National Security and Crazy Economics: Our Downfall Without Firing a Shot

There are many dimensions to “national security” as well as military security.  Increasingly I am feeling that we are more and more threatened by what can only be described as “crazy economics” which seem to be motivated more by greed than by intellectual honesty or sound economics.  It is certainly not motivated by a concern for the unemployed or for the average citizen’s well being. Nor is it motivated by concern for America’s leadership abroad.

I don’t mean just the normal domestic-type absurdity as in “Tea Party” economics and not even what can be described as Milton Friedman-type “supply side” failed economics. What we are dealing with is not real “economics” but rather deliberate class warfare (a term often used by the wealthy, far right to describe any effort at fairer taxes) directed at further weakening America’s vast middle class that has fallen behind the very rich for decades.  It is the “economics” that has decimated the so-called “rust belt” and engineered high unemployment and low worker wages. It is the “economics” that has shifted America’s productivity and capital from building things to pushing financial paper around to generate wealth for a very few.  Now they also want to degrade our schools and educational institutions.

Even now, especially during this economic crisis that has been initiated by the very, very rich in our society, our average citizens are experiencing an extraordinary degradation of their dignity and their political and social voice.  And not least, it has deprived them of their effective participation in a meaningful right to the value of their labor.

Whether it is the taking away of the right to bargain by civil servants in Wisconsin and other states, or punitive anti-Union laws, or efforts at “redistricting” by states to take away the effective votes of minorities like blacks, Latinos, and the poor, it has made America a truly weaker nation.

The result will be to enshrine a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate for decades if not forever. This will effectively disenfranchise the majority of voters’ right to equal weight in the process of democracy. What this does to our nation is simply turn our nation from a real democracy into an entrenched greedy and mean-spirited autocracy.

This reality is not only true in America as the same “class warfare” is also being carried out in a host of developed and developing countries around the world. The simple fact is that the gap between the poor and workers in most societies around the world has been growing for decades and is now accelerating beyond all sense of morality and good economics.

Look at Europe: The conservative CDU German Government headed up by Angela Merkel, in collaboration with the European Central Bank, has insisted that Greece (and by extension other debt laden EU nations) undertake draconian deflationary economic and fiscal policies that will cause depression in these countries. These forced actions will increase, not decrease, unemployment, and impoverish and lower the living standard of the working poor.  Also, under the recent terms of “bailing out Greece,” the bankers of all types, who have loaned to these countries at their own risk, will likely, in the end, get back almost every dime they have provided plus interest off the backs of those who hardly know what a “derivative” or a “CDO collateralized debt obligation” is. 

Likewise, the Tory-LibDem coalition government in the UK is embarking on its own “slash and burn” economic policy– firing civil servants, cutting education grants, cutting subsidies to cultural institutions, slashing help to the unemployed, and even going back on its pledge not to harm the public health service.  The result will likely be disaster for Britain but especially its least well-off citizens.

In almost all of these cases, the economic policies are not to tax the very rich, who are doing very well, but to impose insurmountable burdens on workers, the poor, and, not least, on the lower middle class who make up the vast bulk of the real economic productivity of a society.  These policies certainly will not impact the high earnings of the bankers, hedge fund managers, corporate CEOs, and their confederates.

Not to be left behind, many of the developing countries are aping  these policies under the influence (often through illegal bribes) of the rich in their country, eager to exploit the poor and afraid of the people gaining a real voice in their countries. That, in part, is what the “Arab Spring” was in opposition to and all about.  Also, in countries like India and China, the disparity of wealth and its influence versus the vast bulk of their impoverished population is a glaring and major stumbling block to real economic progress for most people.

The end product is a world with growing conflict, deep and continuing poverty in its lower ranks, lack of meaningful popular governance, and a diminishment of a free and diverse press.  The result is the marginalization of large segments of societies and the rise of revolts and conflicts. This does not make for a safe, stable, and prosperous world either in the developed or developing regions.

At the moment, there are few metrics showing radical improvements in this dire situation, nor are there any global initiatives worthy of the name to address these conditions.  Even the revolts in the Arab world initially will result in further economic decline, especially if assistance is not offered quickly to shore up fledgling efforts at democracy and progressive economic policies. With the “rich” nations undergoing their own crisis, there is only a slight chance this help will be provided in sufficient amounts to make a real difference.  Enlightened beneficence is hard when greed is in the ascendancy.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

7 thoughts on “National Security and Crazy Economics: Our Downfall Without Firing a Shot

  1. Harry Blaney July 18, 2011 / 2:20 PM

    Chuck continues to make good comments on difficult issues and certainly is doing much more than the rest of us to solve the Climate Change/Global diseasing challenge. I do challenge however the cost to earth’s people and ecosystem of climate change compared to some of the very real other challenges we face.

    For example, terrorism, using conventional means, is a far less danger in total to our planet and deaths than the highly likely calamity that awaits mankind from destruction due to global warming and climate change. I submit that we have largely seen already some of the consequences of this impact via droughts, water shortages, failure of crops, shifting ecological systems and the spread of disease, and storms and changes in the ocean environment and ice melts. We need as a planet to address these as they are likely to get worse over time, not get better.

    Lord Stern, (Professor Nicholas Stern), of London School of Economics, has detailed these dangers in several studies both for the UN and in his book and writings and set forth an agenda that would have led us forward. He notes that this will require real resources and a strong will….what is interesting is that most of the proposals he outlines would be beneficial to mankind even if climate change were not to have such a devastating impact. Further, the totals required are but a fraction of our global GDP. Unfortunately our “crazy economists” and our crazy “climate change deniers” have persuaded (or really simply been used by) some nations that have a stake in using dirty energy to block meaningful global action.

    I take issue on the negative connection between global health and climate change as supposed “real” choices. Both need to be addressed and indeed they are interconnected. Having worked on global health issues at the Department of State, and having devoted a chapter in my book to this issue, they are in my view interconnected. There is no reason our globe needs to make that choice, we have the resources to do both. But as I note in my post, we are in the grips here in the U.S. with a narrow selfish politics of greed and indifference to suffering of the “least among us” both here and abroad. It does not have to be this way.

  2. Chuck Woolery July 15, 2011 / 12:48 AM

    At one time the majority of scientists refused to “recognize” the concept of tectonic plate movement, and germ theory….and a few other lesser known realities. As I understand science, it isn’t about certainty, or majority rule. But probability. And, like you, I believe most of the evidence certainly points to the probability that the earth will continue to spin and climate change is partially, maybe largely caused by human actions/inaction.

    But, from what I recall, when the Yellowstone caldera blows..(and it’s overdue).it will dwarf by a factor of 100 whatever pollutants humans have put into the atmosphere…and cause far more climate change damage than humans.

    I’m not sure if you remember that most of my house is made out of recycled materials. I don’t own a car, I replace my lawn with gardens and earned a National Wildlife Federation. . habitat certification. I’ve done environmental evaluations for DOE and worked with a California Conservation Corps. Regarding a commitment to the environment, I’ve heard there’s a fine line between being holistic – and assholeistic. .I crossed way over that line a long time ago.

    In Al Gore’s movie “The Inconvenient truth” he gave a number of the people who would die as a result of global warming. I can’t remember the exact figure but it was somewhere in the ball park of a few hundred thousand? per year?. Compared to the daily death toll of 23,000 children from easily preventable malnutrition and infectious diseases….global warming is a minor inconvenience. I believe there are bigger fishes to fry first.

    And, fixing/restoring/preserving the environment will be a wonderful jobs program for employing the world’s poor. The only question is, who will pay them? The consumption patterns of us rich folk is the primary problem. We at least have a choice about what we buy and throwaway. And, changing human behavior (values?) won’t be easy. Buckminster Fuller once said something like “Don’t try to change people’s behavior. Engineer ‘things’ they want that are sustainable and cheaper.” Technology is both the answer, and the problem. It’s our values that are off.

    As I see it, we are in a race with time..and time is not on our side. If we don’t use the exponential advancements in create a more just and sustainable world… others living with injustice and unsustainable conditions will use the same technological advances to make WMD that won’t be controlled by any treaty.
    Focusing on the environment…feels good, and is needed…but in my world view it’s grossly insufficient given the other threats that both we and the poor face. But I still collect rain water.

  3. Harry C. Blaney III July 14, 2011 / 10:47 AM

    I still think the vast majority of the science community recognizes that climate change is indeed largely caused by man. Some may think otherwise but the evidence is so strong I would not bet my life on it nor life on our frail planet. I worked on this issue for decades starting as Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality dealing with international environmental issues and for many years after in the Policy Planning Staff of the Secretary of State. I read many reports on this topic, heard the views of the top scientists working on the problem, and wrote policy papers on the topic. There are people who are “climate deniers” and they have been enables of those who have an agenda that would pollute at will and make money off the huge health impact of these acts. So sad!

  4. Chuck Woolery July 12, 2011 / 9:33 PM

    Agreed! Adaptation is insufficient. A radical change in perspective is needed and greed has no place in it.
    As a scientist myself I would say that there is some doubt about human caused climate change. If I had to bet my life on it…and I think we all do. I would wager that most evidence points to that fact. But there are also other factors related to climate change. It changes with or without us.
    What is clear…no debate…is the insanity of our dependence on foreign oil. THAT is the nail to hang our argument on. Period! Climate change is just another big jobs program…rebuilding after hurricanes…building dikes…moving croplands….building domes over them… Once climate deniers see the economic pitfall in that outcome…they might sing a different tune.

  5. Harry Blaney July 12, 2011 / 5:20 PM

    Thank you Chuck for those ideas. Perhaps we need at home and abroad renewed and better institutions to deal with our many challenges. But we also need not just “adapting” to new circumstances but also a better vision of ourselves and of others and of the stewardship we have of our fragile earth and all its inhabitants.

    The problem we have is so many of those who should know better have chosen to disregard the “general welfare” that was the foundation of our nation. The Supreme Court for sure has forgotten that clause. We have also permitted the most narrow greed to define our society and control it. .

    I just went to meeting with a scientist and speaker from the Department of State and the subject was climate change/global warming and he made the case strongly for how serious was the problem and clearly that it was largely caused by man’s use of energy that causes greenhouse gasses. One person in the meeting stood up and argued that there was no such thing as man caused climate change and that the 98% of the scientists were wrong. The man was not ignorant and he was educated and was a retired professional military officer.

    We clearly need to communicate better about what is really going on in our nation and in the world. As my former boss Pat Moynihan once said, you can have your own opinions but you can’t have your own facts. But it is also a case of having a larger vision and values which reach out to others and promote the desire for helping our planet and its people everywhere.

  6. Chuck Woolery July 11, 2011 / 12:48 AM

    While there should be little disagreement regarding the inevitable destructive and likely catastrophic consequences of our continuing existing economic policies there is some legitimate claim to both the failure of warfare state…AND the welfare state.

    Greed and the globally unregulated aspect of capitalism has contributed much to our economically unjust and precarious condition. But there are other factors.

    1. An unrealistic belief that we can continue living the high life without paying for it. We Americans have abused our freedoms (50% divorce rate, 30% obesity rate/50% overweight, unsustainable private and public debt burden, 70% addiction to foreign oil, poor rankings in math and science scores, virtual ignorance of American people regarding foreign aid and the consequences of entanglements…)
    2. Our collective failure to recognize the value of preventing problems rather than paying to deal with them once they have arrived.
    a. We have a medical care (responsive) system…not a health care (preventive) system.
    b. We have war system not a ‘defense’ system.
    c. We have a get rich on risk system…not a prosper by hard work economic system.
    d. We pay for ‘clean ups’ rather than reuse systems.
    e. We use and ignore our vital infrastructure instead of investing in it.
    f. We ignore predictable threats (Katrina, H1N1…) and invest in risky gains.
    g. We value entertainment (American Idol, dance, sports, movies) more than enlightenment (education, health, environment, ethics)
    h. We value feeling good and looking good…more than doing good or being good
    i. We defend our ideas than our ideals.
    j. We put to much trust in religious faith and not enough faith in the scientific method.

    3. We continue to worship a cerebral concept of ‘independence’ in a completely interdependent world. And devote our selves to global government confederation based on the supremacy of national sovereignty (independence) instead of a world federation based on the supremacy of human rights that respects our interdependence.
    4. We appear to learn best by pain and suffering…and only after a crisis do we even think about doing things differently… and even then it tends to be tweaking existing failing systems rather than looking to the sustainable systems mirrored from what nature has provided.

    Conclusion: Our species may not have what it takes to survive. Darwin spoke about survival of the fittest. Americans perceive that to mean ‘the strongest’ the ‘richest, or the ‘smartest’. What Darwin meant…was that the ‘fittest’ are those most capable of ‘adapting’ to a changing environment. We still believe we can adapt the environment to fulfill our whimsical wants. Or, we ignore our environment or see it as something to live apart from.

    To paraphrase Churchill: We can always count on humans doing the right thing. But only after exhausting every other possibility…at least 3 times.

    I’m actually an optimist. I think we will travel beyond our solar system in search of another planet for our species survive, full well knowing that this planet has an expiration date. I just don’t think most of us will be making the journey.

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