Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ignorance Is Bliss?

"Three years ago, the American actor Craig T Nelson appeared on a rightwing television show to complain about the size of the US government and discuss his intention to no longer pay taxes. His logic, if it deserves the label, was peculiar. 'I've been on food stamps, I've been on welfare. Did anybody help me out? No.' "

This quote leads off a book review in the Financial Times by Cardiff Garcia of the Wall Street Journal's economics editor's book by David Wessel, entitled, Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget. 

The book itself gets a favorable review for explaining the basics of the federal budget and with a few caveats, Mr. Garcia finds the book interesting, informative and short in length.

The review zeros in on some myths perpetrated by news shows, talk radio and politicians that filter down to the electorate. But, like the old party game of whispering something from one to another, by the end of the chain it resembles nothing like the original message.

Here are a few:

  • 50% of people polled believe the US spends 10% of the federal budget very year on foreign aid.
           We actually spend less the 1%.

  • 4 out of 10 people believe they do not use any government social programs.
           The people polled were recipients of either Social Security or unemployment benefits.

           [Sure they have contributed to both, but if you are fortunate to live a long life you will more than     recoup your contribution to the former and if you are unfortunate to remain on the latter for a long period of time you too will recoup your contribution.]

Wessel believes that currently the deficit is declining, but looming on the horizon is something that will lower our standard of living, and reduced all the things that make our nation competitive on the world stage ... it is rising healthcare costs. Don't think for  a minute that rising costs of healthcare is a positive correlation with rising quality of healthcare. We are older, we live longer and with an increasing disparity of national wealth, most of us are poorer. All these factors will, year after year, increase the deficit and eventually ruin the country. "Thirty years ago, one in every 10 dollars was spent on healthcare for the poor and elderly. It is now one in every four and the ratio will keep climbing."

The solution , to my mind, is political. The people we have elected to offices at the national level are not serving in the national interest and they achieve this by dumbing down the electorate with simplistic ideologies, and misinformation for furthering their political tenure, power and greed. So, the only way to stop this rest with an independently informed electorate. Maybe Mr. Wessel's book is a start?

Source: Financial Times, Book Review of David Wessel's, 'Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget', by Cardiff Garcia, August 6, 2012, page 8.
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