Monday, January 08, 2007

Tricksy ice cream makers

I tried the new (in packaged form at least) American Pie ice cream from Ben and Jerry's. It's not bad. Mild apple flavored ice cream with apples and pie chunks. I know some for whom some form of chocolate is an ice cream requirement . If that is the case you won't like this one. I put some Penzey's Ceylon cinnamon on top and it made for an excellent treat.

My enjoyment was tempered by an annoying rhetorical trick from the Ben and Jerry's people. The ice cream is called American Pie and it shows a chart of discretionary spending. The Defense Department comes out way on top. Now, I am not going to argue that there are items in the Defense budget that can probably be dropped. The F-22, the DD(X) and the Virginia class submarine are all high ticket items that are less obviously in need if potential conflict is in places like Iran, North Korea or the waters off Taiwan.

What gets my goat is the use of the word discretionary. There are very large budget segments, like Social Security and Medicare, that are similar to or even larger than defense spending, but are non-discretionary. As the government is required by statue to spend the money, it has no discretion on whether or not to spend it, hence the name. Take a look at the top five items in the full US budget. Yes defense is big and number 2, but it is surrounded by 4 very large social programs. To me, the most horrific figure is the interest on the debt (number six) , which is $243B!! Imagine seeing that on your credit card statement.

Because the folks at Ben and Jerry's want to make the argument that since we spend more on nukes than on kid's lunch programs, we should dial back nuke spending. While it seems like a minor detail, it is head in the sand thinking which doesn't consider the full range of budget problems that the country faces. You could turn that around and say we give social security payments to everyone, regardless of need, while our National Parks starve for funds. This is not a useful policy tool, but it makes for nice political rhetoric.

1 comment:

Micah said...

I prefer to make ice cream at home... I have wonderful ice cream maker which got from Abes of Maine...