Just as there are seven dwarfs, seven virtues, and seven deadly sins there are seven major policy defects of American governance; the policies of war, empire, monetary, fiscal, trade, income inequality and social justice. This article is a summary statement of these seven defects. A more detailed discussion of these defects will be published as a four part article beginning next week.
The war on terror was stupidly enacted and is stupidly conducted. The cost of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq has exceeded $1 trillion and Islamic civilian dead are numbered in the hundreds of thousands; the great recruitment tool of terrorists. The true cost of National Security exceeds $1 trillion every year. Were we to remove all our military from all of the Middle East and Central Asia, the probability of a major terrorist attack on American soil would be reduced, not heightened. We cannot afford the war on terror; not financially, not morally.
Then we have the wars on poverty and drugs; both long lost. Since 1973 the war on poverty has seen a near steady increase in the number of families living in poverty reaching the highest ever recorded in 2009, the last year of Census Bureau data. It is undoubtedly significantly higher today.
The war on drugs, again stupidly enacted and stupidly conducted. Last May, the AP reported, "After 40 years, President Nixon's declaration of war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread. Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske conceded the strategy hasn't worked." Drug addiction is a medical problem, not a criminal problem. A 2008 Harvard study estimated that legalization of drugs would provide $44 billion in annual savings plus $33 billion in tax revenue.
We have long foregone empire in the sense of the classic physical colonization. Ours is based on economic colonization developed and maintained by support to corrupt regimes, overthrow of those we could not corrupt and the physical extension of our military prowess. The long history of failed empires contains a single thread of over extension; militarily and financially. Our country is most probably reaching the end of our empire thread and is standing on the precipice of failure and collapse.
Monetary policy is a Federal Reserve function. They are charged with maintaining the value of the dollar and promoting full employment. Since formed in 1913, inflation has reduced the value of $1 to less than 5 cents. Current unemployment, if measured as it was in the 1980's, is 22--23 percent, no more than 2-3 percent below 1933 when unemployment peaked during the Great Depression. Avoidance of a double dip, an official recognition of another recession, will be miraculous. The bailout of those firms "too big to fail" begs its corollary, "government too big to succeed".
Fiscal policy , with staggering debt and deficits as far as the eye can see it's time to get congressionally serious about both revenue and expenditures. This implies, of course, that we have an electoral process that facilitates election of serious elected officials that respond to the general welfare of "we the people" rather than to "they, the special interests funding their campaigns"; no easy task and possibly not even possible.
Trade Policy: Once again, stupidly enacted, stupidly conducted. Without a doubt it is related to the failure in the war on poverty. The great "whooshing sound" foretold by Ross Perot continues to ringing in my ears. Free trade is not fair trade. This country desperately needs a fair trade policy. Where fair trade does not exist, tariffs should be imposed. Further, Government policy must focus on retarding the off-shoring of jobs and proactively initiate investment and development of well-paid job growth at home.
Income Inequality: Not counting the impact of the Great Recession which, if Government reported the true rate of inflation, we are still in, the vast majority of American families are worse off than they were 30-35 years ago. Growth in national income has gone to the top and stayed there: so much for trickle-down economics. Large differences in income between various cuts of demographics exist and are expected to exist. No one begrudges the rich for being rich. It is the level of inequality that matters. It is a fact that health and social problems are more common in more unequal countries. It is a fact that we are the most unequal in the developed world.
Nothing separates Conservatives from Liberals more than their values related to social justice, a term coined in 1840 by a Jesuit Priest who related it to the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Economics cannot be separated from politics. Neither can economics be separated from social justice, unless you happen to be an economist. There is a way to move from power and greed to compassion and the common good but you will never hear a politician or an economist speak of it.