MILITARY & VETERANS
It's a common refrain on the left that we spend too much on the military and we don't need it. It's a common refrain on the right that our military deserves unequivocal adulation.
Both are extremist and misguided platforms that are designed solely to ignite their respective bases and whip them into a frenzy about how the other side hates America. In case you haven't noticed how FDFR works, it's all about calling both sides out for their b.s. and charting a path forward.
The argument that we spend too much on our military is based on the stat that approximately 50 percent of federal discretionary spending goes to the military. But this misleading stat fails to acknowledge the reality that only about 16 percent of the overall federal budget goes to the military, and it only accounts for 3-4 percent of GDP. And in case you don't know, Russia significantly outspends the U.S. when evaluating what percentage of the GDP goes to the military.
The truth is simple: we don't spend that much when put in the proper context. And if you think about this topic in the context of your own personal budget for your family, it's very reasonable. Look at your budget line items for health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, alarm system, security services, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, locks on the doors, overhead flood lights, flashlights, medical kits, fences, and yes, maybe even a firearm. Even if you can't or don't spend on all of these things - and we're not going to get into the Second Amendment debate in this specific issue - you spend a lot of money every year to ensure the continued safety of your home and your family within. It's the norm to spend a good 10-20 percent of your expenses on this. We can agree that the costs are more expensive than they should be, particularly on health care, but for our homes and our country, it's a pretty reasonable.
The argument about patriotism, standing for the anthem and respecting the troops is also overblown. It's patriotic to question our government and demand change through the electoral system. Protests are ok and if you don't like it, just ignore it. But it's also ridiculous to call out people for hating America. They may not wear the love on their sleeves, and they may not feel the need to show the love as publicly, but protesters shouldn't be shouted down.
But perhaps more importantly, both sides must agree that our country is doing a major injustice to our troops and veterans. The issues in getting appropriate care at VA hospitals - that's one of the saddest failures of modern government. American servicemembers deserve far better. Many, if not most, come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Joining the military is a bold choice - a difficult burden taken as a means of lifting up themselves and their families.
So the truth is, we need to increase military spending - but specifically targeted to helping the brave men and women who put their lives in danger so we can sit on our iPhones, watch Netflix and go to the movies every weekend. We owe a debt and if this targeted expenditure increases federal spending, so be it.
Marijuana can be dangerous. But like alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, caffeine and other things, we should tax it properly, put that money to good use on critical projects like infrastructure and education, and have harsh penalties for those who abuse the drug or abuse the system. The money that’s come in so far has been insignificant, despite all projections saying that marijuana would be an absolutely huge cash producer for state taxes. The patchwork legislation around the nation and the federal vs. states conflict are a double whammy - holding us back from properly collecting needed tax revenue and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on federal efforts to fight state laws. Prohibition didn’t work at all and this half-compromise is failing too. The lack of consistency in laws around the nation means that it’s very easy to subvert the rules set in Washington or California or anywhere.
Consequently, we traded back alley drug dealers for a slightly higher class of criminal. They’re not violent and they have storefronts, but the system for getting dispensary licenses and approved products is broken and discriminatory. Until the federal government stops putting pressure on banks - which comes with removing marijuana from the Schedule I drug list - the whole industry will continue to do as it pleases in the name of “consumer choice.” We need a federal fix so that the law-abiding entrepreneurs are rewarded and those with deep pockets stop taking advantage of the federal/state confusion. Once that happens, WA has leverage to really push the marijuana industry to comply with safety rules, competition rules, and pay up properly.
Perhaps the greater tragedy is how marijuana has become another way to divide us by race. If you get caught with marijuana in one of the prohibition states and you’re black, you’re four times more likely to go to prison than if you’re white. A story recently in the New York Daily News pointed out that 9 out of 10 people arrested this year for marijuana in NY are black or Hispanic. And the system for giving out dispensary licenses favors white entrepreneurs. For those people who were incarcerated for non-violent marijuana crimes, their cases need to be reviewed and mitigated. We can’t say they should all be given parole since there may be extenuating circumstances. But let’s empty our prisons of people - again, they're predominantly black - who aren’t threats to society. Stop the cycle that destroys minority communities and stop funding rich private prison management companies. Stop this costly, ineffective, foolhardy war on substances that don’t fit with so-called family-first politicians
Marijuana isn’t for everyone, but the prohibition must end and we must remove it from the list of Schedule I drugs at the federal level.
POLITICAL CULTURE OF CRITICISM
You should get the idea by now that the leveling of attacks against this nebulous 50% of people across the aisle is our primary focus when it comes to changing the culture of American politics. But we're equally dismayed by the personal nature of the attacks. We all have made comments and done things in life that we look back on with regret. Everyone has sent an email, text, tweet, DM, telegram, smoke signal or other form of communication that was ill-informed and driven by deep emotions instead of logic. These days, we're seeing more personal shots being taken, with every minute detail put under the microscope so we can find any conceivable reason to knock them down a few pegs. We need to quit that. No one is perfect. If someone has a view or belief that truly offends you, it's ok to block them.
Everyone has a right to speak, but not a right to be heard.
But the scrutiny has reached an insane level. Vetting SCOTUS nominees and Congressional candidates has come to include such minutiae that not even your greatest hero could pass. Name a great person in history and there's a very deep flaw. Thomas Jefferson...Martin Luther King, Jr...JFK...Abraham Lincoln...Michael Jordan...you'll find at least one thing about everyone who has achieved greatness that can and should rub you the wrong way. This purity test - you have to be perfectly aligned on every issue and have earned straight A's in school - is impossible. Making mistakes is how we learn what's right. Falling down is how we learn to get back up and do better.
And with technology making it easier than ever to forge documents, create videos, make online bots, and whatever else people want to do to support their cult...err, party...it's hard to trust anything anymore. Few allegations and accusations can be substantiated anymore, which is pretty sad for the brave people who come forward to report real injustices, crimes and unforgivable acts.
That's not to say that we shouldn't take a very close look at the people who hold the highest positions in government, but let's measure people in their entirety. The standard of seeing/finding/hearing/discovering a bad joke, bad hot take or bad overgeneralization, and then going berserk on social media isn't a viable solution for government, democracy or maintaining one's sanity (side note from Brad: I'm definitely not immune and have made careless comments more times than I can count). Let's remember to stay on the issue, focus on the details relevant to the issue, and show that anger only when it's clear that someone has no clue what they're talking about, is ridiculously biased, or has an obvious conflict of interest. Breathe. Relax. Look ahead, not back.