Thursday, August 9, 2012

Modern Martha and Harold

   Holy crap, Martha, the damn well’s going dry! But, Martha knew that History repeats itself, especially when it comes to the weather. Seems like Martha and Harold are back in the old dust bowl, again. Some of us still remember the author John Steinbeck who wrote The Grapes of Wrath, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Of Mice and Men, about folks like Martha and Harold. (That was back in the old days when you had to read stuff to find out what was going on in the World.)
   Well, back then Martha and Harold bundled up the kids and some of their belongings and headed for California, and a better life. Now, we seem to have a similar weather pattern in our abundant Midwest and Southwest. This modern day drought has some eerie similarities to the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. It stretches from the high plains of Central Canada all the way South to Gulf of Mexico.
   Does anyone remember what was going on here in the 1930’s. Ah, yes, we were trying to resurrect ourselves from “The Great Depression”.  Sound a little familiar? Now, Modern Martha and Harold can’t just bundle up the kids and some of their belongings and headed for California. California is totally bankrupt, way too overcrowded, and Modern Martha and Harold don’t have the money to move, because Harold has been unemployed for a year and a half. MM & H are also close to defaulting on their mortgage, maxed out on their credit cards, one car already repossessed, and the second one in arrears.
   Tell me; what are Modern Martha and Harold supposed to do? In our style of democracy, this is where the Federal Government comes riding in on the white horse, just in time to save the day. Here’s where we run into a major snafu. The Federal Government doesn’t own a white horse anymore. The Chinese bought the last one we had, and, believe me, they aren’t riding in to save our day anytime soon. I guess there is a small chance that we can keep our feet out of the fire. Maybe, just maybe, if we stop fighting  these wars that are destined to failure, we can avoid running over the $3.4 trillion outlay that I suggested three years ago. Maybe then, we will have some money left over to help Modern Martha and Harold through this rough period. I really thought that helping them at their hour of need was “The American Way”. I hope I can still feel truth in that when I wake up tomorrow morning.

Just a little history from:                    
Geographic characteristics

{A dust storm approaches Stratford, Texas, in 1935.}
The Dust Bowl area lies principally west of the 100th meridian on the High Plains, characterized by plains which vary from rolling in the north to flat in the Llano Estacado. Elevation ranges from 2,500 feet (760 m) in the east to 6,000 feet (1,800 m) at the base of the Rocky Mountains. The area is semiarid, receiving less than 20 inches (510 mm) of rain annually; this rainfall supports the shortgrass prairie biome originally present in the area. The region is also prone to extended drought, alternating with unusual wetness of equivalent duration. During wet years, the rich soil provides bountiful agricultural output, but crops fail during dry years. The region is also subject to high winds.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

“Leggo my Eggo”

Who’s going to steal my money, now? Let me count the ways:
1.       Town Council

2.       Town Supervisor

3.       County Legislator

4.       County Supervisor

5.       State Representative

6.       State Senator

7.       U.S. Representative

8.       U.S. Senator

Now, shut up, neither the Governor nor the President of the United States has the power to put his hand in my wallet; all the others do.

   On the local level, my town is going to be in need of money for the School District. The Feds and the State are constantly cutting back. The Town sewage treatment plant is out of date, and needs a major overhaul and expansion. This is obvious from the wonderful odors wafting through the Town. The suspension on my car is almost in need of surgery. The Town roads are constantly at the mercy of spring water, and their paths of run off. The roads are also at the mercy of the Sewage  Treatment Plant, the County Water District, the area Electric and Gas Utility, and a few of the major Communications Companies. The Town Parks are just barely hanging in there. There are too few workers, and not enough hours in the day. Town Services that are used by the Elderly, the Children, the Veterans, and the Poor cannot sustain their current levels of performance. The Town offers many more Services and Educational Programs that most likely cannot sustain at their current levels. There is also the question of Property Values. As Town sponsored programs and necessities get the axe, the Town becomes a little less attractive place to live; thus, bringing down Property Values. In a good Economy, all of this might signal a certain amount of “gentrification”. The trouble is that the “gents” don’t have the wherewithal to make that happen, anymore.   

In addition to the Town’ woes, the County shoulders many tax funded projects and programs on an even larger basis. The County also is more “tied into” The State when it comes to Welfare, Food Stamps, Unemployment Benefits, the good old DMV, Land Preservation, etc. There are some obvious areas where financial cuts simply can’t be made, but. as the Town, The County will not be able to sustain the abundance of peripheral programs and projects.

When it comes to the State and the Federal Government, just take a few minutes and think about your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly necessities and activities. You may find that things in your life you take for granted get funded through your tax payments. Look at your pay stub, if you’re lucky enough to have one, and take inventory of what exactly all those deductions end up funding. The deductions are for things you use now, or will be eligible for in the future. The way this Country operates is directly funded through your beneficence. That’s right. Its your money that makes this Country the most respected in the World. You have a stake in keeping it that way. You also have the right to vote in elections that determine who gets to spend your money. Choose wisely. “A fool and his money are quickly separated.”

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cost and Other Potential Issues of the Afghan and Iraq Wars


Troop Levels in the Afghan and Iraq Wars,
FY2001-FY2012: Cost and Other Potential
Amy Belasco
Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget
July 2, 2009

Congressional Research Service

Easy to read PDF format with 72 pages of precise statistics, graphs, charts, and text showing the number of troops involved and the number of dollars spent in regard to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

   In February and March 2009, the Obama Administration announced its plans to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and decrease troop levels in Iraq. In Afghanistan, 30,000 more troops are deploying this year while in Iraq, troops will gradually decline to 35,000 to 50,000 by August 31, 2011 with all troops to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. The most commonly cited measure of troop strength is “Boots on the Ground” or the number of troops located in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Based on average monthly Boots on the Ground figures, the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq increased from 5,200 in FY2002 to a peak of 187,900 in FY2008 primarily
because of increases in Iraq beginning with the invasion in March 2003. In FY2009, total troop strength is expected to remain the same as planned increases in Afghanistan offset declines in Iraq. By FY2012, overall troop strength for the two wars is likely to decline to 67,500 when the withdrawal from Iraq is expected to be complete.
   For Afghanistan, troops in-country grew gradually from 5,200 in FY2002 to 20,400 in FY2006. Between FY2006 and FY2008, average strength there jumped by another 10,000 to 30,100. Under the Administration’s plans, CRS estimates that average monthly Boots on the Ground in Afghanistan may increase to 50,700 in FY2009 with a further increase to 63,500 the following year once all new units are in place. Currently, additional increases have not been approved. For Iraq, troops in-country nearly doubled between FY2003 and FY2004 reaching 130,600. By
the following year, average strength grew by another 13,000 to 143,800, with that level maintained in FY2006. During the surge in troops initiated by President Bush, average troop strength in Iraq grew by 7,000 or 6% in FY2007 and another 9,500 or 9% in FY2008, reaching a peak of 157,800. CRS estimates that average troop strength in Iraq will decline to 135,600 in
FY2009, 88,300 in FY2010, 42,800 in FY2011, and 4,100 in FY2012. While it is not clear whether war costs will change precisely in tandem with troop levels, these changes can provide a benchmark to assess requests. Based on changes in troop levels and other adjustments, CRS estimates that war costs could be about $8 billion less than the Department of Defense (DOD) $141 billion request for FY2009, and about $13 billion below its $130 billion request for FY2010. For the next year, FY2011, CRS estimates that DOD’s requests could be $42 billion more than the current planning figure of $50 billion. And in FY2012, CRS estimates war costs could be $20 billion higher than the Administration’s estimate of $50 billion.
   Although Boots on the Ground is the most commonly cited measure of troop strength, that measure does not include over 100,000 other troops deployed in the region providing theater-wide support for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the Afghan War, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the Iraq War. Before the 9/11 attacks, the United States had deployed about 26,000 troops in the Central Command region, which includes Afghanistan and Iraq. Based on the most comprehensive DOD measure of troop strength, 294,000 troops were deployed for OEF and OIF as of December 2008, a tenfold increase since 2001.This more inclusive measure may more accurately capture the overall demand for troops. The Administration has not indicated how its plans would affect troops providing support in the region. Using five DOD sources, this report
describes, analyzes, and estimates the number of troops deployed for each war from the 9/11 attacks to FY2012 to help Congress assess upcoming DOD war funding requests as well as the implications for the long-term U.S. presence in the region.

   This report ranks right up at the top of all the reports I have read concerning Troop levels and the cost of maintaining those levels. My motivation for researching this topic is the fact that our Nation’s Middle Class is mostly responsible for supplying boots on the ground and the money to carry out their mission. The more I dig; the more I realize that my prediction of two years ago is not very far off the mark. I predicted back then that we would spend approximately $3.4 TRILLION on both conflicts. If you read this report carefully, you get a very clear picture of all the primary, secondary, and tertiary costs.
   At a time when we can least afford it, those friendly folks down in Washington, D.C. are still spending our tax dollars like there’s no tomorrow. There are some big ticket programs we need to spend money on; this is not one of them.

Front Page Drive-in News

  I am writing this because I feel very strongly when it comes to supporting our Men and Women in Uniform; not because I necessarily agree, or disagree, with the actual conflicts they find themselves engaged in. It is with cautious optimism that I congratulate the New York Times. The “Section - A” front pages for Saturday, Aug. 4th,,  and Sunday, Aug. 5th,  had mention of happenings in Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan; that little Country where our Soldiers are fighting and dying? I know you do. It seems that one of our Nation’s most highly regarded print Newspapers actually did forget about Afghanistan for a while. With all the rambling rhetoric about how we all support our Troops overseas, one might be led to believe that the Wars we are fighting are worthy of front page status on a daily basis.

    Granted, this is a National Election year. But, would you put State Fairs and a foreign automobile manufacturer ahead of our Men and Women risking their lives in our name? This weekend’s editions of the New York Times included one story about two Afghan Ministers (Sunday, Aug. 5th) and a bottom of the page index mentioning a number of inter-tribal killings. I realize it is not quite what we deserve from the Journalism Sector, but, given the past month’s reporting, this is a start in the right direction.

   It is my most sincere hope that the New York Times, and every other newsprint outlet, keep the stories of our Troops in the forefront of National reporting. The lives of each and every Man and Woman in our Armed Forces effects the lives of each and every U.S. Citizen. As a Country, we owe them all the respect we can garner.