Rant. Muse. Eat. Sleep. Recycle.
Monday, March 26, 2007
A law that could make a difference
Right now, we are in a state of perpetual gridlock when it comes to federal laws. In many ways, that's a good thing. Our national legislators are locally focused, generally more interested in staying in power than writing good legislation and too aware of opinion surveys to do what might be unpopular but best for the common welfare.
So, there's that.
All of the above is a good excuse for Congress' weird fascination with the 10 commandments, flag burning, abortion and a host of other stylized issues. Mixed in with that stew of pop culture jalapenos is Affirmative Action. And, to be honest, Affirmative Action doesn't do much. I'm African American and it's never DIRECTLY helped me. It's easily circumvented and lightly wielded. In practice, what it has done is supplement Title IX -- which is meant to aid women. White women have BY FAR benefited most from Affirmative Action. But, its intent -- which is to mitigate 400 hundred years of slavery on these shores -- still seems to piss off white people of a certain bent.
I would suggest that Affirmative Action be taken out of the pot of things that liberals and conservatives can clash over. I'm tired of hearing that Affirmative Action cheats both white people and black people; I'm weary of Ward Connerly suggesting that maybe African Americans don't have the intellectual capacity to attend UCLA or Berkeley.
What I would LOVE is for Affrimative Action to receive less emphasis and have legislators genuinely attack the problem of African American disenfranchisement in a system that we are intrinsically part of -- we and our ancestors built much of the physical and economic infrastructure of this nation.
It seems to me a no-brainer that legislators could do something like this:
Create a law that allows African American citizens to designate a SIGNIFICANT portion of their income tax towards a) homeownership loans b) educational grants and c) business loans to African Americans.
It's got a rough precedent -- Indian Casinos. It doesn't affect white Americans DIRECTLY. It answers those questions of 'What can I do to help?' of the black Middle Class. It's a self-help strategy that is immune to the "I've never owned a slave" argument. I'll even venture a guess that it would be a hell of a lot cheaper than prisons or welfare.
Still, the liberals will hate it because it lets white people off the hook and white conservatives will hate it because it won't apply to them. My answer -- grow up. People are dying and we are wasting valuable human lives playing these stupid games.
Now, if we could find a legislator -- even a city or state legislator -- with the courage and conviction to make this happen we'd have something.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Who's getting paid for war?
Just doing the math, I've got to say I'm confused. What's the mark-up on our two wars (remember Afghanistan?). I'm going to use VERY rough numbers. Say, we've got 100,000 soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Estimates for war spending are that we've spent $400 billion in four years. That's $100 billion per year for 100,000 troops. That is a million dollars a year per soldier -- $4 million per soldier so far. Figure $50,000 of that a year is salary and benefits and we're looking at $950,000 each year. But, are we building new tanks? Are we building new airplanes. No, we're using shit we already have. OK, there's support staff: food, communications, logistics, etc. But, come on! A million bucks per soldier?
Here's my point. Hawks see war as a business. Certainly, Dubai-based Halliburton sees it as a business. (A quick digression -- I've got to chuckle at all my pro-war friends who defended Halliburton, the money it raked in and the free enterprise system and who are now pissed that they took the money and ran to Arabia.)
Since war is a business, why in the hell are we paying retail? Let's let companies prove their patriotism by cutting their costs. Have workers sign up for volunteer shifts to manufacture bombs. Set a limit of breakeven plus one-percent for manufactured weapons. Instead of giving beJesus amounts of money AND tax breaks, focus solely on tax breaks. It is the rational and human thing to change this paradigm where companies see profit in bloodshed and horror. I argue that America provides these companies unlimited opportunity -- in OTHER fields -- a stable society and business-friendly policies. THOSE are what should be the quid pro quo for war vendors. Weapons manufacturers that sell to the highest bidder destroy global quality of life. We should always Buy American in times of war. Not Israeli, not Belgian, not Australian, Russian or Chinese. We make our own tanks at home and make them on the cheap. We keep the industry within our borders and refuse to let it gouge us.
Sounds reasonable to me.
We regulate the hell out of some industries, banking, telecommunications, education, but when it comes to war, basically anything goes. It's bassackwards.