Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sequestration...the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels

For the most part this is a very apolitical blog but there are times that things get my blood boiling.  I was going to make this post yesterday but I thought about it and decided against it.  Then I thought again, and I will make it.

Yesterday, I found out that due to the sequestration, the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds and the other military groups that perform and display at Air Shows have been cancelled.  Now some may argue that military demonstration groups are not an essential function of the government or even a necessary function of the military and to some extent I agree with that assessment.  In terms of what is costing the government money, this seems like stepping into a McDonalds ordering the Big Mac, Huge Fries but getting a Small Coke instead of the Large.  You're still taking in a large quantity of calories and maybe helping yourself a little bit but you're still going to gain weight.

As I thought more about this, I had to look up some numbers.  First thing I looked up was the National Debt.  Mainly because there is no chicanery with the debt numbers like we get with the budget and deficit numbers.  Some people will argue that the budget was not balanced under Clinton because there was some accounting magic.  I buy into that argument somewhat until I look at the debt numbers.

In 1950, the national debt was 252 billion dollars (I'm not sure if this is in current dollars or 1950 dollars...I'm going to make the assumption it is in current dollars).  We hit our first trillion dollars sometime betweeen 1981 and 1982.  The next trillion was sometime between 1985 and 1986.  We hit the five trillion dollar mark sometime in 1995.  Compared to how it was rising between 1981 and 1995, it stayed pretty steady until 2002 or 2003.  Ten trillion hit in 2008.  We currently stand at around 16 trillion.  I'm going to let that sink in a bit....It took us 190 years to reach One Trillion in debt.  That doubled in 4 years to Two Trillion.  It took another 10 years to hit five trillion and another thirteen years to hit ten trillion (even after a relatively stable period of about 5 years).  And 4 years to add another five trillion.  I do not see this as a sustainable path.

One other little tidbit of information:
P-51 -    650,000
F-86 -    2 million
F-100 -  5.5 million
F-104 -  11 million
F-4 -      17 million
F-15 -    42 million
F-16 -    26 million (A relative bargain)
F-22 -    160 million
F-35 -    At least 237 million (as we know probably much more)
(These are all in current dollars)
Each of the above aircraft represent the state of the art of their respective time periods, so basically our military aircraft costs have gone up almost 200 times.  If this trend continues, we will only be able to afford one plane.  I hate to pick on the military but I see the above chart as part of the problem.  If I wanted to have more fun, I could probably put the time it took to develop each of the above aircraft because that has been spiralling out of control as well.  Off the top of my head, the P-51 was developed within in 4 years (it may have been a prototype in 1939 or so....flying in 1943 or so).  The F-86 in about that time.  The F-15 was a concept in 1969 or 1970 and first flown in 1972.  The F-16 was a concept in the late 70's and first flown in the mid 80's.  The F-22 is a very interesting 1992, I was part of the Undergraduate Symposium at Eastern Michigan and part of my display was a YF-22.  It has only recently become operational, so we are talking a 20 year cycle and then we find out that there were problems with the oxygen system.  The F-35 was supposed to be a lower cost alternative to the F-22 and as you see we could save money by cancelling it and using the F-22 (which is sad).

I point this out because what usually gets complained about in Congress...not the cost overruns.  There are very few Defense Programs in the past 20 years that haven't had a serious number of problems and once the equipment is fielded, we find out there are serious flaws.  But in many of the budgets being thrown around, the Defense Department gets spared the axe.  Now, I realize that the military is important but do we really need a Defense Budget that is more than the next 10 nations combined?  And based on the figures I see above, we aren't getting the bang for our buck.  We are running into the problem that the Germans had in World War II, the Tiger tank was a world beater but they couldn't produce enough of them to make a difference (good thing too).

One thing is readily apparent, our tax code is broken.  The average working American has an effective tax rate between 20 and 25%.  When you factor in payroll taxes, it is probably higher than that.  During the past election, we find out that Romney's tax rate was around 15%.  In the election before that, we found out that John Kerry's wife's tax rate was around the same.  We also heard that many people in the upper strata pay around that rate.  So how is that fair?  Now some will argue that much of their "income" is derived from their investment income through selling stocks and getting divedends but why should that be treated any different than someone who earns a paycheck?  And from I understand, the corporate tax structure is even more broken with all the breaks and favors to various corporations.  So who ends up paying corporate taxes?  Probably the companies that are not in any sort of position take advantage of those provisions.  Again is that fair?

So what are we getting out of our leaders?  Pretty much the blame game.  Well the more I read about things, the more  I realize that both parties are pretty much to blame for this mess.  Each party has their groups that they dole out favors to and in the end, the people who make this country work get screwed.  And when they talk about reform, topic number one is "entitlement" reform.  Usually the entitlment they talk about is Social Security.  Um...Mr. Congressman, I paid into the Social Security system like every other working American.  So how much did you pay into your retirement from the Government, Mr. Congressman?  Oh yeah...nothing.  So if we want to talk about entitlements, why don't we start with your retirement before you move to ours.  The other popular one of late is to privatize Social Security.  Yeah, lets give folks like Enron, Bernie Ebbers, Bernie Madoff and the other Wall Street Hucksters access to that money.  They'll make a mint...lose our money and pretty much tell us we're screwed.  Kind of like what they did with our industry.

So where do we go from here?  Honestly, I have no idea.  Both parties seem to be mired in the idea that their party comes first and that the other party is comprised of idiots.  It was pretty bad under Bush and it seems like it is even worse now.  Anyway...I pretty much just wanted to rant because I'm upset that I wont be able to see either the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds.

I should have said one more thing.  I think the sequestration is stupid because instead of using a scapal, they are taking an axe and taking out whatever without regards to effectiveness.

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