Friday, February 19, 2010

Let it Start With Me

When you folks in Washington, D.C. find your spines and finally start making the hard decisions about the cuts to "entitlements" required to prevent the financial collapse of our nation, the Colonel wants you to start with his first.

For the honor that was his service to the United States, the Colonel receives a more than generous "retirement" from a grateful nation. In 1947, during an era when Congress conducted sweeping reformation and reorganization of the post-war military, the present military retirement system was codified. Allowing 50% of base pay, for life, to any one whose service reached 20 years, and 2.5 % more per year for every year over 20, the system was designed primarily to reward the small percentage of WWII veterans who decided to remain in the military after peace broke out. In 1947, the life expectancy of someone in his twenties or thirties making the decision to follow the calling that is military service was less than 60 years. So, had the Colonel entered service in 1940 and served until 1965 (reflecting actual service of '78 to '03), he would have been 47 years old and would have drawn his military pension for 13 years. Assuming the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda doesn't pull the Colonel's plug anytime soon (she wonders daily about the Colonel's "brain-dead" condition) he should draw a military pension for at least three times that long and maybe even twice as long as the actual time he served on active duty in his beloved Corps.

Whenever the Colonel has opined that he feels a bit guilty about taking such a pension at such an early age, his family has vehemently refuted that notion and reminded him of the entire family's sacrifice during the time of his service, and the seven figure income he would have undoubtedly commanded had he been in equivalent positions of responsibility in the private sector. Be that as it may, the Colonel decided to serve his nation, not for present or future emolument, but in large part out of gratitude for the freedoms, rights, and privileges that were the happy accident of his birth as an American in the 20th Century. The Colonel knew exactly what he was getting into when he raised his right hand and swore to give his life to "defend the constitution of the United States, against all enemies..." The Colonel knew full well that, to paraphrase General Nathan Bedford Forrest, "defending means fighting, and fighting means killing."

The Colonel's larger point is this: The elected leaders of these re-United States are presently careening wildly out of control down the financial ski-slope, having crashed through all of the gates of restraint. At the bottom of the slope awaits not an applauding throng and a medal, but a clanging gong and financial ruin. In order to arrest our descent, VERY HARD leadership decisions must be made. ALL of us will be required to sacrifice. And by sacrifice, the Colonel does not mean giving up Starbucks for McDonald's.

FDR's Social Security was intended as a safety net, not a retirement entitlement. The safety net ensured that in the highly unlikely event (at the time) that someone lived beyond the age of 60 and could no longer physically contribute to the nation's labor force, he would not be destitute. Medicare was instituted in a similar vein. Either our leaders make the hard decisions, now, to bring those two safety nets up to date with reality, or there will, soon, be no nation to lead.

Entitlements are but one portion of the federal financial equation; defense spending is another. Eisenhower warned against the rise and growth of the "military-industrial complex," and he had no clue to what gargantuan extremes his prophecy would be fulfilled. Either our leaders make the hard decisions, now, to rein in the outrageous cost of exotic weapon systems, or there will, soon, be no nation in whose defense to employ them.

Yet another part of the federal financial equation is the federal tax code--an abomination of special interest service and state behavioral control. Leaving aside the argument whether a national income tax is unconstitutional (the 16th Amendment was passed to circumvent the Supreme Court's previous decision that an income tax was unconstitutional), the federal government must have revenue if it is to fulfill its constitutional requirements. The Colonel believes that since ALL share in the benefits of a federal government, ALL should share in its funding. Progressives (read, class warfare socialists) would have us believe that it is "unfair" for the poor to pay the same percentage of their income as the rich. As a means of controlling the masses, fascism re-defines. "Fairness" is one of the first casualties of such redefinition. Politicians, of every stripe, use the tax code to influence behavior. Such shenanigans are anathema to the efficient function of a free-market capitalistic democratic republic. Rant aside, either our leaders make the hard decisions, now, to reform and simplify our federal tax system, or there will be no economy left, soon, from which to source revenue.

Finally, the free market of our capitalistic democratic republic, such as was envisioned by our founders, cannot, despite the wishes of the banking elite, function fairly if unregulated. It is one of the highest duties of our federal government to ensure that corporations and banks (the engines and financiers of prosperity) operate on a level and non-monopolistic playing field. Either our leaders make the hard decisions, now, without Wall Street lobbyists in the room, to strengthen the oversight required to enforce the rules already on the books, or there will be another, and another, greed-fueled and scoff-law-driven bubble whose burst will plunge our nation over yet another financial system precipice. Oh, and when a bank fails--let it fail. If it is "too big to fail," break it up. This ain't rocket science.

The Colonel is willing to sacrifice his ease, if our leaders are ready to make their own political sacrifices.

I won't hold my breath.
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