Monday, April 11, 2016

The Future of NATO

OMG! Trump takes on NATO -- and should!

Bucks County Courier Times
April 11, 2016

The American people are in open revolt against their governing elites. Put Donald Trump’s numbers together with Bernie Sanders’, and you’ve got a real revolution.

But the entire establishment, much of the media, both political parties, all the opponents in both parties, economic and foreign policy experts and business and government leaders from Washington to London and Paris are really hammering Trump. Why?

The answer lies in Trump’s challenge to NATO, which he has called “obsolete,” and suggests it costs the American people too much. Both arguments are substantive, the implications enormous.

NATO was created to defend Europe against the Soviet Union, which no longer exists. With the collapse of the Soviets, NATO became a solution in urgent need of a problem. Russia is now demonized to provide a reason for NATO. Days after Trump offered his critique, the Pentagon announced it was going to increase American force levels on the Russian border.

“The Russians are coming!."  Transparent.

Regarding the costs of NATO for American taxpayers, according to most reports, the U.S. provides two thirds of the budget of the 28-nation NATO membership.

The Statistica web site reports the 2015 U.S. defense budget was more than $650 billion dollars. The Washington Post reports that this figure does not include “primary costs for direct military action,” or “arms transfers to foreign governments.”

The Post’s “all in” estimate for 2012 U.S. defense spending was $718 billion. So let’s round it up for 2015, to about $800 billion (Likely, it is more). What did all of our European NATO allies spend for defense in 2015? About $250 billion, combined, roughly the same one third calculated by other sources.

The establishment has reacted to Trump’s substantive arguments with fear-mongering and near hysteria, misdirecting attention to his remarks on the possibility of nations such as Japan acquiring nuclear weapons.

Those remarks were, of course, the opening gambit in a negotiation with our allies over future defense budgets and whether the world — and the American people — might be better served with several local police forces, instead of one global American police force. Trump’s many critics were unanimous in their derision. Why?

If you have traveled Europe for decades as I have, you notice something. By and large, the average European now lives better than the average American.

Compared to average Americans, Europeans have universal health care and their prescription drugs cost a lot less. Many have a shorter work week, far longer paid vacations and parental leave for newborns. European children have been increasingly better educated and at far less cost per pupil than American children. Young Europeans are not saddled with massive debt for a college education. Europeans retire earlier and generally have more time for family, friends and recreation.

Not surprisingly, as the World Health Organization and others report, life expectancy has steadily increased in Europe and declined in the U.S., while infant mortality has declined in Europe and increased in the U.S.

It begs the question: how do European governments pay for all that? The answer is NATO. For more than 70 years, the American people have paid for the defense of Europe, allowing European governments to focus spending on the health, education, well being and prosperity of their citizens.

It has been a massive subsidy. The U.S. elites want it to continue. They like running the world, and buying off the support of European leaders seems a small price to pay. Because they don’t pay it.

This subsidy has cost the American people a fortune that could have been used to preserve U.S. living standards and American prosperity; or can be used to pay down the national debt and balance the federal budget.

Donald Trump has taken aim directly at both the neo-conservative foreign policy establishment and the neo-liberal economic establishment, because it is the same team. And they have a plan to go on paying the European and Asian defense tab, so they can go on running the world.

Their plan is called “entitlement reform” or “fiscal discipline,” both of which mean the money to go on paying for the defense of Europe — and South Korea, Japan, and Israel and Saudi Arabia (both!) — will come from the money needed to rebuild American prosperity, preserve Social Security and raise the living standards of the American middle class, which have been in decline for decades.

A failed establishment is hammering Trump, trying desperately to slot in Kasich, Paul Ryan — even Cruz, who they detest, any “team player” to take on Hillary, the ultimate insider — and keep them in power, in a “heads we win, tails you lose” general election.

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