Thursday, May 30, 2013

Senator Coburn: Which Level of Government is Responsible for What?

Is Senator Tom Coburn right on "Budgetary Justice"?

Dr. Tom Coburn, Republican Senator from Oklahoma, consistent with his position prior to the Moore, Oklahoma tornado disaster, opposed federal disaster relief spending for Moore, Oklahoma because state and private money should do it as they have in the past. 

Since that initial message, Senator Coburn has stated willingness to support federal disaster aid spending, but only if there are offsetting cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.  

Senator Coburn bases his position, also consistent, on the importance of states being responsible for adverse weather events, like tornados, that occur in their state. Senator Coburn believes that states, like Oklahoma, will not take steps necessary to minimize damage from such disasters if they can count on the federal government paying for the results of their irresponsibility. 

I believe that Senator Coburn is raising the larger issue of "States' Responsibility" which seems to mirror the large issue of "States' Rights". You can't have states making the decisions then the federal government paying the bills. 

States' Responsibility, like States' Rights, forces the discussion ... and decisions ... on where does the state government end and the federal government begin. Or, what is our citizens' compact with each other at the state level and then at the federal level? The same could be asked of the municipal, district, and county levels as well.

For now, let's focus on situations of natural occurrences, like tornado, hurricane, typhoon, tsunami, lightening, landslide, earthquake, and volcano. With few exceptions, these are not attributable to any people, businesses, or governments. Hence, we traditionally refer to these as "Acts of God" or "Acts of Nature".

The corollary of these acts of nature would be what are the responsibilities, hence liabilities, of governments, businesses, and people based on what's known about acts of nature and human actions in response. 

For example, if a person, business, or government (Let's refer to these as "Entities".) builds a structure at the base of a volcano, especially an active volcano, should other entities at all be responsible for damage from the volcanic spewing? What about structures built on earthquake faults? 

Taking this to a more common situation we face, knowing that the Mississippi River, and other such major rivers, overflow during the Spring and rainy seasons, hence they flood at least annually, then should damage to structures built along the shores, especially those built within the areas on both sides of the rivers that regularly are flooded? Consider that the ancient Egyptians, knowing that the Nile floods, built farm fields along the shores in order to take advantage of the expected flooding.

Now consider building structures closely along ocean shores. Consider structures built in Tornado Alley.

I believe that damages to structures at the foot of volcanoes, on earthquake fault lines, closely along flood river and ocean coasts are primarily the responsibility of the structure owners. 

Of course, unusually harsh, relatively rare occurrences should become primarily the responsibility of the larger community. But I'm not sure what should be the boundaries of responsible community: Municipal, district, county, state, or federal.

I believe that Senator Coburn has a good point. The Oklahoma private and state communities should have primary responsibility for the Moore, Oklahoma tornado damage. 

That said I also believe that the federal government might have a responsibility here due to the unusually harsh and widespread damage. It would be understandable for the federal government to spend on damage restoration. But, that offsetting budget cuts come from federal spending already budgeted to Oklahoma governments, businesses, and residents. 

In that sense, paying federal taxes can be to pay known expenses and a hedge against unknown expenses -- an insurance. The reality of a state subject to frequent, expected natural disasters has a vested interest in ensuring a state and federal government capable of supporting response and restoration. You cannot whip together a FEMA, etc.

The state or locality also can build a disaster fund into which they add money weekly, monthly, or annually as the means of repaying federal no-interest loans for restoration.

We are facing more and more frequent and more frequently harsh major natural disasters. So we should have this conversation.

I call the larger issue "Budgetary Justice". I believe that states should not receive federal spending greater than that state's total federal tax payments.  Senator Coburn expressed this rather well on  CBS's "Face the Nation" Senator Coburn (R-Oklahoma):

" 'We've created kind of a predicate, that you don't have to be responsible for what goes on in your state,' he said on CBS' Face the Nation while discussing the success Oklahoma has had in using state and private funds after the tornadoes." ... 'It disproportionately hurts the more populous states the way we do it, the economic indicator, the economic damage indicator, the way it's calculated ... So a large state like New Jersey or New York is disadvantaged under the system that we have today.' "

Budgetary Justice means that states should not receive any more federal government spending -- any federal government spending, not just disaster relief -- than that state pays in federal taxes. Anything  else would be unfair siphoning from the economies of those states getting less than they pay in order to subsidize those states getting more than they pay. 

Individuals and businesses in my state, New Jersey, pays a lot more in federal taxes than we ever get back in federal government spending of that tax money.  

Federal taxes drain money out of New Jersey's economy -- money that rationally ought to be spent in New Jersey, given that much of the federal spending can be spent in any state and New Jersey has more of nearly everything except land. This is not like donating blood, this is siphoning the gas tank.

I agree that some spending is geography-specific by necessity, like naval bases, but most are not. For example, Bethesda and Annapolis, Maryland are natural homes to the U.S. Naval Academy and naval port. But the military could put other spending into New Jersey that currently are overspent unnecessarily in other states. 

Also note that the National Institutes of Health does not need to be, nor should it be, in Maryland and the Centers for Disease Control in Georgia.

New Jersey could, and should, have a lot more Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services than we have now ... like the National Institutes of Health and/or the Centers for Disease Control.

This means more to a state than the money itself directly spent.

The Department of Defense funds more new high-tech R&D than any other branch of government ... and more than several industries ... including sustainability, logistics, and even healthcare (that benefits the treatment of wounded and improved outcomes for both active and retired soldiers). DOD has a huge stake in medical breakthroughs! The DOD has huge stake in logistics!

The Department of Health and Human Services through the National Institutes of HealthCenters for Disease Control, and Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Contractor is the next biggest funding agency of high-tech healthcare R&D; and it too has a huge stake in medical breakthroughs! 

So why aren't more Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services spending on tech R&D located in New Jersey, the medicine chest and logistics crossroads of the nation? 

Yes, a lot of federal spending goes outside the country to fund embassies, military, and such. But putting a lid on how much any one state can get of our federal tax dollars spent in the country -- not more than they pay into the tax pool -- would be "budgetary justice".

If states could not receive more federal spending than they put into the federal tax pool, then "donor states" like New Jersey could have much stronger economies and lower state taxes -- the stronger economies, less debt, and lower state taxes that we should have.

Why is New Jersey subsidizing other states? Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) is right on Budget Justice.

By Steve Reichenstein

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rapes in US Military not a cultural issue but, rather, an insurgency by serial rapists

US Military process for addressing rape claims clearly favors the rapists. Therefore wouldn't it make sense that rapists searching for safe hunting grounds would find the US Military fertile?

Perhaps the US Military should approach the sexual assault ... rape ... epidemic in the same way as any purposeful infiltration by terrorists. Rapists target entering the US Military, then rising to a position in which soldiers report to them and, possibly, rising to a position in which they are responsible for addressing the rape problem.

Perhaps the US Military should form a Special Forces & JAG joint division focused on sexual assault terrorists and terrorism. Unit by unit they might investigate, secure, and hold. Overall, they might try to tie incidents of rape together to find serial rapists, as the FBI does.

Rape is not a "tolerance" issue, like integrating the US Military.

The bottom line is that this is a premeditated crime problem that, likely, is being perpetrated purposely by outside rapists targeting the US Military. So the US Military should approach it as such.

What do you think about rape in the US Military?

By Steve Reichenstein