Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

What Problems Will Face Our Leaders on November 9th, After the Election

ISIS is a small problem relative to our budget deficit and infrastructure deficiencies

 

November 1, 2016

Students playing in a flooded UCLA in 2014. Crumbling infrastructure in the United States is a much bigger problem then ISIS.

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." Cicero-55BC

We'll all miss this raucous election season, but isn't the bigger problem what priorities to set, rather than which personality to run it. Here's the five biggest problems, and some solutions:

1. Crisis of Confidence: The bruising election season means whoever is sworn in January of 2017, does not have the trust and faith of the American people. Partisans on both sides will find this result hard to swallow. This extends to senators, congressmen and politicians of all levels. Americans no longer see government as a solution, but as more of a problem.

2. Budget deficit: I know this is boring, but it's a bigger problem than a lot of things we discuss daily--even including Kim Kardashian: During fiscal year 2015, the Federal government received approximately $3.25 trillion in tax and fee revenue and had outlays (spending) of $3.7 trillion; the difference was a $440 billion deficit. Measured as a percentage of gross domestic product (a measure of the size of the economy), revenues were 18.2% GDP, well above the historical average (1980-2015) of 17.4% GDP.

Outlays of 20.7% GDP were slightly above the average of 20.6% GDP. The deficit of 2.5% GDP was below the 3.2% GDP historical average. After a significant increase primarily due to the Great Recession, the annual deficit returned to its historical average in fiscal year 2014 and is projected to remain around that level until 2019 before slowly rising. This is unsustainable. The government spends too much money given what it takes in

3. Health Care Crisis: What I never hear talked about is that people with serious illnesses are taking a disproportionate share of the healthcare budget. A string of low cost health clinics across the country to handle routine problems, such as broken limbs or common procedures like hernias and skin carcinoma removals, would solve a lot of problems. People would happily pay $100 for such services, and the government could easily handle the rest of the cost. This is precisely what most other countries in the Western world do. Just a thought.

4. Low Interest rates: Another boring one. This measure was adopted in the wake of the great recession as a temporary cure. It's been 9 years, and the result is high real estate prices, high rents and homelessness. Time for the Federal Reserve to raise rates.

5. Infrastructure: Our energy infrastructure is from the 1920's and vulnerable to foreign attack--and even to squirrels climbing into transformers. Our computer infrastructure needs to be the best in the world. Our sewer and waterlines in Los Angeles are often 100 years old, and lead to spectacular collapses like the one on Sunset Blvd that flooded UCLA in 2014. It's time to rebuild it, creating thousands of jobs in the process.

These guys are pretty scary because they don't follow the rules of war and are an enemy to civilization itself. But an existential threat? Nah.

6. ISIS: The Islamic State does not actually represent an existential threat to the United States, and this problem is last on our list. But it does represent a magnification of terrorism. Consider Mosul, a city of 2 million, more than greater Portland, Oregon. In April 2014, disaffected Saddamists and foreign militants, the backbone of ISIS, brought in suicide trucks and drove out the police and soldiers guarding the City in an afternoon.

They've been there ever since, telling people what to wear, how to educate their kids, promoting innovations like slavery. They shoot anyone who disagrees with them, they kill or tax people of other religions. Now they're holding about 1,000,000 people hostage, which explains the ginger pace of the 30,000 troops trying to liberate Iraq.

Mosul will be solved, ultimately. My point is, there will be more Mosuls, now that the Islamists have figured out the next wave, what comes after plane hijackings as terrorism expands

 

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