Wednesday, October 8, 2014
“A Billion Here and A Billion There”
During the Watergate hearings in the mid 1970s, Senator Everett Dirksen, said, “A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” 
His humor made headlines back then, but we seldom heard anyone talk about another aspect of his observation. That is, just how much money is a billion dollars?
Today, we hear the word constantly. Government budgets in the multi-billions are debated and approved all the time, and we seem to think nothing of it. Hardly a flicker from anyone.  
As a matter of fact, it’s more often the opposite. What we usually see is “pork” being piled onto appropriations bills as if the economy were a bottomless pit for our politicians, who ignore the public good for private benefit. California is a prime example of unrestrained political excess gone astray, to the point of bankruptcy. 
I can remember a time when the idea of a billion dollars was a source of wonder at the sheer scope of that amount of money. It no longer seems to elicit any response at all, except perhaps boredom. 
But, a billion dollars does add up to “real money,” especially when you look closely at what it can buy.
With that in mind, consider the following illustrations of just how much money a billion dollars really is:
The U.S. median (half above, half below) annual salary is $68,947 for men and $53,123 for women, it would support over 11,000 families for one year. Or, in the nation’s capital, it would pay the salaries of the entire Congress plus those of the complete Congressional staff and their combined office expense budgets for one year, with money left over. Which is the better buy?
In many third-world countries, where the average annual income is about $1,000, it would provide for a million families for one year.
At $8,400 per student, it would pay the costs of schooling for almost 119,000 children (K-12) for one year; or for the entire college education of over 9,300 students (at, say, $26,700 per year each). 
At a median salary, nationwide, of about $52,100 a year, it could pay for more than 19,000 secondary school teachers for one year.
Five million doctor visits at $200 per visit adds up to $1 billion. That’s a lot of patients. Or, at an average Rx expense of $200 a month, one billion dollars would pay the prescription costs for over 416,000 people for one year.
For apartment dwellers, at $2,000 a month rent, a billion dollars would provide shelter for over 41,000 families for one year.
For the investment minded, the earnings on one billion dollars, at 5% per annum, would be $50 million a year. Think you can retire on that? 
Looking at it from the viewpoint of seniors who receive Social Security, with the average retiree receiving about $1,230 a month, one billion dollars would provide annual retirement payments to about 67,700 people. If a one billion dollar endowment fund were invested at 5%, the $50 million investment income it would earn would help support almost 3,400 seniors with the equivalent of their Social Security payments, without dipping into the principal. 
Isn’t that how Social Security should work, instead of as some type of “Ponzi scheme,” which would be illegal if it were not the government doing it?
Are we getting our money’s worth from government? Or, is too much of it being wasted? 
Like the man said, “A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
© 2013-2014 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 18:10 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
The Tyranny of The Majority
When I was in high school in the 1940s, we were taught to believe that majority rule was best, that the function of government was to help us, that our system
of justice was intended to be a “search for the truth.” These ideas were widely accepted as immutable truths. Today, almost 70 years later, to my eye, they
are no longer as true as we once thought. The cause may be directly attributable to our treasured democracy in action.
A brief examination of four major issues helps illustrate how the rule of a simple majority has been impacting our rights as American citizens: taxes, tobacco,
health care and property rights.
Taxes: Everyone should pay their “fair share,” especially the rich. But, who are the rich? How many people do you know who think they are rich?
According to IRS figures, 50% of all taxpayers pay only about 3% of the total Federal income tax burden, while the top 10% pay around 66% of the bill. 
Almost half of all those who file Federal returns pay no tax at all, the top 25% contribute 86% of the total, and the top 1% pay about 39% of all income
taxes collected. Is that fair enough? Or, should the “rich” pay even more? Remember, the definition of rich probably includes you, no matter how you view
yourself, since taxpayers with Adjusted Gross Incomes around $55,000 are in the top 25% of taxpayers. So, is the “fair share” concept really fair?
Tobacco: The tyranny of the majority is also seen in matters involving the tobacco industry. Tobacco companies have been cast in the role of villains and
should be punished for selling a legal product but lying to the public about the effects of smoking on their health. The power of the government has been used
to levy a massive tax on the industry through litigation and settlement of court cases, in spite of the fact that cigarette packaging and advertising have carried
warning labels for 25 years. Whatever you may think about the tobacco companies, we should question the actions of Federal and state governments
extracting money from any industry by this means and using it to fund pet projects that could not gain the necessary public support to increase taxes to pay
for them. If they can do this to the tobacco industry and get away with it, who will be next?
Health Care: Government intervention in health care has become a major focus. It is no longer possible to escape the consequences of Big Brother’s
involvement in health care. Driven by the votes of a growing elderly population, the “tyranny of the majority” continues to expand government intervention
in our lives with cries for government funding of health care for all Americans.
Property Rights: Here too, the “tyranny of the majority” is at work. Do you actually own your real property? Your home? The apartment complex or
commercial building you bought as an investment? Your ranch or farm? If you think you do, consider just some of the following limitations on your ownership:
The government can take your property if they want it for some public purpose (eminent domain). 
Even if your property is paid for, you still have to pay a form of rent - forever (in the guise of property taxes and assessments) - to keep it. If you fail to pay,
the state will eventually take it from you and sell it at public auction.
Limitations on the use of your land can be forced on you for such purposes as riding trails, access to the beach, power lines, view corridors, roads and highways, maintenance of public areas, zoning laws tell you what you can build - how to build it and what it must look like, how much you can charge tenants (rent control),
and a host of other restrictions too numerous to include here.
The answer to the question, “Who owns your property?” is – you don’t! Not really. You may have title, but your control is limited.
It’s important to note that a majority is only “one” over half. One vote more than 50% is enough to win an election. One is enough to rule. And, that “one”
often delivers the power to dictate to the other half. One-half plus one can truly be a tyrannical majority in every key aspect of life in America: taxation, gun
control, abortion, education and school choice, defense, Social Security, health care, property rights and land use, you name it.
Perhaps a “super majority,” say 60% or 65%, should be required to pass certain types of legislation, such as tax increases, bond issues, and major programs, etc.
© 2009-2014 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 18:08 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

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