The Watering Hole; Thursday April 7 2016; Wage Peace, Not War part II — “Defense” Budget;

“We’re run by people that don’t get it. I don’t know, it’s a lack of street smarts,
it’s a lack of intelligence, to be honest with you, but it’s just a horrible situation.”
(Donald Trump)

A revolting statistic: The US military outspends the next 13 top-spending nations combined.

Military spending, WaPo

(▲Courtesy Washington Post▲)

Not sure why it is, really, but stats like that MAKE ME MAD!!! Can anyone come up with a better and more efficient means for a nation to piss away its wealth and sustenance than blowing the better part of a trillion dollars on its war machine? What exactly has that philosophy bought us US since, say, Sept 2 1945, aka the end of the last truly defensive war in which the US (necessarily) engaged? What’s been our gain in Korea? Vietnam? Grenada? Panama? Bosnia? Kuwait? Afghanistan? Iraq? And today, Syria? How many global “friends” have we acquired courtesy of our military adventurism? None? How many enemies have we made? Lots? To what end?

Are we safer now? Is the M.I.C. better off?

The answers to those last two questions are, of course, NO and YES, resp.; and therein lies the rub: it’s the MONEY, stupid.

Here in Amurkkka we loves us some military. Cuz there’s MONEY in it, dontcha know! OK, so there’s also wanton death, destruction, murder, insanity, etc., but what the hell, the MONEY trumps all of that, right? Right. So we continue on our wayward path of always spending more, more, more! on war (aka, to the uninformed, “Defense”) than the rest of the civilized world COMBINED! — and we leave nothing but death, destruction, and insanity  — and hatred of us — in our wake even as we accomplish only what the billionaires want most: more MONEY handed them by we the people. Conclusion: as a nation, we ain’t worth — to the rest of the world — much more than the powder it would take to blow US all to hell.

No worries, though; I have an idea. 🙂

We currently spend $711 Billion per year on what we call “defense.” The world’s second biggest spender on “defense” is our (arch enemy?) China who spends, according to the chart up top, around $145 Billion (make it $146B for easy figuring). Suppose we, US, would agree, in the interest of global sanity, to spend no more than that on our war machine. That would leave $711B minus $146B, or $565B that could be invested elsewhere, maybe even on PEACEful enterprises!

Wow.

Think of it. More than half-a-TRILLION bucks left over! Half a trillion bucks once allocated for ‘defense’ but no longer wasted on bombs and bullets and stuff. Is it really necessary that our “leaders” forever continue to presume that their own reality must remain focused on and be governed by that line from Herman Wouk’s masterful tome The Winds of War, words attributed to Adolf Hitler?

“. . . I have never stopped building planes, planes, planes, U-boats, U-boats, U-boats! . . . I have piled bombs, bombs, bombs, tanks, tanks, tanks to the sky! It has been a wasteful, staggering burden on my people, but what other language have great states ever understood? It is out of a sense of strength that I have offered peace! I Have been rejected and scorned . . .”

That’s an able summation of what’s defined the US “defense” prescription for the last 70 years at least, but a quick look around serves to dismiss the thesis that a great state and its sense of strength can collectively serve to support peace anywhere among us before its leader(s) become rejected and scorned. So why do we continue to follow that self-destructive path? Why do we so love war? What’s so wrong with peace and with caring for others? What is it that forces us to insist on the always-failed military non-solution?

Simple. It’s the MONEY.

So, OK, we in the US currently piss away budget $711 Billion annually for “defense,” and a handful of “important” people (see Dick Cheney, e.g.) get rich off the process even as millions around the world suffer and/or die in result. That essentially spells out, seems to me, what could be described as an able summation of a genuinely nasty setup and policy.

I recommend a few simple changes; here’s a quick summary:

  1. Reserve $146 billion for “defense” in order to keep us on par with China.
  2. Of the (annual!) remaining $565 Billion, we can begin by allocating $100 Billion (annually!) to assist and provide for the needs of refugees who are fleeing the explosive (thanks mainly to US) Middle East — Syria, Iraq, etc.
  3. Of the remaining $465 billion, allocate $75 Billion (annually!) to assist and support refugees(?) from Central America and Mexico, also to enable each and all to obtain legal assistance that enables them to apply for and gain US citizenship, should they so desire.
  4. $390 billion remains. How about $100 Billion (annually!) to be invested in the maintenance and rebuilding of infrastructure here at home?
  5. Of the $290 Billion remaining, $75 billion could be invested (annually!) in anti-poverty programs/initiatives in cities and states everywhere across the country.
  6. Next, apply $100 Billion (annually!) on scientific program(s) designed and developed to help SOLVE the human-caused global climate change dilemma/crisis, both here at home and around the world.
  7. Invest $75 Billion (annually!) wherever needed in domestic Public Education.
  8. Invest $35 Billion (annually!) in a rejuvenated Peace Corps, dedicated to helping the needy in countries everywhere.
  9. And finally, use the remaining $5 Billion (annually!) to pay the salaries and office costs required by those who will work endlessly to devise the mechanisms of forever CLOSING and inverting the tax loopholes that benefit Corporations and billionaires everywhere!

There. A skeletonized recommendation of the means to relieve this country of its never-ending (annualized) planes, planes, planes, bombs, bombs, bombs, tanks, tanks, tanks piled to the sky (!.!.!.) philosophy, and to erect in its place a series of well-financed (each and every year!!) programs that will benefit people both at home and the world over; programs that will reduce (rather than accelerate) hatred of the US by people both at home and the world over. Consider all of this to be the latest incarnation of the

WAGE PEACE, NOT WAR!

domestic and global MOVEMENT!

Or —

We can go the other way, elect Donald Trump as our President, and wallow in the swill that his tremendous acumen on all such matters has already suggested:

I know how to fix it, so easy, that aspect of it. And even, you know, the nuclear.
I am doing so good on nuclear by people that are fair. What’s happening now is
we’re paying for the world’s — we’re like the world’s policeman but they don’t
pay us for it. We lose a fortune on the military. You know, our military budget is
phenomenally higher than any other budget but it’s not for us, we’re protecting
everybody else and we lose a fortune.

(Donald Trump)

Nice choice, right?

OPEN THREAD

 

 

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The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 14th, 2015: Populism That Works

ICYMI, or maybe ICIMI: there’s a petition going around for a great idea that was brought to our attention today in a newsletter from populist Jim Hightower. The Campaign for Postal Banking is pushing for local Post Offices to also provide banking services. As Jim Hightower states:

“Millions of Americans live in areas that now have no alternative to the Wall Street-backed predatory lenders and check-cashing chains that rip them off. We can change this. The Campaign for Postal Banking has started a petition to the US Postmaster General to make postal banking a reality. With postal banking, folks that don’t have access to good banks or credit unions can go to their community post office for non-profit, consumer-driven financial services — getting their basic banking needs met without being gouged by Wall Street profiteers.”

From an article by Ralph Nader at Huffington Post yesterday discusses the topic as well:

“According to Bloomberg, from 2008 to 2013: “Banks have shut 1,826 branches…. and 93 percent of closings were in postal codes where the household income is below the national median.”

and

“Last year, the office of the USPS inspector general released a report detailing the ways in which postal banking would be beneficial to both the public and the USPS itself, which has been made to endure an unprecedented advanced payment of $103.7 billion by 2016 to cover future health benefits of postal retirees for the next 75 years. No other government or private corporation is required to meet this unreasonable prepayment burden.”

An article at OurFuture.org from May of this year has more, including this excerpt:

“For millions of underserved families, the Postal Service is already a part of their financial lives,” the report said, noting that post offices sold $21 billion worth of money orders in 2014. Yet, “in order to get the funds to purchase those money orders, many families likely first went to expensive check cashers to convert their paychecks into currency. What if those consumers could instead cash their paychecks at a post office for a lower fee? What if they also could pay bills, buy low-fee prepaid cards, and maybe even get affordable small-dollar loans, all in one convenient location? This could help consumers save money and time, and it would help the Postal Service fulfill its mission to facilitate commerce and serve citizens.”

An idea that’s a total win-win for poorer Americans; empowers “Main Street”; helps to save the U.S. Postal Service from its deliberate destruction by Congress; that keeps and creates jobs, thereby improving the economy; and helps to break the chokehold of Wall Street and the too-big-to-fail banks that WE THE TAXPAYERS bailed out? Every politician who’s in bed with the Wall Street/big bank cabal will be fighting this with every bit of power they have. This is an idea worth fighting for, and one that should show any non-1%er-American who still has a functioning brain exactly what “populism” means and what Democratic Socialist Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is standing for.

Let’s all say a big, loud “FUCK YOU” to the real “takers” in our country, and make something happen.

This is our daily Open Thread – feel free to talk about this topic or anything else on your mind.

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 13th, 2014: More Money than God

At billmoyers.com, I spotted an article by Sam Pizzigati, regarding the recent publication of the Forbes 2014 Billionaires list. An excerpt:

“…the richest of these 400 hold far more than that average. Take Larry Ellison, the third-ranking deep pocket on this year’s Forbes list. Ellison just stepped down as the CEO of the Oracle business software colossus. His net worth: $50 billion.

What does Ellison do with all those billions? He collects homes and estates, for starters, with 15 or so scattered all around the world. Ellison likes yachts, too. He currently has two extremely big ones, each over half as long as a football field.

Ellison also likes to play basketball, even on his yachts. If a ball bounces over the railing, no problem. Ellison has a powerboat following his yacht, the Wall Street Journal noted this past spring, “to retrieve balls that go overboard.”

Hiring that ball-retriever qualifies Ellison as a “job creator,” right? Maybe not. Ellison has regularly destroyed jobs on his way to grand fortune. He has become, over the years, a master of the merge-and-purge two-step: First you snatch your rival’s customers, then you fire its workers. In 2005, for instance, Ellison shelled out $10.6 billion to buy out PeopleSoft, an 11,000-employee competitor. He then proceeded to put the ax to 5,000 jobs.

Here’s the Forbes 2014 list. Note that the Koch Brothers are tied for 6th place – aww, they didn’t make #1? They must be spending too much money on Republican/Teabagger political candidates. And, of course, several members of the Walton family took 8th through 11th place. I have not perused much of the list, but I see that one of the other sugar daddies of the right, Sheldon Adelson is at #15, while evil left-winger George Soros is at #24. (In between is Wayne’s former ‘boss’ at Xerox, Carl Icahn, at #22.)

One of the “highlights” listed towards the bottom of one of the Forbes articles is this factoid that gave me pause:

“The oldest billionaire is David Rockefeller Sr. (# 190), age 99, with a net worth of $3 billion.”

Gardens at Rockefeller Estate - Hudson River in the background.  (photo by Jeff Goodell)

Gardens at Rockefeller Estate – Hudson River in the background. (photo by Jeff Goodell)

Now, we grew up in an area where the Rockefeller estate is about half-an-hour away, near the legendary “Sleepy Hollow” area. I have cousins on my father’s side who lived near the estate, and when we used to visit them when I was young, the drive took us along, and through, parts of the estate (one could tell by the tall fencing that seemed to hold the estate’s huge old trees back from the road, often on both sides.) So we always considered the Rockefeller family as sort of ‘neighbors.’ Despite his obvious personal flaws, i.e., not making Happy Rockefeller happy, at least Nelson D. Rockefeller was a fairly moderate Republican in the days when there really were moderate Republicans, several of whom could be respected regardless of one’s political affiliation. Of course, these days, Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller would be considered RINOs.

Another excerpt from Pizzigati’s article:

“This year, for the first time ever, Forbes has assigned a “self-made score” to every one of America’s richest 400. More than two-thirds of this year’s 400, Forbes claims, rate as “self-made,” Ellison among them.
[emphasis mine]Forbes doesn’t bother asking how those rich went about self-making their fortunes. We should. Our top 400, after all, haven’t just made monstrously large fortunes. They’ve made a monstrously large mess. To unmake it, we need to unmake them.”.

Amen to THAT, folks.

Oh, yeah, one more thing about the Forbes list: if you’re worth a mere billion dollars, you’re still not rich enough to make the list, as the minimum to qualify this year was $1.55 billion.

This is our daily open thread – feel free to discuss whatever you want.

The Watering Hole; Thursday April 10 2014; Money

In the Online Dictionary, ‘Money’ is defined as (underlines added):

mon·ey [muhn-ee] noun, plural mon·eys, mon·ies.

1. any circulating medium of exchange, including coins, paper money, and demand deposits.
2. paper money.
3. gold, silver, or other metal in pieces of convenient form stamped by public authority and issued as a medium of exchange and measure of value.
4. any article or substance used as a medium of exchange, measure of wealth, or means of payment, as checks on demand deposit or cowrie.
5. a particular form or denomination of currency.

In close-up view, there’s little room to disagree that money genuinely is, in listed order, a medium of exchange, measure of value, measure of wealth, and a means of payment for whatever, be it groceries, or debt, or an airline ticket, stick of bubble gum, etc. In other words, the means of payment is roughly the equivalent of having available whatever the amount of ‘money’ it takes to buy something one wants or needs, something available ‘out there’ somewhere on the open market, etc.; and, of course, the amount of ‘money’ one has available, i.e. wealth, pretty much defines the upper limit of the means of payment concept. That’s why the world’s monetary poor (note; not ‘intellectually’ poor) do not own mansions and/or yachts, private planes, or often even shoes. It’s money that defines privilege, in other words. Up to a point, of course, given that (at least in the United States) the right to purchase people, i.e. slavery, was officially abolished with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment which became law in December, 1865.

Today, some might wonder if the Thirteenth Amendment defined a grand principle . . . which remained in effect only until January 2010 when the United States Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision in the Citizens United case, that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections . . . a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. 

The First Amendment, cited above, reads, in part:  Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech. In other words, based on the presumed “logic” implicit in said Citizens United decision, political spending by corporations  i.e. “money” — is now, suddenly and without precedent, legally defined as freedom of speech. Right. I mean really. What could possibly go wrong?

Then came the recent SCOTUS decision in McCutcheon v. FEC wherein, once again via a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court expanded “the concept of free speech” by agreeing that unlimited Big Money tossed into any given candidate’s political arena is essentially and for all practical purposes the First Amendment equivalent of . . . well, of, say, burning draft cards, or nude dancing, or maybe even of a homeless bum exercising his right to free speech by standing on a soapbox in the park and speaking his mind to whomever might dare to listen (until he’s pepper-sprayed and arrested for being a bum on a soapbox in a public park, of course).

Newt Gingrich apparently enjoyed the McCutcheon decision more than did most any other non-billionaire, as evidenced in his suggestion that if only the court could somehow find the means/will to remove ALL donation limits to political hacks on the part of corporations and billionaires, the grand result would be to finally ‘Equalize The Middle Class And The Rich’ once and for all. In Newt’s own words, “The next step is the one Justice Clarence Thomas cited — candidates should be allowed to take unlimited amounts of money from anybody. And you would, overnight, equalize the middle class and the rich.”

YES!! EQUALIZE!! MAKE THE MIDDLE CLASS REALLY RICH!! OVERNIGHT!! GIMME!! YEEHAW! NEWT FOR PRESIDENT!!! Oh . . . wait. That is what he really meant . . . right?

It was in the 1976 SCOTUS decision, Buckley v. Valeo that (for reasons no one with a brain can or will ever understand) ‘money’ became definable as ‘free speech.’ Interestingly enough, a quick search for the word ‘money’ in the text of the U.S. Constitution, as amended, comes up with only six hits, all in Article I wherein Congress is granted the Constitutional power (1) To borrow Money; (2) To coin Money [and to] regulate the Value thereof; (3) To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; (4 and 5) No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time; and (6) No State shall . . . coin Money

That’s it. Note that NOWHERE in the above are the words “freedom of speech” or “free speech” mentioned or even hinted. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d have thought that had the Founders considered “money” to be the equivalent of free speech IN ANY POSSIBLE CONTEXT that they just might have mentioned it somewhere in the body of the Constitution. But nope, they didn’t.

Money: medium of exchange — measure of value — measure of wealth — means of payment. Money is all of that, no argument. But, lest we forget, that since ‘money’ has officially and legally been defined as FREE SPEECH it’s also become, in this ‘modern’ era, the very definition of POWER, with absolutely no requirement that said POWER be benign and in the interest of We the people. Nope. In fact, the interests, the concerns, ideas, attitudes, even the beliefs of average people (i.e. those for whom immense monetary wealth is but a fleeting dream), have now become defined by the US Supreme Court as secondary to the wishes of America’s emerging Oligarchy, i.e that form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few. . . . government by the rich; government by the few, by the monied.

Hi David (Koch). Hi Charles (Koch). Hi Sheldon (Adelson). Hi Foster (Friess). Gimme a dollar and I’ll bow in your general direction! Gimme a million, git me elected, and yahsuh, I be yer slave!! So said   {add name/names here}  , among many many others, and with many many more waiting in line breathlessly.

Why is it that such a (patently ridiculous) thesis is not literally defined as at least a partial overturn of the Thirteenth Amendment? I mean, really. When people . . . human beings . . . are once again, in America, up for sale to the highest bidder, what’s that called? — erm . . . assuming, of course, that politicians who accept millions in private funds are . . . umm . . . human? beings?  Hmmm . . . can’t think of any who fit that description just offhand, but . . . Well, maybe tomorrow. If I come up with any names, I’ll write ’em down in the morning. That’s if I can scrounge up the cash to buy a pencil. Or a piece of paper.

OPEN THREAD; SPEAK OUT — THERE IS NO CHARGE