To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Observercast

A Republic, If You Can Keep It

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BY HAL SPAKE

There are three esoteric threats facing our country.

The first, according to U.S. military strategists, is climate change.

Although the affects of increased carbon in the atmosphere was first proposed in 1824 by Joseph Fourier, some in our country have turned their backs on strategic military assessments and scientific findings that affirm man-made climate change. Their continued denial endangers not only our republic but also the survival of our species.

The second is national debt.

“If you want to see the future look behind you.” – Margaret Atwood

While National Security Advisor under President Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski argued that military support of the Mujahideen would over-stretch the Soviet Union’s army and bankrupt its economy. It did.

Our leaders seem unable to look at the collapse of previous empires or even remember recent events like the implosion of the Soviet Union and continue to promote and fund wars fought on credit.

The U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the subsequent “W” Bush tax cuts, increased the national debt by $1.5 trillion between 2002-11 and set us on the same path the Soviets walked before their empire disintegrated and Russia emerged as a kleptocratic oligarchy.

By the end of this year the tax cuts under President “W” Bush have increased the debt by $3 trillion and we are still fighting two unpaid wars. Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs estimates the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $5 trillion and that excludes the $1 billion a year it cost to care for veterans.

Eight trillion dollars of our $13.6 trillion national debt is due to unfunded wars and military spending adds $600 billion, six tenths of a trillion a year to that debt.

Their actions continue to chip away at our republic’s existence as new wars, against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, are marketed, and new tax cuts are proposed. Meanwhile politicians and pundits say the debt is caused by entitlement programs such as health care, social security, public schools, highways and civil servant retirement benefits and ignore the true cause: war spending, and tax cuts.

The third threat is wealth inequality, which leads to justice, housing, opportunity and educational inequality.

Thomas Jefferson said wealth inequality produced so much misery that legislators could not invent the many devices needed for subdividing property to prevent the accumulation of excessive wealth.

Tax cuts, beginning with Ronald Reagan, have resulted in massive increases in the national debt and a devastating upward redistribution of wealth from workers into the hands of the privileged few, who now own many lawmakers. This trend continues today as politicians continue to espouse the principles of Supply Side [trickle-down] economics, a thoroughly debunked school of thought.

Politicians are now parroting the idea that certain entities [corporations – defined as people by the Citizens United ruling] should enjoy a special tax rate lower than actual people with overseas incomes.

Money is power and corporations with their vast accumulated wealth pose a special threat to our Republic. Unlike living people they don’t die and their wealth can’t be broken up. Billionaires, with their accumulated wealth, are also a threat, but at least they die and thanks to the estate tax some dismantling of wealth and power does occur.

Our country faces other threats too, but for the most part those are nuisances, rather than existential threats.

If climate change, debt/war and wealth inequality are not addressed, our republic is doomed.

Hal Spake has worked for the National Security Agency and is a retired U.S. diplomat. He is chairman of Common Cause Oklahoma and a board member of Americans Against the Next War.