Redundant Nuclear Redundancy

The supreme military might of the United States is provided by its Strategic Nuclear Forces.  This force is based on three kinds of nuclear delivery systems, the so called “Nuclear Triad”.  The delivery systems include large ballistic missiles (ICBMs) based in missile silos in the ground, the US Air Forces strategic bombers (like the B-52 and new B-2), and the Navy’s submarine launched ballistic missiles.  The three different strategic nuclear deterrents come from a combination of evolving weapons technology and inter-service rivalry.  The end result is a lot of costly and obsolete weaponry, and even unnecessary danger to the American homeland.

Let’s first look at how each of the “legs” of the Nuclear Triad came to be.  First up is the first that existed, strategic bombers.  In World War Two, the US Army Air Corps (predecessor of the current Air Force) used large four engine bombers to flatten every city in Germany and Japan.  At the end of the war, they even used such planes to drop the only nuclear weapons ever used in combat on Japan.  The creation of a large bomber force was the actual reason for the creation of the Air Force.  Immediately after the war, the only viable way to use city killing nuclear weapons was to drop them from bombers, so the Air Force built even bigger bombers to carry bigger bombs at ever increasing ranges.  The apex of this development was the B-52, developed in the early 1950s and still in use today.

The next leg came out of the rocket developments pioneered by the Germans during the war.  Larger and more sophisticated rockets were developed, not primarily for the space race as is popularly imagined, but to deliver nuclear warheads to distant targets by a means that could not be shot down.  These missiles initially were based on very fragile outdoor launch pads, but by the early 1960s the Air Force had missiles in protected underground silos.  And we still have such missiles in silos today at Air Bases around the country.

Last developed were submarine launched missiles.  This took longer to develop, as missiles we had to develop missiles small enough to get into a submarine with long enough range to hit a distant target, and powerful enough to carry a nuclear warhead.  The first of these were deployed in the 1960s, but submarine launched missiles didn’t really have global reach until the development of the Trident missile in the 1970s.

We still spend oodles of defense dollars on each of these parts of the Nuclear Triad.  The issue is that two of them are completely obsolete, and are therefore a waste of money.  The wasted money should be put into other places where it would actually improve our defenses and deterrent.

The most obviously obsolete part of the triad are nuclear bombers, the latest of which is the B-2, the strategic “stealth” bomber.  These cost $2 Billion apiece.  The question is, why would you send in a bomber to drop a nuke when you can fire a missile?  A bomber can be shot down.  A missile can’t.  Sure, we still need bombers to drop bombs on bad people like ISIS, but old B-52s do a fine job of this.

Also obsolete are land based ICBMs.  The first part of a nuclear war involves trying to destroy the other side’s nuclear weapons.  This is made a whole lot easier if you know where they are.  And everyone knows where they are.  Precisely.  It may not even take enemy nuclear warheads to take them out.

Submarine launched nuclear missiles provide the best of everything.  No one knows where they are.  They are underwater and move around.  They don’t make the US more of a target; they make it less of one.  And they can’t be shot down like bombers.

What to Do

The United States wastes billions of dollars a year on obsolete nuclear weapons.  We don’t need strategic stealth bombers.  We don’t even need land based nuclear missiles.  We should put nuclear weapons into submarines.  And we should put the saved money into defense equipment we actually need.

Idle Incentives

Housing Project

Society does need to provide for those in need.  The disabled that cannot work, orphans and abandoned children, and even those that have temporarily fallen on ‘hard times’.  Part of being in a society requires that we take on this responsibility.  Any of us could fall into one of these conditions due to accident, sickness or misfortune.  Only the utterly selfish and self centered would deny helping those truly in need.

It is not a question of whether or not we should help others.  The questions are how and under what conditions and circumstances.  Many of our current problems, financially and culturally, are a result of us as a society allowing our government to deal with assistance by just handing out money.

If you are deemed “in need” by the government, you get money.  A recipient doesn’t do anything return.  This mechanism of providing financial assistance is, in any case where someone could do something in return, promotes and incentivizes idleness.  We are literally paying people who could do some kind of labor or service money to sit around and do nothing.  There are few, if any, incentives to stop taking or reduce the amount of the assistance.

Government assistance is quite substantial.  In a 2013 study by the Cato institute , a mother with two children living in New England would get about $40,000 per year.  Tax Free.  The study points out that this works out to more than someone who works for $21 an hour gets to take home.  So why would such a person work for less than that?  Or even slightly more than that?  Would you take $25 an hour for working if you could get $21 an hour sitting at home?

I remember watching a TV investigative report where they pointed out (I’m sorry, I wish could recall which TV show, but I can’t) that teenage girls on welfare were having children so that they could move out from under their mother’s thumb, get their own place, and start to receive the “assistance” I just described for themselves.  So not only are current welfare methods incentivizing not working, they are incentivizing the creation of more welfare recipients.  I figure that it costs society about a Million dollars to subsidize the life of someone who is on “assistance” their entire life.

It is not just welfare that is a problem.  Social Security disability, Food Stamps (now called SNAP for “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”) and similar programs have skyrocketed in the amounts they have been paying out.  Social Security disability payouts totaled $56 Billion in 2000, they have now tripled to $154 Billion a year.  SNAP payouts totaled $18 Billion in 2000, and have now quadrupled to $78 Billion a year.  While many receiving Social Security disability are totally unable to work, many can.  Before 2000, only about 1% of workers put in a disability claim.  Now its 2%, and work is actually safer today.

As a society we have decided not just to provide “assistance” but to provide incentives for people NOT to work.  We cannot afford this, either financially, nor culturally, in what it does to people who do not work.  Idleness leads to all kinds of crime issues.  Our “assistance” programs destroy families as we provide additional assistance to single parents, incentivizing the father abandoning the family.

What to Do

We need to fundamentally change how we handle “assistance”.  We need to use both the carrot and the stick.  There need to be positive incentives to stop receiving assistance and there need to be negative consequences for receiving it.

People receiving assistance need to do whatever they can in return for the money they get.  If that means manual labor, then that’s what they should do.  If it is some kind of office work, then that is what they should do.  People who can do something must do that in order to receive something.  And frankly, it should be unpalatable enough to encourage them to do something else.

There need to be additional incentives for taking less or getting away from assistance.  And we do need to help people to get away from it.  Maybe the work requirements are getting training in a skill.  Maybe benefits need to decrease over time.  But there need to be incentives, pathways, and motivation to get people away from government handouts.

We need to pressure those we elect to do these kinds of things.  Too often, people are getting elected based on how much they are providing to their supporters in terms of handouts.  This needs to end, and only those that vote can end it.

Who’s Buying?

The stock market just went up and up in 2017.  Too many people, this is proof that the economy is doing better and that everyone is better off.  We are all conditioned to believe that things are going along well if the stock market is going up.

Stock prices go up when more money is put into the stock market than is taken out.  Most of the money moving in is from investors doing normal things, like saving for retirement.  At the same time, most of the outgoing funds being taken out by those who made their profits and now want to actually pay for their retirement.  But these normal inflows and outflows are modified by the other money moving in or out of the markets, and this right now is what makes the market either go up or down.

Since the market has gone up consistently over the last year, the question is what is the source?  The problem for everyone is that it is not what we would call “normal” investors, people who have saved some money and are investing it for the long term.  Instead it is coming from dangerous sources, by people who will imperil everyone else.

One dangerous source is individuals who are borrowing money to buy stocks.  This will backfire the instant that their loan payments are more than they are making from stock gains.  But there are even more dangerous market players involved here.

One such group is corporate executives.  They are having their businesses borrow money to buy their own stock.  This is a great short term play for them, as most CEOs and senior corporate executives get more in stock options than salary.  So if the stock price goes up, they make a windfall.  The basic problem is that their corporation’s stock is not going up because the company is more profitable than it was a year or even a quarter ago.  Instead, the stock price is going up because the company is borrowing money to buy its own stock.  And in the end, this will bankrupt otherwise sound and profitable companies, throwing their employees out of work during a market crash.

But the most dangerous players are Central Banks.  They are buying up stocks with the money that they “create” out of thin air.  As a result, the worth of the currencies of major nations is now strongly dependent on the stock market.  This is a new and highly volatile development.  And is yet another way that the markets are now leveraged to dizzyingly new levels.

What to Do

Too many people think that they may be “missing out” by not participating in the stock market run up.  The opportunity seems to be there, and if you don’t get in, you will miss out.

This is true ONLY if you are lucky enough to get out before the inevitable crash.  If you get in, and then it crashes, you will lose everything you put in.  It takes time for everyone to get in.  Everyone will want OUT at the same time, and that is when you will lose.

We need to get our national banks out of the Stock Market.  Tell your representatives so.

We also need better rules for corporate governance.  But this must come from shareholders.  Unfortunately, too many are wrapped up in the very schemes I’ve just discussed.