The “military-industrial complex” in power

24 August 2017

Fifty-six years ago, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a farewell address in which he warned about the threat to democracy in the United States posed by the growing convergence between military and corporate power.

The outgoing president cautioned against the expanding and “total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government” of the “military-industrial complex.”

Eisenhower, himself a five-star general and commander of allied expeditionary forces in the Second World War, had firsthand knowledge of the operations of the military. But even at the height of the Cold War, the influence of the military over political life paled in comparison to what exists today. With each passing month, the military consolidates more power over civilian authority, while democratic forms of rule are increasingly hollowed out and rendered meaningless.

This was exemplified by Trump’s speech Monday announcing an open-ended expansion of the US war in Afghanistan. The setting itself was significant. Trump spoke at Fort Meyer Army Base in Virginia to an audience of troops decked out in combat fatigues. He made clear that the military leadership, without any civilian oversight or the fig-leaf of Congressional authorization, would determine how many additional troops would be sent to fight in Afghanistan, and how long they would stay there.

Over the past week, the Army and Marine officials in Trump’s cabinet—retired Gen. John Kelly, retired Gen. James Mattis and active duty Gen. H.R. McMaster—have used the crisis surrounding Trump’s endorsement of the neo-fascist rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia to strengthen the grip of the military over the government.

But these developments, which in any genuinely democratic society would be treated with profound apprehension, have been welcomed by the “opposition” Democratic Party and its media mouthpieces.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post ran a lead article, “Military leaders consolidate power in Trump administration,” which noted that Trump’s elevation of a “cadre of current and retired generals” is “a striking departure for a country that for generations has positioned civilian leaders above and apart from the military.”

The Post, owned by billionaire Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and speaking for a substantial section of the US political establishment, presents the growing power of the military in the Trump administration as a positive development. It calls the generals “voices for moderation,” and presents them as “moral authorities” working to “guide” Trump away from “moves that they fear could have catastrophic consequences.”

It cites uncritically a member of a leading conservative think tank who declares, “The only chance we have of trying to keep this thing from blowing apart is some military discipline… It’s not military rule or a military coup.”

Along the same lines, Wednesday’s New York Times carried a column by Roger Cohen declaring that the generals are acting as the “adults in the room,” serving to “tether” Trump and “curtail his wilder instincts.” The military, Cohen writes, provides “something Trump will never have: a center of gravity.”

These pronouncements by the Post and the Times represent the consensus view of the ruling elite, and most particularly that of the Democratic Party, which has opposed Trump almost entirely on issues of foreign policy, criticizing his insufficient deference to the military and intelligence apparatus and his unwillingness to carry out a military escalation against Russia.

McMaster, Kelly and Mattis “are standouts of dependability in the face of rash and impulsive conduct” on the part of Trump, Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told the Post. “There certainly has been a feeling among many of my colleagues that they are a steadying hand on the rudder.”

Another example of the convergence between the press and the military/intelligence establishment is an op-ed published Wednesday by Thomas Friedman, the New York Times ’ chief foreign policy columnist. Friedman boasts of having “spent eight days traveling with the Air Force to all of its key forward bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates,” including a trip to a “strike cell” carrying out airstrikes in Iraq.

Friedman describes US air strikes in an urban area with undisguised enthusiasm. “Quickly, the smoke cleared and the 30-foot-wide building was smoldering rubble—but the two buildings to the sides were totally intact, so any civilians inside should be unhurt,” exults the Times columnist, without pondering the fate of any civilians who were in the building that was vaporized.

“This is the war in Iraq today in a nutshell,” he writes, suggesting that the American military as a true liberator focuses its energies on preventing civilian casualties. This criminal lie is, of course, contradicted by the reality of millions killed, wounded and uprooted by more than a quarter century of US wars in Iraq and surrounding countries in the oil-rich Middle East, including the recent leveling of Mosul. Unfortunately for Friedman and the Times, this panegyric to the moral purity of the American military appeared two days after a US air strike in Syria killed more than 40 civilians.

Friedman’s whitewashing of the homicidal activities of the US Air Force exemplifies the role of the press, led by the New York Times and Washington Post, as shameless cheerleaders for US military intervention, together with the major TV networks, which routinely present retired military officials as authorities on all questions of policy.

The prostitution of the press to the military is just one expression of the massive political influence of the US armed forces. The United States spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined, and military spending soaks up more than half of discretionary spending by the federal government. There are some two million active and reserve military personnel, and millions more employed either directly or indirectly by the intelligence agencies.

Local and state police across the country are being ever more tightly integrated with the military, in what Defense Department strategists call the “total army,” consisting of the military, police and intelligence forces. Police departments are being outfitted with military hardware and trained for urban warfare.

This “total army” has at its disposal the massive surveillance capabilities of the US intelligence apparatus, which can spy on nearly every phone call, text message or email all over the world.

The growth of the power of the military has been accompanied by its integration into the financial oligarchy, with hundreds of leading military figures receiving seven-figure incomes in the revolving door between the Pentagon, Wall Street and the defense industry.

The increasing power of the military over political life in the United States and its merging with the corporate/financial elite are the product of the protracted decay of American capitalism. A quarter century of unending war and decades of soaring social inequality have thoroughly eroded the social foundations of democratic forms of rule. Beyond the oligarchy itself, a privileged layer of the upper-middle class that forms the broader base of the Democratic Party has accrued significant wealth through the meteoric rise of stock prices, itself fueled by the destruction of working class living standards and imperialist aggression overseas.

America’s financial elite, increasingly unable to reconcile its domination of social life with democratic forms of government, feels that the ultimate backstop to its rule is military force. Despite the assurances of the Post, what is emerging is in fact direct rule by the military, allied with Wall Street and the CIA, with the civilian government functioning as a mere facade.

Andre Damon

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/24/pers-a24.html

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US squanders billions on new aircraft carrier

25 July 2017

In yet another massive squandering of public resources, the United States on Saturday commissioned the USS Gerald Ford, the country’s 11th supercarrier, at the cost of some $13 billion.

The combined price tag of the ship and its air wing of F-35c fighters, at $30 billion, is roughly equivalent to what the United Nations estimate for the annual cost of ending world hunger.

No doubt many defense contractor executives assembled to watch the ship’s christening had their private jets and country club memberships paid for with this monstrosity, which came in some $3 billion above budget. How many politicians got seven-figure jobs in the private sector after having pushed the project along? No one will ever know.

The Gerald Ford is just part of a major expansion of the US Navy, which was underway even before Trump announced his plans to increase US military spending by $54 billion each year and expand the size of the Navy by 75 ships. Over the next decade, the US military plans to field not only a new set of carriers, but a brand new class of ballistic missile submarines, destroyers, fighters, long-range bombers and nuclear missiles.

This expansion of military spending, under both Obama and Trump, has been met, on the part of the media, with either enthusiastic approval or silence.

By the time the carrier is operational in some three to four years, it will already be obsolete. When the United Kingdom commissioned its latest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal United Services Institute noted that the vast ship was largely defenseless against the current generation of anti-ship cruise missiles fielded by Russia, China and other countries.

“Missiles costing (much) less than half a million pounds a unit could at least disable a British aircraft carrier that costs more than £3 billion,” it said.

Commenting on the report, the Russian Defense Ministry joked that the British aircraft carrier was “merely a large convenient naval target.” The same epithet could be applied to the Gerald Ford. This steel bathtub, housing some 4,300 sailors, airmen and officers, could be sunk within minutes if it wandered within 400 miles of the coast of Kaliningrad, Syria or, for that matter, China.

And yet, America has eleven of these dinosaurs, together with eight helicopter carriers that are as big as the aircraft carriers of other countries. With 5 percent of the world’s population, the US fields three quarters of the world’s carrier tonnage.

At Saturday’s commissioning ceremony, US President Donald Trump delivered a blustering, delusional speech, full of wild threats, in which he presented a picture of the United States arming itself to the teeth. He called the ship a “message to the world” that “American might is second to none, and we’re getting bigger, and better, and stronger every day.”

“Our enemies will shake with fear because everyone will know that America is coming,” he declared. Who these enemies are (one assumes they are not Islamists armed with Kalashnikovs) was never specified.

Trump added, “This ship also ensures that if a fight does come, it will always end the same way: we will win, win, win. We will never lose. We will win.”

In a clear breach of the principle of civilian rule over the military, he appealed to the sailors and officers gathered at the event to demand that the government expand military spending.

Summing up, the former real estate speculator said, “When it comes to battle, we don’t want a fair fight. We want just the opposite. We demand victory, and we will have total victory.”

Trump’s speech, showing the influence of his fascist-minded advisors Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, did not invoke the word “democracy,” or even the principle of “self-defense,” within which the operations of US imperialism have traditionally been couched. All that was left was naked military force, threats and coercion.

While there exist significant differences between Trump and elements of the US military/intelligence apparatus, the US president, in his belief in violence as a solution to historical problems, exemplifies the thinking that pervades American policy circles, which seek to maintain US global dominance through the expansion of military power.

The USS Gerald Ford is the physical embodiment of the idea that the long-term historical decline of American capitalism can be offset by more guns, more ships, more wars and more deaths.

The “American Century” has been characterized by the overwhelming superiority of US air power. Despite the fact that the United States has been continuously at war since 1991, not a single US soldier has been attacked by enemy aircraft for over six decades.

And yet, as the US moves into increasingly sharp conflict with Russia, China and even its European allies, it is becoming increasingly clear that its most advanced weapons systems, including aircraft carriers and “stealth” aircraft such as the F-22, F-35 and B-2, would see substantial losses in the event of a shooting war with Russia, China or even some lesser, regional power such as Iran.

In recognition of this reality, Gen. Mark A. Milley noted that the US needs to prepare for conflicts in which “the levels of violence… would be immense and it would be the likes of what the world hasn’t seen since the Second World War.”

Despite the vast scale of US arms spending and the breathtaking scope of its military operations all over the world, it is increasingly undeniable that the period of US military, economic and geopolitical hegemony is coming to an end.

This was the conclusion of a study published by the US Army War College late last month, which asserts that American political hegemony is “not merely fraying,” but “collapsing.”

The report goes on to state that the order that “first emerged from World War II” was “transformed to a unipolar system with the collapse of the Soviet Union.” It continues: “The 17-year period after the Cold War… was a unique time when American power was essentially unchallenged,” but “we have been moving into a new era.”

With the rise of “revisionist” powers like China and Russia, the United States has been so weakened that “it no longer can—as in the past—automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range.”

This is in line with an assessment by historian Alfred W. McCoy, who declares in a soon-to-be released book: “All available economic, educational, technological data indicate that when it comes to US global power, negative trends are likely to aggregate rapidly by 2020, and could reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, may already be tattered and fading by 2025, and, except for the finger pointing, could be over by 2030.”

But the relative decline of the United States is, in some ways, the least of the US military’s worries. The Army War College report notes that, beyond the collapse of the US-dominated world order, “[A]ll states and traditional political authority structures are under increasing pressure.” It adds, “The fracturing of the post-Cold War global system is accompanied by the internal fraying in the political, social and economic fabric of practically all states.”

It cites an earlier report that warned of the “increasing chasm between governments and their governed over the basic right to rule.” It adds, “Today, all states are experiencing a precipitous decline in their authority, influence, reach and common attraction,” as populations are presented with “myriad alternative sources of political alignment or allegiance.”

It concludes that states “now all wrestle with one another over competing interests while standing on quicksand—threatened” not only by national rivals, but “the fragile and restive social order they themselves rest on.” In this case, the quicksand is a metaphor for the growth of popular opposition to war, social inequality and capitalism itself.

Confronting crisis at home and abroad, the US is lashing out everywhere simultaneously: against Russia, China, Iran, and now even its NATO allies. The same weekend that Trump commissioned his aircraft carrier, the House of Representatives reached a deal on a bill that would sanction European companies for economic dealings with Russia, a move that, according to a leaked EU memo, would bring retaliatory measures by the EU “within days.”

All of this presents a warning to the working class: The US ruling elite, faced with economic stagnation, geopolitical decline and a crisis of legitimacy at home, sees war, no matter how bloody and disastrous, as the solution to its problems. Nothing can prevent the eruption of another great world military conflagration, this time instigated by the United States, outside of the building of a new internationalist and socialist movement against war.

Andre Damon

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/07/25/pers-j25.html

Democrats agree to increase military and border spending while cutting food stamps

By Barry Grey
2 May 2017

Republican and Democratic congressional leaders announced an agreement late Sunday on a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year, which ends September 30. The measure is expected to be passed later this week by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, averting the threat of a government shutdown at midnight Friday.

Despite Republican control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Trump and the Republicans are dependent on the Democrats to supply the margin needed to pass the measure, particularly in the narrowly divided Senate, where it would take eight Democratic votes to end debate and bring the measure to the floor for a final ballot.

This underscores the reactionary role of the Democrats in backing a bill that grants Trump’s demands for a significant increase in military spending as well as funds to further militarize the US-Mexico border, while slashing the food stamp program and the Department of Education.

Last week the Democrats made a show of opposition to Trump by refusing to include in the bill $1 billion to go toward the construction of his border wall, while making it clear they supported additional funds to strengthen existing border barriers and increase surveillance, including by means of drones. The administration withdrew its demand for funds earmarked for the border wall in return for an agreement from the Democrats to support $1.52 billion in additional border funding as well as $15 billion more in military spending.

A bipartisan stop-gap measure was passed on Friday to extend funding of the government for one week so as to provide sufficient time to work out the details of the final 2017 budget agreement. Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate appropriations committees negotiated throughout the weekend and announced a deal late Sunday.

To secure passage, Trump dropped his demand for money earmarked for the border wall as well as $18 billion in non-defense domestic cuts. These include a wish list of reactionary measures such as cuts to so-called “sanctuary cities” (cities that refuse to allow their police to function as de facto immigration police), massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and defunding of Planned Parenthood. Trump also dropped his demand for funds to establish a new deportation force.

He agreed to include $295 million to prevent the Medicaid program in Puerto Rico from going bankrupt. Republican as well as Democratic leaders agreed to allocate $4.6 billion to permanently extend health benefits to 22,000 retired Appalachian coal miners and their families, who faced the immediate termination of their benefits. The deal also includes an additional $2 billion in disaster money for states.

However, the Democrats accepted a 1 percent cut to the EPA, reducing the agency’s budget by $80 million. They also agreed to cut the Education Department by $1.2 billion.

Most cruel of all is a cut of $2.4 billion to the food stamp program, which was already heavily cut during the Obama administration. The justification given for slashing the program, relied upon by more than 45 million Americans, one in seven, was “declining enrollment.”

Other reactionary provisions include an extension through 2019 of a private school voucher program in Washington, D.C.’s school system and a continued ban on federal funding for abortions as part of the federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

Republicans hailed the agreement as a down payment on Trump’s demands, incorporated into his proposal for fiscal year 2018, which begins October 1, for a massive $54 billion increase in the Pentagon budget to be paid for with brutal cuts in domestic social programs.

Vice President Mike Pence praised the deal in an interview Monday on “CBS This Morning,” saying, “It will avert a government shutdown, but more important than that, it’s going to be a significant increase in military spending.”

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said the bill “acts on President Trump’s commitment to rebuild our military for the 21st century and bolster our nation’s border security to protect our homeland.”

Democratic leaders presented the deal as a victory over the Trump administration. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi congratulated the Democrats for eliminating “more than 160 Republican poison pill riders” and temporarily blocking funding for Trump’s “immoral and unwise border wall.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer issued a statement Sunday night declaring the budget deal to be “a good agreement for the American people” and touting the fact that it excludes funding for an “ineffective” border wall.

“Early on in this debate,” he added, “Democrats clearly laid out our principles. At the end of the day, this is an agreement that reflects those principles.”

And so it does. These principles support a $137 million increase for Customs and Border Enforcement, bringing funding for the Gestapo-like border police to $11.4 billion. It includes money for 100 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and 5,000 more detention beds. It also pays for 10 more federal immigration judges to speed up the deportation of undocumented workers.

The Democrats’ principles also sanction eight-figure funding increases for the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

For the US war machine, the Democrats have sanctioned an immediate increase of $12.5 billion, to be followed by an additional $2.5 billion once the administration presents to Congress its plan to fight ISIS.

Included in the bill’s allocations for military hardware are:

* $21.2 billion to procure 13 Navy ships

* $8.2 billion for 74 F-35 aircraft

* $1.1 billion for 14 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft

* $1.2 billion doe 62 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters

* $702 million for 145 Patriot MSE missiles

* $1.8 billion for 11 P-8A Poseidon aircraft

* $2.6 billion for 15 KC-46 air tankers

* $1.3 billion for 17 C/HC/KC/MC-130J aircraft

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/02/fund-m02.html

The Pentagon has never been audited. That’s astonishing

The president proposes a $52bn increase in military spending while reports of waste and abuse pile up. An investigation must scrutinise spending

A portion of President Donald Trump's first proposed budget, focusing on the Department of Defense
The gap between lawmakers’ calls to blindly increase spending at DoD versus those of internal auditors to curtail its waste isn’t a new problem.’ President Trump’s budget proposals focusing on the Department of Defense. Photograph: Jon Elswick/APMonday 20 March 2017 Last modified on Monday 20 March 2017
On Thursday, Donald Trump released a preliminary budget proposal that calls for a $52bn increase in military spending. But just last December, a Washington Post investigation found that the Pentagon had buried a report that outlines $125bn in waste at the Department of Defense. That gap between lawmakers’ calls to blindly increase spending at DoD versus those of internal auditors to curtail its waste isn’t a new problem, and it’s one that, without pressure, won’t be resolved any time soon.

That’s because although it’s required to by law, the DoD has never had an audit, something every American person, every company and every other government agency is subject to. The result is an astounding $10tn in taxpayer money that has gone unaccounted for since 1996.

“Over the last 20 years, the Pentagon has broken every promise to Congress about when an audit would be completed,” the director of the Audit the Pentagon coalition, Rafael DeGennaro, told the Guardian. “Meanwhile, Congress has more than doubled the Pentagon’s budget.”

Legislation in the early 1990s demanded that all government agencies had annual audits, but the Pentagon has exempted itself without consequence for 20 years now, telling the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that collecting and organizing the required information for a full audit is too costly and time-consuming.

In the meantime, the GAO and Office of the Inspector General (IG) have published an endless stream of reports documenting financial mismanagement: $500m in aid to Yemen lost here, $5.8bn in supplies lost there, $8,000 spent on helicopter gears that really cost $500.

As reports and news articles about waste and abuse at the Pentagon pile up, prominent voices from across the political spectrum – from Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz to Grover Norquist – are expressing support for a full audit of DoD. In a 2013 video message to the whole of the defense department, then secretary of defense Chuck Hagel told employees that the department’s non-compliance was “unacceptable”. During this past election cycle, both the Democratic and Republican platforms called for the Pentagon’s audit.

But despite broad support, the issue has remained stagnant in Washington. “I really can’t figure it out,” Democratic party representative for California Barbara Lee told the Guardian. When legislators get around to tackling waste, they “go after domestic agencies and community organizations, but they never go after the Pentagon,” she said. Since 2013, she has introduced bipartisan legislation that would financially penalize DoD for not receiving a clean audit.

“Quite frankly, they should have been audit-ready decades ago, after Congress passed the initial audit law in the early 90s,” Republican representative for Texas Michael Burgess, co-sponsor of the Audit the Pentagon Act along with Lee, told the Guardian. People have “accepted that the Department of Defense is expensive and that that’s how business has to be done. But I don’t accept that.”

Others say the problem goes beyond bureaucracy. William Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, and he says private contractors have found a way to make use of the Pentagon’s struggle to get its books in order. Contractors, he says, will “periodically intervene to try to stop practices that would make them more accountable”.

Specifically, the defense industry has sought to weaken the office of the director, operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) at the Department of Defense, which evaluates weapons systems before they’re manufactured on a larger scale. “It’s one of the few places that’s revealed a lot of problems,” says Hartung. The DOT&E, for example, has uncovered flaws in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet program among a slew of other contracts. “The concept is: benefit from a dysfunctional system because they can charge however much they want and there’s not a lot of quality control,” says Hartung.

Another issue is the proximity between DoD and the private sector, something that appears to touch even the department’s inspector general’s office. In 2014, the Pentagon celebrated the Marine Corps’s success at being the first military agency to pass an audit. But a year later it was found that the private accounting firm hired to carry out the audit, Grant Thornton, had not been thorough. The Marine Corps had desperately wanted to achieve a “clean” status, due to pressure from then defense secretary Leon Panetta to get its books in order.

In a scathing response to the debacle, Republican senator for Iowa Chuck Grassley said that the actions of the DoD IG showed a “lack of independence and flagrant disregard for audit ethics”, calling the deputy IG for auditing “a Grant Thornton lapdog”.

Washington’s revolving door also touches the agency, with a number of high-profile individuals moving to the private sector after leaving their jobs, something that is perfectly within the law and government regulations.

In the end, Hartung says that the military’s stature and almost holy status make focusing on accountability difficult. If lobbying doesn’t work, he says, they can always “wrap themselves in the flag and say this is necessary for defense. But if people don’t poke into the details,” they won’t “find out that, in fact, not every penny being spent is sacrosanct”.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/20/pentagon-never-audited-astonishing-military-spending?CMP=fb_us

12 Glaring Omissions, Contradictions and Lies Bernie Sanders Spotted in Trump’s Address

NEWS & POLITICS
The Vermont senator slammed the president’s speech in a video response.

Former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear issued a formal Democratic response to Trump’s address to Congress Tuesday. But the most blistering reply may belong to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who took to Facebook shortly thereafter. “I wanted to say a few words about what [Trump] didn’t say, because when you analyze the speech sometimes what is more important is what somebody does not say as opposed to what they actually say,” he began.

Below are 12 glaring omissions, contradictions and lies Sanders spotted in Trump’s address.

1. Social Security and Medicare

“At a time when over half of all older Americans have no retirement savings, I did not hear President Trump say one word, not one word about Social Security or Medicare,” Sanders pointed out.

“During the campaign, as we all remember, President Trump promised over and over and over again that he would not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. But in his first address [to Congress], he didn’t even mention Social Security or Medicare once, not a single time.”

While Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted the programs would not be touched in an interview this past weekend, President Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, has defended such cuts.

“I urge President Trump, keep your promises, tell the American people, tweet to the American people that you will not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Sanders said.

2. Income and Wealth Inequality

Trump’s speech to Congress briefly touched on poverty in America. However, Sanders “did not hear President Trump mention the words ‘income and wealth inequality’ or the fact that we now have the widest gap between the very rich and everyone else since the 1920’s.”

3. Campaign Finance

“I did not hear President Trump mention the fact that as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, a five-to-four decision, we now have a corrupt campaign finance system that is allowing billionaires to buy elections and undermine American democracy,” Sanders said.

To the first-time politician who has repeatedly boasted about funding his own campaign, Sanders asked, “How could you give a speech to the nation and not talk about that enormously important issue?”

4. Voter Suppression

In his speech, President Trump used the phrase “guided by the well-being of American citizens.”

“[But] not only did President Trump not mention the issue of voter suppression, what Republican governors are doing all over this country to make it harder for people to participate in our democracy, but the truth of the matter is his administration is now working, working overtime, with Republican governors to make it harder for young people, low-income people, senior citizens and people of color to vote,” Sanders explained. “That is an outrage.”

5. Climate Change

Perhaps most astoundingly, at a time when the scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activity, that it is already causing devastating problems in our country and all over the world, I did not hear President Trump say one word, not one word, about the need to combat climate change, the greatest environmental threat facing our planet,” Sanders hammered.

Not only did Trump not mention climate change, “he pledged to increase our dependency on fossil fuels,” Sanders added.

6. Criminal Justice

“At a time when we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, disproportionately African American, Latino, Native American, I did not hear President Trump say one word about how he was going to fix a broken criminal justice system,” Sanders pointed out.

“Yes, we must support the hard work of men and women in the police departments, in the sheriff’s departments all over this country, but we must also end the disgrace of having more people in jail than any other country on earth,” he added.

7. Higher Education

“At a time when we need the best-educated workforce in the world to compete in a highly competitive global economy, I did not hear President Trump say one word, not one word, about the need to lower the cost of college and to do what countries all over the world are doing, and that is to make public colleges and universities tuition-free,” Sanders said.

8. ‘Drain the Swamp’

“During his campaign, President Trump told us that he was going to take on Wall Street and ‘drain the swamp,'” Sanders reminded viewers. “Well, the swamp, big-time, is now in his administration, which has more millionaires and billionaires than any presidential administration in history.”

“Amazingly enough, for somebody who was going to ‘drain the swamp,’ who’s going to take on Wall Street, his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is the former president of Goldman Sachs, one of the major financial institutions that pay billions of dollars in fines for their illegal activity,” Sanders added.

9. Glass-Steagall Act

“I did not hear President Trump say one word about another campaign promise that he made to the American people, and that was to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act.”

In his speech, President Trump proposed a $1 trillion investment in American infrastructure, “but the specifics of the financing plan that he has provided us with so far are absolutely wrong,” Sanders concluded. “We cannot rebuild our infrastructure by providing billions of dollars in tax breaks to Wall Street and large corporations.”

10. Clean Water Rules

“Donald Trump said tonight that we need to ‘promote clean air and clean water.’… I had a difficult time not laughing out loud when he said that,” Sanders admitted, since, “On this very, very day, he signed an executive order rolling back President Obama’s clean water rules and has appointed the most anti-environmental EPA administrator in our nation’s history.”

11. Military Spending

“President Trump said [Tuesday night] that he wants to substantially increase funding for the Pentagon,” Sanders recalled. “What he didn’t say tonight is that he will come up with that $84 billion in increased funding for the Pentagon by slashing programs that benefit the working people of this country, that benefit the elderly, that benefit the children, the sick and the poor.”

12. Prescription Drug Costs

“As he did during his campaign, Donald Trump claimed that he would bring down the cost of prescription drugs,” Sanders told viewers. “A few weeks ago, he even said that the pharmaceutical industry was ‘getting away with murder,’ but if Donald Trump really wanted to take on the pharmaceutical industry, he would have told his Republican friends in the House and the Senate to pass legislation, which I [re]introduced today with 20 senators allowing Americans to import safe low-cost medicine from Canada.”

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/12-glaring-omissions-contradictions-and-lies-bernie-sanders-spotted-trumps-address?akid=15250.265072.TIYkRl&rd=1&src=newsletter1073104&t=2

Bernie Sanders: Democrats Need to Wake Up

CreditAdam McCauley

Surprise, surprise. Workers in Britain, many of whom have seen a decline in their standard of living while the very rich in their country have become much richer, have turned their backs on the European Union and a globalized economy that is failing them and their children.

And it’s not just the British who are suffering. That increasingly globalized economy, established and maintained by the world’s economic elite, is failing people everywhere. Incredibly, the wealthiest 62 people on this planet own as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population — around 3.6 billion people. The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the whole of the bottom 99 percent. The very, very rich enjoy unimaginable luxury while billions of people endure abject poverty, unemployment, and inadequate health care, education, housing and drinking water.

Could this rejection of the current form of the global economy happen in the United States? You bet it could.

During my campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, I’ve visited 46 states. What I saw and heard on too many occasions were painful realities that the political and media establishment fail even to recognize.

In the last 15 years, nearly 60,000 factories in this country have closed, and more than 4.8 million well-paid manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Much of this is related to disastrous trade agreements that encourage corporations to move to low-wage countries.

Despite major increases in productivity, the median male worker in America today is making $726 dollars less than he did in 1973, while the median female worker is making $1,154 less than she did in 2007, after adjusting for inflation.

Nearly 47 million Americans live in poverty. An estimated 28 million have no health insurance, while many others are underinsured. Millions of people are struggling with outrageous levels of student debt. For perhaps the first time in modern history, our younger generation will probably have a lower standard of living than their parents. Frighteningly, millions of poorly educated Americans will have a shorter life span than the previous generation as they succumb to despair, drugs and alcohol.

Meanwhile, in our country the top one-tenth of 1 percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Fifty-eight percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. Wall Street and billionaires, through their “super PACs,” are able to buy elections.

On my campaign, I’ve talked to workers unable to make it on $8 or $9 an hour; retirees struggling to purchase the medicine they need on $9,000 a year of Social Security; young people unable to afford college. I also visited the American citizens of Puerto Rico, where some 58 percent of the children live in poverty and only a little more than 40 percent of the adult population has a job or is seeking one.

Let’s be clear. The global economy is not working for the majority of people in our country and the world. This is an economic model developed by the economic elite to benefit the economic elite. We need real change.

But we do not need change based on the demagogy, bigotry and anti-immigrant sentiment that punctuated so much of the Leave campaign’s rhetoric — and is central to Donald J. Trump’s message.

We need a president who will vigorously support international cooperation that brings the people of the world closer together, reduces hypernationalism and decreases the possibility of war. We also need a president who respects the democratic rights of the people, and who will fight for an economy that protects the interests of working people, not just Wall Street, the drug companies and other powerful special interests.

We need to fundamentally reject our “free trade” policies and move to fair trade. Americans should not have to compete against workers in low-wage countries who earn pennies an hour. We must defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We must help poor countries develop sustainable economic models.

We need to end the international scandal in which large corporations and the wealthy avoid paying trillions of dollars in taxes to their national governments.

We need to create tens of millions of jobs worldwide by combating global climate change and by transforming the world’s energy system away from fossil fuels.

We need international efforts to cut military spending around the globe and address the causes of war: poverty, hatred, hopelessness and ignorance.

The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States. Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class.

In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind. We must create national and global economies that work for all, not just a handful of billionaires.

Obama reaches right-wing budget, debt deal with Republicans

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By Patrick Martin
28 October 2015

The White House and Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress announced late Monday a deal setting budget figures through the end of the Obama administration. The complex, 144-page agreement contains dozens of significant changes in social and fiscal policy, but its major purpose is simple: to remove any possibility of budget and financial shocks that might disrupt global financial markets and threaten the interests of Wall Street.

The most important provision from that standpoint is to suspend the borrowing limit for the Treasury until March 2017, two months after President Obama’s successor is sworn into office. Treasury officials had warned that they would reach the current debt ceiling of $18.1 trillion November 3, threatening federal payments to subcontractors, federal workers’ salaries, and benefit checks issued under programs like Social Security. Most importantly, a halt to federal borrowing would disrupt the operation of the financial markets, where trading in US government debt is a major activity, and the rates paid for Treasury bills are a benchmark for all financial transactions.

The Obama White House has refused to make concessions in return for previous debt ceiling increases, given that such actions have long been formalities and don’t authorize new spending, only borrowing to pay obligations already incurred. Congressional Republicans, with right-wing groupings in the House of Representatives leading the way, were using the threat of a debt default to demand changes in social policy, ranging from cutoff of funds for Planned Parenthood to repeal of Obamacare.

Folding the debt ceiling increase into a larger deal on military and domestic spending was a maneuver to avoid default, while also creating the political conditions for enacting a series of budgetary and policy measures, largely of a right-wing character. The deal remains precarious, since it faces substantial opposition in the House, where it would pass with only a few dozen Republicans joining a unanimous Democratic caucus. Congress must also enact legislation to authorize spending at the levels set in the deal, with a deadline of December 11, when a continuing resolution on federal funding expires.

The deal increases spending levels above those set in a 2011 budget-cutting measure known as the sequester, adding $50 billion for the current fiscal year, which began October 1, and $30 billion for Fiscal Year 2017, which concludes on September 30, 2017, eight months after Obama leaves office.

While the White House claimed it had won equal increases in military and domestic spending, $40 billion apiece over two years, there is an additional $32 billion in spending for “Overseas Contingency Operations,” as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are called, bringing the overall increase in military spending to $72 billion, 65 percent of the total.

The $40 billion in new domestic spending amounts to only a small fraction of the cuts imposed under a series of bipartisan deals since 2011. Some of this “new” money only offsets impending cuts, such as the projected 59 percent rise in Medicare Part B premiums due to be imposed on 9 million recipients, and a 20 percent cut in Social Security disability benefits, scheduled to take effect at the end of 2016, now canceled.

These short-term fixes come at the price of long-term policy changes that will dramatically affect these basic social safety-net programs. New eligibility procedures will be phased in for disability benefits, which Republicans boasted would save $168 billion long-term—money to be gouged out of the incomes of those who are too sick or injured to continue working. Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and other health care providers will be cut by another 2 percent across-the-board, increasing the likelihood that providers will refuse to accept Medicare patients, thus shrinking the availability of critical services.

The deal also provides for a rollback of a significant provision in Obamacare, the requirement that employers with more than 200 workers automatically enroll them in health insurance. This provision has not yet been enforced, and it will now be eliminated. Workers will have to take action themselves to enroll, rather than being enrolled, unless they take action to opt out. Business groups have been pressing for such a change for years.

It is politically revealing that both the White House and congressional Democrats hailed the deal, while most House Republicans denounced it. The White House looked at a deal raising military spending,

, and assuring the steady operation of the debt markets for financial speculation, and declared that it “reflects our values.” Indeed it does.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement declaring, “The bipartisan budget package unveiled last night represents real progress for hard-working families across the country. I look forward to working toward House passage of this proposal this week. Next, we must move forward to complete the appropriations for FY2016 and keep government open.”

The real priority of House Democrats, however, was revealed in another action taken by the House on Monday. In an unusual parliamentary move, the Democratic minority, joined by more than 40 Republicans, revived legislation to keep open the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency used almost entirely by a few large exporters, most notably Boeing, to assist its overseas transactions. The bank is opposed by most right-wing Republicans as an interference with the “free market,” but backed by those that have businesses in their districts that make use of the bank’s lending facilities.

House Republicans, for the most part, balked both at specific provisions stepping up enforcement of tax collection from hedge funds as well as some government fees, and at the overall structure of the agreement. Only a faction of House Republicans with the closest ties to the Pentagon gave half-hearted backing to the agreement. One of this group, Representative Michael Turner of Ohio, said, “There is tremendous value in a two-year deal, as it provides the Department of Defense with the certainty it needs to plan for and execute various missions around the world.”

Senate Republicans are expected to approve the deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hailed the cuts in Social Security disability payments as “the first significant reform to Social Security since 1983.” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the defense number is still $5 billion less than he had sought, “But I’m largely satisfied. I think it’s the best deal we can probably get. It’s bipartisan, and it prevents a government shutdown.”

While the deal is being characterized in the corporate-controlled media as a compromise between the White House and congressional Republicans, Obama has previously supported many of the right-wing measures incorporated into it, including cuts in both Social Security and Medicare. One former White House aide, Jared Bernstein, told the New York Times, “There’s a lot in here the White House likes and not much they don’t.” He added, “Most importantly, if the deal prevails, they won’t have to deal with budget nonsense for the rest of the term, which has got to look pretty sweet.”

The Obama administration is clearing the decks, not only removing obstacles to the functioning of the financial markets, but removing potential distractions as Obama focuses his final year in office on the escalation of military provocations in the Middle East, against China, and throughout the world.

 

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/10/28/budg-o28.html