Wednesday, July 23, 2008

While Americans Starve, Burn Furniture, the Pentagon Trashes the Treasury

This incredible article by Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone exposes what's really happened to the economy: the fallout of Republicanomics, of robbing the poor to feed the rich and their military-expansionist fantasies.

It started with a stark description of individuals' lives as described by Middle Class Vermonters to their Senator Bernie Sanders who asked his constituents how the economic "downturn" was affecting them. Expecting a few letters, he was swamped with over 700, telling of such harrowing experiences as burning furniture to stay warm and property taxes (thanks to RepubliBush Federal Tax Cuts to the Rich) are eating into their food money, not to mention education. Health care and dental care, of course, already are out of question. Welcome to Third World America.

Sanders got letters from working people who have been reduced to eating "cereal and toast" for dinner, from a 71-year-old man who has been forced to go back to work to pay for heating oil and property taxes, from a worker in an oncology department of a hospital who reports that clinically ill patients are foregoing cancer treatments because the cost of gas makes it too expensive to reach the hospital. The recurring theme is that employment, even dual employment, is no longer any kind of barrier against poverty. Not economic discomfort, mind you, but actual poverty. Meaning, having less than you need to eat and live in heated shelter -- forgetting entirely about health care and dentistry, which has long ceased to be considered an automatic component of American middle-class life.

Don't ask me, though, ask a U.S. Senator.
"The middle class is disappearing," says Sanders. "In real ways we're becoming more like a third-world country."

Wow! the Republicans' drained our Treasury, from which they removed their largest contributor, the Superrich, by the most profligate adventurism imaginable in Iraq. Funding for the Pentagon has gutted the American people's public fund into which their lifeblood has been drained via IRS-enforced taxes.

We've all seen the stats -- median income has declined by almost $2,500 over the past seven years, we have a zero personal savings rate in America for the first time since the Great Depression, and 5 million people have slipped below the poverty level since the beginning of the decade.

We have a government that is spending two and a half billion dollars a day in Iraq, essentially subsidizing new swimming pools for the contracting class in northern Virginia, at a time when heating oil and personal transportation are about to join health insurance on the list of middle-class luxuries. Home heating and car ownership are slipping away from the middle class thanks to exploding energy prices -- the hidden cost of the national borrowing policy we call dependency on foreign oil, "foreign" representing those nations, Arab and Chinese, that lend us the money to pay for our wars.

Oh, so now we're a debtor nation. Some "Superpower". We're throwing away democracy and prosperity at home so we can "export democracy" to Iraq and Afghanistan. What a great way to take revenge against the terrorists who caused 9/11! Kill off the American Middle Class! Send their sons to war to get killed or, more likely, maimed for life, and ruin their livelihood and starve their parents! That'll serve those terrorists! And set up a military dictatorship that looks for all the world like a democracy, except that it really isn't!


And while we've all heard stories about how much waste and inefficiency there is in our military spending, this is always portrayed as either "corruption" or simple inefficiency, and not what it really is -- a profound expression of our national priorities, a means of taking money from ordinary, struggling people and redistributing it not downward but upward, to connected insiders, who turn your tax money into pure profit.

Ooops! I mean, the "Security Industry." Take a look:

You want an example? Sanders has a great one for you. The Senator claims that he has been trying for years to increase funding for the Federally Qualified Health Care (FQHC) program, which finances community health centers across the country that give primary health care access to about 16 million Americans a year. He's seeking an additional $798 million for the program this year, which would bring the total appropriation to $2.9 billion, or about what we spend every two days in Iraq.

"But for five billion a year," Sanders insists, "we could provide basic primary health care for every American. That?s how much it would cost, five billion."

As it is, though, Sanders has struggled to get any additional funding. He managed to get $250 million added to the program in last year's Labor, Health and Human Services bill, but Bush vetoed the legislation, "and we ended up getting a lot less."

Okay, now, hold that thought. While we're unable to find $5 billion for this simple program, and Sanders had to fight and claw to get even $250 million that was eventually slashed, here's something else that's going on. According to a recent report by the GAO, the Department of Defense has already "marked for disposal" hundreds of millions of dollars worth of spare parts -- and not old spare parts, but new ones that are still on order! In fact, the GAO report claims that over half of the spare parts currently on order for the Air Force -- some $235 million worth, or about the same amount Sanders unsuccessfully tried to get for the community health care program last year -- are already marked for disposal! Our government is buying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Defense Department crap just to throw it away!

Yes, that's where all those IRS payments are going, and aren't you feeling more and more secure??
We are in the midst of a political movement to concentrate private wealth into fewer and fewer hands while at the same time placing more and more of the burden for public expenditures on working people. If that sounds like half-baked Marxian analysis... well, shit, what can I say? That's what's happening. Repealing the estate tax (the proposal to phase it out by the year 2010 would save the Walton family alone $30 billion) and targeting "entitlement" programs for cuts while continually funneling an ever-expanding treasure trove of military appropriations down the befouled anus of pointless war profiteering, government waste and North Virginia McMansions -- this is all part of a conversation we should be having about who gets what share of the national pie. But we're not going to have that conversation, because we're going to spend this fall mesmerized by the typical media-generated distractions, yammering about whether or not Michelle Obama's voice is too annoying, about flag lapel pins, about Jeremiah Wright and other such idiotic bullshit.

So, let's see, our journalists are whores for the status quo, our people are going belly-up, our businesses and banks are clenching their fiscal teeth, and the war is going to keep going, according to Mr. In-Touch John McCain, for another 100 years.

Right. Democracy. Let's just solve it all and wave some flags, kids! And wave some guns, too - for security, kids, for security. So you can starve securely in a depleted uranium planet.

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