Category Archives: Government Issues

the root of the problem

Letter to the Editor of our local Newspaper

Letter to the Editor of our local Newspaper

February 1, 2020

Dear Editor HDT:

I read with considerable interest your reprinting of the editorial from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (N.Y.) in the January 19, 2020 edition of the HDT. The title of this editorial was “National debt growth is not sustainable.”

All of the statistics cited are true and alarming. However, the situation is even more dire than represented. I would title my concern: “The accelerating growth in national debt and future obligations are out of control.”

One significant measure that we should be tracking is the debt to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio. In 1981 that ratio stood at 31%. Today that same ratio is approaching 107% an increase of almost 3 ½ times in less than 40 years. Our ability to pay what we owe must come from GDP. Our country’s financial condition is highly leveraged and, therefore, more at risk. The trend in increased deficit spending has been consistent, regardless of which political party has been in control.

It is important to note that there is a difference between the “official” national deficit and the “actual” deficit. Currently, the official annual projected deficit for 2020 is reported at $1.052 trillion, but the actual figure is close to $1.3 trillion. Budget elements for “classified” projects, waste, abuse, and fraud are not included in the most commonly reported number.

Where have the fiscal conservatives gone? We used to be able to count on the GOP to keep spending under control. The approved budget in 2019 has resulted in more than a $1 trillion annual deficit while the country is experiencing a decent increase in GDP, currently projected at 2.1% for 2020. We had large deficits in the past, but usually only when the economy was in recession. What is happening in 2019 is unprecedented. The economy was in ok shape before 2016, averaging a growth rate slightly over 2 %. The deficit-financed tax cut increased the growth rate to a bit over 3%, but that was merely a short-term tactic. The impact on the deficit will last for at least another ten years. The rate of growth in the economy is returning to the level of several years before 2016, and some economists are predicting a further slowdown. The growth rate for the 2nd quarter of 2019 was 2.1%, and it was 1.9% in the 3rd quarter.

Almost none of our elected representatives are willing to address this issue. We continue to approve budgets with no regard to the source of income. I am not opposed to a budget deficit. But when our National Debt exceeds our annual GDP, I think it is past time to cut spending, especially while the economy is still reasonably robust.

While the accelerating deficit is alarming, the level of unfunded liabilities is atrocious. Unfunded liabilities are “future” spending commitments that have no revenues targeted to offset these obligations. According to the Treasury Department, total U.S. unfunded liability includes Social Security (along with Medicare Parts A, B, and D), federal debt held by the public, plus federal employee and veteran benefits. This number currently exceeds $122 trillion and is also accelerating. It amounts to over $1 million per family.

What this means is that future generations are facing a bleak economic outlook. We have been approving future obligations is the short term without any concern for the longer-term consequences. It seems like our attitude is to take care of ourselves today and leave it to our descendants to take care of the debt we have created. Does this seem fair to you?

There are reasonable solutions to balancing the Federal budget, but they will impact several industry segments that are reaping significant profits from our spending habits. The amount of political funding provided by these special interest groups will be difficult to combat. I doubt that our current government representation dares to address this issue. My opinion is that we need stricter, effective and enforceable campaign spending limits and senate and congressional term limits. If career politics were replaced by service to the country then our financial condition would improve. It is important to remember that controlling the current budget is only a start. We must also begin to take responsibility for future spending commitments and ensure that there are income sources to meet these obligations.

How is our country doing, carbon footprint wise, on energy production?

How is our country doing, carbon footprint wise, on energy production?

Over the past 65 years we have made some progress, but not as much as many other countries. Even today almost 64% of our energy is based on petroleum-based products. There are now less than 25 countries that produce over 80% of their energy from renewable source while we only produce 17% via these same sources.

U.S. electricity generation by source, amount, and share of total in 2018 Energy

US Energy Information Administration (Source)

Total – all sources  100%

Fossil fuels (total)63.6%

Natural  35.2%       Coal  27.5%        Petroleum (total)  .6%   (Petroleum liquids.4%   Petroleum coke  .2%)                         Other gases   .3%

Nuclear  19.4%

Renewables (total)  16.9%

Hydropower  7%           Wind  6.5%           Biomass (total)  1.4%  (Wood  1.0%   Landfill gas  .3%                                                Municipal solid waste (biogenic)  .2%   Other biomass waste <0.1%)           Solar  1.5%   (Photovoltaic  1.4%                            Solar thermal  .1%)      Geothermal  .4%      Pumped storage hydropower3  .1%   Other sources   .3%

Healthcare Revisited – Health Education

Healthcare Revisited – Health Education

We spend about $8 billion a year on health education and yet average health in our country is not improving. Obesity & overweight continues to increase, and longevity is decreasing despite our best efforts to extend life (we currently rank 57th in projected longevity). It is not unusual that a person’s medical cost will be more in the last year of life than all of the preceding years combined.                                                                                                             

The key to health is the condition of the immune system. Admittedly, there are hereditary factors that predetermine certain events, but even in these instances, longevity will improve with a high functioning immune system.  Defenders of the current health education program claim that the condition would be even worse if we abandon education.

I am not proposing that we abandon efforts to improve health, just that we refocus our efforts and reduce spending. I would eliminate spending at the Federal level and Cap the overall spending at $4 billion. I would push the spending down to the community level. Communities could apply for grants that require 1/3 local funding (in-kind services allowed) which would be limited to a maximum of $5 per capita per year (a city of 50,000 could apply for a maximum annual grant of $250,000. The proposals must contain both exercise and healthy eating components. The maximum duration for any grant proposal would be three years. After that, the community would be expected to maintain and fund the effort locally.

I would also aggressively address the obesity issue in two ways. There would be a phase-in period of 3 years. Persons that are currently obese would be given three years to reduce their BMI to 32 or below. Source: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11760

“BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 and above. (A BMI of 30 is about 30 pounds overweight.) The BMI, a key index for relating body weight to height, is a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) divided by their height in meters (m) squared.”

The only exception would be in the rare cases where obesity is a result of a medical condition or disability, and in all those cases would require a physician certification. There would be heavy financial penalties for false or forged certifications. Obese persons who bring their BMI to under 32 in the 1st year would receive a $1,000 tax credit in year two and year 3. Those that achieve the goal in year two would receive the credit in year 3. Commencing in year four all persons with a BMI of 32 or over would be subject to a $500 annual Income tax penalty. The penalty would apply to each obese person in the household. Further, obese persons would not be eligible for any federal government subsidies such as food stamps (EBTs).

The single most effective activity for improving and maintaining the immune system is an effective exercise regimen. What you consume is important, but exercise is the key. An effective exercise program involves a minimum of 30 minutes a day that includes elevating the heart rate to at least 50% above the at-rest rate. Example: if your at-rest rate is 60 bpm then ensure that your exercise rate is at least 90 bpm. For the average person, this would mean brisk walking at about 3.5 mph. You can easily gauge your walking speed by the distance covered in 30 minutes which would be 7/8 mile (1,400 meters) at 3.5 mph. This rate of speed will likely not be possible for many obese persons, but it is one that is attainable in less than 30 consecutive days of walking. This routine will easily take a person with a BMI of 35 to below 32 in less than six months as long as their caloric intake does not increase. Walking is free; it only requires time. My favorite reference on this topic is a video called 23 ½ hours at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo.