years now. Once we let the Fed take over our monetary policy we doomed ourselves. We are now at the mercy of those who control the Fed and guess what? That's not us...or our politicians.