Government Spends More on Corporate Welfare Subsidies than Social Welfare Programs

Corporate Welfare Piggy Bank
Time Magazine, Vol. 152 No. 19
About $59 billion is spent on traditional social welfare programs. $92 billion is spent on corporate subsidies. So, the government spent 50% more on corporate welfare than it did on food stamps and housing assistance in 2006.

Before we look at the details, a heartfelt plea from the Save the CEO’s Charitable Trust:

There’s so much suffering in the world. It can all get pretty overwhelming sometimes. Consider, for a moment the sorrow in the eyes of a CEO who’s just found out that his end-of-year bonus is only going to be a paltry $2.3 million.

“It felt like a slap in the face. Imagine what it would feel like just before Christmas to find out that you’re going to be forced to scrape by on your standard $8.4 million compensation package alone. Imagine what is was like to have to look into my daughter’s face and tell her that I couldn’t afford to both buy her a dollar sign shaped island and hire someone to chew her food from now on, too. To put her in that situation of having to choose… She’s only a child for God’s sake.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. Thanks to federal subsidies from taxpayers like you, CEO’s like G. Allen Andreas of Archer Daniels Midland was able to take home almost $14 million in executive compensation last year. But he’s one of the lucky ones. There are still corporations out there that actually have to provide goods and services to their consumers in order to survive. They need your help.

For just $93 billion a year the federal government is able to provide a better life for these CEO’s and their families. That’s less than the cost of 240 million cups of coffee a day. Won’t you help a needy corporation today?

The Traditional Welfare Queen

Definition: social welfare

n. Financial aid, such as a subsidy, provided by a government to specific individuals.

When one thinks about government welfare, the first thing that comes to mind is the proverbial welfare queen sitting atop her majestic throne of government cheese issuing a royal decree to her clamoring throngs of illegitimate babies that they may shut the hell up while she tries to watch Judge Judy. However, many politically well-connected corporations are also parasitically draining their share of fiscal blood from your paycheck before you ever see it. It’s called corporate welfare. The intent here is to figure out which presents the greater burden to our federal budget, corporate or social welfare programs.

There are, of course, positive and negative aspects to this spending.The primary negative aspect is that you have to increase taxes to pay for it. Taxing individuals lowers their standard of living.  It reduces people’s ability to afford necessities like medical care, education, and low mileage off-road vehicles.The common usage definition of social welfare includes welfare checks and food stamps. Welfare checks are supplied through a federal program called Temporary Aid for Needy Families. Combined federal and state TANF spending was about $26 billion in 2006. In 2009, the federal government will spend about $25 billion on rental aid for low-income households and about $8 billion on public housing projects. For some perspective, that’s about 3 percent of the total federal budget.

Note: I do not consider Medicaid to be included in the term “welfare” as it is used in common parlance.  Typically, if one states that someone is “on welfare”, they mean that the person is receiving direct financial aid from the government.  If we included Medicaid in our definition of social welfare, we would also have to consider any service that the government pays for to be “welfare”.  For instance, public roadways to individuals’ homes would also be considered “welfare” under that expansive definition.

TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families)

Another negative aspect relates to the fact that social welfare programs reduce the incentive for recipients to become productive members of society. However, in 1996, Congress passed a bill enacting limited welfare reform, replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with the new Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program. Now, with the recent changes in healthcare including Obamacare tax implications, some states are enacting strict criteria that a family must meet to be eligible for TANF. One key aspect of this reform required recipients to engage in job searches, on the job training, community service work, or other constructive behaviors as a condition for receiving aid. The bill was signed by a man named Bill Clinton, who is much better known for an act of fellatio which, of course, had far greater societal implications. Regardless, the success of this reform was pretty dramatic. Caseloads were cut nearly in half. Once individuals were required to work or undertake constructive activities as a condition of receiving aid they left welfare rapidly. Another surprising result was a drop in the child poverty rate. Employment of single mothers increased substantially and the child poverty rate fell sharply from 20.8 percent in 1995 to 16.3 percent in 2000.

Graph of US Child Poverty Rates by Living Arrangements (1975-2009)

Graph Source:

The Corporate Welfare Queen

Now, let’s consider the other kind of welfare.

Definition: corporate welfare

n. Financial aid, such as a subsidy, provided by a government to corporations or other businesses.

The Cato Institute estimated that, in 2002, $93 billion were devoted to corporate welfare. This is about 5 percent of the federal budget.

What is NOT considered corporate welfare?
  1. Government Contracts – To clarify what is and isn’t corporate welfare, a “no-bid” Iraq contract for the prestigious Halliburton, would not be considered corporate welfare because the government technically directly receives some good or service in exchange for this expenditure. Based on the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) findings of $1.4 billion of overcharging and fraud, I suppose the primary service they provide could be considered to be repeatedly violating the American taxpayer.
  2. Tax Breaks – Tax breaks targeted to benefit specific corporations could also be considered a form of welfare. Tax loopholes force other businesses and individual taxpayers without the same political clout to pick up the slack and sacrifice a greater share of their hard-earned money to decrease the financial burden on these corporations. However, to simplify matters, we’ve only included financial handouts to companies in our working definition of corporate welfare.
What IS considered corporate welfare?
  • Subsidies – On the other hand, the $15 billion in subsidies contained in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, to the oil, gas, and coal industries, would be considered corporate welfare because no goods or services are directly returned to the government in exchange for these expenditures.
US Energy Subsidies Infographic by GOOD Magazine & Deeplocal


Whenever corporate welfare is presented to voters, it always sounds like a pretty reasonable, well-intended idea. Politicians say that they’re stimulating the economy or helping struggling industries or creating jobs or funding important research. But when you steal money from the paychecks of working people, you hurt the economy by reducing their ability to buy the things they want or need. This decrease in demand damages other industries and puts people out of work.

Most of the pigs at the government trough are among the biggest companies in America, including:

Farm Subsidies

However, the largest fraction of corporate welfare spending, about 40%, went through the Department of Agriculture, most of it in the form of farm subsidies. (Edwards, Corporate Welfare, 2003) Well, that sounds OK. Someone’s got to help struggling family farms stay afloat, right? But in reality, farm subsidies actually tilt the cotton field in favor of the largest industrial farming operations. When it comes to deciding how to dole out the money, the agricultural subsidy system utilizes a process that is essentially the opposite of that used in the social welfare system’s welfare system. In the corporate welfare system, the more money and assets you have, the more government assistance you get. Conversely, social welfare programs are set up so that the more money and assets you have, the less government assistance you get. The result is that the absolute largest 7% of corporate farming operations receive 45% of all subsidies. (Edwards, Downsizing the Federal Government, 2004) So instead of protecting family farms, these subsidies actually enhance the ability of large industrial operations to shut them out of the market.

Graph of Direct Government Payments to Farmers (1990-2004)

Graph Source:

Wal-Mart.  Always high subsidies.  Always.

The same is true in all other industries, too. The government gives tons of favors to the largest corporations, increasing the significant advantage they already have over smaller competing businesses. If, in the court of public opinion, Wal-Mart has been tried and convicted for the murder of main street, mom-and-pop America, then the government could easily be found guilty as a willing accomplice. Wal-Mart receives hundreds of millions of dollars of subsidization by local governments throughout the country. These subsidies take the form of bribes by local politicians trying to convince Wal-Mart to come to their town with the dream of significant job creation. Of course, from that follows a larger tax base. For example, a distribution center in Macclenny, Florida received $9 million in government subsidies in the form of free land, government-funded recruitment and training of employees, targeted tax breaks, and housing subsidies for employees allowing them to be paid significantly lower wages. A study by Good Jobs First found that 244 Wal-Marts around the country had received over $1 billion in government favors.

The Big Picture

So now let’s look at the big picture. The final totals are $59 billion, 3 percent of the total federal budget, for regular welfare and $92 billion, 5 percent of the total federal budget, for corporations. So, the government spends roughly 50% more on corporate welfare than it does on these particular public assistance programs.

Should we spend less on corporate welfare and/or social welfare programs? Or should we spend even more? It’s up to you. A bunch of people died horrible deaths to make sure this country remained a democracy, so if you feel strongly about this issue you owe it to them to call or write your congressman and senators and give them a piece of your mind.

Some More Sources:

2013 Budget:

Source: Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government (Washington: Government Publishing Office), various years; and data from the American Association for the Advancement of Science R&D Budget and Policy Program, various years.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service,

Source:  Export-Import Bank, 2006 Annual Report (Washington: Export-Import Bank, 2007).

Source Data from Chris Edwards at Cato:

Corporate Welfare by Agency

Corporate Welfare by Agency 2

Corporate Welfare by Company

I am extremely appreciative of any corrections or additional info that I left out.  Please include hyperlinked SOURCES.  I want to update this post with more recent numbers and more expansive definitions of both corporate and social welfare.

I don’t really have time to update this article currently. I’m devoting all of my time to create a system called QuantiModo to crowdsource clinical research on rare diseases. 

Please update the wiki version of this page to correct any unfortunate mistakes or omissions found in this post.  Additionally, please add any figures you find to this collaborative spreadsheet for tallying.  Feel free to modify the spreadsheet structure (add sheets, columns, etc) in any way. Thank you for your help!


By Mike P. Sinn

Get Society Rich Quick: The Ideal Level of Government Spending

It is commonly claimed that government spending is good for the economy, but the statistics show the opposite.  Most recent studies find a negative correlation between total government size and economic growth. Why is economic growth important?  Because wealthier societies are generally happier societies.

No matter how good things get for us, we always want more. Human beings want better:

  • food
  • housing
  • entertainment
  • transportation
  • health services

A certain level of government spending is necessary to maintain an economy that can provide and improve these things. A well-functioning economy requires government to:

  • enforce contracts
  • protect a country from foreign invaders
  • keep people from stealing from each other
  • keep people from hurting each other
Government expenditure on these functions increases a country’s productivity.

Graph of GDP Growth Rate vs Size of Government

Graph Source:

However, when government spending exceeds these mandates, it takes the country’s human and material resource allocation decision-making power away from society’s massive collective of individual intelligences. This is a bad idea because individuals are just better at deciding how allocating resources to satisfy their own desires since:

  • They cumulatively have access to infinitely more detailed and specific information than any small group of politicians and bureaucrats do.
  • Satisfying as many desires as possible (by maximizing productivity) is their sole incentive.

Politicians, on the other hand, do not allocate resources as productively (satisfy fewer human desires) because they:

  • Only have access to general demographic data
  • Are primarily incentivized to obtain campaign contributions to get re-elected

The ability to obtain campaign contributions is primarily dependent on the candidate’s ability to divert the nation’s resources to corporations and special interest groups. Hence, resources are not specifically allocated to maximize their productivity, but are allocated in the pursuit of political goals.

This graph presents data on the relationship between size of government and economic growth for the twenty·three long-standing members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Graph of Total Government Expenditure as a Percent of GDP vs Growth Rate

Graph Source:

The data show that a 10 percent increase in government expenditures as a share of GDP reduces the annual rate of growth by about 1 percent. The data also imply that the size of government in these countries is beyond the range that maximizes economic growth.

The graph contains four dots (observations) for each of the twenty-three countries (one for each of the four decades during the period 1960-1999). Each dot represents a country’s total government spending as a share of GDP at the beginning of the decade and its accompanying growth of real GDP during that decade. As the plotted line in the exhibit shows, there is a clearly observable negative relationship between size of governments and long-term real GDP growth. Countries with higher levels of government spending grew less rapidly. The line drawn through the points indicates that a 10-percentage-point increase in government expenditures as a share of GDP leads to approximately a 1-percentage-point reduction in economic growth.

Graph of GDP Growth In Big and Small Government Countries

The reason GDP matters is that it is directly correlated to a reduction in human suffering. Economic growth is the primary differentiating factor between a life lived in the US and a life lived in North Korea. Economic growth is the primary differentiating factor between a life lived in the 11th century and the 21st century. Economic growth has cured countless diseases which would have otherwise imbued countless lives with unimaginable suffering. Economic growth has prevented billions from dying of starvation. If governments will get out of its way, economic growth will eventually eliminate human suffering from the planet. Also, according to the most recent income/happiness study, the lower a person’s annual income falls below $75,000 a year, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness. The strong correlation between happiness and GDP is illustrated below.

Graph Showing Wealthier Countries Exhibit Greater Life Satisfaction

Graph Source:

Here is a graph from Politics & Prosperity. Look at the historical relationship between government spending and GDP growth:

Historical Graph of US Government Spending and Economic Growth

  (Source notes for this graph and those that follow are at the bottom of this post.)

Historical Graph of Government Spending as a Percent of GDP vs Economic Growth

  Source notes: Estimates of real and nominal GDP, back to 1790, come from the feature “What Was the U.S GDP Then?” at Estimates of government spending (federal, State, and local) come from USgovernmentspending.comStatistical Abstracts of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970Part 2. Series Y 533-566. Federal, State, and Local Government Expenditures, by Function; and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Table 3.1. Government Current Receipts and Expenditures, and Table 3.12. Government Social Benefits. Amount spent by governments (federal, State, and local) on national defense and public order and safety by consulting BEA Table 3.17. Selected Government Current and Capital Expenditures by Function.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Governments Spend $1.8 Trillion Murdering Us and Destroying Our Property Annually

Dear Decent American Citizen,

If you’ve read any of my articles on, you know that there are a lot of things going on in this world that don’t make any sense.  For a long time, I kind of thought that I must be crazy and everyone was just too polite to tell me. I was certain that there was something I was missing that could explain why we allocate society’s limited resources in such an idiotic fashion.

For instance, President Obama just announced that he wants to spend $100 million a year studying the brain. This is a wonderful thing.  The brain is the sole source of all joy and suffering in the universe.  However, while President Obama is busy patting himself on the back about this, world governments are spending $1.8 TRILLION each year finding ways to murder us and destroy our property.  I put these numbers in an excel spreadsheet.  I had to make the column representing military spending 17,000 pixels high in order to make the brain research spending even visible (1 pixel high).  It’s fucking ridiculous.

Money Spent on War Sports Neuroscience Cancer Research Graph

A little less than a year ago, I came up with an easy 3 step plan to abolish unnecessary by optimally allocating societal resources using a form of crowd-sourced direct democracy which you can read about at

These are the steps:

1. Learn – Learn as much as you can about all relevant public policy issues. This requires that individuals ignore partisan warfare and focus on hard data. This step will be facilitated by the crowd-sourced and gamified public policy data repository known as the Think by Numbers Project. Anyone may contribute their own articles. Since there will be lots of spam and garbage submitted, posts will be ordered using a democratic voting system. This will give the best content the most focus. It will encourage friendly competition among authors incentivizing them to produce their best work. Creation a sister wiki-version of each post that may be edited by any member of the site. The wiki-versions will be much more thorough, detailed, accurate, and objective that the original posts. However, it’s likely that they will be bland and less entertaining than the original posts. That’s why we will allow the original author to maintain full editorial control over their version.

2. Decide – Decide which problems cause the most suffering and which solutions are most cost effective. This was not previously something that could be quantified due to their inherent complexity. However, there is a new tool call crowd-sourcing which could be used to facilitate this. Two examples of effective crowd-sourcing were guessing the weight of an ox and finding a missing submarine.

Cost-effectiveness calculations will be accomplished using an online database where users can see a list of all the major problems in the world. A problem is just an issue or situation that causes suffering. The user can then submit their estimations of the magnitude of the suffering (either using a dollar figure or a unit of pleasure called a util or hedon) caused by each major world problem. All submissions are then averaged and problems are ranked according to the degree of suffering caused by each.

Users can also submit ideas for possible solutions. Then everyone can submit their estimates on how much each solution will cost and how much suffering it will reduce. Then the amount of suffering eliminated divided by the cost of the solution will give you a value representative of the cost-effectiveness of that solution. This step is known as the Crowdsourcing Utopia Project.

3. Act – In the final step, a charitable foundation will acquire and direct resources towards realizing the most cost effective solutions. This might be called the Charitable Foundation for the Abolition of Suffering. It is hoped that this will take over many functions that government is currently supposed to be fulfilling, but is not due to incompetence and/or corruption.

To my surprise, no one seemed to give a damn about it. Initially, I was completely baffled by this. “What could possibly be more important than fixing our corrupt political system?” I asked myself. I mean, we spend $25.4 billion dollars a year enabling a large number of grown men to do various things with various types of spheres for no reason. As a society, shouldn’t we be spending even a tiny fraction of our unimaginable wealth to create a system that would optimally allocate resources in a manner that would minimize suffering throughout the world?  I was so confused.

However, since then, I have had an epiphany which can explain how a world that contains so much unnecessary suffering will allow its governments to squander our bountiful resources on idiotic pursuits such as the war in Iraq and the War on Drugs.  The reason the world is so screwed up is because open-minded, thoughtful, self-critical people who can see the world as it really is are often completely dejected and demoralized by the reality they see. Furthermore, these people who possess an acute awareness of the importance of reducing suffering are often crippled by the scourges of the mind known as depression and anxiety.  This leaves the levers of world power to the type A, alpha-male (often psychopathic) personalities that are supremely assertive and confident in their beliefs. Their myopic worldview has no conception of the severity of suffering that is going on all over the world. This is because they are generally psychologically very healthy and have never experienced true suffering themselves.  The result is that they posses a complete lack of empathy. However, they simply know what they want and are willing to do whatever they have to do to get it.

People often assume a causal relationship between power and corruption. However, there is only a correlation.  This correlations exists because the corrupt, psychopathic, type A personalities simply have a distinct advantage when it comes to acquiring power. They are not bound by rules of morality.  They are not typically confined to the state of analysis paralysis that most introspective individuals find themselves in.

The reason the open-minded, self-critical, introspective people throughout the world remain in their psychological cages is because the field of modern psychiatry is not taking an aggressive, data-centric approach to curing their illness and maximizing their happiness. As a result, the world is filled with the walking dead geniuses that are paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. Since I cured my lifelong depression, I feel like a zombie who just woke up but is still surrounded by a bunch of other zombies that are just stumbling around aimlessly.  I desperately want to wake all of them up so they can be happy and help me to eradicate suffering from the world.  That’s what I am trying to do with Quantimodo.

We find ourselves at an inflection point in history. If crowdsourcing positive psychology research can help to wipe out depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, then these thoughtful, self-critical, and open-minded individuals will gain the confidence and assertiveness that is required to obtain positions of power.  Once we reclaim control from these psychopaths, I believe we’re going to see exponential declines in net world suffering as we begin implementing rational resource allocation policies.


World Press (and Pothi) Freedom Index

Press freedom speech propaganda posterAll censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.” ― George Bernard Shaw

I generally focus on taking the log out of my own country’s eye before complaining about the specks in the eyes of our neighbors.  Our Founding Fathers were at least kind enough to remove the log from our collective mouth by giving us the 1st Amendment.  Unfortunately, a very personal tragedy has made it brutally clear that the people many other countries do not share that freedom.

Pothi Kalimuthu, the systems administrator for Think by Numbers, has made a lot of sacrifices in his effort to realize a vision of a world without suffering. Pothi was helping to create a platform to integrate all the data from the world’s life-tracking applications and devices to identify hidden root causes and discover new treatments for chronic illnesses inflicting immeasurable pain.

On July 24th, 2014, Pothi disappeared. After being missing for almost two weeks, I discovered that he has been arrested by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) of Chennai, India. The charge? Hosting Savukku, a non-profit, journalistic website. Savukku was known for whistle-blowing articles on bribery and political corruption.

Please sign our petition and share this message with anyone who appreciates our duty to use our gift of freedom of speech to speak for those who cannot.  If you have a few minutes, please call or email the Madras High Court and tell them to free Pothi Kalimuthu, so that he may continue this important work to help the millions who continue to endure lives characterized by the quiet desperation that is chronic illness. He is our friend, and whether you know it yet or not, he is your friend, too. Thank you for anything you’re willing to do to help him in this difficult and unjust situation.

Please, contact:
Thiru. P. Kalaiyarasan
Registrar General
Madras High Court
Tel : 91 – 044 -25301349


Indian Embassy
2107 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 939-7000
Fax: (202) 265-4351

Here’s a template you could use:

I am writing to express my concern for Pothi Kalimuthu.

Pothi has made a lot of sacrifices in his effort to realize a vision of a world without suffering. He was helping to create a platform to integrate all the data from the world’s life-tracking applications and devices to identify hidden root causes and discover new treatments for chronic illnesses inflicting immeasurable pain.

On July 24th, 2014, Pothi was arrested by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) of Chennai.

Please do whatever you can to free Pothi Kalimuthu, so that he may continue this important work to help the millions who continue to endure lives characterized by the quiet desperation that is chronic illness. He is our friend, and whether you know it yet or not, he is your friend, too. Thank you for anything you’re willing to do to help him in this difficult situation.

Respectfully yours,

Additionally, if you’re aware of any organization that you think might be able to help, please share them in the comments.

Reporters without Borders recognizes that freedom of information is the foundation of any democracy. They are working like hell to provide that foundation to the half of the world’s population that is still denied it.  Here is the data from their 2014 World Press Freedom Index. I encourage everyone to check out their site and get involved.

The 2014 World Press Freedom Index spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists. The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent. Despite occasional turbulence in the past year, these countries continue to be news and information black holes and living hells for the journalists who inhabit them. This year’s index covers 180 countries, one more than last year. The new entry, Belize, has been assigned an enviable position (29th). Cases of violence against journalists are rare in Belize but there were some problems: defamation suits involving demands for large amounts in damages, national security restrictions on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and sometimes unfair management of broadcast frequencies.

Read more at Reporters without Borders

press freedom index

Download the CSV Spreadsheet

New Zealand98.55
Czech Republic1310.07
Costa Rica2112.23
Cape Verde2414.32
United Kingdom3319.93
Antigua and Barbuda3620.81
El Salvador3821.57
South Africa4223.19
Trinidad and Tobago4323.28
Papua New Guinea4423.46
United States4623.49
Burkina Faso5224.45
Republic of Moldova5625.35
Republic of Korea5725.66
Hong Kong6126.55
Bosnia and Herzegovina6626.86
Dominican Republic6827.17
United Republic Of Tanzania6927.3
Sierra Leone7228.23
Republic of the Congo8229.44
Cyprus North8329.54
Côte d'Ivoire10131.63
Central African10933.13
Brunei Darussalam11735.45
United Arab Emirates11836.03
South Sudan11936.05
Russian Federation14842.78
The Democratic Republic Of The Congo15144.64
Saudi Arabia16458.3
Sri Lanka16559.13
Equatorial Guinea16867.95
Lao People's Democratic Republic17171.22
Islamic Republic of Iran17372.29
Syrian Arab Republic17777.04
Democratic People's Republic of Korea17981.96


What Really Causes Terrorism? It’s Not Your Freedom.

FACT 1: 95% of suicide terrorist attacks are targeted at occupying foreign militaries.

FACT 2: 0% of suicide terrorist attacks have been directed at countries not militarily involved in geopolitical disputes.

Robert Pape at the University of Chicago, with funding from the Department of Defense, has created the first comprehensive database of every suicide terrorist attack in the world from 1980 until today.  The data reveal important truths that must be realized before there can be any hope of minimizing this threat.

Every suicide terrorist campaign has had a clear goal that is secular and political: to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.

From the The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism by Robert Pape:

As Table 1 indicates, there have been 188 separate suicide terrorist attacks between 1980 and 2001. Of these, 179, or 95%, were parts of organized, coherent campaigns, while only nine were isolated or random events. Seven separate disputes have led to suicide terrorist campaigns: the presence of American and French forces in Lebanon, Israeli occupation of West Bank and Gaza, the independence of the Tamil regions of Sri Lanka, the independence of the Kurdish region of Turkey, Russian occupation of Chechnya, Indian occupation of Kashmir, and the presence of American forces on the Saudi Arabian Peninsula. Overall, however, there have been 16 distinct campaigns, because in certain disputes the terrorists elected to suspend operations one or more times either in response to concessions or for other reasons.

Table of Statistics on Suicide Terrorist Campaigns (1980-2001)

Every suicide campaign from 1980 to 2001 has had as a major objective—or as its central objective—coercing a foreign government that has military forces in what they see as their homeland to take those forces out. Table 2 summarizes the disputes that have engendered suicide terrorist campaigns. Since 1980, there has not been a suicide terrorist campaign directed mainly against domestic opponents or against foreign opponents who did not have military forces in the terrorists homeland. Although attacks against civilians are often the most salient to Western observers, actually every suicide terrorist campaign in the past two decades has included attacks directly against the foreign military forces in the country, and most have been waged by guerrilla organizations that also use more conventional methods of attack against those forces.

Statistics on Motivation and Targets of Suicide Terrorist Campaigns (1980-2001)

Even Al Qaeda fits this pattern. Although Saudi Arabia is not under American military occupation per se and the terrorists have

political objectives against the Saudi regime and others, one major objective of Al Qaeda is the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Saudi Peninsula and there have been a tacks by terrorists loyal to Osama Bin Laden against American troops in Saudi Arabia. To be sure, there is a major debate among Islamists over the morality of suicide attacks, but within Saudi Arabia there is little debate over Al Qaeda’s objection to American forces in the region and over 95% of Saudi society reportedly agrees with Bin Laden on this matter (Sciolino 2002).

The popularity of suicide terrorism is growing as a result of ground operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 89 percent of all suicide terrorism around the world since the Iraq war is the direct result of troops on the ground.

Below is a graph I made using Global US Troop Deployment Data and data from the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism.  The rise in US troop deployments in the middle east temporally precedes the rise in suicide terrorist attacks. This fact suggests[1. Conditions Necessary to Infer Causation (Kenny, 1979):
Time precedence: For 1 to cause 2, 1 must precede 2. The cause must precede the effect. The time precedence condition is satisfied since the troop increase occurs prior to the increase in attacks.

Relationship: The variables must correlate. To determine the relationship of two variables, it must be determined if the relationship could occur due to chance. Lay observers are often not good judges of the presence of relationships, thus, statistical methods are used to measure and test the existence and strength of relationships. The relationship condition is obviously satisfied because the magnitude of the upward trend completely dwarfs any random variation exhibited prior to the US invasion.

Nonspuriousness (spuriousness- not genuine): “The third and final condition for a causal relationship is nonspuriousness (Suppes, 1970). For a relationship between X and Y to be nonspurious, there must not be a Z that causes both X and Y such that the relationship between X and Y vanishes once Z is controlled” (Kenny, 1979. pp. 4-5). that violently invading and occupying a country will increase animosity among the population that is being invaded. This animosity tends to manifest itself in the form of terrorist attacks perpetrated against the violent invader. The nonspuriousness condition can be assumed to be satisfied unless some other causal factor that better fulfills the relationship and time precedence conditions is identified.] that violently invading and occupying a country will increase animosity among the population that is being invaded. This animosity tends to manifest itself in the form of terrorist attacks perpetrated against the violent invader. 


Graph of Middle East Troop Levels vs Suicide Terrorist Attacks (1993-2005)

The desired end as defined by the Bush administration would be the elimination of terrorism. They attempted to achieve this using the means of military invasion and occupation. The above graph suggests that the means used did not achieve the desired end. In fact, the means produce the opposite of the desired ends.

The Public Believes that the Government Has Effectively Reduced Terrorist Capabilities But It Doesn’t Believe that Terrorist Capabilities Have Been Reduced

According to Pew polling, a majority of the public (61%) believes that the ability of terrorists to launch a major attack is about the same (44%) or greater than (17%) it was at the time of the 9/11 attacks. So the public doesn’t think the hundreds of billions spent on the War on Terror are producing any reduction in capabilities.  Yet, somehow the  the majority of the public (71%) continues to say the government has done very (22%) or fairly well (49%) in reducing the threat of terrorism.  It’s hard to understand how one can think the government is doing a good job at reducing the threat of terrorism when one believes that it hasn’t been reduced.

Table Showing Views of Terrorists' Capabilities Unchanged (2002-2009)

How to Reduce the Terrorist Threat

The data clearly indicate that increasing the degree of US military occupation in majority-Islamic countries, will only serve to increase the threat of terrorism.  I’d never accuse the American public of being quick, but they do seem to learn over time.  Half of Americans (50%) now believe that decreasing the U.S. military presence overseas would be the more effective policy, while just 31% say an increased presence would be more effective.

Views on Whether US Should Cutback on Troops to Reduce Threat of Terrorism (2002-2009)

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!



GDP and You!

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the value of all final goods and services produced within a country.

The reason GDP matters is that it is directly correlated to a reduction in human suffering. Economic growth is the primary differentiating factor between a life lived in the US and a life lived in North Korea. Economic growth is the primary differentiating factor between a life lived in the 11th century and the 21st century. Economic growth has cured countless diseases which would have otherwise imbued countless lives with unimaginable suffering. Economic growth has prevented billions from dying of starvation. If governments will get out of its way, economic growth will eventually eliminate human suffering from the planet. Also, according to the most recent income/happiness study, the lower a person’s annual income falls below $75,000 a year, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness. The strong correlation between happiness and GDP is illustrated below.

Graph Showing Wealthier Countries Exhibit Greater Life Satisfaction

Graph Source:

Filip Spagnoli identifies an array of positive and negative correlations between per capita GDP and the following metrics:

1. Corruption
2. Poverty
3. The Resource Curse
4. Economic Freedom
5. Rule Of Law
6. Democracy
7. Infant Mortality Rates
8. Life Expectancy
9. Education
10. The Environment
11. Happiness
12. Unemployment
13. Land Distribution
14. Charity
15. Individualism
16. Inequality
17. Election Outcomes
18. Civil War
19. Belief In The Theory Of Evolution
20. Crime
21. World Population
22. Fertility Rates
23. Taxation
24. Spending On Christmas Gifts
25. Casual Sex
26. Equality Before The Law
27. CO2 Emissions
28. Campaign Spending
29. Tax Revenue
30. Urbanization
31. Military Spending
32. Government Spending
33. Innovation
34. Religion
35. Social Spending
36. Competitiveness
37. IQ
38. Adult Literacy Rates
39. Unionization
40. Employment Share Of Agriculture
41. Stock Prices
42. The Salary Of Political Leaders
43. Risk Tolerance



Drink by Numbers!

In response to recent allegations that Anheuser-Busch has been watering down its beer to boost profits, my lab used gas chromatography with flame ion detection to determine if this was indeed the case. Our analyses suggest with greater than 99% certainty that Budweiser is, and shall remain, the king of beers. Beer lovers around the world can continue to drink soundly with the knowledge that their euphoria and elevated levels of self-confidence are in no way psychosomatically induced.  Based on our findings, I am confident in saying that Budweiser will continue to be the cause of (and solution to) all of life’s little problems.




$2.3 Trillion Missing from Pentagon

On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared war. Not on foreign terrorists, “the adversary’s closer to home. It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy,” he said.

He said money wasted by the military poses a serious threat.

“In fact, it could be said it’s a matter of life and death,” he said.

Rumsfeld promised change but the next day – Sept. 11– the world changed and in the rush to fund the war on terrorism, the war on waste seems to have been forgotten.

Just last week President Bush announced, “my 2003 budget calls for more than $48 billion in new defense spending.”

More money for the Pentagon, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, while its own auditors admit the military cannot account for 25 percent of what it spends.

“According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions,” Rumsfeld admitted.

$2.3 trillion — that’s $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America. To understand how the Pentagon can lose track of trillions, consider the case of one military accountant who tried to find out what happened to a mere $300 million.

“We know it’s gone. But we don’t know what they spent it on,” said Jim Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

Bailout Costs $16,000 per Worker


This is the only clear examination of the true costs of the bailouts that I’ve seen.

These ideas are so simple, yet so rarely ever expressed in the mainstream media.