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Personal Effect of Government Shutdown

In the news recently, there have been talks of possible government shutdowns at the State and National level if a budget is not passed by the deadline.

How would a government shutdown affect you? Would you even notice if the government shut down for a short time? Who would be most affected by government shutdown?

Anybody from California - You had some budget issues recently, could you share how it actually affected you?

Privately Funded Public Transportation

From the Detroit News,

Private investors have stepped forward with enough money to build a prototype for a futuristic elevated rail system that would race along freeway routes between Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit, according to experts who testified at a hearing on the proposal Monday.

This seems like a good idea, instead of demanding money from the government, they are actually coming up with money. I have often heard people saying things like "if high speed trains are such a good idea, then private industry would build one". Well, here they are, trying to build one. The only thing they are asking from the government is permission to build the track along the interstate corridor. If they build it and have a reasonable fare, I might use it every once in a while; I live in Lansing and my parents live near Detroit.

Now, my question is, what if the business fails? This may be economically viable, and it may not. If the business goes bad, what will happen with the miles of track along the highway? Will they come and ask for a government bailout if there are no riders? I would like the company to address this possibility, I certainly don't want to fund a loser and I would hate to see deteriorating tracks crossing the state.

In another developement, the Michigan State Department of Transportation is asking for Federal money to build a high speed rail from Detroit to Chicago. Of the two plans, I like the private venture better, just because it is privately funded. It will be interesting to see how the two projects turn out.

The Debt Problem

The United States national debt now stands at over $11,220,000,000,000 ($11.22 trillion). That is big. How big is it? Consider this: last year the federal government took in $2.66 trillion in revenue. If the US stopped spending money right now and only payed down the debt, it would take 4.2 years to pay off the debt. And that is assuming that the revenue will stay constant. Seeing how the economy has fallen off a cliff since last year, the federal revenues will most likely decrease this year. Pres. Obama is increasing spending, so the debt is set to skyrocket.

To make an analogy, imagine you buy a house with a mortgage. Let's say you make $40,000 (average American) a year, and you find a nice place for $170,000. This is quite reasonable, right? Now, the friendly guy at the bank sees that you are a busy guy with a family, so he fixes it up so you only have to pay the interest for a few years, that should make life easier, just pay it back when you can. This nice banker also signs you up for a home equity loan, just in case you need a little extra cash every once in a while. After moving in, you find your bills add up to just about what you bring home every month. Then your boss cuts your hours a bit. The kids want to take soccer lessons. And they want a new pool. And they want to go to the fancy private school. And your wife wants a new car and some pearl earrings. So you dip into that HEL and only pay the minimum due on your mortgage. You can do this for a while, but eventually the bank will want the money back. How soon will it be before you end up on the street?

I think the ruse will be up as soon as the lenders start asking for the principle back.

Hypothetical History Without the Civil War

Today I was thinking about the outcomes of the American Civil War. The War, and the Union victory, affirmed the fact that the individual states do not have the right to seceded. The war resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of American lives. I would like to go through the possibilities of history if the war had never come to fighting.

The North was generally more technologically advanced and industrialized, which allowed them to win the war. The South was rather stuck with an outdated agricultural system. The North would have had outpaced the South economically.

All around the world, the practice of slavery was slowly declining. The agricultural system of the south was highly dependent on manual labor, which economically encouraged the practice of slavery. With technological advancements, the dependence on slave labor would diminish and slavery would become less important. Eventually the South would give up on slavery.

So here is my question: would the USA and the CSA have recombined at a later point without going to war? How long would that have taken? Would we have seen any other secessions at later points in our history? Would blacks have made progress toward equal rights in the 1960s, sooner, or later? Most importantly, would we be more free today?