Thursday, June 30, 2011
US Must End Wars Fought to Hike Corporate Profits
by Sherwood Ross article link
June 30, 2011 | Global Research
Humanism has little place in U.S. global affairs these days when government acts as the enforcement arm of capitalism-run-amok.
Especially since WWII, Washington has habitually aligned itself with the goals of U.S. corporations to dominate. In Latin America and elsewhere, it has funded armies of goons that harass, batter, jail, and murder labor leaders and their allies. In Colombia, labor organizers that call a strike put their lives at risk. It's a veritable shooting gallery where trade unionists are targets.
In Iraq, writes Noam Chomsky in “Interventions”(City Lights Books), the occupying forces broke into union offices, arrested leaders, and enforced Saddam Hussein's antilabor laws. Union leaders were killed under mysterious circumstances. Concessions went to bitterly anti-union U.S. firms. New oil contracts went to firms whose executives were personal friends of President George W. Bush.
At home, U.S. corporations---which exhibit zero loyalty to their employees and to the cities that gave them all those tax breaks to locate---put profits first even if it means stripping those cities of their plants; even if it means throwing thousands of loyal staffers out of work; even if it means cheating taxpayers by relocating their headquarters' offshore; even if it means hiring cheap foreign labor.
“We are seeing the Financial Elite of America waging class warfare against the ordinary working men and women of this country who have made it what it is today,” says University of Illinois international legal authority Francis Boyle.
And Noam Chomsky points in Imperial Ambitions (Metropolitan Books): “Corporations barely pay taxes. The corporate tax rate is already very low, but corporations have worked out an array of complicated techniques so they often don't have to pay taxes at all.”
At the same time, he adds, “the general population has gone through 30 years(1975-2005) of either stagnation or decline in real wages, with people working longer hours with fewer benefits. I don't think there's been a period like this in American history.” Meanwhile, corporations harvest record profits.
As sociologist James Petras of Binghamton University points out in his “Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire,”(Clarity): “Today, over 50 percent of the top 500 US (multinational corporations) MNCs earn over half their profits from overseas operations...This tendency will accentuate as US MNCs relocate almost all their operations, including manufacturing, design and execution. They will employ low tech and high tech employees in their pursuit for competitive advantages and high rates of profits.” (This is not to say that some MNCs aren't building schools, housing, highways, and public facilities near their overseas plants.)
Petras noted that Mexican President Carlos Salinas(1988-94) “privatized over 110 public enterprises, opened the borders to subsidized US agricultural exports---ruining over 1.5-million...farmers and peasants---and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. His policies facilitated the US takeover of Mexico's retail trade, real estate, agriculture, industry, banking and communications sectors.
Similar patterns of foreign takeovers were evident throughout the region, especially in Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia where lucrative gas, oil and mining firms were privatized and sold to foreign investors.”
“Oil and energy companies secured exploration rights via corruption by buying out entire ministries in Russia, Nigeria, Angola, Bolivia and Venezuela in the 1990s,” Petras writes. “Securing a toehold in any economic sector of China to exploit cheap labor requires the MNC to pay off a small army of government officials. This is more than compensated by the regime's enforcement of a cheap labor regime, repression of labor discontent and the imposition of state-controlled pro-business 'labor unions.'”
Everywhere one looks, Imperial America is training police departments of friendly dictators in brutal suppression techniques if and when the peasantry demands a bigger share of the pie which they baked. Journalist William Blum in “Rogue State”(Common Courage Press), U.S. armed forces “are being deployed in well over 100 countries in every part of the world,” countries Washington supplies “with sizable amounts of highly lethal military equipment, and training their armed forces and police in the brutal arts...”
It's no coincidence that as arms become America's No. 1 export, civilian jobs are going down the tubes. Columbia University economist Seymour Melman, interviewed in the Feb., 1992, issue of The Progressive, argued because of its vast expenditures for war the U.S. was “losing millions of productive jobs” in the civilian sector to foreign firms.
“The U.S. economy is in dramatic disrepair compared to Germany and Japan. By concentrating capital on civilian purposes for 45 years they've emerged as the true victors of the Cold War,” Melman said.
More recently, Chomsky wrote: “U.S. military expenditures approximate those of the rest of the world combined, while arms sales by 38 North American companies (one in Canada) account for over 60 percent of the world total.”
The record of history shows the White House has used CIA and Pentagon muscle to attack nations whose officials wouldn't play ball in the capitalist league. President Eisenhower gave the green light for the 1953 CIA overthrow of Iran. President Kennedy attempted to overthrow Cuba, but failed, in 1961; President Nixon succeeded in overthrowing the legally elected president of Chile in 1973; and President Reagan funded the Contras to wage war against the leftist Sandinistas of Nicaragua.
“Because of Red Scare anxieties,” wrote James Carroll in “House of War”(Houghton Mifflin), “Americans would uncritically accept the maturing of an economic system (capitalism) that, in its effect if not its structure, condemned most of the world to crushing impoverishment. The humane aspects of Marx's critique of capitalism would not be reckoned with in the United States, with dangerous consequences that define the ever more polarized twenty-first century.”
When Cold War presidents gazed upon the world, all they saw was Red. War hero Jimmy Doolittle, who led the first U.S. air strike against Japan in 1942, later as chairman of a special task force reported to President Dwight Eisenhower that the U.S. “must learn to subvert, sabotage, and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated, and more effective methods than those used against us.
It may be necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand, and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy.” That, of course, is precisely what happened. The end began to justify any means. The Pentagon even uses its listening devices to steal business information to give U.S. firms an edge over foreign ones.
Fear-mongering American politicians claimed that if just one country went Communist, all its neighbors would topple like dominoes. For decades, the U.S. subsidized anti-Communist Japanese politicians; the CIA secretly lined the pockets of mullahs and ayatollahs in Iran; and the Pentagon plunged recklessly into civil wars such as in Viet Nam using overwhelming force and violence. Ironically, at home the Justice Department, responding to the “Red Scare,” persecuted, tried, and jailed leaders of the U.S. Communist Party, for allegedly advocating the same strategies the Pentagon was actually employing on a massive scale the world over.
Yet all the Pentagon's costly armaments designed to topple Red regimes proved less effective than the protests of the non-violent disciples of Gandhi, such as Solidarity labor union's Lech Walesa in Poland, who led the break out of the Soviet orbit. In Russia, President Mikhail Gorbachev, the advocate of Glasnost, or openness, could see that Soviet-brand Communism was failing his people and began to make changes that permitted private ownership of business.
Similarly, strong-arm capitalism American-style today needs to be transformed. Starting wars to force other nations to privatize natural resources they would prefer to keep under public control is both reprehensible and criminal.
In his treatise “On Human Work” in 1981, Pope John Paul II called for “the primacy of the person over things and of human labour over capital as a whole.” Workers must be paid fairly, allowed to form unions and strike for self-improvement and treated with dignity and respect. Let it be.
Sherwood Ross is director of the Anti-War News Service from Coral Gables, Fla. He was active in the civil rights movement and later as a wire service columnist covering workplace issues. To contribute to his news service or comment, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sherwood Ross is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
Global Research articles by Sherwood Ross
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 10:52 AM
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
US Cost of War at Least $3.7 Trillion and Counting
June 29, 2011 | CommonDreams | Reuters
When President Barack Obama cited cost as a reason to bring troops home from Afghanistan, he referred to a $1 trillion price tag for America's wars.
Staggering as it is, that figure grossly underestimates the total cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Treasury and ignores more imposing costs yet to come, according to a study released on Wednesday.
The final bill will run at least $3.7 trillion and could reach as high as $4.4 trillion, according to the research project "Costs of War" by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies.
In the 10 years since U.S. troops went into Afghanistan to root out the al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11, 2001, attacks, spending on the conflicts totaled $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion.
Those numbers will continue to soar when considering often overlooked costs such as long-term obligations to wounded veterans and projected war spending from 2012 through 2020. The estimates do not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments coming due and many billions more in expenses that cannot be counted, according to the study.
In human terms, 224,000 to 258,000 people have died directly from warfare, including 125,000 civilians in Iraq. Many more have died indirectly, from the loss of clean drinking water, healthcare, and nutrition. An additional 365,000 have been wounded and 7.8 million people -- equal to the combined population of Connecticut and Kentucky -- have been displaced.
"Costs of War" brought together more than 20 academics to uncover the expense of war in lives and dollars, a daunting task given the inconsistent recording of lives lost and what the report called opaque and sloppy accounting by the U.S. Congress and the Pentagon.
The report underlines the extent to which war will continue to stretch the U.S. federal budget, which is already on an unsustainable course due to an aging American population and skyrocketing healthcare costs.
It also raises the question of what the United States gained from its multitrillion-dollar investment.
"I hope that when we look back, whenever this ends, something very good has come out of it," Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, told Reuters in Washington.
SEPT 11, 2001: THE DAMAGE CONTINUES
In one sense, the report measures the cost of 9/11, the American shorthand for the events of September 11, 2001. Nineteen hijackers plus other al Qaeda plotters spent an estimated $400,000 to $500,000 on the plane attacks that killed 2,995 people and caused $50 billion to $100 billion in economic damages.
What followed were three wars in which $50 billion amounts to a rounding error. For every person killed on September 11, another 73 have been killed since.
Was it worth it? That is a question many people want answered, said Catherine Lutz, head of the anthropology department at Brown and co-director of the study.
"We decided we needed to do this kind of rigorous assessment of what it cost to make those choices to go to war," she said. "Politicians, we assumed, were not going to do that kind of assessment."
The report arrives as Congress debates how to cut a U.S. deficit projected at $1.4 trillion this year, roughly a 10th of which can be attributed to direct war spending.
What did the United States gain for its trillions?
Strategically, the results for the United States are mixed. Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are dead, but Iraq and Afghanistan are far from stable democracies. Iran has gained influence in the Gulf and the Taliban, though ousted from government, remain a viable military force in Afghanistan.
"The United States has been extremely successful in protecting the homeland," said George Friedman, founder of STRATFOR, a U.S.-based intelligence company.
"Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was capable of mounting very sophisticated, complex, operations on an intercontinental basis. That organization with that capability has not only been substantially reduced, it seems to have been shattered," Friedman said.
Economically, the results are also mixed. War spending may be adding half a percentage point a year to growth in the gross domestic product but that has been more than offset by the negative effects of deficit spending, the report concludes.
Some U.S. government reports have attempted to assess the costs of war, notably a March 2011 Congressional Research Service report that estimated post-September 11 war funding at $1.4 trillion through 2012. The Congressional Budget Office projected war costs through 2021 at $1.8 trillion.
A ground-breaking private estimate was published in the 2008 book "The Three Trillion Dollar War," by Linda Bilmes, a member of the Watson Institute team, and Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. That work revealed how much cost was added by interest on deficit spending and medical care for veterans.
The report draws on those sources and pieces together many others for a more comprehensive picture.
The report also makes special note of Pakistan, a front not generally mentioned along with Iraq and Afghanistan. War has probably killed more people in Pakistan than in neighboring Afghanistan, the report concludes.
Politicians throughout history have underestimated the costs of war, believing they will be shorter and less deadly than reality, said Neta Crawford, the other co-director of the report and a political science professor at Boston University.
The report said former President George W. Bush's administration was "shamelessly politically driven" in underestimating Iraq war costs before the 2003 invasion.
Most official sources continue to overlook costs, largely because of a focus on just Pentagon spending, Crawford said.
"Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war," Obama said in last week's speech on reducing U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. At the very least, he was rounding down by $200 billion to $300 billion, when counting U.S. congressional appropriations for the post 9/11 wars.
"I don't know what the president knows, but I wish it were a trillion," Crawford said. "It would be better if it were a trillion."
In theory, adding up the dollars spent and lives lost should be a statistical errand. The U.S. Congress appropriates the money, and a life lost on battlefield should have a death certificate and a casket to match.
The team quickly discovered, however, the task was far more complicated.
Specific war spending over the past 10 years, when expressed in 2011 dollars, comes to $1.3 trillion, the "Costs of War" project found. When it comes to accounting for every dollar, that $1.3 trillion is merely a good start.
Since the wars have been financed by deficit spending, interest must be paid -- $185 billion of accumulated so far.
The Pentagon has received an additional $326 billion to $652 billion beyond what can be attributed to the war appropriations, the study found.
Homeland security spending has totaled another $401 billion so far that can be traced to September 11. War-related foreign aid: another $74 billion.
Then comes caring for U.S. veterans of war. Nearly half of the 1.25 million who have served in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan have used their status as veterans to make health or disability claims at an expense of $32.6 billion to date.
Those costs will soar over the next 40 years as veterans age. The report estimates the U.S. obligations to the veterans will reach $589 billion to $934 billion through 2050.
So far, those numbers add up to a low estimate of $2.9 trillion and a moderate estimate of $3.6 trillion in costs to the U.S. Treasury. No high estimate was offered.
"We feel a conservative measure of costs is plenty large to attract attention," said report contributor Ryan Edwards, an economist who studied the war impact on deficit spending.
Those numbers leave out hundreds of billions in social costs not born by the U.S. taxpayer but by veterans and their families: another $295 billion to $400 billion, increasing the range of costs to date to some $3.2 trillion to $4 trillion.
That's a running total through fiscal 2011. Add another $453 billion in war-related spending projected for 2012 to 2020 and the total grows to $3.668 trillion to $4.444 trillion.
THE HUMAN TOLL
If the financial costs are elusive, so too is the human toll.
The report estimates between 224,475 and 257,655 have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, though those numbers give a false sense of precision. There are many sources of data on civilian deaths, most with different results.
The civilian death toll in Iraq -- 125,000 -- and the number of Saddam's security forces killed in invasion -- 10,000 -- are loose estimates. The U.S. military does not publish a thorough accounting.
"We don't do body counts," Tommy Franks, the U.S. commander in Iraq, famously said after the fall of Saddam in 2003.
In Afghanistan, the civilian death count ranges from 11,700 to 13,900. For Pakistan, where there is little access to the battlefield and the United States fights mostly through aerial drone attacks, the study found it impossible to distinguish between civilian and insurgent deaths.
The numbers only consider direct deaths -- people killed by bombs or bullets. Estimates for indirect deaths in war vary so much that researchers considered them too arbitrary to report.
"When the fighting stops, the indirect dying continues. It's in fact worse than land mines. The healthcare system is still in bad shape. People are still suffering the effects of malnutrition and so on," Crawford said.
Even where the United States does do body counts -- for the members of the military -- the numbers may come up short of reality, said Lutz, the study's co-director. When veterans return home, they are more likely to die in suicides and automobile accidents.
"The rate of chaotic behavior," she said, "is high."
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Missy Ryan, Brett Gering, Laura MacInnis and Sharon Reich; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
© 2011 Reuters
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The Business of America Is War
by Stephen Lendman article link
June 29, 2011 | OpEdNews
The Progressive Radio News Hour home page
OpEdNews home page
Prophets of War
interview with William Hartung program link (mp3)
January 13, 2011 | Mind Over Matters
Mind Over Matters home page
Radio4All home page a-Infos Radio Project
Interview with William Hartung Director of the Arms & Security Initiative at the New America Foundation and author of "Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex"
Posted by mammonmessiah at 8:34 AM
Exclusive: New studies show that America’s corporate chieftains are living like kings while the middle class stagnates and shrivels. Yet, the Tea Party and other anti-tax forces remain determined to protect the historically low tax rates of the rich and push the burden of reducing the federal debt onto the rest of society, a curious approach explored by Robert Parry.
How Greed Destroys America
June 28, 2011 | CommonDreams | Consortiumnews
If the “free-market” theories of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman were correct, the United States of the last three decades should have experienced a golden age in which the lavish rewards flowing to the titans of industry would have transformed the society into a vibrant force for beneficial progress.
After all, it has been faith in “free-market economics” as a kind of secular religion that has driven U.S. government policies – from the emergence of Ronald Reagan through the neo-liberalism of Bill Clinton into the brave new world of House Republican budget chairman Paul Ryan.
By slashing income tax rates to historically low levels – and only slightly boosting them under President Clinton before dropping them again under George W. Bush – the U.S. government essentially incentivized greed or what Ayn Rand liked to call “the virtue of selfishness.”
Further, by encouraging global “free trade” and removing regulations like the New Deal’s Glass-Steagall separation of commercial and investment banks, the government also got out of the way of “progress,” even if that “progress” has had crushing results for many middle-class Americans.
True, not all the extreme concepts of author/philosopher Ayn Rand and economist Milton Friedman have been implemented – there are still programs like Social Security and Medicare to get rid of – but their “magic of the market” should be glowing by now.
We should be able to assess whether laissez-faire capitalism is superior to the mixed public-private economy that dominated much of the 20th Century.
The old notion was that a relatively affluent middle class would contribute to the creation of profitable businesses because average people could afford to buy consumer goods, own their own homes and take an annual vacation with the kids. That “middle-class system,” however, required intervention by the government as the representative of the everyman.
Beyond building a strong infrastructure for growth – highways, airports, schools, research programs, a safe banking system, a common defense, etc. – the government imposed a progressive tax structure that helped pay for these priorities and also discouraged the accumulation of massive wealth.
After all, the threat to a healthy democracy from concentrated wealth had been known to American leaders for generations.
A century ago, it was Republican President Theodore Roosevelt who advocated for a progressive income tax and an estate tax. In the 1930s, it was Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt, who dealt with the economic and societal carnage that under-regulated financial markets inflicted on the nation during the Great Depression.
With those hard lessons learned, the federal government acted on behalf of the common citizen to limit Wall Street’s freewheeling ways and to impose high tax rates on excessive wealth.
So, during Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency of the 1950s, the marginal tax rate on the top tranche of earnings for the richest Americans was about 90 percent. When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, the top rate was still around 70 percent.
Greed was not simply frowned upon; it was discouraged.
Put differently, government policy was to maintain some degree of egalitarianism within the U.S. political-economic system. And to a remarkable degree, the strategy worked.
The American middle class became the envy of the world, with otherwise average folk earning enough money to support their families comfortably and enjoy some pleasures of life that historically had been reserved only for the rich.
Without doubt, there were serious flaws in the U.S. system, especially due to the legacies of racism and sexism. And it was when the federal government responded to powerful social movements that demanded those injustices be addressed in the 1960s and 1970s, that an opening was created for right-wing politicians to exploit resentments among white men, particularly in the South.
By posing as populists hostile to “government social engineering,” the Right succeeded in duping large numbers of middle-class Americans into seeing their own interests – and their “freedom” – as in line with corporate titans who also decried federal regulations, including those meant to protect average citizens, like requiring seat belts in cars and discouraging cigarette smoking.
Amid the sluggish economy of the 1970s, the door swung open wider for the transformation of American society that had been favored by the likes of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, putting the supermen of industry over the everyman of democracy.
Friedman tested out his “free-market” theories in the socio-economic laboratories of brutal military dictatorships in Latin America, most famously collaborating with Chile’s Gen. Augusto Pinochet who crushed political opponents with torture and assassinations.
Ayn Rand became the darling of the American Right with her books, such as Atlas Shrugged, promoting the elitist notion that brilliant individuals represented the engine of society and that government efforts to lessen social inequality or help the average citizen were unjust and unwise.
The Pied Piper
Yet, while Rand and Friedman gave some intellectual heft to “free-market” theories, Ronald Reagan proved to be the perfect pied piper for guiding millions of working Americans in a happy dance toward their own serfdom.
In his first inaugural address, Reagan declared that “government is the problem” – and many middle-class whites cheered.
However, what Reagan’s policies meant in practice was a sustained assault on the middle class: the busting of unions, the export of millions of decent-paying jobs, and the transfer of enormous wealth to the already rich. The tax rates for the wealthiest were slashed about in half. Greed was incentivized.
Ironically, the Reagan era came just as technology – much of it created by government-funded research – was on the cusp of creating extraordinary wealth that could have been shared with average Americans. Those benefits instead accrued to the top one or two percent.
The rich also benefited from the off-shoring of jobs, exploiting cheap foreign labor and maximizing profits. The only viable way for the super-profits of “free trade” to be shared with the broader U.S. population was through taxes on the rich. However, Reagan and his anti-government true-believers made sure that those taxes were kept at historically low levels.
The Ayn Rand/Milton Friedman theories may have purported to believe that the “free market” would somehow generate benefits for the society as a whole, but their ideas really represented a moralistic frame which held that it was somehow right that the wealth of the society should go to its “most productive” members and that the rest of us were essentially “parasites.”
Apparently, special people like Rand also didn’t need to be encumbered by philosophical consistency. Though a fierce opponent of the welfare state, Rand secretly accepted the benefits of Medicare after she was diagnosed with lung cancer, according to one of her assistants.
She connived to have Evva Pryor, an employee of Rand’s law firm, arrange Social Security and Medicare benefits for Ann O’Connor, Ayn Rand using an altered spelling of her first name and her husband’s last name.
In 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, Scott McConnell, founder of the Ayn Rand Institute’s media department, quoted Pryor as justifying Rand’s move by saying: “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out.” Yet, it didn’t seem to matter much if “average” Americans were wiped out.
Essentially, the Right was promoting the Social Darwinism of the 19th Century, albeit in chic new clothes. The Gilded Age from a century ago was being recreated behind Reagan’s crooked smile, Clinton’s good-ole-boy charm and George W. Bush’s Texas twang.
Whenever the political descendants of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt tried to steer the nation back toward programs that would benefit the middle class and demand greater sacrifice from the super-rich, the wheel was grabbed again by politicians and pundits shouting the epithet, “tax-and-spend.”
Many average Americans were pacified by reminders of how Reagan made them feel good with his rhetoric about “the shining city on the hill.”
The Rand/Friedman elitism also remains alive with today’s arguments from Republicans who protest the idea of raising taxes on businessmen and entrepreneurs because they are the ones who “create the jobs,” even if there is little evidence that they are actually creating American jobs.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who is leading the fight to replace Medicare with a voucher system that envisions senior citizens buying health insurance from profit-making companies, cites Ayn Rand as his political inspiration.
A Land for Billionaires
The consequences of several decades of Reaganism and its related ideas are now apparent. Wealth has been concentrated at the top with billionaires living extravagant lives that not even monarchs could have envisioned, while the middle class shrinks and struggles, with one everyman after another being shoved down into the lower classes and into poverty.
Millions of Americans forego needed medical care because they can’t afford health insurance; millions of young people, burdened by college loans, crowd back in with their parents; millions of trained workers settle for low-paying jobs; millions of families skip vacations and other simple pleasures of life.
Beyond the unfairness, there is the macro-economic problem which comes from massive income disparity. A healthy economy is one where the vast majority people can buy products, which can then be manufactured more cheaply, creating a positive cycle of profits and prosperity.
With Americans unable to afford the new car or the new refrigerator, American corporations see their domestic profit margins squeezed. So they are compensating for the struggling U.S. economy by expanding their businesses abroad in developing markets, but they also keep their profits there.
There are now economic studies that confirm what Americans have been sensing in their own lives, though the mainstream U.S. news media tends to attribute these trends to cultural changes, rather than political choices.
For instance, the Washington Post published a lengthy front-page article on June 19, describing the findings of researchers who gained access to economic data from the Internal Revenue Service which revealed which categories of taxpayers were making the high incomes.
To the surprise of some observers, the big bucks were not flowing primarily to athletes or actors or even stock market speculators. America’s new super-rich were mostly corporate chieftains.
As the Post’s Peter Whoriskey framed the story, U.S. business underwent a cultural transformation from the 1970s when chief executives believed more in sharing the wealth than they do today.
The article cites a U.S. dairy company CEO from the 1970s, Kenneth J. Douglas, who earned the equivalent of about $1 million a year. He lived comfortably but not ostentatiously. Douglas had an office on the second floor of a milk distribution center, and he turned down raises because he felt it would hurt morale at the plant, Whoriskey reported.
However, just a few decades later, Gregg L. Engles, the current CEO of the same company, Dean Foods, averages about 10 times what Douglas made. Engles works in a glittering high-rise office building in Dallas; owns a vacation estate in Vail, Colorado; belongs to four golf clubs; and travels in a $10 million corporate jet. He apparently has little concern about what his workers think.
“The evolution of executive grandeur – from very comfortable to jet-setting – reflects one of the primary reasons that the gap between those with the highest incomes and everyone else is widening,” Whoriskey reported.
“For years, statistics have depicted growing income disparity in the United States, and it has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. In 2008, the last year for which data are available, for example, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in more than 10 percent of the personal income in the United States, including capital gains, and the top 1 percent took in more than 20 percent.
“But economists had little idea who these people were. How many were Wall Street financiers? Sports stars? Entrepreneurs? Economists could only speculate, and debates over what is fair stalled. Now a mounting body of economic research indicates that the rise in pay for company executives is a critical feature in the widening income gap.”
The Post article continued: “The largest single chunk of the highest-income earners, it turns out, are executives and other managers in firms, according to a landmark analysis of tax returns by economists Jon Bakija, Adam Cole and Bradley T. Heim. These are not just executives from Wall Street, either, but from companies in even relatively mundane fields such as the milk business.
“The top 0.1 percent of earners make about $1.7 million or more, including capital gains. Of those, 41 percent were executives, managers and supervisors at non-financial companies, according to the analysis, with nearly half of them deriving most of their income from their ownership in privately-held firms.
“An additional 18 percent were managers at financial firms or financial professionals at any sort of firm. In all, nearly 60 percent fell into one of those two categories. Other recent research, moreover, indicates that executive compensation at the nation’s largest firms has roughly quadrupled in real terms since the 1970s, even as pay for 90 percent of America has stalled.”
While these new statistics are striking – suggesting a broader problem with high-level greed than might have been believed – the Post ducked any political analysis that would have laid blame on Ronald Reagan and various right-wing economic theories.
In a follow-up editorial on June 26, the Post lamented the nation’s growing income inequality but shied away from proposing higher marginal tax rates on the rich or faulting the past several decades of low tax rates. Instead, the Post suggested perhaps going after deductions on employer-provided health insurance and mortgage interest, tax breaks that also help middle-class families.
It appears that in Official Washington and inside the major U.S. news media the idea of learning from past presidents, including the Roosevelts and Dwight Eisenhower, is a non-starter. Instead there’s an unapologetic embrace of the theories of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, an affection that can pop out at unusual moments.
Addressing a CNBC “Fast Money” panel last year, movie director Oliver Stone was taken aback when one CNBC talking head gushed how Stone’s “Wall Street” character Gordon Gecko had been an inspiration, known for his famous comment, “Greed is good.” A perplexed Stone responded that Gecko, who made money by breaking up companies and eliminating jobs, was meant to be a villain.
However, the smug attitude of the CNBC stock picker represented a typical tribute to Ronald Reagan’s legacy. After all, greed did not simply evolve from some vague shift in societal attitudes, as the Post suggests. Rather, it was stimulated – and rewarded – by Reagan’s tax policies.
Reagan’s continued popularity also makes it easier for today’s “no-tax-increase” crowd to demand only spending cuts as a route to reducing the federal debt, an ocean of red ink largely created by the tax cuts of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
Tea Partiers, in demanding even more cuts in government help for average citizens and even more tax cuts for the rich, represent only the most deluded part of middle-class America. A recent poll of Americans rated Reagan the greatest U.S. president ever, further enshrining his anti-government message in the minds of many Americans, even those in the battered middle class.
When a majority of Americans voted for Republicans in Election 2010 – and with early polls pointing toward a likely GOP victory in the presidential race of 2012 – it’s obvious that large swaths of the population have no sense of what’s in store for them as they position their own necks under the boots of corporate masters.
The only answer to this American crisis would seem to be a reenergized and democratized federal government fighting for average citizens and against the greedy elites. But – after several decades of Reaganism, with the “free market” religion the new gospel of the political/media classes – that seems a difficult outcome to achieve.
© 2011 Robert Parry
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'.
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 8:25 AM
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Making the World Safe for Hypocrisy
(From the book "Dirty Truths" (1996))
by Michael Parenti article link
June 28, 2011 | Information Clearing House
Why has the United States government supported counterinsurgency in Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, and many other places around the world, at such a loss of human life to the populations of those nations? Why did it invade tiny Grenada and then Panama? Why did it support mercenary wars against progressive governments in Nicaragua, Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Indonesia, East Timor, Western Sahara, South Yemen, and elsewhere?
Is it because our leaders want to save democracy? Are they concerned about the well-being of these defenseless peoples? Is our national security threatened? I shall try to show that the arguments given to justify U.S. policies are false ones.
But this does not mean the policies themselves are senseless. American intervention may seem "wrongheaded" but, in fact, it is fairly consistent and horribly successful.
The history of the United States has been one of territorial and economic expansionism, with the benefits going mostly to the U.S. business class in the form of growing investments and markets, access to rich natural resources and cheap labor, and the accumulation of enormous profits.
The American people have had to pay the costs of empire, supporting a huge military establishment with their taxes, while suffering the loss of jobs, the neglect of domestic services, and the loss of tens of thousands of American lives in overseas military ventures.
The greatest costs, of course, have been borne by the peoples of the Third World who have endured poverty, pillage, disease, dispossession, exploitation, illiteracy, and the widespread destruction of their lands, cultures, and lives.
As a relative latecomer to the practice of colonialism, the United States could not match the older European powers in the acquisition of overseas territories. But the United States was the earliest and most consummate practitioner of neoimperialism or neocolonialism, the process of dominating the politico-economic life of a nation without benefit of direct possession.
Almost half a century before the British thought to give a colonized land its nominal independence, as in India-while continuing to exploit its labor and resources, and dominate its markets and trade-the United States had perfected this practice in Cuba and elsewhere.
In places like the Philippines, Haiti, and Nicaragua, and when dealing with Native American nations, U.S. imperialism proved itself as brutal as the French in Indochina, the Belgians in the Congo, the Spaniards in South America, the Portuguese in Angola, the Italians in Libya, the Germans in Southwest Africa, and the British almost everywhere else. Not long ago, U.S. military forces delivered a destruction upon Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia that surpassed anything perpetuated by the older colonizers. And today, the U.S. counterinsurgency apparatus and surrogate security forces in Latin America and elsewhere sustain a system of political assassination, torture, and repression unequaled in technological sophistication and ruthlessness.
All this is common knowledge to progressive critics of U.S policy, but most Americans would be astonished to hear of it. They have been taught that, unlike other nations, their country has escaped the sins of empire and has been a champion of peace and justice among nations. This enormous gap between what the United States does in the world and what Americans think their nation is doing is one of the great propaganda accomplishments of the dominant political mythology.
It should be noted, though, that despite the endless propaganda barrage emanating from official sources and the corporate-owned major media, large sectors of the public have throughout U.S. history displayed an anti-interventionist sentiment, an unwillingness to commit U.S. troops to overseas actions-a sentiment facilely labeled "isolationism" by the interventionists.
The Rational Function of Policy Myths
Within U.S. ruling circles there are differences of opinion regarding interventionist policy. There are conservatives who complain that U.S. policy is plagued by weakness and lacks toughness and guts and all the other John Wayne virtues. And there are liberals who say U.S. policy is foolish and relies too heavily on military solutions and should be more flexible and co-optive when protecting and advancing the interests of the United States (with such interests usually left unspecified).
A closer look reveals that U.S. foreign policy is neither weak nor foolish, but on the contrary is rational and remarkably successful in reproducing the conditions for the continued international expropriation of wealth, and that while it has suffered occasional setbacks, the people who run the foreign policy establishment in Washington know what they are doing and why they are doing it.
If the mythology they offer as justification for their policies seems irrational, this does not mean that the policies themselves are irrational from the standpoint of the class interests of those who pursue such policies. This is true of domestic myths and policies as well as those pertaining to foreign policy.
Once we grasp this, we can see how notions and arrangements that are harmful, wasteful, indeed, destructive of human and social values-and irrational from a human and social viewpoint-are not irrational for global finance capital because the latter has no dedication to human and social values. Capitalism has no loyalty to anything but itself, to the accumulation of wealth. Once we understand that, we can see the cruel rationality of the seemingly irrational myths that Washington policy makers peddle. Some times what we see as irrational is really the discrepancy between what the myth wants us to believe and what is true.
But again this does not mean the interests served are stupid or irrational, as the liberals like to complain. There is a difference between confusion and deception, a difference between stupidity and subterfuge. Once we understand the underlying class interests of the ruling circles, we will be less mystified by their myths.
A myth is not an idle tale or a fanciful story but a powerful cultural force used to legitimate existing social relations. The interventionist mythology does just that, by emphasizing a community of interests between interventionists in Washington and the American people when in fact there is none, and by blurring over the question of who pays and who profits from U.S. global interventionism.
The mythology has been with us for so long and much of it sufficiently internalized by the public as to be considered part of the political culture. The interventionist mythology, like all other cultural beliefs, does not just float about in space. It must be mediated through a social structure. The national media play a crucial role in making sure that no fundamentally critical views of the rationales underlying and justifying U.S. policy gain national exposure. A similar role is played by the various institutes and policy centers linked to academia and, of course, by political lead ers themselves.
Saving Democracy with Tyranny
Our leaders would have us believe we intervened in Nicaragua, for instance, because the Sandinista government was opposed to democracy. The U.S.-supported invasion by right-wing Nicaraguan mercenaries was an "effort to bring them to elections." Putting aside the fact that the Sandinistas had already conducted fair and open elections in 1984, we might wonder why U.S. leaders voiced no such urgent demand for free elections and Western-style parliamentarism during the fifty years that the Somoza dictatorship-installed and supported by the United States-plundered and brutalized the Nicaraguan nation.
Nor today does Washington show any great concern for democracy in any of the U.S.-backed dictatorships around the world (unless one believes that the electoral charade in a country like El Salvador qualifies as "democracy").
If anything, successive U.S. administrations have worked hard to subvert constitutional and popularly accepted governments that pursued policies of social reform favorable to the downtrodden and working poor. Thus the U.S. national security state was instrumental in the overthrow of popular reformist leaders such as Arbenz in Guatemala, Jagan in Guyana, Mossadegh in Iran, Bosch in the Dominican Republic, Sukarno in Indonesia, Goulart in Brazil, and Allende in Chile.
And let us not forget how the United States assisted the militarists in overthrowing democratic governments in Greece, Uruguay, Bolivia, Pakistan, Thailand, and Turkey. Given this record, it is hard to believe that the CIA trained, armed, and financed an expeditionary force of Somocista thugs and mercenaries out of a newly acquired concern for Western-style electoral politics in Nicaragua.
In defense of the undemocratic way U.S. leaders go about "saving democracy," our policy makers offer this kind of sophistry: "We cannot always pick and choose our allies. Sometimes we must support unsavory right-wing authoritarian regimes in order to prevent the spread of far more repressive totalitarian communist ones."
But surely, the degree of repression cannot be the criterion guiding White House policy, for the United States has supported some of the worst butchers in the world: Batista in Cuba, Somoza in Nicaragua, the Shah in Iran, Salazar in Portugal, Marcos in the Philippines, Pinochet in Chile, Zia in Pakistan, Evren in Turkey, and even Pol Pot in Cambodia.
In the 1965 Indonesian coup, the military slaughtered 500,000 people, according to the Indonesian chief of security (New York Times, 12/21/77; some estimates run twice as high), but this did not deter U.S. leaders from assisting in that takeover or from maintaining cozy relations with the same Jakarta regime that subsequently perpetuated a campaign of repression and mass extermination in East Timor.
U.S. leaders and the business-owned mainstream press describe "Marxist rebels" in countries like El Salvador as motivated by a lust for conquest. Our leaders would have us believe that revolutionaries do not seek power in order to eliminate hunger; they simply hunger for power. But even if this were true, why would that be cause for opposing them?
Washington policy makers have never been bothered by the power appetites of the "moderate" right-wing authoritarian executionists, torturers, and militarists.
In any case, it is not true that leftist governments are more repressive than fascist ones. The political repression under the Sandinistas in Nicaragua was far less than what went on under Somoza. The political repression in Castro's Cuba is mild compared to the butchery perpetrated by the free-market Batista regime. And the revolutionary government in Angola treats its people much more gently than did the Portuguese colonizers.
Furthermore, in a number of countries successful social revolutionary movements have brought a net increase in individual freedom and well-being by advancing the conditions for health and human life, by providing jobs and education for the unemployed and illiterate, by using economic resources for social development rather than for corporate profit, and by overthrowing brutal reactionary regimes, ending foreign exploitation, and involving large sectors of the populace in the task of rebuilding their countries. Revolutions can extend a number of real freedoms without destroying those freedoms that never existed under prior reactionary regimes.
Who Threatens Whom?
Our policy makers also argue that right-wing governments, for all their deficiencies, are friendly toward the United States, while communist ones are belligerent and therefore a threat to U.S. security. But, in truth, every Marxist or left-leaning country, from a great power like the Soviet Union to a small power like Vietnam or Nicaragua to a minipower like Grenada under the New Jewel Movement, sought friendly diplomatic and economic relations with the United States.
These governments did so not necessarily out of love and affection for the United States, but because of something firmer-their own self-interest. As they themselves admitted, their economic development and political security would have been much better served if they could have enjoyed good relations with Washington.
If U.S. Ieaders justify their hostility toward leftist governments on the grounds that such nations are hostile toward us, what becomes the justification when these countries try to be friendly? When a newly established revolutionary or otherwise dissident regime threatens U.S. hegemonic globalists with friendly relations, this does pose a problem.
The solution is to (1) launch a well-orchestrated campaign of disinformation that heaps criticism on the new government for imprisoning the butchers, assassins, and torturers of the old regime and for failing to institute Western electoral party politics; (2) denounce the new government as a threat to our peace and security; (3) harass and destabilize it and impose economic sanctions; and (4) attack it with counterrevolutionary surrogate forces or, if necessary, U.S. troops. Long before the invasion, the targeted country responds with angry denunciations of U.S. policy.
It moves closer to other "outlawed" nations and attempts to build up its military defenses in anticipation of a U.S.-sponsored attack. These moves are eagerly seized upon by U.S. officials and media as evidence of the other country's antagonism toward the United States, and as justification for the policies that evoked such responses.
Yet it is difficult to demonstrate that small countries like Grenada and Nicaragua are a threat to U.S. security. We remember the cry of the hawk during the Vietnam war: "If we don't fight the Vietcong in the jungles of Indochina, we will have to fight them on the beaches of California."
The image of the Vietnamese getting into their PT boats and crossing the Pacific to invade California was, as Walter Lippmann noted at the time, a grievous insult to the U.S. Navy. The image of a tiny ill-equipped Nicaraguan army driving up through Mexico and across the Rio Grande in order to lay waste to our land is equally ludicrous.
The truth is, the Vietnamese, Cubans, Grenadians, and Nicaraguans have never invaded the United States; it is the United States that has invaded Vietnam, Cuba, Grenada, and Nicaragua, and it is our government that continues to try to isolate, destabilize, and in other ways threaten any country that tries to drop out of the global capitalist system or even assert an economic nationalism within it.
Remember the Red Menace
For many decades of cold war, when all other arguments failed, there was always the Russian bear. According to our cold warriors, small leftist countries and insurgencies threatened our security because they were extensions of Soviet power. Behind the little Reds there supposedly stood the Giant Red Menace.
Evidence to support this global menace thesis was sometimes farfetched. President Carter and National Security Advisor Brezinski suddenly discovered a "Soviet combat brigade" in Cuba in 1979- which turned out to be a noncombat unit that had been there since 1962. This did not stop President Reagan from announcing to a joint session of Congress several years later: "Cuba is host to a Soviet combat brigade...."
In 1983, in a nationally televised speech, Reagan pointed to satellite photos that revealed the menace of three Soviet helicopters in Nicaragua. Sandinista officials subsequently noted that the helicopters could be seen by anyone arriving at Managua airport and, in any case, posed no military threat to the United States. Equally ingenious was the way Reagan transformed a Grenadian airport, built to accommodate direct tourist flights, into a killer-attack Soviet forward base, and a twenty-foot-deep Grenadian inlet into a potential Soviet submarine base.
In 1967 Secretary of State Dean Rusk argued that U.S. national security was at stake in Vietnam because the Vietnamese were puppets of "Red China" and if China won in Vietnam, it would overrun all of Asia and this supposedly would be the beginning of the end for all of us. Later we were told that the Salvadoran rebels were puppets of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua who were puppets of the Cubans who were puppets of the Russians.
In truth, there was no evidence that Third World peoples took up arms and embarked upon costly revolutionary struggles because some sinister ringmaster in Moscow or Peking cracked the whip. Revolutions are not push-button affairs; rather, they evolve only if there exits a reservoir of hope and grievance that can be galvanized into popular action. Revolutions are made when large segments of the population take courage from each other and stand up to an insufferable social order.
People are inclined to endure great abuses before risking their lives in confrontations with vastly superior armed forces. There is no such thing as a frivolous revolution, or a revolution initiated and orchestrated by a manipulative cabal residing in a foreign capital.
Nor is there evidence that once the revolution succeeded, the new leaders placed the interests of their country at the disposal of Peking or Moscow. Instead of becoming the willing puppets of "Red China," as our policy makers predicted, Vietnam found itself locked in combat with its neighbor to the north. And, as noted earlier, almost every Third World revolutionary country has tried to keep its options open and has sought friendly diplomatic and economic relations with the United States.
Why then do U.S. Ieaders intervene in every region and almost every nation in the world, either overtly with U.S. military force or covertly with surrogate mercenary forces, death squads, aid, bribes, manipulated media, and rigged elections? Is all this intervention just an outgrowth of a deeply conditioned anticommunist ideology? Are U.S. Ieaders responding to the public's longstanding phobia about the Red Menace?
Certainly many Americans are anticommunist, but this sentiment does not translate into a demand for overseas interventionism. Quite the contrary. Opinion polls over the last half-century have shown repeatedly that the U.S. public is not usually supportive of com mitting U.S. forces in overseas engagements and prefers friendly relations with other nations, including communist ones. Far from galvanizing our leaders into interventionist actions, popular opinion has been one of the few restraining influences.
There is no denying, however, that opinion can sometimes be successfully manipulated by jingoist ventures. The invasion of Grenada and the slaughter perpetrated against Iraq are cases in point. The quick, easy, low-cost wins reaffirmed for some Americans the feeling that we were not weak and indecisive, not sitting ducks to some foreign prey.
But even in these cases, it took an intensive and sustained propaganda barrage of half-truths and lies by the national security state and its faithful lackeys in the national media to muster some public support for military actions against Grenada and Iraq.
In sum, various leftist states do not pose a military threat to U.S. security; instead, they want to trade and live in peace with us, and are much less abusive and more helpful toward their people than the reactionary regimes they replaced.
In addition, U.S. Ieaders have shown little concern for freedom in the Third World and have helped subvert democracy in a number of nations. And popular opinion generally opposes interventionism by lopsided majorities. What then motivates U.S. policy and how can we think it is not confused and contradictory?
The answer is that Marxist and other leftist or revolutionary states do pose a real threat, not to the United States as a national entity and not to the American people as such, but to the corporate and financial interests of our country, to Exxon and Mobil, Chase Manhattan and First National, Ford and General Motors, Anaconda and U.S. Steel, and to capitalism as a world system.
The problem is not that revolutionaries accumulate power but that they use power to pursue substantive policies that are unacceptable to U.S. ruling circles. What bothers our political leaders (and generals, investment bankers, and corporate heads) is not the supposed lack of political democracy in these countries but their attempts to construct economic democracy, to depart from the impoverishing rigors of the international free market, to use capital and labor in a way that is inimical to the interests of multinational corporatism.
A New York Times editorial (3/30/83) referred to "the undesirable and offensive Managua regime" and the danger of seeing "Marxist power ensconced in Managua." But what specifically is so dangerous about "Marxist power ?"
What was undesirable and offensive about the Sandinista government in Managua? What did it do to us? What did it do to its own people? Was it the literacy campaign?
The health care and housing programs? The land reform and development of farm cooperatives? The attempt at rebuilding Managua, at increasing production or achieving a more equitable distribution of taxes, services, and food?
In large part, yes. Such reforms, even if not openly denounced by our government, do make a country suspect because they are symptomatic of an effort to erect a new and competing economic order in which the prerogatives of wealth and corporate investment are no longer secure, and the land, labor, and resources are no longer used primarily for the accumulation of corporate profits.
U.S. Ieaders and the corporate-owned press would have us believe they opposed revolutionary governments because the latter do not have an opposition press or have not thrown their country open to Western style (and Western-financed) elections. U.S. Ieaders come closer to their true complaint when they condemn such governments for interfering with the prerogatives of the "free market."
Similarly, Henry Kissinger came close to the truth when he defended the fascist overthrow of the democratic government in Chile by noting that when obliged to choose between saving the economy or saving democracy, we must save the economy. Had Kissinger said, we must save the capitalist economy, it would have been the whole truth. For under Allende, the danger was not that the economy was collapsing (although the U.S. was doing its utmost to destabilize it); the real threat was that the economy was moving away from free-market capitalism and toward a more equitable social democracy, albeit in limited ways.
U.S. officials say they are for change just as long as it is peaceful and not violently imposed. Indeed, economic elites may some times tolerate very limited reforms, learning to give a little in order to keep a lot. But judging from Chile, Guatemala, Indonesia, and a number of other places, they have a low tolerance for changes, even peaceful ones, that tamper with the existing class structure and threaten the prerogatives of corporate and landed wealth.
To the rich and powerful it makes little difference if their interests are undone by a peaceful transformation rather than a violent upheaval. The means concern them much less than the end results. It is not the "violent" in violent revolution they hate; it is the "revolution." (Third World elites seldom perish in revolutions. The worst of them usually manage to make it to Miami, Madrid, Paris, or New York.)
They dread socialism the way the rest of us might dread poverty and hunger. So, when push comes to shove, the wealthy classes of Third World countries, with a great deal of help from the corporate-military-political elites in our country, will use fascism to preserve capitalism while claiming they are saving democracy from communism.
A socialist Cuba or a socialist North Korea, as such, are not a threat to the survival of world capitalism. The danger is not socialism in any one country but a socialism that might spread to many countries. Multinational corporations, as their name implies, need the entire world, or a very large part of it, to exploit and to invest and expand in. There can be no such thing as "capitalism in one country."
The domino theory-the view that if one country falls to the revolutionaries, others will follow in quick succession-may not work as automatically as its more fearful proponents claim, but there usually is a contagion, a power of example and inspiration, and sometimes even direct encouragement and assistance from one revolution to another.
Support the Good Guys?
If revolutions arise from the sincere aspirations of the populace, then it is time the United States identify itself with these aspi rations, so liberal critics keep urging. They ask: "Why do we always find ourselves on the wrong side in the Third World? Why are we always on the side of the oppressor?"
Too bad the question is treated as a rhetorical one, for it is deserving of a response. The answer is that right-wing oppressors, however heinous they be, do not tamper with, and give full support to, private investment and profit, while the leftists pose a challenge to that system.
There are those who used to say that we had to learn from the communists, copy their techniques, and thus win the battle for the hearts and minds of the people. Can we imagine the ruling interests of the United States abiding by this? The goal is not to copy communist reforms but to prevent them.
How would U.S. interventionists try to learn from and outdo the revolutionaries? Drive out the latifundio owners and sweatshop bosses? Kick out the plundering corporations and nationalize their holdings? Imprison the militarists and torturers? Redistribute the land, use capital investment for home consumption or hard currency exchange instead of cash crop exports that profit a rich few?
Install a national health insurance program and construct hospitals and clinics at public expense? Mobilize the population for literacy campaigns and for work in publicly owned enterprises? If U.S. rulers did all this, they would have done more than defeat the communists and other revolutionaries, they would have carried out the communists' programs. They would have prevented revolution only by bringing about its effects-thereby defeating their own goals.
U.S. policy makers say they cannot afford to pick and choose the governments they support, but that is exactly what they do. And the pattern of choice is consistent through each successive administration regardless of the party or personality in office. U.S. Ieaders support those governments, be they autocratic or democratic in form, that are friendly toward capitalism and oppose those governments, be they autocratic or democratic, that seek to develop a noncapitalist social order.
Occasionally friendly relations are cultivated with noncapitalist nations like China if these countries show themselves in useful opposition to other socialist nations and are sufficiently open to private capital exploitation. In the case of China, the economic opportunity is so huge as to be hard to resist, the labor supply is plentiful and cheap, and the profit opportunities are great.
In any one instance, interventionist policies may be less concerned with specific investments than with protecting the global investment system. The United States had relatively little direct investment in Cuba, Vietnam, and Grenada-to mention three countries that Washington has invaded in recent years.
What was at stake in Grenada, as Reagan said, was something more than nutmeg. It was whether we would let a country develop a competing economic order, a different way of utilizing its land, labor, capital, and natural resources. A social revolution in any part of the world may or may not hurt specific U.S. corporations, but it nevertheless becomes part of a cumulative threat to private finance capital in general.
The United States will support governments that seek to suppress guerrilla movements, as in El Salvador, and will support guerrilla movements that seek to overthrow governments, as in Nicaragua. But there is no confusion or stupidity about it. It is incorrect to say, "We have no foreign policy" or "We have a stupid and confused foreign policy."
Again, it is necessary not to confuse subterfuge with stupidity. The policy is remarkably rational. Its central organizing principle is to make the world safe for the multinational corporations and the free-market capital-accumulation system. However, our rulers cannot ask the U.S. public to sacrifice their tax dollars and the lives of their sons for Exxon and Chase Manhattan, for the profit system as such, so they tell us that the interventions are for freedom and national security and the protection of unspecified "U.S. interests."
Whether policy makers believe their own arguments is not the key question. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Sometimes presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton were doing their hypocritical best when their voices quavered with staged compassion for this or that oppressed people who had to be rescued from the communists or terrorists with U.S. missiles and troops, and sometimes they were sincere, as when they spoke of their fear and loathing of communism and revolution and their desire to protect U.S. investments abroad.
We need not ponder the question of whether our leaders are motivated by their class interests or by a commitment to anti-communist ideology, as if these two things were in competition with each other instead of mutually reinforcing. The arguments our leaders proffer may be self-serving and fabricated, yet also sincerely embraced. It is a creed's congruity with one's material self-interest that often makes it so compelling.
In any case, so much of politics is the rational use of irrational symbols. The arguments in support of interventionism may sound and may actually be irrational and nonsensical, but they serve a rational purpose.
Once we grasp the central consistency of U.S. foreign policy, we can move from a liberal complaint to a radical analysis, from criticizing the "foolishness" of our government's behavior to understanding why the "foolishness" is not random but persists over time against all contrary arguments and evidence, always moving in the same elitist, repressive direction.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and other Eastern European communist governments, U.S. Ieaders now have a freer hand in their interventions. A number of left reformist governments that had relied on the Soviets for economic assistance and political protection against U.S. interference now have nowhere to turn. The willingness of U.S. Ieaders to tolerate economic deviations does not grow with their sense of their growing power.
Quite the contrary. Now even the palest economic nationalism, as displayed in Iraq by Saddam Hussein over oil prices, invites the destructive might of the U.S. military. The goal now, as always, is to obliterate every trace of an alternative system, to make it clear that there is no road to take except that of the free market, in a world in which the many at home and abroad will work still harder for less so that the favored few will accumulate more and more wealth.
That is the vision of the future to which most U.S. Ieaders are implicitly dedicated. It is a vision taken from the past and never forgotten by them, a matter of putting the masses of people at home and abroad back in their place, divested of any aspirations for a better world because they are struggling too hard to survive in this one.
Michael Parenti is an internationally known award-winning author and lecturer. He is one of the nation’s leading progressive political analysts. His highly informative and entertaining books and talks have reached a wide range of audiences in North America and abroad.
Dirty Truths is an eye-opening and entertaining collection of essays that investigate media and culture, consipiracy and state power, ideology and political consciousness. Parenti ranges over crucial issues of the day: free speech, the rise of neofascism, the coming ecological apocalypse, the relationship between wealth and poverty, the “terrorism” hype, the continuing mystifications about the Kennedy assassination, and the deceptions and injustices of U.S. corporate global domination. Moving from the political to the personal, Parenti shows the links between seemingly disparate social and political forces. Dirty Truths also contains three poems and moving accounts of his own ethnic family life and the political intolerance he encountered in academia. This book is a rich buffet, an enlightening and provocative feast for the mind and heart.
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 10:00 AM
Monday, June 27, 2011
Afghanistan: A Real Pullout or a Shell Game?
June 26, 2011 | CommonDreams | Eric Margolis
Far-called our navies melt away
On dune and headland sinks the fire
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
--Rudyard Kipling “Recessional”
NEW YORK - War is waged to achieve political objectives, not to kill enemies. In this sense, the United States has lost the ten-year Afghan conflict, its longest war. Afghanistan remains the “graveyard of empires.”
The US has failed to install an obedient regime in Kabul that controls Afghanistan. It has made foes of the Pashtun majority, and, in pursuing this war, gravely undermined Pakistan. Claims that US forces were in Afghanistan to hunt the late Osama bin Laden were widely disbelieved.
Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama bowed to public opinion, approaching elections, military reality and financial woes by announcing he would withdraw a third of the 100,000 US troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer. Pentagon brass growled open opposition.
US allies France and Germany announced similar troops reductions. All foreign troops are supposed to quit Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Washington currently spends at least $10 billion monthly on the Afghan war, not counting “black” payments, CIA and NSA operations. The US has poured $18.8 billion in development aid into Afghanistan since 2001 with nothing to show for the effort. Pakistan has been given $20 billion to support the Afghan War.
The US deficit is heading over $1.4 trillion. The national debt, when unfunded pensions and benefits are added, is likely $100 trillion, according to the chief of PIMCO, the world’s largest bond trader.
Forty-four million Americans now receive food stamps; the national infrastructure of roads, airports, bridges and schools is crumbling from neglect. Unemployment, officially at 9.5%, is probably closer to 20%.
The cry is being heard: “Rebuild America, not Afghanistan.”
In spite of intense pro-war propaganda, over half of Americans now oppose the Afghan War. Even US-installed Afghan president Hamid Karzai calls it, “ineffective, apart from causing civilian casualties.”
So will the US really pull out of Afghanistan? That remains to be seen. There are contradictory signs.
Mid-level talks between the US and Taliban are under way. The US will probably keep some of its remaining 66,000 soldiers in Afghanistan after 2014, rebranding them training troops. The huge US bases at Kandahar and Bagram will be retained.
Billions more will be spent on the Afghan government army and police. They have so far proved ineffective because most are composed of Tajik and Uzbek mercenaries who are hated and distrusted by the Pashtun.
A similar process is underway in Iraq where “withdrawal” means keeping renamed US combat brigades in Iraq, thousands of mercenaries, and US combat forces in neighboring Kuwait and the Gulf. New US embassies in Baghdad and Kabul– huge, fortified complexes with their own mercenary combat forces– will be the world’s biggest. Kabul will have a staff of 1,000 US personnel. Bin Laden called them “crusader fortresses.”
In addition, the US will still arm and finance allied Tajik and Uzbek militias in Afghanistan. Financing Pakistan’s US-backed regime and Uzbekistan must also continue at around $3 billion yearly.
The US appears to be going and staying at the same time. By contrast, Taliban’s position is clear and simple: it will continue fighting until all foreign troops are withdrawn. US special forces, drones and hit squads have been unable to assassinate enough Taliban commanders to make the mujahidin stop fighting.
Americans never study history, not even their own. They don’t recall founding father, the great Benjamin Franklin, who said, “there is no good war, and no bad peace.” Or that the Pashtun Taliban and its allies are fierce, dedicated, undefeated warriors. I’ve been in combat with them and remain in awe of their courage and love of combat. The Pashtun mujahidin will keep fighting as always, as long as their ammunition lasts.
America, for all its B-1 heavy bombers, strike fighters, missiles, helicopter gunships and drones, armor, super electronics, spies in the sky and all the other high tech weapons of modern war has failed to defeat some 30,000 tribal fighters with nothing more than small arms and legendary valor.
The US has lost the all important military initiative in Afghanistan. It may linger there, but it cannot win.
© 2011 Eric Margolis
Columnist and author Eric Margolis is a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.
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June 23, 2011 | AntiWar Radio
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 9:19 AM
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Institutionalized Mammon Is What We Have Become
The corporate creed is greed, greed in the guise of National Interest, National Security [profit warriors]; "refugee" and "immigrant" are economic designations [money classifications; evil prejudice] - Isa 28:9 "Whom shall He teach knowledge? and whom shall He make to understand doctrine? [them that are] weaned from the milk, [and] drawn from the breasts ..."; we must remove ourselves from our carnal "mother" [COG (Church of God) Inc., harlots, false prophets] and the corporate [COG (Continuity of Government), Beast]; our minds have been pulled down into "media" confusion, the polluted discourse of Mammon - politics is the "business" of government [corporate pimps; private trust] not stewardship government [public trust] - our attempt to fight iniquity while maintaining the excess is a contradiction !! - as long as Mammon's life-blood [its money] keeps us alive, we are part of its body, its being !! - institutionalized Mammon is what we have become: it is "the" dominant force in our world [kosmos]; it is the worship [form; veneration (psychology)], weaponization, and power of evil; corporatized money as primary consideration/arbiter !!
Our Very Being Must Be Called Into Question
The Bible is the "Christ Document", the definitive "Word" [the Christ re-definition: signature of love = God's verification]; the COG Inc.'s semantics of confusion vs. God's Wisdom from Above [the straight and narrow (narrowing the field, the focus; still waters, not a raging sea foaming out its shame); God's love = our Being, God's wisdom = our Doing (application of the love)] -- God is relational, the God Family is relationship(s), and God's Holy Bible is "content relationships" *together* being a "single logical document", the representative Word of God [many parts and writers, working together] !! - God's "signature of love" is His servants "key of trust", His query method is also love and humility - the collective mind of humanity will become as "one" together with God, as His Family: AGAPE MIND, no longer imprisoned by our fears, and our selfish thoughts in response !!
Any evocation is a resultant, is dependent upon our approach !! - while the various NGO's and "resistance" groups express the [physical] immune system [reaction] of the Social Body, we, as radical Christians, must express the conscience [spiritual], God's very consciousness: OUR VERY BEING [and Doing] MUST BE CALLED INTO QUESTION, A DEEP, PENETRATING EXAMINATION, BY MERCY AND TRUTH !! - we must understand who we are and what we have become, and ask repentance of God: we must ask for His forgiveness, and we must forgive each other [we are *all* complicit]; WE MUST *REPAIR* THE BREACH AND *RESTORE* THE PATHS TO DWELL IN, *IN* LOVE !! - every man and every woman has a [sacred] voice that must be heard, his or her story; an independent media vs. the corporate voice, the voice of Mammon; God speaks to every one of us individually, we should follow His example [the signature of God and His truth is agape love] !!
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 11:52 AM
Wealth Of World’s Richest Rose Nearly 10 Percent In 2010
June 25, 2011 | Countercurrents | WSWS
Austerity measures, wage cuts and rising unemployment have characterised the years since the crash of 2008 for working people. For the rich and super-rich, however, they have been the occasion for clawing back every penny of the initial losses made and adding a great deal more.
Today, the world’s wealthy are richer than before the crash and the number of individuals belonging to this highly exclusive club has grown.
The annual world wealth report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini identifies nearly 11 million “high net worth individuals” (HNWIs), defined as having more than $1 million in free cash, not including property and pensions. Their collective wealth reached $42.7 trillion in 2010, a 9.7 percent rise. This means that the wealth of this social layer has already surpassed the previous peak of $40.7 trillion reached in 2007.
The number of individuals worldwide who fall into this category grew 8.3 percent in 2010. This is described as a return to a “more sustainable pace,” following the 17 percent growth in the number of HNWIs to 10 million recorded in last year’s report.
To make clear the scale of individual wealth accumulation these figures represent, one needs to factor in the results for what are termed “ultra-high net worth individuals,” defined as having at least $30 million in free cash. The numbers in this group rose by 10 percent, to just 103,000. But their assets rose by 11.5 percent, giving then control of $15 trillion. That means that the top one percent of the world’s rich controls fully 36 percent of their collective assets.
The largest number of HNWIs continue to reside in the United States, followed by Japan and Germany. These countries together account for 53 percent of the world’s rich. The US has 3.1 million HNWIs, Japan 1.7 million and Germany 920,000.
The wealth of the richest 3.4 million people in North America, overwhelmingly in the US, rose by 9 percent to $11.6 trillion. The US is home to 28.6 percent of the world’s richest people.
Europe’s HNWIs fared less well generally. Nevertheless, the UK still sits at fourth in the league table, with France coming in fifth. Europe’s 3.1 million HNWIs have $10.2 trillion in free cash.
The far better performance of the HNWIs in the Asia-Pacific region has caused consternation among ruling elites in Europe and North America. The number of HNWIs in the Asia-Pacific region rose by almost 10 percent to 3.3 million in 2010. This was the largest regional growth rate, and the number of HNWIs in the Asia-Pacific region surpassed the European total as well as that of the US. It was only 100,000 lower than the total for the whole of North America. This elite layer in Asia now controls a total of $10.8 trillion in free cash.
Leading this growth in opulence are China and India. The number of mainland Chinese HNWI millionaires grew by fully 12 percent to 534,500 people, to which must be added the extraordinary growth of the wealthy elite in Hong Kong. The number of HNWIs there grew by 33.3 percent to 101,300, compared with 76,000 in 2009.
India, for its part, saw a 20.8 percent rise to 153,000 in the number of HNWIs, the highest rate of growth of any country. India for the first time placed in the top 12 in terms of the number of HNWI millionaires.
The Hindustan Times commented tellingly, “India may still have a long way to go in eliminating poverty, but high economic growth is throwing up millionaires by the thousands… The country, ranked 138th on the basis of per capita income by the IMF and 119th in the UN’s human development rankings based on indicators such as life expectancy and education, added in 2010 as many as 26,300 HNWIs…”
In the Middle East, the absolute numbers are smaller, but this only serves to underscore the scale of personal accumulation by that region’s rich. Just 400,000 people in the region control $1.7 trillion in free cash. The number of HNWIs in Kuwait and Bahrain rose by a quarter, putting these countries sixth and seventh in the table of 71 countries.
Tamer Rashad, head of Middle East operations at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, noted in Arabian Business that one aspect of the vast accumulation of wealth by the super-rich was “the significantly high ratio of savings to gross domestic product.” This ratio has reached 54 percent in Bahrain and 40 percent in Saudi Arabia, compared to the more usual single-digit rates in developed countries such as the US.
The extreme social polarisation hinted at in these figures is what ultimately gave rise to the mass movements that ended in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and the mass protests throughout the region.
But the figures assembled by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, presented as a celebration of the good fortune of this financial elite, signal that a far broader worldwide eruption of the class struggle is being prepared.
The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US $1.25 per day, and moderate poverty as living on less than $2 a day. In 2001, some 1.1 billion people lived on less than $1 a day and 2.7 billion on less than $2 a day. Almost half of the world’s people—3 billion souls—live on less than $2.50 a day. One billion children—fully 50 percent of the world’s children—live in poverty. Six million children die of hunger every year, 17,000 every day.
The irrational and unconscionable squandering of wealth on a handful of parasites on the one hand, and the crushing burden of poverty, hunger and misery on billions of people on the other constitutes an unanswerable indictment of the capitalist system.
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 5:09 AM
Saturday, June 25, 2011
The Pentagon and Slave Labor in U.S. Prisons
June 23, 2011 | Global Research | International Action Center
Prisoners earning 23 cents an hour in U.S. federal prisons are manufacturing high-tech electronic components for Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missiles, launchers for TOW (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided) anti-tank missiles, and other guided missile systems. A March article by journalist and financial researcher Justin Rohrlich of World in Review is worth a closer look at the full implications of this ominous development. (minyanville.com)
The expanding use of prison industries, which pay slave wages, as a way to increase profits for giant military corporations, is a frontal attack on the rights of all workers.
Prison labor — with no union protection, overtime pay, vacation days, pensions, benefits, health and safety protection, or Social Security withholding — also makes complex components for McDonnell Douglas/Boeing’s F-15 fighter aircraft, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, and Bell/Textron’s Cobra helicopter. Prison labor produces night-vision goggles, body armor, camouflage uniforms, radio and communication devices, and lighting systems and components for 30-mm to 300-mm battleship anti-aircraft guns, along with land mine sweepers and electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder. Prisoners recycle toxic electronic equipment and overhaul military vehicles.
Labor in federal prisons is contracted out by UNICOR, previously known as Federal Prison Industries, a quasi-public, for-profit corporation run by the Bureau of Prisons. In 14 prison factories, more than 3,000 prisoners manufacture electronic equipment for land, sea and airborne communication. UNICOR is now the U.S. government’s 39th largest contractor, with 110 factories at 79 federal penitentiaries.
The majority of UNICOR’s products and services are on contract to orders from the Department of Defense. Giant multinational corporations purchase parts assembled at some of the lowest labor rates in the world, then resell the finished weapons components at the highest rates of profit. For example, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Corporation subcontract components, then assemble and sell advanced weapons systems to the Pentagon.
Increased profits, unhealthy workplaces
However, the Pentagon is not the only buyer. U.S. corporations are the world’s largest arms dealers, while weapons and aircraft are the largest U.S. export. The U.S. State Department, Department of Defense and diplomats pressure NATO members and dependent countries around the world into multibillion-dollar weapons purchases that generate further corporate profits, often leaving many countries mired in enormous debt.
But the fact that the capitalist state has found yet another way to drastically undercut union workers’ wages and ensure still higher profits to military corporations — whose weapons wreak such havoc around the world — is an ominous development.
According to CNN Money, the U.S. highly skilled and well-paid “aerospace workforce has shrunk by 40 percent in the past 20 years. Like many other industries, the defense sector has been quietly outsourcing production (and jobs) to cheaper labor markets overseas.” (Feb. 24) It seems that with prison labor, these jobs are also being outsourced domestically.
Meanwhile, dividends and options to a handful of top stockholders and CEO compensation packages at top military corporations exceed the total payment of wages to the more than 23,000 imprisoned workers who produce UNICOR parts.
The prison work is often dangerous, toxic and unprotected. At FCC Victorville, a federal prison located at an old U.S. airbase, prisoners clean, overhaul and reassemble tanks and military vehicles returned from combat and coated in toxic spent ammunition, depleted uranium dust and chemicals.
A federal lawsuit by prisoners, food service workers and family members at FCI Marianna, a minimum security women’s prison in Florida, cited that toxic dust containing lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic poisoned those who worked at UNICOR’s computer and electronic recycling factory.
Prisoners there worked covered in dust, without safety equipment, protective gear, air filtration or masks. The suit explained that the toxic dust caused severe damage to nervous and reproductive systems, lung damage, bone disease, kidney failure, blood clots, cancers, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, memory lapses, skin lesions, and circulatory and respiratory problems. This is one of eight federal prison recycling facilities — employing 1,200 prisoners — run by UNICOR.
After years of complaints the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Occupational Health Service concurred in October 2008 that UNICOR has jeopardized the lives and safety of untold numbers of prisoners and staff. (Prison Legal News, Feb. 17, 2009)
Racism & U.S. prisons
The U.S. imprisons more people per capita than any country in the world. With less than 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. imprisons more than 25 percent of all people imprisoned in the world.
There are more than 2.3 million prisoners in federal, state and local prisons in the U.S. Twice as many people are under probation and parole. Many tens of thousands of other prisoners include undocumented immigrants facing deportation, prisoners awaiting sentencing and youthful offenders in categories considered reform or detention.
The racism that pervades every aspect of life in capitalist society — from jobs, income and housing to education and opportunity — is most brutally reflected by who is caught up in the U.S. prison system.
More than 60 percent of U.S. prisoners are people of color. Seventy percent of those being sentenced under the three strikes law in California — which requires mandatory sentences of 25 years to life after three felony convictions — are people of color. Nationally, 39 percent of African-American men in their 20s are in prison, on probation or on parole. The U.S. imprisons more people than South Africa did under apartheid. (Linn Washington, “Incarceration Nation”)
The U.S. prison population is not only the largest in the world — it is relentlessly growing. The U.S. prison population is more than five times what it was 30 years ago.
In 1980, when Ronald Reagan became president, there were 400,000 prisoners in the U.S. Today the number exceeds 2.3 million. In California the prison population soared from 23,264 in 1980 to 170,000 in 2010. The Pennsylvania prison population climbed from 8,243 to 51,487 in those same years. There are now more African-American men in prison, on probation or on parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began, according to Law Professor Michelle Alexander in the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
Today a staggering 1-in-100 adults in the U.S. are living behind bars. But this crime, which breaks families and destroys lives, is not evenly distributed. In major urban areas one-half of Black men have criminal records. This means life-long, legalized discrimination in student loans, financial assistance, access to public housing, mortgages, the right to vote and, of course, the possibility of being hired for a job.
State Prisons contracting slave labor
It is not only federal prisons that contract out prison labor to top corporations. State prisons that used forced prison labor in plantations, laundries and highway chain gangs increasingly seek to sell prison labor to corporations trolling the globe in search of the cheapest possible labor.
One agency asks: “Are you experiencing high employee turnover? Worried about the costs of employee benefits? Unhappy with out-of-state or offshore suppliers? Getting hit by overseas competition? Having trouble motivating your workforce? Thinking about expansion space? Then Washington State Department of Corrections Private Sector Partnerships is for you.” (educate-yourself.org, July 25, 2005)
Major corporations profiting from the slave labor of prisoners include Motorola, Compaq, Honeywell, Microsoft, Boeing, Revlon, Chevron, TWA, Victoria’s Secret and Eddie Bauer.
IBM, Texas Instruments and Dell get circuit boards made by Texas prisoners. Tennessee inmates sew jeans for Kmart and JCPenney. Tens of thousands of youth flipping hamburgers for minimum wages at McDonald’s wear uniforms sewn by prison workers, who are forced to work for much less.
In California, as in many states, prisoners who refuse to work are moved to disciplinary housing and lose canteen privileges as well as “good time” credit, which slices hard time off their sentences.
Systematic abuse, beatings, prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation, and lack of medical care make U.S. prison conditions among the worst in the world. Ironically, working under grueling conditions for pennies an hour is treated as a “perk” for good behavior.
In December, Georgia inmates went on strike and refused to leave their cells at six prisons for more than a week. In one of the largest prison protests in U.S. history, prisoners spoke of being forced to work seven days a week for no pay. Prisoners were beaten if they refused to work.
Private prisons for profit
In the ruthless search to maximize profits and grab hold of every possible source of income, almost every public agency and social service is being outsourced to private for-profit contractors.
In the U.S. military this means there are now more private contractors and mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan than there are U.S. or NATO soldiers.
In cities and states across the U.S., hospitals, medical care facilities, schools, cafeterias, road maintenance, water supply services, sewage departments, sanitation, airports and tens of thousands of social programs that receive public funding are being contracted out to for-profit corporations. Anything publicly owned and paid for by generations of past workers’ taxes — from libraries to concert halls and parks — is being sold or leased at fire sale prices.
All this is motivated and lobbied for by right-wing think tanks like that set up by Koch Industries and their owners, Charles and David Koch, as a way to cut costs, lower wages and pensions, and undercut public service unions.
The most gruesome privatizations are the hundreds of for-profit prisons being established.
The inmate population in private for-profit prisons tripled between 1987 and 2007. By 2007 there were 264 such prison facilities, housing almost 99,000 adult prisoners. (house.leg.state.mn.us, Feb. 24, 2009) Companies operating such facilities include the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group Inc. and Community Education Centers.
Prison bonds provide a lucrative return for capitalist investors such as Merrill-Lynch, Shearson Lehman, American Express and Allstate. Prisoners are traded from one state to another based on the most profitable arrangements.
Militarism and prisons
Hand in hand with the military-industrial complex, U.S. imperialism has created a massive prison-industrial complex that generates billions of dollars annually for businesses and industries profiting from mass incarceration.
For decades workers in the U.S. have been assured that they also benefit from imperialist looting by the giant multinational corporations. But today more than half the federal budget is absorbed by the costs of maintaining the military machine and the corporations who are guaranteed profits for equipping the Pentagon. That is the only budget category in federal spending that is guaranteed to increase by at least 5 percent a year — at a time when every social program is being cut to the bone.
The sheer economic weight of militarism seeps into the fabric of society at every level. It fuels racism and reaction. The political influence of the Pentagon and the giant military and oil corporations — with their thousands of high-paid lobbyists, media pundits and network of links into every police force in the country — fuels growing repression and an expanding prison population.
The military, oil and banking conglomerates, interlinked with the police and prisons, have a stranglehold on the U.S. capitalist economy and reins of political power, regardless of who is president or what political party is in office. The very survival of these global corporations is based on immediate maximization of profits. They are driven to seize every resource and source of potential profits.
Thoroughly rational solutions are proposed whenever the human and economic cost of militarism and repression is discussed. The billions spent for war and fantastically destructive weapons systems could provide five to seven times more jobs if spent on desperately needed social services, education and rebuilding essential infrastructure. Or it could provide free university education, considering the fact that it costs far more to imprison people than to educate them.
Why aren’t such reasonable solutions ever chosen? Because military contracts generate far larger guaranteed profits to the military and the oil industries, which have a decisive influence on the U.S. economy.
The prison-industrial complex — including the prison system, prison labor, private prisons, police and repressive apparatus, and their continuing expansion — are a greater source of profit and are reinforced by the climate of racism and reaction. Most rational and socially useful solutions are not considered viable options.
Sara Flounders is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
Global Research articles by Sara Flounders
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 7:47 AM
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