You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

October 28, 2010

Upside-Down Eric Cantor is in My Head

By: Aaron Datesman

I have been toying for some time with the idea of making friends with a programmer and designing a FaceBook application allowing users to design the federal budget. Every person who used the app would get $1000 (of cyber-money), which they could choose to deposit in categories like “Defense”, “Environment”, “Help to the Poor”, “Foreign Aid”, and so on. Maybe it would even work at a more granular scale: for instance, with categories for “Navy”, “National Parks”, “Aid to Families with Dependent Children”, and “Aid to Israel”.

The application would post a summary of your choices on your FaceBook Wall, along with an invitation to your friends to also try out the application. It would be viral in this way and, through that one annoying conservative uncle or friend you know you have, hopefully break across the partisan divide. This would allow data about budget priorities to be collected across a broad (albeit only computer-using) swath of America. After reaching a certain number of responses, I would then tabulate the aggregate results and publish them alongside a summary of the actual budget numbers.

Perhaps I would have called this application “YouChoose”, except that the House Minority Whip, Eric Cantor, has been living inside my head, looked at my test paper upside-down, and stole my idea. His program is called "YouCut".

Among the programs YOU can vote to cut this week are NPR, the whales (more or less), and the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. (I especially like the swipe at the National Science Foundation at the bottom of the page, since NSF is widely regarded as the best-run of all the federal agencies. Based on my interactions with colleagues at NSF, we should wish that any sector of corporate America were managed as effectively.)

But, OH! There is also a “Submit Your Idea” section. This is what I just submitted:

We are buffered by two gigantic oceans, enjoy safe borders and peaceful neighbors, and have a large stockpile of nuclear weapons. We face no conceivable threat to our safety as a nation. The Founders believed that standing armies are a threat to republican values. Cut the Department of Defense by $500,000 million per year.

I encourage you to copy this text, click on over, and maybe explode a head or two. It’ll only take a second.

— Aaron Datesman

Posted at October 28, 2010 07:53 PM

Outstanding idea!!!

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 28, 2010 08:27 PM

(Dr Evil-pinkie-in-the-corner-of-the-mouth) $500 Million dollars per year?

Did you choose that number to punk their innumeracy too? At that rate it'd take several hundred years to bring defense spending down.

Posted by: Willy at October 28, 2010 11:08 PM

Willy's right. 500 mil are a pauper's scrapes to the Pentagon Pig. Btw, how much "off budget" spending are we allowed in the budget game?

Posted by: Paul Avery at October 29, 2010 12:52 AM

"$500,000 million per year" is $500 billion per year, stet.

This would allow data about budget priorities to be collected across a broad (albeit only Facebook-using) swath of America.

Fixed. This computer user regards facebook as Of the Evil.

Posted by: Cloud at October 29, 2010 01:06 AM

Wow - I have had the same idea for years. Seriously. What originally made me think of it were those checkoff items on the U.S. 1040 tax form that let you contribute to certain funds, without increasing your taxes. It occurred to me that I wanted that for everything -- so I could be sure to fund schools and the National Labor Relations Board and defund the military, for example. I think it should be part of every tax form. But sure, Feisbuk -- why not?

Posted by: settysoutham at October 29, 2010 02:39 AM

I was happy to comply with your request, Aaron, I copied, linked, and pasted your suggestion into the "You Cut" website immediately. Great idea! It's good to have you back.

Posted by: Grandpa Ken at October 29, 2010 05:44 AM

Excellent idea -- here's my contribution, just submitted:

"We could eliminate Congress so that all of the political donations that are currently spent on influencing politicians, who are suddenly passionate about "spending" and the deficit, could go directly to the bottom line. All of the taxpayer dollars currently spent on Congressional salaries and other assorted goodies -- likewise. There, that was easy!"

Posted by: Bette Noir at October 29, 2010 06:05 AM

I was happy to comply with your request, Aaron, I copied, linked, and pasted your suggestion into the "You Cut" website immediately.

Me too.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at October 29, 2010 09:24 AM

Be careful, it might be seen as an act of sedition. Our owners might not wish to experience Direct Democracy.

Posted by: Ronbo at October 29, 2010 10:58 AM

Its in the BUDGETS is where WE get robbed. Not enough TAXES too much borrowed money. WE PAY 10 prices for what WE DON'T WANT even though WE are promised what WE do want and are willing to pay for.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 29, 2010 12:06 PM

I just asked him to cut the Pentagon budget, to eliminate the nuclear missiles (since the USSR folded 20 years ago) and to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. I also asked him to close all overseas bases (except maybe Korea), which should save lots of money.

I'll be he never sees it.

Posted by: David at October 29, 2010 04:36 PM

David: At least YOU said SOMETHING. If they don't listen its not YOUR fault. To be TRUTHFUL, most likely they won't, but THAT IS NOT A REASON TO REMAIN QUIET.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 29, 2010 09:14 PM


That's funny I went there and posted almost the exact thing last night, oversea bases and all.

I also said we should disband the CIA, as they are the reason we are in these "conflicts" all the time.

Go figure.

Posted by: mark c at October 30, 2010 12:02 AM

I say VISIT EVERY DAY and let them know what you think!

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at October 30, 2010 12:32 AM

I'm glad you wrote about this. I went and posted a suggestion:

"I want to cut tax cuts for individuals earning over 160,000 per year, and return the 36% and 39.6% rates to the tax code, plus add a 42.5% rate for individuals earning over 600,000 per year. Thank you for the opportunity to share my views. "

OK it's somewhat wonkish, but I hope they appreciate my eagerness to participate. I was going to also say we should increase the highest margin gradually every year until it's back up to the 75% that it was under Eisenhower(my favorite 20 c. republican), but hey, baby steps.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at October 30, 2010 09:54 AM

Pasted yours and also submitted "do something to reduce incarceration."

Posted by: tiny at October 30, 2010 12:54 PM

Aaron - I'm on board. I'll write your code for you, if you're serious. I was thinking about the same thing yesterday, on a city or state govt level. I was going to juxtapose it with the real budget outlays (i.e., you say spend $50 of $1000 on the military, actually we spend $500 of $1000 on the military). Lots of opportunity for cool graphics.

Posted by: saurabh at October 30, 2010 02:06 PM

@saurabh - I am serious. I think it could be eye-opening for many millions of people. However, I'm not a coder, and I'm very busy. Drop me a line and we can discuss. Maybe we could pull a few more people on to the project to help get it done.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at October 30, 2010 04:11 PM

Aaron, Saurabh: I'm definitely on board with that plan. I'll e-mail Aaron to offer my help in any way.

Posted by: GT Dread at November 1, 2010 09:20 AM

Good day!This was a really impressive post!
I come from milan, I was luck to search your topic in google
Also I learn much in your Topics really thanks very much i will come every day

Posted by: bet365 at November 1, 2010 06:45 PM

You mean, like this game?

Posted by: karpet at November 3, 2010 11:54 PM