Military Contractors Steal from Us

According to a NYT op-ed by Peter Navarro, an assistant to the president and the director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, published March 19th, 2019, argues that hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on the American military is justified for two reasons:

  • It assuages adversaries from threatening American interests , and
  • 2) Defense spending helps keep some manufacturing jobs alive.

As to the first point, America spent $610 billion dollars on defense in 2017, the largest amount of any nation. How much did the second-most on the list spend? $228 billion in China. What does that reason? It shows that America has no adversary abroad who could contend with our hegemony. It is beyond any argument that we need to spend this much when we already have a military so advanced. Some have even argued that since America has such an advanced nuclear arsenal it serves enough as a deterrent against others’ aggression, alone. Who needs tanks in a nuclear conflict?

As to point number two, the bloated defense budget is keeping some jobs here in the United States alive. But what we must focus on is the profits being made by companies making military equipment and providing defense services. It is well known that no-bid contracts are awarded more than often to companies by the government by the Dept. of Defense. But also, the heads of these companies are often former government officials who make the decisions about how that $610 billion dollars is spent. For example, V.P. Cheney first worked in the Department of Defense under Pres. Reagan then, once the regime had changed, Cheney went to sit on the board at Halliburton. When Cheney was picked by George W. Bush to be his V.P., and they conducted the invasion of Iraq, Halliburton received many no-bid contracts from the government for various services. Positions of government officials in the defense dept. have a revolving door between their time as so-called “servants of the people” and a private company’s board of directors.

The horrible crime is that even a small amount of $610 billion would be better spent elsewhere. We could rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, solve the housing crisis, fight the opioid epidemic, or even relocate and retrain the former manufacturing employees once their plants closedown. Just a thought…

“Outrage” On Gaza Crisis and Other Issues by Chomsky

noam_chomsky2-620x412Here at STL we have tried to get away from just posting links to and summaries of interesting articles in favor of insight discussions and leave the link sharing to Twitter. But this new discussion piece by “The most important intellectual of our time,” Noam Chomsky , according to the NYT, over at ZNet is just too important for you to miss. Follow the link below:

Outrage

 

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The History of Maliki and Iraq’s Current Troubles

iraq1403715010Stop whatever your doing, right now. I mean, RIGHT NOW!!!

There is a great, must-read piece in The Post by a former U.S. official who worked in Iraq that relates how the Premiere Nouri al-Maliki came to power, and how his past and current actions, along with many of U.S. officials involved, has led to the dire situation Iraq finds itself in today.

The author is who was the longest continuously serving American official in Iraq, serving from 2003 to 2009, who acted as a special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors and as a senior adviser to three heads of U.S. Central Command. He was also a close associate to Premiere Maliki and explained his relationship with him in the following paragraph:

I have known Maliki, or Abu Isra, as he is known to people close to him, for more than a decade. I have traveled across three continents with him. I know his family and his inner circle. When Maliki was an obscure member of parliament, I was among the very few Americans in Baghdad who took his phone calls. In 2006, I helped introduce him to the U.S. ambassador, recommending him as a promising option for prime minister. In 2008, I organized his medevac when he fell ill, and I accompanied him for treatment in London, spending 18 hours a day with him at Wellington Hospital. In 2009, I lobbied skeptical regional royals to support Maliki’s government.

By 2010, however, I was urging the vice president of the United States and the White House senior staff to withdraw their support for Maliki. I had come to realize that if he remained in office, he would create a divisive, despotic and sectarian government that would rip the country apart and devastate American interests.

 America stuck by Maliki. As a result, we now face strategic defeat in Iraq and perhaps in the broader Middle East.
Hopefully, after reading that excerpt, you are hurriedly clicking on our link to get to this op-ed immediately. It is even more compelling than the excerpt leads on. So go read it! NOW!

 

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Countering the Right: Two Ludicrous Op-ed Claims by Conservatives for the Day

Oh, the things the right will say to fool people!

First up, Robert J. Samuelson gave us his take on a new book detailing the perils of economic inequality by, of course, pretending like it isn’t a problem.  Buried in his critique was this ridiculousness:

As for the power of the super-rich, they hardly control most democracies. In the United States, where about 70 percent of federal spending goes to the poor and middle class, the richest 1 percent pay nearly a quarter of federal taxes.

Saying that 70% of federal spending goes to the lower classes does seem to back his first point on the surface but not in reality.  What if the GDP was $1 trillion with total government spending being $1,000 and 70% of that spending went to the lower classes?  Would that make it appear as if the super-rich hardly controlled the government and got what they wanted as far as taxes and spending?  Exactly.

A more accurate measure would be percent of GDP spent on social programs.  And where does the U.S. rank among developed countries?  No where near the top and, in fact, below the average (shown here).  As for his point about the richest 1 percent and taxes, I’ve addressed this previously here.

The other preposterous claim for the day comes from the Washington Examiner:

What Fox News found in its most recent public opinion survey was that 61 percent of Americans believe Obama “lies” about important public issues either “most of the time” or “some of the time.” No other president in living memory has conducted himself in a manner that warranted even asking if such a description was appropriate. (Emphasis added)

I’ll ignore the absurd and unscientific question in the Faux News poll and just ask, were the people at the Washington Examiner alive and awake from 2001-2009?

Actually, the question of presidential trustworthiness has been asked plenty of times just not in the stupid way Faux News decided to word it.  For example, this ABC News poll asked whether George W. Bush “Is honest and trustworthy?”  Answer in 2005: about 40% agreed, basically identical to Faux News’ poll for Obama considering margin of error.

And taking into account Bush left office with far worse approval ratings than he had at the time of that poll, safe to say his trustworthiness ratings would have been far worse if people had been asked the same question and given the same options for answers as the recent Faux News poll.

If George W. Bush was a “Success”, Barack Obama is the Greatest Leader of Earth’s History

In the lead-up to this week’s opening of the George W. Bush library, a jaw-dropping poll number was given on CNN’s site:

Eight in ten Republicans now say that Bush’s eight years in office were a success.

A great “success”? Not so much.

After some smelling salts and looking more closely at their data, I realized part of the problem of this poll was no option of a middle choice between “success” and “failure”, for example “mixed” or “somewhat successful”.  People were forced to back their party’s guy and we get this result.

But the stat still seems pretty high for the disaster that was the Bush administration.  Point being if that was a “success”, then let’s do a little comparison between 43 and 44 and see who we should consider the bigger success.

Unemployment Rate

(Source here.)

When Bush was inaugurated in January 2001: 4.2%.  When he left office in January 2009: 7.8%.  Overall change: 3.6% increase in unemployment.  “Success!”

When Obama was inaugurated in January 2009: 7.8%.  Latest numbers for March 2013: 7.6%.  Overall change: .2% decrease.  Bigger “success!”

Response to Devastating Hurricane

Public approval of Bush handling Hurricane Katrina in the days after impact: 43% approve and 54% disapprove.  “Success!”

Public approval of Obama handling Hurricane Sandy: 68% approve and 15% disapprove.  Bigger “success!”

Iraq/Bin Laden

Bush taking us into a war most Americans now consider a “mistake” and doing it with clearly faulty info while not focusing resources on a pursuit of the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks.  “Success!”

Obama getting us out of the “mistake” and putting the emphasis of security forces back on those guilty of killing so many then giving the order to take out Bin Laden.  Bigger “success!”

Budget Deficit/Spending

For part one of Bush presidency, blame bad stuff on this guy.

Before I get into these numbers, I’d like to clarify something.  Many conservatives argue the 2009 numbers are Obama’s and not in any way the actions of Bush.  There is an easy solution to this debate, however: ask conservatives who they thought was responsible for the 2001 budget prior to Obama becoming president.

You see, the government was running growing surpluses for three years prior to the 2001 budget.  Then things started to turn around.  So, if we figure out who conservatives considered mostly responsible for the 2001 budget, then we know who gets most of the blame for 2009.

Let’s ask Bush’s OMB director, Joshua Bolten when he testified to Congress in 2004:

In the last budget year of the previous (Clinton) administration (2001)…With the adoption of President Bush’s first budget (2002).

Seems clear.  How about right wing economic think tank the Cato Institute?  When they were doing the numbers on the first three years of Bush’s budgets in this piece, they included the 2004 budget which means no 2001.

Any conservative budget hawks from Townhall want to add their knowledge?  Seems so:

So the $133.29 billion deficit in the year ending September 2001 was Clinton’s.

Hard right think tank Heritage Foundation weighing in:

Even the most rabid leftist cannot blame George Bush for the 2001 recession. It was the Clinton recession.

(This is despite the fact the 2001 recession officially started in March 2001, two months into Bush’s term.  By comparison, the Great Recession officially started in December of 2007, 14 months prior to Obama taking the oath.)

But the most rabid conservatives have no problem doing the same with Obama by blaming him for 2009.  Rabidly, of course.  The blame of Clinton was rather extensive as this piece from the Daily Kos shows.  That being said, using the conservative perspective that 2001 was all Clinton’s fault prior to Obama’s election, we can safely assume all conservatives understand 2009 belongs to Bush, right guys?  Let’s look at some numbers.

(Source here for the following.)

First fiscal year budget deficit Bush is responsible for (2002): $157 billion.  Last year he was responsible for (2009): $1.4 trillion.  Overall: $1.2 trillion increase in deficit.  “Success!”

For part two, blame him.

First fiscal year budget deficit Obama is responsible for (2010): $1.3 trillion.  2013 deficit projection: $972 billion.  Overall: over $300 billion decrease in deficit.  Bigger “success!”

(Source here for the following.)

Federal deficit as percent of GDP in Bush’s first year: 1.48%.  Final year: 10.13%.  Overall: an increase nearly seven times higher than first year.  “Success!”

Obama’s first year: 8.92%.  2013 projection: 6%.  Overall: a 30% decrease from year one.  Bigger “success!”

Dow Jones

The Dow (all retrieved from here) on Jan. 20, 2001, Bush’s first day in office: 10,587.59.  Last day in office, Jan. 20, 2009: 7,949.09.  Overall: 2638.5 drop in the Dow.  “Success!”

The Dow when Obama was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009: 7,949.09.  As of yesterday, April 26, 2013: 14,712.55.  Overall: 6,763.46 increase in the Dow.  Bigger “success!”

If people are going to completely re-imagine history and call the presidency of George W. Bush a “success”, then they have to do one more thing when that is done.  Admit the Obama presidency has been a far, far greater success in most of the ways we actually measure success when it comes to judging presidents.

Obama & Bush on Terrorist: Same but Different

jp-prexy1-articleLargeA great article in the NYT on how Pres. Obama is continuing some of the same actions on terror that Pres. Bush did and how the critics are responding. The article also addresses the cognitive dissonance it is causing amongst supporters of Obama who disliked Pres. Bush’s policies. Very good piece.

Read Here.

The Bailouts Worked and We (Taxpayers) Made a Profit on Some of it

A new report from the Treasury Department shows we are on track to come out ahead on the investment of bailing out the banks and car companies and avoiding a little thing like an economic collapse the likes of which the world has never seen.  Praise for this achievement is due all around.  As the report itself states, “Collectively, these programs—carried out by both a Republican and a Democratic administration—were effective in preventing the collapse of the financial system, in restarting economic growth, and in restoring access to credit and capital (emphasis mine).”

It’s important to note that these similar measures were carried out by both the Bush and Obama administrations and they followed the same policies using a heavy government hand to correct the plummeting economy.  It’s just as important to note the policies of deregulation (or never any regulation in the case of derivatives despite a clear warning) were also followed by both Democratic and Republican administrations, pushed heavily because of the almost absurd influence of Alan Greenspan.  Herein lies the important distinction.

To put it simply, the hands off, deregulation policy is that of the far right, Adam Smith or Ayn Rand school of thought.  It’s the belief that, despite history proving this belief errant multiple times now, the government should have no role in the economy no matter what the situation.  The economy will take care of itself through competition and the government will only impede growth.  This line of thought has become so deep seated in American beliefs it is almost frightening, particularly when times of crisis hit and catastrophe is approaching.

The fact is there are certain times where the government is needed to fix the economy because greed broke it.  Some still believe the government wasn’t needed to stop the 2008 crisis.  This is downright lunacy.  If you actually believe, for example, the derivatives market could crash and everything would work itself out, the rest of us would love some of what you are smoking.  That market is worth $600 trillion dollars.  Yes, that is trillion with a t just in case you haven’t seen that stat before.  Not a typo.  If you think that can crash and everything would be peachy, I’d like to see the thoroughly researched and academically reviewed scenario showing that rosy world.  (And no, this market still isn’t regulated for reasons I can’t fathom despite the allegedly socialist administration in power at the moment.  Sleep well tonight.)

There are times when we need the government to regulate and intervene.  Not all of the time and not everywhere.  But certainly some of the time and more than we have seen over the past 30 years.  If we come to understand the government does need to be a bigger factor in areas that are both difficult to control and dangerous to the majority of us who aren’t even involved, we are one step closer to avoiding these economic bubbles and near-catastrophes.

The bailout worked, we avoided catastrophe, and we came out ahead on some of this.  And it’s liberal economic policy that is responsible for saving us.  Deal with it Ayn Randers.