30 July 2011

Sen. Johnson's reply

Dear Kilgore,

Thank you for taking the time to write me regarding the federal debt ceiling. The debt ceiling limits the amount of debt the federal government can incur. The United States recently reached its borrowing limit, although Treasury Department measures have pushed back the final deadline to August 2, 2011.

Our nation's fiscal situation is dire. This year alone, Washington will add $1.5 trillion to our nation's debt, which currently totals $14.3 trillion. This mountain of debt threatens the hopes and dreams of future generations. It is immoral. It has to stop. I am willing to work with anyone in Congress who is serious about addressing the number one problem facing our nation.

Unfortunately, neither the Administration nor Democrats in the Senate have offered any serious budget proposal. President Obama's budget for FY2012 would increase our already massive federal debt by $13 trillion over the next decade. This budget was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 0-97, which was a stunning repudiation of President Obama's leadership on this issue.

The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, has not passed a budget in more than two years. This is irresponsible and puts our nation in fiscal peril. Until the President and Senate Democrats get serious, it will be very difficult to pass legislation that begins to put us on the path of fiscal responsibility.

Without a credible plan to restrain spending and grow our economy, the Administration has instead sought to force Congress into increasing the debt ceiling for the eleventh time in the last decade. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently admitted that the Administration has no contingency plan if the Congress does not vote to increase the debt ceiling to allow for more federal borrowing.

On May 25th, I wrote a letter signed by 22 of my Republican colleagues that urged the President to develop a back-up plan in case Congress does not vote to raise the debt ceiling. Businesses and families across America have contingency plans, and the federal government should have one too.

On July 15th, the House of Representatives introduced the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act (CCB), which was passed four days later and sent to the Senate. I believe CCB offers real solutions to our fiscal problems. This act would cut spending for next fiscal year, put into place hard spending caps that will put us on a path to a balanced budget, and introduce a Balanced Budget Amendment to send to the States to ratify. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats tabled CCB before it had a chance to be debated and voted on.

I agree that we need a balanced approach which includes spending controls and increased revenue. But we need to increase revenue the old fashioned way, by growing our economy. The President and the Democrats want to increase taxes, but how many jobs will those taxes create? The answer is that more than likely, it will destroy jobs. Any tax increase will do far more to harm our economy than it will to help. The number one component of the solution to our fiscal crisis is economic growth.

We are bankrupting our nation. Every morning I wake up and ask myself one question: "what can I do to stop it?" I hope that the Administration and my colleagues in the Congress will come together to seriously tackle our fiscal crisis before the Treasury Department runs out of options. However, I will not vote to increase the debt ceiling unless we adopt strong measures to rein in federal spending and balance our budget.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns with me. I apologize for any delay you have experienced in receiving this reply. Since I took office in January, I've received more than 200,000 pieces of correspondence. My staff and I are working hard to respond in a timely way.

Please feel free to contact me in the future with anything important to you or your family. It is an honor to serve you and the good people of Wisconsin.


Ron Johnson
United States Senator

26 July 2011

Ron Johnson, Savior of the Universe! and Debt Arbiter

Dear Senator Johnson,

I am writing to urge you to collaborate with your fellow senators to come to a compromise with the Democrats on how to effectively raise the debt ceiling, cut spending, and, heaven forbid, raise revenue.
Frankly I didn't see what was wrong with the plan proposed by the "Gang of Six".  That seemed to address both cuts and raise revenue.   I see this as a great opportunity for you, a freshman Senator from Wisconsin.  You have been pretty quiet so far, laying low, biding your time.  This could be it!

I understand that the Republicans, of which you are one, are under a mandate not to cooperate with the Democrats.  That’s very funny (interesting not laughable) because I recently encountered a similar problem.  I was visiting my son’s third grade classroom – they work in groups and solve problems collectively.  They’re not competing with each other to take credit for the answer.  They strive to solve the problem together.  That immediately reminded me of congress and how convoluted our elected officials are that cooperation and collaboration have become dirty words in Washington.

One of the problems it seems is that many people in the country mistakenly believe that government ought to be run like a business.   But as you know from running your own businesses our government is not a business.   Businesses are created to earn owners and/or shareholders a profit.  Our government was created to provide for the welfare of the people - as our Constitution clearly reads (Prelude & Art. 1 Sec. 8).  Not once in the Constitution does it direct the government to turn a profit.   It is therefore a mistake to think that elected officials should be acting like CFOs in charge of a massive conglomerate.  That just isn’t how our government is supposed to function.

Even if our government were to function like a business, I think you would agree that negotiation and compromise would still be essential in order to make deals.  Businesses negotiate and deal 24 hours a day 7 days a week.   I don’t have to tell you about how to do business.  You’re doing a remarkable job that most of us should respect.  You managed to turn $8m spent on campaigning into an $8m business reimbursement.   Now that’s some slick maneuvering that we could use about now up on the Hill.  Some of that savvy could be just what is needed to break the stalemate and get legislation passed that raises the debt ceiling, makes $2.5t in cuts and raises $1.5t in revenue.    After all we need to come up with a $4t austerity package.  If anyone can do that you can.

Our country needs your leadership in Washington not the incessant bickering and whining of media driven lawmakers seeking attention by holding up legislative processes without warrant. 

I know that Republicans (of which you are one) have made a pledge not to raise taxes, but that’s your job.  Congress has the job of raising taxes and providing for the welfare of the people (see Constitution Article 1, Sections 1-10).  Many legislators would like to think that the wealthiest people are the only ones that matter because they contribute to the political coffers.  But unfortunately elected officials also have to represent the other 90% of Americans.  That may come as a disappointment to some but as a freshman Senator from Wisconsin this could be your big opportunity to make a name for yourself!

It may be that too many millionaires (of which you are one, by the way) have been elected to congress and have too much of their own interests at stake.  This could be a problem for some but elected officials, such as you, have been elected to overlook their own interests with the interests of the people as a priority.

For example, PACUR has employed many Wisconsinites (and Chinese) and provided for their well-being or directed them to available resources for health care insurance such as Badger Care (or the local clinic for factory workers – a concrete compound with a guy in a white coat who calls himself a doctor after he earned  a high school diploma from a vocational school that trains "tooth doctors").  Through your philanthropy as a business owner, you are responsible for the well-being of hundreds of workers.  Those typical American workers rely on each pay check to make ends meet.  Many have no savings.  Many are struggling to afford health insurance with a $5,000 deductible and $800/mo premium.  Many are managing this feat on less than $26,000/yr.  

But here I am rambling on about how you have contributed to society.  Someone might accuse me of being irreverent.  But I know that you don’t see it that way because you are a Senator of principle.  You have a strong belief that you were elected to make this country healthy.  And I agree.  Here’s a great way to start.  Now is your opportunity to put aside party politics and come to a cooperative deal – a compromise.  You’d stand out as the first Republican.  You’d break the deadlock.  It’d be politically advantageous – your popularity numbers would soar.   Yes, I think you’d earn points with Liberals.

Unlike many of my friends and colleagues I have faith that our elected officials can act responsibly and pass the necessary legislation that insures America is heading in the right direction.  I believe that even though we may not be on the same partisan side of the coin you share my sentiment that the people who were elected to make these decisions can come together and create equitable legislation that represents every American and especially looks after the neediest among us who cannot afford to make themselves heard. 

I trust that your leadership as a successful businessman can help congress reach bipartisan legislation that puts you, I mean Wisconsin, on the map.   

Thank you for your time and good luck - we'll need it.
Ron Johnson really is a dick.  He posted this interview on his own website.  Would you be proud of yourself acting like a total dick on national TV?

20 July 2011

More Out -of-control Republican Spending and General Lack of Empathy

Gov. Scott Walker has ended the early-release program in Wisconsin.  This comes at a time when Wisconsin prisons are at 120% capacity.

"This is one of those cases where we're keeping the worst of the worst in the state prisons," Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer said, the Leader-Telegram of Eau Claire reported.

Did the "worst of the worst" criminals qualify for the early-release program?  According to the bill signed in 2009, inmates who qualified were:
  • Serving time for a misdemeanor or a Class F to I felony that is not a violent offense [as defined in s. 301.048 (2) (bm) 1.] may earn one day of positive adjustment time for each two days of good behavior. Disqualifying violent crimes include offenses such as homicide, sexual assault, and robbery. In addition, an inmate must not be a registered sex offender or have committed other specified serious crimes, and must not have been found ineligible for positive adjustment time
  • Certain elderly and terminally ill inmates were previously allowed (2001 Wisconsin Act 109) to petition for early release. Act 28 expands eligibility to certain inmates serving life sentences, and inmates may now request early release based on an “extraordinary health condition,” defined as advanced age, infirmity, or disability or a need for medical treatment or services not available within the correctional institution. To be eligible due to age, an inmate must be at least 65 years old and have served at least 5 years in prison, or at least 60 years of age and completed at least 10 years. Another petition may not be filed within one year after ERRC denial.
  • It was also possible to build up enough points for good behavior and earn early release
Total Inmate Population Projections: 2010-2020
The Department of Corrections is expected to experience an overall 16% increase in the incarcerated population over the next decade from the current population of 22,911 to the projected population of 26,675 in the year 2020 as seen in Table 1.

Table 1. Projected Inmate Populations: 2010 - 2020
As of July 1
% Change From Prior Year

Throughout history, the ability to predict human behavior, and certainly inmate populations, has presented significant challenges for correctional agencies across the country. To a significant extent, inmate population levels are influenced by unpredictable factors, including: legislative policies, such as Truth in Sentencing; crime rates; arrests and criminal prosecutions; public fears of increased victimization; and failure of offenders to successfully complete community based programs and supervision, to name a few. Conversely, once offenders enter the correctional system, whether as inmates or on probation supervision, it is realistic, in part, that prison diversion or population reduction programs, for appropriate offenders, will impact population management and the future demand for secure confinement capacity.

The human and fiscal impacts of incarceration have become staggering. In Wisconsin, incarceration is costly: the average annual incarceration cost in a maximum security facility in 2007 was $35,039 per prisoner; in a medium security facility was $26,508 per prisoner; and in a minimum security center was $30,794. The juvenile correctional institution daily rate in 2007 was $209, or $76,285 on an annual basis. These costs associated with operating institutional programs contribute to a Wisconsin Department of Corrections budget of more than $1 billion per year.

In the 1990s the Wisconsin prison population increased dramatically and had tripled by the year 2000. Drug and alcohol offenders accounted for a significant growth in the incarcerated population. In fact, drug offenders accounted for more than twenty percent of the growth from 1996 to 2006, and drug and operating while intoxicated offenders were responsible for more than sixty percent of the growth from 2001 to 2006. During that time, the state was building or opening a new prison on average, every two years. Just eight years ago, the state led the country in the number of inmates that were housed in out-of state facilities, peaking at almost 5000.

By 2005, all of the inmates had been returned to occupy newly created prison capacity and county jails in Wisconsin. In 1990, the Wisconsin year end prison population numbered 7,554; at the conclusion of 2007, the number had increased to 22,690 incarcerated adults. The inclusion of offenders on probation and parole supervision and juveniles being served in the institutions and community represented in excess of 95,000 individuals under the custody or supervision of the Department of Corrections; a trend that appears to be continuing. The sheer volume of offenders underscores the challenges facing the Department of Corrections in the next decade.

Gov. Walker and those that support this decision are wrong on incarceration.  Locking up non-violent offenders with violent offenders only exacerbates criminal behaviors hence the high recidivism rates.  Another reason for high recidivism is that when prisoners are released they have to deal with egomaniacs like Walker. 

15 July 2011

To Fix America Start with Military and Health Care Spending

America stands on the precipice.  The road we are traveling will lead to our downfall simply because the rate of our spending is unsustainable.  As Republicans have made abundantly clear our debt will pull us under and lead us to default unless we follow Italy and pass some very serious austerity measures.  We have heard so much about Greece and the crisis they face.  Yet the US debt dwarfs that of Greece and the US debt makes up a larger percentage of our GDP.  The only difference is investor confidence that the US can and will rebound.  That mood can change swiftly as fickle investors grow concerned over unemployment numbers inflation woes.  The crisis in Italy sort of popped suddenly. Additional anxiety must be attached to the burgeoning gap between the wealthy and poor, a clear indicator of a shrinking middle class.  While corporate profits are up 22%, take home pay for the average worker is down or is stagnant.

In order to solve America's problems, every citizen will be asked, not to make sacrifices, but to make investments in our country.  That is how each of us should look at taxes.  Taxes are the revenue that supports our government which in turn tends to the welfare of the people.

What elected officials should do is formulate a four year plan aimed at real austerity measures designed to raise revenue and cut spending.  The federal budget should be addressed based on where the largest funding is now directed - military spending and health care (Medicare & Medicaid). 

American citizens have to force our elected officials to cut military spending over the next four years to a much more manageable amount.  We cannot afford to spend $650 billion on new WMDs, chemical experiments, and the various investing strategies that remain in place from the cold war era.  Reducing military spending by a half would be ideal but perhaps not realistic, a third would be practical.  Cuts would eliminate superfluous spending, close Guantanamo prison, end bombing raids on Libya and Pakistan.  Instead investment would be made in forging closer diplomatic relations with North Korea, Cuba, and Iran.  It would mean a different tactic in our self declared war on terror that would require the cessation of such rhetoric as "axis of evil" and nations of evil.

The next major reform is to end profit in health insurance by implementing a single payer system modeled after Taiwan and Canada.  Everyone would buy in and no billionaires can opt out.  This would require initial investment but in the long-term would lead to huge savings if it were initiated properly.  The time has come in America to end unfair medical treatment on the basis of the size of someone's bank roll.  We would invest in our future by investing in the health of the people.  Given the status of the US as the fattest country in the world, we ought to be demanding change in our country.  Our elected officials, and elderly receive incredible coverage that they would never want to give up.  They all receive government health care.  The percentage of people who are so frightened of "socialized medicine" need to open their eyes to the fact that the people they have voted for are receiving health coverage paid for with tax dollars.  Why shouldn't everyone be covered by the same insurance?

Ron "Another Rich White Guy in
Congress" Johnson
Not too long ago Ron Johnson entered the Senate race because he claimed to be incensed by the health care overhaul that Pres. Obama proposed.  Has Ron Johnson refused to accept government provided health coverage?  Of course not.  And no one should because it's great coverage that every American deserves.

Along with universal health coverage will come higher taxes or individual premiums.  Either way we cannot let the wealthy opt out.  And, the government must not allow the end of earned income credits yet also lower capital gains taxes.  Capital gains taxes must be increased and the incentive to offset realized gain with loss should be more tightly regulate.  There is no way a rich man like Herb Kohl should ever have a tax liability of zero.

In Wisconsin, the model healthcare program for the country could very easily be created.  Badger Care is a great program that provides comprehensive coverage.  There are currently budgeting concerns and questions abound whether the program is sustainable.  However, if every Wisconsinite bought in to Badger Care, there would be no budgetary concerns.  Premiums would be assessed based on income.  The state would act as the negotiator.   Public employees also receive health coverage.  The entire system could be unified and  expanded to cover every Wisconsinite.   

Fixing our health care system shouldn't be impossible.  The major obstacle is in the insurance lobby and the damn fools who are scared to death of a single payer system.  Fear of change is understandable.  But not changing because of fear is condemning oneself to certain doom.

In addition to raising taxes to pay for universal health care, the government must level the domestic to international playing field.  Manufacturing jobs have been sent to emerging markets.  The biggest reason Germany has been able to recover from the global recession is that government regulation has forced companies to retain domestic manufacturing jobs.  The US has allowed corporations to send those same jobs here overseas and the corporations have not been penalized for doing so.  It is time Pres. Obama warm to the idea of introducing a value added tax (VAT).  In addition, in order to shore up competition we should introduce a tariff on all imports.  The incentive will be for American corporations to keep their jobs here in order to produce more goods on American soil.  A tariff will immediately reward those businesses that still manufacture goods in America.

America will also need to instill a renewed investment in education, specifically elementary education, by focusing less time on test results that have been marketed by corporate interests and more time on authentic learning experiences, creative thinking, and mastery of basic facts and key concepts (arithmetic, phonetics, grammar, the scientific method, etc.).  Recent overtures in Wisconsin and Indiana to spend more money on private education will only exacerbate the problems.  These problems won't surface for 5 or ten years but when they do, it will be stark.

Another failed policy that should be redacted as soon as possible is the reduction of vocational secondary programs.  There should be a sincere effort at reimplementation of these vital programs.  In Germany and most other countries, high school students have an academic track or a vocational track.  Not every person is going to be a doctor or scientist or teacher.  A society needs people who are plumbers, hair stylists, mechanics, farmers, without them our society would cease to function just as we could not function without doctors.  When the vocational programs were reduced, the movement was about treating everyone equally.  Unfortunately we are not all the same.  Workers can be treated like equals, people can be treated like equals, yet they can still pursue different interests.  We all don't need an equal education, we just need equitable opportunity.

The government should terminate the war on drugs.  Through legalization of marijuana and its subsequent taxation and the cessation of our failed drug war, billions of dollars in revenue and savings would be realized.  The amount of incarcerated Americans is staggering - over 2 million, and the rate of incarceration of black American males is shocking and depressing.  Non-violent offenders have received the worst treatment in our prison system.  Rather than providing resources and assistant we have for too long focused on punitive measures.  Let's force our legislators to end these tragic policies.

Additionally, the American people must relinquish their conservative attitudes toward marriage.  We are spending too much time debating social policy that has no bearing on functioning government.  The two dominant parties have deflected our concerns back to us, which in turn has created a divided public.  A divided populace is a malleable and controllable group.  The citizens of America must unite to forge a better America that is concerned with raising the quality of health, education, safety, and transportation. 

These are just a few of the necessary austerity measures America must realistically face.  I fear that if we do not, in fifty years there may not be a United States of America.  It is not farfetched to imagine that secession could follow default or any other impetus, such as a massive social catastrophe.


Duplicitous Republicans May Be Insane with Spending; Republicans Don't Like Clean Water Either

While the republicans, especially those in the tea party wing, would like you to believe they want to cut spending, they aren't making the most noble effort to actually limit spending.  Their aim is to make us think that they are trying to curb government spending.  But this is just not true.  Last week members of of the House voted 336-87 to increase military appropriations for 2012 by 2.7% up to an incredible $649 billion.

If that sounds like austerity, then austerity must now mean indulgence.  At one time in the history of English 'nice' meant wanton.  It is possible that we are in the midst of a great shift in the English language.  Chances are higher that this is just simple duplicity carried out by the republican party.  The key to understand the tea party movement is that these people do want to cut some government programs, specifically those that help US citizens, while they raise the funding for other government programs, specifically those that help businesses send more jobs overseas, which in turn provides more money to their election funds, and those that enable our military to keep growing at a comparable to North Korea, China, Russia, and half the world.  

Between the defense/military budget, Medicare/Medicaid, and Social Security, the government is dishing out $2 trillion a year.  People are quick to blame Obama for the spending but they quickly forget that it was Bush who penned his name to the Medicare bill that will cost from 2003 to 2013 about $1.2 trillion.

I would argue it was necessary.  But it is also necessary for everyone in the country to have the same coverage.  It makes no sense that some people, including our congress people who couldn't run pantyhose let alone the government, have government health care while others either have nothing, emergency coverage, or whatever they can afford.  We are the only developed nation in the world that doesn't insure its citizens have access to health care.  It's a travesty that needs to be remedied if we expect to continue to be the great democracy that we purport to be.

The Economist reports that the number of uninsured hospital visits rose last year to 800,000 a 14% increase from 2009.  For those that are insured, average monthly premiums rose by 12% between 2006 and 2008.  Republican will claim that the health exchanges failed to create viable competition.  But that's hogwash.  Taiwan has a single payer system much like the Canadian system.  Costs are low, the system is efficient - there are no waiting lines, and they are rated as providing higher quality care. 

At some point we all need to ask ourselves if it makes any sense to vote for people who wish to fund the US war machine and yet sacrifice the welfare of the people.  I understand that some people vote against abortion or against gay marriage, well it's time to grow up.  There are greater concerns than two men fucking.  They're doing that anyway.  It can't hurt any more than it does if they're wed.

Start voting on issues that really matter.  Instead of spending all of our money fucking the world up let's focus on spending money on getting fucked up.  Some of these politicians could use a little fucking up.  We introduce a few bongs into the chambers.  Get some good ganja - medicinal - not that skunk weed.  You don't hear of too many Rastafaris planting roadside bombs, blowing themselves up in the name of Ras Tafari, or threatening to wipe Florida off the map, or invading sovereign nations.  That's not so difficult, is it? The feds can obtain good shmit - hell they've got a drug czar, right?  We've got a drug czar for a reason - he's got all the best shmit.  We've already admitted the drug war was a failure anyway - so if you can't beat 'em ...  Let's all light up.  Cheer some of these bastards up and get the people some damned health care coverage for chrissakes.

Find budget documents here.

Find the Commonwealth Health report here, in which the US ranks last.


This week republicans introduced a bill that seriously limits the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) powers to set clean-water standards under threat that Pres Obama will (justly so) veto it.    As reported in Bloomberg,
The bill blocks the EPA from tightening water pollutant limits without a state’s consent if the agency previously approved the state standard. The measure, which passed 239-184 yesterday, is part of an effort to rein in what Republicans say is an agency’s regulatory overreach threatening the economy. Sixteen Democrats joined Republicans to support the measure.
The democrats who joined the republicans on this are clearly out of their minds.  What are these knuckle heads thinking?  Supporters of the bill "said limits on the EPA would give farmers, coal companies and other businesses that discharge pollutants into waterways greater certainty that standards won’t be changed."  What does that even mean?  Standards won't change?  Discharge pollutants?  The logic behind that explanation makes no sense.  Perhaps what supporters meant to say was that lax regulations will ensure that there are low standards that will cost businesses less money to meet so they can continue dumping pollutants unchecked into our water.  Now that's a bit more wordy but much more accurate.
Like so many bone-headed moves by the right wing (I mean, Michele Bachmann, seriously?), this bill makes no sense and is not supported by the science.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), who grade US infrastructure viability, US drinking water and wastewater receives a grade of D-.
The nation’s drinking-water systems face staggering public investment needs over the next 20 years. Although America spends billions on infrastructure each year, drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion in funding needed to replace aging facilities that are near the end of their useful life and to comply with existing and future federal water regulations. The shortfall does not account for any growth in the demand for drinking water over the next 20 [tip:years.=Fix that leak!
A faucet dripping just once per second will waste as much as 2,700 gallons of water per year. Fix any leaking faucets.]
 The ASCE lists solutions that include more funding for the EPA and Clean Water Act, not less.  While the republicans would like all of us to baa in unison and thank them for trying to rescue American business, what we should really thank them for is exemplifying what is clearly dysfunctional in our government.  There are idiots showing up for work on Capitol Hill.
 Here are the set of recommendations from the ASCE:
  • Increase funding for water infrastructure system improvements and associated operations through a comprehensive federal program;
  • Create a Water Infrastructure Trust Fund to finance the national shortfall in funding of infrastructure systems under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, including storm-water management and other projects designed to improve the nation’s water quality;
  • Employ a range of financing mechanisms, such as appropriations from general treasury funds, issuance of revenue bonds and tax exempt financing at state and local levels, public-private partnerships, state infrastructure banks, and user fees on certain consumer products as well as innovative financing mechanisms, including broad-based environmental restoration taxes to address problems associated with water pollution, wastewater management and treatment, and storm-water management.
When will the myopia of the right wing end?  Probably not until serious damage is done.  Just look at Wisconsin where Scott Wanker's cuts will be felt all over the state soon enough.  Nothing has come up in association to the tort reform passed in January yet but it will.  County transit systems are feeling the pinch.  My bus line used to run every half hour, then every 45 minutes, now every hour.  Rates are going up too.  It's going to get ugly really quickly and we'll all be carrying guns when that happens.
Scott Wanker decided to give a speech at a Gateway Technical College even though he's cut funding to community colleges across the state.  Almost as rich as creating the public employee of the year award.  What a real putz.

08 July 2011

Evidence of the Coming Anarchy

Why shouldn't you write with a broken pencil?  Because it's pointless.

Evidence of a continuing rise in global factionalism abounds.  Robert Kaplan predicted as much in The Coming Anarchy.

In Foreign Policy Elizabeth Dickinson has put together a poignant photo essay of some of the most "failed states" entitled Postcards from Hell, 2011.  There are 61 slides all worth looking at and reading.  There are so many observations that can be made such as the ubiquitous Kalashnikov and the amount of African states on the list.  But it is hard not to wonder how much arms dealers are making and how much each state is spending on munitions when money could be spent on so many other things like developing a sewerage system.

Find the photo essay here.

As the election of 2012 rolls around, there will be so much propaganda tossed around about how Obama has failed, about Obama's socialism, about Obamacare, and on and on ad nauseum.  The truth is that Pres. Obama hasn't changed much if any of G.W. Bush's policies.
The alternative - a neo-con-republican in office could be much worse.  Wisconsin's governor is a shining example of the new republican movement.  In general, the new republican extremists are frighteningly callous toward the impoverished, rigidly bent on balanced budgets while sacrificing social programs, and have determined without any evidence for doing so that government ought to be run like a business.

Of course, the argument that government is a business is a fallacy.  The government was created for the people, by the people.  It's primary function is to provide for the welfare of the people.  The primary function of a business is to make profits.  

When the republicans come knocking on your door asking for money, do what you would for a Jehovah's Witness touting on your doorstep - tell him/her that you've already given, you're a real believer, and that they should bother the liberals next door.
If I didn't know better, I'd have thought that the US was going to hell in a hand basket.  After all, we are experiencing the largest economic/educational gap in our short history.  Germany and Norway seem to be recovering from the global economic downturn but not the US.
Some might argue that one reason the US has not recovered as quickly is our lack of manufacturing jobs and our lack of health coverage.  While these two may seem completely unrelated, upon analysis you'll find that they are entirely related. 

Unemployment figures and concern for illness weigh heavily on people's minds.  Whereas in most industrialized nations unemployment rates are still high, many of those unemployed don't have to worry about proper preventive care.  Wisconsin has weathered the storm fairly well despite high unemployment numbers.  One powerful reason for this is the Badger Care and Medicaid system that was established by Tommy Thompson. 

Economies are fickle much like people simply because economies are created by people.  However, when concern over health care is abated, people seem to be less volatile and less hasty.  Although Wisconsin has not seen the abundance of jobs the republicans had promised despite their initiation of race to the bottom tactics, the turmoil that other states are going through has skipped the Dairy state thus far.

The future may be grim however as the budget cuts to social programs and public transit start to kick in.  The effects will be far reaching.  But the books are balanced and that's a great sign for a business.

And so the US is not going to hell in a hand basket, it's more like a freight car filled with the aging baby boomers, pension debt, CDOs, derivatives, and lousy dogmatic ideas from free-marketers, shortsighted tea baggers, inept democrats, narrow-minded religionists, and drivel laden media dogs.

On top of that add the pending food and water crisis - and you've got yourself a full blown speed rail to Hades.  Unless the good folks at Wal-Mart can spread the good news faster.