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Seven Defects of American Governance -- Part 1

By       Message Harold Hellickson     Permalink
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Beyond the Magnificent Seven, there are a bunch of other sevens; the seven climes, the seven continents, the feast of the seven fishes, the seven dwarfs, the seven deadly sins, the seven sacraments, the seven seas, the seven seals with their seven secrets, the seven virtues and the Seven Wonders of the World to name at least most of them.  

To these I have another seven; our federal government's policies of war and empire, the need for restoration of sanity to our monetary, fiscal, and trade policies, reversing the income inequality trend, and improving social justice. These I consider the seven major defects of modern day American governance which I summarized in an earlier OpEdNews article. Now and over the next few days, each of these defective policies are discussed in more detail.

War on Terror:   Stupidly enacted, stupidly conducted.   There is a high probability that withdrawal of our military from all of the Middle East would result in a very low probability of future terrorist attacks on American soil.   Acts of terror are acts of criminality, not war unless conducted by a sovereign power.

The policy of Mutually Assured Destruction served us well during the cold war.   A clearly stated policy initiating Assured Destruction through a congressionally approved Declaration of War against any sovereign nation imposing an act of terror on our nation, or that of an ally, would do as well and should suffice to prevent such an act.

Obama's National Security Plan continues the Bush prerogatives for unilateral and preemptive war without the constitutionally required approval by Congress.   A new National Security Plan should specifically forbid both.      

Reported costs since the 9/11 attacks: Congress has approved more than $1.1 trillion for Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan and other counter terror operations; Operation Noble Eagle, providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom.   Add to that another $83 billion annually for Homeland Security.

Civilian deaths recruit civilian terrorists.   Civilian deaths in Iraqi are well over 100,000.   Afghanis measure their civilian dead in the tens of thousands, Pakistanis in the thousands.

Those in our Military-Industrial Complex are the only winners.   We cannot afford war, neither financially nor morally. Last May, The Center for Arms and Non-Proliferation reported the inflation adjusted 2008 $696.3 billion defense budget authority was 67 percent higher than in 2001.   That number was 44.3 percent of the world's total; more than twice that of the rest of NATO combined, more than four times that of China and Russia combined -- eight times each individually, and seventy-three times that of Iran.   And that is only part of our total spending for national defense.

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On March 1, 2011 (TomDispatch.com) Chris Hellman wrote The Real U.S. National Security Budget -- The Figure No One Wants to See.   In it he identifies $543.2 billion in National Defense spending beyond the 2012 budget proposal of the Pentagon's $558 and the $118 proposed for the Military in Iraq and Afghanistan bringing the total to more than $1.2 trillion.   That's a big pot of money to look into for significant savings.

Willie Sutton was smart enough "to go to where the money is". It is unreasonable to believe that those in Congress are dumber than was Willie.   The only logical reason we do not see massive cuts in National Security spending is that Congress protects too many congressional campaign contributors that profit from the continued massive National Security spending.

There are two other wars deserving comment.

The War on Poverty:   Lost long ago and current Government policies and practices are at increasing odds of ever winning.   The Washington Post reported "zero net job growth in the first decade of the new millennium" vs. a 20 percent job growth achieved in both the 1980's and "90's.   Given that, the 13.2 percent poverty rate (2008 Census data) is surprisingly low.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.   In 2010 dollars, it peaked in 1968 at $10.04 per hour.   About 30 million jobs, about one-quarter of all jobs, pay $9.00 per hour or less.   These employees mostly continue in actual poverty despite official guidelines.  

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Poverty exists well above the official government cutoffs and U.S. minimum wage per hour is lower than, for example, the minimum wage of Australia, Canada or France where they are, in U.S. dollars, $16.08, $8.38 to $11.52 by Province and $13.13 per hour respectively.   Moreover, both Australia and France have shorter work weeks plus Europeans in general have longer paid vacations, free health insurance, better child care support and subsidized if not free college availability.  

Comparatively, we treat our poor poorly despite, as UC-Davis' Dr. Peter Lindert has shown, " a bigger tax bite to finance social spending does not correlate negatively with either the level or the growth of GDP per capita."   We should provide much more social protection to citizens in need than we do.   By this I mean social investments that foster an acceptable living standard while assisting more people, otherwise marginalized, back to the economic mainstream.

To be continued.


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A retired MBA, I am a former corporate ideologue, former 3rd party advocate and current curmudgeon. While a continued supporter of a 3rd party, I have concluded their efficacy cannot be demonstrated until our form of Government is changed to (more...)

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