Saturday, August 26, 2006

Americans are paying for Bush's war of aggression at the bank, the store, the pump, and the graveside!

Bush would give you the impression that the Iraq war is free or cheap. But that's a hoax! The war is paid for with hidden taxes, higher prices, and American lives; the cost of the Iraq war has more than tripled since Bush declared "...major combat operations in Iraq have ended!"

War is a racket fought by the masses for privileged elites. Bush's war on Iraq is not merely fought for the benefit of no-bid contractors like Halliburton, it is financed by America's working poor and middle classes who pay for the war —with their lives abroad and with their jobs, their retirement prospects, and their access to health care at home. Bush's base —the nation's elite, his corporate sponsors, and the so-called defense industry —have paid nothing, risked nothing! Rather —they feed at the trough. The upper one percent of the population has gotten several tax cuts while the big oil companies report record profits rising concurrently with higher prices at the pump.

Just two days after 9/11, I learned from Congressional staffers that Republicans on Capitol Hill were already exploiting the atrocity, trying to use it to push through tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. ... We now know that from the very beginning, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress saw the terrorist threat not as a problem to be solved, but as a political opportunity to be exploited. The story of the latest terror plot makes the administration’s fecklessness and cynicism on terrorism clearer than ever.


Hoping for Fear, by Paul Krugman, Using Fear Commentary, NY Times

One of the more insidious falsehoods about Iraq has turned out to have been Bushco estimates of its cost. In 2002, George W. Bush himself predicted the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion —tops! To be expected —Bush was dead wrong. A report by the Democratic staff of the House Budget Committee now estimates that Bush's war of aggression in Iraq could cost the US $646 billion by 2015 —depending on the scope and duration of operations. Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University, estimates the cost of the war from one trillion to two trillion dollars!

Ongoing operations in Iraq were estimated at $5.6 billion per month in 2005. And costs have surely risen since then as the intensity of fighing increases accompanied by significant losses of materiel and maintenance.

The Bill So Far: Congress has already approved four spending bills for Iraq with funds totaling $204.4 billion and is in the process of approving a “bridge fund” for $45.3 billion to cover operations until another supplemental spending package can be passed, most likely slated for Spring 2006. Broken down per person in the United States, the cost so far is $727, making the Iraq War the most expensive military effort in the last 60 years.

Long-term Impact on U.S. Economy: In August 2005, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost of continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at current levels would nearly double the projected federal budget deficit over the next ten years. According to current estimates, during that time the cost of the Iraq War could exceed $700 billion.

Economic Impact on Military Families: Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 210,000 of the National Guard’s 330,000 soldiers have been called up, with an average mobilization of 460 days. Government studies show that about half of all reservists and Guard members report a loss of income when they go on active duty—typically more than $4,000 a year. About 30,000 small business owners alone have been called to service and are especially likely to fall victim to the adverse economic effects of military deployment.

The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Home the Troops, Institute for Policy Studies
The Bush administration has been able to keep the precise cost of the war a matter of guess work and estimates. But however much is wasted killing civilians in Iraq that is money that is not being spent educating Americans, providing for health care, fixing Social Security, rebuilding a deteriorating infrastructure, or addressing real threats to our environment. However much has blown up in Iraq, it is lost forever to the victims of Bush's incompetence in the face of Katrina just one short year ago. It is lost forever to those millions losing retirements to corporate mismanagement and greed. It is lost forever to those unable to pay the high costs of education, transportation, housing, and getting enough to eat each day.
U.S. Budget and Social Programs: The Administration’s FY 2006 budget, which does not include any funding for the Iraq War, takes a hard line with domestic spending— slashing or eliminating more than 150 federal programs. The $204.4 billion appropriated thus far for the war in Iraq could have purchased any of the following desperately needed services in our country: 46,458,805 uninsured people receiving health care or 3,545,016 elementary school teachers or 27,093,473 Head Start places for children or 1,841,833 affordable housing units or 24,072 new elementary schools or 39,665,748 scholarships for university students or 3,204,265 port container inspectors.

Social Costs to the Military/Troop Morale: As of May 2005, stop-loss orders are affecting 14,082 soldiers—almost 10 percent of the entire forces serving in Iraq with no end date set for the use of these orders. Long deployments and high levels of soldier’s stress extend to family life. In 2004, 3,325 Army officer’s marriages ended in divorce—up 78 percent from 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion and more than 3.5 times the number in 2000.

Costs to Veteran Health Care: The Veterans Affairs department projected that 23,553 veterans would return from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005 and seek medical care. But in June 2005, the VA Secretary, Jim Nicholson, revised this number to 103,000. The miscalculation has led to a shortfall of $273 million in the VA budget for 2005 and may result in a loss of $2.6 billion in 2006.

Mental Health Costs: In July 2005 the Army’s surgeon general reported that 30 percent of U.S. troops have developed stress-related mental health problems three to four months after coming home from the Iraq War. Because about 1 million American troops have served so far in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan some experts predict that the number eventually requiring mental health treatment could exceed 100,000.

The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Home the Troops, Institute for Policy Studies
Many delusions were promoted in order to commit this nation to aggressive war. In the short months after 9/11, Bush erected a strawman upon which to direct American frustration, anger, and vengeance: an “axis of evil” consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. His intentions were made clear at the time: this "Axis of Evil" was responsible for world terrorism in general and our nation would wage war against it. Bush's speech was most notable, however, for what he did not say. Bush did not tell the American people that he had no intention of paying for the war. He would leave the deficit to future administrations and generations. Rather than expect his privileged base to pony up, he would reward their loyalty with several tax cuts. Nor are sons of daughters of that base required to serve their nation militarily. Bush's base gets a free ride as the rest of the nation bears the cost of war —in both lives and dollars.

If wars are not paid for upfront, they are paid for in the form of higher interest rates, prices, and lives. Wealth does not trickle down; but the effects of a falling dollar is felt by everyone. The exponential rise of wage and income inequality began with a vengeance in the Reagan 80's, most closely associated with the Reagan tax cut of 1982. Only the top 20 percent of the population benefited. Wage/income disparities have increased since then with only a short respite in the Clinton years. The current trend began before a great wave of technical change and a computer revolution —none of which has benefited working Americans. Indeed, if you work for a living you have paid and continue to pay for Bush's war of aggression while Bush's base gets preferential treatment!

It is no coincidence that as prices increase, so, too, the national deficit. American credit abroad is dodgy. As the dollar continues to slide on world exchanges, not only gasoline prices increase but also prices of imported goods. Bush had said that he favors a strong dollar but, in fact, his administration has let the dollar slide, a cynical ploy designed to finance the Iraq folly upon the backs of working Americans. That it provides a moderate relief to US exporters is a bad trade off. What, after all, do we export these days? How many new jobs are created when, in fact, Ford is only one of many American corporations in big trouble.

Like Bush's mythical "Axis of Evil" the idea that a nation can wage a free war is an evil GOP fairy tale. Wars are always paid for, if not now, later, and in ways you won't like.

By way of Mark, this update from the Washington Post:

Securing Future Fiscal Health

By Bob Kerrey and Warren Rudman

The economic and moral case for long-term reform of fiscal policy is clear. Yet politicians refuse to act. If this stalemate persists, it could end in catastrophe.

Over the next 30 years, spending on federal programs is on track to go up by 50 percent as a share of the economy. If revenue remain at their historical level, the resulting deficits will approach 20 percent of gross domestic product by 2036 -- almost 10 times the current size. The debt will surge to 200 percent of GDP -- twice what it was at the end of World War II.

Political realities explain why nothing has been done about this. Changing course would require substantial spending cuts from projected levels or equivalent tax increases. Neither party wants to be the first to propose these tough choices out of fear that the other side would attack it. Similarly, neither side wants to discuss possible compromises of its own priorities, out of fear that the other side will take the concessions and run. Unfortunately, these fears are justified.

Since the regular legislative process seems incapable of dealing with the impending crisis, some alternative has to be found. President Bush has suggested a commission. Having served on many commissions, we understand their potential value. We also understand how they can go wrong. In our view, a new commission could be very useful, but only if it recognizes fiscal and political realities. It needs five elements to succeed. ...

Securing Future Fiscal Health, Washington Post

From Fred Kaplan writing in Slate, this update:

What a Moronic Presidential Press Conference!

It's clear Bush doesn't understand Iraq, or Lebanon, or Gaza, or …...
An excerpt:

...

Asked if it might be time for a new strategy in Iraq, given the unceasing rise in casualties and chaos, Bush replied, "The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and dreams, which is a democratic society. That's the strategy. … Either you say, 'It's important we stay there and get it done,' or we leave. We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president."

The reporter followed up, "Sir, that's not really the question. The strategy—"

Bush interrupted, "Sounded like the question to me."

First, it's not clear that the Iraqi people want a "democratic society" in the Western sense. Second, and more to the point, "helping Iraqis achieve a democratic society" may be a strategic objective, but it's not a strategy—any more than "ending poverty" or "going to the moon" is a strategy.

Strategy involves how to achieve one's objectives—or, as the great British strategist B.H. Liddell Hart put it, "the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy." These are the issues that Bush refuses to address publicly—what means and resources are to be applied, in what way, at what risk, and to what end, in pursuing his policy. Instead, he reduces everything to two options: "Cut and run" or, "Stay the course." It's as if there's nothing in between, no alternative way of applying military means. Could it be that he doesn't grasp the distinction between an "objective" and a "strategy," and so doesn't see that there might be alternatives? Might our situation be that grim?

It's all just words to Bush and that's just as well. He doesn't know the meaning of any of them anyway. The war on Iraq is a war of aggression, i.e. a war crime. Whenever a crime is committed, one must ask: Qui bono?

Cheney's remaining US investment

Firestarter5 asked a question in a previous post about who of the neo-cons has stock in Halliburton. Well, we certainly know that Cheney does. In 2005, his 433,333 stock options soared by 3,281%. Now, Cheney says he has "pledged" the proceeds to charity. Yeah, and did you also know that the insurgency in Iraq is "in the last throes"? I hope this so-called "charity" isn't counting on Cheney's word on this. Unless, of course, it is a charity run in the mold of Tom DeLay's "charitable organisations."Halliburton's government contracting has increased by 600% under the Bush/Cheney administration and was the fastest growing contractor between 2000 and 2005. The stock did drop, although lately it has recovered and leveled out, as this five year plot shows (vertical scale is compressed compared to the Cheney stock options value graph.

No doubt this is due to the fact that Halliburton has raked in about [all] it is going to from US government contracts in Iraq, unless Bush keeps all those troops over there for as long as he can -- and he certainly intends on doing that. KBR will then keep pulling in some change.

As far as other of Cheney's neo-con cohorts, well, not much is readily apparent. I'm certain that any investment in Halliburton by these others is probably well-veiled. ...
An update:

Experts warn U.S. is coming apart at the seams; becoming third world

By Chuck McCutcheon
Newhouse News Service

A pipeline shuts down in Alaska. Equipment failures disrupt air travel in Los Angeles. Electricity runs short at a spy agency in Maryland.

None of these recent events resulted from a natural disaster or terrorist attack, but they may as well have, some homeland security experts say. They worry that too little attention is paid to how fast the country's basic operating systems are deteriorating.

"When I see events like these, I become concerned that we've lost focus on the core operational functionality of the nation's infrastructure and are becoming a fragile nation, which is just as bad — if not worse — as being an insecure nation," said Christian Beckner, a Washington analyst who runs the respected Web site Homeland Security Watch (www.christianbeckner.com).

The American Society of Civil Engineers last year graded the nation "D" for its overall infrastructure conditions, estimating that it would take $1.6 trillion over five years to fix the problem.

"I thought [Hurricane] Katrina was a hell of a wake-up call, but people are missing the alarm," said Casey Dinges, the society's managing director of external affairs.

British oil company BP announced this month that severe corrosion would close its Alaska pipelines for extensive repairs. Analysts say this may sideline some 200,000 barrels a day of production for several months.

Then an instrument landing system that guides arriving planes onto a runway at Los Angeles International Airport failed for the second time in a week, delaying flights.

Those incidents followed reports that the National Security Agency (NSA), the intelligence world's electronic eavesdropping arm, is consuming so much electricity at its headquarters outside Washington that it is in danger of exceeding its power supply.

"If a terrorist group were able to knock the NSA offline, or disrupt one of the nation's busiest airports, or shut down the most important oil pipeline in the nation, the impact would be perceived as devastating," Beckner said. "And yet we've essentially let these things happen — or almost happen — to ourselves."

The Commission on Public Infrastructure at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, said in a recent report that facilities are deteriorating "at an alarming rate." ...

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