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Strange day. I turned twenty-one at midnight and I must say the fire and lightning that comes and makes one responsible enough to drink booze was over faster than I expected.

I bought alcohol for the first time from a liquor store today. I wasn’t carded and I fear that I could have gone into that very liquor store anytime during the last year and gotten booze, but I never tried and even if I could go back in time to try, I don’t think I would. It’s fear that does it. What if I buy wine and vodka and whatever else twenty times and then get carded the twenty-first? What are the consequences? I don’t know. It’s the not knowing that kept me from ever trying. I don’t fear fines or tickets or court dates, but I do fear the unknown.

Perhaps it’s not fire and lightning that visits you on your twenty-first birthday, but the specter of death. You are no longer an invincible teenager, but an adult with responsibilities that keep increasing until you are crushed under them. A mountain of debt for those who were foolish enough to use a credit card when they were teens, or perhaps a child who brings with him an amazing upkeep charge, or even a job that has no security so that you are never sure if you will be able to make the next payment on your shit-for-shiet apartment. Pleasant stuff, growing up.

While working optical retail, I could watch customer after customer come in with vacant eyes and crushed demeanors. Most paid in credit. How many could pay that credit off? Is that why their eyes were so vacant? Is it because they knew that they couldn’t pay off their debts? What other worries occupy the mind of those poor folks? Why were they so unhappy? I fail to see why someone should do anything if they don’t want to. I know that if you want something you have to pay for it and if you can’t pay for it you can have a credit card company pay for it, but it seems like a shitty deal. In the end you still have to pay.

Worries, worries, worries. Worried about friendships, worried about money, worried about school. It never ends.

No easy answers and life is hard and getting harder. I know that I don’t have it as hard as the homeless or all the starving people in the world, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Which is not to say that I’m depressed; just worried.

birthday future

For reasons that will be obvious to any reader who files tax returns in the United States of America, here's a daylog that talks about money and government's use of it.

Nobody jumps for joy on Tax Day. Some people think taxes are evil and give themselves an ulcer; some consider it the "price we pay for civilization", as said by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and do their duty. Most are just resigned to it. Many choose instead to focus on the "silver lining" of a refund check that they look upon as though it were a Christmas present.

And each year around this time, we hear cries for "reform" (whatever that means), because the government taxes us too much, or it is too wasteful, or the Internal Revenue Code is just too complicated.

Sometimes, if you're listening just right, you can also hear someone mention that the taxes are not the sine qua non of out-of-control government but rather it is the spending that is the problem. Which as almost anyone can see, leads directly to, it is the borrowing that is the problem.

Thanks to the Federal Reserve, the US dollar being the world's reserve currency, and lots of F-16s, the Feds find themselves in the position of being able to borrow all the money they want.[1] It's ever so much easier to borrow money (which you never pay back) than to raise taxes and then hope to get re-elected. Particularly when the electorate doesn't realize that such borrowing destroys the value of their money. (Inflation doesn't come out of nowhere, folks.)

Of course, the Constitution places the power to borrow money in the Congress. And once upon a time, they thought the people might be reassured if they made a solemn vow to not borrow too much. So they provided a statutory limit on how much debt the federal government could accrue. That probably had its intended effect, until the people just stopped paying attention to the debt and then it didn't matter. But they still follow the form. They still raise the debt limit everytime it's reached.

As editor of the monthly newsletter of the Santa Barbara County Libertarian Party, when the debt ceiling was raised in November of 2004, I decided to start including the monthly change in federal indebtedness (cash-accounting-wise) in each issue. Below I reproduce my short commentaries on the subject, from that point up until February of 2006, when it was increased again.

January, 2005. Uncle Sam pulled out the (our) credit card a lot recently. Does he get frequent flyer miles with that?

Since the last newsletter (end of November, 2004), the United States national debt has increased $97,672,053,677.84. That's NINETY SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS. (Un)Fortunately, the bank increased Sam's credit limit by about eight hundred billion dollars a while back. Maybe that'll get him through Christmas.

February, 2005. Does the shortest month of the year curtail Uncle Sam's spending at all? Let's see.

Since the last newsletter (end of January, 2005), in fact only through the 24th of this month, the United States national debt has increased $89,267,211,731.67. That's EIGHTY NINE BILLION DOLLARS in just over three weeks, and about one hundred ninety billion dollars since Congress raised the debt limit in November. At that rate, the answer to the question raised in the last newsletter about whether the current ceiling will last until Christmas is a resounding Not Even Close.

March, 2005. Remember "slowing the rate of growth"?

Our national government likes to say they're "cutting spending" when their spending grows less than they said it would. Well, if they talked about the national debt, they'd probably say we got rich last month! After all, the debt in March only increased $63,801,374,005.43. That's nothing compared to the eighty- to ninety-billion they've been doing in the months preceding.

April, 2005. Mark your calendars!

Was that airborne bacon I spied cruising over the Capitol?

The national debt normally follows a predictable pattern each month: for the first few business day of the month the debt decreases; one, five, ten billion dollars. Then it quickly makes that back and spends the rest of the month going up, for a net increase for the month of however many tens of billions of dollars.

April started out that way, also, but something amazing happened a week before month's end: Uncle Sam apparently found some change under the cushions, because they paid off a lot of debt and ended the month with a net DECREASE for the month of $19,867,643,278.81

Raise your hand if you think that'll happen again in May. Your editor is not holding his breath.

May, 2005. Back to the norm

All of you who raised your hands last month, go to the back of the class.

The folks at the Bureau of the Public Debt were no doubt as surprised as everybody else when the debt went down in April. But they shook it off and business returned to normal, with an increase for May of $13,342,815,130.75

June, 2005. A little short at the end of the month.

You know the old joke about the month lasting a little longer than the money? Well, the US government almost squeaked through, bouncing around between +2 and -2 billion dollars during the last week of the month. But June has thirty days, and that last one got them. They ended up the month hitting up the bank for $58,615,635,490.97. Hey, we've all been there, right?

August, 2005. A billion here, a billion there

This month, Congress and the Prez almost got around to spending some real money, with an outgo $39,315,793,349.23 larger than the income. With the national debt now at $7,926,933,374,544.81, we'll hit the big 8 trillion dollar mark in about two months. Less if something shiny catches their eyes. Remind me, what was the debt ceiling that was agreed to less than one year ago?

September, 2005. A billion here, a billion there

Wow, second time this year the debt's gone down in a month. Although the number I report is only as of September 29, and sometimes that last day of the month really gets you. But I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. This month's change: a decrease of 12,921,071,168.21. At this rate, last year's debt limit increase might just last a year! Not likely if the upcoming "compassion" for the people of the New Orleans area kicks in, though.

October, 2005. I'm speechless

Sure, it's just a psychological threshold, but sheesh. As of today, the most recent figure I have for the debt increase in October (as of the 27th) is $93,319,967,138.32. NINETY THREE BILLION DOLLARS. With one more business day to go in the month, they just might push it over a hundred. And this in the same month that the debt passed the eight trillion dollar mark, thanks to the just-in-time raising of the statutory limit (last raised last November, I believe). How many people on your block are aware of this? Or if they are, how many care?

P.S. In case you were a bit proud of the government last month when you read here that the debt had been paid down a bit in September -- that was also written with another day to go. The final change for September was an increase of 5,776,287,178.69.

November, 2005. I'll need a nap after that

I'm sure President Bush and all the other turkeys at the head of our national government had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. But they sure must have had a lot of fixin's to go with it, because in November they added another $65,198,801,506.29 to the national debt. That would buy a lot of tryptophan.

January, 2006. There Oughtta Be a Law!

I don't know what the national government's New Years resolution was. Your typical Congresscritter might say it was "to spend less money", and point to HR 4241, the "Deficit Reduction (haha) Act", as evidence. But just as many Americans reached for that first cookie of the year, the feds went another $25,645,892,285.90 dollars in debt.

You may recall that in November 2004, the Congress increased the statutory debt limit. "A stroke of the pen", in Paul Begala's words, and the government can borrow another 800 billion dollars. At the time, I wondered if it would last through Christmas of 2005. It did. But January's binge put the debt over the limit; as of January 31, it was over by $12,070,437,599.52.

Did you see the story on the news about the Treasurer of the United States being hauled off in handcuffs? Neither did I. As easy as increasing the limit is (Congress needn't worry about the taxes and destruction of the value of the dollar it will cause), you'd think they could at least do it! (Before or after they vote on Bush's request for $120 billion more to make war?)

February, 2006. (Expensive) Love is in the air

During the shortest month of the year, the national debt last month increased by $73,815,077,786.52.

Right in the middle of said shortest month is St. Valentine's day, which often sees men lose their heads somewhat and spend a sum they later regret to ensure their lady's love. Perhaps George really wanted to get Laura a diamond to show that he's still thinking of her while he's bugging phones and ruining nations. I just got a wholesale quote for a flawless, colorless, 1 carat-weight diamond: $14,098. The President can probably get wholesale, but let's mark that up 100%, and add another grand and change for a gold setting. That makes it thirty thousand dollars. For the amount of extra debt amassed last month (NOT the spending, just the spending in excess of revenues), he could have gotten 2,460,502 such gewgaws. Perhaps we all need to give Mr. Bush a finger so he can have somewhere to put them.

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