26 January 2011

Wherein I finally get political

I saw this pop up recently in my FaceBook timeline:

"Doesn't make much sense, does it??: Homeless go without eating. Elderly go without needed medicines. Mentally ill go without treatment. Troops go without proper equipment. Veterans go without benefits that were promised. Yet we donate billions to other countries before helping our own first. 1% will re-post and 99% won't. Have the guts to re-post this. I KNOW I'm in the 1%! ♥"

I normally ignore these, but I felt inspired to respond to this. And yes, I work for a company that does International Development, so you could consider me biased, but I'm a programmer and I can program anywhere, so this opinion is only biased to a point. I'd like to think it's a relatively informed opinion.

The amount of money that goes to International Development is a tiny fraction of the Federal Budget. The domestic programs already in place to help the homeless, mentally ill, soldiers, and vets here at home suffer from inefficient spending, not lack of funding.

ID is a good thing, because educating people in other countries and helping them get clean water, proper nutrition, and free and open elections makes them less likely to strap on a suicide vest and kill Americans, never mind that it's also the right thing to do, and helping these folks makes them not just less likely to turn to extremism but also more likely to become productive citizens that work to make their country and the rest of the world a safer and more prosperous place.

Be angry at our bureaucracy for its mishandling of the billions that mean people go hungry and unmedicated, not because we're acting as the best nation in the world should - giving other folks a hand. Vent your ire at your congressman or senator for passing laws that don't make sense. Take to the Internet and call on the president to mandate efficiencies in the executive departments under his purview. Secretary Gates was able to save $100 billion over (5, I think?) years after a cursory effort at the Defense Department budget. Imagine how much could be saved if the Defense Department really looked at how they spend their cash?

Part of having the best military in the world means spending those hundreds of billions in the most efficient manner possible. This is never really mentioned. Imagine what savings there are to be had if the same efficiencies were applied to the Social Security Administration and Medicare, the other 2 big draws on our national pocketbook? Imagine how many more Americans, elder, veteran, active duty, mentally ill, or just plain in need of help could be fed, equipped, re-trained, and given the medicine they need if wasted billions were better used? We might even find a few more dollars to help people in the rest of the world not die from dysentery.

Ultimately, the problem with Facebook memes like the above quote and a lot of what I see and read is that we don't take the time to get all the facts before posting something online. Keep your eyes open and get the whole story, folks. We've all been educated, let's use it and not let the Olbermans, Limbaughs, Becks, and Spitzers tell us what to think, because they are more interested in getting you wound up so you'll keep tuning in to make themselves rich, not in enriching you.

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