A few miscellaneous things that caught my eye recently:
- Ask the Advisor has a good run-down of retirement plan options for the self-employed. It gives the rundown of Simplified Employee Pensions, Keough Plans, Roth and Spousal IRAs, and another variety of account I only learned about recently: the “solo 401(k)” — here’s where I first learned about those.
- Those of you who enjoyed the flashback to the Yugoslav genocide of that I treated you to during my recent review of Evil and Human Agency may be interested to know that Serbian vampire hunters drove a three-foot-long wooden stake through the heart of the corpse of Slobodan Milosevic in order to prevent him from returning to life and haunting the country.
- Among the IRS’s many tangential tasks is terrorist-hunting. That is, they use “a manual process and a limited terrorist watch list to identify instances in which charitable and other nonprofit organizations may be linked to individuals and/or entities whose assets have been frozen because they have committed or pose a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism.” The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration checked in to see how well this was going. Not too well, as it turns out. They haven’t spotted a terrorist yet, though their methods seem sound: Max Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, notes that “IRS personnel told TIGTA that they primarily look for ‘Middle Eastern sounding names’ when considering which tax filings to flag for further review.”
- Speaking of names worthy of further review, a few more details have leaked about the revoltingly cozy relationship between the Blairs & Bushes of the world and their counterparts in the Saudi monarchy. In short: “$100 billion a year flows into Saudi Arabia’s coffers to pay for their oil. The US and UK make sure that, rather than the money staying there and being spent for the people of Saudi Arabia, it returns to us to pay for weapons Saudi Arabia doesn’t need. To make this happen, arms dealers bribe the Saudi royal family with hundreds of millions of dollars, all with the knowledge and approval of the British government.”
- “In , American aircraft dropped 237 bombs and missiles in support of ground forces in Iraq, already surpassing the 229 expended in , according to U.S. Air Force figures obtained by The Associated Press.”
- Meanwhile… “[P]residential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are, at present, competing with each other in their calls for the expansion of the Armed Forces.
Both are supporting manpower increases in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 troops, mostly for the Army and the Marines.…
This atop a military that has already grown to gargantuan levels, and is spending like there’s no tomorrow (which strikes me as one of those self-fulfilling prophecies):
How astonishing are the budgetary numbers? Consider the trajectory of U.S. defense spending over the last nearly two decades. , defense spending actually fell significantly. In constant 1996 dollars, the Pentagon’s budget dropped from a peacetime high of $376 billion, at the end of President Ronald Reagan’s military buildup in , to a low of $265 billion in . (That compares to wartime highs of $437 billion in , during the Korean War, and $388 billion in , at the peak of the War in Vietnam.) After the Soviet empire peacefully disintegrated, decline wasn’t exactly the hoped-for “peace dividend,” but it wasn’t peanuts either.
However, , defense spending has simply exploded. For , the Bush administration is requesting a staggering $650 billion, compared to the already staggering $400 billion the Pentagon collected in . Even subtracting the costs of the ongoing “Global War on Terrorism” — which is what the White House likes to call its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — for , the Pentagon will still spend $510 billion. In other words, even without the President’s two wars, defense spending will have nearly doubled since .