ANIL MITRA, © June 2014

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The idea for this is that rational decision making is difficult but where it can be it should be motivated by heart and based in reason and appropriate information.

This is just an example. Here’s a frequent internet post followed by an analysis.

In America—we have to press “1” to speak English

In America—the homeless go without eating

In America—the elderly go without needed medicines

In America—the mentally ill go without treatment

In America—our troops go without proper equipment

In America—our vets go without promised benefits

Yet, we donate billions to other countries before helping our own! Have the guts to re-post this? 1% will, 99% won’t have the nerve.

Though it’s all true, I think the real reason for the problems is internal--our internal politics and our internal economics of distribution.

In 2013 (Wikipedia) foreign aid was 48 billion which is not a pittance but is barely a dent 0.3% (3 out of every 1000) of the GNP of $16 trillion. The net tax earnings are about 3 trillion and 48 billion is 1.5% of that. It took a little time to compile the following figure: annual US expense on social security, mental health, veterans, and Medicare is about 1.6 trillion. Thus it’s our priorities and not foreign aid that is the problem.

Much of our foreign aid is given as if free but is in fact given with political strings and so benefits us. So, in fact, our intent in giving aid is to get a benefit. But the benefit is more than getting political leverage; if the economy of other places becomes worse the entire world, the US too, suffers.

Where can we begin to solve the problems? Re-prioritize: a huge amount of our money is aid but not to foreign countries, rather to our corporations, especially our financial institutions.

In 2008-2009 $7.7 trillion was spent on rescuing the financial system. Should we have spent that much money? Difficult question because if the economy continued its tailspin life might have become very hard for all of us. Annual corporate welfare is estimated at $200 billion. Second, income disparity in the US—CEO's earn far more than in just about any country and far more than they could spend on goods and services (with the result that the super rich live in immense affluence and are still able to buy political influence which writes laws to make them richer).

All this is important because it points to where the problem lies and shows that even if we eliminated foreign aid it wouldn't solve the problems of the elderly, veterans and so on. It makes me think that the persons or groups who compiled the information in the post or spread it may want to suppress the real problem.

Again this is important because we are subject to so much misinformation. And nothing in the post is untrue—but it's misleading as to the real problems (misinformation in the media and politics is another problem).

Finally, pressing "1" to speak English is not universal even in California (most numbers I call ask you to press a number only to speak Spanish) where nearly half the residents speak Spanish and the idea of pressing a number to get someone who speaks your language is not endorsing that language but avoiding confusion. Yes, this is a lot of information. But good information is essential if we want to be aware of the problems and their causes.

If we want to know what's really happening and to really solve the problems we need painstaking analysis. Emotion is essential to change but it's wasted if it's not based on good and relevant information.