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Why Bernie Sanders is an Imperialist Pig June 20, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in bernie sanders, Imperialism, War.
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Roger’s note: OMG, an imperialist pig?  St. Bernie.  I post this strong-worded article, not to trash the Senator from Vermont (via the Bronx), rather to underline a central truth that our brainwashing as Americans makes it difficult to comprehend.  The United States is not the defender of freedom and democracy around the world; rather it is and imperial juggernaut whose reach extends to nearly every corner of the globe.  In his campaign rhetoric, Sanders proposed huge investments in health, social services, the environment, education and infrastructure.  With this he captured the minds and hearts of millions, many of them young.  But he avoided telling us how this was going to be financed.  None of these worthy proposals are possible without substantial reduction of the war budget, which is so huge that he human mind has difficulty in its apprehension.  In short, as a continued advocate for military spending, Sanders’ social welfare proposals fall flat on their face.  So is Bernie an “imperialist pig?”  I wouldn’t call him a pig, but the “imperialist” stands.

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by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

“The United States does not have a national health care system worthy of the name, because it is in the war business, not the health business or the social equality business.”

The United States is a predator nation, conceived and settled as a thief, exterminator and enslaver of other peoples. The slave-based republic’s phenomenal geographic expansion and economic growth were predicated on the super-exploitation of stolen African labor and the ruthless expropriation of native lands through genocidal wars, an uninterrupted history of plunder glorified in earlier times as “Manifest Destiny” and now exalted as “American exceptionalism,” an inherently racist justification for international and domestic lawlessness.

Assembled, acre by bloody acre, as a metastasizing empire, the U.S. state demands fealty to its imperial project as a substitute for any genuine social contract among its inhabitants – a political culture custom-made for the rule of rich white people.

The American project has been one long war of aggression that has shaped its borders, its internal social relations, and its global outlook and ambitions. It was founded as a consciously capitalist state that competed with other European powers through direct absorption of captured lands, brutal suppression of native peoples and the fantastic accumulation of capital through a diabolically efficient system of Black chattel slavery – a 24/7 war against the slave. This system then morphed through two stages of “Jim Crow” to become a Mass Black Incarceration State – a perpetual war of political and physical containment against Black America.

“The U.S. state demands fealty to its imperial project as a substitute for any genuine social contract among its inhabitants.”

Since the end of World War Two, the U.S. has assumed the role of protector of the spoils of half a millennium of European wars and occupations of the rest of the world: the organized rape of nations that we call colonialism. The first Black U.S. president, Barack Obama, was among the most aggressive defenders of white supremacy in history — defending the accumulated advantages that colonialism provided to western European nations, settler states (like the U.S.) and citizens — having launched an ongoing military offensive aimed at strangling the Chinese giant and preventing an effective Eurasian partnership with Russia. The first phase of the offensive, the crushing of Libya in 2011, allowed the United States to complete the effective military occupation of Africa, through AFRICOM.

The U.S. and its NATO allies already account for about 70 percent of global military spending, but Obama and his successor, Donald Trump, demand that Europeans increase the proportion of their economic output that goes to war. More than half of U.S. discretionary spending — the tax money that is not dedicated to mandated social and development programs — goes to what Dr. Martin Luther King 50 years ago called the “demonic, destructive suction tube” of the U.S. war machine.

The first Black U.S. president, Barack Obama, was among the most aggressive defenders of white supremacy in history.”

The United States does not have a national health care system worthy of the name, because it is in the war business, not the health business or the social equality business. The U.S. has the weakest left, by far, of any industrialized country, because it has never escaped the racist, predatory dynamic on which it was founded, which stunted and deformed any real social contract among its peoples. In the U.S., progress is defined by global dominance of the U.S. State — chiefly in military terms — rather than domestic social development. Americans only imagine that they are materially better off than the people of other developed nations — a fallacy they assume to be the case because of U.S. global military dominance. More importantly, most white Americans feel racially entitled to the spoils of U.S. dominance as part of their patrimony, even if they don’t actually enjoy the fruits. (“WE made this country great.”) This is by no means limited to Trump voters.

Race relations in the U.S. cannot be understood outside the historical context of war, including the constant state of race war that is a central function of the U.S. State: protecting “American values,” fighting “crime” and “urban disorder,” and all the other euphemisms for preserving white supremacy.

War is not a side issue in the United States; it is the central political issue, on which all the others turn. War mania is the enemy of all social progress — especially so, when it unites disparate social forces, in opposition to their own interests, in the service of an imperialist state that is the tool of a rapacious white capitalist elite. Therefore, the orchestrated propaganda blitzkrieg against Russia by the Democratic Party, in collaboration with the corporate media and other functionaries and properties of the U.S. ruling class, marks the party as, collectively, the Warmonger-in-Chief political institution in the United States at this historical juncture. The Democrats are anathema to any politics that can be described as progressive.

“Race relations in the U.S. cannot be understood outside the historical context of war, including the constant state of race war that is a central function of the U.S. State.”

Bernie Sanders is a highly valued Democrat, the party’s Outreach Director and therefore, as Paul Street writes, “the imperialist and sheep-dogging fake-socialist Democratic Party company man that some of us on the ‘hard radical’ Left said he was.” Sanders is a warmonger, not merely by association, but by virtue of his own positions. He favors more sanctions against Russia, in addition to the sanctions levied against Moscow in 2014 and 2016 for its measured response to the U.S-backed fascist coup against a democratically elected government in Ukraine. Rather than surrender to U.S. bullying, Russia came to the military aid of the sovereign and internationally recognized government of Syria in 2015, upsetting the U.S. game plan for an Islamic jihadist victory.

Back in April of this year, on NBC’s Meet The Press, Sanders purposely mimicked The Godfather when asked what he would do to force the Russians “to the table” in Syria:

“I think you may want to make them an offer they can’t refuse. And that means tightening the screws on them, dealing with sanctions, telling them that we need their help, they have got to come to the table and not maintain this horrific dictator.”

Of course, it is the United States that has sabotaged every international agreement to rein in its jihadist mercenaries in Syria.

“We need a strong military, it is a dangerous world,” Sanders told voters in Iowa.”

Sanders is a regime-changer, which means he thinks the U.S., in combination with self-selected allies, is above international law, i.e., “exceptional.”

“We’ve got to work with countries around the world for a political solution to get rid of this guy [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] and to finally bring peace and stability to this country, which has been so decimated.”

During the 2016 campaign, Sanders urged the U.S. to stop acting unilaterally in the region, but instead to collaborate with Syria’s Arab neighbors — as if the funding and training of jihadist fighters had not been a joint effort with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, all along.

According to Politico, “As late as 2002,” Sanders’ campaign website declared that “the defense budget should be cut by 50 percent over the next five years.” But all the defense-cutting air went out of his chest after Bush invaded Iraq. Nowadays, Sanders limits himself to the usual noises about Pentagon “waste,” but has no principled position against the imperial mission of the United States. “We need a strong military, it is a dangerous world,” Sanders told voters in Iowa, during the campaign.

Like Paul Street said, he’s an “imperialist…Democratic Party company man.”

“A Sanders-led Party would still be an imperialist, pro-war party.”

At last weekend’s People’s Summit, in Chicago, National Nurses United executive director RoseAnn DeMoro endorsed Sanders for a mission he finds impossible to accept: a run for president in 2020 on the Peoples Party ticket. Sanders already had his chance to run as a Green, and refused. He is now the second most important Democrat in the country, behind the ultra-corrupt Bill-Hillary Clinton machine — and by far the most popular. On top of that, Sanders loves being the hero of the phony left, the guy who gimmick-seeking left-liberals hope will create an instant national party for them, making it unnecessary to build a real anti-war, pro-people party from scratch to go heads up with the two corporate machines.

Sanders doesn’t even have to exert himself to string the Peoples Party folks along; they eagerly delude themselves. However, a Sanders-led Party would still be an imperialist, pro-war party.

The U.S. does need a social democratic party, but it must be anti-war, otherwise it commits a fraud on social democracy. The United States is the imperial superpower, the main military aggressor on the planet. Its rulers must be deprived of the political ability to spend trillions on war, and to kill millions, or they will always use the “necessity” of war to enforce austerity. The “left” domestic project will fail.

For those of us from the Black Radical Tradition, anti-imperialism is central. Solidarity with the victims of U.S. imperialism is non-negotiable, and we can make no common cause with U.S. political actors that treat war as a political side show, an “elective” issue that is separate from domestic social justice. This is not just a matter of principle, but also of practical politics. “Left” imperialism isn’t just evil, it is self-defeating and stupid.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

The Militarization of Canada: Chrystia Freeland’s Budgetary Coup June 13, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Canada, Imperialism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals formed a majority government with less than 40 percent of the vote, more or less the same as the previous ultra-right Tory government of Stephen Harper.  He already has reneged on his commitment to re-structure elections in some form of proportional representation.  Now he comes forth with a military budget in response to Trump’s bullying that looks a lot like something Harper would have done.  Regardless of its image as a peacemaker nation, the military industrial complex is alive and well in Canada.

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The arrogance of power could scarcely be more dramatically demonstrated than by the tag team of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announcing that Canada was going to cave in to Donald Trump’s demand that we spend two percent of GDP on defence. We will be increasing military spending by 70 percent over ten years – an obscenity when so many social needs go unmet.

Not only does this make a mockery of Trudeau’s election pledge to return to Canada’s historic peace-keeping role but surrenders to the absurd one-size-fits-all NATO imperative. Nothing has changed internationally to justify such an increase. There are no existential threats to Canada on any horizon. As Trudeau said in March, Canada more than pulls its weight in NATO: we are the sixth-highest spender in NATO and 16th in the world.

It seems clear that it Chrystia Freeland is driving this militarization of Canada’s foreign policy. Her contradiction-filled foreign policy speech in the House of Commons last week – suggesting that Canada is going to somehow fill the vacuum left by an allegedly isolationist US – just confirms what I suggested a few months back. In the Trudeau government the tail is wagging the dog. Justin Trudeau is so lazy intellectually, so devoid of any personal vision of the country that anyone in his cabinet willing to forcefully pursue a personal agenda gets their way. And Freeland is if nothing if not forceful when it comes to one issue: her obsession with so-called Russian “adventurism.”

In her statement Freeland declared: “The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course.” Really? Just how do we do that by caving into Trump’s demand that all NATO members pony up? In fact the increase in spending – $14 billion over 10 years; 62 billion over 20 –  represents a clear loss of sovereignty, abandoning our sovereign right to make decisions in our national interest to please a rogue US president.

Exactly what kind of global leadership does Freeland think we are now missing? Given that she spoke almost exclusively about defence spending presumably she thinks that a less military-interventionist Trump requires more intervention from Canada. But intervention where, exactly? Our last enthusiastic intervention – celebrated by our last Prime Minister – was in Libya. That “humanitarian” project resulted not only in a failed state but in the creation and arming of ISIS, the flood of desperate refugees to Europe and indirectly the terror attacks Freeland rightly describes as “monstrous.”

US “leadership” is known by another name in scores of countries around the globe: US imperialism. In fact in the last decade that term has gained widespread acceptance by the US political elite where it used to be righteously denied. Does Freeland believe that the illegal war on Iraq is an example of US leadership? Would she, unlike Jean Chretien, have joined in? What about the slaughter in Yemen? Going back a bit further, would Freeland see the literally dozens of US interventions to overthrow democratic governments and install dictators the epitome of US leadership?

The notion that anything Trump says can be taken as rock-solid American foreign or defence policy is laughable. The man is willfully ignorant of anything outside his New York penthouse and incapable of formulating let alone implementing a coherent policy. While he twitter-rants, real decisions are made by others. The US has not announced the closing of any of its 800 military installations around the world. Trump is going to go along with the military’s request for 1,000s of more troops for Afghanistan. And what kind of isolationist president increases military spending – already at $600 billion – by $54 billion?

The increase in military spending announced Wednesday will turn the Defence Department into an unabashed War Department with Harjit Sajjan playing second fiddle to the militant Freeland. Just what existential threats does Canada face? The terrorist threat is handled by our intelligence agencies and police. Russia and the US are the only two countries in close proximity and whether we have 65 jet fighters (Stephen Harper’s plan) or 88 (Freeland’s plan) will make absolutely not one iota of difference. With respect to the Arctic, where there are conflicting interests, it is obvious to all parties that negotiation is the only possible strategy.

But, of course, it’s not about defence. It’s about war. If we look at the planned spending it seems clear that we are gearing up for more Western adventurism, using NATO to prop up a failing finance capitalism by military threats. Freeland stated: “Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes requires the backing of hard power.” She has a duty to explain exactly what that means in the areas she listed as the focus of hard power: North Korea, the civil war in Syria, the Islamic State, Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Baltic states.   Freeland’s stated goal of “peace and stability” will not benefit in any way from an additional $14 billion in war materiel.

It’s hard to say which is the most outrageous aspect of this budgetary coup by the foreign affairs and defence bureaucracies. The transparent rationalization for the spending is simply shocking. Equally disturbing is the complete lack of a mandate for such an increase: it was never mentioned in the election and erases the Liberal election commitment to peace-keeping, it doubles down on Harper’s aggressive foreign policy, and was done with no consultation with Canadians.

There will be blowback to this military build-up. Young people played a major role in electing Sunny Ways Trudeau, and they have the political clout and passion to put him on notice that this is a deal-breaker. Let’s hope they use it.

MURRAY DOBBIN, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years.  He can be reached at murraydobbin@shaw.ca

Military Spending is the Biggest Scam in American Politics June 3, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Imperialism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: the inner logic of capitalism has been compared with that of a cancer cell, where the consideration that outweighs all other is growth, growth for its own sake.  And we know what that leads to.  That the nation that is one of the most invulnerable to the danger of military aggression is also the nation by far the most heavily armed … that is one pardon the expression atomic irony.  As the article below demonstrates, the stated justifications for the ongoing massive build-up of the instruments of death and destruction, make no sense whatsoever.  This insanity if unchecked will lead to the end of us all.  It has nothing to do with defence or safety and everything to do with filling the pockets of the merchants of death.  That is our reality … unless we change it.

 WuerkerComplex

 

Military spending is the biggest waste of federal taxdollars ever. Both political parties are

equally complicit.

The militarism scam is the best-kept secret in American politics.

When you think about it — but no one in the halls of Congress ever does — it’s hard to think of a country that has less to fear than the United States. Two vast oceans eliminate our vulnerability to attack, except by countries with sophisticated long-range ballistic missiles (5 out of 206 nations). We share long borders with two nations that we count as close allies and trading partners.

Historically, the U.S. has only faced an invasion once, by the British during the War of 1812. (There have been other minor incursions, by Mexico during the 19th century and the Japanese occupation of two remote islands in the Aleutian chain during World War II. The Pearl Harbor attack was a raid, not an invasion.)

Objectively, we have little to worry about beside terrorism — and that’s a job for domestic police and intelligence agencies, not the military. Yet a whopping 54% of discretionary federal spending goes to the Pentagon. The Bush Administration put the Afghanistan and Iraq wars “off the books” of the Pentagon budget. And that’s not counting interest on debt or benefits paid out for old wars. We’re still paying $5 billion a year for World War II. We’re still paying off beneficiaries for the Civil and Spanish-American Wars!

The U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the world’s population. We account for 37% of military spending worldwide, equal to the next seven countries (China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France, Japan) combined. (And the U.S. sells a lot of hardware to most of those countries.)

Russia spends roughly a tenth as much on defense as the U.S. And they have a lot more (and twice as much territory) to defend against: NATO/American missiles to their west in Europe, a southern border full of radical Islamists in unstable countries like Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Afghanistan a stone’s throw away, historical regional superpower rival China next door. Despite its relatively small defense budget, Russia somehow manages to soldier on.

No matter how you look at it, America’s military budget is due for a haircut. If it were up to me, I’d scale quickly down to the Russian level, pro rata for square mileage — lob 95% of this bloated $600 billion a year monstrosity right off the top. But even a less radical budget cutter could do some good. A 10% cut — $60 billion a year — would buy universal pre-school or allow half of America’s four-year college and university students to have free tuition.

Insanely, we’re going the opposite direction.

President Trump wants to increase military spending by $54 billion — roughly 10% — per year.

Republican hypocrisy is brazen and obvious. Most are channeling Dick Cheney’s “deficits don’t matter” to justify huge tax cuts to rich individuals and big business. “I’m not the first to observe that a Republican Congress only cares about the deficit when a Democrat is in the White House,” the economist Alan Krueger says. But even the most strident deficit hawks, though uncomfortable with the tax cuts, have no problem whatsoever with Trump’s proposed hike in military spending.

“Any time we spend more money — even if it’s for something that we need — we need to cut spending in a corresponding aspect to the budget,” says Rand Paul. Slashing other, more needed programs — which is pretty much anything other than the military — is what passes for sanity in the Republican Party.

No one is proposing zero increase, much less a cut.

If anything, the Democrats are even worse. Democrats have promised a fierce Resistance to Trump and his works. But their oft-stated resolve is noticeably absent when it comes to He-Who-Must-Be-Impeached’s lust to jack up a crazy-ass defense budget that doesn’t have much of a justification to exist at all.

“This budget shifts the burden off of the wealthy and special interests and puts it squarely on the backs of the middle class and those struggling to get there … Democrats in Congress will emphatically oppose these cuts and urge our Republican colleagues to reject them as well,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Notice what’s missing? Like other Democratic leaders, Schumer’s beef is with Trump’s proposed cuts to the arts, EPA and other domestic spending, and the tax cuts. He doesn’t say boo about the defense increase.

As usual, Bernie Sanders was better than other Democrats. But even he didn’t explicitly reject the idea of a military increase on its face.

As we move past Memorial Day — the holiday when we remember the war dead, the vast majority who died not to defend America but to oppress people in other countries who never posed a threat to the United States — we should reconsider the assumption that all military spending is good spending.

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.
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Uncle Sam Meets Doctor Freud July 29, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Art, Literature and Culture, Humor, Political Commentary, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I am a lover of cartoons, puns, politics and psychology.  When all four combine in one image, it knocks my socks off.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

 

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Merchants of Death, or, your tax dollars at work December 28, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in armaments, Arms, Chemical Biological Weapons, Nuclear weapons/power, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: The cost of the US inspired wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan is in the trillions of dollars.  So-called “defense” spending amounts to around 60% of US government discretionary spending.  Instruments of death, that is, military weaponry, costs billions of dollars every year.  War profiteers delight in the fact that their “product” is designed to be destroyed and therefore perpetually replaced.  As you can see, the United States manufactures and exports more weaponry than the rest of the world combined.  What all these death dollars could support and jobs create in the areas of health, education. housing, nutrition, and the elimination of poverty worldwide is enough bring one to tears.

Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered In US War And Occupation Of Iraq 1,455,590

Number of U.S. Military PersonnelSacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In U.S. War And Occupation Of Iraq 4,801

Number Of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered In Afghanistan : 3,487

Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan
$1,659,692,160,956

U.S. Foreign Arms Deals Increased Nearly $10 Billion in 2014

The National Security State Wins (Again) May 15, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in War.
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Why the Real Victor in Campaign 2012 Won’t Be Obama or Romney

By William J. Astore, www.tomdispatch.com, May 15, 2012

Now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, the media is already handicapping the presidential election big time, and the neck-and-neck opinion polls are pouring in. But whether President Obama gets his second term or Romney enters the Oval Office, there’s a third candidate no one’s paying much attention to, and that candidate is guaranteed to be the one clear winner of election 2012: the U.S. military and our ever-surging national security state.

The reasons are easy enough to explain. Despite his record as a “warrior-president,” despite the breathless “Obama got Osama” campaign boosterism, common inside-the-Beltway wisdom has it that the president has backed himself into a national security corner. He must continue to appear strong and uncompromising on defense or else he’ll get the usual Democrat-as-war-wimp label tattooed on his arm by the Republicans.

Similarly, to have a realistic chance of defeating him — so goes American political thinking — candidate Romney must be seen as even stronger and more uncompromising, a hawk among hawks. Whatever military spending Obama calls for, however much he caters to neo-conservative agendas, however often he confesses his undying love for and extols the virtues of our troops, Romney will surpass him with promises of even more military spending, an even more muscular and interventionist foreign policy, and an even deeper love of our troops.

Indeed, with respect to the national security complex, candidate Romney already comes across like Edward G. Robinson’s Johnny Rocco in the classic film Key Largo: he knows he wants one thing, and that thing is more. More ships for the Navy. More planes for the Air Force. More troops in general — perhaps 100,000 more. And much more spending on national defense.

Clearly, come November, whoever wins or loses, the national security state will be the true victor in the presidential sweepstakes.

Of course, the election cycle alone is hardly responsible for our national love of weaponry and war. Even in today’s straitened fiscal climate, with all the talk of government austerity, Congress feels obliged to trump an already generous president by adding yet more money for military appropriations. Ever since the attacks of 9/11, surging defense budgets, forever war, and fear-mongering have become omnipresent features of our national landscape, together with pro-military celebrations that elevate our warriors and warfighters to hero status. In fact, the uneasier Americans grow when it comes to the economy and signs of national decline, the more breathlessly we praise our military and its image of overwhelming power. Neither Obama nor Romney show any sign of challenging this celebratory global “lock and load” mentality.

To explain why, one must consider not only the pro-military positions of each candidate, but their vulnerabilities — real or perceived — on military issues. Mitt Romney is the easier to handicap. As a Mormon missionary in France and later as the beneficiary of a high draft lottery number, Romney avoided military service during the Vietnam War. Perhaps because he lacks military experience, he has already gone on record (during the Republican presidential debates) as deferring to military commanders on decisions such as whether we should bomb Iran. A President Romney, it seems, would be more implementer-in-chief than civilian commander-in-chief.

Romney’s métier at Bain Capital was competence in the limited sense of buying low and selling high, along with a certain calculated ruthlessness in dividing companies and discarding people to manufacture profit. These skills, such as they are, earn him little respect in military circles. Compare him to Harry Truman or Teddy Roosevelt, both take-charge leaders with solid military credentials. Rather than a Trumanesque “the buck stops here,” Romney is more about “make a buck here.” Rather than Teddy Roosevelt’s bloodied but unbowed “man in the arena,” Romney is more bloodless equity capitalist circling high above the fray in a fancy suit.

Consider as well Romney’s five telegenic sons. It’s hard to square Mitt’s professions of love for our military with his sons’ lack of interest in military service. Indeed, when asked about their lack of enthusiasm for joining the armed forces during the surge in Iraq in 2007, Mitt off-handedly replied that his sons were already performing an invaluable national service by helping him get elected.

An old American upper class sense of noblesse oblige, of sons of privilege like George H.W. Bush or John F. Kennedy volunteering for national service in wartime, has been dead for decades in our otherwise military-happy country. When it comes to sending American sons (and increasingly daughters) into harm’s way, for President Romney it’ll be another case of chickenhawk guts and working-class blood.

For election 2012, however, the main point is that the Romney family’s collective lack of service makes him vulnerable on national defense, a weakness that has already led Mitt and his campaign to overcompensate with ever more pro-military policy pronouncements supplemented with the usual bellicose rhetoric of all Republicans (Ron Paul excepted). As a result, President-elect Romney will ultimately find himself confined, cowed, and controlled by the national security complex — and he’ll have only himself (and Barack Obama) to blame.

Obama, by way of contrast, has already shown a passion for military force that in saner times would make him invulnerable to charges of being “weak” on defense. Fond of dressing up in military flight jackets and praising the troops to the rafters, Obama has substance to go with his style. He’s made some tough calls like sending SEAL Team 6 into Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden; using NATO airpower to take down Qaddafi in Libya; expanding special ops and drone warfare in Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, including the assassination of U.S. citizens without judicial process. America’s Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2009 has become a devotee of special forces, kill teams, and high-tech drones that challenge the very reality of national sovereignty. Surely such a man can’t be accused of being weak on defense.

The political reality, of course, is different. Despite his record, the Republican Party is forever at pains to portray Obama as suspect (that middle name Hussein!), divided in his loyalties (that Kenyan connection!), and not slavish enough in his devotion to “underdog” Israel. (Could he be a crypto-Muslim?)

The president and his campaign staff are no fools. Since any sign of “weakness” vis-à-vis Iran and similar enemies du jour or any expression of less than boundless admiration for our military will be exploited ruthlessly by Romney et al., Obama will continue to tack rightwards on military issues and national defense. As a result, once elected he, too, will be a prisoner of the Complex. In this process, the only surefire winner and all-time champ: once again, the national security state.

So what can we expect on the campaign trail this summer and fall? Certainly not prospective civilian commanders-in-chief confident in the vitally important role of restraining or even reversing the worst excesses of an imperial state. Rather, we’ll witness two men vying to be cheerleader-in-chief for continued U.S. imperial dominance achieved at nearly any price.

Election 2012 will be all about preserving the imperial status quo, only more so. Come January 2013, regardless of which man takes the oath of office, we’ll remain a country with a manic enthusiasm for the military. Rather than a president who urges us to abhor endless war, we’ll be led by a man intent on keeping us oblivious to the way we’re squandering our nation’s future in fruitless conflicts that ultimately compromise our core constitutional principles.

For all the suspense the media will gin up in the coming months, the ballots are already in and the real winner of election 2012 will be the national security state. Unless you’re a denizen of that special interest state, we know the loser, too. It’s you.

William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), is a TomDispatch regular. He welcomes reader comments at wjastore@gmail.com. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Astore discusses how the two presidential candidates are sure to out-militarize each other in the coming election campaign, click here or download it to your iPod here.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 William J. Astore

Bernie Sanders on “Deficit Reduction” August 4, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
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Dear roger,The $2.5 trillion deficit reduction deal that was agreed
to by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and
President Obama is grotesquely unfair.  It is also bad economic policy that, in
the midst of a terrible recession, will lead to the loss of hundreds of
thousands of jobs.

At a time when the wealthiest people in this country
are doing extremely well, and when their effective tax rate is the lowest in
decades, the rich will not be asked to contribute one penny more for deficit
reduction.   When corporate profits are soaring and a number of giant
corporations are able to completely avoid federal income taxes because of
obscene loop-holes in the tax code, corporate America will not be asked to
contribute one penny more for deficit reduction.  On the other hand, working
families, children, the sick and the elderly, many of whom are already suffering
because of the recession, are being asked to shoulder 100 percent of the human
cost of lowering our deficit.

The corporate media which, by and
large, has covered this debate as if it were a baseball game with political
“winners and losers,” has neglected to tell the American people what the
implications of this deficit reduction agreement are.  Let me take this
opportunity to do that.

The first round of $917 billion in discretionary
cuts over the next 10 years will begin in the 2012 budget.  Although nobody can
predict exactly what programs will be cut and by how much because those
decisions will be made over the coming months and years by the appropriation
committees, here’s what working families can look forward to:

·
At a time when there are long waiting lists for affordable childcare
and Head Start, it is likely that these programs will be significantly
cut.

· At a time when the United States is falling
further and further behind other countries in the terms of the quality of our
education, it is likely that tens of thousands of teachers and school personnel
will be laid off.

· At a time when working class
families are finding it harder and harder to send their kids to college, it is
likely that there will be cutbacks in federal student aid programs.

· At a time when hunger among seniors and children is rising,
it is likely that there will be cutbacks in various nutrition programs.

· At a time when 50 million Americans have no health insurance
and many of them are utilizing community health centers as their medical homes,
it is likely that there will be cuts in primary healthcare.

·
At a time when states, cities and towns have already laid off over
500,000 public service employees, it is likely that there will be even more
lay-offs in police and fire protection, and large reductions in federal support
for roads, bridges, water quality, sewage and public transportation.

Further, there will likely be cuts in home heating assistance,
affordable housing, support for family based agriculture, and research in
finding cures for cancer and other diseases.

In addition, there will
likely be major staffing reductions in agencies which are trying to protect the
physical health and economic well-being of our people.  It is quite likely that
the EPA, which enforces the rules regarding clean water and clean air, will be
cut.  The SEC, which regulates against the greed and recklessness of Wall
Street, will be undermined.  It is also very possible that the Social Security
Administration, which assures that seniors and the disabled receive the benefits
to which they are entitled in a timely manner, will also be cut.

That
is just some of what will likely happen as a result of the first $900 billion in
cuts in this $2.5 trillion deficit reduction package.

The second phase
of this legislation calls for the establishment of a Super Committee composed of
3 Democrats and 3 Republicans from the House and 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans
from the Senate.  Let’s be clear.  The mandate for this 12 member Super
Committee is to look at EVERY program of the federal government and come up with
$1.5 trillion more in savings.  This means that, at a time when the
Republicans and an increased number of Democrats are calling for major cuts in
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all of these programs will be on the
chopping block.

If the committee is unable to reach an
agreement with a majority vote, there will then be a “sequestration” process
which would require $500 billion in cuts to defense spending and $500 billion
more in across-the-board cuts to domestic discretionary spending.  In that
scenario, Social Security, Medicare benefits and Medicaid would be spared, but
even more draconian cuts would occur in programs that sustain working families.

Here is the great irony with regard to the deficit reduction
process that we have just gone through:

In poll after poll, the
American people have made it clear that they believe in shared sacrifice.
Instead of putting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and
environmental protection on the chopping block, the American people have said
that they believe the best way to reduce the deficit is to end tax breaks for
the wealthy, big oil, and Wall Street and take a hard look at military
spending.  Yet, the budget deal just approved does the exact opposite of what
the American people want.  The wealthy and large corporations contribute nothing
while there will be a major reduction in services for working families and the
most vulnerable people in our country.

Enough is enough!  The American
people must fight back.  We need a government which represents all the people,
not just the wealthy, campaign contributors and lobbyists.  In these tough and
discouraging times, despair is not an option.  This fight is not just for us, it
is for our children and grandchildren and for the environmental survival of the
planet.

Bernie
Senator Bernie Sanders

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Paid for by Friends of Bernie
Sanders

PO Box 391
Burlington, VT 05402

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Why is the Most Wasteful Government Agency Not Part of the Deficit Discussion? July 19, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Political Commentary.
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Published on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 by On the Commons

Republicans ignore incompetence, bloat and corruption at the Pentagon

 

  by  David Morris

In all the talk about the federal deficit, why is the single largest culprit left out of the conversation? Why is the one part of government that best epitomizes everything conservatives say they hate about government—- waste, incompetence, and corruption—all but exempt from conservative criticism?

Of course, I’m talking about the Pentagon. Any serious battle plan to reduce the deficit must take on the Pentagon. In 2011 military spending accounted for more than 58 percent of all federal discretionary spending and even more if the interest on the federal debt that is related to military spending were added. In the last ten years we have spent more than $7.6 trillion on military and homeland security according to the National Priorities Project.

In the last decade military spending has soared from $300 billion to $700 billion.


When debt ceilings and deficits seem to be the only two items on Washington’s agenda, it is both revealing and tragic that both parties give a free pass to military spending. Representative Paul Ryan’s much discussed Tea Party budget accepted Obama’s proposal for a pathetic $78 billion reduction in military spending over 5 years, a recommendation that would only modestly slow the rate of growth of military spending.

Indeed, the Republican government battering ram appears to have stopped at the Pentagon door. This was evident early on. As soon as they took over the House of Representatives, Republicans changed the rules so that military spending does not have to be offset by reduced spending somewhere else, unlike any other kind of government spending. It is the only activity of government they believe does not have to be paid for. Which brings to mind a bit of wisdom from one of their heroes, Adam Smith. “Were the expense of war to be defrayed always by revenue raised within the year … wars would in general be more speedily concluded, and less wantonly undertaken.”

The Tea Party revolution has only strengthened the Republican Party’s resolve that the Pentagon’s budget is untouchable. An analysis by the Heritage Foundation of Republican votes on defense spending found that Tea Party freshmen were even more likely than their Republican elders to vote against cutting any part of the military budget.

What makes the hypocrisy even more revealing is that the Pentagon turns out to be the poster child for government waste and incompetence.

In 2009 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found “staggering” cost overruns of almost $300 billion in nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon’s 96 major weapons. What’s more, the programs were running, on average, 21 months behind schedule. And when they were completed, they provided less than they promised.

The Defense Logistics Agency had no use for parts worth more than half of the $13.7 billion in equipment stacked up in DOD warehouses in 2006 to 2008.

And these are only the tips of the military’s misspending iceberg. We really don’t know how much the Pentagon wastes because, believe it or not, there hasn’t been a complete audit of the Pentagon in more than 15 years.

In 1994, the Government Management Reform Act required the Inspector General of each federal agency to audit and publish the financial statements of their agency. The Department of Defense was the only agency that has been unable to comply. In fiscal 1998 the Department of Defense used $1.7 trillion of undocumentable adjustments to balance the books. In 2002 the situation was even worse. CBS News reported that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted, “we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.”

Imagine that a school district were to reveal that it didn’t know where it spent its money. Now imagine the Republican response. Perhaps, “Off with their desktops!”

How did Congress’ respond to DOD’s delinquency? It gave it absolution and allowed it to opt out of its legal requirement. But as a sop to outraged public opinion Congress required DOD to set a date when it would have its book sufficiently in order to be audited. Which the Pentagon dutiful did, and missed every one of the target dates. The latest is 2017 and DOD has already announced it will be unable to meet that deadline.

Adding insult to injury, last September, the GAO found that the new computer systems intended to improve the Pentagon’s financial oversight are themselves nearly 100 percent or $7 billion over budget and as much as 12 years behind schedule!

The Pentagon is not just incompetent. It is corrupt. In November 2009 the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), the federal watchdog responsible for auditing oversight of military contractors, raised the question of criminal wrongdoing when it found that the audits that did occur were riddled with serious breaches of auditor independence. One Pentagon auditor admitted he did not perform detailed tests because, “The contractor would not appreciate it.”

Why would the Pentagon allow its contractors to get away with fraud? To answer that question we need to understand the incestuous relationship between the Pentagon and its contractors that has been going on for years, and is getting worse. From 2004 to 2008, 80 percent of retiring three and four star officers went to work as consultants or defense industry executives. Thirty-four out of 39 three- and four-star generals and admirals who retired in 2007 are now working in defense industry roles — nearly 90 percent.

retired general working for defense
Generals are recruited for private sector jobs well before they retire. Once employed by the military contractor the general maintains a Pentagon advisory role.

“In almost any other realm it would seem a clear conflict of interest. But this is the Pentagon where…such apparent conflicts are a routine fact of life”, an in-depth investigation by the Boston Globe concluded.

U.S. military spending now exceeds the spending of all other countries combined. Knowledge military experts argue that we can cut at least $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget without changing its currently expressed mission. But a growing number believe that the mission itself is suspect. Economic competitors like India and China certainly approve of our willingness to undermine our economic competitiveness by diverting trillions of dollars into war and weapons production. Some argue that all this spending has made us more secure but all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Certainly our $2 trillion and counting military adventures in the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan have won us few friends and multiplied our enemies.

Defense experts Gordon Adams and Matthew Leatherman, writing in the Washington Post offer another argument against unrestrained military spending.

“Countries feel threatened when rivals ramp up their defenses; this was true in the Cold War, and now it may happen with China. It’s how arms races are born. We spend more, inspiring competitors to do the same — thus inflating defense budgets without making anyone safer. For example, Gates observed in May that no other country has a single ship comparable to our 11 aircraft carriers. Based on the perceived threat that this fleet poses, the Chinese are pursuing an anti-ship ballistic missile program. U.S. military officials have decried this “carrier-killer’‘ effort, and in response we are diversifying our capabilities to strike China, including a new long-range bomber program, and modernizing our carrier fleet at a cost of about $10 billion per ship.”

For tens of millions of Americans real security comes not from fighting wars on foreign soil but from not having to worry losing their house or their job or their medical care. As Joshua Holland, columnist for Alternet points out 46 states faced combined budget shortfalls this year of $130 billion, leading them to fire tens of thousands of workers and cut off assistance to millions of families. Just the supplemental requests for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan this year were $170 billion.

What is perhaps most astonishing of all is that cutting the military budget is wildly popular. Even back in 1995, when military spending was only a fraction of its present size, a poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes reported that 42 percent of the US public feeling that defense spending is too high and a majority of Americans were convinced that defense spending “has weakened the US economy and given some allies an economic edge.”

This March Reuters released a new poll that found the majority of Americans support reducing defense spending.

The next time you hear Republicans insist they want to ferret out government waste and reduce spending and stamp out incompetence ask them why the one part of government that exemplifies everything they say is wrong with government is the one part of government they embrace most heartily.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

 

David Morris

David Morris is Vice President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., which focuses on local economic and social development.

 

 

 

 

Just Don’t Call It “Defense” May 7, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in War.
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Friday 07 May 2010

by: John Lamperti, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

photo
(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: The U.S. Army, m.a.r.c., NedraI)

The Pentagon “base budget” request for fiscal year 2011 (beginning on October 1) calls for about $549 billion, an increase of $18 billion over the appropriation for the current fiscal year. That’s nowhere near the whole story. The administration is also requesting about $160 billion for “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO) that goes to pay for wars and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. There’s also $25 billion or more in military spending outside the “Department of Defense,” much of that for nuclear weapons included in the Department of Energy’s budget. (This $25 billion could be much larger, depending on what is included.) The grand total – and it is grand – comes to at least $734 billion. There is an additional $33 billion “emergency supplemental” appropriation to pay for the Afghanistan escalation; it’s said to cost $1 million to maintain one soldier there for a year. That $33 billion would be counted as part of FY 2010 spending, and, of course, there may be a supplemental in 2011 as well. The total has more than doubled in the last decade and continues to rise.

How can we understand such numbers? It’s usual to consider how many schools, clinics, or other necessary things could be built with some of that money, how many teachers and doctors could be paid or hungry children fed. If that military money were spent for ordinary, useful things it could go a very long way. For example, food stamps are this country’s most important anti-hunger program, and the need for them has jumped during the economic crisis. An all-time high of almost 40 million people, about one of every eight Americans, are now receiving this form of help, half of them are children, and a third are elderly or disabled. The food stamps program cost $56 billion in FY 2009 (it’s somewhat more this year), less than one tenth of the military’s base budget. Food stamps are responsible for making severe hunger rare in America, and surely that’s a far greater contribution to “homeland security” than the occupation of Iraq.

Another example: A UN report several years ago called on the United States and other rich nations to spend more on overseas development assistance in order to meet their commitment to cut extreme global poverty in half over ten years. The amount of money needed for that goal, from all the developed world together, would have been $48 billion per year – again less than one tenth of annual US military spending.

There is another cost, the effect on global climate and resources. The United States military is a huge source of pollution and environmental destruction. This country, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, consumes some 25 percent of its oil. Somewhere around 2 percent of that oil, some 400,000 barrels every day, is burned by the military. About 70 percent of that is in the form of jet fuel, around 14 percent of the nation’s total. Fuel efficiency does not rank high among the design criteria for new tanks or jet fighters.

Military spending is always a tragedy of lost opportunities. In the words of former President Dwight Eisenhower, the great general of World War II, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

Even so, that can’t be the last word. If devoting so many resources to the US armed forces were really necessary to preserve our safety and independence – to defend our freedom – this wealthy nation would have to bear the burden. Is that the case? Another comparison, the international perspective, suggests a very different answer.

In 2003, the United States was preparing to invade Iraq. To justify that war, the American people and Congress were told that Iraq was a serious threat because of its powerful military machine and its “weapons of mass destruction.” Was that ever credible? According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Iraq’s military spending was then about $1.3 billion per year, roughly 300 times less the US spent on its military! If they could threaten us with such a small military budget, the Iraqi soldiers must have been supermen – or else the vast US spending was largely wasted. Of course, everyone now knows that there was no military threat from Iraq.

Iran and North Korea were the other two members of Bush’s ridiculous “axis of evil,” and the threat posed by Iran, which might some day have a nuclear weapon, has been much in the spotlight of late. How do these countries stack up today as military powers? Again, according to the CIA, Iran now spends about $22 billion on its armed forces. North Korea is secretive as to its military budget and the Factbook declines to speculate. It does peg North Korea’s entire economy (GDP) at around $40 billion. South Korea, the only nation that might fear aggression from the North, spends almost that much just on its armed forces. Military spending represents only 2.7 percent of South Korea’s GDP, leaving room for increases in an emergency. South Korea, of course, is a firm US ally, and nearly 30,000 US troops are still stationed there. Perhaps, North Korea feels a little threatened itself.

Some see a potential danger in Cuba, “only 90 miles off our shores” and, understandably, not friendly to the US government. But Cuba spends a smaller percentage of its GDP on defense than does the United States, amounting to about $4.2 billion dollars. In Cuba’s case, using the word “defense” is probably justified.

The more compelling military comparison, of course, is with bigger countries. Some of the world’s larger armed forces, such as those of Great Britain, France, Germany and even Russia, are relatively easy to assess and their budgets are comparable to one tenth of ours; the CIA’s estimates for their military spending are $51.6 billion, $55 billion, $44 billion and $82.5 billion, respectively. Of course, the first three are US allies, and Russia is no longer considered a dangerous enemy. Evaluating the military budget of China is much harder and estimates differ widely. China’s official total, considered by all outsiders to be too low, is $78 billion. The CIA puts it almost five times higher, at $378 billion. Others, including the World Bank, give far lower estimates ranging from 1 and one-half to 3 times the official figure. However, there is general agreement that China’s military spending has been rising during recent years, but that its spending and capabilities remain very far below those of the United States. It is hard to imagine China becoming an actual military threat to this country.

The CIA’s Factbook and the World Bank estimate that the entire world spends around one and a half trillion dollars ($1,500,000,000,000) per year on weapons and war, and the United States alone is responsible for roughly half of that incredible and shameful figure. The money we spend is not for the “defense” of this country against any conceivable attacker, should one exist. Much of it maintains and even enlarges forces designed for the former cold war, when the USSR was considered a threatening superpower. Some pays for the 750 to 800 US military bases overseas, located in at least 40 countries. A great deal of the total buys what the Pentagon calls “power projection forces,”‘ such as aircraft carrier battle groups. (The US Navy operates 11 large carriers, all nuclear powered. No other country has any comparable ships.) And a lot is wasteful “pork,” spent for unneeded or unworkable – but very profitable – weapons systems like the untested anti-missile defenses in Alaska.

Why do we spend so much, year after year, decades after the end of the cold war? Part of the answer lies in interservice rivalry and institutional inertia. The culture of militarism, and with it the assumption that US interests must be defended worldwide, has become self-perpetuating. Moreover, there is the great political power of the many industries that profit from maintaining, enlarging and operating our military system; together they form a major part of the US economy. It was again President Dwight Eisenhower who famously warned, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military/industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Today, that “misplaced power” is not “potential,” but an all too present reality.

Probably, most Americans believe that the United States should continue to maintain the most powerful military forces of any nation in the world. That should be enough for our defense! But if the benchmark for US military power were merely to remain number one, two-thirds of current spending could be converted to peaceful purposes. The US military institution is not a “defense” force, nor are the hundreds of billions it costs in “defense” spending. It is simply not accurate to use such terms; this is an institution and a budget for world domination. It will be very difficult to change that reality.


John Lamperti is a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Dartmouth College. He is the author of several books on the theory of probability and on random processes. Since 1985 one of his main interests has been Central America and what the United States has been doing there. He is the author of “Enrique Alvarez Cordova: Life of a Salvadoran Revolutionary and Gentleman” (MacFarland, 2006).

Cost of War February 3, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in War.
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Roger Hollander, February 3, 2010

The National Priorities Project has a website that every American should visit daily: www.costofwar.com

On the home page are running totals of the dollar amounts for the cost of all war since 2001, and spicific numbers for the cost of the illegal wars in Iraq (over 705 Billion Dollars) and Afghanistan (over 250 Billion Dollars).  One can watch as the numbers surge (and I use that term advisedly) at the rate of more than a thousand dollars per second.

The site will also tell you what could be purchased for those amounts of money in the areas of health, education, housing,  social welfare, etc.  More specifically it can tell you what could be purchased by state, congressional district, city, town, county, household, person or taxpayer with the proportion contributed to war from that jurisdiction or individual.

A few examples:

Taxpayers in California will pay $114.9 billion for total Iraq & Afghanistan war spending since 2001. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
47,305,588 People with Health Care for One Year OR
2,053,320 Public Safety Officers for One year OR
1,623,657 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR
17,273,009 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
21,483,103 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5350 OR
344,035 Affordable Housing Units OR
42,963,476 Children with Health Care for One Year OR
13,748,158 Head Start Places for Children for One Year OR
1,650,766 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
 
Taxpayers in New York City, New York will pay $344.6 million for proposed ballistic missile defense in FY2010. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
63,550 People with Health Care for One Year OR
6,651 Public Safety Officers for One year OR
5,248 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR
56,235 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
64,412 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5350 OR
1,959 Affordable Housing Units OR
120,422 Children with Health Care for One Year OR
39,262 Head Start Places for Children for One Year OR
3,991 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
645,176 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year
Taxpayers in (Obama’s) Cook County, Illinois will pay $238.3 million for proposed ballistic missile defense in FY2010. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
99,564 People with Health Care for One Year OR
4,904 Public Safety Officers for One year OR
4,157 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR
24,119 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
44,551 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5350 OR
1,728 Affordable Housing Units OR
164,257 Children with Health Care for One Year OR
35,279 Head Start Places for Children for One Year OR
3,663 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
316,960 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year
I urge you to go to this website and see what you, your family, your local community, your state and your country could have done and could be doing in the areas of human need with your tax dollars that go to kill, destroy, and fill the pockets of the war profiteers.