Why do USA citizens constantly misunderstand government budgets?

A 2011 CNN Opinion Research survey demonstrated how inaccurate Americans are in estimating what percentage of the federal budget is spent in various programs. Some politicians pretend that cutting funding to public broadcasting could significantly decrease federal expenditures. Chad Stone wrote in US News and World Report in 2012:

At the federal level, most of the budget goes toward defense, Social Security, and major health programs, as the chart below shows. Programs that most Americans oppose cutting—Social Security, defense, education and Medicare (which accounts for almost two-thirds of the Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP slice of the pie)—plus interest on the debt account for about three out of every five federal dollars. Only about 1 percent of the budget goes toward foreign aid. Knowing these facts, would Americans still think that more than half the federal budget is waste that could be cut away without seriously harming government programs they value?

The Friends Committee on National Legislation estimates that 40% of the federal budget in 2014 was devoted to militarism.

On Sunday, October 18, the Augusta Chronicle, in two good articles, nevertheless partially contributed to this national misunderstanding. It placed an article about members of Augusta’s Board of Commissioners using $4,300 in gas allowance money on the front page, and it placed an article about the military contractor running nearby Fort Gordon going more than $104 million over budget on the first page of Section B.

It seems as if the magnitude of the spending was in inverse relationship to the position of the article in the paper.

The Hypocrisy of USA Immigration Policy

From Farmers brace for workforce shortage under Obama’s executive action on immigration in the Augusta Chronicle of December 28, 2014:

Farmers already scrambling to find workers in California – the nation’s leading grower of fruits, vegetables and nuts – fear an even greater labor shortage under President Obama’s executive action to block about 5 million people from deportation.

Thousands of the state’s farmworkers, who make up a significant portion of those who will benefit, might choose to leave the uncertainty of their seasonal jobs for steady work building homes, cooking in restaurants and cleaning hotel rooms.

This article illustrates the hypocrisy of US immigration policy. Whole industries depend on cheap labor, and we deprive those laborers of a legal status so their employers can exploit them.

Let’s just be honest. If we want cheap fruit & vegetables, $0.50 chicken pieces, clean office buildings, manicured landscaping and construction workers on demand, then we have to have immigrants willing to do these tasks. Now the only question is whether we want them to have enough rights to be able to approach the police when landlords, employers and criminals exploit them.

We have a North American Free Trade Agreement which gives the Jalisco tomato and Iowan wheat more rights to cross borders than Mexicans.

If you believe in free markets for products, shouldn’t you believe in free markets for labor?

Krauthammer: Moral Confusion over Israeli War Crimes in Palestine

There has to be a word which describes phrases which please the ear and are uttered in an air of reverence, implying that they contain some timeless wisdom. Upon examination, however, the phrase is either false or meaningless. Certainly Charles Krauthammer is not the first person to use this rhetorical technique. Here’s a brief listing:

These phrases are very fun and easy to play with. When I was a graduate student, I was a Teaching Assistant for Professor Irving Katz‘s American History after the Civil War class. We assistants were meeting with Professor Katz to discuss grading the students’ exams. I joked, “We can forgive the students for writing poor exams, but we can’t forgive them for forcing us to give them bad grades.” He, may God have mercy on him, was the only one who got the joke.

People all over twitter today have been awed by Charles Krauthammer’s column “Moral clarity in Gaza.” It quotes Israeli Prime Minister and war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu saying “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.” Continue reading

Jewfros in Palestine

Palestine should not be a summer camp for American Jews to discover themselves.

Corey Robin

Tablet has a moving piece by Samantha Shokin, a Brooklyn-based writer, on how a semester in Israel helped change the way she felt about herself, particularly her bodily self-image as a Jewish woman.

Shokin writes:

I spent a lifetime hating my Jewish hair—straightening it, covering it, or otherwise finding ways to diminish its presence. A trip to Israel is what it took for me to realize my hair was wonderful all its own, and much more than just an accessory.

Shokin does a wonderful job describing how her hair was caught up with her feelings of awkwardness, shame, and exclusion, how difficult it was as an adolescent to contend with images of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera from the vantage of “frizzy brown hair and glasses.” This was no simple matter of teenage angst, Shokin makes clear; it cut to the heart of her Jewish identity, not to mention…

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Denial of Israeli non-Jewish citizens visas to enter USA makes Israel ineligible for waiver

Israel requests inclusion in visa waiver program. Denial of Israeli non-Jewish citizens visas to enter USA makes Israel ineligible for waiver.

US Postal Service Stamp Commemorates Emancipation Proclamation

brothermanifest:

USPS Unveils Stamp to Mark 150 Years of the Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation turned 150 years old yesterday, and the United States Postal Service…

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States With Tighter Gun Control Laws Have Fewer Gun-Related Deaths

theatlantic:

The Geography of Gun Deaths: States With Tighter Gun Control Laws Have Fewer Gun-Related Deaths