About Me

My photo
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. Shel Silverstein

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ready to Rant

Okay, I want to rant for a little bit, so for anyone not interested in politics, economics, or education feel free to stop reading right now.

I hope that it is common knowledge that the United States is run on a massive amount of debt. But just like any other debt, the credit will max out eventutually. Unfortunately that max is $14.294 trillion. WOAH, no way we'd ever spend that much right? Wrong. We were at $13 trillion June 2010 and on December 31, 2010 the national debt stood at $14,025,215,218,708.52. That is over a trillion dollars spent in a measely seven months. So, obviously our credit limit is immediately approaching and Washington is frantically trying to decide what programs to cut and what taxes to increase. Great.
There is currently lots of discussion and the first steps of decision making on what programs will be cut. 45% of our budget goes to Social Security and Medicaid..cutting there? No. 25% of of budget goes to Defense.. cutting there? No. 10% goes to programs such as food stamps and unemployment. But where they want to cut is in the measly 20% percent of the budget that goes everywhere else.
This includes but is not limited to:
-Foreign Aid
-Research and Innovation (Medicine, Alternative Energy, Technology, etc..)

"All cuts must, therefore, be made in the tiny sliver of the budget where the most valuable programs reside and where the most important investments in our future are made." 
-The Freedom Alliance by David Brooks in the New York Times on February 10th

Senators Saxby Chambliss, Mark Warner, Tom Coburn, Dick Durbin, Mike Crapo, and Kent Conrad are some of the very few senators trying to solve the debt in a better, and more reasonable way.

What upsets me the most about the proposed budget cuts it in the education sector. Of course, I feel that research and development is EXTREMELY important especially in the case of the current energy crisis, and I also am a huge advocate of foreign aid, especially in this time of revolutions sparking all over the globe. But, a strong education system is the only way we can continue to be successful as a country. My generation, and my children's generation have a huge mess to clean up and if my children do not have access to adequate excellent education, then they simply won't be prepared to dig this country out of the current pit we are digging. 

As an aside, I could definitely see why some senators would "support" the cutting of valuable programs because they know that the public will fight it much more than cutting some of the sacred cows. This public disagreement would definitely be a platform on which a vote to raise the debt ceiling could be successful. Not only is raising the debt ceiling without any strong and feasible plan to cut spending ridiculous, but frankly it makes me angry that politicians would play such a game with the citizens of the U.S.

"On NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) even threatened to vote against raising the debt ceiling unless Social Security (sacred cow) is reformed.
"This is an opportunity to make sure the government is changing its spending ways," he said. "I will not vote for the debt ceiling increase until I see a plan in place that will deal with our long-term debt obligations starting with Social Security, a real bipartisan effort to make sure that Social Security stays solvent, adjusting the age, looking at means-tests for benefits." 
- Debt Ceiling: The First Big "Showdown"? by Stephanie Condon of CBS News

CBS News Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes says, "It's practically a political non-starter to cut popular programs like Social Security or Medicare because you know when you are up for re-election, your opponent is going to tout your vote. So while members of Congress do feel they need to make these tough choices - they are reluctant to do it because they know their political future could be on the line." 

In my humble opinion, the job of congress and the president is not to get re-elected, their job is to do what is best for the country. We voted for them (in theory) because we trust our country and our well being in their hands, but if that means being unpopular for a little bit...no way HOSEA.

  1. The U.S. national debt on January 1st, 1791 was just $75 million dollars. Today, the U.S. national debt rises by that amount about once an hour.
  2. Our nation began its existence in debt after borrowing money to finance the Revolutionary War. President Andrew Jackson nearly eliminated the debt, calling it a “national curse.” Jackson railed against borrowing, spending and even banks, for that matter, and he tried to eliminate all federal debt.  By January 1, 1835, under Jackson, the debt was just $33,733.
  3. When World War II ended, the debt equaled 122 percent of GDP (GDP is a measure of the entire economy). In the 1950s and 1960s the economy grew at an average rate of 4.3 percent a year and the debt gradually declined to 38 percent of GDP in 1970.  This year, the Office of Budget and Management expects that the debt will equal 95 percent.
  4. Since 1938, the national debt has increased at an average annual rate of 8.5 percent. The only exceptions to the constant annual increase over the last 62 years were Clinton and Johnson - note that this is the rate of growth - the national debt still existed under both presidents. During the Clinton Presidency, debt growth was almost zero.  Johnson averaged 3 percent growth of debt for the six years he served (1963-69).
  5. When Ronald Reagan took office, the U.S. national debt was just under $1 trillion. When he left office it was $2.6 trillion. During the eight Regan years, the US moved from being the world’s largest international creditor to the largest debtor nation.
  6. The U.S. national debt has more than doubled since the year 2000
    • Under President Bush: at the end of calendar year 2000, the debt stood at $5.629 trillion. Eight years later, the federal debt stood at $9.986 trillion.
    • Under President Obama: The debt started at $9.986 trillion and escalated to $13.7 trillion, a 38 percent increase over two years.
  7. Obama’s most recently proposed budget anticipates $5.08 trillion in deficits over the next five years
  8. The U.S. national debt rises at an average of approximately $3.8 billion per day.
  9. The US government now borrows $5 billion every business day.
  10. A trillion $10 bills, if they were taped end to end, would wrap around the globe more than 380 times.  That amount of money would still not be enough to pay off the U.S. national debt.
  11. In 2010, the U.S. government is projected to issue almost as much new debt as the rest of the governments of the world combined.
  12. Total US government debt as a percentage of GDP is 94 percent in 2010. Greece, the poor step-step sister of the European Union reported debt as percentage of GDP of 115 percent last year.
  13. The U.S. government has such a voracious appetite for debt that the rest of the world simply doesn’t have enough money to lend us.  So now the Federal Reserve is buying most U.S. debt, and the only reason it can do that is because it can create money to lend out of thin air — at the mint’s printing presses!
  14. According to the 2008 Financial Report of the United States Government, an official US government report, the total liabilities of the United States government, including future Social Security and Medicare payments that the U.S. government is already committed to pay out, now exceed $65 TRILLION.
  15. The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of debt that Congress allows for the government. The current debt ceiling is $14.2 trillion, which is expected to be breached by May, 2011, unless lawmakers vote to increase it. The U.S. government’s debt ceiling has been raised six times since the beginning of 2006.
  16. With the exception of fiscal years 1998-2001, from 1969 to today, Congress has spent more money than it collected in revenue, (ran a deficit). Treasury has to borrow money to meet Congress’s appropriations.
  17. In 2009, Federal spending accounted for 24.7 percent of GDP, higher than it’s been in any year since 1949. You have to go back to 1946 to find a higher percentage — 24.8 — and that was a year in which the nation was winding down high rates of spending for World War II. (From 1943 to 1945, the height of the war, federal spending ranged from 41 percent to 43 percent of GDP.)
  18. The U.S. government has to borrow 41 cents of every dollar that it currently spends.
Okay, back to education:

Education cuts are already evident, even here in my own hometown of Austin, Texas. They are firing thousands of teachers across Texas and shutting down hundreds of schools. And the schools they are shutting down are the schools in low income areas, where children need education the most, for more than just educational reasons. Although, these kids will be placed into different schools, a lot of families will simply keep them at home due to the inconvenience of going to school far away from where they live. This, of course, leads to all sorts of important issues, but I want to focus on something different.

The United States is ranked roughly between 25th and 30th educationally when compared on an international scale. That is already ridiculous, putting us behind not only European countries, but a lot of countries with a way smaller budget than we have. The top three countries ranked are Hong Kong, Finland, and South Korea. Hong Kong and South Korea's educational systems are selective and grueling and probably not a great model for the United States, if only for the drastic change that would be. But, Finland's educational system is AWESOME.

Why do Finland's schools get the best results? 

By Tom Burridge
BBC World News America, Helsinki

Finland's schools score consistently at the top of world rankings, yet the students have the fewest number of class hours in the developed world.
The Finnish philosophy with education is that everyone has something to contribute and those who struggle in certain subjects should not be left behind.
A tactic used in virtually every lesson is the provision of an additional teacher who helps those who struggle in a particular subject. But the pupils are all kept in the same classroom, regardless of their ability in that particular subject.
Finland's Education Minister, Henna Virkkunen is proud of her country's record but her next goal is to target the brightest pupils.
"The Finnish system supports very much those pupils who have learning difficulties but we have to pay more attention also to those pupils who are very talented. Now we have started a pilot project about how to support those pupils who are very gifted in certain areas.'' 
Primary and secondary schooling is combined, so the pupils don't have to change schools at age 13. They avoid a potentially disruptive transition from one school to another.
Teacher Marjaana Arovaara-Heikkinen believes keeping the same pupils in her classroom for several years also makes her job a lot easier.
''I'm like growing up with my children, I see the problems they have when they are small. And now after five years, I still see and know what has happened in their youth, what are the best things they can do. I tell them I'm like their school mother.''
Children in Finland only start main school at age seven. The idea is that before then they learn best when they're playing and by the time they finally get to school they are keen to start learning.
Less is more

Finnish parents obviously claim some credit for the impressive school results. There is a culture of reading with the kids at home and families have regular contact with their children's teachers.
Teaching is a prestigious career in Finland. Teachers are highly valued and teaching standards are high.
The educational system's success in Finland seems to be part cultural. Pupils study in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.
Finland also has low levels of immigration. So when pupils start school the majority have Finnish as their native language, eliminating an obstacle that other societies often face.
The system's success is built on the idea of less can be more. There is an emphasis on relaxed schools, free from political prescriptions. This combination, they believe, means that no child is left behind.

Everything that makes the Finnish education system successful, from both a performance and quality of life perspective, is not money. Its simply a national pride in their education, their children, and utilizing methods that have proven themselves as effective. Instead of cutting the education budget by simply shutting down schools, firing teachers, and eliminating programs and scholarships, why can't we model our educational system on Finland's and raise a generation that can achieve success for this country and the world instead of raising a minimally educated,  lazy generation that won't have the essential tools to keep this country from drowning.

I would love to hear opinions, for or against my own. I just ask that they be respectable.

over and out.


Joe said...

the average amount of time spent studying by college students has dropped by more than 50 percent since the early 1960s- an article in nyt titled "College the Easy Way" I've also been reading a book for class simply called "News: The Politics of Illusion" that says something like 20% of young people read any news source daily. The news is where information about politics can be found. There are many people to blame when considering problems that face the world today, but sometimes we must blame ourselves. Statistics say we are a generation of lazy, politically uninformed college students who expect shit to be handed to us with little or no work. there are many contributing factors that pull that idea different ways and try to refute it by blaming it on the education systems or politicians, but change starts when someone demands it. ex. egypt. beautiful.

Taelor said...

Joe, I totally agree with you and a rant on how our country's youth is lazy when it comes to their education and just about everything else will be saved for another day. While not pinning the problem on the education system and politicians, I do feel as though they play a part in the whole process. Statistics have proven that our current system has failed to inspire students into being involved in the world around them. I have had some really incredible teachers and professors that push me and show me what I can accomplish and its been in those classes that I have been most successful, and had the most fun. But, I have also had professors and teachers that teach on such a vital topic, yet bore me to the point of no longer finding it interesting. My point being, this is a two fold problem faulted by both the educators and those being educated. While it is absolutely relevant to fault the students refusal to learn, what really pisses me off is when politicians who are all (hopefully) extremely well educated and understand its importance, decide to make it even worse than it already is. Cutting education only sends the message that its not imperative, fueling the fire of laziness.