Tuesday, December 7, 2010

As I write this, Cuba is a few dozen miles off the ship’s right.

7 Dec 2010

Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico

As I write this, Cuba is a few dozen miles off the ship’s right. It is our second full day at sea in the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike air travel, ship travel is a whole different pace. You spend days going at the same steady pace – about 18 knots (which isn’t much faster in mph). No hair-raising take offs or bumpy landings – just slow gliding over the waves as we make tortoise-speed progress. Our route takes us a few miles outside Cuba territorial waters -- to Nassau, Freeport, Key West and back to Galveston.

It’s perfect as a way to finally relax—and think. You can’t hang on the Internet all day while at sea because the cheapest rate is 40 cents a minute (up to 75 cents/minute if you don’t choose a plan).

News takes on a different perspective when you are offshore. One of our few satellite channels (which were out part of yesterday so we had NO news) is thr CNN International channel, which is far superior to CNN domestic for providing news you never hear back in the USA, which is a fraction of what is really happening globally.) You have to get out to know what is really happening in the world – I know women who have toured Russia who --as a result -- know more about Russia then potential Presidential candidates—not that a tour alone qualifies as experience, but it beats nothing.

There is also a Fox channel and a Denver local news channel on the ship – and I have to say how weird it looks to hear about a Colorado snowstorm or traffic accident when you are hundreds of miles out in the Gulf. I’m just glad they didn’t give us a Martian channel. I did thank the Captain last night for not running into any reefs or icebergs (you are more likely to run into a one of the many drilling rigs we passed in the Gulf of Mexico. At night they look like giant metal Christmas trees dotting the deep dark waters of the Gulf). The Gulf is still a busy place – but we have not seen any rigs in the eastern Gulf. And the Captain looked really uncomfortable, obviously more comfortable running a ship than trying to figure how to interpret a Texas accent.

From out here the latest tax “deal” to extend unemployment for a year and tax cuts for even the top for two years looks like the story about the boy who traded the family cow for a ‘magic bean.’ Only in this case the millionaires got the cow and the magic bean while the unemployed and taxpayers got the shaft that caves in on the neediest people a full year before the rich guys have to pony up. And the deficit just grew by another $800 billion to pay for the whole thing. I give both sides an “F” for this deal.

Where is the deficit reduction by either party in this “deal”? Where is the equal sharing of the pain and the gain? On CNN International today it was reported that Ireland will not only be cutting its budget to get help from Europe, but will also be RAISING taxes to meet fiscal reality. England is also doing both – making cuts and raising revenue from tuition increases (that’s why their students are on the streets protesting, along with the French workers, and the Greeks, the Spanish and so on – you think Americans are the only ones feeling the bit of reality after the global bubble burst?)

Is there any fiscal reality left in the USA? We have eaten from the tree of voodoo economies and now we can’t handle the reality that we have to return to a sustainable economic system?

Our politicians don’t have the courage to tell the truth –that we have to address BOTH sides of the equation. You can’t keep up a $100 lifestyle on $50 worth of income –you have to add $ and cut $ to get there without cutting things near and dear to us like Social security, Medicare, and Defense. No one has mentioned that our defense budget is more than the defense budgets of the next 45 countries COMBINED. We could cut defense enough to only lead the next 10 countries, save hundreds of billions, and still be way ahead of the game. If you don’t want to do that, then you have to increase revenues – that is the only other choice to get balanced.

We are living the reverse of JFK’s famous “Men to the Moon in a decade” speech, saying “We must do these things --not because they are easy-- but because they are HARD.”

Now, our leaders say “We must only do the easy things” because as politicians we avoid all the hard. Let’s just continue ‘borrow-and-spend’ and get nothing for it.

Except that this is truth: payments to the unemployed do circulate 100% back into the economy. Not so with the top 2%, where extra funds easily seek the best global return in any country -- not the local grocery store and landlord -- so they can go sit in a Swiss bank account, or buy a yacht in Australia, and do nothing else compared to the numbers of people that unemployment benefits help.

Companies are right now sitting on trillions in earnings and not creating jobs, so extra money at the top won’t change that. Our tax system is creating an oligarchy that favors the few instead of a democracy that favors the many and treats people equally. Giving the wealthy two years of a break and the unemployed one year, is not fair or balanced.

The message is clear from the new Congress. We continue to ‘borrow-and-spend’ to give millionaires at the top 2% another $700 billion -- paid for by the other 98% of us. They continue to pass the debt to our kids and grandkids. At least with tax-and-spend and “pay as you go” (like our fathers and grandfathers did when they entered a war) the budget is paid for. America has borrowed to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan even during the best of times, when cash was abundant. How prudent was that?

Our leaders continue to avoid doing what is right because it is hard. Economically speaking, no one wants to eat their vegetables, only the cake and ice cream. So our leaders are afraid to tell us anything different.

In coming years America will need people to fill 120 million high tech jobs but only 50 million American workers will have the skills needed to qualify for them. Because our education system is failing, those jobs will have to go to foreign workers -- unless we upgrade our education system so our citizens can take those jobs. Can we make it? Today Texas ranks 49th out of 50 in the percentage of our citizens who get a high school degree – not to mention a college or post-grad degree required for these future jobs!

Our solution? Texas plans to CUT funding for education. What does that bode for our future in a space-age 21st century? Nothing good.

Many Americans haven’t traveled enough to personally see the great changes happening around us. Therefore they assume we are still “in the cat-bird’s seat.” They have no idea that we are losing ground against our global competitors unless we change our ways and our priorities. Asian kids are studying harder than our kids. European kids get more language training then our kids – a huge advantage in a global economy. American schools now have study abroad programs. Parents should encourage their children to take advantage of these – for their own and America’s future.

Mexico is an economic oligarchy that can’t create jobs. Add corruption and Calderon’s attack on the gangs that started this carnage—which didn’t exist before-- means it is losing its war with the narco-terrorists who make billions untaxed which are spent on American heavy weapons used to kill Mexican police and civilians. Mexico is not just our illegal drug frontier but it is the gateway for human trafficking into America. Some dealers prefer human trafficking to drug smuggling because the penalties are less for human trafficking, and it is less risky.

A few minutes ago the ship shuddered and I heard a bang of some kind, out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Cuba is somewhere off the right side – not more than 50 miles away. What was that? We are still moving.

Next stop – Nassau. Standby for Part 2 (Bahamas and candidates who know everything and have never been anywhere)…

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