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Gut and Run

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Gut and Run
By Scott Beckman

The America I love is on her deathbed. This past weekend, Representative Jim Cooper (D- Tennessee) reported on CNN that the audited financial statement of the United States of America for Fiscal Year 2005 shows that our country ran a deficit of $760 billion and now has unfunded future liabilities of $49 trillion. The America I love is a moral nation but a deficit this large and fiscal plan this unrealistic are surely the immoral products of an immoral system and immoral leaders.

One need look no further than President Bush to witness the kind of unabashed greed that's driven the deficit so high. He will eventually inherit tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in war profits-taxpayers dollars-because the Bush family is a prominent stakeholder in The Carlyle Group, a huge closely-held private investment bank that has already picked our pockets of billions of dollars by investing in companies whose representatives articulated, promoted, and implemented a fear-mongering, trigger-happy foreign policy for decades through the services of hand-picked hired guns like George W. Bush.

It's no secret that George "Oilman" Bush and Vice President Dick "Halliburton" Cheney have no compunction whatsoever about passing along half a trillion dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest one-percent of the population as the deficit skyrockets or violating House rules-aka democracy-to pass an energy bill that doles out billions of taxpayer subsidies to oil companies reporting record windfall profits while failing to pass even a thin dime minimum wage increase for the neediest of us all. Such examples of highly selective plundering of the U.S. Treasury by the filthy rich are not unique. They're typical, routine, business as usual.

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Remember the savings and loan disaster a few years back? That was just another little trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout of some well heeled but failed land speculators with insider connections to political leaders, speculators like the President's little brother, Neil Bush. A U.S. House committee concluded the problem was primarily caused by "serious misconduct by senior insiders or outsiders." Neil Bush himself was found to have engaged in numerous "breaches of his fiduciary duties involving multiple conflicts of interest" but he was never charged or tried. Whatever. We the people picked up the tab for the bad debts of these lousy crooks and gamblers.

Same as it ever was.

Jack Abramoff's recent conviction on three felony counts of political corruption has done nothing to abate the trading of vast amounts of corporate money for vaster amounts of corporate welfare in Washington. The importance of money to political campaigns has never been greater. There are still 35,000 highly paid registered lobbyists plying the influence trading game in Washington. The Abramoff chill didn't stop Congress from raising the debt ceiling by a whopping $800 billion to $9 trillion and promptly setting out to reach new debt highs with record levels of nonsense spending.

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The blatant self-serving corruption that characterizes the inner workings of our national government has been crystal clear for a long time as evidenced by the incessant stream of indictments of elected folks with names like DeLay, Rostenkowski, Traficant, and "Duke" Cunningham, an eight-term Congressman who recently pleaded guilty to graft admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes mostly from defense contractors in exchange for government business and other favors. Now the unrestrained looting of the nation's finances by the likes of these is nearly complete and the ruinous consequences of their utter fiscal irresponsibility are nearly upon us.

Sure, there are pork angles and phony economics angles and Social Security thievery angles on the deficit, too, plenty of lame excuses for the deficit on the public record and more than enough blame to go around. But, the bottom line is what David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, outlined in an oft-cited speech before the National Press Club on September 17, 1993. He offered a frightening forecast of financial things to come saying the federal budget picture "is not good and getting worse." He said that we should not be confused by all of the numbers being used because "they are all big and they are all bad!" and issued stirring call to act "now" which has obviously gone unheeded in all quarters of our government. He is quoted in Congressman Cooper's press release on the subject saying "continuing on this unsustainable path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately our national security." That's a pretty bleak picture for the future of the American Dream painted by the nation's Chief Accountant on July 20, 2006.

Here's another bad way to look it. According to no lesser authority than former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, we're approaching the point of no return when the amount of tax revenue simply needed to repay the debt we've accumulated will exceed the tax revenue we have available to pay for things we want and need. What does this alternate description of the deathbed of freedom by the nation's former Chief Banker mean for you and me?

Do you want to ramp up spending to counteract the threat to life of earth presented by man-made global warming? I'm sorry, we need to pay the Saudi's back first.

Do you want national health insurance? I'm so sorry. We can't afford it. The China bill is due.

Do you want to invest in alternative energy sources to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. I'm so, so, sorry. There's no money for that, either. You know, we've got to keep the Japanese account current.

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Of course, a die-hard progressive always holds out "hope" for a people's movement to exert some responsible controls over the catastrophic train wreck that is our national government. Many are now pointing to Ned Lamont's insurgent campaign as a renewed sign of "hope" that the people's stock may finally be rising again and I'm glad for Lamont's success but I'm not convinced it's a telling sign of things to come. To me, it's just one more bit of evidence that only a person willing to spend millions of dollars of their own dough on a campaign has a chance to get elected any more. How many Ned Lamont's are running in 2006? One? How many Joe Lieberman's are running unopposed in "safe" Congressional districts? A hundred and one?

Besides, the federal deficit isn't even on Ned Lamont's political radar screen or anybody else's for that matter and even it is was, it's too late. We're one more year into another fiscal year of $750 billion dollar deficits and since President Bush isn't going anywhere another one looms on the horizon. There just isn't much realistic "hope" left in the Deficit Policy Bank of the USA because our children are already wearing the inescapable financial straight jacket we have made for them.

Surprisingly, some of the very people who helped create the deficit dilemma, U.S. corporations, have come up with a creative solution to protect themselves from the whims of a very uncertain U.S. economic future. They're voting with their feet by moving their legal place of residence, their jobs, and their assets offshore at alarming rates, the exact trend that some historians note presaged the fall of Rome. Is that another death knell I hear? Perhaps, it's an action step that a few more forward-thinking progressives like Johnny Depp will begin taking, too.

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Scott Beckman lives in Santa Fe, NM.

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