“He always liked laundromats. They’re like waiting rooms for people who never travel.”
—Zoran Drvenkar, Sorry.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUTH
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
(El Dorado Hills is an almost place, almost a forest, almost a mountain, almost a city, almost a community and living here is almost a life. One would think from my comments that I dislike it here. On the contrary, someone once said that living east of the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles is a form of death; at my age living here in the golden hills is like death’s minor leagues — I get to practice before moving up to the big time.)
The sun broke through for part of the day. So, I decided to go swimming for the first time since my accident. It made me happy.
On Sunday, I went to see Revenant. I liked it — Over two hours of Leo DiCaprio in agony (Leo Agonistes). Leo biting the head off a live fish and eating it; Leo eating a raw buffalo liver; Leo mauled by a bear; Leo sleeping naked inside the body of a dead horse; Leo’s body sewn up like a torn pair of jeans; Leo freezing in snow and icy water; Leo falling off a cliff; Leo swept away down a raging river; Leo frothing at the mouth; Leo covered in his own blood; Leo covered in animal’s blood. Leo covered other people’s blood; Leo shot; Leo knifed; Leo choked and so on. Oh, there was also a story, something about Native Americans, sons, wives who float in the air and disappear, and revenge on white men who never bathe. There was a lot of snow too. And subtitles. Leo deserves and Academy Award — not for acting but for surviving. Don’t miss it you will never forget it — even if you want to.
For dinner this evening, HRM decided to make pizza for his dinner. He made the dough, kneaded it, assembled the toppings and cooked it. The pizza tasted very good — certainly a lot better than Round Table or Mountain Mike’s.
On Wednesday, I went to the DMV office to register my new automobile. About an hour and a half into my wait, sitting there on the hard plastic chair staring at the drop ceiling and listening to the seductive automated voice calling out the numbers like she was lying there next to me whispering into my ear, “B, zero, two seven go to window number nine,” I realized that I was as content as I could be anywhere. I guess I was experiencing satori — a spiritual awakening. I imagined that many of the great religions were created in DMV offices. The bible tells us that Jesus disappeared from public view until he began his ministry when he was 30. I suspect, he spent that time quietly sitting in a DMC office believing that the “meek shall inherit the earth.” Buddha while waiting five hours to renew his driver’s license persuaded himself that it was only tolerable if, in fact, it was not real. While Mohammed, on leaving the DMZ office, decided to conquer all the worlds DMV offices by promising his followers that if they died in the effort they would find themselves alone in a DMV office with 72 virgins behind the counter. Did you know that the biblical heaven and Hell are, in fact, DMV offices? In Heaven, you sit on hard plastic seats staring at the golden ones behind the counter, the saints and the angels, waiting for your number to be called and when it is called you get to approach the counter and get your license renewed by one of the golden ones after which you get to go back to your seat and wait for your number to be called again. Hell is just another DMV office except there are no seats, the heat is turned up to the highest level and your number is never called.
The person I bought the car from was a law enforcement officer. He insisted on putting a lower sale price on the transfer documents in order to save some money on Taxes. I, a one-time officer of the court in a profession with a strict code of ethics, did not object because I told myself I did not want to offend him. So I took full advantage of the reduced registration fee.
After returning home from the DMV office, I learned my 98-year-old mother had fallen while getting out of bed. I was pretty convinced she fell because she intended to run away from the nursing facility in order to return home to cook dinner for me and my sister. Anyway, they quickly and properly swept her off to the hospital for a CT scan and other tests — all of which were negative. She was returned to the nursing home where I am sure she demanded to be allowed to leave so that she could find a job.
I hope she lives to see her 100th birthday so that she might receive congratulations from Obama or whomever, or Jerry Brown or even Sylvester Stallone. It would make her very happy. She will, however, still insist she needs to go home and cook for her family, find a job and maybe a boyfriend. Functional irascibility is the secret to a long and happy life — well, perhaps not so happy at times.
National Debt and Deficit.
In the national and candidates debates during this election year, as in all other presidential years, the words “debt” and “deficit” are thrown about in order to justify one’s political position or criticize an opponent’s. Actually, it is usually a smoke screen since historically (at least since WWII) both parties run similar annual budget deficits with Republican administrations since the election of Ronald Reagan running somewhat larger annual budget deficits and both parties showing a somewhat similar growth in the National Debt as a percentage of GDP. The difference between the parties often comes down to what that Budget Deficit goes to pay for. Traditionally, for Republicans generally, it goes to pay for enhanced military development and tax relief for private capital expenditure and formation and higher income individuals with Democrats leaning more toward paying for social programs, public works, and tax relief for consumers and lower income workers.
Recently, I came across some information from the US Treasury Department on the annual US budget deficit, the total National Debt by year, US GDP and US National Debt as a percentage of GDP going back to at least 1929. I was able to cull the following from those spreadsheets.
First some definitions: The Budget Deficit is those government expenditures (including payments on the National Debt) not covered by revenues in a given year. For the most part from a policy standpoint, the annual deficit for any single year tends to be not all that significant except during times of great stress like wars and economic panic. The National Debt is what the Federal Government owes at any given time.
Let’s look at two lists I prepared from US Treasury spreadsheets going back to the end of WWII that I hope will shed a little light on the nature of the political rhetoric.
Percentage increase in total National Government debt by President during his term.
Bush 2 101%
Bush 1 54% (4 years)
Obama 53% (7 years)
Ford 47% (3 years)
Carter 43% (4 years)
Nixon 34% (5 years)
Johnson 13% (5 Years)
Kennedy 8% (3 years)
Truman 3% (7 years)
National Debt as a percentage of the Nation’s Gross Domestic Product at a President’s final budget.
Obama 106.7% (7 years)
Bush 2 85%
Truman 69.7% (7 years)
Bush 1 60.5% (4 years)
49.5% Kennedy (3 years)
35.9% Johnson (5 years)
Nixon 32.6 (5 Years)
Ford 31. 4% (3 years)
Carter 31.3% (4 years)
The second list is probably more important and informative since it relates the National Debt to the size of the economy at the time. While Bush 2 and Obama appear to have the larger percentage, a significant portion of those increases came at the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of Obama’s as they struggled to deal with the Great Recession ($1.1 trillion DEFICIT for the last year of Bush2 and $1.5 trillion DEFICIT for the first year of Obama). It demonstrates how great an economic crisis it was. (A similar spike would appear if these charts continued back to the great depression. Under Roosevelt, the depression and WWII increased the National Debt well over 1000%.) One takeaway is that after WWII, the size of the National Debt as a percentage of GDP decreased through all administrations Republican and Democrat alike until Reagan took office. Since then it has steadily increased except during the Clinton years. The most significant impacts on both Annual Deficits and the National Debt since Reagan took office has been a large reduction in taxes on upper-income individuals, non-earned income, and corporations, funding of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars and the Obama stimulus.
Another way of looking at this, and perhaps even more illuminating, is how many percentage points over his predecessor a President increased the National Debt as a percentage of GDP when he left office:
The above clearly shows Clinton and Reagan as outliers. The difference between them appears to be almost exclusively their approach to taxes on higher earners and corporations. The list also further demonstrates the massive distortion of governmental finances engendered by the Middle Eastern wars and the Great Recession.
I believe that a national economy works better and the growth of National Debt moderated when a significant portion of public expenditure works its way through the economy from the bottom (like fuel in a furnace) rather than from the top. How that is done should be the basis of public debate (welfare, public works, incentives to work or to hire people, or consumer tax relief and so on).
I have no idea of the ideal size of National Debt a mature nation should carry but suspect it depends on the interest rate on the debt and the ability of the nation to service the debt during times of crisis. That is why I believe Keynes prescription to run budget deficits during times of crisis and surpluses during periods of growth is sound politics and prudent fiscal policy.
Note: It should be pointed out that total US debt as a percentage of GDP from all sectors went from approximately 1.5 times GDP in 1946 to a little less than 4 times GDP today. In 1946, the total US debt-to-GDP ratio was 150%, with two-thirds of that held by the federal government. Since 1946, the federal government’s share of total US debt-to-GDP ratio has fallen from about 2/3 to a little over 1/4. On the other, hand the share of total US Debt as a percentage of GDP of the financial sector, has increased substantially from less than 1% in 1926 to about 28% in 2009 with much of that growth occurring in the private Non-Government backed securities area. Government backed debt part of the financial sector, such as Ginnie Mae etc., has remained a relatively stable while private financial debt has soared from 0% to about 12% of the total US debt as a percentage of GDP. The ratio for households has risen nearly as much, from 10% of total debt as a percentage of GDP to about 24%.
In other words, while federal debt as a portion of the nations economy generally has been falling, private debt has been growing substantially.
So, what does all this mean? Dammed if I know. I do know however, that those who tells us they do know, usually don’t, and if they do, what they tell us is often a lie.
A. Quigley on Top:
The following continues the Prologue to Quigley’s uncompleted magnum opus, WEAPONS SYSTEMS AND POLITICAL STABILITY that I began in my previous post.
“In recent years there has been a fair amount of unproductive controversy about the real nature of man and what may be his real human needs. In most cases, these discussions have not got very far because the participants have generally been talking in groups which are already largely in agreement, and they have not been carrying on any real dialogue across lines of basic disagreement. Accordingly, each group has simply rejected the views most antithetical to its own assumptions, with little effort to resolve areas of acute contradiction. There are, however, some points on which there could hardly be much disagreement. These include two basic facts about human life as we see it being lived everywhere. These are:
(1) Each individual is an independent person with a will of his own and capable of making his own decisions; and
(2) Most human needs can be satisfied only by cooperation with other persons.
The interaction of these two fundamental facts forms the basis for most social problems.
If each individual has his own autonomous will making its own decisions, there will inevitably be numerous clashes of conflicting wills. There would be no need to reconcile these clashes, if individuals were able to satisfy their needs as independent individuals. But there are almost no needs, beyond those for space, time, oxygen, and physiological elimination, which can be satisfied by man in isolation. The great mass of human needs, especially those important ones which make men distinctively human, can be satisfied only through cooperative relationships with other humans. As a consequence, it is imperative that men work out patterns of relationships on a cooperative basis which will minimize the conflicts of individual wills and allow their cooperative needs to be satisfied. From these customary cooperative relationships emerge the organizational features of the communities of men which are the fundamental units of social living.”
B. Xander’s Perceptions on Cooking:
“BTW, last night I watched the HBO airing of “The Godfather” movies back-to-back-to-back. Afterward, I was jonesin’ in the worst way for pasta marinara ad Scaloppine alla Marsala . . . in Sicily.
Back in 1985, when I was working on the Bolsa Chica LUP “confirmation” stage, I went to lunch with Darlene Frost and several others at North Beach Restaurant in — where else? — the terrific Italian community of North Beach in The City. The marinara had a sweetness I couldn’t identify, and the waiter actually told me how the chef did it. It was pureed carrots, which I’d guessed, but the chef used BABY FOOD carrots . . . and I thought that was brilliant. You can peel, chop, steam, and puree carrots . . . or you can open jars of baby food carrots. I’ve done it that way ever since.
My scaloppine recipe is the result of a dozen years of trying to duplicate the Scaloppine from Giulio’s in the Mission Beach area of San Diego. The secrets are getting the right balance of lemon juice and dry sherry (I’ve found that even a dry Marsala is too overly powerfully nutty), since the sherry flavor breaks down after a few minutes, and sautéing the veal (or chicken breast) in extra virgin olive oil and butter.
I did it for 120 people at a wedding reception years ago when I did catering for fun (and some profit). The wedding planner pulled ALL of my help to do the champagne toast BEFORE dinner, and I was cooking three different kinds of pasta by myself, planning the cooking times of each and getting the amounts done for four lines of diners on two long tables — penne marinara, fettuccine Alfredo, and farfalle in pesto (red, white, and green, of course!). I was cooking like an octopus, but I’d sautéed all of the veal ahead of time, set it aside, then did the reheating at the last minute, since veal toughens if it’s left to simmer too long. It all worked, and I got a bonus of several hundred dollars (it was a pretty elegant reception, as evidenced by their insistence on veal).
BTW, when my daughter had a 16th birthday party for about 60 friends (and their parents — they knew of my cooking reputation!), she wanted the three pastas I’d mentioned above. She was a full-on vegetarian by then, so those three worked great.
Final secret: If Italian sausage is too pricey to use for a large group, or of someone has moral problems with using pork products, I use ground turkey but add some pepper flakes, grind some fennel seed, and add some whole seeds. It tastes just like Italian sausage for a fraction of the price.
Yes, I seriously need to do my new cookbook . . . .”
C. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
I think of myself as mostly a bad man who at times tried to do good and now and then succeeded only to find those successes often were ephemeral in significance and ambiguous in result
D. Today’s Poem:
In the 5th century B.C.
an Indian philosopher
Gautama teaches ‘All is emptiness’
and ‘There is no self.’
In the 20th century A.D.
Barbie agrees, but wonders how a man
with such a belly could pose,
smiling, and without a shirt.
David laughs it up in Jomtien Beach with a bored LM and photo bomb.