Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where Did Your Federal Dollars Go in 2006?

RJ Note: I just thought this was interesting reading, so am sharing...

The federal government disbursed $2.45 trillion in domestic spending in 2006, according to two reports published by the U.S. Census Bureau. That represented an 7.5 percent increase in federal spending over 2005.

The first of the new reports, Consolidated Federal Funds Report: 2006, provides a broad overview of how and where the federal government allocates funds. Statistics are provided for each federal department and agency, and presented by state, county and subcounty area.

The second report, Federal Aid to States for Fiscal Year 2006, contains data on federal grants to state and local governments.

Defense spending totaled $400 billion in 2006. This amount includes procurement contracts, payroll, military pensions and grants. Department of Homeland Security spending totaled $57 billion.

Per capita spending among states was highest for Louisiana ($16,263). Mississippi was second ($14,516), followed by Alaska ($13,805). The states that received the lowest per capita distribution of federal funds were Nevada ($5,852), Utah ($6,162) and Minnesota ($6,175).

California received 10.3 percent of the total distribution of federal expenditures while Texas received 6.8 percent, followed by New York at 6.2 percent.

Nearly half of all domestic government spending (excluding interest on the federal debt) went to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which accounted for $1.16 trillion. The one-year increase in spending for these three programs was approximately $170 for every person living in the United States.

The government spent $739 billion on retirement and disability. Of that amount, 80 percent, or $594 billion, went to Social Security. Social Security was comprised of retirement insurance payments ($350 billion), survivors insurance ($107 billion), disability insurance ($99 billion) and supplemental security income payments ($38 billion).

The remaining federal dollars spent on retirement and disability went to civilian government workers’ retirements ($59 billion), military retirements ($36 billion) and veterans’ benefits ($34 billion).

California received the largest share of civilian federal government employee retirement and disability dollars ($5 billion), followed by Virginia ($4 billion). Florida received the most in military retirements ($3.7 billion), while Texas received the largest share of veterans’ benefits ($3.1 billion).

Other highlights:

-- The federal government spent $569 billion on direct payments other than retirement and disability, which included hospital insurance ($188 billion), supplemental medical insurance ($161 billion), earned income tax credits ($38 billion), food stamps ($30 billion), unemployment compensation ($28 billion), agricultural assistance ($28 billion), federal employment health and life programs ($21 billion) and housing assistance ($9 billion).

-- Procurement contracts for the federal government totaled $409 billion in 2006 with most going to the Defense Department ($266 billion). The Army received the largest share ($83 billion), followed by the Navy ($73 billion), the Air Force ($60 billion) and other defense ($50 billion).

-- Among the $143 billion procured by nondefense agencies, the Department of Energy had the largest amount ($22 billion), followed by the Department of Veterans Affairs ($16 billion), Postal Service ($15 billion), Homeland Security ($15 billion), General Services Administration ($12 billion) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration ($11 billion).

-- In addition to procurement funding, the federal government issued grants totaling $494 billion. Of these, Health and Human Services accounted for $283 billion, followed by Transportation ($58 billion), Education ($38 billion), Housing and Urban Development ($37 billion), and Agriculture ($26 billion).

Federal government direct expenditures for retirement and disability, direct payments, grants and procurement are provided for each state and county area.

Population figures used to calculate per capita for the 50 states, the District of Columbia and all counties come from the 2006 population estimates and can be found at < http://www.census.gov/popest/counties/CO-EST2006-1.html>.

The data in these reports are not subject to sampling variability but are subject to nonsampling errors, which include errors of response and processing.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Two Choices

I received this email recently. It ended with one of those "gotta pass it on or you're a schmuck" lines, something I hate. Sometimes one of the is worth saving or passing along. I delete the guilt lines at the end on those rare, rare occasions when I choose to pass them along.

The following, titled "Two Choices" may or may not be a true story. You know how emails are... sometimes true, sometimes not, sometimes they include a tiny bit of truth. Any which way you want to view this one, it's touching so I'm posting it for someone out there to read (just in case it has yet to hit your inbox ;-)

Two Choices

What would you do? You make the choice. Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. "I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?" Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball ... the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay"

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third!"

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, "Shay, run home! Run home!" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

"That day", said the father softly with tears now rolling down his f ace, "the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world".

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

Second Rant of the Day...

I just finished a rant against Bill Maher and his comments on the Pope and Catholics in one of my other blogs, Toxic Treadmill. You can pop over there and read it if you'd like (I'm not Catholic Bill Maher). In Ramblin' Jan I'm going to talk about another aspect of Maher's rant.

There are many who heard his comments and they said, "I'm not Catholic", big deal. Maybe you're one of those who thinks it's kind of silly to revere the Pope, or you don't like Catholics, or you simply don't care one way or another.

As I was writing "I'm not Catholic Bill Maher" this morning an old poem that is still relevant kept flashing through my mind:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

We have a tendency to go about our daily lives feeling like we're isolated from all the things that are going on in other cities, states, countries. We get up in the morning, get the kids off to school, go to work, run ourselves ragged and fall into bed at night. It's tough to care or maybe even pay attention to what's going on outside our little cocoon. We hear something like Maher's trashing of the Pope and shrug our shoulders - we're not Catholic.

But we need to be paying attention. Our children's future is being shaped today and the Maher's of the world have a much bigger voice than you and I unless we start acting instead of talking.

The phrase "death by a million cuts" comes to mind. We as Christians are being cut day after day in today's society. Some day we're going to wake up and freedom of religion is going to be a thing of the past if we can't find time to take a stand on issues, write, comment and stop watching shows that assail our values.

It's not just Christianity that is under major assault, it's the very fiber of this country and what we stand on and for. It shouldn't matter what religion you claim, Christian or otherwise, or whether you claim a religion at all. If you are a person with values who cares about the future of our world, this type disparaging of others should evoke a response. Maher has the freedom to speak his mind and believe what he believes, but I also have the freedom to turn him off and speak my mind in opposition. So do you.

Somehow it's become cool to trash God. It's become cool to be disrespectful, to flip a finger at tradition. In the scheme of things, Maher's comments aren't even a blip. However, he's not the only one who's actively undermining religion and values. As said, we're suffering a death of a million cuts.

It's an easy to act on this one. Send an email to HBO, let them know if you're not a Catholic, let them know you're ditching HBO unless they ditch Maher.

Here's the entire Maher clip (you've only been treated to a tiny bit on the news):

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ramblin' and Ravin' 'bout Celtic Thunder

I shared a bit about Celtic Thunder a month or so ago on our Music Matters blog, had to share with a few more readers just 'cause they are SO good. This mix of four Irish lads and one Scot wowed me when I first heard them on a PBS special. I had to watch it again a few days later, and of course, I went on a YouTube search to see if anyone had posted a concert or any music. Back then, the only thing available was the official intro to their new CD. Now YouTube is overrun with clips --- which shows how fast the word is spreading!

Celtic Thunder is going to be here in the states, in Atlanta, later this year (November) and it'll come as no surprise to anyone who read my earlier blog --- we have tickets already through PBS! Last week the CD showed up that we'd pre-ordered and I'm listening to it as I type.

What powerful voices these guys have! They auditioned along with who knows how many others and were hand-picked for the group. Whoever picked these five is brilliant. They each have a unique sound of their own and they're all ages ranging from teen-idol to older heart-throb (someone for every age woman to drool over ;-). Wait until you hear the youngest, Damian, sing Puppy Love!



The songs, just like the group members, were superbly chosen. No matter what genre you like the music will appeal to you. The new CD includes well-known popular songs like the Eagle's "Desperado" and "Steal Away" mixed in with numerous more traditional Celtic tunes such as "Ireland's Call" and "Brothers in Arms".

To get the best flavor you have to see them in action. If you get a chance, find a way to watch them on PBS. Or better yet, buy tickets for the concert and see them in person... it'll be worth the price just to see these guys when they walk out in kilts for one of their songs.
I think I read that they were originally called something boring like "Celtic Men". Whoever is handling them was smart to change the name to Celtic Thunder --- catchy and impossible to forget. Once you hear and see them perform I guarantee you won't be forgettin' the name and you'll be likin' the Irish just a wee bit better than you did before.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Giving when it's tough to give...

I'm going to ramble as I try to capture all of the thoughts I've been trying to corral into a coherent article this morning. The problem is that there are so many facets of what I want to write about that I could do a series of blogs and still miss some profound thread that wafted through my head as I thought about this last night, all night off and on in fact.

Gotta try!

You're going to do a "huh?" and wonder why writing about this would be so tough when I tell you the topic! It's the Clothes Less Traveled (CLT) in Peachtree City, Georgia.

I am one of the newest members of the Board for the CLT. I should say that I am privileged to be a member of the Board. I am going to love being a part of this group!

Let me tell you first a bit about CLT... it's a thrift shop started a bit over ten years ago by two ladies with huge hearts and great ability. CLT takes donations of items, organizes and spruces them up a bit if needed, pops a price tag on them and sells the clothes, furniture, household gadgets, toys, etc. to whoever walks through their doors.

But it goes beyond that. CLT has partnerships with other non-profit organizations in the area. Items CLT can't sell are donated to non-profits, like the Salvation Army, to give or sell. Nothing (unless it should have been taken to the dump) is wasted.

And... Other local charities and churches that partner with CLT are given credits or vouchers which allows them to send individuals over to pick up items at no cost or at a discounted cost. For instance, a family being helped by another organization, say Real Life in Tyrone, may need a television (although who really needs a television... but I'll save that for another blog ;-), clothing, dishes, utensils or other items. Real Life would call CLT, say they had an individual in need of clothes in order to get a job. The individual would come over with a voucher and shop for whatever was noted on the voucher.

There's more... A big part of what CLT does is give all their money, above the cost of doing business, to local non-profits. Once a quarter our Board divvies up the dollars and writes checks to organizations with a demonstrated need. Last night was my first "grant" night. What a blessing it was to be part of helping these groups who are doing so much to help others! What fun it was to be like a mini-Santa Claus for good. The organizations who will be receiving money from CLT are so deserving of all the help they can get. It made me want to work a bit harder to help just so there would be more money to hand out during the next grant cycle (it's in July, so non-profits should visit the website and get their grand aps in before the end of June, the earlier the better! Grant requests are on the website, http://www.clotheslesstraveled.org/).

The Board runs a tight ship. There's a grant process, each grant is closely scrutinized and organizations requesting money are thoroughly vetted. Some of the beneficiaries of past donations from CLT have included Southwest Christian Hospice, Christian City, the Promise Place, and the Fayette Samaritans (click here for a longer list).

It was a privilege to sit in a room with a group of people who are so obviously committed to giving. They are doing more than talking the talk --- they are walking, and unpacking, and unloading trucks, and sticking price tags on items, and volunteering at the store, and the action list goes on and on. It's a working board but it's clear that it's a joyful work for all --- each has a talent they bring to the table.

Now, finally, to the title of the blog, "Giving when it's tough to give". CLT depends on donations of items from individuals (and probably companies, I haven't been around long enough to know whether there are businesses who donate their old computers, etc. yet). The more you donate, the more they sell, the more they're able to give.

With times getting tougher as gas and food prices rising, giving money to charity is going to be a line item with a line through it for many. However, you can always clean out the closet, empty those boxes you stuffed in the attic or finally clean out the garage!

Here's the fun part... once you donate all your "stuff" you can shop and buy someone else's stuff. I can't begin to describe the nice things you'll find at CLT --- they're picky about what goes on the shelves and hangers so you're gonna find something to take home!

Don't have anything in the closet to give? Don't want to buy anything? Volunteer. There is always a need for volunteers at CLT - you can volunteer for as little as three hours a month!

Here's an added incentive to volunteer and to maximize your giving: One volunteer a month is selected to be the "Volunteer of the Month" (could have the title wrong, but hey, you get the idea ;-) At the end of the year those twelve top volunteers choose their favorite charity and a thousand dollars (or more) is given to the group in the volunteer's name. Just think... if your charity sent over enough stellar volunteers to help out they could conceivably, in a perfect world, with perfect volunteers, take home the whole $12,000 . (Well, yeah, that ain't gonna happen 'cause I'm going to be over there volunteering to get that $1,000 for my charity so you might have to settle for $11,000 ;-)

Think about it. You volunteer at CLT, so you're helping those who shop (brownie points), those who benefit from the dollars CLT donates (more brownie points), plus you might maximize your time donation by getting a $1,000 for your charity (mega brownie points).

Have I mentioned the scholarships? No? I'll save that for another blog, this is getting way, way too long!

Clean out your garage. Shop at CLT. Volunteer to help three or more hours a month. Give when it's tough to give, it'll do your heart good and won't burden your budget.

How to get there:
Clothes Less Traveled is located on the south side of Peachtree City at 459 Hwy. 74 S. The store is approximately 1.5 miles south of the Hwy 54/Hwy 74 intersection on the right, next to Gill-Roy's hardware store.
From Tyrone, Fairburn: Take Hwy. 74 south into Peachtree City. The store is approximately 1.5 miles south of the Hwy 54/Hwy 74 intersection on the right, next to Gill-Roy's hardware store.
From Newnan or Fayetteville: Take Hwy. 54 towards Peachtree City and turn south onto Hwy. 74. The store is approximately 1.5 miles south of the Hwy 54/Hwy 74 intersection on the right, next to Gill-Roy's hardware store.
From Brooks, Senoia: Take Hwy. 74 north and the store is on the left next to Gill-Roy's hardware store.
For a detailed map click here