Category Archives: Government Issues

the root of the problem

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

In earlier posts, I have expressed my opinion that we can no longer assume the role of the World’s cop. Recently there has been talk of reducing our presence in other countries like Syria and Iraq, but little mention of Afghanistan. I wonder why not.

Following are a few facts:

We have had a military presence in Afghanistan since 2001 (over 18 years) and have spent approximately $750 billion in direct costs and as much as $2 trillion when you include indirect and long-term costs, like veteran rehabilitation.  As of July 27, 2018, there have been 2,372 U.S. military deaths in the War in Afghanistan. 1,856 of these deaths have been the result of hostile action. 20,320 American service members have also been wounded in action during the war. In addition, there were 1,720 U.S. civilian contractor fatalities.

While I have some sympathy for the reason which we used to justify our involvement (the pursuit of Asama Bin Laden), what remains is essentially a “civil” conflict. My understanding is that we still have approximately 14,000 military personnel in Afghanistan and have agreed to eventually remove 5,000 within 135 days of the signing of a peace proposal with the Taliban.

Which of our elected representatives is talking about this issue?

National Security

National Security

The United States Intelligence Community (IC) is a group of 17 separate United States government intelligence agencies, that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities to support the foreign policy and national security of the United States. Member organizations of the IC include intelligence agencies, military intelligence, and civilian intelligence and analysis offices within federal executive departments. The IC is overseen by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which itself is headed by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who reports to the President of the United States.

Among their varied responsibilities, the members of the Community collect and produce foreign and domestic intelligence, contribute to military planning, and perform espionage. The IC was established by Executive Order 12333, signed on December 4, 1981, by U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

The Washington Post reported in 2010 that there were 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies in 10,000 locations in the United States that were working on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence, and that the intelligence community as a whole includes 854,000 people holding top-secret clearances. According to a 2008 study by the ODNI, private contractors make up 29% of the workforce in the U.S. intelligence community and account for 49% of their personnel budgets.

The government funded agencies are:

Agency Parent Agency Federal Department Date est.
Twenty-Fifth Air Force United States Air Force Defense 1948
Intelligence and Security Command United States Army Defense 1977
Central Intelligence Agency none Independent agency 1947
Coast Guard Intelligence United States Coast Guard Homeland Security 1915
Defense Intelligence Agency none Defense 1961
Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence none Energy 1977
Office of Intelligence and Analysis none Homeland Security 2007
Bureau of Intelligence and Research United States Department of State State 1945
Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence none Treasury 2004
Office of National Security Intelligence Drug Enforcement Administration Justice 2006
Intelligence Branch Federal Bureau of Investigation Justice 2005
Marine Corps Intelligence Activity United States Marine Corps Defense 1978
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency none Defense 1996
National Reconnaissance Office none Defense 1961
National Security Agency/Central Security Service none Defense 1952
Office of Naval Intelligence United States Navy Defense 1882

In addition, there are several other agencies responsible for, National Security. Not listed above are the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (2001), the DEA, Dept of the Treasury office of Intelligence and Analysis & Army Intelligence.

I am certain that all of these agencies are doing wonderful work, but does it really take 23 separate agencies to perform national security and intelligence gathering? Are any of these agencies territorial? Do they freely share all of their information with other agencies? I’ll leave you to ponder the answers.

What I do know is that these agencies were founded at different times and for different reasons and are funded via different budget requests. I wonder if our security could be performed more efficiently and at a much lower overall cost? If we hade zero security today and were building an organization from scratch would it look like what we have today?

Income Distribution & the Middle Class

Income Distribution & the Middle Class

How big is the middle class, and how is it defined? ”The Pew Research Center defines the high end of the US middle class as those earning two-thirds to twice the median household income, which was $60,336 in 2017, meaning middle-class Americans were earning about $40,425 to $120,672”  This group represents about 50% of the families in the U.S. “

“A new survey by Northwestern Mutual found that 70 percent of Americans consider themselves middle class. However, a 2015 report from Pew Research Center shows that the middle class has been shrinking over the past four decades and now makes up only 50 percent of the United States’ total population. One reason for this discrepancy might be the fact that wages have been largely flat while costs have gone up, so, in many places, even those making a six-figure income feel like they’re struggling to get by.

Of the survey participants who labeled themselves as middle class, 50 percent earn between $50,000 and $125,000 annually. Although these Americans consider themselves in the middle, the actual dollar amounts needed to qualify as middle class are slightly lower. Pew Research Center defines the range as adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median, which was $55,775 as of 2016. This would lower the range to $40 to $110,000 That equates to singles making between $24,000 and $72,000 annually are middle class.”

While the top 10% of income families have enough discretionary income to have limited participation in Capitalism, it is the top 1% (the Capitalist Group) that controls wealth. The majority of middle-class families struggle to provide just one annual vacation. We can expect them to little or no participation as owners of capital. Fully 37% of families have incomes below the definition of the middle class, and another 12% have incomes below the poverty level.

Currently, the middle class is the engine that drives our economy. Has this group been benefiting from the economic prosperity of the past 20 years? While GDP has increased from $9.6 trillion to $21.3 trillion (a 120% increase), average wages have only increased by about 10%. Where did all that additional GDP go?