5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/12/15)

  • United States’ defense spending is still pretty ridiculous.  The United States spends over four times as much in its defense budget as its nearest rival, China.  In fact, its budget comes close to matching that of its 14th closest rivals put together.”  Just imagine where the U.S. could be in terms of truly important areas like education if we just cut that budget in half and spent the money on improving schools or infrastructure or shoring up Social Security for good.  But I guess it’s good that we can use our absurd military spending to stabilize places around the world like in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen and help keep the antiquated idea of monarchy alive and strong in places like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  Yay, America!
  • France sold the Egyptian government military equipment.  24 Rafale fighter jets along with other supplies amounting to over $5 billion will be headed to the government that came to power in a not-a-coup military coup.  While the Egyptian government is seemingly making some strides toward logic, it’s probably far too early to start selling them equipment that they may decide to use on say, I don’t know, their own people.  But, like the U.S. military industrial complex, when you have a bunch of war equipment burning a hole in your pocket, gotta find somewhere to sell it no matter how immoral.
  • U.S. crime rate continues to fall and it’s not because we are throwing more people in jail and prison than every other country on the planet.  A new report offers no definitive explanation as to the reason for the continued decline of crime but does state that mass incarceration is not the culprit.  And the incredible decrease should continually be noted since many people believe the opposite due to the way the media sensationalizes crime:

Between 1991 and 2013, the violent crime rate declined by more than 50 percent, according to FBI figures. During the same time frame, property crime fell by 46 percent.

  • Droughts in the U.S. are going to get a lot worse despite how bad they have already been in recent years.  Quite a bit to digest in the article but the key reality is this: droughts will start lasting for decades, not years, because of man-made climate change.  In other words, things are super great now in places like California and Texas compared to what they will be in the future if nothing drastic is done to avert the crisis.  At least there aren’t any climate change-deniers in power in Texas because that would just be crazy…  Speaking of Texas-style crazy…
  • On gay marriage, insane right-winger Ted Cruz morphs into…a moderate democrat?!  It’s true as the last-ditch effort before the nationwide legalizing of gay marriage coming in June is to apparently try to pass a bill calling for states’ rights on the issue.  Saying it should be left up to the states to decide is basically the exact argument many Democratic politicians were making 10 years ago when they were too cowardly to just stand up for what was right (I’m looking at you, former presidential candidate Kerry).  On a side note, the language Cruz and his ilk use on the issue is both ridiculous and vicious.  He states his bill will “safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for their citizens” (emphasis added).  This suggests “traditional marriage” will simply cease to exist if gay marriage is ever allowed, which has already proven to be clearly untrue and is just a ranting from a madman.

Countering the Right: Robert J. Samuelson on Entitlement and the Washington Post on Defense Cuts

Two articles appeared recently in the Washington Post that deserve rebuttals as to their slanted positions on certain issues.  The first is an op-ed by Robert J. Samuelson titled “The End of Entitlement”.  He argues we have reached a point where we are no longer entitled to the things in life we previously believed we deserved if we worked hard for them, such as a peace of mind about job security and retirement.  He sums the idea up in one sentence:

We’re not entitled to many things: not to a dynamic economy; not to secure jobs; not to homeownership; not to ever-more protective government; not to fixed tax burdens; not to a college education.

It’s not that he is wrong about this current reality of life.  It’s that his attempt at trying to decipher why this is the now case is weak and misleading.

He gives four points that we assumed would work but failed us.  The first:

economists knew enough to moderate the business cycle, guaranteeing jobs for most people who wanted them…The Great Recession revealed the limits of economic management. (Emphasis added.)

Working as intended!

This is an incredibly misleading statement.  If the Great Recession revealed anything it was that there was (and is) far too little oversight of the financial sector and, when it is allowed to run wild and commit fraud without consequences to the people committing the crimes, most of us get hurt in the end.  This isn’t to suggest a communistic approach to the economy but a check and balance on the financial sector’s power (similar to our system of government’s checks on each branch) is clearly what was missing in the housing sector and the derivatives market and what got us to where we are now.

And before anyone tries to make the case Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were government-run programs that were policing the industry, they were not.  Here’s how you figure that out.  If it has a person called its CEO, kind of like Freddie and Fannie, it’s not government run.  Period.  They made their decisions without enough oversight and they screwed us in the interest of making a short term profit with painful long term consequences, just like other corporations.

His second point is that the “safety net” provided by large corporations has “shrunk” and does not provide what they once promised.  One of the factors he strangely blames considering his first point: “deregulation”.  In other words, economists failed at “managing” the economy but the economy failed because of deregulation.  Samuelson counters himself here and apparently doesn’t notice it.  If deregulation occurs at a level where it becomes problematic, then economists and the government are not actually “managing” anything.  They are just observing what is happening without intervening where needed, which is what caused the crash.

His third point is that productivity gains did not translate into expected tax receipts and greater income inequality has compounded the problem of paying for government programs.  This ignores two important factors causing this outcome.  One, that the attack by the right on workers rights and unions has led to lower wage growth and more money going to the top earners, which is not in any way regulated but could be as Europe is doing.  Two, that tax cuts, such as the Bush era cuts that went heavily to the top earners who are earning more of the money, have made tax revenues lower than previously expected when these programs were created.  In other words, it was a boosting of right wing economic legislation that made this problem what it is now.

His last point is that broken families and children raised by single parents have helped take away the idea of entitlement.  This idea is so ludicrous it’s hardly worth addressing.  In other words, his argument is that a child in a household with two parents that fight all the time (or worse) and no longer want to be together is healthier for the child.  Argue away on that point.  Also, this ignores the fact stagnant wages have led to more hours worked for less pay which will have an obvious effect on the parent rearing the child, whether single or not.

The other article in the Post was a piece by Zachary Goldfarb about “liberals” (as if the government is filled with them) now dealing with the fact the defense cuts they called for are hurting the economy.  The article focuses on military spending and is presented as if there is virtually no other alternative in how the government could use its funds.  This suggests liberals only want cuts in defense spending and do not want the money diverted to shore up or improve other programs, such as Social Security or education.

He does spend some time on the idea money could go toward other expenditures.  2 whole paragraphs…out of 27.  If this article was even a remote presentation of more liberal beliefs about where the government could spend its money, it would give far more time to this aspect and show how the defense budget dwarfs other areas that could produce jobs and help the economy like infrastructure and education.  Pointing out that the federal defense budget is roughly $850 billion while federal education spending is just below $100 billion would be a start.

Sequestration Leading to More Defense Cuts?

become-volunteer-military-officer-1According to this article in the NYT, the sequestration cuts in defense spending could lead to further, more surgical cuts in cold war-era military spending by the Obama administration such as closing bases and reducing nuclear stockpiles. Since the sky didn’t fall, and the four horsemen of the apocalypse stayed at home when sequestration took place, it showed that some cuts in military programs could survive overhauls.

So if Obama and the anti-cut Congress could work together (which is so rare these days), useful reduced spending in programs like the F-35 development and the military’s insurance policies could have the fat cut off of them. Very interesting in light of our bloated defense spending trends.

Read Here.

Sequestration A Military Doomsday?

Members-of-the-US-militar-007I, along with Michael Cohen at The Guardian, have both been rather skeptical of this Armageddon talk from the politicians and military officials as they profess that the sequestration will destroy any national security that we now enjoy in the United States. So here is a good op-ed piece in The Guardian by Cohen outlying the ridiculousness behind all of these claims.

Read Here.

Romney’s Ridiculous and Immoral Position on the Navy

Much has been said about Mitt Romney’s assertion the Navy is in need of an increase in funding to grow the number of ships it uses to patrol the seas.  I previously addressed this argument briefly but it deserves a little more scrutiny.  A recent article in the CSM does just that with a very important measurement of what is being debated:

In 1916 the US ranked third in naval power in the world. That sounds impressive, but it still placed the US behind Germany, which had roughly 19 percent of international naval strength, and Britain, which then had 34 percent.

The picture is much different today. The US controls about 50 percent of world naval power, according to Professors Crisher and Souva. No other nation even comes close. Russia is in second place, with a comparable figure of 11 percent.

A necessary increase in Naval power, really?!
A necessary increase in Naval power, really?!

The key point to remember about Romney’s position is the alleged need for the increase in Naval spending: the lack of ships.  In other words, it is an argument about sheer numbers and clearly not about capability or possession of military force.  And as every military historian knows, all battles and wars are won by the side with the highest number of weapons and soldiers…except they’re not.

But we still apparently need this increase in naval spending at a time when many are calling for cuts in most other areas.  Which is the part that makes the least sense.  Romney has made it clear he wants to cut plenty of social spending in order to make these defense spending increases and keep the deficit down.  What good will increasing our control of world naval power from 50 percent to, say, 55 percent really do?  What is to truly be gained from doing that?  Are we on our way to a prolonged and bloody showdown at sea with the fearsome Al-Qaeda Navy?  Oh wait…

The truth is Romney is proposing a spending increase in something that is inherently destructive to mankind and obviously unnecessary at the cost of cutting funding to items that are inherently constructive to society and critical for those not lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family (like someone I’ve mentioned).  The moral absurdity here should be abundantly clear.  Yet Romney continues to make the case he is running for president not just for 47% of America but 100% and is a man that cares for all U.S. citizens equally.  Simply not true considering his policy choices.  When you make proposals like his, your moral code is very transparent to everyone.

He wants to make sure we can make more war at the cost of taking away from those in need.  Just as Jesus taught us, right?

Drone Attacks: Good mor Bad?

Here at Sparking The Left we have previously made our stance clear that we are skeptical, to say the least, regarding the effectiveness of drone strikes in the Middle East as they contrast with the collateral damage (civilian deaths) that occur during such operations.

So here is a great NYT “Room for Debate” set of op-eds regarding whether if the drone strikes are actually doing more good than harm by killing terrorist leaders versus killing civilians,which helps to recruit more terrorists.

Read Here.

The Afghan Surge: Did It Work?

A great piece in Foreign Policy magazine (a division of the Post) by RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN trying to answer the question of rather or not the surge of 33, 000 troops into Afghanistan worked now that the troops are home.

Read Here. 

 

The Myth of Voter Fraud & Those Taking Advantage of the Lies

A great article in the NYT on True the Vote, a national group focused on voter fraud, and their actions in many minority voting districts in swing states. It also covers how True the Vote and similar groups have no proof of the massive voter fraud they claim is rampant across the nation. They are just their to prevent and intimidate the minority vote.

Read Here

 

Affront to Islamic Community & Not Indivivduals

A great article in the NYT on how the violent protests in the Middle East are a result of a different concept of freedom that Muslims hold dear in the region contrary to those in Western democracies: the freedom of the many over the freedom of the individual.

Read Here.

Google Bans Controversial Anti-Muslim Vid in Parts of Mid-East

This article in the Post puts light on the fact that, after a U.S. government request, Google has removed the controversial anti-Muslim vid (which has been cited as the cause of recent Mid-East violence) in the countries of Libya and Egypt.

This brings up various questions regarding the role of government and large companies as information gatekeepers and freedom of speech in general.

Read Here.