Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Zen of Pie Graphs and Governing

Whenever I hear Republicans working themselves up into a major snit about government spending, about foreign aide, about welfare spending, about how hard working taxpayers have to hand over their hard earned wages to lazy welfare queens, I imagine what a pie graph of government spending would look like.

When Donald Trump screams about how corporate taxes have driven away patriotic, well meaning American corporations from our shores to seek tax havens overseas, about how he wants to lower corporate taxes to bring these corporations back home so they can open factories here and create jobs here, I try to imagine how heavy the burden on these corporations must be.

So I looked on line and found some pie graphs, but there are still questions to be answered. 
This graph suggests the amount of income we get from corporations is dwarfed by the burden we ask our individual taxpayers to bear.  Of course, Mr. Trump claims in other countries the corporate tax rate is so low, all our corporate leaders would be remiss if they decided to bring these corporations back to the USA. But what does that mean? If you are Fred's Tire Company, and you move your corporate headquarters to Dublin or some Caribbean island but leave your factory in Akron, does that mean you pay Irish or island tax rates? I don't get how that works.

Double click to enlarge
Now, here's an interesting pie graph. Double click on this one to enlarge it, but even at a distance you can see the biggest slices of the pie belong to Social Security and "Medicare and Health" spending. I would argue this is just how it should be. Social Security and Medicare are the two best and most popular programs the government has; they do the most good and they do what government ought to do for its people.

 I'm not sure, though, what that "Health" thing means. 
I don't know how much of that slice is for "health" as opposed to Medicare. And what is "health?" Is that Medicaid? Is that "Indian Health Services" and stuff like the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the National Institutes of Health (where medical research is funded), the FDA, where drugs are kept safe?

As for Social Security, if your parents didn't have that, they might be moving in with you and then you have shoulder the burden of that expense, so even though the cost of Social Security looks like a big bite out of your tax dollar, if it weren't for that bite, the bite out of your own personal budget would make that tax look like a peck on the neck. Same for Medicare. Imagine if your father winds up in the hospital getting his cardiac bypass and there were no Medicare. Are you ready to foot that $500,000 bill for the surgery and aftercare? 

I'm assuming the slice that has "Veterans" including the VA hospitals where all those high tech arms and legs prostheses are fitted and the war wounded are rehabilitated.  I'm assuming Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval and military hospitals are in the "Military" costs. 

The other big slice is "military."  Now that's a breakdown I'd like to see. Is Homeland Security in that one? How about the CIA and the NSA?Where is the FBI?

Then there is the interest payments on the debt. That's a hefty slice, and likely to get hefty-er if income tax rates are cut for the wealthy and the government, finding itself with less income, has to borrow more.

And where does "welfare" fit in here? Is that in that tiny slice with "community" spending? 
And what about foreign aide, the Republicans are always fuming about--how we spend on Africans when our own people in Ohio are hurting? Is that in that sliver of the pie called "international?" If so, neither welfare nor foreign aid seem like much to worry about, it's chump change. 

Double Click to Enlarge. Use your microscope to find "welfare"
When you look at the spending which is not locked in as Social Security and Medicare and interest debt payments, the Military spending is huge. If we pulled out of Korea, Japan, Germany and all those military bases we've got spread around the world, and if we stopped spending on new fighter planes and aircraft carrier groups and if we pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, then we'd probably still have to spend on the next new war in our trajectory of eternal war. 
How much of this slice is devoted to all the expense of caring for wounded soldiers who have survived head wounds, brain trauma, loss of limbs, blindness or PTSD?  Or is that cost lumped into "Veterans" expenses?

Look at that slice for "Food and Agriculture."  Is this for subsidies for farmers to not plant corn or to plant corn or for whatever we pay farmers rather than letting the market determine prices? With big industrial agriculture and with companies like Archer Daniels Midland claiming to own not just the crops but the genes of plants which blow into neighbors' fields, why exactly is that slice for "Agriculture" so big? Whenever politicians start talking about money paid out by the Department of Agriculture, they get a deer in the headlights look. And that's not even the scandal we all avoid about requiring every tank of gasoline to have corn (alcohol) in it. Talk about a boondogle. We all know it takes more gas to plant that corn and fuel the tractors to harvest it than we save by adding alcohol filler to each gallon of gas at the pump, but we keep that law in place to pay the farm mega corporations. Talk about rigged. Talk about corrupt. Haven't heard Mr. Trump say anything about that. Crooked Hillary can't compare to crooked corn. 

Here's a graph which is pretty cool, because it shows most of what we spend is already baked in.  Most people have baked in expenses in their own family budgets: Got to pay the mortgage, pay the car payments, pay for food, pay for health insurance, pay the taxes, pay the day care.  After that, you got discretionary spending for vacations, hunting, sports, the things you actually enjoy doing.   But, for most families, if they had about 30-40% of their incomes to spend as they pleased, they would be very happy.

But here's the real pie graph which gets my utmost attention: 
See that red slice? That is where you likely live.  That's the amount of wealth you control compared to all the rest of the wealth which is controlled by the top 20%, the lucky one out of five. But look at it another way--the top 5% control about 2/3 of that pie. I do not know the demographics of my readership, beyond knowing their countries of origin, but among the American readers, I suspect a hefty slice may be in that slice "Next 4%," which control about 1/3 of the nation's wealth. Even so, the upper 1% control more than your group. 
I'm not exactly sure what "financial wealth" is. Does this mean all the income from wages and from stocks and is that combined with an estimated wealth of properties owned?  Where does that term "financial wealth" come from? 

No matter, it's a pretty impressive pie graph, no matter what it means.  Whatever it means, it can't be good. Makes Marie Antoinette look like a Salvation Army patron. 

Where do you think Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Tom Price, the Koch brothers, and Sean Hannity fall in this graph?

As Bernie Sanders has noted, it's not so much Democrats against Republicans, it's the billionaire class against everyone else. Compared to that struggle, the trouble the average Amercian has with any Muslim, even the radical Islamists, is pretty minimal.