As I write this, I’ve just passed through Dresden on a bus bound for Berlin. Hopping on a bus and going to a foreign country is a bit, well… foreign to us in America, but in Europe, it’s the norm (countries like states, and all that). This is my second last trip of the semester. All of this traveling has me a little out of sorts, which accounts for me completely forgetting to blog last week. Since I ;ast blogged, I’ve visited Venice and Rome, two incredibly beautiful cities. We flew in to Venice, took a train to Rome, and flew back to Prague from Rome. One of the best parts of the trip for me occurred before we even got to Italy. The flight from Prague to Venice took about 55 minutes, and most of it took place over the Alps. It was so unbelievably awesome to gaze down and see those huge snowcapped peaks. I liked Venice way more than Rome. Though we did get lost a lot, it was like no other city I’ve ever seen or likely will ever see again. I definitely recommend it. Those of you that are friends with me on Facebook should look at the albums from Venice and Rome to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
In other news, to understate it completely, there’s still a lot of stuff going on in the world, with more on the horizon.
First, I’m glad we avoided a government shutdown, but not really. While a shutdown would have certainly hurt many of the worst off in society in the short-term, allowing the government to shut down would have allowed the Democrats to call the Republican bluff. Historically, government shutdowns have reflected very poorly on Republicans, boosting Democratic candidates in the next elections. So, in the long term, a shutdown would possibly have led to friendlier government policies to those less-fortunate than our current situation which is essentially a slightly corsetted status quo.
And another thing, Representative Ryan’s budget for 2012 was released since I last blogged. While it has been lauded for taking a swing at the entitlement spending that is at the heart of our national debt, it has been heavily criticized for merely shifting the costs for programs like Medicare and Medicaid to the elderly and poor, while counting on impossible revenue and health care cost inflation projections. Additionally, the Ryan plan does nothing to address the other side of the national debt problem, that of additional revenue. Spending is one facet, but revenue also needs to be considered. Taxes man! Everyone hates them, but they’re at their lowest levels since World War II, which isn’t really sustainable with our current, or even much reduced levels of spending. So, America needs to suck it up and accept a tax increase. It’s no wonder Ryan didn’t propose one however. That’s a very politically unpalatable issue with Republicans, particularly Tea Partiers, who feel the government already has its hand too far in their pocket. Others have said that a tax increase in the middle of an economic recovery is a bad idea. The facts are however that we’re no longer in a recession. While unemployment hasn’t gone down to traditional American levels yet, the economy is growing. Companies aren’t hiring because worries about the debt level have led them to believe that it’s a safer investment to stockpile profits rather than putting them back in to their businesses by hiring more workers. Raising taxes would cut the debt, restoring confidence in the long-term vitality of the American economy and the debt-worthiness of the US government, leading to increased employment, etc.
I haven’t had the chance to see Obama’s budget response to Ryan’s proposal or read any commentary on it yet, but I’ll write more when I do.
Additional short thoughts:
- Japan has been downgraded to Chernobyl levels: Yikes!
- Libya is a stalemate. Britain and France are mad at NATO for that: The US needs to steer clear
- I’m almost a senior: Yikes!
- The Journal of International Affairs I’m working on is progressing nicely: Look for a call for submissions by the end of the month.
- The Dresden I just saw was completely different than the Dresden that existed before the war. It was completely, utterly decimated. War… Ugh… Good God Y’all.
Until next time,