Comptroller Gen. David M. Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office, is touring the country decrying the huge federal deficits. Federal interest payments run over $400 billion annually. Acknowledged federal debt is approaching $9 trillion, not counting the cost of weapons systems expended in our two hot wars and taking care of the casualties resulting therefrom, costs estimated at another $3 trillion. State-local debt is $2 trillion, leaving the real public liability of American governments at $14 trillion, 105% of the gross domestic product (GDP) -- not counting our trade deficit of $5 or $6 trillion as we have sold off the assets of the country. We have become a third-world debtor nation.
Mr. Walker wants to accelerate action with reference to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (read downsize, privatize, or eliminate) as the baby-boom generation is coming on line. He seems to blame these programs for our monumental debt, but they are not the culprit. Our trust funds would be solvent if Congress and every president starting with Ronald Reagan had not spent 95% of the trust fund surpluses since fiscal year 1981.
The demons of our insolvency are our massive expenditures for war, contracting-out, failure to police these contracts, tax cuts for the wealthy, and virtual elimination of taxes on large corporations (including corporations living on the public dole).
From 1946 to Carter's last budget, FY 1981, the national debt declined from 128% of GDP to 32.5%, or less than $1 trillion. We were outgrowing our national debt. No longer.
In the 1990s we eliminated over 800,000 civil service and active-duty military positions, substituting contracting-out to for-profit corporations while sharply reducing personnel auditing contract performance. The Defense Department cannot account for hundreds of billion dollars. Now almost no one is responsible for services rendered. Contracts are the biggest 'pork barrel' around, most going to the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about. Given our system of financing elections, Congress and the President are the handmaidens of this process.
Our fearless leaders and the corporate elite tend to forget that we have all paid into these trust funds and expect to get something out, not more "pork" for contractors or profits for Wall Street. Abrogating social programs could be the death knell of the republic. In his book of the same name, Chalmers Johnson calls these "the last days of the American republic."
G. Ross Stephens
(The author is professor emeritus of political science and public administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City.)
Regarding Everett L. Williams' "Mismanagement" letter [4/1/07 TPP], about a $6 trillion national debt or several times $6 trillion: M.W. Guzy's column in the Arch City Chronicle (April 18-May 8, 2006) puts "million," "billion and "trillion" in context as explained by mathematician John Allen Paulos; by likening them to the passage [of time] in order to understand their order of magnitude. Liken $1 million to one million seconds and it adds up to 11 days. Liken $1 billion to one billion seconds and it adds up to 31 years and six months. Liken $1 trillion to one trillion seconds and it adds up to more than 315 centuries.
"If we began to repay our $6 trillion obligation at the rate of $1,000 per second, 24/7 and agree not to borrow any more money until the debt was retired and if our creditors agreed not to charge any further interest on the unpaid balance, it would take us a little over 189 years to break even. Current budget forecast, considered to be optimistic, predict that the debt will grow to $9 trillion by 2011.
"America annually spends more on national defense than the rest of the world combined. Yet, while girding ourselves against foreign adversaries, we've managed to become a nation of debtors whose industrial base has been largely outsourced to the Third World. Should the end come, it will likely do so 'not with a bang, but with a whimper.'"
St Louis, Mo.
Art Cullen wrote an interesting article ["Why Did We Invade?", 4/15/07 TPP] on how Bush's excuses for going to war have morphed from WMD, to taking out Saddam, to freedom and democracy. The latest reason Bush gives has morphed into "If we weren't fighting them there, we would have to fight them here." All pure rot! Cakewalk! Rose petals! Mission accomplished! God in Heaven!
North Ft. Myers, Fla.
Some of the old-time historians and economists taught that the Great Depression in America was ended by President Franklin Roosevelt, who pegged the price of gold at something like $4.20 an ounce. (Check the prices of gold on today's markets!)
Is it possible that the global arms dealers, profiting from wartime spending in World War II and beyond, have mind-controlled the science of economics and co-opted international banking?
Have Americans been deceived by a con game in which we follow a lead into monetary self-destruction? If so, we're overspent and done for, awaiting foreclosure by those who set us up for their takeover of us.
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Pat Wray's article "What Every Presidential Candidate Should Know About Gun Owners" (4/1/07 TPP) is more than a little disingenuous. When he says "our ancestors warded off Indian attacks' he disregards the fact that those ancestors used their guns to drive the Indians (Native Americans) off lands that they had occupied for centuries before the White Man showed up. The "Indians" were just trying to protect their families and their lands from an invading force.
He presents "gun owners" as safe, law abiding citizens. Then where do all the people who commit murder (in our schools and out) get those guns? Somebody must be leaving them around where they can be found. And somebody (gun owners?) must be funding the NRA, which seems to believe that hunting includes going after rabbits with M-16s and MAC-10s. The NRA has fought against ALL forms of gun registration for all the years (61) that I have been alive.
It is NO mistake to confuse gun owners with extremist groups like the Montana Freemen when a "reasonable" gun owner like Mr. Wray says "we ... may need to fight against our government." If "gun owners" had not regularly voted for Republicans and against people who wanted to make this nation safer and more civilized by caring for our neighbors in need, we wouldn't have to think about taking arms against our own elected officials.
While he "bled with Jews (I am one) and the Tutsis and ... the tribes being slaughtered in Darfur," he might like to consider that it is America which sells most of the arms around the world, and it is America which has caused many of those conflicts.
Gun owners do not need protection from people without guns. They "need protection" only from other gun owners. And the rest of us, who choose not to keep weapons of murder in our homes and on our persons need protection from ALL gun owners, because we can't tell the difference and we can't take your word for it when you're armed.
Myrtle Creek, Ore.
I have recently finished a book about The Great Northern Railway and James J Hill (White Cascade). A reporter at the time commented on Hill and his fellow robber barons: "They have throttled the public interest, dragged it into a dark alley, raped it and left it for dead." This comment can be applied today to our present administration and its cronies.
Kenneth L Kaufman
Bethel Park, Pa.
In my 87 years I have never felt so completely unable to express my -- what -- outrage? frustration? sense of betrayal? -- as I do now. And the spate of excellent books coming out on Iraq, of which I have read literally dozens, only serve to increase my concern, not only over the Iraq situation, but for the very future of our country.
The most recent Is The Occupation, War and Resistance in Iraq, by Patrick Cockburn, which lays bare the gross stupidity of a great power embarking on this kind of an adventure. One notable quotation:
"... history is full of examples of wars launched by great powers against weaker opponents in the mistaken expectation of an easy victory. The Duke of Wellington, warning hawkish politicians in Britain against ill-considered military intervention abroad, once said: 'Great nations do not have small wars.' He meant that such supposedly insignificant conflicts can inflict terrible damage on powerful states." If only our "leaders" had understood this fours years ago, and acted more wisely.
And the horrible truth at this point is that there is no easy way to extricate ourselves and the damage continues to grow.
Consumers have long believed there is collusion amongst the oil companies; this has been repeatedly investigated, and no collusion has been found. Ergo, conservatives argue, the price is driven by the market. I don't think this conclusion is valid. Rather, the oil companies have become adroit at playing the game of "Prisoner's Dilemma."
Readers can Google "Prisoner's Dilemma," and either Wikipedia or the Stanford site will give them a good synopsis of how "Prisoner's Dilemma" works. Conspiracy and collusion do not have to be head-honchos sitting around a table making agreements on price-fixing. Rather, once the rules of Prisoner's Dilemma become apprehended, the collusion becomes implicit in the business model. I think this is applicable to a wide-range of corporate dealings, and demonstrates major failings of the free-market system. To the extent corporations use the Prisoner's Dilemma model, there is no competition, but calculated cooperation.
I've been told that some Americans can't find North Dakota on the map. We can be considered backward, which, while untrue, is like some of the folks in the movie Fargo. Our Legislature recently passed North Dakota's own Peace Resolution, a progressive piece of legislation which has thrived in this red state. The resolution calls for the pursuit of peace in Iraq and Afghanistan. It voices support for our troops, urging their return with or without a successful conclusion of their efforts.
The secrets to our success:
1) Public opinion in North Dakota disapproves of the escalation of war in Iraq .
2) The resolution had bipartisan sponsorship.
3) North Dakota's peace community rallied around the resolution with all their force and grace.
4) The military community was welcomed as allies in the mutual goal of supporting our troops.
Some of my colleagues argued that the language could have been stronger. Yes, the resolution could have set a timeline for withdrawal or addressed specific foreign policy. I am pleased with the outcome of this process, however. We made it as challenging as we could for risk-averse legislators to vote their conscience and their hope -- peace in the Middle East.
In my 20 years as a senator, I have never heard the word peace with such frequency in the legislative halls. This is better than a good start. In the Peace Garden State, this may be the least that we will do.
Sen. Tim Mathern
I was pleased to see the articles relative to impeachment in the 4/1/07 TPP by John Nichols, Wayne O'Leary and Hank Kalet. Happy to know there's a growing number of us favoring this means of holding the Bush administration to account for their myriad crimes. Even though there is little chance for conviction in the Senate, the process would quite quickly shed light on this, our very worst and most secretive presidency.
A few words for Congressional Democrats: Since the Executive refuses to listen to and does not care about the wishes of the majority of we, the people, Congress needs to get off the dime and do what the people asked of them Nov. 7, 2006. I don't think we send our representatives to Washington because we think they know better than we what we want. We send them to do our bidding. Democrats have gotta stop showing up to the gunfight armed with knives. Time to roll out the ultimate weapon: Articles of Impeachment!
A majority of Americans want an end to the occupation of Iraq. I, for one, want our people out of there now, all of them, and not next year. NOW! Not one more of our military should die for Bush's military adventurism. Good for the people of Vermont. If Congress will not deal with it, I hope your Legislature will force the issue. I wish we had that fortitude here in California.
Thomas R. Stumbaugh
After much time the minimum wage will go up and no one will be hurt. But to me it is very simple. It is a question of people or war. And the Shrub chose the wrong door. And we shall suffer some more.
North Babylon, N.Y.
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