Friday, May 3, 2019

The Very High Cost of Not Knowing

I sat down with a friend last week and the conversation drifted to whatever it was in the current news. I prefer to think of it as the news torrent, because it comes in a downpour and is gone in a flash.

I understand that.

We’re coming close to times where, despite having 1500 friends on Facebook, there’s no one to call at 2am when there’s an emergency. 911 doesn’t help much when your child has a raging fever and what you really need is someone to come stay with the kids while you and your spouse rush off to the hospital.

But there’s a cost to that not knowing and it seeps into our lives like water through an open window that might better have been closed. Could have been closed and surely should have been closed.

Sixty Fortune 500 corporations paid no taxes in 2018. Their total U.S. income, including such names as Amazon, Chevron, General Motors, Delta, Halliburton, and IBM was more than $79 billion. Amazon got a tax refund of $129 million after net earnings of $13.4 billion.

That’s more than seeping through the window and yet not knowing cost my friend his share of that tax refund.

I didn’t know that, he tells me.

Okay, so what if he did know? How would that have mattered? Well, awareness is the key to who we vote for. Is he aware that for the past 29 years Republicans have honored a no tax increase pledge? Probably not, but Amazon knows. They dumped more than $13 million into the 2018 elections.

Let’s go back a bit—but not too far.

An example was the complex financial products that contributed to the housing market collapse of 2007. Investment banks sold shit mortgages to anyone, including those who didn’t even have a steady job. Want a house? Sign here and we’ll give you half a million.

I didn’t know that.

I know you didn’t. Neither did Alan Greenspan and he was the head of the Federal Reserve. But four million Americans lost their homes. In the aftermath, Americans lost $10 trillion in wealth as their home values plummeted and many more ended up owing more than their homes were worth.

Four million families losing their homes and ten-thousand billion dollars sucked down the sewer is a high cost of not knowing.

Let’s go longer in the not-knowing game. In the fifty years following the Second World War, military spending totaled about $13 trillion, give or take a buck or two.

In a  mere seventeen years between 1998 and 2015 a mind-boggling $21 trillion of Pentagon financial transactions could not be traced, documented, or explained. That’s roughly five times more than the entire federal government spends in a year.

In all, at least a mind-boggling $21 trillion of Pentagon financial transactions between 1998 and 2015 could not be traced, documented, or explained. To convey the vastness of that sum, $21 trillion is roughly five times more than the entire federal government spends in a year. 

To quote General and President Dwight Eisenhower,
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”

I didn’t know that.

Many of us have given up the newspapers and TV. It is dreary these days. Most of us can’t bear it and we all have problems.

But the very high cost of not knowing is tearing at the very fabric of our constitutional republic and we dare not find ourselves losing it while we admire all the cute kittens on Facebook.

Knowing is all we have with which to defend ourselves.


  1. I didn't know that--the quality of your columns riding on the torrent of the news. Keep them coming

  2. Thanks Joe. When am I going to see you again?