My regular readers may have noticed that I haven't been blogging as much lately. Part of it is a busy schedule, but part of it was lack of inspiration-- and worry about whether I'd get into nursing school this fall. Knowing that in the end, there was a lottery of the qualified applicants for the open slots didn't help. Nothing like your future being subject to luck of the draw to give you anxiety. Getting the tremendous news yesterday that I've been accepted to nursing school and I can now move my life forward was a big plus and a motivator.
I've had a bunch of things that really didn't warrant a whole post, but I thought I'd string them together into a post.
First off, let me go off about earmarks. All through the whole thing about the budget, the bailout, etc., people were ranting about earmarks. Here, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Full disclosure: I have a bachelor's and master's in political science, and actually studied earmarks. What is an earmark? It's a guarantee that when Congress passes a spending bill, that the money that is allocated for a particular project, program or job is actually spent on that thing and only that thing. Where I come from, that's a good thing. Apparently, the poliitcos were using the confusion between "pork" and earmarks to bullshit voters. What is pork? It's government spending added into bills by politicians that benefit their districts. Some is good, some is bad-- and it's a fact of life. If you want the money for the new schools in your inner city congressional district, you vote for the big park in the district of some yahoo in Texas or Florida to get his or her vote. And it's a tiny amount of overall spending. Blogger Vikki summed it all up beautifully when she said
"First of all, 'earmarks' and 'pork' are not the same thing. That’s like saying “movies” and “Battlefield Earth” are the same thing."
Another thing, in all the hullabaloo about government spending, something that the idiots with the "tea parties" conveniently forgot. Most government spending is for two things: the military and entitlements-- social security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.
There's a perception on the "whack-job right" that almost all taxes go to pay for welfare. Here's the fact: welfare is a tiny percentage of government spending. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), one of the most vilified programs, combined with food stamps, make up about 1% of all government spending.
Incidentally, I'm a big fan of AFDC. My ex and I were able to get formula, milk, cheese and legumes with the AFDC checks we got after The Dude was born. We were so desperately broke when he was born, I don't know what we would have done without the food AFDC provided us.
For more reading, here's an interesting page that points out that middle class entitlements are actually responsible for "runaway government spending."
Speaking of Medicare, when I called my folks to tell them the good news about getting into nursing school yesterday, my father and I had a discussion about the massive deficits that W. left us, and Medicare. I had just been reading a New York Times editorial about it-- how the "tea party" guys were a couple of years late-- that if they wanted to protest the deficits, they should have done so when Medicare Part D went into effect. To give Bush credit, it's a great program. My folks and everybody else on it pay a fixed cost for prescriptions, no matter how much the meds are actually worth. The problem is that someone has to pay for it. Here's the New York Times blog post:
Where Were the Medicare Tea Parties?
You can't drastically ramp up governmental financial obligations and cut taxes for the wildly rich at the same time.
This all leads up to another conversation, one with my son, about the far right in this country. As always, the Little Man, as he's been called since he was little, was perceptive, mature and wise. He pointed out that the far right is acting like petulant adolescents. Taxation is "unfair." You know, the way it's unfair, to a seventeen-year-old, to have to come home at a reasonable hour, to let you know where he or she is, not to drink and do drugs, etc. So when someone has to pay for the roads they drive on, the schools their kids attend, the fire and police protection they have, the clean water they are guaranteed by governmental regulations, military protection of the sea lanes to guarantee the flow of the petroleum that allows them to have a car and gas prices a fraction of those in the rest of the world, protection from industries dumping toxins into the environment-- you know, all those things government is our tool for providing-- well, that's just NOT FAIR!
It's occurred to me lately that the poster boy for today's far right is Timothy McVeigh. Here was a guy who was against the government! What did the government EVER DO for Tim? Nothing! Well, except for the public schools he attended. And the clean, cheap water he drank. And the safe food he ate thanks to governmental regulations. And the clean air he breathed (yes, the air is measurably cleaner in most of the United States thanks to the EPA, which Richard Nixon brought about). Oh, and yes, there was the government paychecks he drew when he was in the US military.
One last random thought, to end on a happy note. With all of the circus involving the downfall of Illinois' governor and the disgraceful appointment of our Senator, a couple of very happy things have been overlooked. First, Blagojevich's impeachment led to Pat Quinn, a great guy and a longtime reformer becoming governor. Yesterday, while listening to our local public radio, I discovered that Gov. Quinn has appointed Dr. Quentin Young as chairperson of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. Dr. Young, long an advocate of a national health care plan, has long been a fixture in Chicago progressive circles. I had the pleasure of meeting him several times, and am glad that he's in a position where he can steer public policy in Illinois.