Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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“Defense” Follies

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If you haven't read this article at Tom Dispatch, you have missed perhaps the most important story about the budget debate (or lack thereof).  Over and over we hear false charges that Social Security, which has contributed nothing to the deficit and which both parties are trying to raid as we speak, "should be cut," but little about the truth of the so-called security budget, which is more like assured insecurity. The truth is that defense spending is ballooning and unsustainable.  And so far, rather paltry, pitiful attempts at making cuts to that side of the budget have been attempted.  Defense spending is making the rest of America poor and even contributing to the destabilization of the world.  We pretend we can be the world's police force.  But we cannot.  Merely trying robs us of what we can truly become as a nation.  We are much more than a military presence, but we do not act like it. Now we hear we may yet become involved in a third war, and maybe a fourth. We callously neglect our returning veterans even while enriching white collar defense workers and privatized mercenary armies.

Meanwhile, daily the extant and so-called media rant fabrications against workers, while failing for the most part to report the basest exploitation of workers to further line CEO pockets. Yet almost nothing is so infuriating as the callous disregard for good stewardship of our defense dollars.

While we are told military expenditures range roughly in the 600 billions, they are more realistically twice that (see the article linked above). Spending our way to security is a fool's bargain and, it seems we have never been less secure, even as we spend historic sums of money, often just throwing money at problems.  One year ago, a CSM article spoke of the last vestige of US empire.    

Did President Obama Fall into an “Earmarks” Trap?

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George Lakoff has a lot to say about Dems wrongly embracing the language of the so-called "New Centrism." I urge you to read his latest article. Meanwhile, I think that one of the most perilous lines in the SOTU was the one announcing the President would veto any bill with "earmarks." The problem with this statement is that the common discourse has elided the term "earmark" with "pork."  The two are not the same thing, but rather "apples and oranges."  An earkmark is simply planned spending on some particular priority. However earmarks might also be pork, but they are not necessarily so. I am not defending all pork.  But pork isn't inherently evil either. More to the point, "earmarks" can be a budgeting device that facilitates planning.  I personally use them in our household budgeting.  And it allows a more careful and considered approach to our planning needs. But GOPhers (and now so-called centrists Dems--the really are corporatist, not centrist) conflated the two terms.  And it will be very difficult to set the record straight now.

Why do that (conflate the terms)?  Ideologue drown-government nihilists and also supporters of zero-based budgeting may both have different reasons.  But both want everything to be zeroed out (except, usually, the massively bloated defense budget)for each new budget, each entity of the government having to re-justify everything every time a budget is constructed. Agencies are thus in a permanent state of siege having to justify themselves over and over.  This subtracts from productivity and ultimately enables the claim that government agencies should be downsized, whether or not that would be good for America.

Disallowing earmarks ends the assumption that any entity or priority in government should be be included in any given budget.  Otherwise, technically, they would be represented by an earmark.

Bluntly Spoken: Tell Peter Peterson (and John Boehner) “Where to Go”...

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(And while you are at it, ditto for Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner.)

Note: Hat-tip to Crooks and Liars.

Good News! 3500 Philadelphians gave Peter Peterson the "what for." By now, no doubt you have heard that Peter Peterson has made it his life's mission to end Social Security, Medicare and any other program which is focused on helping citizens.  This former investment fund, corporate and government insider's "solution" is pure disaster capitalism.  He's also traveled the country raising money to squash ordinary Americans by persuading that the US should continue as the only industrialized country not offering national health care.  But now in the wake of health care reform, he's back to his primary effort to end other programs, especially Social Security.

He wants the government to default on the money it has borrowed from the Social Security, in effect stiffing seniors (and all future seniors with money already paid into the system), while padding the profits of corporations.  You see, they do not want employees to have any mandatory benefits whatsoever. It's bad enough many no longer offer pensions.  But now they don't even want to pay the employers share of Social Security.  More profits for them.  

In order to persuade us that the Peterson Poison Pill is good for us, Peterson's got a Old Time Medicine Show er "America Speaks" tour, dispatched around the country.  These Lie-a-Paloozas are essentially propaganda fests designed to con Americans out of their safety net.  There are games, exercises , prizes and slick hosts to drill in the supposed data (propaganda).  But it turns out there are limits to the wool that can be pulled over voters' eyes.  As Crooks and Liars reported the other day, 3,500 Philadelphians told Peterson's con-squad to leave their Social Security alone, raise taxes on the rich, and cut the Pentagon budget.  Will wonders never cease!  

Monkey-face Throws a Monkey Wrench

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Just as the President's commission on government debt gets going, and showing a suspicious co-ordination with the growing Republican-Wall Street campaign to curtail federal debt and wring more money from Main Street in preference to mounting a new attack to stimulate job growth, up pops Alan Greenspan with another piece of sage advice.  According to Bloomberg the former Federal Reserve Chair (1987-2006) testified at a Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in Washington, that the U.S. may soon face higher borrowing costs (i.e., interest payments) on its "swelling debt." Bloomberg also quoted from Greenspan's own article in The Wall Street Journal, where he stated
"The United States, and most of the rest of the developed world, is in need of a tectonic shift in fiscal policy... the federal government is currently saddled with commitments for the next three decades that it will be unable to meet in real terms.... (the) very severity of the pending crisis and growing analogies to Greece set the stage for a serious response."