September 2003 Archives

by David Remer Sept. 25, 2003 PoliWatch.Org

Looking for a presidential candidate? A number of them showed up yesterday at the 10 candidate Democratic debate. All of the candidates held their own and offered a diversity of views and many common themes.

I found myself asking why Al Sharpton is not considered a real contender for President. Sharpton demonstrated an astute knowledge of the issues, a very quick wit, and the ability to connect with audiences. I could only conclude that his skin color prevents pundits from declaring him a serious challenge. Sharpton is opposed to passing the President's 87 billion dollar request for continued action in Iraq calling it bad policy. He said he opposed the prescription drug plan and called for a national single payer health plan. He proposed a 5 year $250 billion dollar federal investment into rebuilding America's infrastructure. On trade policy he pointed out that blacks are here in America because of historical bad trade policy implying that trade has to be about workers, not just corporate interests.

The same might be said of Carol Mosley Braun and her status as a black woman, except that she did not appear to connect with the audience as often. While she demonstrated a high degree of intelligence, her responses often seemed lacking in nuts and bolts type policy responses on some issues. She did however; astutely point out that the deficits today will shift to working persons tomorrow in the form of higher taxes and lowered benefits. She made a good case for preserving Social Security but did not provide how it could be done.

Dennis Kucinich does not have a very presidential appearance if white male, chiseled featured face and tall countenance are the standard. But, he nonetheless, distinguished himself from the other candidates on a couple of issues. I saw last night why the Green Party is backing Dennis Kucinich. He was the only candidate to state that our job is done in Iraq, we need to turn Iraq over to the U.N. and bring our troops home out of harm's way. He strongly made the case that our continued presence in Iraq will increase our deficits and harm our economy. He calls for wealth redistribution in the U.S. since, he argues, much of the tax cuts have gone to the wealthy and deficits and debt will be born by the working class. He stood squarely against NAFTA and WTO calling for the abolition of both as well as favored trading status with China. He cited the $435 billion dollar trade deficit as a priority issue. Kucinich is for reimporting of prescription drugs from Canada to keep costs lower and a single payer national health care plan. He was the only candidate to call for an end to the death penalty in the U.S.

Bob Graham called for the elimination of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and would not rule out targeted tax increases if he became President, since he is opposed to passing the current debt and deficits on to future generations. He called for a national investment in infrastructure such as roads, ports, and electric grids and proposed a kind of FDR program to put millions back to work on this infrastructure development. I thought he dropped the ball when he said we should use Iraqi oil revenues to rebuild Iraq and not spend any more tax dollars on Iraqi reconstruction. He did not make the case that Iraqi oil revenues would be sufficient.

John Edwards said nothing remarkable nor did he distinguish himself well from the other candidates. He called for providing the portion of Bush's $87 billion that would be needed to support and supply our troops. He stated President Bush is transferring the tax burden from the wealthy to the working middle class and this must be reversed. He called for withholding tax credits from any American company that moves operations over seas and granting tax breaks to those who stay here. He called for raising capital gains on those making over $300,000 per year. He supports farm subsidies except to millionaire farmers and called for strengthening union protections and banning striker replacement hiring.

Joe Lieberman too got lost in the crowd and failed to distinguish his position clearly from the others. He said jobs are the first priority but, only offered increased research and development spending partnered with companies and workforce retraining as methods to grow jobs. He did say trade policy should reflect the need for U.S. jobs. He agreed with Bob Graham that some tax increases should not be ruled out.

Richard Gephardt had no definitive reply on Bush's $87 billion Iraq funding request. He called for repealing all of Bush's tax cuts including those to the middle class. He linked the solvency of the Social Security system to the health of the economy and stressed job creation, level playing field trade policies and removing corporate greed as measures to improve the economy.

Wesley Clark admitted he has not had the time yet to fully develop a strategy for all our problems but assured watchers those plans will be finished soon. He spoke broadly on many issues declaring that he is pro-choice, for affirmative action, and strong military defense. He opposed any of Bush's $87 billion Iraq request that would add to the deficit implying it must be paid for now. He is for repealing Bush's tax cuts except those to the middle class. He called for putting all federal spending on the table for possible reduction in order to balance the budget. His health care stance was to enhance already in place programs. He stressed preventive health care focus. He called for enforcing current trade agreements and for independent corporate boards of directors.

John Kerry was cool, steady and measured throughout the debate. In voice, manner, and stature, he appeared to me to be very 'presidential' and comfortable in the role of candidate. Like Sharpton, he appeared self confident but without the showmanship. Like Kucinich, he appeared passionate in his beliefs but without the shrill tone. Kerry called for repeal of tax cuts for the wealthy, and was the only candidate to point out the a level playing field on trade will result in no trade, because the rest of the world cannot afford the environmental protections, worker benefits and pay scales that our wealthiest nation status affords. This appeared to be one of the most intelligent statements of the evening. He called for enforcing current trade laws but not closing the door on international trade.

He called for investments in science and capital investment in innovation to keep the U.S. competitive in trade. Kerry was also shrewdly adept at pointing out that the U.S. could drill till the cows came home and still not be more than 1 to 2 percent less dependent on imported oil than it is today. He called for investing in new energy technologies and energy independence from oil as a fuel. He stands directly behind saving Social Security, restructuring and democratizing boards of directors by placing shareholders on the boards. He called for rebuilding international relations in order to gain international cooperation.

Howard Dean held his own adeptly. I was impressed with Deans reference to the right trying to take ownership of Patriotism and Democracy. Dean wants to revise trade agreements toward equal standards and in so doing elevate the working standards and environment for all the world's workers. This he indicated would also create jobs in the USA. He stated the International and American worker standards are skewed toward multinational corporations and this has to end to level the trade agreements playing field. He stated he supported NAFTA and the WTO.

Dean proposed repealing all of Bush's tax cuts and emphasized that balancing the budget has to be emphasized. He indicated Congress should provide the $87 billion Bush has requested for Iraq implying that the job must now be finished and our troops should have everything they need. When attacked by Gephardt on his previous Medicare criticisms, Dean successfully countered by stating his criticism was toward how Medicare was managed, and not leveled at the program itself. Dean stated he is opposed to raising the Social Security retirement age.

My impression of him was that he projects self confidence, is a down to business kind of guy, and has the experience of working within government to get things done.

None of the candidates blundered. All appeared to be prepared for the debate and none of them lost their composure, including Howard Dean. Of the 10, it was my impression that the 4 candidates to watch are Gen. Clark, Representative Gephardt, Senator John Kerry, and former Governor Howard Dean. If I had tuned into the debates without knowing anything else about the candidates, I would probably have said Kerry and Dean were the winners of the debate with Sharpton close on their heels.

by David Remer Sept. 20, 2003 PoliWatch.Org

It is said that history is a recording of the swing of a pendulum that moves endlessly from left to right and back again. The implication is that social trends gain momentum and expand until they create a growing force to counter the expansion and reverse the social trend that became extreme in its application. It would appear Richard Grasso's resignation in response to outrage and concerns by large pension fund managers marks such a turning point of the pendulum which has been swinging right since the early days of Ronald Reagan.

Some would argue that the Grasso controversy centers on the relationship between the CEO and the compensation committee being chosen by the CEO. However, such an argument would too narrowly define the issue. Before it was even known that Grasso selected members of the compensation committee, the controversy had already begun based on nothing more than the amount of Grasso's compensation. The $188 million dollar pay package from a company that produces only $27 million a year in profits, is what raised eyebrows, questions and inquiries. Grasso was quick to rescind $48 million of the package, apparently in the hopes of stemming the growing tide of indignation over his labor's worth. Grasso supporters attempted to defend Grasso's pay package based on Grasso's stearing of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) through troubled waters in the past. But the amount of the compensation was just too large.

Richard Grasso had only one regret according to the NY Times which states: Last week, Mr. Grasso said his only regret was that he had deferred much of his pay during the last few years. Had he not, there would have been no headlines about $140 million.

Socialists, supporters of a mixed economy (socialism and capitalism), The Green Party and Democrats have argued since the 1960's that capitalism unfettered by government and regulation results in egregious accumulation of wealth in the hands of a very small number of persons. They argue such accumulation of wealth ultimately damages the society and the economy by creating unequal classes of persons in society and withholding large sums of money from the consumer demand side of the economic equation. Further, they state that disparate classes of citizens and loss of money from the economic equation will create economic slow downs, recessions, and substandard quality of life for millions of people. Capitalist purists argue that the accumulation of wealth is self regulating since competitive forces will dictate compensation according to demand and supply and least cost/highest quality analysis.

The pendulum of history has been swinging toward the Capitalist purists since the early 1970's and is reaching new heights under the Bush administration. Under the guise of "compassionate conservativism" the Republican Party touts free enterprise and capitalism in their rhetoric; yet ironically, find themselves having to bring the weight of government down on the heads of some very big corporations like Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom, and a host of others.

President Bush is now having to sheepishly rescind his steel tariffs which came back to bite him in increased manufacturing costs for American manufacturers at a time when jobs will decide in part whether the President is reelected or not. The FCC backed by President Bush has tried to move toward monopolization (the ultimate dream of capitalists) of media and hit a brick wall of bipartisan opposition among the electorate and Congress. The pendulum's swing to the right is slowing under its own weight of excesses. Deregulation promised competitively lowered phone costs, energy costs, airline costs, but, have resulted only in increased costs (often through increased taxation) or lowered quality for consumers of each of these industries.

Grasso's resignation (with 140 million pay package intact) seems to have awakened many in the financial and economic arena's to what the middle class have known for many years. The inequities between those who own and run corporations and companies and those who fill the employment rolls of those organizations are becoming obscene. A broker puts in a 50 hour week. Grasso puts in a 60 hour week. The broker makes $100,000 per year and Grasso makes $40 million. This picture is becoming more and more unacceptable to working Americans who have placed their faith and trust in the conservative capitalists to provide jobs and increased standards of living. Those same Americans are awaking to the fact that the recession and unemployment were a breach of that faith and trust. They are awaking to the fact that their parents had more purchasing power per hour worked than they do today.

The growth of the Green Party throughout the world is a direct response to such inequities. So too are dissension and protests at the World Trade Organization and G7 meetings by representatives of third world and mainstream countries. Even the concessions by unions to Corporation's needs is a sign of changing times that represents the rise of a social movement that will turn Democrats into fiscal conservatives, the elderly into activists, and some socialists into heroes.

Since the stock market crash of 1929 America has never been purely capitalist. And since the FDR programs the country too, has never been purely socialist. America has been a mixed economy with capitalism and socialism working together to control the excesses and extremes of each economic system. But the mix has grown too lean on socialism as the baby boom generation faces retirement without social security, as workers make less and less for their hour worked, as health care moves further and further away from 40 million Americans.

The pendulum is slowing but will not reverse course in November of 2004. It would probably be a great thing for America's working people if a Green Party candidate won the Presidency. But, since that is not even remotely possible, Americans will have to settle for the replacement of the current President. This is the most readily accessible change that American working people can bring about in the near future. It will not be until the electorate goes after the Congress in a "throw the bums out" campaign that spreads like wildfire, that America will see the pendulum stop its movement to the right, and begin a downward move back to the left. The roots of the capitalist rich mix in our economy lies in Congress.

The capitalists have taken to the working person's tax dollar the way they have taken to higher returns on investment in foreign based manufacturing. The Congress is using the American public as a credit card. The deficits will peak at about 550 billion but the debt will continue to grow. And so too will the interest rates on that debt. Like a credit card that starts with an introductory 7.9% rate, and goes up as the balance reaches the maximum allowed, so too will the tax burden on lower and middle class Americans begin creeping up as the debt grows from 7 trillion to 12 trillion over the next 10 to 12 years.

Congress is responsible for this growing deferred tax burden on working Americans. But, it will not be until 2008 or beyond that the American public realizes just what this debt is going to cost them. The conservative Congress is bloating the debt with a star wars defense system, and armament for the fourth and fifth world wars, with subsidies to American corporate farmers that stand in stark contradiction to the conservatives "free enterprise" rhetoric. And that debt is growing to secure geographic areas around the globe that American energy companies will need to tap to sustain their carbon based profitability.

Grasso's resignation should be a wake up call to working tax payers that our mixed economy has the wrong blend. To some it is, but, to far too few to make any real difference in 2004. Even if Carol Mosley Braun were to win in 2004, her ultra left-liberal position would be rendered ineffective by the conservative Congress. She could veto bill after bill until her pen ran dry of ink, but, it would not move the country any further toward recapturing the right mix of socialism and capitalism that our parent's generation enjoyed. Until the conservative Congress has a new mix, our economy will continue down its faltering path, and the Pendulum, though slowed, will not stop, and reverse direction. Richard Grasso took the money and ran. American voters should now take the hint and run to the polls in 2004, not for a change in presidency as much as a forceful change in Congress.

[AP Politics]

by David Remer PoliWatch.Org

In this AP story President Bush finally confessed to the American people that there were no ties between the attacks on September 11, 2001 and Saddam Hussein. A week ago, a poll showed that 70 percent of Americans believed there probably was a link between them. This was not stupidity on the part of Americans. It was gullibility. They wanted to believe their President. The President had carefully and meticulously crafted his speeches months before the invasion of Iraq, to leave the impression that there was a link between the terror that hit our nation and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Years before the invasion, Cheney, Bush, Wolfowitz and others had already decided they wanted to invade Iraq and establish a military presence in the Middle East.

However, they knew they could not sell the bankrupting of the taxpayer for such a venture without making a national interest case for going to war in Iraq. 9/11 gave them the opportunity to make that case, though, it was completely false. They deliberately designed their speeches to persuade the American tax payer to cough up the 100's of billions of dollars it was going to take to carry out their plan.

I for one, would now like to see impeachment hearings begin. This constitutes a deliberate, intentional abuse of the office of President by misleading the American people in order to support hidden and secret agendas which had no relation to the case made to the American people. Our children are now going to be saddled with a 10 to 12 trillion dollar debt and the interest that debt incurs for a cause we now know was false. If this is not grounds for impeachment, then democracy and the rule of law are dead in America.

This article might be more aptly entitled 'A Perfect Economic Storm in the making'. A quick look at the economy of the past and present paints a picture of the future for the economy in which 3 current dynamics shall converge sometime around 2015 to deal a devastating blow to the American economy. Nothing taking place at the levels of government today indicate that America is trying to alter the course or even prepare for the storm ahead.

Past, present, and future.

PAST. President Reagan stimulated the economy in the 1980's on the back of huge deficits and large national debt according to the Office of Management and Budget. (See Table 1 at end of article.) President G.H. Bush had to renege on his promise of "No New Taxes" in order to stem the mushrooming deficits and debt which portended stagflation if left unabated. During the Clinton years, the deficits were brought down to zero and even began producing a surplus, when global recessionary pressures such as high interest rates, speculative investments, massive accounting frauds, and the bust of the technology stock market bubble occurred near the end of President Clinton's term.

President G.W. Bush entered office facing the exposure of the accounting frauds, a stock market already in decline, and a mild world wide recession nearing its end. He was later dealt a war on terrorism which he arguably could not avoid. President Bush however, unwisely expanded miltary activities into Iraq ballooning the defense budgets and creating a hugely expensive need for nation building at American expense that need not have been undertaken at all, or, at least could have been shared at some future time with the other nations of the world.

PRESENT. Today, the recession is well behind us. The Federal Reserve acted quickly enough and repeatedly enough in lowering interest rates to not only stall the recession, but, today its effects in conjunction with corporate downsizing and improved productivity gains have actually produced an economy which is growing at a modest rate of between 2.3 and 2.7 percent. Fourth quarter 2002 rate was 1.4%, first quarter 2003 , was 2.4%, and third quarter results are expected to show even more improvement. The 2002 and 2003 growth rates were also modestly stimulated by the Republican tax cuts, though a measure of how much is yet to be determined. Economists generally agree that consumer demand and growth in exports are the key ingredients to any further growth in the economy from this point forward.

However, the end of the recession did not end the job losses. reports:

Payrolls shrank by 93,000 jobs outside the farm sector, the Labor Department said, after falling a revised 49,000 jobs in July. Economists had expected payrolls to grow, according to a Reuters poll. The number of jobs lost was the biggest since 151,000 in March.

Without an end to payroll losses, the end of the recession is meaningless to the 8.79 Million unemployed workers in America, today. Note the following from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

  • The number of unemployed (8.79 million) is at the highest level in nearly a decade.

  • The number of jobs is at the lowest level in 41 months; that is, at a lower point than at any other time during the current slowdown.

  • The rate at which people are exhausting their regular unemployment benefits before they find a new job was at its highest level ever recorded in February and at its second highest level ever recorded in March. (The latest "exhaustion rate" data are for March; the data go back to 1973.)

    This kind of massive unemployment in America reflects missed opportunities by the Administration and Congress. Unless employment can be dramatically increased, the consumer's demand for goods and services will not be able to sustain the current economic growth rate, modest as it is.

    Currently, the Homeland Defense agency and the first responders under its control are estimated to lack approximately 100 million dollars. There is debate over whether the budget already allocated the funds and the funds have not been received by the persons needing them, or the budget itself was under funded. It is clear however, that there are a myriad of needs for equipment and training that continue to go unfulfilled. Hiring by the Homeland Defense department is an opportunity to meet the needs of both the department and persons needing employment. An opportunity currently not availed.

    America's infrastructure including roads, bridges, and drinking water systems are in desperate need of maintenance and upgrading, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. The massive 220 billion dollar infusion to private industry for building up America's infrastructure in 1998 has not put a dent in the D+ rating of the nation's infrastructure as of 2001. America could certainly hire and train tens of thousands of workers to rebuild this infrastructure and get a valuable return on it's employment investment. Another opportunity for employment missed.

    Qualified teachers and health care workers are in desperate demand all across the nation. Yet, as long as the bulk of health care worker wages are just above minimum wage and teachers make little more than that, it makes little sense for the unemployed to invest in college to retrain for these positions. The U.S. government could target and support private industry in hiring and training the newly unemployed for these positions. It also could provide tax incentives or tuition grants for the unemployed to retrain in these areas, making such a choice an economically viable one for the unemployed. However, this is yet another employment opportunity being ignored.

    Manufacturing jobs lost in the last recession, by and large, will never return. The productivity gains enjoyed by American companies will insure this is so. American companies, while laying off workers have also been moving manufacturing overseas to lower wage markets, and investing in capital equipment and machinery to replace human workers.

    Congress could increase the minimum wage to a living wage. This one act alone could result in placing hundreds of thousands of unemployed into needed teaching, medical, and homeland defense positions over the next few years. The time for such a move is when companies are profitable, the economy is growing, interest rates are low and inflation is very low as it is today. A phased in minimum wage increase of $2 per hour over 5 years could add the human capital resource to small business and large corporations without stifling growth and add the employment jolt the economy is going to need to maintain the rate of recovery experienced to date. But, this is another employment opportunity that will not even be debated, let alone passed by this Congress.

    THE FUTURE The movie, The Perfect Storm, was partly about an historical convergence of a hurricane, a cold front, and a low pressure center, if memory serves, which created a storm of such magnitude that it could not be entered and survived by normal vessels. Such a storm is growing on the economic front and the convergence of three main trends will occur in the next 8 to 12 years resulting in a wave of devastation across the American economy and possibly the world economy. The three trends are growing U.S. national debt, the retirement of the baby boom generation, and the incredible growth of foreign economies.

    The United States National debt, now approaching 7 trillion dollars, will be in the 10 to 12 trillion dollar range in 10 to 12 years. Tax cuts in conjunction with deficit spending of nearly a half trillion dollars a year by the President and Congress are responsible for this debt. For a full discussion on this topic see another article posted here on Public Debt . It is enough to say for the moment that 10 to 12 trillion dollars in public debt places incredible pressure on interest rates. Lofty interest rates hurt citizens and American companies alike. Such interest rates raise the costs of production and the cost of living for all Americans and results in the most wasteful form of inflation. Inflated costs due to high interest rates are passed on to the consumer and lowers the buying power of the wage earner's dollar.

    Already Americans are experiencing a lower quality of life than their parents enjoyed. A simple measure of this fact is based on 1 blue collar wage earner, 40 years ago, could make a sufficient income for a family of four and provide a middle class home, a car, home appliances, health insurance, and accrue a retirement package based on a pension plan and social security. To experience that same quality of life today requires 2 family wage earners to maintain the same standard at comparable wages.

    The retirement of the baby boom generation is going to result in a demand upon the federal government for social security benefits that will be unprecedented. A smaller work force paying into the social security trust fund at the very time that a burgeoning retirement generation begins to draw benefits will inevitably cause the U.S. government to run deficits in order to meet the social security obligation. And it will need to run those deficits for approximately 18 to 24 years. If these social security deficits are added to an already established 10 to 12 trillion dollars of debt, interest rates will skyrocket. The effect may even cause concern over America's capacity to meet the debt obligation and cause foreign investors to discontinue investing in the American debt. This could result in a devastating blow to the American economy and its economic future.

    Alternatively, the U.S. government may declare the social security system bankrupt and discontinue payments to retired citizens under social security. However, the result to the economy would not be lessened, since such a move would remove consumer income from millions of Americans and again deal a devastating blow to the economy by way of greatly reduced consumer demand and thus productivity of American business. This of course does not take into account the social cost of turning millions of retired citizens into paupers unable to afford health care, housing, or transportation.

    The growth of foreign economies is the third condition for the perfect economic storm which appears at present to be inescapable. The Asian Pacific Rim countries including China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, is coming into economic growth that is unrivaled in these nations in the 20th century. While the United States economy is growing at less than 3 percent, the Chinese economy is growing at a year on year rate of 8.2%. An excellent source of current Chinese economic conditions can be found at the Embassy of Switzerland web site. Predictions in the past of China's economic growth have all been underestimated and China continues its growth through world wide recessions and internal social difficulties. In 1992 it was predicted China would become the world's leading economy by 2030. This estimate too was underestimated. Previous analysis always included impediments to China's growth brought on by social upheaval. However, earlier this year, when protests broke out in Hong Kong regarding the installation of new security laws, analysts saw their predicted impediments coming to fruition. But, they were wrong. The Chinese government later this year announced they were rescinding all such new security laws in deference to the people of Hong Kong.

    It is a mistake for analysts to assume the Chinese government is going to allow even its own political ideology to stand in the way of its economic growth and future status as economic super power in the world. There is a dream being transferred from generation to generation of politburo members. That dream is of supplanting the United States as the preeminent economic power in the world. China's fulfillment of that dream has continued to dash analyst's predictions of social tension blockading China's economic growth. Some analysts, learning from the mistakes of their predecessors, are now predicting China could rival the U.S. economically as soon as 2015 instead of 2030 or beyond. See table 2 at the end of this article for current statistics GDP and population for the U.S., Japan, and China.

    However, China's dream only need be partially fulfilled in order to contribute to the economic perfect storm. With it's mobilization of rural citizens to urban environments and jobs, China is a powerhouse of relatively cheap labor. Its physical boundaries are home to vast natural resources. And China's manufacturing is already taking extremely large numbers of jobs from around the world for its own. While China is rapidly developing its industrial capacity, it is also investing in its technical development. This year China entered negotiations with Taiwan on trade agreements that will serve as a spring board for China's technological development. Far into the visible future, China will continue to grow as the United States struggles to keep its status quo.

    The Perfect Economic Storm will be fully felt around 2015 in the United States. Global market share of industrial and technological output will have shifted from the U.S. to the Asian Pacific Rim. The government (i.e. the people) will be on the verge of bankruptcy with national debt equaling a full year of gross domestic product, or 10 to 12 trillion dollars. Taxes will have to skyrocket in order for the U.S. to maintain a valid investment rating for foreign investors. And Congress will have no choice but to drastically cut spending in areas previously never considered as discretionary, like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, education and very possibly defense spending.

    If the U.S. fails in either of these endeavors, its investment rating will plummet much as we have seen California's credit rating fall to levels requiring its promise to pay high interest rates on any future borrowing. A fall in America's investment rating will simply dig the economic hole deeper and make the financial and economic burden of today's school children an employee's nightmare as they have to shoulder high unemployment rates, steep payroll taxes, and lowered wages and purchasing power from their dollar. Crime will rise as it always does during hard economic times, and social services funded by federal, state, and local governments will be hard to find.

    There are remedies to prevent this convergence. Taking back the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans will help reduce the deficits over the next 10 years and thus lower the projected national debt. Regulating the pharmaceutical industries and gradually shifting medical research and development from the private sector to America's colleges and Universities will greatly reduce the costs of health care in years to come and generate royalty revenues that come back to fund the Universities and Colleges, thus lowering taxes on education costs on citizens.

    Other options include: Creating a retirement incentive for retiring at age 70 will reduce the load on the Social Security system. Ceasing the development of star wars technology will save billions and halting any further research and development of advanced weapons of mass destruction will save even more. Backing off our preemptory strike policy will also save billions by making it more conscionable for UN countries to share the cost of the war on terrorism, a war that will continue well past the economic perfect storm. Dropping all American trade barriers against other nations for one year and demanding that all other nations who wish to trade with the U.S. do the same within that one year period or lose trade with America for the following five years. This measure alone would stem the decades old trade deficits on America's accounting books and set an unprecedented level playing field for truly free trade in the world for decades to come.

    None of this however, will take place unless the voters demand it at the polls in 2004. Since, that is unlikely, we should all begin to sock away now those resources we are going to need to weather the economic perfect storm that is looming on the horizon. And pray for those who have nothing to sock away, for they will be the first victims of the Perfect Economic Storm.

    TABLE 1

    Year Deficit Debt Debt % of GDP

    1979 - $40,183 - $828,923 34%

    1980 - $73,835 - $908,503 34

    1981 - $78,976 - $994,298 34

    1982 - $127,989 - $1,136,798 36

    1983 - $207,818 - $1,371,164 41

    1984 - $185,388 - $1,564,110 42

    1985 - $212,334 - $1,816,974 46

    1986 - $221,245 - $2,120,082 50

    1987 - $149,769 - $2,345,578 53

    1988 - $155,187 - $2,600,760 54

    1989 - $152,481 - $2,867,538 55

    U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Historical Tables, annual.

    Table 2

    July 1 2002 GDP per capita est. and Population (source: CIA World Factbook)

    U.S. $37,600 290,342,554(July 2003 est.) GDP 10,916,880,030,400

    Japan $30,000 127,214,499 (July 2003 est.) GDP 3,816,434,970,000

    China $4,400 1,286,975,468 (July 2003 est.) GDP 5,662,692,059,200

  • As the pledge of allegiance says, we do all things "... with liberty and justice for all." This by its very nature makes democracy a thing of beauty. It is also an incredible challenge for its citizens and those who hold political office. Because of democracy's absolute laws of justice and liberty the job of running a democracy is incredibly challenging but the results are rewarding beyond words. The job of a policeman for example, is more difficult in a democracy where civil liberties and human rights must be observed. The job of a politician is more challenging where providing security, a healthy economy, and basic services must be accomplished in a world where civil rights are the law and the environment is a public (not private) resource that must be protected. I believe our current President once remarked that his job would be easier of this were a dictatorship. For once he was absolutely right.

    [Washington Post: Editorial]

    What does the controversial decision by the Federal Communications Commission to allow further media consolidation have to do with the financial crisis afflicting energy companies? Both showcase the failures of naive deregulatory policy.

    Ex-Lawmakers' Edge Is Access

    | | Comments (0)
    [Washington Post: Nation and Politics]

    Most lobbyists would kill for the chance to place a client's highly sought proposal in a lawmaker's hand. For Dickey and other former members of Congress, it is fairly easy. In a town in which access often translates into influence, former members of Congress have several advantages, from free parking spots on Capitol grounds to the ability to mingle with lawmakers and their aides in cloakrooms and private committee rooms.

    The high cost of a legal education is forcing more and more lawyers to walk away from jobs as public defenders, legal aid lawyers and prosecutors. By Jonathan D. Glater. [New York Times: Education]

    How can any learned and logical person believe the United States when its Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and one of America's top Generals, Ricardo Sanchez, make statements like these spoken to the press and troops in Iraq this week. (Rumsfeld Lashes Out at Iraqi Critics)

    Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said:

    "Instead of pointing fingers at the security forces of the coalition, ... it's important for the Iraqi people to step up and provide information," Rumsfeld said at a news conference.

    Many Iraqis, as well as some members of Congress, have said they are frustrated that security remains a problem in Iraq (news - web sites) four months after President Bush (news - web sites) declared that major combat had ended. Rumsfeld acknowledged Iraq is not as safe as it should be but said the fault does not lie with American forces.

    When a military power invades and occupies another nation, everything that happens after that is the responsibility of the occupying nation. The occupying nation has control. Whether the invading nation puts forth the resources necessary to instill order and security is entirely up to the invading nation. In this case, it is obvious the United States is not willing, or unable, to put forth the resources necessary to create the peace and security critics are calling for. Note the following from General Sanchez:

    "There is no risk at the tactical, operational or strategic level," Sanchez said at the same news conference. "The only way we will fail in this country is if we decide to walk away in Iraq and fight the next battle on the war on terrorism in America.

    "A platoon out of any one of my battalions could defeat the threat, readily. I don't need any more forces. We need the Iraqi people to help us and give us the intelligence we need."

    These statements are totally illogical and fail any kind of credibility test. If there is no risk at the tactical, operational or strategic level, why are American soldiers dying almost daily in Iraq?

    Gen. Sanchez, in the same paragraph implies we are fighting some kind of war on terrorism in Iraq. This is simply not true. There was no terrorist threat emmanating from Iraq before the American invasion. Since the invasion, there has been resistance by the members of the invaded country. That kind of resistance was not called terrorist in occupied France in WWII, nor in Germany upon entry by Russian and American troops. This is called combat resulting from foreign invasion into a sovereign nation. NOT Terrorism.

    Laughable is Gen. Sanchez's statement that a platoon could take care of the threat. OK, THEN DO IT! Why are we holding our platoon back from the mission at hand, General? For the General and Secretary to state that lack of security and peace in Iraq is somehow someone else's fault or responsibility, namely the Iraqi citizenry, is absurd. The Iraqi citizenry did not ask for this invasion, they did not ask for the bombs dropped upon their heads, they did not ask for occupation by an inept group of leaders who insist that their inability to secure the nation has nothing to do with the number of troops they have installed.

    We do need more troops to secure the nation of Iraq. That is precisely why the U.S. is working feverishly in the United Nations to obtain voluntary forces from other nations to come into Iraq. The General's statement is a patent lie and is obvious on the face of it to any but, the blindly patriotic.

    If the General is right, and we as a nation depend upon volunteers to flow forward to give us the intelligence we need to do our jobs, it is no wonder the attack on the towers in New York, and on the Pentagon caught the military and our government by surprise.

    I am personally appalled that my tax dollars are being spent on the salaries of such inept and incompetent leaders such as General Sanchez and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It has always been Rumsfeld's postition that the U.S. did not need nor want U.N. involvement in Iraq. This man should be fired, immediately. But, he won't be; it is an election year coming and better to lose world credibility abroad than to lose a presidential election here at home.

    by David Remer September 06, 2003 PoliWatch.Org

    In a revealing article, U.S. Pressed to Interdict Afghan Drugs, by Matthew Pennington, about opium and lack of stability in Afghanistan, the short-sighted Bush military plan to save the world, is implicated. Pennington points out the Russians, The Afghani government in Kabul, and the United Nations are calling for the US led coalition force of 11,500 personnel to stem the opium trade which is fueling both the warlords throughout Afghanistan as well as the Taliban-al Qaida terrorists. The dilemma is that the producers of the opium are the very heads of Afghani armies which have worked with the US to fight the Taliban regime and al Qaida terrorists. These same warlords are supporting the American effort in Iraq by permitting the US to maintain much lower numbers of troops in Afghanistan than would otherwise be required to maintain stability in Kabul.

    Outside Kabul, the US led coalition has little to no control. The US pulled troops out of Afghanistan after routing the Taliban in order to begin the buildup for invasion into Iraq. President Bush left only a small contingent sufficient to restore order and protect the seat of government in Kabul. There is no law and order, nor defense against reinsertions of Taliban and al Qaida throughout the rest of Afghanistan save for the poppy growing war lords. In recent weeks the U.S. led coalition has been involved in intense skirmishes with Taliban and al Qaida forces which have moved back into Afghanistan. But, little progress is made since every skirmish results in the bulk of the Taliban and al Qaida forces fleeing, only to reappear elsewhere in a few days or weeks.

    Pennington states: "There's no doubt that in a number of provinces the commanders [in the US led coalition] are involved. It's a known fact.

    Yet anti-drug experts suspect that al-Qaida and the Taliban, which have recently stepped up resistance to the Afghan government, are also using proceeds from the illicit trade to fund their activities."

    President Bush cannot claim victory in Afghanistan as long as only one city in the entire country, Kabul, is under law abiding control of the Afghan government. Nor can it claim victory as long as the economy of the country is based on illegal drug trafficking and poppy production. Russia is growing uneasy with the damage the opium trade from Afghanistan is causing to Russia's anti-drug efforts. The U.N. is attempting to build the case that the US led coalition must, in order to fight the Taliban and al Qaida, cut off their supply of money by either stopping U.S. led coalition commanders from profiting from the poppy, or rid the country of these same commanders who are freeing up U.S. forces for deployment in Iraq and elsewhere.

    The failure of the U.S. led military approach to regime change is very simply that it fails to include in its plans for the aftermath of war, such crucial factors as economics, social and cultural values, and infrastructure needed to maintain the regime change the U.S. sought in the first place. Long after the war in Afghanistan is over, President Bush is still holding American troops there in harm's way, fighting the very Taliban and al Qaida forces he sought to rout. As long as the poppy trade is a cornerstone of economic survival throughout Afghanistan outside Kabul, there will be no end to conflict in Afghanistan or secure and stable regime change. And there will be no end to the drain on American tax dollars or loss of American life and limb in Afghanistan.

    The whole situation reminds me of Ford Motor Companies strategy for the Pinto with its exploding gas tank. It was cheaper to pay off the law suits for burned owners of the vehicles than it was to recall the vehicles and fix them. President Bush's administration has apparently avoided the very high cost of a long term solution.

    Such a solution would have required rebuilding the economics and infrastructure of Afghanistan in such as to insure prosperity and social order could be maintained internally by native Afghans. Instead, President Bush's administration has favored the less costly option of maintaining a small contingent of troops and body bags to simply maintain the appearance of success by protecting Kabul against the forces prevalent throughout the rest of Afghanistan.

    The appearance of victory is hollow as long as American tax dollars and American lives are being consumed in Afghanistan. Such a slow but steady drain on American resources could continue for years and years to come. The price of real victory through regime change is very, very high. The cost of the appearance of victory as witnessed in the 1990 Gulf War could be even higher years down the road.

    The Congress exercised legal and Constitutional authority in giving President Bush the power to wage war on whomever, wherever, and whenever the President deemed persons had any role in supporting or harboring the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. However, such a move was, in the opinion of some, not in the best interest of the American people. To his credit, President Bush sought the support of Congress before invading Iraq in full force. To have done otherwise would have invited Supreme Court review of presidential powers to usurp congressional power to declare war, and court review of congressional authority granted by the War Powers Resolution passed in 1973.

    While there has been a great deal of scholarly review of these issues and even a few lawsuits intended to limit President Bush's war making powers granted by Congress, there has been little debate among the citizenry in America. Polls show the American people have, and continue, to support the powers granted to the President to fight the 9/11 terrorists and their supporters, and wage war in Iraq. Perhaps it was the wisdom of some congressional members who forced compromise upon the President's initial request for war powers that has left the public supportive. The President asked for the power to war against any he deemed may enact future acts of terrorism; Congress wisely deleted such sweeping military freedom from the President's discretion.

    The threat of involvement of military troops in circumstances not acceptable by Congress or the people, however, still exists. The historical tug of war between the executive branch and the Congress is a never ending battle. This tug of war stems from the Constitution itself. Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution states, "Congress has the power to declare war." Article II, Section 2 states, "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States,..." In addition to these powers, Congress shares powers with the President in areas like framing U.S. foreign policy and controlling the military. For example, while the President negotiates treaties, the Senate must approve them. While Congress can declare war and approve funds for the military, the President as commander-in-chief of the military has the power to direct military hostilities throughout the world using already appropriated military funding.

    The President may introduce forces onto foreign soil claiming preemptive action to curtail aggression against the U.S., all the while, keeping secret from the Congress and the people the intelligence suggesting such potential aggression exists except in the most general terms. This precedent was established by President Bush in the solicitation to Congress for approval to invade Iraq. While he did acquire congressional approval, the facts supporting his rationale for invasion were kept secret in the name of national security; facts which have not been substantiated in the aftermath of the invasion. Yet, Congress has done nothing in reaction to the lack of substantiation of the premises for invading Iraq.

    In effect, the President, may strike anywhere without having to disclose any facts supporting the decision. President Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union,

    Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late.

    The President has made the case for preemptive strike policy. And such preemptive strikes require the element of surprise to minimize American casualties. It is then reasonable to conclude from the President's own words, that he is willing to engage America in war without notice and without congressional review if he can politically withstand such a move. Once our troops are engaged, the Congress and the American people are left with only two choices should it become apparent that the attacks were baseless on the stated premises. First, is the option to withdraw the forces prior to victory, or defeat. The cost of such a move in prestige, credibility, and face for both the government and the people would be staggering. The second choice, as has been witnessed in the aftermath of the war in Iraq, is to don the patriotic rhetoric of standing by our troops and justify the attacks on other premises.

    The major political parties have varying positions on the war powers allocation between Congress and the President. In as much as these parties represent various portions of the American people, the voters do have a choice in November, 2004 on this, and many other issues. There is no greater and burdensome issue facing the American public, than this issue of government's authority to spend the lives of American youth and 100's of billions of dollars of tax payer money in the pursuit of war. Below, as best as can be ascertained by the parties' web sites and news releases, are the war powers issue stand of the various political parties.

    Democrats and Republicans: In light of the overwhelming congressional support for sharing war powers with President Bush in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, it is safe to say that both of these parties support broad war powers under some constraints, being issued to the office of the President. In fairness, it must be said, that the Congress did choose to retain key provisions of the War Powers Resolution unto themselves.

    The Green Party 2000 platform calls for a strictly defensive military. Further, it calls for a non-interventionist military role in foreign affairs. These statements would suggest that the Green Party would take necessary measures to fight terrorism against the U.S., but, not sanction regime change, nation building, and war on terrorism throughout the world. Thus, the Green Party would not sanction any delegation of Congress' war power to the office of the President.

    The Libertarian Party 2000 Platform states the following: "American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and the defense -- against attack from abroad -- ..." and "The principle of non-intervention should guide relationships between governments. The United States government should return to the historic libertarian tradition of avoiding entangling alliances, abstaining totally from foreign quarrels and imperialist adventures, and recognizing the right to unrestricted trade, travel, and immigration." It is clear from these words that the Libertarian Party would support military pursuit of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. and their infrastructure. However, the LP would not have sanctioned the invasion of Iraq until confirmation of the Iraqi threat to the U.S. had been evidenced and confirmed. The LP obviously would not grant Congress's delegation of its war power to the executive branch.

    The Constitution Party (CP) platform is difficult to pin down on this issue. On the one hand, the CP calls for making the U.S. military superior to all others on land, air, water and in space. On the other hand, the CP holds an isolationist foreign policy stance. Nothing clearer can be construed from their 2000 platform. However, on their web site is a resolution passed in the Spring of this year which states: "Be it resolved by the Constitution Party National Committee, that we publicly demand that no further expansion of the use of U.S. military force occur without a full and complete debate and consideration of the matter by Congress that results in a positive vote that declares war on a specific foreign enemy or enemies." There is a clear choice here for American's who believe that no war powers should ever be delegated to the executive branch except upon imminent threat to America or Americans.

    The Natural Law Party which endorses Dennis Kucinich, while not addressing the issue on their web site, can safely be represented by Kucinich's platform found on his web site. There Kucinich states: "America will return to its role as the most admired-not hated-nation. The doctrine of "pre-emption" will be retired, as will an aggressive, unilateralist foreign policy that makes our homeland less secure, not more." Thus, the Natural Law Party would in all likelihood, oppose delegation of war power to, or exercise of war power, by, the executive branch.

    The America First Party web site states the following: "The America First Party has reaffirmed the Party's strong stand that this war against Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States.... We have reaffirmed our love, support, and respect for our brave sons and daughters who are being misused by President Bush to fight a war that violates our Constitution and the principles so many have fought and died to protect." It is clear the America First Party does not stand with empowering the presidency with the power to engage America in war without the people's consent.


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