Sequestration is a government budget tool that attempts to provide oversight to a budget that is out of control. It is controversial as it is evidence of the inability of the president and Congress to come to an agreement over spending and taxes. Congress passes a budget resolution that lays down overall limits, and then the dozen or so appropriation bills must fall under that limit. If they do not, then sequestration’s automatic spending cuts go into effect.
Even though the President is using fear of sequestration’s effects to promote overturning the legislation, the real effect of sequestration on the economy is debatable.
The federal budget is difficult to manage due to three factors:
First, the budget is not one single document. The federal government passes its budget in a piecemeal fashion through several appropriations bills as opposed to one comprehensive piece of legislation. This dilutes the ability to manage spending since it prevents tying separate pieces of the federal budget together.
Second, only a minority of government spending is dealt with in yearly budgets. The yearly budget only applies to discretionary spending by the government, not the entitlement spending through Social Security, Medicare and interest on the national debt. Such mandatory spending accounts for 47% of the federal budget. Defense accounts for 67% of the remaining 53%, thus accounting for the lion’s share of the proposed cuts.
Third, and most importantly, our divided government allows both sides to avoid responsibility, and our current partisan atmosphere allows voters to support their party while not allowing compromise to take place.
All of this combines to illustrate how closely tied government spending is to the performance of the current economy and how fragile the current economic growth is. People don’t trust the economy or government and we are very risk-averse as a result.
So how healthy is the auto industry in the U.S.?
This year’s Detroit auto show (officially the North American International Auto Show) tells the tale of an industry that has recovered from a near-death experience and has come back stronger than ever.
The star of the show makes the case for this assertion. Need to get from 0 to 60 in less than four seconds? The 2014 Corvette Stingray is your car. The seventh generation Corvette offers 425 horsepower in a vehicle that is likely to offer mileage above 26 miles per gallon.
The Corvette has a local connection in that General Motors (GM) assembles the car in nearby Bowling Green, Ky. Recently, a reporter from the Nashville Ledger called to get my thoughts on this vehicle.
To me there are really two interesting parts of the Corvette story. First, the fact that GM has the money to launch a new sports car speaks volumes about the company's renewed health. In 2009 when GM faced death, nearly all product production (except the Volt) went on hold. Now GM has money to produce an expensive image car.
Second, GM is facing a real challenge in changing the Corvette’s image as “grandpa’s hot car." GM has a tough road ahead to interest youthful buyers in cars in general. They now see a generation that focuses on social media, car sharing and urban living where a couple’s second car is public transit. Perhaps the only hot spot with youth comes in connecting their electronics to the car via Ford’s Sync and GM’s MyLink.
What is even more interesting in watching the auto industry is the overall strength of the competitors. The Japanese and Korean makes (Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia and Subaru) have retained and strengthened their place in the market. Chrysler, once 60 days from liquidation, is now generating strong profits and is rescuing Fiat from a disastrous European market. Ford, Chrysler and GM are all making big money (reportedly $10,000 per unit) on pickups, a market in which they have a 93 percent combined market share. It is amazing what a bankruptcy can do to help a firm jettison costs and shake up the bureaucracy. I’ve never seen such a competitive market with so many competent players.
Don't miss Dr. Ingram on "Be The People" on WSMV, Channel 4, at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday. Dr. Ingram will discuss deficits and the growth of entitlement programs, as well as possible solutions.
Hosted by Dr. Carol Swain, Be the People is a new hard-hitting television series directly confronting the hot topic issues facing Americans today. Featuring one-on-one interviews and panel discussions with influential politicians, businessmen, journalists, celebrities, entertainers and nationally known political pundits.
I guess cutting out the political posturing and addressing some actual fiscal problems wasn’t among Congress’ New Year’s resolutions. And if you hadn’t noticed, the fiscal crisis points are now accelerating in 2013.
First we had the debt limit maneuvering in the summer of 2011, which lead to the Super Committee’s non-attempt to come up with bipartisan long-term solutions by the end of 2012 or face the fiscal cliff. To avert the consequences of the fiscal cliff, we got the after-midnight agreement to enhance revenues (ending the payroll tax holiday on everyone and higher income tax rates on high income earners). Now we face predetermined sequestration on March 1, the deadline for funding the rest of the fiscal year on March 27, and the Congressional self-imposed deadline to vote on a budget outline or suspend their pay by April 15.
The problem with all of this political confrontation is that it tends to draw attention away from the real national fiscal problem. By focusing on whether, and by how much, we should increase the current official debt limit, we continue to move closer to the real debt limit -- which is the point at which outsiders (international interests) stop allowing us to live beyond our means by refusing to lend to us anymore. I cannot say when that will be, but if we were a business looking for more credit with the current levels of revenues versus spending we would already be at our borrowing limit.
Being a sovereign nation with the power to tax and issue money affords us borrowing advantage, but as we have seen by the examples of other nations there is an ultimate limit and negative consequences that will begin to appear even before we approach that true limit.
The fundamental problem that we face as a nation is that our federal budget is now dominated by entitlement programs like Medicare that mandate spending at increasing rates and the unwillingness for most of us to have our own taxes raised. We praise politicians when they pass programs and projects that we benefit from, but we threaten to vote them out of office if they raise our taxes.
And in a vain effort to make both sides happy, our leaders continue to keep maneuvering, rather than solving problems, setting up one artificial deadline after another. Both our politicians and the public need to accept that when it comes to the economy, we can’t have it both ways.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you haven’t gotten the flu yet you are safe. The nation is experiencing a particularly bad flu season this year and Tennessee’s traditional flu season peaks in February. There’s still time to get a flu shot and get some benefit out of it if you hurry.
Check out these other flu myths that can be heard all around campus.
Myth: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
Fact: It’s impossible to get the flu virus from the injectable vaccine. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit an infection. It does take about two weeks for your body to build up flu antibodies after getting a flu shot, so it’s possible to still get sick after you get the shot. But it’s not the vaccine that made you sick.
Myth: Being a healthy person and using good hygiene measures is enough to protect me from the flu.
Fact: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all persons over six months of age, regardless of health status, to get a flu vaccine every year. Getting the flu can happen to anyone and unless your body has built up antibodies from the flu (either from the vaccine or from being infected with the flu), it’s a possibility that you could get sick. It takes several measures like the flu vaccine, frequent hand-washing, and other immune system boosters such as avoiding sick people and adequate sleep to decrease the likelihood of a flu infection.
Myth: I’ve received my flu shot, so I don’t need to be concerned about getting a flu bug.
Fact: The flu shot usually offers on average 60 percent protection from the flu. The three strains of flu virus that are in each year’s vaccine are predicted by experts before flu season starts, but there is always the chance that another strain of flu will start to spread and cause infection. The CDC reports that the 2012-13 flu vaccine is covering 91 percent of the flu strains circulating as of early January. Even though it’s not guaranteed protection, those who get the flu shot still have better chances of not getting the flu or having a less severe case if they do get infected.
Myth: The stomach flu is a type of flu.
Fact: Many people call gastroenteritis the “stomach flu” and lump it in the same category with influenza. But the flu is a respiratory disease. Most people don’t have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea at all—but such symptoms do occur more frequently with children. Symptoms of the flu are runny or stuffy nose, fever, body aches, headache and cough.
Myth: I haven’t had a flu shot yet this year, but now it’s too late.
Fact: While getting the vaccine when it first comes out each season is best (in early fall), flu season usually hits its peak in February. It’s not too late to get a vaccine and be protected.
Myth: I got a flu shot in the fall, so I may need a second one in case the protection doesn’t last through the season.
Fact: Studies on levels of circulating flu strain antibodies have shown that the vaccine offers adequate protection through the end of flu season and some protection for months after. Those over age 65 are encouraged to get the high-dose flu vaccine to increase their protection.
Proper technique fo
washing your hands
with soap and water:
Wet hands with clean, running water and apply soap.
Tip: Avoid hot water to prevent skin irritation.
Rub hands together for at least 20 seconds, covering all surfaces of the hands and fingers.
Tip: Mentally sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to time your efforts.
Rinse hands with water and dry thoroughly with a disposable towel.
Tip: Dry hands completely because germs are passed in larger numbers from wet hands than from dry.
Proper technique for
using hand sanitizer
Observe hands for visible dirt and revert to hand washing with soap and water if present.
Tip: If hands are wet wash with soap and water.
Check the label for manufactures’ recommended volume application.
Tip: Apply enough of the product to wet your hands completely.
Rub your hands together covering all surfaces until they are dry.
Tip: A sufficient amount of alcohol was applied if drying takes 30 seconds.
Amidst a busy flu season it is important to remind ourselves of the simple sanitary obligations in order to maintain public health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider hand hygiene to be at the top of the list for prevention of spreading germs and getting sick.
Hand hygiene is not a new concept. In 1822, a French pharmacist used solutions containing chlorides of lime or soda as disinfectants and antiseptics. Nursing pioneers such as Florence Nightingale led the way as early as 1854, during the Crimean war, by recognizing anti-septic agents used for hand washing significantly reduced the spread of disease and mortality. Why are we not washing our hands?
With a market saturated with gels, sprays, foams, liquid and antibacterial soaps each claiming to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria, we are confused. Moms, school teachers, grocers, librarians and many more want to know which work the best?
The CDC maintains washing with soap and water to be the best method for germ reduction. Research shows regular soap to be as effective as antibacterial soap. Some scientists even discourage use of anti-bacterial soap related to the destruction of healthy bacteria. The effectiveness of hand washing with soap and water is greatly affected by the technique used.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates antiseptic hand wash products and found solutions containing 6o-95 percent ethanol or isopropanol alcohol to be most effective. Consumers should take note of product labels before making a purchase because products containing less than 40 percent alcohol have been found on store shelves. The FDA stresses that the effectiveness of alcohol-based hand hygiene products may be skewed by the concentration of alcohol, contact time, volume of alcohol used and whether the hands are wet when the alcohol is applied.
Wash hands with soap and water after every 5-10 applications of hand gel to eliminate build-up.
Hand hygiene practices play an important role in the prevention and spread of disease. Most of us realize we need to wash our hands and have been told this since a very young age. Whether using soap and water or hand sanitizer, now is the time to slow down and be mindful of proper technique. All you need is 30 seconds.