Crisis at Home, Crisis Abroad: Can we solve both or must we choose one?

What will our America become? That is the question of our age and one that will likely present us with real choices in the debates leading up to the election next November.

There is already debate in Washington and on Main Street about whether or not we should pull back from our overseas commitments and turn our back from the ills of our planet to focus on our domestic problems instead, while ignoring the dragons and humanitarian disasters at our borders.

The same voices that are arguing that we should not, and indeed need not, care for our elderly, our young, our ill, or our unemployed at home, are also arguing that we should not care for the many challenges we face abroad.

Many Americans now buy into this doctrine of indifference and greed; it has been pounded on for so long by the conservative media and politicians–so now many believe it. It has become part of the doctrine of the Tea Party types and thus of the GOP.

They argue that the massive famine in the Horn of Africa is not our business — that it is just the way the world is. They argue that we should not care about the proliferation of nuclear weapons— that too is the way the world is. They care not a bit about and say they do not believe in climate change. The depletion of the seas’ fish and other species and its pollution bothers them not a bit, so long as they can still buy their swordfish steaks.

Nor does it bother them that poverty is widespread around the world, that children lack any kind of health care.  Why should they care about children dying in Somalia since they want to deprive fellow Americans and children of affordable universal health care at home?

One argument that is being made is pure mendacity: we can’t afford to help our own and thus we can’t afford to help those in need abroad nor can we afford to address the national security threats to our nation emanating from around the world.

Some argue we only need a strong military, yet most of the world’s true dangers have no simple military solution. The head-in-the-sand approach to our needs at home and abroad is frankly both nonsense and pure deceit.

The reality is that we are an extraordinarily rich nation controlling some 40% of the world’s effective resources with the capacity to grow at rates of 4-5%, which can bring unemployment down to reasonable levels, fund our debt and growth in large part through higher taxes on those who have 6 homes around the world, private planes, and billions in income that the average taxpayer has help them build by cheap US government subsidies. All this can be accomplished without taking away our nation’s safety net, including Medicare, Medicaid, and social security and above all the provision of good education for our children.

The only thing that stops us is the overarching goal of the conservative Republicans to stop Obama and to control our nation’s government to benefit the very rich. What we need is a major stimulus package along the lines of the FDR recovery plan. We can’t grow our nation by a policy of depression as dictated by Rep. Cantor and crazies like Rand Paul.  Such a grand policy would also give us a sense of purpose that would move us to engage again in global multilateral solutions to our international challenges.

America will be defined in history as either the nation that faced its challenges and overcame them or it will be seen like Rome, as a great civilization that by inner corruption and indifference to the forces forming beyond its borders, succumbed to decline and destruction…bringing most of Western civilization to the “Dark Ages.”

We welcome your comments.

By Harry C. Blaney III.


National Security and Crazy Economics: The Debt Debacle: Further Reflections on Our Downfall Without Firing a Shot

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Klaus but the bad news is that self-destruction is coming and it is called the GOP! That could be a literary answer to the “crazy economics” that I wrote about earlier on this blog. Now it has gotten to the point where we have further proof – if any was needed – that we are in the hands of those who act like they seek the destruction of our nation for narrow political gain.

We have heard from an array of top economists that we are facing a major financial disaster if America defaults on its national debt. Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, both Nobel Economics laureates, have pointed to the disastrous global consequences of a default on our debt. Even the likelihood would do long-term damage to our currency and our economy.

As I have noted, there are many dimensions to “national security” as well as military security, and our nation’s security is clearly threaten by “crazy economics.” These crazy economics are motivated by greed and not by concern for the unemployed nor for the average, struggling citizens. But it manifestly greatly degrades America’s leadership abroad.

The contemplated GOP Congressional proposals that threaten to not pay our debt unless depression type cuts are made to our nation’s vital programs will make financing that debt greatly more expensive. It will entice other nations to give up holding dollars as their reserve currencies, which will undermine our global leadership, and it will make some forego taking our bonds. It will likely contribute to a second, and possibly worse, global recession that will further destroy the industrial, technological, and scientific base of our economy, which may take decades if it is ever to fully recover. Unemployment will undoubtedly grow, which seems to be a conservative Republican goal.

With the “pro-depression” economic policies already enacted in the EU and severe budget cutting approaches already enforced in Europe, including in the UK, the knock-on effect will likely be devastating.  It will not grow us out of our financial difficulties, but we will be digging our deficit and unemployment holes deeper by the rapid lowering of our GDP. Lower taxes do not help employment; they make it worse when budgets are cut now and in the future. The wholesale laying off of public servants, teachers, and road construction workers and others in the States has once again only proved the point.

Our ability to provide resources and funding for vital global challenges will diminish, if not disappear, making these global problems far worse, hurting global security by exacerbating conflicts and poverty across the entire globe. Budget cuts will make humanitarian disasters worse through lack of resources to respond. It will affect the spread of disease and poverty when we cut foreign assistance. And it will undermine our “soft power” diplomacy to address nuclear proliferation, threats to democracy, and regional conflicts and terrorism.

Finally, mindless cuts will unnecessarily undermine American leadership just when the world needs it the most as we face multi-crises. That will be the legacy of an unneeded debt default and its consequences. What are they thinking!

We welcome all comments and views! Join the debate!

By Harry C. Blaney III.

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.

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Costs of War Report Released

This week CIP senior fellow, Bill Hartung, and the Eisenhower Study Group at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies released the most thorough report to date on the costs of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Conducted by over twenty academics from wide-ranging fields, the study forces the public to consider the consequences of the wars and question what, if anything, has been gained over the last ten years.  The report considers other options the US could have employed and concludes that these options, which would have been cheaper and likely more effective, were hardly considered before the US engaged militarily. The primary recommendation of the study is the US to increase transparency to the public “because information facilitates democratic deliberation and effective decision-making.”

The findings of the report conclude that the costs of the two wars amount to more than $3.2 – 4 trillion spent (and obligated to be spent) and 225,000 killed.  Among the 225,000 dead, which the study lists as its conservative estimate, are 6,000 US soldiers, 2,300 US contractors, and 20,000 US allies, including Iraqi and Afghan security forces as well as other coalition members.  In civilian lives in Iraq and Afghan, the cost to date is 137,000 not including the often over-looked number of civilians killed in the violence in Pakistan.  In economic terms, the costs of war are much greater than the defense appropriations suggest.  The study includes the war-related spending by the VA and the State Department/USAID, increased federal spending on homeland security, and interest payments on the money borrowed to finance the war.  Beyond these dollar amounts, the increase in military spending and in the federal debt affects interest rates, employment, and investment.

Laudably, the study also addresses the social, political, and environmental costs of the wars.  The study found that the wars have been “accompanied by the erosion of civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.”  The US invasions have failed to bring democracy to Iraq, where segregation by gender and ethnicity has increased, and Afghanistan, where corruption is rampant and warlords retain political clout.

Click here to read CIP’s press release.
Click here to read the full report on the Costs of War website.

By Alyssa Warren.