By Tom Turnipseed
Military spending is causing huge deficits and wasting money needed for education, housing, healthcare, infrastructure, and developing clean, renewable energy. Some 14.9 million Americans are unemployed. 50.7 million Americans did not have health insurance and 43.6 million or 14.3% lived beneath the poverty level in 2009, according to the Census Bureau and the numbers are even higher now. Expenditures for our bloated war complex are about 55% of all discretionary spending. We have spent more than a trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 and much more in bribes to government officials, and tribal chiefs and payments to corrupt private contractors. According to the Democratic Leadership Council, US military spending accounted for 44% of all money spent globally on war, weapons and the military in 2009. Our military spending is as much as all of the next 15 countries combined. The number of people killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is anywhere from 100,000 to a million or more depending on who does the estimates. Statistics on the number of civilians and military personnel killed are often distorted by military propaganda.
Glorification of the mass terrorism of war by media, politicians, weapons makers and other violence peddling war profiteers is depressing. Killing people by war and willful violence is the most demented activity of our species. War is intrinsically evil. Peacemakers like Jesus, Mother Theresa, Gandhi and Martin Luther King are real heroes rather than the war complex hyped “warriors” who “fight for our freedom” by killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan so the US can control their governments and natural resources. Metaphors like the war on poverty seem inappropriate in describing anti-poverty programs, which are diminished by the diversion of resources to make war. Lyndon Johnson took on the pervasive poverty of the 1960 by promoting broad anti-poverty social programs like civil rights, education, Medicare and Medicaid as part of his Great Society.
Rather than advocate more social programs that provide jobs, Obama wants to tinker with middle class tax cuts and a roll back on tax breaks for the fat cats, but how much will trickle down to poor and unemployed people?. When a reporter asked Obama to discuss his views on the poverty agendas of LBJ and Dr. King, he answered, “I think the history of anti-poverty efforts is that the most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy. It’s more important than any program we could set up. It’s more important than any transfer payment we could have.” Economic growth and tax cuts that increase corporate profits will not eliminate poverty. Such praise of Reagan’s supply side economics isn’t new for Obama.
During the presidential campaign in 2008, Obama said, “I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.” Does Obama model his super smooth style after Reagan’s slick salesman act?
Reagan was a mediocre movie actor when he became the host of the General Electric Theater on NBC. General Electric launched his political career by sponsoring a national speaking tour for their handsome, look-um-in-the-eye, all-American guy, who promoted their conservative philosophy. He was the ideal political huckster for corporate America’s unbridled greed. Reagan put a nice face on the mean-spirited politics of fear and greed, blaming welfare mothers, social programs, government regulations and the “evil empire of the Soviet Union” as causes for America’s troubles. Scapegoating poor people and criticizing government programs enabled him to deliver a giant tax break for the rich, roll back health and safety regulations, and push through a gigantic military buildup for corporate defense contractors like General Electric. His racially charged attacks on affirmative action hurt racial minorities and women.
Obama’s smooth rhetoric can’t conceal his role in bailing out Wall Street, cutting deals with corporate interests to dilute the healthcare reform bill, and developing financial regulations in closed-door meetings with bankers.
Rather than praising Reagan, Obama should make Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt his role models and work to establish social programs which provide jobs for poor and working class people. LBJ can also teach Obama that endless wars won’t work. We should end tax cuts for the rich and transfer funds from war and Wall Street to social programs that put people to work and reduce poverty.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. Read his blog here: http://tomandjudyonablog.blogspot.com.