How much for a wall?

Big numbers kind of all sound the same to us. If you tell me something is 100 million miles away, or 100 trillion miles away, it gets the same reaction. Far. Damn far. Never mind that one is a million times more far than the other.

No where is this more apparent than in government spending. A national budget of 4 trillion dollars strikes me as outrageous because I think of it in terms of my own spending. Which is silly, because it is the combined spending of over 300 million people.

But wait, not all those people pay taxes, you may say, and you’d be right. It turns our about one hundred million (see, there is another big number) tax returns were filed for 2016 by people (or families) who made enough to pay taxes. I like this nice round number, and if you’ll let me stick with round numbers we can have some fun. To keep it simple, I’m just going to call each tax paying entity a person.

The US government takes in over 3 trillion a year, and nearly two-thirds of that is from individual income tax according to The Balance. (Only ten per cent of it comes from corporate taxes). Where does it go?

In order to answer that, first you have know that most people are paying into social security and medicare, which is counted as revenue and shouldn’t be. For decades now, the government has taken money for social security and medicare out of everyone’s paychecks, above and beyond their taxes. The justification was that the government was saving this money for us, and we’d get it back with interest in our old age. It sounded like a good plan, because heaven knows most of us are lousy at saving money.

Only it turns out the government is every bit as bad at it. Yup, every year the government calls it “revenue” and spends it, just like we would. This means the government has to take the trillion coming in now for social security and medicare and use it to pay about about two and half trillion out. Not possible.

As a result, some are now describing social security as an entitlement we need to eliminate. To be accurate, it is money that belongs to some of our citizens and never should have been spent to begin with. I don’t think absconding with the pension fund is correct behavior for anyone, including a government.

So, our income taxes cover the other one and half trillion that the government should have tucked away but didn’t. According to National Priorities, another 300 billion goes to the equivalent of paying off the interest on our credit cards, or in this case, the interest on our national debt. This one isn’t optional either. Add in a few other firm commitments, and about 2/3 of the money you give the government is being used to just hold us even on what we’ve already done. (It’s called non-discretionary spending.)

What do you say we get rid of these big numbers?

Each of us tax payers forks over 20,000 a year, on the average. You know if you if pay more or less, but to keep it simple, let’s assume you and I are average. What does the government do with our $20,000 every year?

It spends about $13,000 dealing with past spending, as described above. Yikes.

The remaining $7000? $4000 goes to our military. For purposes of this discussion I’m going to treat this a necessary given, although I recognize there is ample room for argument about whether the average person needs to be contributing $4000 a year to our defense.

We fight over the remaining $3000. That’s right, the average taxpayer sees about 1/6 of what they contribute go for all of the other programs from school lunches to space launches to research on disease control. We use it to fund highways, hire diplomats, check for spoiled meat, and enforce environmental regulations. We use it to deliver mail, care for national parks and distribute all those welfare checks that certain segments of the population rail against. We run our government, and the good, bad and ugly parts our country, with 1/6 of what we take in.

Incredible isn’t it?

You’d think if we could do that, we could have avoided getting into this mess in the first place.

It does make that $3000 precious, though. How would you like to see it spent?

Do you really want a 20 billion dollar ugly wall along the border with Mexico that every informed person agrees will do little to nothing to protect our borders? That will be $200 apiece please.

 

No, I actually don’t want to spend time with you

word porn 1One of the many themes of z2 is that time is a precious commodity, and needs to be used well. A good bit of my time and probably yours is committed to health (eating, sleeping) hygiene (bathing, cleaning) and supporting ourselves. In fact, when we get done with all of that there isn’t much left over. But there is some, and for me at least it is the most precious resource that I have.

So what to do when someone announces that they want some of it? If it’s a person I care about, they generally get my ear, my help moving, a ride somewhere, whatever.  The time I give them may or may not bring me joy, but they do, and so I share willingly.

The more difficult situation is the social event that I have no desire to attend. I’m a strong introvert, and I get my full daily allowance of people just from going to work and filling gas. However, some social functions aren’t really optional. If it’s work mandated, or important to someone I care about, I go. Of course. If it’s a chance to try something new or learn about something that interests me, I sometimes give it a try. One can be surprised.

raising11But if it’s an old acquaintance I haven’t heard from in a long time and didn’t particularly enjoy back when, then I have finally learned to say no. Some people just bring me down. They may complain a lot, or talk about others, or make little jokes that insult me or people I know or whole groups of people. The net result is that whenever I spend time with them I feel sadder, smaller, and weaker than I did before. So why would anyone do that?

Yet for years if somebody invited me somewhere I felt obligated to go, if I was available. At best I’d make up a lie about having other plans and I’m a really bad liar. Recently, I have managed, instead, to say to such people “my life’s just too full right now, but thanks for thinking of me.” No suggestion of a another time, no saying I’m sorry I can’t make it. At most I have added “I hope the rest of you have fun.” And I do, I wish no one ill. I just don’t want to be there, and I’m finally old enough to recognize that I don’t have to be.

It’s tremendously liberating!

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