Friday, March 20, 2015

(#168-1) March 20 2015. The U.S. has been at war—hot or cold—since WW II—with costs to match. That is too long—and it is showing.






The more I look at the U.S. economy the more bizarre the picture appears. The richest country in the world seems bent on self-destruction—yet there is no mass movement to do anything about the situation. In fact, it is not even being seriously discussed by the mainstream media—and certainly not by politicians.

The following two extracts come from the Fiscal Times— It’s a useful publication, but certainly can’t be considered mainstream.

A paradox of the U.S. media situation is that the information is normally available—but you have to go and look. Though The New York Times and The Atlantic Monthly will take you a long way, you can’t just read a couple of publications and feely adequately informed. I go through about a dozen publications, in all, every day—with a heavy orientation towards the economy, defense, and technology.

What I know about sports could be filed in a thimble—and there would be space left over.

Is it time well spent? I find it hard to know. I certainly question it (you have to question anything in your comfort zone) but it seems to be the way I need to work, and work best.

I’m innately intellectually curious—and that curiosity is an imperative that demands satisfaction. Primarily, I’m looking for answers. I normally find them. Some problems are intractable—but most are not. They continue because some vested interest or other has a stake in the status quo. Greed and short-sightedness have a great deal to answer for.

I understand greed. It is very human. I have issues with short-sightedness. It normally stems from a lack of intellectual effort—or from stupidity. There are few more dangerous people around than the stupid.

I’m increasingly beginning to think that a core problem with militarization—especially if it encompasses large numbers of foreign bases (such as are possessed by the U.S.)—is that, apart from being crushingly expensive,  it is provocative in itself and results in a  series of arms races which, almost invariably, end up in war (or close). Our total National Security expenditure—if you include such directly related items as the Veterans Administration, Intelligence, much of Homeland Security and so on (which you should) tops $1 trillion.

Apart from its own military expenditure, the U.S. is the largest supplier of arms in the world. From a purely trade point of view, this is good—particularly because America consistently fails to balance its trade.

From the point of view of world peace—or even global stability—flooding the world with increasingly sophisticated weaponry is a dubious practice. It is also worth noting that:

  • Again and again, we sell weapons to unpleasant regimes (most of South America in the past) which are the antithesis of democratic. Saudi Arabia is the epitome of such a regime right now. Saudi is not only a dictatorship but fundamentalist elements in it actively support various extreme Islamist movements including Al Qaeda. Egypt is another example. There are arguments in favor of selling to both—but the bottom line is that we are supporting rotten regimes. Is that really in our National Interest?
  • Our own weapons have a tendency to be used against us. This happened in Vietnam and it is happening again in Iraq. Where military knowhow and expertise alone is concerned, the Chinese seem to have been the main beneficiaries. Not only have we been astonishingly careless with both nuclear and missile technology, but more than a few U.S. corporations have traded fundamental  security information for short-term profits. The fact that a whole range of recently introduced advanced Chinese weaponry look disconcertingly like ours is not a coincidence. The underlying point is that our overly-militarized economy and approach to world affairs has a tendency to be part of the problem as well as part of the solution.

As for our wars, we seem to have a disconcerting habit of either losing them or dragging them out near indefinitely. Such messy and unsatisfactory outcomes help to keep the defense oriented money flow going. In short, it serves certain interests for us not to win our wars. You can make a good case that our primary enemies are within.

I dismissed this for a long while because I’m not remotely paranoid. Nonetheless, this pattern of military failure over so many decades—despite our military dominance—is so consistent it made me wonder.

Could a group of senior level influence makers really gain from perpetual war—or the fear of it?

The answer is clearly in the affirmative—and they are hiding in plain sight. What is more, their pattern is consistent—so we lurch inexorably from one threat to another.

There is always a bogeyman.

We should think about this situation a great deal more than we do. It is one thing to want a strong U.S. It is another matter when our excessive expenditure is de-stabilizing and weakens us.

I think we have reached that point.

Could we be better defended for substantially less money? I have no doubt at all but that we could.

As matters stand, the MICC (Military Industrial Congressional Complex) is far more oriented on the total amount of the money flow than the effectiveness of our defense.

Is that a damning indictment of the MICC?

Absolutely—and I make no apologies for it..

With $8.5 Trillion Unaccounted for, Why Should Congress Increase the Defense Budget?



The Fiscal Times

March 19, 2015

The U.S. military is good at fighting wars, but it sucks at managing money. Partly because of its convoluted bookkeeping systems, $8.5 trillion—yes, trillion—taxpayer dollars doled out by Congress since 1996 has never been accounted for.

That was also the first year that Congress passed a law requiring the Defense Department to be audited, which it has failed to do. In 2009, Congress passed another law requiring the DOD to be audit-ready by 2017.  After spending—no wasting—billions on failed accounting software, the department is likely to miss that deadline, too.

Related: How the Pentagon Cooks the Books to Hide Massive Waste

So how does the military handle their books for the U.S. Treasury department?  They cheat.

A scathing investigative report by Reuters in November 2013 described how an accountant at DOD in Cleveland would face the same monthly problem: Missing numbers, wrong numbers -- numbers with no explanation of where they came from or what they were for. To rectify the problem, the accountant was instructed to “plug” in false numbers in the DOD’s books.

How can an agency known for superior strategic planning on the battlefield be so incompetent on the home front? Is it arrogance? Sloppiness? Or simply a misplaced disregard for what their lack of discipline is costing the country. 


The Middle Class Is Struggling in All 50 States

  • by Rob Garver
  • March 19, 2015
  • 2 min read
  • original

If the first decade and a half is any guide, the 21st century will not be known as the era of the middle class in the U.S.

The middle class shrunk in all 50 states between 2000 and 2013, and median income, adjusted for inflation, was lower at the end of 2013 in the vast majority of states than it was in 2000, according to a new study by the Pew Charitable Trust’s Stateline. The analysis, conducted by Stateline’s Tim Henderson, defines “middle class” as individuals earning between 67 percent and 200 percent of the state’s median income.

Related: Why Middle Class Tax Relief Is Taking Center Stage

The study analyzed self-reported data from the Census Bureau through the American Community Survey that samples a percentage of the population including illegal immigrants as well as other data.

“In most states, the growing percentage of households paying 30 percent (the federal standard for housing affordability) or more of their income on housing illustrates that it is increasingly difficult for many American families to make ends meet,” wrote Henderson.

The findings could have some interesting implications for the 2016 presidential race, since the plight of the middle class in states currently governed by some presidential hopefuls is particularly grim.

Wisconsin was the single worst performer, with the percentage of residents in the middle class falling 5.7 percentage points, from 54.6 percent to 48.9 percent over the period studied. Inflation-adjusted median income in the Badger State plunged from $60,344 in 2000 to $51,467 in 2013.

This isn’t good news for Gov. Scott Walker, currently considered a frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2016. Walker was only in office for the final three years studied, of course, so it would be unfair to blame him for a slide that’s more than a decade old. But nobody said politics was fair.

VOR words 516.

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