Dollars and Incensed
Our readers write...
Billions and Billions
Regarding "The Budget of Magical Thinking" (Editor's Notebook, May), while the Ryan budget is far from perfect, it is unfair to criticize it because it "would cut Medicaid by $810 billion through 2022" or because the SNAP program "would be cut by 17%, $133.5 billion over 10 years."
For one thing, both of these programs are highly dependent on economic conditions, and no one can say with any certainty how much they will cost over the next 10 years. A budget that forecast boom times over the next 10 years would probably show lower spending in these programs, relative to this year's unusually high levels. However, I suspect you have made a more fundamental error.
I read that Ryan's $810 billion Medicaid cut is not as big as the one in a budget proposed by the Republican Study Committee, which "achieves greater savings by freezing spending at 2012 levels." So, "freezing" spending is an even bigger "cut" in spending!
Welcome to the world of budget-speak in Washington, DC, where spending increases become spending cuts. That's the real magic.
This is because Washington uses something called baseline budgeting. As an example, if a program spends $2 this year and those running the program budget $4 next year, spending only $3 becomes a 25% cut in spending — never mind that spending has actually increased 50%.
In essence, the media and the politicians use the term "spending cuts" when they should use "budget cuts." I don't know if this is done to deliberately to mislead the public, or if they have just forgotten the difference.
To your credit, you did write: "Axing planned expansion of Medicaid would cut anther $1.6 trillion," so you are not as guilty as most.
Ryan's budget estimates the Federal government will spend $4.9 trillion in 2022, which is about a 3% per year increase from this year's $3.7 trillion. Consequently, if someone complains about Ryan's budget cuts, they're can't be talking about his overall budget.
By contrast, the CBO projects the Administration's budget expenditures to be about $5.6 trillion in 2022, a roughly 4.4% per year increase. (All these numbers change almost daily.)
Consequently, by 2022, even though the Ryan budget increases spending by about $1.3 trillion, we are told that his budget over 10 years reduces spending by an accumulative $4 trillion. Only in Washington. The really bad news is that even these mythical cuts may be too much to expect.
For example, Congress recently opposed modest spending cuts in the deficit-ridden Post Office, cuts recommended by the Postal Service itself, and the Republican-controlled House, instead of eliminating the totally unnecessary Export-Import Bank, increased its loan budget by $40 billion, or 40%. The list goes on and on.
The only politician of note proposing real, significant spending cuts is Ron Paul, who would eliminate entire departments (Education, Energy, Housing, Commerce and Interior). His approach has the advantage of simplicity, plus there can be no misunderstanding what he's talking about.
Anybody for term limits?
Your editorials regarding oil prices and budgetary hypocrisy (Editor's Notebook, May) were quite good. Have considered the following also?
Our defense budget continually exceeds the defense budgets of the next 12 countries combined. While it buys us an excellent military, it also buys something else: mafia services. Consider the Middle East. The largest oil fields in the world are in an area from Libya to Iran and north into Russia. For the past decade we have been threatening, attacking or otherwise thwarting the supplies of oil from this region into the world market. The only people we've not harmed or threatened are the Saudi Arabians, who financed and manned the 9/11 attacks. All of this has been capably handled (but at terrible cost in dead and mutilated US military and foreign national personnel) by our excellent military.
So who profited? Our banks, oil, defense and construction businesses. We actually subsidized their businesses using our military to rig and control prices. We have destroyed, isolated or blockaded oil production and shipments from this area at a time when world oil demand increased.
In the conditions you described in your editorial, these actions by our military under orders from the commander in chief (the president) most certainly would increase prices. Our presidents are exerting pressure to raise oil prices. Since they seem to be purchased by our corporations, this would be expected.
The cure would be to scale our military back to where it is an excellent defense operation, which would make it comparable to the other 12 countries whose combined budgets we exceed year after year. That would save several hundred billion dollars each year, a tidy sum indeed. It would be achievable if we limited our military presence to the same number of foreign countries the Swiss do (since they are very well defended and financially sound). That would in turn relieve our budget woes. It would also relieve the strain on our tattered economy that has had to finance this nonsense with evaporating resources that have been sent to Oriental slave plantations.
The trick is to get enough politicians who aren't owned by Wall Street together to make it happen. There's a challenge, if I've ever seen one.
I wanted to commend Marjorie Lilly for her column on the stockyards in Palomas (Borderlines, May), which was strengthened by her actually having gone to Palomas and visiting the site. I hope that she will cross the border again, as many of us do, and offer some stories of people doing good work there in the midst of all that blight. She is a fine writer and we could use that kind of responsible, first-hand journalism.
Editor's note: You'll find just such a story in this issue, where Marjorie Lilly writes about Border Partners.
On the Wrong Track
A heaping dose of Texas shame on Harry Williamson for his derogatory remarks directed toward 75-year-old runner Jeff Davis ("Born to Run," April)! Who made Williamson the Great Oracle of All Things Running? In a country which has the singular boast of having a 60%-plus obesity rate in all age groups, I would think you would applaud and honor Jeff as some kind of local health icon. Your mocking tone does not escape the reader. While Jeff's photo jogging in Silver City is current, your own is somewhat dated. And the reason is?
The story reminds me of the journalist who criticized Russell Crowe on one of his day-long bike rides in Australia, when he stopped to eat a cheeseburger. She published an unflattering photo and derogatory remarks about Crowe's food choice and his apparent need to lose weight. In response to her article, Crowe challenged her to accompany him on his daily ride and, well, the rest is history. She dropped out fairly early in the day and the chivalrous Crowe returned to assist her back to town for lunch.
Mr. Williamson, please write another Desert Exposure article on your 75th birthday describing your daily running schedule. Also, include a photo of yourself for your readers to judge. Tell me, have you jousted with humility lately, or isn't it fashionable in New York, Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas?
Silver City and San Antonio, Texas
Editor's note: It's rare that we get a letter that so completely misreads one of our articles. We're frankly stumped to find anything "derogatory" or "mocking" in Harry Williamson's description of runner Jeff Davis. On the contrary, the author took the time and care to interview and understand a person whom passersby in their cars on Hwy. 180 might indeed view with ignorant derision. The article's intent was to celebrate Davis' running regimen, as it was with the other runners interviewed. After the article appeared, Davis wrote to Williamson to thank him for the accuracy and the tone of the comments about him.
As for author Williamson, whom you snipe at for his younger-than-75 age: Harry tells us that he weighed 155 pounds at the Boston Marathon in April 2006, and now weighs in at 143. He plans to run in the Amsterdam Marathon in October, when he will be age 72. We'll be delighted to have him write about his running again after that experience, as well as when he turns 75.
I am selective in reading my copy of Desert Exposure. The article has to attract and entice me. So I was gently sucked into your May article on "humming" ("A Humdinger of a Project," Tumbleweeds). I was intrigued and amused as I read on, until suddenly I realized: This is real! These people are really doing this! My God, it is sponsored by a university! There are probably college credits earned for it! It may even lead to a degree in… Interdisciplinary Expressive Art! (Now there's a job magnet diploma in this economy!)
I hypnotically read on until the end, where I realized it is subsidized by a grant, and somewhere in the bowels of our government, I am probably paying for part of it. What's next? Gargling to Chopin's waltzes? Flatulence polkas?
I'll go back to my margaritas, thank you, and hope this goes away.
Bert de Pedro
Vivian Savitt's "Growing Privacy" story (Southwest Gardener, May) was entertaining and informative. However, she defines and uses the word berm rather loosely. Berm is related to brim, and more properly describes a narrow pathway above or below a slope. For a defensive anti-trespassing earth barrier, I think the word glacis is more appropriate. Should you build your glacis with a decorative desert hue, it becomes a rose-colored glacis.
Let us hear from you! Write Desert Exposure Letters, PO Box 191, Silver City, NM 88062, fax 534-4134 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters are subject to editing for style and length (maximum 500 words, please), and must be in response to content that has appeared in our pages. Deadline for the next issue is the 18th of the month.