Friday, May 14, 2010

Mining the middle class

Save the children! Protect the rich.

By: Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

You can see it coming a mile away.

President Obama's blue-ribbon, bipartisan commission to reduce the deficit and debt is going to recommend cutting what is left of federal spending that is not eaten up by Wall Street, the war machine and corporate welfare.

Expect the "painful choices" to be announced by a sad but stern president about three months after the congressional elections.

And the justification? It is the "grasshopper" argument trotted out again last week by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman: We Americans, especially the baby boomers, have been too good to ourselves and eaten up our children's future. Bad people! Shame on you.

It is a lie and a diversion.

Unlike many Europeans, average Americans do not have a four-day work week, six weeks of paid vacation, months of maternity leave, free day care, affordable health care, low-cost college education or fully paid retirement at 55 and 60.

What American families have is two jobs or more - if they can find one - low wages, wiped out savings, high costs of everything and expensive credit debt from Wall Street to mask the reality of their growing poverty.

And the administration, congressional leaders and the Federal Reserve - Wall Street's bank - are working in sync to dupe the American people into supporting more of the same.

There is an alternative.

One part of that alternative is for the states to bypass the federal government and form state banks, modeled on the hugely successful Bank of North Dakota, to create a river of new, locally directed credit, investment and jobs, and generate unprecedented new revenues for the states' general funds.

But while some states are now following North Dakota's lead out of the trap of either higher taxes or slashed services and crumbling infrastructure, the first and scattered results are a year or more away. Something must be done now to address the nation's most urgent need - jobs.

Only the federal government can focus the resources required to create the jobs needed now, on the scale required.

Fiscal hawks, small government advocates and tea party patriots who think an across-the-board attack on government is what is now most urgently needed must think twice, and decide where to focus their attack.

Yes, the federal government spends too much; but on what? The inescapable answer is Wall Street, the war machine and corporate welfare.

The "slap-on-the-wrist" fines of Wall Street proposed by the administration are chump change. They are about headlines, not justice.

Tax Wall Street and take back the nation's stolen wealth - all of it, with interest. This alone would be sufficient to put millions back to work in productive infrastructure projects of lasting value, with billions left over to start paying down the debt.

Don't stop there.

The U.S. "defense" budget is now as large as that of all other nations combined. (You must, as the wild spending defense establishment does not, add to defense appropriations the billions buried in the budgets of other federal departments)

The Defense Department lists officially more than 700 bases in 152 foreign nations. But independent experts such as former CIA analyst Chalmers Johnson put that figure at as many as 1,000 bases.

There are 12 U.S. bases in Columbia, and Johnson reports an incredible 38 on the Japanese island of Okinawa, and dozens now ringing the former Soviet Union. To what purpose?

The demise of the Soviet Union ought to have yielded a "peace dividend," an opportunity to scale back U.S. forces in those regions, not increase them. And what is the threat from Columbia? An army of Hugo Chavez' thugs marching through Mexico to invade Texas?

As for the U.S. forces on Okinawa, do we expect the Chinese to sail a several million man army across the Pacific to invade California? All China need do to overcome the United States is wait while we go bankrupt for the sake of Wall Street, the war machine and corporate welfare.

An example of this corporate welfare is about to make news. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 set up a federal fund to clean up oil "spills." ("Oops! We got a little oil on the floor there. Sorry.") But it limited the liability of the oil companies for damages to $75 million in each event.

Will Mr. Obama and Congress insist that BP and its contractors pay the hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars in damages caused by their catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, or will that bill get passed to U.S. taxpayers, like the bailout?

To save the children and the nation, this generation must indeed take action to pay down the deficit and debt, but not on the backs of a beleaguered middle class, retirees and those now hanging by a thread from the so-called "safety net."

The productive alternative is to cut the mindlessly out-of-control "defense" budget, go after the stolen loot on Wall Street, hold corporations accountable, harness the states' assets in state banks and put America back to work at good wages.

But this is not what this administration, Congress and Wall Street's "widely respected" talking heads and media flacks will propose.

Their policy? Save the children, protect the rich!

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