15 November 2015

Freedom, Security and the Budget: A Few Reflections on the Democratic Debate

There's much that could be said about Saturday night's Democratic Presidential debate, but I don't have time to pursue it.

Nevertheless I was struck by two things Sanders said. At one point he was talking about reforming the VA and meeting veterans. He mentioned they defended his freedom. Earlier he said the Iraq War was a total disaster, a mistake and that the rise of ISIS is directly related to it.

Thus I must ask:

If the Iraq Invasion destabilised the whole of the Middle East and generated the chaos that resulted in ISIS and consequently has made the US population and its interests less safe...

Then how is it that 'the troops' have 'defended our freedom'?

Haven't they been the willing or unwilling agents of insecurity, instability and in fact hasn't the fallout from the rise of ISIS, (directly resulting from the actions of the troops) made Americans and now certainly the French less safe and less free?

I'm afraid Sanders comes across as a bit insincere on this point. I realize to not defend the troops is political suicide. But if he's trying to run as a revolutionary, then he must at all costs maintain his integrity.


There was a brief mention of the US military budget and Sanders talked about nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons are not included in the Pentagon budget. They fall under the Department of Energy. The Pentagon budget does not include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the intelligence budget which funds agencies like the CIA and NSA. Nor does it include State Department arms deals and foreign soil counter-terrorism measures. Other quasi-military agencies like the NRO (Spy Satellites) receive mixed funding in part from the Defense budget and partly from the Intel budget.

The real 'Defense' budget or what should really be called the National Security or Military budget is really upwards of a trillion dollars per year. Basically one out of every three dollars spent goes to this multi-headed hydra. It is the backbone of the US economy and the US system.

You will sometimes see charts that suggest the US spends more on the military than the next dozen or so countries combined. A 2009 report suggests of all the military spending in the world, 40% comes from the United States.

That's if you go with the official Defense Budget. If you account for the totality of the American Military machine, then the US easily spends more than the rest of the world combined.

This is unprecedented. As I've said before the only nations I can think of that were this militaristic in terms of society and its resources being marshaled for war are peoples like the Assyrians or maybe the Mongols. America is quite literally a death machine. They can talk all they want about the barbarism of ISIS. The US has killed far more than any terrorist group. Bush and Obama have killed far more than bin-Laden or al-Baghdadi.

The US takes its place alongside the great murderous regimes of history, surpassed by some to be sure, but there are far more below it on the list than above it.

Sanders is talking about taking on the insurance industry and breaking up monopolistic banks. Good for him. This is a vast gulf between what he's suggesting and the Establishment policies of Clinton and the somewhat lame 'real Capitalism' comments by O'Malley.

Yet, Sanders is not challenging the military machine, the heart of the system. It exists to serve the insurance industry, the banks and the whole of the Military-Industrial Complex. Perhaps he's thinking that by taking on the cause (the Corporatocracy) he can also eliminate the effect (the Military apparatus).

Their relationship at this point is wholly symbiotic and the various facets retain numerous mechanisms to generate crisis and ensure survival. The survival of one is the survival of the system.

What Sanders is calling for is an absolute social revolution through the franchise. There have been some huge changes in other countries that have been implemented by the ballot. They've usually been followed by large-scale war as the nation-states face systemic collapse.

I agree these industries and the US system are essentially evil, but the fall of empires is often an ugly event. It's something to consider.

That said, I think Sanders would be stopped long before he ever became a serious prospect. If people are killed over a few million dollars what will people do when we're talking trillions?

Finally, the question about blacks and the police was more or less dodged by the candidates who resorted to esoteric sentimentality and sloganeering.

No one will say it because it's politically suicidal. The minority communities, particularly the black communities are facing utter collapse. Race is an issue but it's exacerbated by economics. If African-Americans had opportunities and some money in their pockets, something to invest in and hold on to, they will begin to climb out of the hole they are in. Most of the poor lack security and that leads to a lot of other problems. Blacks are faced with an additional burden that some of the white poor can escape, namely opportunity. Whites are more likely to find a way out. They can move and reinvent themselves. It's a lot harder for blacks to do so.

This will require serious investment, an infusion of money utilized to create jobs. When there's some money and security, along with a massive reform of the judiciary and the penal system... no small task... then black people can begin to stand up and take their rightful place in society. This is not to say the problems of racism will be eliminated. This is not to say there isn't a crisis of education. But kids cannot learn when their families are unstable, non-existent or in a state of chaos. There cannot be any opportunities when they are all but corralled into dangerous ghettos.

The problems are very complicated and perhaps the candidates didn't want to go into details. It is really and truly that complicated.

And yet, the economics (to me) overshadow the other questions. This may sound Marxist to some. I'm not proposing a Marxist solution but there's something to the economic analysis. I know Capitalist orthodoxy proclaims the government can't create jobs or wealth. This is pure unadulterated balderdash and such statements can only be made when academics play fast and loose with their definitions.

Am I suggesting redistribution? Yes. All public spending is based on it. This is where Capitalism demonstrates some of its affinities with Utilitarian thinking. Sanders best line during the night was when he mentioned that we already have redistribution and the Right thinks its fine as long as it goes the other direction.

Hoover embraced such orthodox Capitalist thinking during his term and by the time FDR came into office, revolutionary movements and Communism were in the air. Why this hasn't happened in the black community is another long and tortuous tale. COINTELPRO, the penal system and many other factors have done all they can to divide and break them.

Eventually they will succeed. I think the Establishment knows this and the rash of new powers appropriated by the Surveillance State are in part to suppress minority movements and all dissent. We're moving toward thought-crime and the elimination of due process.

This will only extend the inevitable result and all but guarantee that when the rising occurs it will be that much more radical and violent.

Without a doubt, among the Democratic candidates Hilary Clinton comes across as the most stable, in command of the facts and familiar with the workings of the system. She would easily transition into the White House. And yet we would have more of the same and she's quite on board with the agenda of empire. The Clintons were the first 'Boomers' in the White House? A couple of hippies? Please.

Some will remember the old show from the 1980's, called Thirtysomething. It was about a bunch of 1960's activists who were nearing middle age. Some sold out and some tried to stay true to their beliefs. This theme often appeared on Family Ties as well and the ex-hippy parents contrasted with the conservative son and consumerist daughter made for some good laughs.

The Keaton's as well as some of the protagonists on Thirtysomething were sellouts. And yet, the Clintons have lapped all of these characters several times over. The Clintons are a parable in the corrupting nature of power. She may call it realism and getting things done, but in the end she's a sell-out and her integrity most certainly needs to be questioned.

Sanders is sincere but I'm afraid naive isn't a strong enough word to describe his vision and expectations. I think it's good that people are being exposed to something a little different. He's not as radical as some make him to be. But I wonder how many truly understand and how many are paying attention. His populism is stirring people up but without context and a fuller understanding I don't know how helpful it will be.

I'm with Donald Trump on O'Malley. He's a joke.