Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Transportation Blues - and other dollars and sense (intentional!)

Title stolen (in part) from this article, which says that our highway fund is basically broke. That is, broke as far as "out of money" (I know it's already broken in other ways, such as our lack of education and common courtesy in highway driving, which will likely become the basis of the second installment of the courtesy series, whenever it comes about). And, yet, the government can provide $1.5 billion in federal aid to Pakistan (which I discussed here, regarding how my tax money goes to provide free higher education to Pakistani students, while I'm left footing the bill for my own children's higher education).

Now, granted, the US only gives about 1% of its total budget to foreign aid (check out the info available at the Finance Degree Center). But how much is that 1%? Nearly $38 billion. Yes, billion, as in 9 zeros after the "big" numbers. But look closer at the data: the transportation system that's "running dry"? That's 3% of the budget. Seems like we could cut the foreign aid and shore up some "local/national" aid. Oh, and we're spending 6% on "net interest" - or $221 billion (per this US government resource data, which is another interesting resource). Seems like maybe paying of our national credit lines might be a good idea after all... there's a giant chunk of money that could finance roads for a while. And I'm not quite sure what "income security" refers to, but the US government spends 15% of its budget on that.

By the way, if you check out page 185 of this US budget summary, there's something interesting to note: while the budget includes some $50 million (this year, with $237 million in coming years) to "Establish Veterans Job Corps," it plans to cut $30 million this year, $69 million next year, and increasing each year in reductions of cost-of-living adjustments to those veterans. That is, the folk who have given up basically everything to defend the freedom we cherish, we'll be reducing their cost-of-living adjustments on their retirements. We already pay the military way too little (been there, done that), and now we want to reduce the yearly pay adjustment (it probably doesn't match inflation already).

But back to the original article. Proposed solutions to the problem include tax increases ("closing loopholes"), and it mentioned that we already had a gas tax hike back in the 90s to help bolster the highway trust fund. It just seems like there could be better financial decisions made by "the board of directors of the largest economic entity in the world" as regards our national budget and spending. (That quote is from Jim Moran, the congressman who thinks the congressional salary, a "measly" $174k/year, is insufficient.)

As for my household, we're working on getting our house ready to put on the market. So we can get a less expensive one. So we can pay our new "affordable" health insurance premiums and not go bankrupt. (Side note: the new insurance, besides being more expensive up front and leaving less in our bank account, also cost more when we go to the doctor, so another side effect of the ACA is that we will elect not to go to the doctor in situations under the new insurance that we might have under the old, because it will cost more and we have less to pay it with.) Oh, and speaking of ACA:

Just sayin', it's out there. That's a Google Play Music link; it's coming soon to iTunes and Amazon Music as well. Note: the "band name" of "Stab the Finger" - that's going to change (after submitting to the stores, I found there's a guy in Italy who does music under "Stab Finger" - so I won't use a name so close to his; the next submission, Robot Chickens from Mars, will be using a new name... stay tuned!). Feel free to buy that multiple times to help ensure my children are insured. Oh, and college. Etc.

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