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White House goes nuclear, Rambo on budget



The 2011 US federal budget was released this past Monday and can be found here. One you get past the budget message (life is hard, thanks for reminding us Mr. President) you can dive into the numbers.

The big one is $3.8 trillion. This is the proposed total budget for the next fiscal year. The typical left-right wrangling will inevitable take place and change the composition and sum of the budget. For now there are some baby steps in the right direction of cutting tax breaks to oil and gas firms ($36.5 billion) and promoting renewable energy. There is a push for nuclear energy in the budget, which is a bit of a divisive issue. Greens see nuclear energy in a very negative light but much of the American public is okay with nuclear as long as the waste can be crammed far off elsewhere, like the mountains of Nevada.

Overall, energy issues get a cursory mention in the budget compared to the record breaking numbers put up by other agencies. $708 billion is planned to be set aside for the Department of Defense (plus unlimited funding through supplemental bills like a $33 billion ask just the other day). Continuing to increase massive amounts of money at the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan will make no difference based on historical precedent but no one in elected office is willing to admit this. President Obama loves Urdu poetry, but should read Rudyard Kipling’s poem on the British experience in Afghanistan entitled Arithmetic on the Frontier. The excerpt goes:

A scrimmage in a Border Station
A canter down some dark defile-
Two thousand pounds of education-
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail (Afghan musket)

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar's (Afghan sword) downward blow
Strike hard who cares--shoot straight who can--
The odds are on the cheaper man.

Afghans have a long and storied history of decimating technologically and economically superior opponents (The British Empire, Soviet Union). With the situation deteriorating after nine years of war, continuing to throw money at this conflict is inexplicable considering the dire economic shape most of the country is in. As previous wars have shown, the casualties of the foreign army are much more costly than those of an Afghan fighter.

After a decade of hostilities the fighting is as fierce as ever with only a fraction of the country under the Afghan government’s control. The total cost of the Afghan war from its inception to today, February 3rd 2010: $251,559,741,649. Throw in the expenses of the Iraq war at the cost is nearly a trillion dollars.

Back on the home front, the city of Los Angeles has announced a $200 million dollar shortfall that is will result in for than 30,000 city workers taking pay cuts and over 1,000 layoffs. The nascent clean energy economy is starved of funds and unemployment remains over 10%. The correlation between war, energy and money are plain to see, but this budget makes the same mistakes the US has been making for a decade.

[photo by aaron m adams @ flickr]


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