Where Has All The Money Gone?

In 2015, Michigan State economics professor, Mark Skidmore became curious when he heard former assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Catherine Austin Fitts mention that the Pentagon couldn’t account for $6.5 trillion in spending. So he asked Fitts and a team of his graduate students to help him confirm that number. After poring over public documents, the team discovered that the original number was inaccurate.

Instead of $6.5 trillion in unsupported spending, the team found that the actual number is $21 trillion – a sum equivalent to our entire national debt!

Even if that number is flawed (and there’s no reason to believe that it is), there is plenty of evidence to show that the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned about has severely damaged our nation’s economic health. For example, it is estimated that our misadventures in the Vietnam civil war cost us $1.3 trillion in 2017 dollars. The cost of care for Vietnam vets has cost us at least $1 trillion to date. And neither of those figures include the billions of dollars wasted on supplies fraudulently sold through the black market in Vietnam.

It is estimated that the Reagan-era tax cuts and military build-up contributed $3 trillion to our national debt. The Bush tax cuts contributed an additional $10 trillion to the debt. The cost of our war in Afghanistan – now our longest-running war – is $2.4 trillion and counting. The cost of care for Afghan war vets is $1 trillion. Our invasion of Iraq cost yet another $2.6 trillion. And the cost of care for Iraq war vets is estimated at $1.3 trillion.

In addition, the US has spent more than $61 billion in the reconstruction of Iraq. Another $8 billion of US funds is missing in Iraq. $45 billion is missing in Afghanistan. And, claiming that the cost of transportation is too great to bring military equipment home, the Pentagon ordered it buried in the sands of Kuwait.

The Pentagon’s F-35 joint strike fighter program has already cost more than $450 billion and is expected to top out at more than $1.5 trillion. Yet it has failed almost every test. In the words of two military analysts, “It can’t turn, can’t climb and can’t run.” And in another blatant display of waste, Congress authorized spending hundreds of millions of dollars for Abrams tanks that the Army doesn’t even want.

How has the Trump administration and Congress responded to all of this spending? They increased the Pentagon budget by another $700 billion! Then they passed a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that is expected to add yet another $1-2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade!

Of course, the GOP has a plan to pay for all this spending. As articulated by Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, they plan to cut spending through “entitlement reform.” In other words, the GOP plans to cut funding for Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP and Social Security.

Maybe – just maybe – there’s another way. Imagine if, instead of spending our money on unnecessary wars and tax cuts for the rich, we spent that money for good. Imagine if we spent it on health care for our citizens; on education; on rebuilding our infrastructure; on scientific achievements; on lifting people out of poverty; on eradicating disease. We could do all of that and more with just the money the Pentagon wastes.

Author William Blum put our current military budget in context when he said, “Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.”

And that doesn’t even include the trillions of dollars in Pentagon spending that are missing or unaccounted for.

Understanding The Trump Phenomenon.

The success of Trump the candidate seems to have confused liberals and conservatives alike. But it’s really not that difficult to understand if you look at the underlying causes.

First, there is great dissatisfaction among many Americans on both sides of the political spectrum. Both sides see growing poverty and a struggling middle class while, at the same time, a privileged few are thriving. Both see a dysfunctional Congress that now represents only a fraction of its constituents – those with the money and power to call in political favors.

As a highly accomplished con man, Trump has tapped into the voters’ smoldering anger toward government, fueled by Fox News Channel and virtually the entire radio spectrum of rightwing, hate radio. Using a tactic perfected by unsavory dictators, he has successfully focused the blame for our problems on outsiders and those on the fringes of our society. He has convinced a substantial portion of our population that the nation is struggling as the result of Mexican immigrants, Muslims, China and “political correctness” – an oversensitivity for minorities, Muslims, immigrants, women and the disabled. That has invited angry white men to dig out their Klan sheets and to say whatever racist, sexist things that cross their degenerate minds.

Far from being the successful business leader his supporters believe him to be (he is one of the few to ever lose money as the owner of a casino), Trump is really only accomplished at the arts of persuasion and branding. He refuses to deal in specifics, understanding that emotions matter more than facts or even truth.

Capitalizing on what I would call the Kardashian effect, Trump understood that his celebrity and outrageous statements are good for media. As a result, he has been able to manipulate the media’s greed to the point that CNN and even the so-called liberal cable network, MSNBC, were willing to spend airtime focused on an empty Trump podium waiting for Trump’s latest rant than to cover a policy speech by Hillary or a large rally for Bernie.

Trump has benefited from the chronically short attention spans of the public – a public unwilling, or unable, to research or to comprehend the issues. A public that disdains nuance and complicated answers for complex subject matter. An impatient public that views the world as black or white; good or bad; right or wrong. He has also benefited from a political environment based on tribalism – knowing that even those members of his party who despise him and everything he stands for will eventually fall in line to support him. And he has seemingly embraced the strategy of former GOP strategist, Paul Weyrich, who correctly posited that suppressing the vote – even if it means alienating a majority of potential voters – benefits Republicans.

Finally, he has benefited from a chronically disorganized and divided Democratic Party – a Party that lacks clear, decisive leadership; a Party that, without control of the media, has struggled to articulate its accomplishments and its message; a Party that has made it easy for people like Trump, Cruz, Ryan, McConnell, et al to promise everything, but deliver nothing.

Our Ongoing National Shame.

Teapublicans are fond of saying that racism is no longer an issue. Conservatives on the US Supreme Court have echoed that sentiment in decisions that weakened and overturned affirmative action. Indeed, many conservatives cite affirmative action as a form of reverse racism. And whenever a politician or African-American speaks out against discrimination, conservatives are quick to label them as racists.

Some conservatives, especially those in the media, are simply unabashed racists that will never listen to reason. Unfortunately, even the more thoughtful and open-minded conservatives have fallen into the trap of assuming that racism was ended by Martin Luther King, Jr. What they fail to comprehend is that the US is only 3 to 5 generations removed from emancipation and that slavery has left a lasting legacy.

Following the Civil War, the largely uneducated population of African-American slaves (for most slaves, education was forbidden) was freed to fend for themselves. Many of those given 40 acres and a mule had their property stolen by whites. Many were still abused. Most found low-skilled, low-paying jobs and were herded into ghettos with little opportunity for advancement. Their children were sent to substandard schools. Even those who struggled to excel in school were discriminated against and given few job opportunities. In many states, African-Americans were not even allowed to vote until a generation ago. As a result, most laws have been used to bludgeon African-Americans. Police forces have used drug laws to disproportionately incarcerate African-Americans even though African-Americans use drugs at roughly the same rate as whites. Virtually every African-American has been stopped for driving or walking while black. And we’ve all seen the TV “reality” crime shows that focus almost exclusively on minorities. (A producer for one of the shows admitted that no one wanted to watch a show that focused on police busting young, white men for the same crimes.)

In the 1960’s many white families abandoned our cities for the suburbs to enroll their children in white-dominated schools and leaving African-Americans with the burden of paying for the infrastructure of the central cities, for police and fire protection, for luxurious sports venues, and for the freeways used almost exclusively by suburbanites. Cities redistricted their schools along racial and economic lines. So today, on the 60th anniversary of the US Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education which ordered the desegregation of schools, many of our schools are more segregated than they were at the time of the ruling.

Moreover, a Center for American Progress study found that, nationally, we spend $334 less for the education of each black student than for each white student! We may be unwilling to pay for the education of African-Americans. But we sure don’t mind spending millions more to send them to prison. According to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, there are now as many African-Americans in some stage of our “justice” system as there were African-American slaves at the beginning of the Civil War!

Yet the GOP somehow believes that the playing field has been leveled…that the problems faced by many African-Americans are simply the result of laziness, broken families and a culture of welfare dependency. Some, like Cliven Bundy, even suggest that “the Negro” would be better off as slaves.

Here’s an idea: Why don’t the Teapublicans who believe this nonsense trade places with those they so demean? Let’s see how Rep. Paul Ryan would fare in a ghetto with few prospects for anything beyond a minimum wage job. Let’s see how he fares in landing a job in a suburb with no car and no public transportation to get to that job. Let’s see how Justice Roberts’ children would fare in a school with significantly fewer resources than their peers. Let’s see how white Teapublican suburbanites like standing in line for hours to vote. Let’s see how Cliven Bundy would fare at picking cotton.

Tricky Dicky Lives On!

In the 1972 presidential campaign, President Nixon was overwhelmingly re-elected thanks to his “Plumbers,” Nixon’s infamous dirty tricks team that was exposed at Watergate. The team, which was tied directly to the White House, consisted of E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy, CIA liason John Paisley, James McCord, Donald Segretti, and who one knows how many others. It broke into Daniel Ellsburg’s office. It broke into the Democratic Headquarters offices in Watergate to search for strategy documents and anything that might give Nixon’s campaign an advantage. It even engaged in a program of disinformation to confuse and mislead supporters of Democratic rivals. As one example, it stole letterhead from the Edmund Muskie campaign and used it to create a letter falsely maligning other leading Democrats. It announced Muskie campaign rallies unknown to the Democratic candidate in order to anger the supporters who showed up. It sent out phony press releases announcing changes in the start times of campaign events and more.

All of this gave credence to Nixon’s long-standing moniker “Tricky Dick.” The dirty tricks and their cover-up are what eventually forced Nixon from office under threat of impeachment.

Apparently, the success of Nixon’s Plumbers has had an indelible influence on the party. At very least, the Nixonian mentality lives on through a never-ending stream of lies and political paybacks. Indeed, it seems the motto of the GOP has become WWND (What Would Nixon Do). The Nixonian approach manifested itself in the Southern Strategy masterminded by Lee Atwater…a strategy designed to capitalize on the anger of racist Southerners outraged by the Voting Rights Act of 1964. It was honed in the 1980s by the “Three Amigos” of Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff using Nixon’s “take no prisoners” approach to politics as leaders of the Young Republicans and, later, as leaders of the GOP.

During the George W. Bush administration, Richard “The Dick” Cheney displayed his mastery of Nixon tactics through a campaign of lies and threats in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. In 2008, Sen. McCain and Sarah Palin based their bid for the White House on a substantial portfolio of lies and deception. So, too, did Gov. Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan in 2012.

So when Governor Chris Christie’s political team and top aides closed access to the world’s busiest bridge, they were not only engaging in political payback. They were paying homage to the master…Tricky Dicky.

For the GOP and its Tea Party Parasites, this attack style of politics permeates every level and virtually every action. You could see it on the NRC website during the 2000 election cycle when the party published stupid quotes from Dan Quayle but reattributed them to Al Gore as “Gore Gaffes.” You can see it in the vile bumper stickers and Tea Party signs demeaning President Obama. You can see it in the vicious lies circulated from one conservative numbskull to another through seemingly endless chain emails. You can even see it in relatively innocuous, but demeaning dirty tricks such as the one I received the other day. I was emailed a 1950s-era photo of “Miss Lube Rack,” a pretty young woman in a bathing suit surrounded by gas station servicemen. The caption proclaimed the photo to be one Nancy D’Alesandro (Pelosi) although it wasn’t. The email served no other purpose than to demean the Congresswoman and former Speaker of the House.

You can say that this sort of thing happens both ways. But it doesn’t. Yes, there are isolated incidents of lies and missteps by Democratic candidates. But those don’t remotely compare to the pervasive, concerted efforts to trick and decieve by the GOP. And you can be sure that they will continue as long as the party believes they work.

House Of Horrors.

No, it’s not The House On Elm Street. It’s not Norman Bates’ home. The US House of Representatives has claimed the crown! Populated by a host of psychopaths, spooks, bloodsuckers and zombies, it strikes fear into intelligent people around the globe.

Within its terror-filled chambers, Speaker Boehner plays a modern-day, orange-tinted Mad Hatter with a Tea Party no less crazy than that from Alice In Wonderland. Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor are like Freddie Krueger and Norman Bates trying to slash food stamps, Social Security and Medicare. Michele Bachmann talks glowingly of the end times. Louie Gohmert wields a verbal chainsaw attacking everyone and everything in sight. Steve King (not to be confused with the less frightening Stephen King), Trent Franks, Joe “You Lie” Wilson and Ted Poe lead the rest of the freak show.

Across the hall, honorary member and defacto House leader, Ted “the headless horseman” Cruz, unleashes a seemingly endless stream of hatred and nonsense.

With a cast like this, is it any wonder Washington has spun out of control? Is it any wonder that Congress has become dysfunctional? Moderate Republicans have fled for their lives, allowing the John Birch Society and Ayn Rand-inspired zombies (aka the Tea Party) to take our government hostage. So it’s now up to Democrats and Independents to put an end to their insanity.

But there are no silver bullets, no wooden stakes. And unlike horror movies, you simply can’t turn away from the terror or walk out of the theater when it gets too scary. In this story, it’s as if the 3D psychos have jumped off the big screen to threaten us all. Moreover, their tactics will have real consequences for the poor, the hungry, the young, the elderly and the middle class. Our only defense is our vote.

Around Halloween, everyone likes a good haunted house or horror film, but this is a horror story that may not end well…if it ever does. That’s your cue to scream!

The GOP’s Continuing Attack On Voters, Workers, Women And The Constitution.

Still stinging from its losses in the 2012 election, the Grand Old Party is becoming a Grand Old Pain In The Ass.  Not just for Democrats…for everyone.

While opposing a bill that would raise the minimum wage, the GOP is attacking labor unions across the nation and successfully ending defined benefit pension plans.  Now the GOP is pushing a bill that would loosen the rules for overtime, allowing corporations to overwork and underpay employees.

Famously, the Ryan budget, which was passed by the House, would drastically cut Medicaid, repeal Obamacare and turn Medicare into vouchers.

Although 94 percent of Americans want comprehensive background checks for anyone purchasing a firearm, Teapublican senators are threatening to filibuster any bill that would limit the sale of guns.

In states across the nation, the GOP is pushing a variety of voter suppression laws through state legislatures under the guise of preventing voter ID fraud, a problem that has been proven to be non-existent.   After gerrymandering districts to all but guarantee a Teapublican-controlled House far into the future, the GOP now senses a way to control presidential elections by changing the Electoral College.  The idea is to end the “winner-take-all” approach to electoral votes for states and, instead, award each electoral vote district-by-Teapublican-controlled-district.

If successful, this would almost certainly ensure an endless reign of GOP presidents.

In North Dakota, Arkansas and elsewhere, GOP legislatures are attempting to make abortion illegal. (Of course, the bills will not actually end abortion.  They’ll just drive it underground, making doctors and patients criminals.)  Under the guise of religious freedom, they also want to eliminate contraceptives from health insurance plans and block sex education in public schools.

In Arizona and numerous states of the Old South, a variety of so-called nullification bills have been introduced in the state legislatures.  If passed, these bills would ostensibly give the states power to ignore any federal law the GOP deems unconstitutional.  (Of course, this power is reserved for the Supreme Court and the bills are in direct defiance of the Constitution’s federal supremacy clause.)

Finally, a bill introduced by North Carolina Teapublicans will allow the GOP-controlled state legislature to name an official state religion in defiance of the Constitution’s establishment clause.

Does anyone else get the feeling that the GOP would be happier if our Constitution didn’t exist?

Putting The Party In Tea Party.

The Tea Party began as a group of individuals who claimed to be aghast at runaway government spending.  To fight back, they promoted a number of candidates who ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility.

That was 2010.

Just a few years later, those so-called fiscal hawks have decided that federal spending is a good thing…as long as it’s used for a good cause, such as paying large bonuses to their staff and friends.  According to the website, www.LegisStorm.com, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who was defeated in his attempt at a Senate seat, used taxpayers’ money to increase his staff’s salaries 98.3% in the final quarter.

Many outgoing Democrats also gave large bonuses to their staffs, but the records show that Republicans were even more generous with taxpayers’ money.  Among the most generous were Tea Party Representatives Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) and Allen West (R-Fla.), who ranked numbers 3 and 4 in giving pay increases to staff members.

In other words, these so-called deficit hawks are partying with our money as though it were 1999.

Moreover, if you think the Tea Party is any more serious about reducing the deficit than Democrats, compare the Paul Ryan budget, which was passed by the Teapublican-led House, to the People’s Budget proposed by the House Progressive caucus.

Both plans cut about the same amount from the federal budget.  But the Ryan plan does it on the backs of the poor and the middle class while cutting taxes for the rich and increasing the already bloated defense budget. On the other hand, the progressive plan cuts the defense budget, raises revenues by eliminating tax dodges for the rich, secures the future of Social Security and Medicare, and rebuilds our failing infrastructure.  And it does all this while reducing deficits by $5.6 trillion over the next decade according to the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute!

When you look past the Tea Party rhetoric and look carefully at its policies, you quickly discover that the teabaggers are more interested in self-interest, greed and ideology than principles, debt reduction and the future of our nation.

Are We Willing To Settle For This America?

There are those, particularly on the political right, who are satisfied with the way things are in the US. They truly believe that everything about the US is better than any other country in the world. And they believe it’s unpatriotic to criticize our faults.

But can we really settle for the way things are in the US?

Can we accept a nation where freedom and opportunity are still not shared equally? Are we willing to allow large, multinational corporations to buy elections, dictate government policy and send our jobs off-shore? Can we afford to watch our nation fall farther behind in education and technology?

Can we afford to allow our infrastructure to continue to crumble? Can we afford to have corporations devastate our environment in search of ever-larger profits? Are we content to allow military-style weapons to fall into the hands of the paranoid and the criminally insane? Can we watch more Aurora and Newtown-style massacres and do nothing?

Can we afford to be perpetually at war? Are we willing to accept that more of our soldiers now die from suicides than firefights? Can we settle for being the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t provide healthcare to all of its citizens?

Can we accept ever-higher education costs and ever-lower salaries for our youth? Are we willing to cut pensions and retirement plans for our elderly in order for large corporations to avoid taxes? Are we content to put drug users and petty thieves in prison and let the bankers who stole trillions continue to walk free?

Can we any longer listen to those who demand “a return to Christian values” then turn their backs on the starving, the wounded and the infirm?

At his inauguration, President Obama spoke passionately of his vision for America. An America at peace. An America with freedom and equality for everyone. An America based on a growing and prosperous middle class. An America that provides opportunity for everyone. An America that is, once again, a true leader in the world.

It’s time to for all Americans to follow our president’s vision and stop settling.

Looking Up To Cockroaches.

Yesterday, Congress reached a new milestone. A survey measuring its approval ratings found that Congress is now less popular than cockroaches, head lice and root canals!

The latter seems particularly appropriate for those of us living in northern Arizona as we are represented by a dentist who has a lot to do with our current problems. Teapublican representative Paul Gosar is a proud member of the House’s Tea Party caucus which is trying to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly and the poor.

Gosar voted in support of Paul Ryan’s austerity budget which, if implemented, would not only plummet our economy into a deep recession. It would take the first steps toward privatizing Social Security and Medicare. And it would cut funding for the most vulnerable while cutting taxes for the wealthy and large corporations. Gosar has also repeatedly voted against women’s rights, Obamacare, and investments in our infrastructure.

In addition, he is one of 67 GOP representatives who voted against extending flood insurance funds to those affected by Hurricane Sandy!

Given the approval rating of Congress, the question is which group will come to their senses first? Our representatives in Congress? Or voters?

GOP Keeps Getting Crazier.

Embittered by their presidential candidate losing the election to President Obama, Teapublicans are having a snit.

They refuse to believe that they lost because of their wacko ideas. Instead, they claim that Obama won only because he promised “to give stuff away” to voters. Adding to the insanity, polls show that 25 percent of Teapublicans now want their states to secede from the Union so they won’t have to be governed by President Obama. Another 19 percent of Teapublicans say that secession would be acceptable to them.

That’s 44 percent of these so-called “patriots” who claim no allegiance to the United States of America!

Another poll shows that 49 percent of Teapublicans believe the election was stolen by ACORN…an organization that no longer exists! (In case you need a refresher, ACORN was blamed for the results of the 2008 election. In 2009, a fraudulent video was played endlessly by Fox News Channel until enough elected officials decided to withdraw funding from the organization causing it to cease operations.)

Here’s my message to these nitwits: Keep blaming everyone else for your failures – the 47 percent, the mainstream media, ACORN, the new Black Panther, minorities, immigrants, women, retirees, imagined voter fraud, misguided GOP campaign strategists, etc., etc., etc.

Keep promoting mental outpatients, such as Michele Bachmann, for president. Keep pushing the ethically challenged, such as Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich. Keep praising intolerant religious zealots such as Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. And, by all means, keep prioritizing the goals of the wealthy and large multinational corporations over the needs of working people.

If you continue to do all of these things, your party will soon end up in the dustbin of history alongside the Whigs.

Believe me, America will be better for it.