American Priorities

Number of people killed on Sept. 11, 2001: 2,974
Number of suicides in 2004: 32,439
Number of people killed on American highways in 2006: 38,588
Annual deaths from obesity: 300,000
Total deaths from cancer in 2007: 559,650
Total deaths from heart disease in 2004: 871,500
Total military spending in FY2008: $1228 billion
Funding for health research & improvement (NIH): $29 billion
Total support of Amtrak (safer, cleaner than highways): $1.6 billion
National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. spending in FY2008: $0.8 billion


13 thoughts on “American Priorities

  1. This is something I was telling everybody after 11.09 .

    I can tell you what’s wrong with this and why it does not punch through in the news. It’s “merely” statistics.

  2. Two things wrong with your picture:

    1. You’re missing the importance of volition.

    Suicides decide to kill themselves. Traffic accidents are caused by people choosing to drive too quickly, or intoxicated, or when conditions are poor, or with unsafe drivers; or when drivers of other vehicles inadvertently cause accidents. Deaths from health reasons come from a combination of innate, environmental and personal choice factors. Terrorism, on the other hand, is when other people choose to kill civilians.

    It’s the difference between me spending my money carelessly or absent-mindedly losing my wallet, and someone forcing me to hand over my wallet. More money might be wasted on former problems, but we still want cops to deal with the latter.

    2. Your figures are misleading. Looking at Wikipedia for the US Federal Budget 2007, we see that:

    a) Spending on medicare and medicaid: $671B

    b) Spending on transportation: $76.9B

    c) Spending on the military in Iraq and Afghanistan: $183B [0]

    d) Due to the federal structure of the US, most transportation and much of the health funding comes from State governments, who do not have large military expenditures. The EU spends 45% of its budget on agriculture, but government in Europe overall spends more money on health and education.

    [0] ($474B-$411B+$120B for FY2006). Even the War Resisters’ League website seems to give $2.4T as total government spending, not total military spending. While I’m no expert in US government spending, I think Wikipedia is probably a more reliable resource.

    1. I think that preventable deaths are a sad tragedy, whatever the cause. Is it any less sad that an innocent person was killed by a drunk driver than by a terrorist? Shouldn’t we be doing everything possible to try to prevent these deaths? More broadly, shouldn’t we be spending money to save life, rather than take it?

      Medicare and Medicaid are treatment, not prevention, programs. Certainly there would be more deaths if they weren’t in place.

      The transportation budget figure also is misleading, as a large part of it is part of the problem (funding for highways rather than safer modes of transport).

      I did correct the figure for the total military spending, thanks. It it still sadly disproportionate to the actual damage inflicted.

      1. As those figures show, even if not 100% accurate, is that Terrorism(tm), the ™ is because the US gov seems to define it in a way very different from Webster’s, is a 1984-ish concept that will only affect few people in the US (and most Western countries) whereas spending resources on preventable diseases will help more people than terrorism ever could kill. Plus, if you help people overseas, instead of killing them, they will have an interest in not killing you. Worrying about ‘Terrorism’ is like worring about being killed by a lightning strike and creating a ‘war on lightning’ with the concomitant fear campaigns. Its as likely that I’ll be killed by lightning and I should be as fearful as being killed by Al queda as that. So worry more about your driving and fast food!

  3. It does look like we are spending way to much money on amtrack. That figure should be reduced down to about $0. Unless you think I should take amtrack next time I go to Costco rather than take the highway.

    I don’t really fee like looking up the numbers to debate your obviously cherry picked worthless numbers, but much of the medical research in the US is state and private funded. Same with car safety.

    Total military funding really doesn’t have much to do with 9/11. Defense is one of the primary responsibilities of government.

    1. I would love to have the option of using light rail or some other transit system instead of taking the car. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything like that in this area.

      I certainly value the Amtrak option that is available.

      What are we defending ourselves against? It seems that we are defending ourselves against fear, and that’s about it. Why do we have to spend so much more on defense than anybody else?

      If we really valued each human life for what it is, we would be channeling far more public money into saving lives than putting it into a department whose job is to destroy them.

    2. As someone who has used Amtrack semi-regularly (for trips from rural PA to New York City), it is a Godsend.

      PA has decided that subsidising public transit in rural areas is also worthwhile and I know people who use the bus instead of owning a car despite not working in the city.

      It is unfortunate that people who haven’t experienced good public transportation think it isn’t worthwhile.

      1. Perhaps I should clarify my stance on amtrack. I personally care very little if amtrack disappears or becomes the most popular mode of transportation in the nation. But if it is such a wonderful, safe, efficient, mode of transportation, why does in need the government subsidy? I would simply prefer amtrack to stand on it’s own. I would add I have equally low (if not lower) appreciation for the government bailing out other modes of transportation (such as airlines).

        The three biggest numbers you have up there are highly dependent on personal choice. Some forms of cancer involve little to no choice, but many do, might be interesting to see the breakdown there. I see no reason to spend massive amounts of government money (my money) on (other peoples) personal choice.

        The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough many going to these things, the problem is we have way to much government involvement.

        Given the wide array of location and actions the US military is involved in associating total military spending to 9/11 deaths is nothing short of laughable.

        Could military spending be less? Maybe. I’m quite sure there is a fair amount of waste in there. But doing a comparison between total military spending and the spending of a couple select federal projects has no value whatsoever.

        1. I agree. Too much government involvment.

          The government shouldn’t have gotten involved in building roads. Go back and read newspapers from the early parts of the 20th century. “Can’t get to the next town except on foot or rail — the road is washed out!”

          Had the government follwed your advices, we would not have an over-abundance of cars — they never would have been feasible.

          Instead of bailing out the auto industry (by building roads) the government should have let the free market rule. Then we would have trains everywhere.

  4. Our culture and civilization are in decline. These numbers are an example. I am saddened to realize that I am alive to see the end days for western civilization. Although, this is an historical fact: cultures and civilizations rise and inevitably fall. (Strangely, I find comfort in that). Let us hope that the decline of ours is not the death knell for all the world.

    As long as greed and commerce take priority over what is best or what is right, we will continue to destroy our world, our country, and our nation’s soul. No government action by itself can solve these problems. A paradigm shift in the values of Americans is necessary to turn around what has become a culture full of corporate greed, personal indifference and ignorance, and misguided religious zeal.

    Democracy is a wonderful thing, but when the desires of the ignorant many, or the greedy powerful few win out over the best choices, then all hope is ultimately lost. Where faith in capitalism and the free market was once a fine thing, it is clear now that the only moral compass driving the forces of commerce in this country and of MNCs are personal greed and the myth of constant growth.

    There is no model in history that I know of that can solve these problems. The only examples history has to offer are those of failure. The poor and ignorant don’t know any better, and the rich and powerful are don’t care as long as they make more money. The educated left and right are useless pundits, and middle are just trying to pay mortgages that they should not have taken and raise kids that will not be equipped to solve the problems our parents and our generation have created.

    Man, don’t even get me started.

  5. What Elfboy said.

    It appears as though we are beyond the point of return. Ironically, it will require a powerful, charismatic conservative (probably Republican) leader with great wisdom and vision to pull off the necessary reforms…quite the combination…VERY unlikely.

  6. John Goerzen hat die amerikanischen Prioritäten in einem Artikel zusammengefasst.

    (ins Deutsche übersetzt):
    Tote beim 11. Sept. 2001: 2,974
    Verkehrstote auf Highways im Jahr 2006: 38,588
    Tote durch Fettleibigkeit: 300,000
    Krebstote im Jahr 2007:

  7. Eine Zusammenfassung der eigenartigen amerikanischen Prioritätensetzung lässt sich auf “American Priorities – The Changelog” finden.
    Der relevante Teil des Postings mal übersetzt:

    Anzahl der Opfer des 11.9.

    Anzahl der Selbstmo…

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