|Progressive Calendar 04.16.07||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2007 17:57:15 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 04.16.07 1. Impeach B*sh 4.17 11am 2. Phebe Hanson 4.17 6:30pm 3. Earth stewards 4.17 7pm 4. Sami/Iraq 4.17 5. Labor/Duluth 4.18 7pm 6. Stephen Lendman - Ecuador votes for revolutionary change 7. Carl Estabrook - The politics of the useful threat 8. I Hossein-Zadeh - Escalating military $: masked income redistribution --------1 of 8-------- From: greenpartymike <ollamhfaery [at] earthlink.net> Subject: Impeach B*sh 4.17 11am For your information, KFAI Fresh Air Radio 90.3 FM in Minneapolis and 106.7 FM in St Paul has Mikael Rudolph of Impeach For Peace and myself on the Show Catalyst with Lydia Howell, last Tuesday at 11 am as wll as the next two Tuesdays speaking on Impeachment of both Cheney and Bush. for those in greater Minnesota you can google KFAI Fresh Air and listen to the last show which is saved on archives. If interested, you can also listen live for the next two tuesdays at 11 am. --------2 of 8-------- From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net> Subject: Phebe Hanson 4.17 6:30pm Tuesday, April 17, we are so happy to have Minn. poet, Phebe Hanson as the guest who will be reading her poetry. Very exciting evening. Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon ) are held (unless otherwise noted in advance): Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943 W 7th, St Paul, MN Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats. Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information. --------3 of 8-------- From: David Brown <davidbrownxxxx [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Earth stewards 4.17 7pm Faithful Stewards of the Earth - All are invited to join the Basilica of St Mary for a presention by three guest speakers on environmental stewardship on Tuesday, April 17 in the Basilica School Auditorium from 7 PM to 9 PM. Topic: What do sustainability & the environment have to do with stewardship? How are we called to be stewards of our planet? What can we do as individuals & as a parish community to care for creation? Speakers: Karen Olson - Consociate with the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Paul Province, she co-chairs the Earth Partners working group and sits on the Justice Commission. Fr. Pat Foley - Associate pastor at St. Gerard in Brooklyn Park and a Franciscan priest. Fr. Foley has a strong focus in the area of ecological theology and is developing a Catholic Covenant with Creation. J. Drake Hamilton - Science Policy Director for Fresh Energy, a private nonprofit organization working to lead the transition to a clean energy system, one that will support healthy economies, healthy people, and a healthy environment. RSVP recommended to Karl at 763.427.7891 or Meghan at mmclaughlin [at] mary.org. The Basilica of St. Mary is located at the corner of Hennepin and 17th street in downtown Minneapolis. --------4 of 8-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Sami/Iraq 4.17 Tuesday, 4/17, Muslim Peacemaker Team founder Sami Rasouli is at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, Edina. Details at chuckprentice [at] yahoo.com or 952-929-8284. --------5 of 8-------- From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Labor/Duluth 4.18 7pm EXPLORE WORKING LIFE THROUGH UNTOLD STORIES Untold Stories returns for the ninth year complete with lectures, tours, community discussions, performances and more. Untold Stories is a national award-winning labor history series sponsored by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. Join Richard Hudelson for a compelling workers' history in his book, By the Ore Docks: A Working People's History of Duluth, on Wednesday, April 18 at 7 p.m., at the Rice Street Branch Library, 1011 Rice St., Saint Paul. For much of its history, Duluth has been the site of vast steel, lumber, and shipping industries, and home to people who worked tirelessly in the harbor, rail yards and grain elevators. By the Ore Docks presents a full-length history of the people who built this port city and struggled for both the growth of the city and the rights of their fellow workers. --------6 of 8-------- The Chavez-Correa Model Ecuador Votes for Revolutionary Change By STEPHEN LENDMAN CounterPunch April 16, 2007 Ecuadorean President Raphael Correa took office January 15 promising his people progressive, revolutionary social and economic change unlike anything this country of mostly impoverished people ever had before under its right wing only governments beholden solely to capital interests. Correa promised a "citizens' revolution" beginning by drafting a new Constitution in a Constituent Assembly for which a national referendum was held April 15 allowing Ecuadoreans the right to decide on it, not politicians. Yesterday the people spoke loudly and clearly in favor of proceeding. The referendum was passed overwhelmingly by 78.1% in favor against a mere 11.5% opposed (with remaining ballots left blank or were void) according to a Cedatos-Gallup exit poll conducted among 40,000 voters with a margin of error around 2% that will be very close to the final official vote count due out in a week according to Ecuador's Supreme Electoral Council (TSE). The referendum was monitored by representatives from the Organization of American States (OAS) who judged it fair and open, but that judgment won't likely silence Correa's critics crying foul, calling the whole process unconstitutional, and saying adopting the "Venezuelan model" will scare off foreign investors - all false and misleading as eight years under Hugo Chavez proves. Venezuela is thriving economically under his progressive leadership, and Correa now hopes his agenda for progressive social and economic change will achieve the same results for Ecuador and its people. He now has a chance to do it. Correa is following the same pattern Hugo Chavez chose in 1999 following his first election as Venezuela's president in December, 1998. Chavez held a national referendum that passed overwhelmingly followed three months later by elections to the National Constituent Assembly. It then drafted the country's new Constitucion de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela giving all Venezuelans a cornucopia of progressive social policies written into law. It appears Ecuador will go the same route with a new Constitution to be drafted later this year that again will be put to a popular referendum to let the people decide on it, not the politicians. Sunday, President Correa voiced what most Ecuadoreans feel saying "It's a day of national celebration, a victory for the people, for democracy" as he voted at a polling station in northern Quito, the capital. Correa promised progressive change for his people desperate for it, and as the country's eighth president (three of them publicly toppled) in the last turbulent decade, he's committed to deliver it saying earlier he'd resign from office if the April 15 referendum failed to pass. He had little reason to worry. Hugo Chavez congratulated Correa and his people in his weekly Sunday radio and television program "Alo (Hello) Presidente" saying "Correa will go forward with the support of the great majority. We wish the best for the Ecuadorean people and President Correa, who has heeded with courage and valor the call of 21st century socialism." The sentiment in Washington is likely to be quite different with public comments ahead barely concealing official contempt for any regional efforts toward real progressive democratic change. But what else would we expect from an administration run by a criminal element with no respect for the law or democratic will of people anywhere. Stay tuned for more developments as they unfold. Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net. --------7 of 8-------- The Politics of the Useful Threat It Didn't Start with the Neo-Cons By CARL G. ESTABROOK CounterPunch April 16, 2007 "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business." Michael Ledeen, rightist, neocon, and promoter of war with Iran, in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in the early 1990s, as quoted in National Review Online It's generally known that the regime of war and torture that the Bush administration has visited upon the Middle East was planned and supported by a group of American intellectuals called collectively neoconservatives. The name is merely a label, not a description: there is nothing remotely conservative about this gang of statist reactionaries. But it is important to realize that their views are not different in kind from those entertained by the shapers of American foreign policy for generations. The neocon position was simply at an extreme end of the (rather narrow) spectrum of American policy options, all of which were animated by the same basic principles - such as the necessity for the US to control Middle East energy resources. It is often pointed out that the war policy followed by the current administration had been set out in detail by the neocons in the 1990s, well before the disputed election of 2000 and the attacks of 11 September 2001. "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," a notorious neocon report prepared for the Israeli right wing in 1996, recommended the inculcation of "Western values" [sic] in the Middle East - in fact an aggressive new policy of advancing right-wing Zionism. Summing up a decade's agitation, the neocon Project for a New American Century published a report just before the 2000 election that conceded that their wished-for "process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor." When it arrived on 9-11, they capitalized on it. If their advice was treasonous, they took Patrick Henry's advice and made the most of it. In part owing to the guidance of the neocons, the Bush administration is probably the most dangerous in American history - not just because they are particularly stupid and vicious, although they probably are - but because circumstances have given them, at least momentarily, a relatively free hand in international affairs: * the fall of the Soviet Union, although undoubtedly an advance for true socialism, reduced the hindrances to the use of American military power after 1991; and * the criminal attacks of 9-11-2001 provided an unparalleled excuse for the exercise of American state terror, even though US actions in ostensible response to those attacks, notably the invasion of Iraq, bore little or no relation to them. (One leading neocon in the Pentagon actually proposed just after 9-11 that the US should bomb South America or Southeast Asia as "a surprise to the terrorists.") Add to those respectively negative and positive encouragements for an aggressive American foreign policy what seems to be an increased American willingness to use nuclear weapons, as well as policies that have the predictable effect of encouraging the spread of nuclear weapons. The world could hardly fail to notice that the Bush administration refrained from attacking one member (North Korea) of the "axis of evil," its official hate-objects, which had developed a nuclear weapon, while savaging another (Iraq), which had not, despite hysterical American charges; meanwhile they contemplated attacking the third (Iran) before it could develop such a weapon. The conclusion was obvious: the possession of nuclear weapons is a necessary defense against American aggression. The Useful Threat: the Soviets and After The fall of the Soviet Union, occurring at the end of the first Bush administration, was not however an unmixed blessing for the US government. It made undeniable what had been merely obvious before - the ascendancy of American military power. Despite generations of hysterical US government fear-mongering about Soviet threats - in 1947, when the Truman administration was considering how to sell to the American public a policy of a permanent wartime economy coupled with aggressive interventions abroad, Senator Arthur Vandenberg told the president to "scare hell out of the American people" - the Soviet Union never presented an authentic military threat to the US, or even to western Europe, with the single if substantial exception of the nuclear stand-off. From the Churchill-Stalin agreements in the fall of 1944, each side generally observed the demarcation of its sphere of influence - until the US violated its promise at the time of the unification of Germany and extended NATO to the Russian border. With an economy no more than a third the size of that of the US, the USSR produced an equivalent military as a defense against the world-dominating role that the US took on after World War II. The situation was quite plain to American policy-makers in those days. State Department analyst George Kennan wrote in a top-secret document in 1948, "We have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population ... In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity ... To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives ... We should cease to talk about vague and ... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better." Of course, the idealistic slogans could be saved for selling the policy to the US populace, but policy-makers shouldn't be distracted by them. The Cold War was in fact quite functional for both the US and the USSR. Each could use the threat of the other to keep its own clients in line. When the Carter and Reagan administrations killed tens of thousands of people in Central America, it was to stop communism; when the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, it was to prevent the CIA from restoring capitalism. But the disappearance of the USSR made such excuses, always vacuous, now impossible. The naive and pliable Colin Powell reported that, when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev said to him, "General, I am sorry ... you will have to find a new enemy"; Powell "jokingly" responded that he didn't want to find a new enemy - and give up all his troops, funding of $300 billion a year, and an anti-communist crusade that had been trumpeted for thirty years. Providentially, the jihadists arrived on 9-11 to fill the gap. But they didn't come out of nowhere: they were in fact conjured by American policy running back to the immediate post-WWII administrations, Democratic and Republican alike. Noam Chomsky points out that "after World War II, the US was by far the dominant world power, and control of Middle East energy reserves became a leading foreign policy goal, as it had been for its predecessors. In the 1940s, US planners recognized that (in their words) Gulf energy resources are 'a stupendous source of strategic power' and 'one of the greatest material prizes in world history.' Naturally, they intended to control it - though for many years they did not make much use of it themselves, and in the future, according to US intelligence, the US itself will rely on more stable Atlantic Basin resources (West Africa and the Western hemisphere). Nevertheless, it remains a very high priority to control the Gulf resources, which are expected to provide 2/3 of world energy needs for some time to come. Quite apart from yielding 'profits beyond the dreams of avarice,' as one leading history of the oil industry puts the matter, the region still remains 'a stupendous source of strategic power,' a lever of world control. Control over Gulf energy reserves provides 'veto power' over the actions of rivals, as the leading planner George Kennan pointed out half a century ago. Europe and Asia understand very well, and have long been seeking independent access to energy resources. Much of the jockeying for power in the Middle East and Central Asia has to do with these issues. The populations of the region are regarded as incidental, as long as they are passive and obedient..." Of course these populations can become a severe problem for US control. "Domestic radicalism," whether of the left or right, if it threatens to wrest control of a country's energy resources from the West and employ them for the purposes of that country's populace, must be countered. Modes of Control: Israel and Religion For a generation after WWII, the US saw secular Arab nationalism as the most dangerous form of domestic radicalism in the Middle East, and it countered with two instrumentalities: Israel and religion. In 1967 Israel defeated Egypt's Nasser, the leader of international Arabism, and was adopted by the US as its chief client and Middle East watchdog. To mop up secular Arab nationalism, the US and Israel encouraged the growth of Islamist movements, up to and including the Palestinian party Hamas, whose origins were funded by Israel to counter the secular Palestine Liberation Organization. The present struggle between Fatah and Hamas in the Occupied Territories is a direct result of the US adoption of the imperialist's oldest maxim, "divide et impera" - but with the division being accomplished by religion. In pursuit of this policy, the Carter administration (1977-81), in the most expensive CIA operation in history, recruited fanatic Islamist fighters (eventually including Osama bin Laden) and sent them into Afghanistan to worry the Soviet Union - before the Russian invasion of that country, according to Carter National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. "We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war," he said. To the objection that the policy was worse than a crime, it was a blunder, Brzezinski replied, "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?" The US was to discover that "some stirred-up Muslims" could trouble Americans as well. When the Reagan administration (1981-89) came to power, they announced that they would replace President Carter's feckless "human rights" foreign policy with a new slogan: "war on terror." Of course the terror that they had in mind - recent popular uprisings in Latin America - was still ascribed to the fell influence of international communism, but the new slogan was a recognition that the excuse was wearing thin, once Gorbachev became the Soviet leader. The sudden departure of the USSR in 1991 was entirely unexpected by American policy makers. In fact, one of the first appearances of the neocons in battle dress had been as "Team B" in the 1970s, an outside group (approved by Director of Central Intelligence George H. W. Bush) who countered estimates by CIA intelligence officials known as Team A. They argued that the CIA was ignoring the aggressiveness of the Soviet Union and vastly underestimating its military power. Of course they were wrong on both points, but that didn't matter: their views became the basis for the massive arms buildup that began under Carter and accelerated under Reagan. The Bush-1 administration (1989-93) tried to fill the gap caused by the loss of the communist menace with narcoterrorism: they killed a lot of Panamanians to put a former CIA asset (and incidentally a head of state) into a Miami jail. The Clinton administration (1993-2001), shown the way by Bush-1 in Somalia, where the killing of another thousand people by the US went unremarked (except for the propaganda movie Black Hawk Down), seized on "humanitarian intervention" to bring a recalcitrant Serbia, on the border between Europe and the Middle East, to heel in 1999. Democrats now try to contrast the Clinton administration with that of Bush Jr., but in fact the former showed the way for the latter. And even if the estimates of almost three quarters of a million people dead in Iraq as a result of Bush's war are accurate, as they seem to be, it may still be the case that Clinton is responsible for more dead Iraqis. The sanctions against Iraq imposed by the UN after the Gulf War of 1991 - in fact administered by the US and the UK - killed at least a half million children alone, according to the two UN administrators who resigned in protest of the "genocidal" US policies. How We Live Now: Hegemony or Survival Paradoxically, it took the first major engagement of the US military after the disappearance of the USSR - the attack on the prostrate country of Iraq - to reveal its severe limitations. The defeat of the US occupation of Iraq - the American writ now barely runs even in Baghdad, despite the "surge" - was almost immediately replicated in the humiliation of US client Israel by the irregulars of the Lebanese Shi'ite Party of God. But the present situation is extremely hazardous: a predator becomes more dangerous when wounded, as Chomsky has recently said. The US government's trumped-up charges against Iran resemble a losing gambler's doubling of the stakes. The US has shown that it is willing to go to great lengths to prevent losing control of Middle East energy. As Iran flirts with Russia and China and hints that it will become part of an Asian energy grid, the US sees the fundamental principle of its long-term policy at risk. As President Chavez pointed out at the United Nations, quoting Noam Chomsky, the US rulers show themselves willing to risk even the survival of the species in pursuit of global hegemony. It's primarily the responsibility of the American people to stop them. C. G. Estabrook is a retired visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a co-host of "News from Neptune"; he can be reached at: galliher [at] uiuc.edu. A shorter version of this piece was submitted to a local "progressive" paper, The Public I, which refused to publish it in a dispute stemming from their objection to the paragraph about the Clinton administration. He can be reached at: galliher [at] uiuc.ed --------8 of 8-------- Income Redistribution in Disguise Escalating Military Spending By ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH CounterPunch April 16, 2007 Critics of the recent U.S. wars of choice have long argued that they are all about oil. "No Blood for Oil" has been a rallying cry for most of the opponents of the war. It can be demonstrated, however, that there is another (less obvious but perhaps more critical) factor behind the recent rise of U.S. military aggressions abroad: war profiteering by the Pentagon contractors. Frequently invoking dubious "threats to our national security and/or interests," these beneficiaries of war dividends, the military-industrial complex and related businesses whose interests are vested in the Pentagon's appropriation of public money, have successfully used war and military spending to justify their lion's share of tax dollars and to disguise their strategy of redistributing national income in their favor. This cynical strategy of disguised redistribution of national resources from the bottom to the top is carried out by a combination of (a) drastic hikes in the Pentagon budget, and (b) equally drastic tax cuts for the wealthy. As this combination creates large budget deficits, it then forces cuts in non-military public spending as a way to fill the gaps that are thus created. As a result, the rich are growing considerably richer at the expense of middle- and low-income classes. Despite its critical importance, most opponents of war seem to have given short shrift to the crucial role of the Pentagon budget and its contractors as major sources of war and militarism - a phenomenon that the late President Eisenhower warned against nearly half a century ago. Perhaps a major reason for this oversight is that critics of war and militarism tend to view the U.S. military force as primarily a means for imperialist gains - oil or otherwise. The fact is, however, that as the U.S. military establishment has grown in size, it has also evolved in quality and character: it is no longer simply a means but, perhaps more importantly, an end in itself - an imperial force in its own right. Accordingly, the rising militarization of U.S. foreign policy in recent years is driven not so much by some general/abstract national interests as it is by the powerful special interests that are vested in the military capital, that is, war industries and war-related businesses. The Magnitude of U.S. Military Spending Even without the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are fast surpassing half a trillion dollars, U.S. military spending is now the largest item in the federal budget. Officially, it is the second highest item after Social Security payments. But Social Security is a self-financing trust fund. So, in reality, military spending is the highest budget item. The Pentagon budget for the current fiscal year (2007) is about $456 billion. President Bush's proposed increase of 10% for next year will raise this figure to over half a trillion dollars, that is, $501.6 billion for fiscal year 2008. A proposed supplemental appropriation to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq "brings proposed military spending for FY 2008 to $647.2 billion, the highest level of military spending since the end of World War II - higher than Vietnam, higher than Korea, higher than the peak of the Reagan buildup." Using official budget figures, William D. Hartung, Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York, provides a number of helpful comparisons: Proposed U.S. military spending for FY 2008 is larger than military spending by all of the other nations in the world combined. At $141.7 billion, this year's proposed spending on the Iraq war is larger than the military budgets of China and Russia combined. Total U.S. military spending for FY2008 is roughly ten times the military budget of the second largest military spending country in the world, China. Proposed U.S. military spending is larger than the combined gross domestic products (GDP) of all 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The FY 2008 military budget proposal is more than 30 times higher than all spending on State Department operations and non-military foreign aid combined. The FY 2008 military budget is over 120 times higher than the roughly $5 billion per year the U.S. government spends on combating global warming. The FY 2008 military spending represents 58 cents out of every dollar spent by the U.S. government on discretionary programs: education, health, housing assistance, international affairs, natural resources and environment, justice, veterans' benefits, science and space, transportation, training/employment and social services, economic development, and several more items. Although the official military budget already eats up the lion's share of the public money (crowding out vital domestic needs), it nonetheless grossly understates the true magnitude of military spending. The real national defense budget, according to Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute, is nearly twice as much as the official budget. The reason for this understatement is that the official Department of Defense budget excludes not only the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also a number of other major cost items. These disguised cost items include budgets for the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security; nuclear weapons research and development, testing, and storage (placed in the Energy budget); veterans programs (in the Veteran's Administration budget); most military retiree payments (in the Treasury budget); foreign military aid in the form of weapons grants for allies (in the State Department budget); interest payments on money borrowed to fund military programs in past years (in the Treasury budget); sales and property taxes at military bases (in local government budgets); and the hidden expenses of tax-free food, housing, and combat pay allowances. After adding these camouflaged and misplaced expenses to the official Department of Defense budget, Higgs concludes: "I propose that in considering future defense budgetary costs, a well-founded rule of thumb is to take the Pentagon's (always well publicized) basic budget total and double it. You may overstate the truth, but if so, you'll not do so by much." Escalation of the Pentagon Budget and the Rising Fortunes of Its Contractors The Bush administration's escalation of war and military spending has been a boon for Pentagon contractors. That the fortunes of Pentagon contractors should rise in tandem with the rise of military spending is not surprising. What is surprising, however, is the fact that these profiteers of war and militarism have also played a critical role in creating the necessary conditions for war profiteering, that is, in instigating the escalation of the recent wars of choice and the concomitant boom of military spending. Giant arms manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman have been the main beneficiaries of the Pentagon's spending bonanza. This is clearly reflected in the continuing rise of the value of their shares in the stock market: "Shares of U.S. defense companies, which have nearly trebled since the beginning of the occupation of Iraq, show no signs of slowing down. . . . The feeling that makers of ships, planes and weapons are just getting into their stride has driven shares of leading Pentagon contractors Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., and General Dynamics Corp. to all-time highs." Like its manufacturing contractors, the Pentagon's fast-growing service contractors have equally been making fortunes by virtue of its tendency to shower private contractors with tax-payers' money. These services are not limited to the relatively simple or routine tasks and responsibilities such food and sanitation services. More importantly, they include "contracts for services that are highly sophisticated [and] strategic in nature," such as the contracting of security services to corporate private armies, or modern day mercenaries. The rapid growth of the Pentagon's service contracting is reflected (among other indicators) in these statistics: "In 1984, almost two-thirds of the contracting budget went for products rather than services. . . . By fiscal year 2003, 56 percent of Defense Department contracts paid for services rather than goods." The spoils of war and the devastation in Iraq have been so attractive that an extremely large number of war profiteers have set up shop in that country in order to participate in the booty: "There are about 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq, not counting subcontractors, a total that is approaching the size of the U.S. military force there, according to the military's first census of the growing population of civilians operating in the battlefield," reported The Washington Post in its 5 December 2006 issue. The rise in the Pentagon contracting is, of course, a reflection of an overall policy and philosophy of outsourcing and privatizing that has become fashionable ever since President Reagan arrived in the White House in 1980. Reporting on some of the effects of this policy, Scott Shane and Ron Nixon of the New York Times recently wrote: "Without a public debate or formal policy decision, contractors have become a virtual fourth branch of government. On the rise for decades, spending on federal contracts has soared during the Bush administration, to about $400 billion last year from $207 billion in 2000, fueled by the war in Iraq, domestic security and Hurricane Katrina, but also by a philosophy that encourages outsourcing almost everything government does." Redistributive Militarism: Escalation of Military Spending Redistributes Income from Bottom to Top But while the Pentagon contractors and other beneficiaries of war dividends are showered with public money, low- and middle-income Americans are squeezed out of economic or subsistence resources in order to make up for the resulting budgetary shortfalls. For example, as the official Pentagon budget for 2008 fiscal year is projected to rise by more than 10 percent, or nearly $50 billion, "a total of 141 government programs will be eliminated or sharply reduced" to pay for the increase. These would include cuts in housing assistance for low-income seniors by 25 percent, home heating/energy assistance to low-income people by 18 percent, funding for community development grants by 12.7 percent, and grants for education and employment training by 8 percent. Combined with redistributive militarism and generous tax cuts for the wealthy, these cuts have further exacerbated the ominously growing income inequality that started under President Reagan. Ever since Reagan arrived in the White House in 1980, opponents of non-military public spending have been using an insidious strategy to cut social spending, to reverse the New Deal and other social safety net programs, and to redistribute national/public resources in favor of the wealthy. That cynical strategy consists of a combination of drastic increases in military spending coupled with equally drastic tax cuts for the wealthy. As this combination creates large budget deficits, it then forces cuts in non-military public spending (along with borrowing) to fill the gaps thus created. For example, at the same time that President Bush is planning to raise military spending by $50 billion for the next fiscal year, he is also proposing to make his affluent-targeted tax cuts permanent at a cost of $1.6 trillion over 10 years, or an average yearly cut of $160 billion. Simultaneously, "funding for domestic discretionary programs would be cut a total of $114 billion" in order to pay for these handouts to the rich. The targeted discretionary programs to be cut include over 140 programs that provide support for the basic needs of low- and middle-income families such as elementary and secondary education, job training, environmental protection, veterans' health care, medical research, Meals on Wheels, child care and HeadStart, low-income home energy assistance, and many more. According to the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, "if the President's tax cuts are made permanent, households in the top 1 percent of the population (currently those with incomes over $400,000) will receive tax cuts averaging $67,000 a year by 2012. . . . The tax cuts for those with incomes of over $1 million a year would average $162,000 a year by 2012." Official macroeconomic figures show that, over the past five decades or so, government spending (at the federal, state and local levels) as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) has remained fairly steady - at about 20 percent. Given this nearly constant share of the public sector of national output/income, it is not surprising that increases in military spending have almost always been accompanied or followed by compensating decreases in non-military public spending, and vice versa. For example, when by virtue of FDR's New Deal reforms and LBJ's metaphorical War on Poverty, the share of non-military government spending rose significantly the share of military spending declined accordingly. >From the mid 1950s to the mid 1970s, the share of non-military government spending of GNP rose from 9.2 to 14.3 percent, an increase of 5.1 percent. During that time period, the share of military spending of GNP declined from 10.1 to 5.8 percent, a decline of 4.3 percent. That trend was reversed when President Reagan took office in 1980. In the early 1980s, as President Reagan drastically increased military spending, he also just as drastically lowered tax rates on higher incomes. The resulting large budget deficits were then paid for by more than a decade of steady cuts on non-military spending. Likewise, the administration of President George W. Bush has been pursuing a similarly sinister fiscal policy of cutting non-military public spending in order to pay for the skyrocketing military spending and the generous tax cuts for the affluent. Interestingly (though not surprisingly), changes in income inequality have mirrored changes in government spending priorities, as reflected in the fiscal policies of different administrations. Thus, when the share of non-military public spending rose relative to that of military spending from the mid 1950 to the mid 1970s, and the taxation system or policy remained relatively more progressive compared to what it is today, income inequality declined accordingly. But as President Reagan reversed that fiscal policy by raising the share of military spending relative to non-military public spending and cutting taxes for the wealthy, income inequality also rose considerably. As Reagan's twin policies of drastic increases in military spending and equally sweeping tax cuts for the rich were somewhat tempered in the 1990s, growth in income inequality slowed down accordingly. In the 2000s, however, the ominous trends that were left off by President Reagan have been picked up by President George W. Bush: increasing military spending, decreasing taxes for the rich, and (thereby) exacerbating income inequality. Leaving small, short-term fluctuations aside, Figure 1 [not shown here] shows two major peaks and a trough of the long-term picture of income inequality in the United States. The first peak was reached during the turbulent years of the Great Depression (1929-1933). But it soon began to decline with the implementation of the New Deal reforms in the mid 1930s. The ensuing decline continued almost unabated until 1968, at which time we note the lowest level of inequality. After 1968, the improving trend in inequality changed course. But the reversal was not very perceptible until the early 1980s, after which time it began to accelerate - by virtue (or vice) of Reaganomics. Although the deterioration that was thus set in motion by the rise of neoliberalism and supply-side economics somewhat slowed down in the 1990s, it has once again gathered steam under President George W. Bush, and is fast approaching the peak of the Great Depression. It is worth noting that even at its lowest level of 1968, income inequality was still quite lopsided: the richest 20 percent of households made as much as ten times more than the poorest 20 percent. But, as Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer points out, "that looks almost Swedish next to today's ratio of fifteen times." The following are some specific statistics of how redistributive militarism and supply-side fiscal policies have exacerbated income inequality since the late 1970s and early 1980s - making after-tax income gaps wider than pre-tax ones. According to recently released data by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), since 1979 income gains among high-income households have dwarfed those of middle- and low-income households. Specifically: The average after-tax income of the top one percent of the population nearly tripled, rising from $314,000 to nearly $868,000-for a total increase of $554,000, or 176 percent. (Figures are adjusted by CBO for inflation.) By contrast, the average after-tax income of the middle fifth of the population rose a relatively modest 21 percent, or $8,500, reaching $48,400 in 2004. The average after-tax income of the poorest fifth of the population rose just 6 percent, or $800, during this period, reaching $14,700 in 2004. Legislation enacted since 2001 has provided taxpayers with about $1 trillion in tax cuts over the past six years. These large tax reductions have made the distribution of after-tax income more unequal by further concentrating income at the top of the income range. According to the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, as a result of the tax cuts enacted since 2001: In 2006, households in the bottom fifth of the income spectrum received tax cuts (averaging $20) that raised their after-tax incomes by an average of 0.3 percent. Households in the middle fifth of the income spectrum received tax cuts (averaging $740) that raised their after-tax incomes an average of 2.5 percent. The top one percent of households received tax cuts in 2006 (averaging $44,200) that increased their after-tax income by an average of 5.4 percent. Households with incomes exceeding $1 million received an average tax cut of $118,000 in 2006, which represented an increase of 6.0 percent in their after-tax income. Concluding Remarks: External Wars as Reflections of Domestic Fights over National Resources Close scrutiny of the Pentagon budget shows that, ever since the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980, opponents of social spending have successfully used military spending as a regulatory mechanism to cut non-military public spending, to reverse the New Deal and other social safety net programs, and to redistribute national/public resources in favor of the wealthy. Close examination of the dynamics of redistributive militarism also helps explain why powerful beneficiaries of the Pentagon budget prefer war and military spending to peace and non-military public spending: military spending benefits the wealthy whereas the benefits of non-military public spending would spread to wider social strata. It further helps explain why beneficiaries of war dividends frequently invent new enemies and new "threats to our national interests" in order to justify continued escalation of military spending. Viewed in this light, militaristic tendencies to war abroad can be seen largely as reflections of the metaphorical domestic fights over allocation of public finance at home, of a subtle or insidious strategy to redistribute national resources from the bottom to the top. Despite the critical role of redistributive militarism, or of the Pentagon budget, as a major driving force to war, most opponents of war have paid only scant attention to this crucial force behind the recent U.S. wars of choice. The reason for this oversight is probably due to the fact that most critics of war continue to view U.S. military force as simply or primarily a means to achieve certain imperialist ends, instead of having become an end in itself. Yet, as the U.S. military establishment has grown in size, it has also evolved in quality and character: it is no longer simply a means but, perhaps more importantly, an end in itself, an imperial power in its own right, or to put it differently, it is a case of the tail wagging the dog - a phenomenon that the late President Eisenhower so presciently warned against. Accordingly, rising militarization of U.S. foreign policy in recent years is driven not so much by some general/abstract national interests, or by the interests of Big Oil and other non-military transnational corporations (as most traditional theories of imperialism continue to argue), as it is by powerful special interests that are vested in the war industry and related war-induced businesses that need an atmosphere of war and militarism in order to justify their lion's share of the public money. Preservation, justification, and expansion of the military-industrial colossus, especially of the armaments industry and other Pentagon contractors, have become critical big business objectives in themselves. They have, indeed, become powerful driving forces behind the new, parasitic U.S. military imperialism. I call this new imperialism parasitic because its military adventures abroad are often prompted not so much by a desire to expand the empire's wealth beyond the existing levels, as did the imperial powers of the past, but by a desire to appropriate the lion's share of the existing wealth and treasure for the military establishment, especially for the war-profiteering contractors. In addition to being parasitic, the new U.S. military imperialism can also be called dual imperialism because not only does it exploit defenseless peoples and their resources abroad but also the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens and their resources at home. (I shall further elaborate on the historically unique characteristics of the Parasitic, dual U.S. military imperialism in another article.) Ismael Hossein-zadeh is a professor of economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of the newly published book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism His Web page is http://www.cbpa.drake.edu/hossein-zadeh Notes  William D. Hartung, "Bush Military Budget Highest Since WW II," Common Dreams (10 February 2007).  Ibid.  Robert Higgs, "The Defense Budget Is Bigger Than You Think," antiwar.com (25 January 2004).  Ibid.  Ismael Hossein-zadeh, "Why the US is Not Leaving Iraq,".  Bill Rigby, "Defense stocks may jump higher with big profits," Reuter (12 April 2006).  The Center for Public Integrity, "Outsourcing the Pentagon" (29 September 2004).  Scott Shane and Ron Nixon, "In Washington, Contractors Take On Biggest Role Ever," The New York Times (4 February 2007).  Faiz Shakir et al., Center for American Progress Action Fund, "The Progress Report" (6 February 2007).  Robert Greenstein, "DESPITE THE RHETORIC, BUDGET WOULD MAKE NATION'S FISCAL PROBLEMS WORSE AND FURTHER WIDEN INEQUALITY," Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (6 February 2007).  Ibid.  Richard Du Boff, "What Military Spending Really Costs," Challenge 32 (September/October 1989), pp. 4-10.  Doug Henwood, Left Business Observer, No. 114 (31 December 2006), p. 4.  Congressional Budget Office, Historical Effective Federal Tax Rates: 1979 to 2004, December 2006; as reported by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  See Tax Policy Center tables T06-0273 and T06-0279 at. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments
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