Communion Of Dreams


Proper analysis.
February 21, 2011, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Government, Guns, Politics, Predictions, Society

Got a note from a friend last evening:

Isn’t it cool to actually use the scientific method to figure these things out? I feel like I should send a thank you note to my high school chem teacher.

* * * * * * *

Last week one day when it was warm, I took advantage of the opportunity to get out to a nearby shooting range. I needed to proof some test loads for one of my guns, before I reloaded a bunch of ammo to those specs. That went fine.

I also planned on getting in a little pistol practice with a couple of my pistols I rely on for self defense. That didn’t go fine.

One of the guns had a problem. It failed to fire. I checked the ammunition, and determined that the firing pin wasn’t striking hard enough to initiate combustion. This was bad, and could have led to all manner of very negative outcomes.

* * * * * * *

Listening to the Diane Rehm Show this morning, they were talking about the protests and political situation in Wisconsin. One of the people Diane spoke with was the current Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels. Governor Daniels had been Director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Bush II Administration.

During the discussion, Gov. Daniels started in on how government deficits were what was driving the problems in Wisconsin. And he made a comment to the effect that this was just a reflection of the problems we’re having all across the country, particularly at the Federal level.

So far, so good. Deficit spending really *is* a problem, and it needs to be resolved at all levels of government. I couldn’t disagree with Gov. Daniels a bit on that.

Then he said something else: that the problems were all due to government spending, and that further cuts had to be made, in particular to the ‘entitlement programs.’ By this he meant Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

* * * * * * *

Yesterday I had the time to take apart the pistol which had malfunctioned. Based on what had happened, I knew to look at three possible causes: a problem with the ammunition; a problem with the firing pin; a problem with the spring which drives the hammer forward into the firing pin.

I had ruled out the ammunition as a likely cause. Yeah, the first couple of rounds I tried were reloads (my own), and it was possible that I had either gotten a bad batch of primers or they hadn’t been seated properly. But the third round I tried was factory ammunition. Factory ammo can also fail, though in my experience that is fairly rare. The chance that I would have three failures in a row with different ammunition struck me as highly unlikely.

So I’d probably find the source of the problem in the gun, with either the firing pin, or the hammer spring.

I did the basic dis-assembly, breaking the gun into a couple of main components. One of these was the bottom of the gun, the part that has the frame & grip. At this point I could test the strength of the hammer manually, and see whether it had adequate power. It did.

So I turned my attention to the top of the gun, the part with the slide and barrel and that stuff. Getting to the firing pin isn’t exactly difficult if you know what you’re doing, but it does mean you’re basically taking the whole thing completely apart. And it’s not something you do as part of a routine cleaning – the bit which holds the firing pin and makes it operate properly is pretty closed up, and designed to not need detail cleaning very often.

* * * * * * *

Income disparity in the US has gotten consistently worse for the last 40 years. It’s about twice as bad now as it was in 1968.

Remember the Social Security “lockbox“? How about the “peace dividend“? Do you remember how, during the latter part of the Clinton Administration, there was so much of a budget surplus that there was actually a discussion about the damage it would do to our economy if we retired too much of the national debt?

What happened? Where did these huge deficits come from?

Actually, I think there are a whole bunch of reasons. An economy as massive as ours is subject to a huge variety of forces, both internal and external. But let’s boil it down to the bare essentials:

  • Increased spending.
  • Decreased revenue.

Gov. Daniels, and most of the rest of the political class these days, is saying that the problem is almost entirely increased spending. And that therefore, the way to fix the problem is to decrease spending.

That would perhaps work. But what if it is due to decreased revenue instead? The Bush tax cuts, recently extended, dropped the US federal government’s total income from taxation below the historical averages. Furthermore, we’ve seen a steady decline in tax rates on the upper income earners and corporations for the last 50 years – the top marginal tax rate during the Eisenhower administration was 91%. For most of the Reagan Administration, it was 50%. During the Clinton years it was just under 40%. It dropped to 35% thanks to the Bush tax cuts.

And during the same time we’ve seen such huge declines in the tax rates, we’ve also seen a growing disparity in income distribution.

* * * * * * *

Got a note from a friend last evening:

Isn’t it cool to actually use the scientific method to figure these things out? I feel like I should send a thank you note to my high school chem teacher.

My friend was responding to the information I had shared about the problem I had with my gun, and how I had tracked it down thanks to a little application of the scientific method. Proper analysis, test the theory, draw conclusions. Problem solved.

But he could have just as well been responding to trying to determine what was the problem with our national deficit.

I think most people don’t really mind some income disparity – we all want to think that we will be rich, ourselves, one day. But the analysis of what is going on with the deficit is another matter, particularly when you start talking about making substantial cuts to programs which make a huge difference for the bottom end of the income distribution. Just going back to the tax level and policies of the Clinton era would not solve all our problems.

But it sure as hell would be a good place to start.

Jim Downey

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