Tag Archives: Cold War

USA-Communism

We Defeated the Communists, and Then We Became Them!

My oh my!  Recently, there has been no shortage of world-wide events that have distracted our government from taking care of domestic issues.  There was hurricane Harvey, hurricane Irma, and now, once again tearing through the Caribbean, hurricane Maria.  These were catastrophic to the United States, and they totally destroyed some small Caribbean countries.   Last week, there was a ‘bucket bomb’ that exploded in a London subway.  And, much like an infant with a broken rattle, we can always count on Kim Jong-un to fire another missile anytime he thinks he is not getting enough attention on the world stage.

Because of these major events, not much attention has been given to our domestic problems. Obama Care has not been repealed or replaced.  The tax codes have not been revised.  And, have you recently heard any news referring to the federal budget?  This got me to wondering.  How is the federal government currently spending our money?  It is our money, isn’t it?  More importantly, how has the government spent our money in the past?  So, as a matter of personal interest, I have decided to compare our 2016 federal budget to the 50 year earlier, 1966 federal budget.  This was not an accidental choice, as I graduated from high school as a wet-behind-the-ears, know-it-all eighteen year old in 1966.  And, yes, I can still muster up enough memory to remember the era.  Let me set the stage.

1966

1966 was just over 20 years after the completion of WWII.  There were no shortage of veterans from that war.  They were our parents.  We fought an on-going war in Korea.  Because of what was called the ‘domino theory’ we sent military advisors to a country called South Viet Nam.  Eisenhower began this program, Kennedy expanded it, and Lyndon Johnson turned Saigon into the  twenty-third largest American city.  Little did we know in 1966 that Viet Nam would ultimately cost us over 57,000 American lives.

Our WWII ally, Russia, was now our dreaded enemy.  They became the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), which was comprised of Russia and all the countries it decided to keep in its ‘sphere of influence’ after WWII.  The majority joined unwillingly by the use of Russian military force. We had NATO, and the USSR had the Warsaw Pact.  They built the Berlin wall and shot anyone that tried to cross it.  Winston Churchill dubbed this policy of isolation as the ‘Iron Curtain.’

In 1962, we had a little dust-up in the Caribbean called the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The USSR wanted to install nuclear warheads and missiles in Cuba.  US versus USSR.  Kennedy versus Khruschev. Good versus evil.  Eagle versus the bear.  Democracy versus communism.  According to all historical accounts, it was the closest the world has come to a nuclear holocaust.

In 1963, Kennedy was assassinated.  (I was hoping I would find out who was responsible before I died, but time is running out!)

On the domestic front, the ‘baby boomers’ were entering the workforce.  As a high school graduate, there were three life choices available:  go to college, get a job, or get drafted.  That was pretty much it.  The economy was booming because there was a war to fuel it.  Just about anyone that wanted a job had a job.  As eighteen year olds, we could not wait to move away from home and become independent.  We never moved back home.

With these events as a background, how did our government spend our money?  Our GDP in 1966 was $4.12T.  The total government receipts were $689B.  Our total outlays were $708B.  (Yes!  We dealt in billions and not trillions!)  Our deficit that year was $19.5B.  Ah yes, don’t you long for the good old days now?  42% of all revenues came from individual income taxes.  Payroll taxes accounted for 20% and corporate taxes accounted for 23% of revenues.

On the spending side, 43% of all funds were spent on national defense.  But here is the biggie….medicare and general health spending was only 2% of the budget that year.  Spending on social security, unemployment and labor in 1966 was about 23% of all outlays.

In raw numbers, the Dept. of Defense got $298B, Health and Human Services got $30.1B, Social Security Administration got $109B, Treasury got $61.9B and NASA got $31.2B.  The Treasury received their money largely to pay the interest on our $1.74T national debt.  Of course there are other departments, but these are the largest and pertinent to this blog.

2016

Now we fast forward 50 years to 2016, the last year of the Obama budget.  There were only two budgets put forth by the Obama admistration in his eight years as POTUS.  Harry Reed, the senate majority leader, promised not to bring a budget to the senate floor and the ‘gatekeeper from hell’ kept his word.  In 2016, the government took in $2.99T in tax revenues.  (Yes, we got to the trillions!) 49% of these revenues came from individual income taxes.  Payroll taxes accounted for 33% and corporate taxes accounted for 9% of total revenues.  The national debt now exceeds $16.7T!

The sources of revenue did not change substantially in 50 years.  But how the revenues have been spent have significantly changed.  Remember that the defense department accounted for 43% of the 1966 budget?  Well, even with all the shenanigans going on with terrorism and wars, the 2016 budget only spent 15% on the defense department.  Wow!  Where did that money go?  The 2% of monies spent on medicare and general health spending in 1966 now consumes 28% of the spending.  Spending on social security is now 37% of the budget as compared to 22% in the past.   Entitlement programs now consume 65% of our national budget!

The raw numbers are staggering.  The Dept. of Defense now spends $515B.  The Dept. of Health and Human Services goes from $30.1B to a staggering $995B!  The Dept. of Treasury goes from $61.9B to $484B!  Much of this is to pay the interest on our growing, inflated national debt.  Not to be outdone, the Social Security Administration received a nice bump, going from $109B to $866B!  NASA, on the other hand, had its 1966 budget of $31.2B reduced to $17.2B in 2016.

I need to provide a small history lesson at this point.  Do you know what the original responsibities were of the federal government?  Why the federal government was founded?  It was founded for two reasons; national defense and international trade.  End of list.  It is astounding how the federal government got to its present size.  Back to the blog.

There are some logical explainations for these large differences in these federal budgets.  In 1966, the huge ‘baby boomer’ generation entered the work force.  They worked.  They paid taxes.  They paid into the social security fund.  In 2016, guess what?  The ‘baby boomers’ aged.  They retired and they began collecting the social security in which they paid for after about 50+ working years.

In 1966, there wasn’t any government provided health care program.  We never expected a federal health care program.  But now look at what is happening.  Obamacare happened, and it has pretty much been a mess ever since.  Everyone agrees it needs to change, but we can’t get two people in a room of 100 senators to agree on how it should change.  Personally, I think the federal government should get out of the health care business altogether, but the proverbial cat has been let out of the bag.  Unlike the old days of 1966 where we did not believe in such a thing as a free lunch, we have people perfectly capable of working that expect a free lunch.  In 1966 we were raised under the mantra that, ‘you ate what you killed.’  Now our national conscious is that everyone should eat, even if they haven’t done one thing to feed themselves.

As amazing as it is to see the differences in our budgets after 50 years, it appears this is outdone by our expectations as to what the government owes us in entitlements.  Most of these entitlements did not exist 50 years ago, and yet we survived.  This is borne out by a Health and Human Services budget that is over 30 times larger than in 1966.  (Think ‘welfare’)

During the Cold War, we spent trillions of dollars to defeat those socialistic Communists.  Russia has turned from its socialistic/communistic society.  You remember socialism/communism.  That is the economic and political theory that advocates the means of production, distribution and exchange should be regulated by the community (government) as a whole.  Our electorate has seen fit in the last 50 years to elect officials that institute welfare programs that we can’t afford,  with money we don’t have, for people who should not receive them.   We have given up our independence.  Now, with our dependence on our federal government, we have taken the place of the former USSR.   Have we become the New Socialists/Communists?

It gives a whole new context to the motto, ‘Land of the free……..’

Vietnam-Jihadi-John

Viet Nam War and Islamic terrorism. What’s the strategy?

I am beginning to get that pit in my stomach that tells me that I am experiencing a feeling that I last experienced almost 50 years ago.  Or, as that great philosopher Yogi Berra said, “it’s deja vu all over again.”  So sayeth the late Yogi.

This feeling of discomfort is being caused by my memories of the Viet Nam War and how we are approaching the handling/elimination of radical Islamic military groups.  In particular, our recent involvement in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

People that are younger than the baby boomer generation were never exposed to the turbulence and violence of the Viet Nam War.  It was also known as the Second Indochina War and, by our antagonists the North Vietnamese, it was known as the Resistance War Against America.

Because of the US strategy for curbing the spread of communism, we got involved in Southeast Asia.  The Eisenhower administration had a strategy that was called the ‘domino theory.’  The domino theory was the belief that if one country fell to the Communists, in this case South Viet Nam, then other surrounding countries would also fall to communism.  Specifically, there was concern about Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand and, believe it or not, concern about India, Japan and the Philippines.  In retrospect, this all seems surreal, but at that time, it was a concern that formulated into a strategy.

Viet Nam became a Cold War era proxy war.  In one corner, we had the US with its anti-communist allies.  Most of these allies were members of SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization).  In the other corner, the North Vietnamese were supported by Russia, China and other communist countries.  Did you know that Castro visited and Cuba supported the North Vietnamese with troops?

In 1950, American military advisors arrived in what was then French Indochina.  US involvement escalated in the early 60s, with troop levels tripling in 1961 (3,200) and again in 1962 (11,300).  The US involvement escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident in which a US destroyer clashed with a North Vietnamese fast attack craft. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed through congress, which gave the POTUS authorization to increase the military presence.  Thus, regular US combat units were deployed beginning in 1965.  Operations crossed international borders.  Laos and Cambodia were heavily bombed because the Ho Chi Minh trail ran through both countries and moved men and material from the North into the South.  Our troop level reached its zenith in 1968 with 536,100 US military personnel in Viet Nam.

Any time the enemy massed their forces and attempted to fight the US/South Vietnamese forces in conventional warfare, the US side was the winner.  An example of this was the infamous Tet offensive, which was launched by the North Vietnamese on January 31, 1967.  Over 100 cities were attacked by over 85,000 North Vietnamese troops at a time when there was suppose to be a cease-fire truce. The US forces, after the initial shock, responded and decimated the enemy with the use of the US superior firepower.  Tet was also the turning point for American civilian support for the US war effort.  The Tet offensive came as a surprise and generated many American deaths.  It did not matter that we won that battle decisively, it was more a belief that our military and political leaders were losing credibility in the conduct of the war.

Viet Nam has been called the ‘Living Room’ war.  That is because on every newscast, there were very explicit pictures of injured, dying or dead Americans.  It was reality TV before reality TV was ever concocted.  Cameramen had no scruples when it came to sticking a TV camera inches from the face of a dying American.  They also did this with the faces of the dead.  How would you like to have seen your loved one dying on the 6PM newscast?   That is exactly what happened.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the reality of war should be shown……but our news broadcasts went on broadcasting steroids and showed all of this night, after night, after night.  And the more bloody and violent, the more the media reveled in bringing it into your living room.  It was little wonder that American support for the war waned as the war continued.  I have not watched a newscast since the Viet Nam war because of this.  I read my news or select my news sources on the internet; but I have held true to not watching a TV newscast since the 70s.

Our enemy was smart and patient.  They conducted large scale operations infrequently and relied more on small unit or gorilla tactics.  They were much more successful with this tactic.  Eventually, we realized that Viet Nam was a losing proposition.  This was mostly because of weak and unstable South Vietnamese leadership.  Direct US military involvement ended on 15 August, 1973.  Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese army in April 1975.

There you have it.  Five presidents, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were all involved in some degree with placing military advisors or military troops in Viet Nam.  There were 58,220 American causalities.  The best estimates of North Vietnamese causalities is 1.1 million!

I can tell you from firsthand experience that the Viet Nam War turned the lives of draft age men upside down.  Draft?  Do you younger readers have any idea of what the draft entailed?  Men were needed to fill the ranks of the military, so the government reinstituted the draft for the first time since World War II.  This was handled by the Selective Service Administration.  December 1, 1969 was the fateful night the first draft was conducted since 1942!  Your fate, your future was dependent on what order your birthdate was drawn on one of the 366 little balls that looked exactly like bingo balls.  And the first winner of this wonderful lottery?  September 14 was the first number selected.  Bummer.  June 8 was the 366th ball drawn.  You were golden!  All of the men drafted were from the first 195 numbers drawn that night.

There were deferments for college, married with children, sole source of family support, physical disability and a myriad of other conditions.  But the college deferment was a double edged sword.  If you flunked out, or dropped out from lack of money…you immediately received your ‘Order to Report for Physical Exam.’  If you were physically fit, you then received your ‘Order to Report for Induction.’  Many men chose another military branch before being drafted into the Army or Marines.  72,000 chose to flee to Canada, as Canada did not support our Viet Nam War effort and provided a safe haven.

At this point, I need to interject that I am not a lucky person.  I will never win the Powerball.  I began college in the fall of 1966 and enrolled in ROTC.  I was commissioned in 1971 and missed the Viet Nam experience as the war was rapidly winding down by the time I completed my Office Basic Course.  My draft number?  293.  I would never have been drafted.  Many of my ROTC classmates that dropped out of college for any reason, were immediately drafted as the Army already had a file on them and they had already passed a physical.  There were times when they dropped out of college and were inducted within 2 weeks!  I have never visited the Viet Nam memorial, as I know too many men killed in Viet Nam from my ROTC classes of 1967-1970.  The class of 1968 was decimated.

In 1973, we went to an all volunteer military system.

Remember my deja vu feeling from the first paragraph?  Well, here is why I have it.  During the Viet Nam War, Lyndon Baines Johnson escalated the war like no other president.  He had a ‘war room’ in the White House.  He and his staff would determine targets to be bombed or not bombed, and then send their decisions to the Pentagon.  Micromanaging at its finest.  I am a believer that war is the result of the failure of political processes.  No war in the US was ever started by the military.  Once the politicians turn our forces loose on an enemy, they should let the war-planners do what they do best…..win one for the home team!  But that was not what happened in Viet Nam.  The politicians not only put their fingers in the pie, they were in up to their elbows.  The result?  We lost.  We decided to fight this war with one arm behind our back and we lost many lives needlessly.

Another example?  Remember ‘Stormin’ Norman’ Schwarzkopf and the first Iraqi War?  It was a marvelous example of military planning and execution.  We won the war with cunning and daring with a minimal amount of casualties.  Then the politicians got involved.  They thought it would be cute if it could be called the ‘100 hour’ war even though the largest battle took place after that 100 hour mark.  Then the politicians decided that we needed to stop knocking out tanks and leave Saddam Hussein in power.  The result?  Iraqi War II.

So here it is.  What is our strategy to defeat Islamic terrorism at home and abroad?  Do we have a strategy?  Are we using airplanes to attack this enemy, when a knife would be more appropriate?  Is the White House directing our efforts or is the Pentagon?   Is there an effort?   Quite honestly, with the number of generals and admirals that have been ‘voluntarily retired’ during this administration, I am losing confidence in both.  Shades of Viet Nam.  I’m feeling that pit in my stomach again.

PS:  HB2U, HB2U, HB Common Sense by Grandpa T, HB2U.

Yes, December 28 is the third anniversary of when I established this website.  I began writing after the election in 2012, but did not establish the blog until December 28.  After our first year, we had 42,556 unique hits.  On our second anniversary last year, 130,612 unique hits.  This year?  277,463 unique hits!   More than double the first two years!   Wow and thank you.   Grandpa T

budget-cuts

Common Cents: Prioritizing Cost Cuts

Until 6 years ago, Grandma P and I lived in a small Midwestern town with a population of approximately 10,000 people.  (If you followed the Midwest winter weather, you know why we moved South!)  Like every level of government, our small city was having a difficult time balancing their budget.

This city, like many small cities, televised their city council meetings.  Televising these meetings had both a positive and negative outcome.

The positive outcome was that it allowed everyone in the city to view exactly what the mayor and the five city council members were accomplishing for the benefit of the city.

The negative outcome was that it allowed everyone in the city to view exactly what the mayor and the five city council members were failing to accomplish to the detriment of the city.

Oh yeah.  Televising the city council meetings presented quite a double-edged sword.

The council and mayor were supported by the city staff.  They had a city administrator.  He was the full-time person responsible for everything going on in the city, including the budget.  This particular city administrator had his ‘pet’ projects.  The best way to address this particular city administrator’s fiscal philosophy is to say that ‘he had champagne taste on a beer budget.’  Spending the city taxpayers’ money, or more importantly, overspending the taxpayers money did not appear to present any roadblocks.

Which  services do you think are the most important provided by a city?  Police?  Garbage removal? Parks and recreation?  Fire protection?  City-owned telephone company?  This particular city did not have its own police department.  They contracted with the County Sheriff for police protection, as it was economical.

Now back to the show!  The mayor poses the request to the administrator, ” Next meeting, we would like a list of possible areas where we could reduce spending.”  Simple enough request.  The next meeting arrives.  The meeting agenda gets to the item about budget cuts.  The mayor looks at the city administrator and asks for his findings about reducing spending.  It becomes obvious that the city administrator did not prepare, as requested in the previous meeting, nor does he want budget cuts.  He wants tax increases!   His off-the-cuff and unfortunately serious response?  “We could eliminate the fire department.”  WHAT???   Are you freakin’ kidding me?  The only service that the community could not live without, and this idiot suggests we eliminate our volunteer fire department.  The entire fire department consisted of three full-time people and some volunteers.  The next available fire engine was at least 20-30 minutes away!

I did not have a personality issue with the city administrator, but I did question his fiscal policies.  I was confident that he met his Waterloo!  He was toast!  Make that burnt toast!  The people of our fair city would rise up and demand his head be displayed atop a fire ladder for such a stupid suggestion!

This was ten years ago.  The end result?  He is still the city administrator, and the same mayor is still in power.  This is after a failed, costly attempt at creating a city-owned telephone company, which makes it all that more unbelievable that either one is still in place. (David versus AT&T!)

Enough of the paltry local issues!  On to Washington, D.C, where the big dogs reside!

Are you concerned about the proposed down-sizing of the Army?

If you have not been following what is happening, the current proposal is to reduce the Army to its pre-WWII size.   That would mean that our current Army strength of 520,000 would be cut to 440,000- 450,000 soldiers.  If the sequestration cuts are not rescinded by Congress, this number could be reduced to 420,000.  This would all take place within the next four years.

In effect, the Army would lose six brigade combat teams by 2019, leaving only 28 brigade combat teams.   To put this into perspective, there would be less people in the entire Army, than we had in Iraq during the first Iraqi war.

Additionally, the National Guard would be trimmed by 20,000 and the Army Reserve by 10,000.  This would result in 335,000 in the National Guard and a mere 195,000 in the Army Reserve.

Here is the clincher.  The Pentagon realizes that this would not be enough soldiers to fight even one major ground war.  Really?  Then why do it.  Have we learned nothing from our past history?  Are you not watching what is happening in the Ukraine?  Do you think that North Korea has changed its national anthem to ‘kumbaya?’  We appear  willing to commit our military into every ‘who gives a   Crap-i-stan’ in the world.  And the scariest of all: have you not observed the increase in the Chinese military?  (The Chinese navy is now larger than our Navy.  It may not be as modern, but they are rapidly closing that gap.)

This concerns me on so many levels that I am sure I could write a book about it.  Let me preface this by saying I am a retired officer from the Army and Army National Guard.  Like most military men and women, I felt my branch was the best branch.  Even though we have inter-service rivalries, I reached a staff level which allowed me to appreciate that every branch is necessary for a good, combined, winning team.  Each branch has their strengths.

I was a Cold War soldier.  Most of the war plans were for the defense of Western Europe from the invading Communist hoard.  The Cold War got pretty hot!  But I am intelligent enough to know that things drastically changed after September 11, 2001.  The face of the enemy has changed.  The battlefield has changed.  It does not mean that all our enemies have evaporated and disappeared.

How does this segue into my story about my former hometown?  Like the city administrator wanting to eliminate the fire department, our federal government is willing to reduce our Army to the brink of ineffectiveness.  I consider the fire department vital to the city and I wholeheartedly recognize the Army being vital to our national defense.  After all, our federal government was formed for two reasons, national defense and foreign trade.  It was not formed for the Departments of Education or Energy.  All those other expensive departments were later add-ons.

Here is the breakdown of the monies received by the three principle branches of the military.  Care to make a guess which branch gets the most?  Well, at number three on the list is the Army. They receive about $130 billion.  Next, at number two would be the Army Air Corps, today known as the Air Force. (I could not resist this jab at my zoomie friends!)  They receive $144 billion.  The number one service branch is the Navy with a budget of $156 billion.

I am a firm believer that there are many other advantages in maintaining a strong defense other than the obvious role of protecting our country.

The military has provided a springboard for aliens that have wanted to become American citizens.  I know some of these people.  They served in the military and obtained their citizenship.  They are some of the most dedicated, patriotic, productive American citizens that I know.  (Of course, this was some time ago.  Today we let illegal aliens invade our country, vote, and take advantage of our generosity, ie. welfare, Medicaid, scholarships, etc., without contributing anything to our country.)

Not all young people have the maturity to decide what they want from life immediately after they graduate from high school.  Many young people have matured, learned, and accepted responsibility while serving in the military.  I had plenty of young soldiers serve with me who absolutely loved the regimentation they had in the military.  They knew when they would eat, do P.T, sit in class, or perform their duties.  They loved it because it was contrary to the ‘hippy commune’ unregimented lifestyle that they had at home.  Strange, but true.

Many young people learn a marketable skill while in the military.  Once they are out, they can find gainful employment.  In the same vein, some choose to go to college or vocational schools with the assistance of any GI benefits that they may have earned.  They, too, become productive, contributing Americans.

I have often thought that ‘mandatory military’ would not be such a bad thing in our country.  Many countries have it.  Switzerland and Israel are the two prime examples.  Need proof?  Ask any military veteran if they were better off or worse off after being in the military.  I will guarantee you that 99% will say that they benefitted from their military experience.  They may not want to repeat the military, but most will admit that it made them a better person.

(It is difficult not to respect and salute our flag after having served under it.  Even though I enjoy the show Duck Dynasty, I get upset when I see Willy Robertson using a flag for a sweat band.!)

So how do we fund the Army specifically or our military in general so we can put a halt to the downsizing?

Well, the Department of Agriculture has a budget of $146 billion!  That’s larger than the Army budget!  Of course, $80 billion goes to the bloated food stamp program and much of the balance goes to farm subsidies.

We could eliminate the Department of Energy and save $33 billion.  The bulk of that budget is for alternate energy resources development. I view that as being the responsibility of private industry.  If there is money to be made, they will do it.

The Department of Education swallows $57 billion.

But most people do not realize that the budget for the Treasury Department is $500 billion!  That is more than the three principle service branches combined!  You are familiar with the Treasury Department.  They are responsible for paying the interest on our national debt.  This year, that interest on our debt amounts to $195 billion!   They are also the kind folks that fund the IRS Army!  The IRS Army cost the United States about the same amount as the US Army!  Holy Crap!

While the US Army was fighting terrorists on foreign soil, the IRS Army was fighting the Tea Party on American soil.  What is wrong with that picture?

The lesson to be learned?  The next time we have a conflict on foreign soil, send the IRS Army!  They may be bigger than the US Army after the proposed troop reductions.

We need to get our priorities in order and our spending in check!