Some bits and pieces from here and there:
- One of my vices is a thing called Fail Blog, which highlights pictures and videos of people doing it wrong, whatever it is, in amusing or cringe-inducing ways. The videos now often come with several seconds of advertising in front of them, and the most regular of these, lately, is an ad for the U.S. Marine Corps. There’s not much to it. It starts with text that says “our title is earned, never given,” then shows short clips of young men exerting themselves to the utmost, presumably in basic training, then “and what’s earned is yours forever,” followed by some stern men in Marine Corps dress uniforms standing in rows doing fancy drum major style baton twirling moves with their rifles. Seeing this, I'm surprised at how much of the Marine Corps sale involves the look: the white gloves of a waiter in an exclusive club, the brass buttons of an elevator operator in a nice hotel, and the well-creased cap of a chauffeur; then standing quietly waiting for orders like a good servant, and looking proud of yourself about it all like an idiot. All of these emblems of servility and somehow they sell it as “pride” — goes to show, I suppose.
- “In 2005, 7,420 federal workers were making $150,000 or more per year. In 2010, a whopping 82,034 federal workers were making $150,000 or more per year. That is more than a tenfold increase in just five years.” Indeed: “Federal employees whose compensation averages more than $126,000 and the nation’s greatest concentration of lawyers helped Washington edge out San Jose as the wealthiest U.S. metropolitan area, government data show.”
- But there are budget cuts expected at the IRS. Douglas H. Shulman, commissioner of the IRS, says that these cuts will “lead to noticeable degradation of both service and enforcement and would have a serious detrimental impact on voluntary compliance for years to come” and will cause “a measurable decrease of approximately $4 billion in revenue annually… In other words, these budget cuts will result in a direct increase to the nation’s deficit. We currently estimate that IRS examinations of individuals and businesses, and collection actions taken to recover known unpaid taxes would be down 5–8 percent.”
- Has the U.S. Defense Department killed a million Americans since 2001? asks John Quiggin at Crooked Timber. For some definitions of “killed,” maybe. Apparently the government attempts to justify many of its policies by using a cost/benefit analysis wherein a policy that saves one human life can thereby justify $5 million in expenses; a policy that leads to one human death can only be justified if it saves at least $5 million. This analysis, allegedly, governs decisions made by the Environmental Protection Administration and the Department of Transportation, for instance (not the Department of Defense, though). Quiggin’s argument is that if you took the money the government has been spending on its “various wars of choice” and spent it instead on those policies that would have saved the lives (or prevented the deaths) of those people who fell on the wrong side of this five million dollar boundary, that would amount to 1.5 million people who would be alive today who are dead instead. Just another reminder that in addition to those directly killed by the military’s actions, there are also real opportunity cost harms from how we could have been directing the resources that have been funding them.