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Busting the U.S. budget

In 1791, during George Washington’s first term in office, our nation’s debt totaled $77 million. In contrast to the numbers that are thrown around so casually today, which are in the billions and trillions, this number seems almost trivial. But in 1791, the debt, most of which was incurred during the American Revolution was no small matter.
For a nation of only 4 million, the amount we owed our creditors was the equivalent of approximately 40 percent of our young nation’s gross domestic product. Fortunately, thanks to the foresight of men like Alexander Hamilton, our first secretary of the treasury, and yes, a few new taxes, the size of the national debt was brought back to more reasonable proportions.
Today, we’re at a similar crossroads. We’re facing a massive debt, and no matter where you stand politically, before long it’s an issue we’re going to have to confront. The numbers are staggering. Starting in the early part of the decade, oddly enough, during a period of Republican dominance in both the Congress and the White House, the federal government nearly doubled the size of the debt.  
In 2000, the national debt was $5.6 trillion. However, by late 2007, it was $9 trillion. Since then it’s kept growing.
President Obama, fearing an economic meltdown, called for an economic stimulus package. He got it, but over the next few years, it’s going to cost more than $700 billion.  Other spending, without much worry about where the money is coming from, has increased dramatically as well. Future plans are likely to make it even worse.

Read more: Busting the U.S. budget

Is the economy recovering?

For most of 2009, the speculation had been that the unemployment rate in the United States would, at some point, reach 10 percent. That would have meant that roughly 15 million Americans would have been out of a job. However, that didn’t happen. Instead, when the July unemployment statistics were reported, unemployment edged down a little. It wasn’t much, just a 0.1 percent reduction, but it was nonetheless a welcomed surprise.

Read more: Is the economy recovering?

The health care debate needs to be about principles

If there is one word that describes the debate over health care in the United States it’s “confusion.”
There are intense passions, all sorts of disinformation, and, sadly, an inability on the part of the advocates for a national health care initiative to define their key principles. Perhaps, if the latter were more strongly emphasized, and some of the misinformation explained and pushed aside, then maybe the debate would be more civil and informed.

Read more: The health care debate needs to be about principles

Are Virginia Democrats losing their momentum?

Virginia Democrats have been on a winning streak for several years now.  They won statewide in 2005, won again in 2006, did well in the House of Delegates and State Senate races in 2007, and knocked it out of the park in 2008 when the state turned blue for President Obama.  For many that would seem to signal that 2009 is likely to be yet another Democratic grand slam.
 But not so fast. That’s not the way things are shaping up and Creigh Deeds is having a surprisingly tough time of it.  
The most recent polls show him behind his opponent, former Attorney General Bob McDonnell.  Unlike past elections, when national forces helped the Democrats, this year, the political environment is a bit tougher.
For one thing there is a long standing conventional wisdom to overcome.  Namely that Virginians when casting their votes for Governor tend to vote for the candidate from the party other than the one that’s in the White House.  This has held true for 32 years.  Of course, this could be a long running coincidence.  Many think it is, but it could also be an unconscious desire on the part of the voters to create something of a balance between Washington and Richmond.  

 

Read more: Are Virginia Democrats losing their momentum?

Is the Stimulus Working?

The recession began during the last quarter of 2007 and the gross domestic product fell by 2.8%. There was a slight rebound during the first quarter of 2008, but during the rest of the year, the direction was all down.  Consumer demand was off and prices declined.  The latter was a sure sign of the rather scary economic phenomena known as deflation.  
And most worrisome, foreclosures and bankruptcies reached levels not seen since the great depression.  Also, to add to the confusion, the banking system, with its faltering mortgage backed securities, seemed on the verge of collapse.  Sometimes, even a few months later, it’s easy to forget how bad things had gotten.  

 

Read more: Is the Stimulus Working?

It’s not just for whittling

Next to my keyboard there is battered old pocketknife that belonged to my grandfather. It’s seen better days. I have no idea of the brand. The little plate that identified its maker is long gone. It’s a simple affair. It had two blades and is in a green case. My granddad died 40 years ago, and I have no idea how old it is. One knife, the shorter of the two, is broken off. No doubt Poppy, as we called my granddad, used it to pry something open and it wasn’t up to the stress. The second is still functional, but it’s been sharpened so many times that its shape has been distorted. I don’t use it, of course. It’s a keepsake, and is a connection to the roots of my own passion for the pocketknife.
Pocketknives, for many, are something of a throwback. A handy tool, that in our progressively urban world, is often associated with farmers, outdoorsman, and, of course, folks who sit on their porch and whittle. Usually, the latter, to some of my city friends, is an image that’s also associated with drinking moonshine and playing the banjo on the front porch. But pocketknives have moved well beyond that. And I have several that prove that point. I have one, that has, let’s see, a saw, three kinds of screw drivers, a cork screw (very important), a can opener, a pair of scissors, tweezers, tooth pick, fish hook remover, and several other tools I haven’t quite figured out yet. It’s handy, but it has one drawback. It’s heavy and in my pocket manages to feel like I am carrying a brick. So, my preference is for something smaller.

Read more: It’s not just for whittling

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