Dear Government: Shut The Heck Up Already!

It’s no secret that one of the biggest causes of our spiraling national debt has to do with the fact that we are fighting a bunch of wars overseas.

These wars are costing us mucho bucks.

The biggest problem with the wars, especially in Afghanistan, is that there is no clear finish line.  World War II, we fought until the Germans, Japanese and their allies surrendered.  They surrendered, we went home.

Not so much with our current wars.  In fact, in Afghanistan, we are fighting next to the government, trying to put down rebel forces.

Sounds all nice and good, but the biggest problem that I’ve been able to see is that the Afghans are fine with letting us do the work.  We can’t leave because to do so would put the country back in turmoil.  The plan has been for us to turn operations over to the ‘locals’ but they can’t seem to pull it together enough to where we feel comfortable leaving.

But, with the way we’re running things and publicizing things, they have no incentive to.

If we’re willing to do all the dirty work, they have no incentive to step up.  That is, until we leave.

We can’t leave simply by publishing a date that we’re leaving.  Why not?  Because we’ve tried that and they know we’re just bluffing.

The way we need to get out?  Just go.

Sneak a few people out here and there.

Picture these conversations:

Week 1
Afghan commander: Hey, where did Bob and Joe go? *pointing to empty bunks*
US commander: Ah, well, their enlistments were up and they decided to go home.
Afghan commander: So, who’s their replacement?
US commander: Well, we have all this paperwork to fill out so it’ll be a while.  Hey, what say we go do that roadside bomb detection training that we’ve been putting off?
Afghan commander: Ah, maybe tomorrow.

Week 2
Afghan commander: Still no replacements for Bob and Joe?
US commander: No, we’re still working on that.
Afghan commander: Hey, how come the US flags are taken off the barracks back there? There were like 20 people in there, right?
US commander: Yeah, about that….
Afghan commander: How’s 2pm for the roadside bomb detection training?
US commander: Sounds good.

This is the only way.  The only one.  Don’t get up in front of a podium and talk about how many troops you’re going to take out next year or the year after.  Do it and talk about it later.  That’s the only way that we will get these other countries to step up and take control of their own situation.

The only other alternative is this: Charge them.  By the day.  By troop.  In barrels of oil.  They want us to stay.  They load oil on our freighters.  They don’t load the oil?  Our troops get on the freighter instead.

Are you sick of these wars already?  Was it really any surprise when they started without a clear endgame that they’d be going on indefinitely?

Debt Deal Fallout: Start Preparing For Your 2% Pay Cut

By now, everybody is aware that the debt deal passed.  I always figured it would and that it would take until the last minute.  It’s just how things get done, especially in today’s ultra-partisan government.

One of the things that it included means that anybody that works should be prepared for a 2% pay cut starting next year.

How’s that?

Simple.  The FICA payroll tax holiday, where taxes were rolled back by 2% for 2011, have virtually no chance of being renewed under the agreed terms.  Although it was only a one year agreement originally, the hope was that it would be able to be extended for at least another year (hmm, just up until elections, how convenient would that have been?).

This could end up being a problem for many.  Smart people with the means to do so took the 2% and just stashed it somehow, whether it be through increased retirement savings or some other way of socking it aside.  But, my guess is that the vast majority of people incorporated it into their everyday budget, which will make it much more difficult to take out come that first paycheck of 2012.  For that reason, I never thought much of the payroll tax holiday, simply because, as the ‘temporary’ Bush tax cuts proved, once you put money in people’s pockets, there’s going to be some major protesting when you try to take it back.

So, if you’re lucky enough to get a raise before the end of the year, you should knock off 2% of whatever you get, because that’s going to be going away within a few months.

Personally, I’m not sure how it will play out.  We haven’t gotten raises in the last two years, and there’s hope that it will finally be the year where raises are awarded, though I’m guessing it won’t be more than 3%, which would effectively work out to zero since I hope to bump up my 401(k) contribution by 1% when a raise eventually happens.

For us, it will also depend on health care. Our ‘holiday’ essentially went to paying higher premiums that were jammed down our throats in 2011.  Knowing that we were having a baby, we ended up selecting a plan that had higher premiums. With no planned babies (and hopefully no major health care expenses) in 2012, we are hoping to select a plan that would cost us a little less, which could help offset the 2% holiday expiration.

This doesn’t even touch on the possible impact to the economy, as the ‘holiday’ was designed to increase consumer spending, and even that hasn’t really been too solid this year.  It seems a foregone conclusion that we’re headed towards a double-dip recession, and this certainly will not help make that any easier.

How will the resumption of the 2% FICA tax impact you?  What do you think it means to the economy?