...between reality and what's reported by the news.

ISSN 2993­-8589
Copyright © 2023 by ALC Press, All rights reserved
Portland, Oregon, USA

This newsletter is for those whose main news source is cable television. News networks like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC tend to be highly biased and are greatly influenced by the two political parties and their wealthy donors. This newsletter will strive to present facts without partisan and media bias.

The name “The Gap” represents the gap between objective reality and the spin placed on stories reported by the press.

This is a copy of The Gap printed to paper. It's missing the links to the additional information you may need to fully appreciate the significance of the stories. It's best to view The Gap online here:

Debt Ceiling Insanity

A recent CNN poll suggests that most Americans are confused about the debt ceiling crises that erupt in Congress. The most recent crisis occurred in early 2023 but others occurred in 1995, 2011, 2013, and 2021. Each time these occur, the U.S. government is in danger of default and having its credit rating reduced. Yet, the crisis is entirely manufactured by a political party.

Although it's a poor idea to try to explain federal government debt by comparing it to your household finances, an imperfect analogy will still demonstrate the lunacy of these debt ceiling crises.

Suppose you and your spouse put all your purchases on your credit cards. This includes paying the water, electric, and cable TV bills. When the credit card bills arrive, you pay them before they're due to avoid the steep finance charges.

A few months ago, you argued with your spouse about adding the sports package (ESPN) to your cable TV. Your spouse reluctantly agreed but wasn't happy about it. This month, your spouse insists that the credit card bill will not be paid until you remove ESPN. You don't want to remove it, so the credit card bill goes unpaid, and the steep finance charges are applied to your next bill.

Your spouse's refusal to pay the bill didn't reduce your spending—it increased it. And so it is with the U.S. Congress debt ceiling crisis. It's a way for a party to try to force the government to cut spending for things Congress has already agreed upon. It's undemocratic. It harms the country. It increases the political divide.

U.S. Debt limit graph

The 2023 crisis resulted in the country's credit rating being downgraded from “AAA” to “AA+” by Fitch Ratings company. This will increase the government's interest rate for future loans and may add billions to the national debt. The reason Fitch gave for the downgrade was “repeated debt limit standoffs and last-minute resolutions.” Fitch did not downgrade the rating principally because of the size of the national debt, as was claimed by one political party.

Do other countries have a debt limit issue that their legislatures must deal with? No. All other countries have either no limit on their debt or a limit set very high so their spending seldom comes close to the limit.

The graph shown here illustrates the problem with the U.S. debt limit. The limit is set at or very close to actual spending. As spending increases by even small amounts (because the population of the country is increasing, for example), the limit is easily exceeded.

In his Politico article titled “The debt limit is a loser’s game”, Ben White has this suggestion for Congress: “Crumple up the debt limit, stuff it in the garbage and govern like grown ups.”

Invading Mexico

No matter how much our wars cost, no matter how many soldiers die, and no matter how many wars we don't win, this doesn't diminish the enthusiasm of the U.S. Congress in going to war—anywhere. This is likely due to the influence of the Military Industrial Complex that President Eisenhower unsuccessfully warned us about in the 1950s:

Candidates at the GOP debate on August 23, 2023, enraged over drugs like fentanyl entering the U.S. from Mexico, advocated for sending troops to Mexico to deal with the drug cartels. Getting Mexico's permission to conduct military operations on their soil and the cost of such a misadventure doesn't seem to be an important factor to them.

Using the military to solve the drug problem is the most expensive and least effective way to address the problem. A far less expensive and much more effective solution is to make drugs legal and treat drug addiction as a health issue. However, many politicians dislike solutions that are not punitive and don't drive a steady stream of inmates to U.S. prisons.

There are about 400 prisons in the U.S. that are run by for-profit corporations. Making drugs legal is not in their interest, and they make political contributions to both parties.

Also, prisoners in both public and private prisons are either forced or volunteer to work for companies that have contracts with the prisons. If the prison workers are paid anything, it is generally less than $1 per hour. This takes jobs away from ordinary workers who are paid more.

Numerous government officials favor legalizing drugs, especially marijuana. Former Washington DC police chief Cathy Lanier says, “All those [marijuana] arrests do is make people hate us. Marijuana smokers are not going to attack and kill a cop. They just want to get a bag of chips and relax. Alcohol is a much bigger problem.”

China's Freedom of the Seas


Both political parties agree that China is a threat to the United States but GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy takes it to a new level during his TV interviews. He said that if he were president, he would work with India to deny China access to the Malacca Strait and the Andoman Sea. This would block China's access to the Indian Ocean.

Here's what he said during an interview on CNN on August 23, 2023 with CNN host Kaitlan Collins.

This is simultaneously a grossly uninformed and dangerous statement for these reasons:

  1. The Malacca Strait is within the territorial waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore—not India.
  2. China is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and has a right to use the Malacca Strait and the Andaman Sea.
  3. The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet has been conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea in the vicinity of the Spratley Islands for a few years. It would be hypocritical to deny China the same Freedom of Navigation in the Malacca Strait and Andaman Sea.
  4. China would likely interpret such action as a declaration of war.
  5. It's doubtful the U.S. could convince any countries in the region, including India, to go along with such a dangerous plan.
  6. China has grown its military in recent years to an effective fighting force. They have nuclear weapons just as the U.S. does.

Politicians need to tone down their beligerent rhetoric, especially when they haven't a clue of what they're talking about.

Note: Near the bottom of the map, the Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java may be used to access the Indian Ocean from the South China Sea. However, the stratovolcano Krakatoa sits in the Sunda Strait, and is a navigation hazard when it erupts, as it did in February 2022 and throughout September 2023.

Fossil Fuel Waste

Fossil fuel waste is stored in Earth's atmosphere

This diagram is a reminder that any energy production that releases its waste products into the atmosphere is poisoning our vital air supply. The World Health Organization and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimate that between 6.7 and 7 million people worldwide prematurely die each year because of air pollution.

There were 67.1 million deaths worldwide in 2022. About 10 percent of them died prematurely of air pollution.

Exposure to air pollutants increases our risk of developing a range of diseases in three major categories:

  1. cardiovascular diseases
  2. respiratory diseases
  3. cancers

Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity is a major source of air pollution. Upcoming issues of The Gap will go into the relative merits of energy generation that doesn't rely on the burning of fossil fuels.

Attacking the Dictionary

The political parties have been at odds with dictionary definitions ever since the 1980s and possibly earlier. The best example is the word “entitlements.” The GOP and some Democrats want to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which they call Entitlement Programs. They imply that recipients of these programs are undeserving of these government handouts.

The reality is Social Security is paid out of a fund that comes from payroll deductions. You and your employer paid into it. It doesn't come from federal tax dollars or add to the deficit.* Similarly, Medicare is funded about 50 percent by payroll deductions.

Many people who know this argue, “Social Security and Medicare are not entitlements! We paid for them!”

They're wrong. We paid for them, so we're entitled to them. Don't allow the politicians to confuse us by redefining words in our dictionaries.

* Ronald Reagan said this in 1984: “Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Social Security is totally funded by the payroll tax levied on employer and employee. If you reduce the outgo of Social Security, that money would not go into the general fund to reduce the deficit. It would go into the Social Security Trust Fund. So, Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or erasing or lowering the deficit.”

Space spending

Earthrise from Apollo 17
Earthrise from Apollo 17

In 1970, Black poet, jazz musician, and novelist Gil Scott-Heron released a poem titled “Whitey on the Moon” that protested the spending of money on the space program when many Americans, especially minorities, were struggling to pay their bills. Here he recites his poem to an audience:

Americans today have mixed feelings about space exploration. Many were awed and thrilled over, for example, the James Webb Space Telescope, but some see little value in space exploration and want the money spent here on Earth. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) responds to this criticism with, “NASA spends its money on Earth, not in space. NASA employs about 17,000 people and supports the employment of tens of thousands more through contracts and grants made in every state of the union.”

There were about 151,797 people working in the space industry in 2021, and it grows at about 18 percent per year. These jobs pay salaries that are higher than average. SpaceX is a good example. The average SpaceX salary is $109,000 (including $11,000 average annual bonuses). This is significantly higher than the national average of all workers at $59,428.

NASA missions inspire students to persue STEM careers which benefits all industries. Multinational space missions inspire cooperation amongst countries that may be adversaries in other areas. So, space spending encourages peace.

NASA's portion of the federal budget is about 0.3% of the total. It's not space exploration that's raising the costs of drugs, gasoline, food, etc., causing homelessness, and contributing to our massive social inequality.

India's Moon Rover

Congratulations to India for its successful Chandrayaan-3 program, which landed a lunar rover on the moon on August 23, 2023. India is the fourth country to land a lunar rover on the moon. The U.S. and Russia did this in the 1960s and 1970s, with Russia's Luna 24 being its last successful landing in 1976. Russia attempted to land Luna 25 on the Moon on August 19, 2023, but it crashed.

China landed its Chang'e 3 rover on the moon in 2013.

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