Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hope; Plucked or Plucky?

"Hope" is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tunes without the words-
And never stops-at all-.

Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

Finally, at long last, the Democratic primaries have thankfully come to a close. What a senseless circus. The fundamental impression left by all of the interminable hoopla, barn-storming, glad-handing and back-stabbing was this: The Dems are simply going to have to get over themselves. They are NOT the party of social programs or social awareness. They are NOT the party of the poor. They are NOT the counter-balance to the pro-Big Business policies of the Republican Party. Small, politically expedient proposals aside, the Dems haven’t been any of the aforementioned since the corporate military industrial oligarchy grabbed the reins of the budget by buying congress lock, stock and equities through extremely well- financed lobbying efforts.

What John Perkins, the repentant economic hit man calls ‘the Corporatocracy’ has largely determined foreign and domestic policy since the Second World War. The further inflation of their power and influence during and afterwards was achieved by US corporations basically being the sole suppliers of war materiel to the Allies. Industrial production in the US tripled or quadrupled while most of the rest of the industrial countries were devastated. (The fact that many of the corporations contracted by the US were also supplying the Axis either before or during WW2 has also been well-established and should not be forgotten.)

War profiteering is a cash cow that has been milked by nearly every modern administration one chooses to investigate. The administration of Bush Jr has by far been the most blatant, callous and ruthlessly cavalier about profiting from death and destruction but this is by a matter of degree only and should not be considered an aberration. To bring this fact into sharp focus, one must only be reminded that the US spends more on the military (euphemistically termed ‘defense’ spending) than do all of the rest of the nations of the world combined. The US out-spends the People’s Republic of China, the second-place entrant in the bloated military budget derby, by a factor of nearly 10 to 1: $623 billion to the PRC’s $65 billion. The remaining ‘axis of evil’, Iran and North Korea, spend $4.3 billion and $5.0 billion, respectively.

Is it any wonder that education, health care and veterans’ benefits, amongst a long litany of depleted yet much needed social services in the United States, are given such short shrift?

Eisenhower had seen the military industrial complex from both sides; as a staff officer in Washington DC, as the Supreme Allied Commander of the European Theater during WW2 and then as president during the Korean War. That’s why he broadsided his parting shot against the military industrial complex in his farewell address to the nation. It was meant to echo strongly the warning first sounded by Jefferson against the deleterious influences of business interests and the military on the health of a democratic republic.

Ever wonder how many congressmen and senators own stock in the major and minor military contractors?

Ever wonder how many of our elected representatives and appointed officials sit on the board of directors of or hold advisory positions with corporations like Halliburton, Bechtel, GE, or Lockheed?

Ever wonder why the federal budget is always in reverse order to the people’s wishes for the allocation of funds? Defense spending trumps social services every time despite the will of the people as voiced through opinion polls. 80% of Americans think that there should be some kind of universal health care system. Every other major industrial country has one. Why shouldn’t the USA?

The answer to that question is always pitched to the economic side of the plate. “How would we pay for it?” Slicing 50 or 60 billion from the Pentagon’s massive pie might do it, don’t you think? The war in Iraq costs the US taxpayers roughly a quarter of a million dollars each minute longer it goes on; $341.4 million per day. Take a week of that budget - $2.4 billion, or a month of the current budget to wage the illegal war in Iraq - $71.6 billion and put it towards health care. Or education. Or job training. Or renewable energy research and development.

(Which brings up another means by which the US could pay for social programs; the money that should be paid to the US Treasury by corporations for the licensing of processes and products underwritten by taxpayers providing funding for research and development of same. It seems only logical that the American people should actually and legally own what they have paid for with their hard-earned dollars. NASA’s funds paid for the development of microprocessors, for instance. Why doesn’t each and every manufacturer of micro-chip technology pay a licensing fee to the US taxpayer for the use of that invention in commercial enterprises? Why doesn’t the sale of every jar of TANG provide a penny or two to fund social programs? The middle-class finances research and development, the most costly part of the equation and then turns the results of the research over to private enterprise which then sells it at whatever the market will bear back to the US taxpayers. It doesn’t take much to see that the taxpayer is getting the short end of the stick; the same stick that the Corporatocracy beats them with.)

So, the Dems had just better get over themselves. More to the point, the American voters had better get over the Dems and the Republicans, both. When was the last time either party did more than enrich themselves and their soulless criminal pals at the expense of the folks who actually work for a living?

Being a wet blanket is not a favorite role but for those folks who believe the campaign rhetoric of Barack Obama, one very significant point must be stated and restated: Obama has already pledged to increase the budget of the Pentagon if elected. Granted, he probably will introduce and support legislation bolstering the social programs gutted by Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. He will undoubtedly attempt to make a change in the country’s domestic policies; perhaps even regain the level of social programs enjoyed by US citizens more than thirty years ago under LBJ. Regardless of his message of ‘Hope’ and his stated desire to end the war in Iraq, from his declarations about the military budget, and his views on Iran and Israel expressed at the AIPAC convention, any hopes that American foreign policy will be set to rights under his administration and that our international reputation as an imperialistic bully and a ‘rogue state’ will be rescinded are ill placed.

I hope I'm wrong.

(editor's addendum)

On June 5, 2008, in Bristol, VA, Barack Obama, Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee, announced that the Democratic National Committee will ban Lobbyist and Special Interest PAC Money.

"I've sent a strong signal in this campaign by refusing the contributions of registered federal lobbyists and PACs, and today, I'm announcing that going forward, the Democratic National Committee will uphold the same standard and won't take another dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs. They do not fund my campaign. They will not fund our party. And they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I'm President of the United States."

The miserable have no other medicine
But only hope.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University Press. Copyright © 1993, 1995 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

BillyBoy in K3 said...

Well said my friend. Americans as a people are largely pacified regarding the ways in which our tax money is spent, and, more to the point, who ends up with the money. As I observe Chicago and local politics through the filter of a former Denverite, the overt manipulation of political power to redistribute wealth in ways contrary to the the ideals set forth in the state and national constitutions is simply outrageous. Yet, it is difficult to imagination what, aside from the theft of ones remote control, auto, or cheeseburger, could incite a meaningful, effective response. Ike was right. I have faith in Obama. As an unemployed person with a heart condition and skin cancer, I must have health insurance or face financial ruin. Thanks for getting the message out that guns are winning out over butter. Indeed, why not let the corporations make their money through health and education services rather than war?