The Simple Dollar Talks Politics (Sort Of)

Change will do you goodAlthough I usually avoid politics like the plague, I felt this was an important issue to address.

Yesterday, one of my fellow personal finance bloggers wrote a piece entitled What Is The War In Iraq Costing You? In it, the author makes the following statement:

According to this report of the National Priorities Project, the median income family in the United States paid $3,736 in federal income taxes in 2006. Out of this, $1,354 is spent on military expenditure and to pay the interest for debt related to military. In other words, around 36% or a little over one-thirds of the total tax paid is used for military purposes. Now, check how much your tax payment was this year and check what one third of it comes up to.

The author also points out this tool, where you can enter the amount of federal income tax you paid in 2006 and see the exact dollar amount that you’re contributing to various branches of the federal government. For example, I entered a rough number into the tool to see what kind of results I would get:

Of the $10800.00 you paid in taxes:
$2937.60 goes to the military
$2019.60 goes to pay the interest on the debt
$2257.20 goes to health care
$648.00 goes to income security
$486.00 goes to education
$367.20 goes to benefits for veterans
$280.80 goes to nutrition spending
$205.20 goes to housing
$162.00 goes to environmental protection
$32.40 goes to job training
$1339.20 goes to all other expenses

To me, the pieces of the pie do not reflect my values. From my eyes, we vastly overspend on the military and vastly underspend on paying off the national debt and erasing many of the mistakes of the last thirty years. If we made a serious commitment to pay off the national debt like the one that was in place at the end of the Clinton administration, we could support every single program that we currently support and also drastically lower taxes. It would put an extra $2,000 or so a year in my pocket, for example, or we could use some of that money to build a better health care program.

I challenge you to look at this information and decide for yourself where you think your money should go. Which of these areas is important to you and should have more money invested? Which of these areas is not as important to you and could have some fat trimmed? Remember, you’re looking at the real dollars that you are spending. This money is the money that Uncle Sam is taking out of your pocket.

Once you’ve really figured that out, support those candidates that match your views, even if they’re not popular. Don’t worry about opinion polls or what everyone else thinks or which candidates the media covers or doesn’t cover: look at all of the candidates, even those not in the Democrat or Republican Party, and find a candidate that feels the same way that you do, and then support that candidate. For me, at least, I often have tons of political buttons and materials for various candidates from parties large and small and from various political races – I don’t worry too much about their party, I worry about what they stand for and whether it matches what I believe – and more importantly, what I’m willing to stand for with my wallet.

Remember, it’s not just politics at stake, it’s your hard-earned money. If you sit back and choose not to worry about it, you’re essentially giving them permission to take thousands of dollars out of your pocket and spend it on things you don’t like. Would you let a stranger on the street do that? Then why would you let the government do that?

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  1. Bp_968 says:

    If you want to see these numbers go down and want to support a candidate who will seriously support getting this country out of debt, support Ron Paul. http://www.ronpaul2008.com

  2. GHoosdum says:

    In my opinion, the purpose of our government is to protect its citizens and the rights of those citizens (specifically those rights enumerated within the US Constitution and its amendments). Without an effective military, the government would have no means of protecting those rights from outside influence. Whether or not I agree with the way that the military is being used currently (as long as the military is never used as a tool for removing our rights), I can never say that I feel that the government’s military spending is out of place.

    There are, however, some categories in the list above that I don’t think the government has any business being involved in.

    An unfortunate side effect of my belief in the Constitution is that there is no denying the legal validity of the national debt, as it is explicitly recognized in Article 1, section 8. I seriously doubt any US administration would ever aggressively pay down the debt unless a balanced budget amendment was passed. Personally, I find this unfortunate, because I agree that the debt should be reduced greatly (but not eliminated as it is a powerful macroeconomic tool, though that’s a totally different discussion).

  3. icup says:

    This is kind of misleading. If the government wasn’t at war in Iraq, your taxes wouldn’t go down. Military spending might not necessarily go down either. Furthermore, its the entire system that is broken and needs to be replaced, not necessarily any one candidate. A lot of the spending that gets committed to defense, is committed because some Congressman or Senator attaches it to a completely unrelated bill that everybody is sure to vote for at the behest of interests in their state. Fix that practice, and you will start to see the numbers go down. As it is now, nobody has incentive to make those numbers go down.
    Although I do agree with your premise that a person should support those candidates that match their views as opposed to going with who the tv tells you to vote for, I think its also important for a person to realize that no politician is going to match their views 100%. They might have to compromise on some things or prioritize some issues over others.

  4. P says:

    Lots of details are hidden behind simple numbers. There are indirect taxes as well. The defense spending is not just on war. There are paybacks to the society, like well trained men and women who later go on to take command of highly responsible and stressful situations. Scientific research, think of tech. stufff that had seed money from defense. Rule of law in the country and internationally depends on well spent defense money.
    lets not forget the woods for the trees, high political interest of people would surely be a step in tax money well spent.

  5. icup says:

    Oh also, I don’t think its very useful to break down the government’s budget into categories and then break down your tax payment to match.

    For one thing, there are programs that would be unpopular no matter what but are still necessary and still have to get funded. There is also always going to be a tradeoff over some program needing more funding than another although both are equally important to different people.

    But also, unless I am mistaken, government budget expenditures don’t solely come from tax revenue. there are other considerations like tariffs on exports, sales/rental of government property to private interests, fees for services provided to citizens and foreign entities, sales of bonds, and probably lots of other stuff.

    In my mind, its better to think of your income taxes as a lump sum everyone has to pay the government which then uses it to run the country. This is mostly based on the size of your income (which would be a lot harder/impossible for you to obtain without the government’s help by the way), and we elect officials to oversee how that money gets spent. Naturally, you should pick the person you think will steer that towards your best interests, but that person is going to have to make certain compromises to achieve that end.

  6. paula says:

    Great post. For the record, it’s the Democratic Party, not Democrat Party.

    Voting for your values sometimes means having to look past individual candidates. Politics involves compromising (to be polite about what’s sometimes a dirty business!), so you might find your preferred candidate doesn’t always vote the way you want once in office. This is more likely to be the case if you are a one-issue voter.

    In partisan elections, also look at political party platforms to see what the candidates’ parties are saying their missions are. Partisan officeholders’ votes usually fall along party lines.

  7. alex says:

    Your conclusion does not adequately take into account game theory. By supporting a candidate who is my suboptimal preference, I may be able to prevent a candidate who is my least favorite from winning, and thus achieve a higher utility.

    To dumb things down some: by voting for my second preference I can avoid achieving my least preferred outcome. 2000 is a perfect example, where just a few more Nader supporters acting strategically in Florida would have avoided throwing the election to Bush.

  8. Mike says:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to believe the numbers from the above site…they obviously have an agenda. For example, where’s Social Security? Check out Yahoo Finance’s take on this: http://finance.yahoo.com/taxes/article/102817/How-Your-Tax-Dollars-Are-Spent

    and you can see where most of your money actually goes (and it’s not the military).

  9. Jerry says:

    Fantastic post! When thinking about personal finance, I usually think only about my after-tax income. From my insular perspective, this is the only kind of money over which I have control.

    But your point about the taxes we pay illustrates that the income we earn that goes to taxes is money whose spending we should try to control as well. Showing how the fraction of our income that we pay as taxes is spent on various services was eye-opening. So much of it was spent on interest on our national debt — by my calculation, 18.7%. In my own finances, I would be greatly concerned if I spent almost one-fifth of my paycheck servicing debt (while not making any dent in the principal).

    We often talk about American “values,” but we forget that mere talk about values is meaningless. We need to take action to inculcate those values in the community in which we live. What we as a nation value can be made explicitly evident by examining where and how much money we spend in a particular area. Money spent on a particular area indicates support and money not spent on a particular are indicates a lack of support.

    You suggest that our entire income, both the fraction paid as taxes and the fraction we receive as after-tax income, is very PERSONAL finance. I have spent much time plotting what to do with my after-tax income, now is the time to start thinking about how to control how the other fraction of my income is spent. You make it clear that, in this matter, that PERSONAL is perforce POLITICAL.

  10. Brad says:

    You are incredibly naive to think the aim to “pay down the debt” at the end of the Clinton administration would have lasted 2 minutes into a recession.

    Yes, the current war is expensive, stupid and a waste of time and lives, but we would not be in “balanced budget nirvana” if only someone different had been in charge. Politicians will always spend all they can, especially in our current political environment. The bifactional ruling party may choose minimal differences in how to spend it, but they will ultimately not reduce spending to accomplish anything like no debt.

    They will almost certainly inflate their way out of the debt….

    I wish Ron Paul really had a chance. I will vote for him if he is still on the ballot when it hits Texas, but I doubt he will be there.

    Brad

  11. Teri Pittman says:

    I am very suspicious of their numbers. Where are Social Security and Medicare? That is what is truly taking up the largest chunk of our taxes. Take a look at this chart.
    It shows 21.6% going to Social Security and 19.9% to national defense. Expect Social Security’s percentage to continue to increase.

  12. Trent Trent says:

    “You are incredibly naive to think the aim to “pay down the debt” at the end of the Clinton administration would have lasted 2 minutes into a recession.”

    We’ll never know, will we? I think you’re incredibly psychic to be able to make such a claim. I seem to recall 1998 having a pretty big economic burp that most people seem to have forgotten about because of the head rush that was 1999.

  13. Nancy says:

    I think you need to re-read the Constitution. There are only a couple of things that the Federal Government is responsible for and National Defense is one of them. Health care, welfare, education, nutrition and job training are local or personal issues!

    Whatever one thinks about the current war, it is foolish to think that your personal finances are anything but positively affected by living in a secure country.
    Free market + Good Military = Prosperous Citizens

  14. Adam says:

    nancy, i don’t think anyone here is proposing that we ELIMINATE the military, but seriously, who are we afraid of these days that we need such a massive force? I don’t see any threats that warrant having such a big stick laying around. Do you?

  15. Sean says:

    There’s nothing “nonpartisan” about the NPP. They are left wing think tank with a political agenda decidedly left of center.

    Read more about them here: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/opinion_columnists/article/0,2777,DRMN_23972_5184292,00.html

    Simple Dollar is my first stop every morning. I trust the information I get here. But trying to pass off the NPP as ojective and unprejudiced, you have hurt your credibility and I’ll be kind of suspicious of the info I get here from now on.

  16. Eric says:

    I think it’s not just what we pay in taxes, but what we don’t pay that can be very important.

    Yes there is 2k in health care, but how much do employees pay in “back door” taxes to get half-assed coverage from a HMO who’s sole job is denying as many claims as possible. Imagine if we used the scale of the government to provide, at least, catastrophic coverage for all americans? Our taxes would be higher, but we would probably have more cash in our pocket at the end of the day.

    Debt has been built up over the past 30 years and is based on the unsupportable principal that there will always be a substantially larger tax base in the future because of population growth. I don’t think this will continue forever and the sooner we stop this practice the better.

  17. It’s interesting that I’d never even considered the enormity of the interest we must be paying on the deficit, and the things we could be doing with that money if we paid it down.

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Trent.

  18. lorax says:

    @Nancy It’s one thing to have and pay for the world’s best military (in terms of power-projection per soldier). It’s quite another to throw it at an unsolvable problem and pay for that.

    @everyone
    In terms of a balanced budget – As per Keynesian economics, almost any economist will agree that a nation can and should run a small deficit during a recession or depression. But as JMK and Galbraith both said, it should be 1) a constructive deficit (ie good debt, that pays back with future economic benefits) and 2) during the boom times the government shouldn’t run a deficit.

    Let’s remember that Clinton and the ’93 Democratic congress passed the deficit reduction act that got the balanced budget rolling – raising taxes AND cutting spending. After ’94 we had a stalemated mixed party govt and a boost in tax revenues from the stock market bubble. I’d say the Dems should get more credit for fiscal responsibility. When the situation was reversed, we got fiscal irresponsibility.

    Lastly – For a while, one could tell a Republican from a Democrat by the (mis)use of the noun “Democrat” as the adjective “Democratic.” Sadly that’s not true anymore, I suppose enough people listen to talk-AM radio that the misuse has now passed into the popular vernacular.

  19. Zach B. says:

    The National Budget should not reflect my values. All of what I spend should reflect my values. If I want more health care, I buy more health care. If I want more education, I buy more education. If I want to help people who are unable to buy these things, I give more money to well run charities that support these people or I donate my time to help them myself.
    That I know of, there is no charity or private expenditure by me that will improve or pay for national defense. Go back and run those numbers and see how much of your entire budget is being spent on each of those categories. If you don’t like what you see, then change your spending habits. If the percentages you don’t like are as a result of government spending, campaign for and support monetarily (an individual vote is worthless) candidates who support how you wish to see that portion you give to various governments spent more wisely.
    Generally, I think that governments should only pay for things that would be impossible for an individual to pay for either by themselves, or as part of a motivated collective dedicated to a common goal.
    Also, I wonder why the debt service is taken as a whole out of any context of what program the monies were borrowed for, yet administrative overhead and waste are hidden in each individual program category. Remember that while we can inflate our way out of debt (a kinder, gentler default), we can never really get rid of the bureaucratic waste and overhead as long as the programs exist.

  20. Trent Trent says:

    This entire thread has shown me why I never write about politics. The only points I was making was that (a) politics are directly connected to your wallet and (b) you should actually find candidates that match whatever you believe because it does affect your wallet. The result? A bunch of partisan rhetoric.

  21. Benji Gonzalez says:

    First, I will disagree that you avoid politics. Your reading list has proven otherwise. I would almost expect you to be a supporter of planned economies.

    When in the hell did you ever hear a Democrat say that taxes would be lower if we were not in Iraq?
    Democrat ideology is based on wealth/income redistribution. Its the reason they are cherish and drool over the idea of importing the poor of the third world and giving them voting rights. Democrats advocate for confiscatory tax rates

    You are a phony and again you have exposed another flaw in your belief system that led to you becoming overloaded in debt in the first place. The belief that if someone else provided everything for you, you would have no desire. If these corporations had not offered you their products or services you would have had no desire to seek an alternative.

    If there is anything that is responsible for the creation of wealth it is a stable/legal/protected environment. Its also idiotic to believe that the US doesn’t have a role to play in helping to preserve stability in the world for the aid of the global economy.

    You have pretty much let the cat out of the bag that you are a obviously a big Kos fan. If you are that confident that the war is wrong then rely on the war itself for justification. You may as well start talking about how 9/11 was an inside job.

  22. Erika says:

    Gee golly, even this glancingly political thread brings out the nasties (that’s you Benji).

    I just wanted to add that social security tax and medicare tax are separate from your normal federal income tax (look at your pay stub), so it is perfectly fair to leave them out of this calculation. Just base the calculation off of the tax on your return.

  23. Mike says:

    Goodness, Benji, completely unnecessary, unjustified, and, bluntly, moronic. Trent doesn’t deserve an attack like that. How you get to his being a Kos fan from that post is beyond me….”supporter of planned economies”?? Why, because he showed the exuberance of youth and the succumbed to the influence of peers and overspent his money? So did I, and I have a degree in Economics all the while being pretty conservative in my political outlook. I’m in the military and alot of the junior folks I see are fiscally irresponsible, yet pretty conservative.

    Overspending at the micro level has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with growing up. The older you are, the wiser you get. From your rant, you don’t sound like you apply critical thinking to much. Either you’re an “arrogant youth” and think you’re perfect, or you’re projecting your own failings.

    Either way, stop reading if you don’t like Trent’s political views (at least the ones you claim he holds). I come here for exceptional personal finance advice. If you don’t want that, leave.

    -M

  24. Laszlo says:

    For a better idea of where your tax dollars are going, look at the linked image. Titled “Death and Taxes”, it shows the budget request Bush submitted for 2008, using the official figures released by the Office of Management and Budget and the Under Secretary of Defense.

    It arranges things logically to give a better picture of where things are actually spent, and giving a much higher percentage for military spending (64%). Some of the ways the government masks how much we spend on the military are by not including the interest payments on military debt, nuclear weapons production (DoE), and many other programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Office or Homeland Security in the DoD budget. Last but not least, most of the Global War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan is funded by “emergency” supplemental spending bills that Bush requests throughout the year.

    I agree with you, Trent, that we do vastly overspend on the military. But I don’t agree that just because of all the partisan comments that politics should be avoided. I found Jerry’s comment illuminating–that it is not only the after-tax income that should be personal to you. Anything the government chooses to spend your hard-earned cash on (especially such a large percentage of it) should be held accountable to your personal approval.

    Comments like these are the inevitable result when you broach such PERSONAL issues like these, but the reckless amount of debt our government accumulates, and the way they accumulate it, should be of interest for those interested in their own personal finance. Not daring to talk about it because of strong opinions would be a very narrow-minded view, especially when you consider that out current deficit spending will be passed on to our children and grandchildren. Should our legislators be allowed to sign up for credit cards in our children’s names just because we’re too polite to discuss it?

  25. Shadox says:

    Dude, I am right there with you.

    I am a “registered” independant, and I agree with every word, except that I don’t believe taxes would go down if spending on the military or the war were to decline. The people in Washington (Democrats and Republicans alike) love our money too much. They would never give it away.

  26. plonkee says:

    When I read this post in my feed reader, I thought that it was about voting for what you think is important. From the comments I seem to be mistaken :( .

    @alex: Tactical voting is a really good point especially in the UK where there are three national political parties, but in any one area only two of the three are likely to be contenders.

    @benji: Seriously, mate, have you ever read this blog before?

  27. jake says:

    The problem with discussing things like sex, religion and politics is that its hard to find an intelligent conversation. Intelligent meaning having sources to backup claims or accusations.

    I am fine with talking and discussing different views but most of the time it goes straight to name calling. “You’re stupid because you don’t share my views,” that’s what it basically comes down to when you read between the lines.

    Its hard to have a clean civil discussion.

  28. Trent Trent says:

    jake: you basically stated why this post was a mistake. You cannot have a civil, nonpartisan discussion about politics, apparently.

  29. ck_dex says:

    It’s never a mistake to ask for detailed information about where one’s money, even tax money, is going. The Constitution gives us parameters, but it’s a 50,000-ft. viewpoint (it doesn’t tell us what percentage of tax revenue to spend on the military, for instance).

    Maybe it’s because I’m a scientist imbued with a respect for detail and skepticism, but I think we even ought to be looking in line-item detail at military and health expenditures. I have a cousin serving his 2nd tour in Iraq driving around in a patched-up Humvee, and he surely wishes we had spent more on his gear and less on fanciful weapon systems (star wars).

    I’m disturbed that so many commenters above seem to want less information rather than more. It’s just plain irresponsible to write a blank check.

  30. Brad says:

    Trent,

    We’ll never know, will we? I think you’re incredibly psychic to be able to make such a claim.

    No psychic abilities are needed. Politicians spend other people’s money, no matter what party they are from. Even a principled man like Ron Paul would face such intense pressure. His principle is one of the reasons he has no chance of being elected.

    The “blip” in 1998 was nothing compared to the “crash” in 2000/1 and the tough times we are facing now. The prosperity was largely built on Fed inflation of the money supply, not some super wise politician.

    For someone who is skeptical about others when it comes to spending money, you sure take a lot of stock in politicians. :)

    Perhaps I am completely wrong. It looks like we will get a chance to see with Clinton II next year. Perhaps that will be your spend down nirvana, though I somehow doubt it.

    You are right that this is a charged thing, especially because people don’t think logically, but instead operate heavily on emotion in this highly charged atmosphere. Though, once again, such verbiage is not limited to any specific party or political view. We live in a rude culture in a lot of ways. :/

    I could jabber a lot more, and perhaps I will make a blog entry this weekend, but this should make the point. :)

    Brad

  31. Brad says:

    You cannot have a civil, nonpartisan discussion about politics, apparently.

    I don’t think you ever could in this country. Read about some of the early political squabbles and you will find they were quite nasty. Politics is a nasty business.

    The problem I have with the idea of >i>nonpartisan is that it is usually aimed at meaning a specific political view, when you boil it down to its basics. That’s why it had a hard time working.

    Of course, I have ironically learned to live with other people being stupid more as I have grown older. The arguments stay awfully similar, the forum just changes. Though I would have to say I have become more of the curmudgeon too. :)

    Brad

  32. Michelle says:

    Trent:

    Partisan politics begins and ends with engendering contempt for one’s opponents. The political landscape today is a minefield with snipers everywhere looking for new targets to take down. You just got caught in the crossfire.

    You’ve taken positions previously that I disagreed with, but I’ve never doubted your integrity for a second. Don’t let the ignoramuses get you down.

  33. rhbee says:

    The saddest thing I think I saw in the last election was when Bill Maher invited Ralph Nader to come on his show so Maher could go down on bended knee and beg Nader to withdraw from the election. It was painful to watch as Nader finally realized what was happening. By standing up for what he has believed, he received the condemnation of those who should have had the courage to vote for him. The “realists” want us to believe that an “idealistic economist” can not have a solution that works. What they really want however appears to be to keep the status quo, like the electoral college, and political campaigning based on dollars raised and sound bites and back stabbing, and a bloated economy that keeps on “growing” at the rest of the world’s expense.

    Meanwhile, thanks for this discussion and all of the links that it brought out. We need more of this participatory democracy stuff.

  34. paula says:

    Trent,

    If you are interested in running for public office, you will need to build a tough hide. ;D

  35. Brad says:

    BTW, Trent, I didn’t mean to say you were stupid in my comment above. I was just referring to how I tend to worry a bit less about whether everyone is “right” in my view and focus on relating when I can. Hopefully no one took my comments as such. Of course, everyone who disagrees with me must be “stupid” to some extent, right? :)

    I do think your political views come through in your book reviews and such, but that is life. None of us is completely free of bias. The key is not to hide from it, it is to acknowledge it and evaluate things with that knowledge.

    Brad

  36. Gal Josefsberg says:

    No Trent, it’s only impossible to hold a civil discussion if you pay attention to people like Benji. Ignore them. Talk to the people who do make the intelligent comments, even if they disagree with your views. I love someone who can intelligently disagree with me. That’s far better than agreement because I see it as a learning opportunity.

  37. Trent Trent says:

    Thanks, all. It wasn’t actually Benji’s comment that got me fired up, though.

  38. Dan says:

    The problem with talking politics is that you risk alienating 50% of your audience, and you run this risk when you have no real reason to, this is not a political blog (in general).

    The problem with your particular post is that you are presenting a false choice;

    “Which of these areas is important to you and should have more money invested?”

    “support those candidates that match your views, even if they’re not popular.”

    Just because you like flowers and art more then the military does not make choosing a politician on that basis rational. Similarly, we do not have socialized medicine in this country because the majority of us still prefer to make our own health care decisions rather then let a socialized “single payer” system make those decisions for us, moreover, my health is not a federal issue (except under the commerce clause which apparently makes everything a federal issue :-) ) – not merely because it is expensive.

    Just because you like something does not mean that it must (or even should) be a federal program.

    Some expenses, like defense, are firmly established by the Constitution as requirements. (I for one appreciate that there has not been a significant conflict on US soil since the war of 1812 (the civil war probably is in another category, and the Mexican American war probably does not count)).

    Others expenses are not (healthcare, nutrition, housing, job training, etc). If we were ever to get to the point where we had “extra” money at the Federal level then it should be given back to us in the form of lower taxes, not blown on “extra stuff”.

    You’d be surprised how much “extra stuff” I could buy if 1/3 of my wages did not go to funding excessive government programs, and I’d be much happier making my own decisions about how to spend it.

    What would you call a family who, every time they had a spare dollar spent it on a new toy? Yet this is what we have at pretty much every level of government.

    The war is reasonably expensive. I’ll give you that. The question, I guess, is, “Is this war (Iraq) a good investment?”.

    For me, it will be if the result is a stable government in Iraq, and the US can stand down our presence in the Middle-East (to a large degree) within 10 years. Just pulling out now could lead to the destabilization of the entire region, just a couple months back KSA said they would intervene if we left Iraq, which would be bad.

    Unbeknownst to many people is that we had large numbers of military in that region (also at our expense) from 1991 right up until this last war. These troops maintained various watches and enforced “No Fly” Zones. It will be nice to stop having to do this.

  39. Zach B. says:

    This thread was not a mistake, unless you feel it has hurt the value of your blog, or feel that certain of your readers will take you less seriously because of one or another opinion you may hold. I believe censoring yourself in a forum such as this because you are afraid of uncivil or disagreeable responses would in fact be a mistake. Of course you would not wish to do so on a regular basis, because that is not the type of forum you are looking for. It is however very important that people consider the effect of good or bad governance upon their personal finances.

  40. alex says:

    I don’t think this thread was a mistake, as witnessed by the 39 comments it has received. In my view, the more discussion a post gets, the better. Because Trent is such a prolific author, it is rare that we get to indulge in such lively discourse in the comments section. Interaction is not only more enjoyable, it is more helpful in learning and developing our thoughts.

    @rhbee You can actually factor in the fact that a vote for Nader might be a catalyst for change by creating an expected outcome based on probability times benefit. Then you can weigh that versus the discounted enjoyment of preventing a Bush victory to decide which has a higher expected value.

  41. Trent Trent says:

    Thanks for the support, guys, I really appreciate it.

  42. Benji Gonzalez says:

    Gal,

    First, I disagree that what I said was insulting or closed minded. Some of my words may have come from pure disbelief that a personal finance blog would take a day off to parade as a left-wing kook site. If you disagree with the war fine, why dance around the issue with a supposed alternate reality and discount the value of the US military.

    I want to also add that I am a veteran. I served for 4 1/2 years on active duty and remained in the guard for another 4. My background is similar to Trent’s and the anecdotal advice is the reason I do read the blog.

    I completely disagree with the concept that our tax dollars are better served not by providing safe passage for shipping, preserving stability for energy production, and safeguarding ownership rights but by providing subsistent living for the plebes.

  43. jake says:

    @Benji

    This is what gets me. How did you get “discounting the value of the US military” from Trent’s statement? Did he say that we should have no military? Did he say that the Military is useless? No. He merely said if we shift some of the Military spending over to other areas we can fund more equally important issues.

    Since you bring up the fact that you are a veteran, I can equally bring up the fact that I know many many veterans who have served longer than you have and have been through multiple wars and even they are questioning some of the military spending that is currently going on. This includes my dad who served in Vietnam. Just because you served 4 years in the military doesn’t mean your service is worth anymore or less then those that came before you.

    You are the type that gets aggressively defensive and nasty when anyone as much as have a negative though about the military.

    I value having a strong military but when you see reports of troops not having enough clothes and being left out in the cold, that’s what I get upset over and question some of the military spending. Or how our troops are putting their lives on the line so that private companies can suck as much money out of the war as they can just makes you angry.

    If you think that criticizing military spending equates to devaluing the dedication and lives of our troops then you are awfully miss interpreting things.

    Also calling people left-wing just because they have an opinion on military spending is awfully narrow minded. So should I call you a far-right extremist?

    I can go on because all of your statements have serious holes in them and don’t hold much weight.

  44. Tyler says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is with how we are taxed. Face, you’re always going to have taxes and you’ll always have to pay for them. Forget about that idea and just accept the fact the life is not always about MONEY! If all of us look at the greater picture, things such as our taxes should not make a dent in our lives. For those that worship money, your life will spiral, regardless of how much you have. Money IS the root of all evil. Life your life to the fullest, help others, build relationships, volunteer, God – these are things that matter most. Personally, the only thing I ask for in my Government is to protect our country. And if that means paying more taxes for it, fine. I have a budget and I know what I am getting. Taxes don’t affect my quality of life. The frivolous use of how the money is spent is nothing I can change. People will ALWAYS have opinions on what is better to spend on. THIS WILL NOT CHANGE! Accept the fact and move on…you’ll only worry yourself sick.

  45. ck_dex says:

    I’m amused that people have tagged Trent as The Great Liberal when he has previously opined on his favorite economist, Milton Friedman!

  46. Jim Hayden says:

    Stay away from commenting on politics. You are too naive. The only legitimate function of government is to protect its citizens.

  47. Trent Trent says:

    So how is that done, Jim? What about roadways? Who pays for them? If you want to know why intelligent political discourse cannot happen in a public forum, read Jim’s comment carefully. A broad, unfounded comment paired with an insult? Please.

  48. Trent Trent says:

    Tyler: the United States did not have income tax until the early 1900s. Income tax is NOT a fact of life.

  49. Jim says:

    Trent: The Interstate Highway System was built for national defense purposes. The official name is “The National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.”

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