The Top 10 Risks Facing Our Country Today

I spent a while racking my brain trying to figure out what would be the best initial topic to discuss.  I have a lot of things that are hot button issues to me but instead of diving into those right away I thought it was best to look at what are the top 10 risks and challenges that our country faces today.  This makes a good starting point because each of these things is a topic unto itself that I will dig deeper into in the upcoming days and weeks.  Here is my list, in order from the biggest down:

1.  If a terrorist organization were to get a WMD onto our shores

I think most people would agree that this should be at the top of the list and, if not, very shortly thereafter.  I could probably be more general and just say the risk is for them to get their hands on a WMD period.  However I chose to be specific because the toll it would take on our country from a combination of factors (lives lost, physical, psychological, emotional and economic damage) would be far greater if it happened here than if it happened abroad.  We have done a pretty good job since 9/11 in keeping our homeland safe but this is an ever present danger in the world we live in and we must always be vigilant.

2.  Our national debt

This is one of my biggest hot button issues and you will hear me talk about this quite a bit.  Even our military leaders agree that this is one of the biggest risks to our nation’s security.  Most people have no idea how large our current debt load is.  They see the roughly $14.5 Trillion on the debt clock and think that’s it.  But that’s not it, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.  The real number is considerably higher and isn’t currently reported due to a very unusual accounting system used by our government.  I will get into further details on this in probably my next post.  Just know that there is little else that can cause us to lose our status as the world’s largest super power than this.  There is little else that can dramatically change our way of life and economic prosperity that we have grown so accustomed to than this.  And it’s all our fault.

3.  The world runs out of oil

I think the ramifications of this speak for itself.  If there’s one thing we know for sure it’s that the world will eventually run out of oil.  There is only a finite amount of it under the ground so it’s just a matter of when, not if this takes place.  If it happens in a hundred years or later we’ll probably be okay.  Given the exponential rate of technological advancements I’m sure we’ll have something in place at that point that will alternatively power our cars, boats and planes.  If it happens in say 10-20 years then we’re in for a world of trouble.  There are some experts in the industry that already think the world has hit peak production and that it’s all downhill from here.  If they’re right then you will think back fondly on the days when gas only cost $4 a gallon.

4.  Climate change

Rarely have I seen such a hotly debated issue as this.  I don’t claim to be an expert in climatology.  However, since I lack this expertise I tend to listen to the people that are.  Despite the fact that a percentage of the general population has begun to have doubts about this issue, there appears to be little to no doubt among the experts in this field.  One thing they agree on, in almost full consensus, is that man has caused the temperature on the planet to rise.  To what extent that we have, how much more it will continue to rise and what effect it will have on our ecosystem are still being debated.  If these experts are remotely right with their projections then we are looking at some serious ramifications to our food chain and ultimately our existence.  The one degree the temperature has already increased sounds pretty benign by itself but when you consider that an average increase of nine degrees is an extinction level event for mankind then all of a sudden that one degree sounds more like 1/9th of the way to oblivion.  The inexact nature of this science is the only reason I don’t have this farther up the list.

5.  An enemy state developing nuclear weapons

To a certain extent this goes hand-in-hand with number one but it is farther down the list for a reason.  Many foreign countries, that are hostile towards the US, might only wish to have a nuclear weapon for the purposes of elevating their country’s prestige on the world stage as being a nuclear power as well as to act as a deterrent against possible invasion from us or any other perceived enemy.  Just having a nuclear weapon doesn’t necessarily mean that they would use it.  Case in point is North Korea (at least so far).  A terrorist, on the other hand, would use a nuclear weapon at their earliest possibly ability and try to find a way to maximize the damage.  Where the issue becomes more dangerous to us is if that nation is willing to sell those weapons, or the technology to build them, to someone that is prepared to use it.  This is something that North Korea might be willing to do, there is already talk that they’re selling information on their weapons program to Iran.  If they next highest bidder is Al Qaeda then we could be in trouble.  Another threat is that even if the current leader of that country would never use a nuclear weapon offensively doesn’t mean that future leaders down the line might not do so in the heat of the moment, especially if that leader is very young.  Again North Korea comes to mind where the heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, is only in his late 20’s.  Hopefully he’s more responsible than I was at that age.

6.  Our education system not providing the tools necessary to compete in the new global economy

This is a slow killer.  It doesn’t all happen at once or you would see more resources being diverted to this area.  However there is no doubt that we are falling farther and farther behind the rest of the world in many areas, especially math, science and engineering.  We used to be number one in all categories about 30 years ago.  Now, according to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, we have fallen to 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.  It’s not that our country has gotten worse, we’ve actually stayed in virtually the same place from 3o years ago (which is the problem).  It’s that the other countries have gotten better.  So we didn’t fall behind so much as got passed.  It is our inability of our schools to adapt to the changing economic climate that is our downfall.  If our country wants to stay competitive in the 21 century this will need to be addressed and will require some wholesale changes in the world of academia.  Otherwise the high paying, high tech jobs of tomorrow will all be going to places like China, India and South Korea.  I shouldn’t even say tomorrow, this is actually happening today.

7.  Obesity

Pound for pound (pun intended) we are the heaviest country in the world and it’s getting worse by the day.  For all the advancements that our civilization has made we eat worse than we ever have.  Our obesity rate in 1962 was 13% and now it’s 31%.  The abundance of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and enriched flour in our foods is slowly killing us.  We have not evolved enough that our bodies have learned to handle most of these items that have only been added to food over the last 30 years.  Weight related issues kill more people than 300,000 people in this country every year.  Not only is there the loss of life but there are economic issues as well.  Medical costs related to being overweight and obese cost more than $117 Billion a year with another $4 Billion in lost productivity due to these problems.  The sad part is that this is all entirely preventable.

8.  Mexican Drug Cartels

Just feet over our southern border is nothing less than a battlefield.  It has also begun proliferating into the US.  There has only been one proven killing in the US by the cartels but kidnappings have started spreading over the borders recently and supposedly the cartels have drug operations set up in over 100 US cities.  This situation will get worse before it gets better.

9.  The US Individual Savings Rate

I’m not talking about the country here, I mean it’s citizens.  Back in the 80’s people were saving over 10% of their disposable income.  Now that number is less than half of that.  This is also when you take all Americans into consideration.  If you take out the top 1% of income earners the savings rate for the remaining 99% is actually a negative number.  That’s just sad.  There are other, more disciplined countries like China and Japan where their people save on average between 15-25% of their income.  I realize that our government isn’t exactly the best role model here but at the end of the day this one is on us.  We have to stop living in the now and start planning better for our future.  It’s simply a matter of discipline.

10.  Apathy and selfishness on the part of the general public

This should probably be higher up on the list because if it wasn’t for this a lot of these other problems would have been tackled before they became such an issue.  People get so caught up in the day-to-day events in their lives that they don’t take the time to keep their eye on the ball in regards to many of the challenges that this country faces.  If they did, and held their representatives in Congress and the White House accountable for their actions and inactions, we wouldn’t be nearly in as bad of a situation that we’re in.  It’s hard enough to just get people out to vote.  What is so surprising is that virtually everyone has access to the Internet at this point and all of this information is right at their fingertips.  It’s just a matter of taking the time to look it up.  I guess this all boils down to education.  Knowledge is potential power yet some people think that once they get out of school the time for homework is over.  It’s not.  Also, people often just make political decisions on what will help them out right now.  It’s not just selfish, it’s short-sighted.  If people only vote for candidates that promise them the most goodies (tax cuts and increases in spending) then they shouldn’t be surprised when the candle gets burnt on both ends and we find ourselves under a pile of debt.  It’s convenient for us to blame politicians for being fiscally irresponsible but let’s face it, they’re just doing what people asked them to do.

This list could continue with things like lack of parental involvement, pollution, our murder rate, the percentage of our population incarcerated for non-violent offenses, the use of fear in marketing and politics, the incredibly polarized political landscape, the increase in sensational journalism and opinion-based media outlets and so on and so forth.  But I think this list sums up the big items.  If you think I’m missing anything then I welcome your comments.

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7 responses to “The Top 10 Risks Facing Our Country Today

  1. Robert Dekerlegand

    Derek, it is about time you started a blog!

    I think you hit the nail on the head with these top 10 threats to America. So now the question is how to rank these based on priority to begin addressing. This is extremely tough, however, I think #6 (education) needs to be addressed NOW. Why, when all the other issues set us up for such immediate destruction? The answer is in your explanation above. “It is a slow killer. It doesn’t all happen at once or you would see more resources being diverted to this area. ”

    It is a slow process, slow to kill us and slow to correct as well. Let’s face it all of the above items are realtively equal in importance. But Americans live in the now. Spend now, live large and deal with the consequences later. That is one of the reasons we are in so much trouble now with some of the other areas above. The climate, the national debt, obesity, lack of savings, etc etc. Americans are reactive selfish indiviudals (obviously not all but look around). I FIRMLY believe that the only way things are going to change (and stay that way) is educating our youth focusing on planning for the future, the value of human life, the environment etc etc etc. I am scared however that people do not see this. Politicians are pointing fingers in multiple directions on where the spending issues are. And of course, they are brainwashing Americans to be Anti-teachers because they make a decent living (even though they are not as well-off as people think). Yes, they have pensions etc, but the problem with decreased funding is not theirs. Politicians did not plan financially to support these future promises. Funds should have been put aside for this and managed appropriately to PLAN for the future.

    Anyway, you see where I am going with this. If we wait to address education, it will be too late as we will not have the time to correct the mistakes. MANY examples here including the climate, obesity, value of lufe, enrgy crisis, national debt etc etc. Only if we addressed these when we had time.

    Even with the debt the way it is, the country should be increasing efforts and funding (as able along with cutting waste and passing some cost on to parents) on education. Inner city schools and underserved populations get the lowest amount of financial assisitance. These areas should get the highest amount of resources but no one wants to help there. Why? because it does not directly effect them NOW, but it will in the future as these areas continue to grow and will spill over in the suburbs etc. Give the teachers what the deserve. (key word: deserve. pay the good ones, get rid of the bad ones taking advantage of the system).

    I fear I am rambling now so will just leave with the thought of priortizing education in our country. I believe ALL of the issues can be addressed with through this. Cliche, I know, but the youth are our future. We have screwed them with the mismanagement of out country , environment, etc. Let’s not keep doing it by derpiving them of the education and tolls they need for their future.

    Respectfully submitted.

    • Rob, great points about education. It is absolutely something that needs to be addressed ASAP. I really like what you said about keeping the good teachers and getting rid of the bad ones. I’m not a fan of tenure. I think it has the potential to breed laziness. I don’t know of any other position with that level of security after only 2-3 years on the job. If principals had more leverage to trim the fat the entire system would improve in just a few short years. It’s crucial for there to be accountability in every job in order to get the best out of people. There needs to be more ways to get fired than just sleeping with one of your students or taking a swing at a colleague in the teacher’s lounge.

      Having said all this I am not for breaking up all the unions and taking away their collective bargaining rights. I think that this is something that is happening where state budget shortfalls are being used as a smokescreen for conservatives to push through their agenda. They know the unions are the largest fund raisers for the Democratic party and with them out of the way they will have a much easier time in future elections. Taking advantage of a crisis for political gain doesn’t sit well with me. I know both sides do it but there’s a lot of people’s livelihoods at stake with this situation.

  2. DVD,
    Good blog, good list. I think many of the problems on the list are symptoms of the real problem which is #10. I’d expand that to also include: lack of core values, unwillingless to sacrfice for personal success or success of country, lack of patriotism, victim mentality, entitlement mindset.

    I really think that we’re at a pretty significant crossroads with respect to the direction of the country. Maybe I’m misreading the situation however I don’t think I am. I believe that the in the current economic and political climate that our country is waiting for a candidate to say the following:

    The US Government needs to get out of the retirement planning business. Planning for your retirement is an individual responsibility. If you’re 50 or older we’re going to keep the commitments that have been made in place. If you are below 50 years old we’re going to send you back the money that you’ve paid into the system and discontinue any further contributions to the system. Don’t spend it all in one place.

    The US Government needs to get out of the healthcare business. We can’t afford to foot the bill for limitless medical needs especially knowing that those most likely to need the care and assistance for said care have likely made a disproportionately low contribution to the fund for such expenses. I’m all for making sure that people with special needs and military veterans are totally covered. Those folks either can’t help themselves or have made such a tremendous contribution to preservation of the freedoms that we enjoy that a national commitment to their health and well-being is warranted. The rest has to be handled by individuals and their families. The pooled approach doesn’t work when so many make no contribution to the pool. What do you do when the illegal immigrants walks into an emergency room 9 months pregnant with no insurance, no ID and no ability to speak English?? Reality is you provide services to allow her to safely have a baby and then you send her on her way. I understand that we’re not going to bar her at the door and allow her to have a kid with no assistance but we need to stop that lady from ever getting in the door if posssible.

    The US Government needs to get out of the genocide prevention, nation building, democracy spreading business. We can’t afford to have hundreds of thousands of troops stationed all over the world. We can’t afford to spend more money than the rest of the civilized world combined on “defense” when our military is rarely used for defense at all. There have been two attacks on US soil in the past 211 years if I’m not mistaken (if you include 9/11 as an attack) yet we’ve been involved in dozens and dozens of military actions. If there is an imminent threat to The United States we need to eliminate the threat wherever it exists. If a US ally (to qualify as an Ally you have to also be willing to spare blood and treasure for us) has been attacked we need to be willing to help defend such ally. When a ruthless dictator decides to wipe out 10,000 people in order to quell a rebellion that can not be the responsibility of The US Government. We’d be on the hook to literally have to defend every single person in the world – not feasible. We’d like to, we’re good people, we really are, we’d love to help in every way possible but there’s this small detail getting in the way and that is the fact that WE’RE FLAT BROKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The US Government is not a charity. If you live here you need to pay to live here. Nobody over the age of 21 should have a zero tax bill unless they have a documented handicap which keeps them from working. People enrolled in college or serving in the military can have a pass but no working American should pay nothing toward the tab. 40% of the country with a net zero contribution to the federal revenues is unsustainable and also fosters a lack of ownership and a sense of entitlement. The tax code needs to be refined so that there are set tax rates with either zero or just a few decuctions.

    The US is not open to anyone in the world to come and live here. There is a process to get in the door and we decide who gets to stay. We can’t afford to allow millions of people to come to our country, pay nothing, exhaust our resources, change our culture and then complain that we’re not doing enough to help them succeed. If it’s so tough here, leave. The folks evidently thought so little of their home country and so much of THE US that they came here to live. Instead of requiring them to immediately contribute, we allow them to break our laws, use our infrastructure and enjoy our freedoms for nothing. Unbelievable.

    The American people need to demand a complete overhaul with respect to the responsibilities of our government.

    Where I agree with Robert is with respect to education. Education is the only way to solve this problem. Too many make no commitment to an education. I certainly can’t make certain segments of this population care about their future but I can certainly control what benefits they receive from the state as a result of their inability to provide for themselves. 20% of Americans are functionally illiterate. There is no fix for the problem as long as that is the case. The only European style benefit I could support is educational assistance toward college. I’m not talking about headstart or a free lunch for the poor at Elementary school, I’m talking about a means tested program that will guarantee to pay for your college provided you carry a 3.0 average and your folks show that their income falls below a reasonable level. I’m fine if it costs $50,000 per student in taxpayer outlays, it pays for itself ten fold down the road as these people are now far more employable and will now be signifcant contributors toward our country.

    No math works when you start of the budgeting process assuming that 40% of your population will contribute nothing and yet they have been promised a blank check for their health care and retirement.

    I’m tired of listening to speeches where the leader of our country is out there claiming that the top earners in this country (those that currently pay 80% of the income tax revenues) are the problem and that somehow I’m not paying my fair share. Are you kidding me? It’s bad enough that I’m getting fleeced every year by the tax code but then I’ve got so listen so some fraud tell me that I’m the problem to boot??? What a joke.

  3. Brian, I like part of what you said but don’t agree with all of it. The part I liked was about the ridiculous expense that defense has become for this country. Why do we still need 100,000 troops to be stationed between Germany and Japan? Are they really still a threat? I don’t think so seeing as how they’re now some of our biggest allies. We do get involved in too many conflicts that are really none of our business. Libya is a perfect example. I think we got pushed into is by our European allies that told us that they weren’t happy about going into Iraq but they did it for us so it was time for us to do something for them. We can’t be out of there soon enough. It’s also unusual that we would go after Libya but not a place like Darfur where the genocide and human right’s violations were far worse. We either need to do it for everyone or no one. I prefer no one with the exception of cases of genocide.

    Back to the issue of costs, most of the defense budget is really a jobs program for defense contractors. It’s basically an ongoing stimulus program for the Halliburtons of the world. One third of the defense budget goes to weapon’s programs for weapons against an old, cold war enemy that no longer threatens us. Most of them are virtually no use in our recent conflicts against the type of enemy we currently engage. These programs almost always go radically over budget and we have little to show for it. Defense is the biggest discretionary spending program we have by a long shot (bigger than all the other discretionary programs combined) and we could easily cut that budget in half and still be ten times better than the next best military in the world.

    Now most of the rest of what you said I can’t agree with. Getting out of the retirement business is very challenging. We can’t just pay for the people over 50 and give everyone else their money back. The reason we can’t is because our government has taken the majority of the money received in SSI taxes and spent it on normal operational expenses for the government over the last 30 years. That money was supposed to go into a trust fund but only a portion of it ever made it there. This is why there is a chance the fund will run out of money in 20-30 years. This program would have worked just fine had it not been for numerous administrations robbing from the kitty. If this problem had been foreseen back in ’35 it would have made more sense to just come up with mandatory savings accounts where the people could have put their money in their choice of investments but just not been allowed to take it out until the agreed upon retirement year. However that opportunity no longer presents itself with how far down the path we have come. They might be able to pay out the people over 50 but the rest of us would most likely get nothing because they just don’t have it to give.

    I don’t think we need to get out of the health care business, I think we have to go further in. I don’t say this from a standpoint that I just want everyone to be covered (however that would be nice). I’m saying this strictly from a cost standpoint. A single payer system would do far more to control costs than the current system we have in place now where health care costs rise every year at 2-3 times the rate of inflation. That rate of growth is unsustainable to our economy and can sink us all by itself. Something has to be done to correct this issue and I have heard no credible plan on this from conservatives. All I hear is demonizing of Obama’s health care plan and that capitalism should just be left to run it’s course. Well it has run it’s course and nothing has stopped these crazy increases. Ten years ago I paid $3000 a year for my insurance with a $500 deductible, now I pay $8000 a year with a $3000 deductible. Meanwhile, the health care companies make record profits, about 30% a year, and their CEOs make more than just about any other industry other than maybe investment banking. I’m not interested in fighting for the rights of companies that have no problem bending us over the barrel every chance they get.

    Of the 38% of people that you mentioned that pay no taxes in this country, that isn’t a fully accurate statement. First off, they don’t pay taxes because either they’re not working (unemployed or retired) or because their expenses exceeded their income. Many small business owners were happy to just break even over the last few horrible years and many weren’t so lucky. Also, that statistic that you read only refers to income tax and is most certainly not a “net zero contribution to federal revenues.” Once you count in investment, payroll and excise taxes then even the poorest 20% of the country still have a net positive tax rate of 4.3% (and that’s not even counting sales tax).

    Lastly, Obama isn’t blaming the top 2% of income earners; he’s blaming Republican’s who want to continuously make changes to the tax code that would favor that group to the detriment of the masses. I don’t exactly know what you mean when you say you’re getting fleeced every year but you do realize that the tax bracket for the upper income earners is at it’s lowest point since the tax code came out in the 20’s, right? Did you know that the top tax bracket at one point in this country used to pay as high as 94%? During the boom years in our country where we became the world’s biggest superpower on the back of oil revenues and a thriving manufacturing sector that bracket was in the 70+% range and we had tremendous prosperity and a rapid expansion of the middle class. Let’s not even go back that far and just take a look at the strong economy of the Clinton years where the tax brackets were 3% more than they are now. Did that 3% cause us any challenges with job creation, economic growth or individual prosperity? If not, then what’s the harm in going back to that point so that we can start getting this debt paid off? Most people don’t even notice that small of a difference, especially wealthy people. That’s all that “fraud” is trying to say.

  4. DVD,

    I like this blog already. I’ll have to represent the right wing faction of your reader base :)!.

    You can count me in the small but growing number of republicans that believes that reducing military spending and selective tax increases have to be on the table if you are going to engage in a serious discussion about fiscal responsibility and budget balancing.

    I’d be willing to support a move to return all rates to the “Clinton” era rates however that’s not what is being suggested. What I continue to hear (and perhaps I’m hearing soundbites only but I doubt it) is that the tax increases being proposed by Obama et al will apply only to the Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet’s of the world, and by the way any couple making over 250k annually as well. Joe six pack will continue to pay the lowered rates which apparantly none of us can afford.

    I don’t support that and it won’t solve the problem. It’s been well documented that there just aren’t enough rich people in America to close the gap even if you assumed a 90% tax rate on the high end. If we’re going to sacrifice as a nation to help solve a budget shortfall then it needs to be a collective effort. Folks making 250k plus already pay the overwhelming majority of the tab. Obama knows this, he also knows that there are a lot more votes in the 10 and 15 percent brackets then there are in the 28 and 33 percent brackets. Obama’s plan is smoke and mirrors but to simplify the plan into layman terms he advocates significant tax hikes for those above 250k, reduced defense spending, some magical savings on health care by adding more to the tab and interest savings.

    With respect to social security, I attempted to simplify my solution and understand that the money has been diverted to other “priorities” almost from the inception of the program. My point, and you essentially provide support to it by validating the fact that the government has misused the funds, is that at this point I see no reason to believe that the government will be more able to provide for my retirement then I will. In fact, it’s very obvious that the US Gov’t managing a portion of my retirement funds is far more of a risk than if I did it myself. Now, if this program is really designed to make sure that poor people that aren’t able to save enough to retire on have a check coming every month than that’s a different story. Either way, there needs to be an orderly exit from this commitment.

    As for health care, I think you could gain support for nationalized healthcare if you had a government that showed some level of commitment toward immigration control and had a track record of effectiveness on education reform. At the time of this massive debate on health care which exhausted a year of our time while there were far more pressing issues to address I believe that nearly 90% of Americans had health insurance already. Who doesn’t have insurance right now?? Well, solve the jobs problem through education, creating business friendly tax law that provides incentives for businesses to grow domestically and reduce illegal immigraton and I believe you go a long way toward the goal of 100% coverage.

    The thought that the Obama health care plan will actually reduce overall costs by adding 30 million people to the insurance rolls doesn’t seem logical (regardless of some CBO analysis).

    Good discussion, looking forward to many more.

  5. Good reply, Brian. The one thing I want to clarify is my understanding of Obama’s recent deficit reduction proposal as it relates to the taxes of the top 2%. I watched his speech in it’s entirety the day he gave it and personally thought it was one of the better ones he’s ever given. I agree that he was vague about the part in which he covered reducing expenditures and waste in Medicare that will net around a Trillion in savings over the next 10 years. That speech was already a little long and I think if he got too much into specifics he would have lost some people. I look forward to see some of those details once I get my hands on the proposal itself.

    In the quarter of the plan that pertained to taxes he said that in two years he didn’t want to extend the Bush tax cuts again another time. He more forcefully said that he would absolutely not allow an extension on the tax cuts for the top bracket. What he suggested doing between now and then was cut back on some of the deductions that wealthy people take because they itemize their deductions while many poor people do not. He didn’t indicate which deductions but I think that mortgage interest is probably on the list. In a way, what he suggested is not that different from many Republican plans except that they want to also lower the tax bracket at the same time they eliminate those deductions which I think is irresponsible at the moment.

    Good point on SS, by the way. Our government did bungle that big time. What was supposed to be a fully safe investment is not proving to be that way (and it’s not like the rate of return is anything special, if I put the same amount in a 1% savings account for the same amount of time I would have more money at retirement). Imagine if this happened with a company where the company needed to access the pension fund and then couldn’t pay the money back. That company would be investigated by the FTC and then crushed with criminal and civil lawsuits. Yet somehow the government can get away with it. It hardly sounds fair to me.

    For the record I enjoy having you on the board. I like when people that have different opinions are willing to express them in an intelligent manner. I also like that you don’t have that same rigid conservative ideology where even the mention of cutting defense or raising taxes isn’t even allowed to be considered. With how far in the hole this country is I think it’s irresponsible for any politician to say that something shouldn’t be on the table for review. The only area I would fight against is education because of previously mentioned reasons presented by yourself and Rob.

  6. Rob Dekerlegand

    Great discussions. Closing the budget should be “easy”(in theory).
    If any one of us got in to a situation where we held excessive debt, what would we do? Easy, decrease our spending, work extra hours etc to pay down the debt. We are financially responsible. Once back in a manageable situation, we would learn from our past mistakes, stop working the extra hours and live within our means.

    The sad thing is that this will never happen in America (not now anyway). No one wants to live with out (which is funny because if you look around, Americans live large for the most part, we have it good overall in comparison but we want more. No wonder everyone hates us. Tosh.O does a great bit about this.) No one wants to contribute more to pay down the debt. But who can blame them??? The government has mismanaged our money for quite sometime. And what do they get to do, take more of it!!! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could each just spend spend spend and when we get into trouble financially just tell our employers to give us more money and they have no choice but to do so. Of course we will tell them that we have a plan to get out of debt but when they pay us more, we will continue to spend spend spend rather than pay our debt off. Why not, we can just demand more later. The cycle will repeat. That is essentially what has been happening in our country. Outrageous.

    Want to pat down the debt, decrease spending and increase money to pay down the debt (by raising taxes on everyone to various degrees). Do this for while, pay down the debt and then proceed in a financially responsible manner. Lower the taxes again and focus on the needs of the country, not the wants of those with money and power etc. Gradually and responibly add back the wants. I am no financial genius but even I can see this, but again no one wants to sacrifice. We are pissing in the wind.

    One last quick comment regarding what you guys have menitoned about social security. You hit the nail on the head there! The government mismanaged the money. The funny thing is, is that this is EXACTLY what happened with the teahcers and public employees pensions. They were promised this money in the past. It was the states responsibility to fund these pension funds to pay for themselves over time. But since the government did not manage the money adequately, they cannot pay the pensions promised. Now they turn and make the teachers etc look like the criminals when in fact they just want what was promised to them. Again, outrageous.

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