Tag Archives: budget

What Comes After Trillion?

In recent weeks and in an effort to curb growing outrage and voter disaffection, President Obama has shown up everywhere, save  the guest judge chair on ‘American Idol’. From town halls to prayer breakfasts, on prompter and off, the President has been seen pimping his budget and defending his prescription for the U.S. economy, which is predictably focused on government, not business, creating jobs.

He’s also appeared a bit touchy in recent days. In his State of the Union, he denied that his healthcare plan is a result of some ‘Bolshevik plot,’ and sought to blunt nasty ‘communist’ or ‘socialist’ aspersions cast by those evil tea-partiers.  It’s easy to see why he’d want to avoid such labels, however true they might be. Forget economic output comparisons between old Europe and the United States over the last thirty years and just examine last week’s market reaction to Spain and Portugal’s budgetary crises. Spending and raising debt ceilings hasn’t helped their respective economies. Add Greece to that mix as they are trying to get spending under control. 

Obama has repeatedly pledged to restore fiscal discipline to Washington, yet his budget would more than double the current debt, increasing it to $26 trillion over the next decade. Forty cents on every dollar spent in the budget is borrowed. And while it would be nice if maybe our loan shark was Canada or Britain, China continues to invest in our debt. With each security sold or Wall St investment made, Beijing wields more influence and hinders further criticism of their monetary, trade, or human-rights policies.

What can Americans expect from these borrowed Chinese dollars? How will the President use this debt to catapult the U.S. economy into prosperity? 

His budget spells it out.

Under the ‘Reviving job creation and laying a foundation for economic growth’ section Obama outlines his recipe to grow jobs. ‘Investments’, spending, are programmed for education, clean energy and infrastructure to lay a foundation for long term job growth. He provides high-speed rail with $5 billion over five years, $1 billion in this year’s budget. Just how will hi-speed rail create jobs and sharpen America’s competitive edge?  

Adopting this particular European idea is folly on so many levels. European cities are much closer together and their highways are radically inferior; there just isn’t enough room for road expansion. Another reason for a viable European railway—weather. Many businessmen from Milan take the train to Turin or Venice to avoid fog which, in the winter, can create hours of delays. In addition, gas is more expensive. Choosing between spending 80€ to fill up your tank or 20$ to take a train, is a no-brainer. And when Europeans visit America, they rent cars; they don’t purchase Amtrak tickets.

In addition to the ‘I wanna be like Europe’ nonsense, the President fails to understand that multi-nationals aren’t flocking to China and India for their infrastructure; it’s their cheap labor and lower taxes. Cutting-edge is not a herd of cows meandering about the roadway unimpeded, it’s I-95 from Miami to New York.  

Another bedrock of the new Obamaconomy is clean energy. Not only does the new budget allow for $54.5 billion in ‘green’ loans, it encourages “new nuclear facilities and a range of renewable energy projects that reduce greenhouse gases and pollutants, while simultaneously creating jobs and contributing to long-term economic growth.” Energy efficiency is a critical component, but perhaps it would be better to fund those programs when the economy is on solid footing.

Another baffling mention in a growing economy subsection is the $1 billion Michelle Obama childhood obesity project. It would be altogether different if this $1 billion were to feed starving American children, but as it stands, we are going to be borrowing from the Chinese to better nourish overweight children. 

The budget also lays out plans to bring grocery stores and other ‘healthy’ food retailers to ‘food desert’ communities.

Where to start…Shouldn’t Publix or Whole Foods decide where to put their stores? And what exactly is a ‘food desert’ community? Inner cities? Maybe if bag boys weren’t scared to push Grandma Edith’s cart to her car, Whole Foods might consider the idea. Government doesn’t need to help businesses decide how to expand profits. That job falls to management and their expertise.

 As Americans watch their friends and family lose jobs with no end in sight, they see a President more interested in remaking the nation than strengthening the economy. Since their own wealth hasn’t been enhanced through second mortgages and house flippers, they aren’t apt to believe that borrowing from China will result in an economic renaissance.

 If fiscal conservatives don’t win in November and get a handle on these trillion dollar deficits, Americans better familiarize themselves with a new term—quadrillion.

Air-Fore

The coffee is different, and the plastic parmesan doesn’t remotely resemble the fresh cheese from what used to be my local Italian markets. After spending four years in Europe, filled with cappuccino and brioche breakfasts, shopping at the local Orlando market or eating at the nearest diner had become a bit more depressing.

Of course, there is more to life than food, even though people-watching at the mall reveals that many are still unaware of that truism. But at least I had come back to chicken fingers and Cracker Barrel. And hey, we Americans, well, we always have hot dogs. Wieners and cappuccino aside, my reality changed in Europe, and it allowed me to see everything differently. I had never noticed how big our portions were, how cheap our gas still is, and how common sense had either never been preached, or had made a mass American exodus.

There are so many examples of inanity, especially when government is involved, but one of my recent favorites concerns the Air Force and its golf course in Niceville.

My husband Riccardo recently played golf with a friend who lives near Eglin Air Force Base. During the round, Riccardo asked if he had played Eglin’s Eagle course recently.

“Can’t. It’s closed for green reconstruction. They can’t afford to send decent boots or armored Humvees to our troops in Iraq, but they can afford to ruin the best greens in the panhandle. And all because the members wanted them flatter.”

I decided to do a little checking, not about the boots or the Humvees, but about the golf course and its planned remodel. With a struggling economy and a very expensive war, it seemed unlikely that the government would be spending money to renovate a golf course.

My first step was a Google search. Nothing. Never had my search pages come up as empty. Next, posing as a college student writing a term paper on golf course construction, I phoned Eglin Golf Course and spoke to a couple of people. They confirmed that the renovation had begun on all eighteen greens, but when I asked how much the project would cost, they clammed up. Eventually, I was able to squeeze the name of the company responsible, but the budget—it was classified.

Luckily for me, I was able to reach a higher-up in the golf course design firm, and believing he was helping my research, he let loose with the embargoed info. The project was running upwards of $1.8 million. “Normally, the time frame is shorter,” he advised. “But the Air Force has rules about days and hours we’re not allowed to work. They also have consultants which has made the process lengthier.”

The Air Force has golf course consultants? Any guess as to how many other nations have golf course consulting as a part of their military program? And God bless our troops and retired military, but can’t they learn how to put on undulated greens?

I suppose some congressman snuck an ear mark in some farm bill, or perhaps they didn’t even try to hide it. It doesn’t matter. Almost two million dollars to fix a golf course that didn’t need fixing is just one of the many nonsensical decisions that appear more glaring and feel more frustrating, since my return from a place whose citizens can’t afford to neglect common sense.

Be a Patriot and Spend your Stimulus

My Italian father-in-law and I used to argue over cultural and political differences between Italy and the U.S. He would issue a charge, I would deny it, and a debate would inevitably ensue. In one of our early debates, he warned me: “your economy (the U.S. economy) will collapse once its debtors begin calling in their chips.” We overuse credit cards, spend more than we can afford and consider ‘budget’ a dirty word, he would always say.

If this credit crisis has taught me anything, it has showed me that his assessment was pretty accurate. The saddest part isn’t his vindication or that I have to admit, once again, he was right… It’s that we haven’t learned. Just this weekend, while watching an Italian soccer match, an advertisement flashed across the bottom of the screen:

Your country needs you. Help the economy and spend your government stimulus. Check out cool gear at Foxsoccershop.com

Appealing to the patriotism of Americans by encouraging them to spend their government checks is appalling. Most of the blame, however, belongs to the President and politicians who, by their actions, have continued to promote our irresponsibility by implying that the best action we can take, to recover from this credit crisis, is to spend more. Isn’t that what brought us recession and foreclosures? Shouldn’t they be promoting saving, conservation and paying off our debts? If they need to give a economy a boost, why not cut the corporate tax rate? How about addressing the affordability of healthcare, the ballooning price of oil as it relates to a pathetically weak dollar and the out-of-control federal spending that has created the dollar crisis?

Why do we, as Americans, need to act irresponsibly to cure what Washington has created? Me, I’ll be banking my stimulus check to start a trend, a trend I hope other Americans continue. Spend only what you can afford and save for that rainy day you know is coming.