The Perversity of Right Wing Babble and Mendacity!

Doing Bad by Doing Good and Why Humanitarian Action Fails is a book by Christopher J. Coyne, an economics professor at George Mason University, and touted by the right wing Cato Institute. Cato is backed by the Koch brothers and others who are notorious for supporting efforts to fund far right anti-democratic groups like ALEC. This group has been responsible for a number of acts to disenfranchise Black and Latino voters and pushed states to gerrymander legislative districts around the nation which enabled conservative Republicans to gain a majority of seats in the House of Representatives while not getting a majority of the national vote — which the Democrats did. In short, they are trying to undermine the basic values of America, namely one person one vote, equal protection of the law, and real democracy and fair elections. What a cast of characters. 

Thus, Cato sponsored a book launch on May the 5th for this publication which said volumes for its orientation against any truly “good works” and efforts to help the needy, save children in poverty in risk of early death, secure a healthy and dignified retirement for our elderly, a livable wage for workers, and their right to form unions.

The Cato e-mail invitation had the following outline of the problem:

“A common argument for intervening abroad is to alleviate potential or existing human suffering. Repeatedly, however, state-led humanitarian efforts have failed miserably. Why do well-funded, expertly staffed, and well-intentioned humanitarian actions often fall short of achieving their desired outcomes, leaving some of the people they intended to help worse off? Why are well-meaning countries unable to replicate individual instances of success consistently across cases of human suffering?

Using the tools of economics, Dr. Christopher Coyne’s new book, Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails, shifts the discussion from the moral imperative of how governments should behave to a positive analysis of how they actually do. Coyne examines the limits of short-term humanitarian aid and long-term development assistance, the disconnect between intentions and reality, and why economic freedom—protection of property rights, private means of production, and free trade of labor and goods—provides the best means for minimizing human suffering. Join us as experts discuss this hotly debated topic.”

You get the idea!  Capitalism is the answer to a starving poor child and the critically sick elderly, to lack of health care, to the need for immediate clean water, and just about everything that rich countries enjoy often very efficiently provided by governments at all levels.

Having spent much of a lifetime either examining national and international humanitarian  and economic policies, including at one point running a major program that looked after refugees often in dire circumstances, I wonder if the author or the Cato shysters ever understood the humane urgency of being there while thousands indeed hundreds of thousands die needlessly when no one is able to help on the ground and in circumstances that a capitalist investor would never set his or her foot. The raw capitalism and “protection of property rights that I know is the 1,100 dead garment workers in Bangladesh.

Do all long term development programs work? No. But often the failure is due to local corruption, lack of existing expertise, or sometimes the withdrawal of funding due to acts of Congress, mostly by Republicans through cutting USAID funds.  But many programs providing food, medical help, and clean water have worked as do many larger infrastructure efforts such as agriculture improvement projects. These have been proven by national and global statistics of health, income and other well being indicators, or at least survival of those threatened.

In sum, while the record does showcase some failures of aid projects, the overall global progress made over the decades has saved millions of lives and made hundreds of millions better off than would be the case without outside governmental and international organizations assistance. Examples of these organizations are the World Bank, UNICEF, UNDP, UNEP, and the many programs of developed countries like Britain, France, Germany, the Scandinavians, the U.S. and others.

Can we do better? You bet. We could start by making more resources available to these organizations and national aid agencies while providing competitive salaries for top professionals and carrying out sensible reform. This includes letting more of  U.S. food aid be used to buy indigenous food products at lower prices than are possible with US sourced agricultural products and doing more to establish local institutional training and research to improve local productivity. Last but not least, we can do more to bring education and modern skills and technology to the lowest and most needy sectors.

But let’s remember that saying the “free market” and outside “capitalist” investment can raise the living standard of the world’s poorest is nothing but fallacious. Worse, it shows the continued indifference to real human need by the domestic right wing. Such right wingers are advocates of little or no government, imprudent self-defeating global irresponsibility, and selfishness beyond forgiveness.

Sadly this same attitude of indifference toward human suffering is also displayed by the Republicans in Congress towards our own needy, vulnerable young, old and sick. For proof one can simply see the votes and positions which are uniform against human decency and ruinous for both American well being and that of the world.  It is no way to ensure global security or prosperity.

 

The Stupidity Does Not Stop! Wasted Money for Useless Defense Boondoggles at Expense of the Least Among Us!

The Republicans in the House of Representatives  Armed Services Committee on Thursday May 10th voted a  raise of nearly $4 billion over the Administration’s requested funding for defense programs.  As the New York Times editorial today said, the House Republicans “have insisted on preserving bloated military spending and unjustifiably low tax rates for the rich.” That is an understatement! They noted that a million Americans would lose their food stamps and 44 million others would find them reduced. The GOP would gut a host of other programs for the poor, the elderly, youth at risk, and the disabled.  Let me add that these cuts are indeed a frontal attack on American security. These cuts make our nation weaker in its social fabric and poorer. They will instigate a downward spiral in our economy which will make us less efficient, productive, healthy, and able to meet our challenges at home and abroad.

The New York Times estimates that the House bill will prevent $55 billion of automatic cuts imposed on DOD as part of the debt ceiling deal, the so-called “sequester.” What was not said was that the fiscal year (FY) 2013 defense authorization bill includes hundreds of millions of dollars for nuclear weapons and missile defense programs that are largely useless and that the military itself does not want and has no rational national security purpose.

Leading the charge for wasteful spending are House Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon (R-Cal.) and Strategic Forces Subcommittee chair Michael Turner (R-Ohio). It seems to all to be about payoffs to the military industrial lobby and has nothing to do with real national security. Some of these Republicans are pressing for increases in nuclear weapons programs, which include $100 million for a new plutonium laboratory, called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Facility, to be built at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) did not request any funds for CMRR.

Further Rep. Turner is likely to try to block implementation of the 2010 New START Treaty unless the funding is provided. Blocking U.S. implementation of New START, as Rep. Turner’s bill H.R. 4178 threatens to do, would likely result in Russia acting along the same lines. The treaty would unravel; the result could be Moscow increasing its forces above treaty ceilings with increases in the number of nuclear weapons. Further, the inspection system established under the treaty could collapse. This would deprive the U.S. of critical data exchanges and on-site inspections of Russian forces that the U.S. intelligence community needs.

Further, the Republicans are trying to add funding for a $460 million increase for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, including $100 million to study a missile defense site on the East Coast. This would be in addition to the two sites already built in California and Alaska at a combined cost of $30 billion. (Yes that is billion!) Again, a program the DOD does not want or need. According to reports, GMD system is largely useless. The GMD system has not had a successful intercept test against a cooperative target since 2008. It had two failures in 2010. A recent National Research Council report said the GMD system “has serious shortcomings, and provides at best a limited, initial defense against a relatively primitive threat.” Moreover, the GMD system has not been tested against a realistic target including decoys.

Finally, Rep. McKeon’s bill also includes an increase of up to $347 million for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement program, known as the SSBNX. The Navy did not request this money, and wants to delay the program by two years. Just one U.S. Ohio-class submarine, currently armed with 96 nuclear warheads, could kill millions. Experts believe a change to eight strategic submarines would provide a more than adequate nuclear deterrent. Under New START, the Pentagon plans to deploy approximately 1,000 nuclear warheads on strategic submarines. Enough is enough! But not for those who are mindless and have no concept of real national security.

The hope is that the senate will kill these provisions and the president would in any case veto any bill with these “crazy” proposals from a security, budget, and economic perspective. We must wonder why the inmates are in charge of the asylum.

We welcome your comments.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

UK in Recession Thanks to Cameron’s Stupid Austerity Policy: Lesson for the U.S.

Wednesday the UK statistical office announced that Britain was in recession. Wednesday’s economic data established that Britain’s gross domestic product fell 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 on top of a 0.3 percent decline at the end of 2011. While the data can be revised and some conservative voices are questioning it, it still is not good to likely have a double dip in the face of promises of a quick recovery by the Tory-Libs government. This is official recognition of what the average citizen of Britain already knew. Sadly, it only reaffirms that the conservative ideology of starving the real economy and raining buckets of benefits on the rich is again not working! 

It has hardly worked before and where tried, especially during the great depression, it has been a total disaster. It can’t really work now and has shown its perverse impact on the lives of people in Europe, given the region a sense of decline, and created a corrosive political environment (including the rise of extreme xenophobic parties).

The troubled nations of Europe are feeling its cold wind and it has caused a political upheaval recently in France and the Netherlands. Already resentment of forced and mindless austerity policies has created anger and despair for many EU countries. It has great relevance for America’s own economy and global leadership capabilities. The Republicans seem hell-bent along the same lines with the same approach that Cameron’s Tory Party has already shown to be unsuccessful with the same rate of unemployment as in America despite a still better social safety net thanks to the programs initiated by the Labour Party after WWII.

President Obama tried a larger stimulus package earlier and at least achieved some gains – America made very modest but real growth and employment gains generally greater than Britain and many countries in the EU. Frankly, we need another full stimulus to get us back into the steady 3-4%+ growth rate which would both lessen our debt levels as a percent of GDP and lower the unemployment levels.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Obama had worked earlier at getting a global consensus towards not austerity but a trajectory of growth. This was stalled by Brown’s UK election defeat, opposition of Germany and other conservative governments, and not least by the Republicans’ effort to defeat Obama in a second term even at the cost of the well being of the US economy.

The question today is whether the British and American publics and perhaps finally the key EU countries, after trying the worst possible policies, will finally choose the right one. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, much of the capacity for good globally depends on the resurgence and reinvigoration of the Western economies – much of the rest of the world depends not only on their trade and aid but also on their leadership to deal with our critical global challenges and to assure global security and peace.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

Crisis at Home, Crisis Abroad: Can we solve both or must we choose one?

What will our America become? That is the question of our age and one that will likely present us with real choices in the debates leading up to the election next November.

There is already debate in Washington and on Main Street about whether or not we should pull back from our overseas commitments and turn our back from the ills of our planet to focus on our domestic problems instead, while ignoring the dragons and humanitarian disasters at our borders.

The same voices that are arguing that we should not, and indeed need not, care for our elderly, our young, our ill, or our unemployed at home, are also arguing that we should not care for the many challenges we face abroad.

Many Americans now buy into this doctrine of indifference and greed; it has been pounded on for so long by the conservative media and politicians–so now many believe it. It has become part of the doctrine of the Tea Party types and thus of the GOP.

They argue that the massive famine in the Horn of Africa is not our business — that it is just the way the world is. They argue that we should not care about the proliferation of nuclear weapons— that too is the way the world is. They care not a bit about and say they do not believe in climate change. The depletion of the seas’ fish and other species and its pollution bothers them not a bit, so long as they can still buy their swordfish steaks.

Nor does it bother them that poverty is widespread around the world, that children lack any kind of health care.  Why should they care about children dying in Somalia since they want to deprive fellow Americans and children of affordable universal health care at home?

One argument that is being made is pure mendacity: we can’t afford to help our own and thus we can’t afford to help those in need abroad nor can we afford to address the national security threats to our nation emanating from around the world.

Some argue we only need a strong military, yet most of the world’s true dangers have no simple military solution. The head-in-the-sand approach to our needs at home and abroad is frankly both nonsense and pure deceit.

The reality is that we are an extraordinarily rich nation controlling some 40% of the world’s effective resources with the capacity to grow at rates of 4-5%, which can bring unemployment down to reasonable levels, fund our debt and growth in large part through higher taxes on those who have 6 homes around the world, private planes, and billions in income that the average taxpayer has help them build by cheap US government subsidies. All this can be accomplished without taking away our nation’s safety net, including Medicare, Medicaid, and social security and above all the provision of good education for our children.

The only thing that stops us is the overarching goal of the conservative Republicans to stop Obama and to control our nation’s government to benefit the very rich. What we need is a major stimulus package along the lines of the FDR recovery plan. We can’t grow our nation by a policy of depression as dictated by Rep. Cantor and crazies like Rand Paul.  Such a grand policy would also give us a sense of purpose that would move us to engage again in global multilateral solutions to our international challenges.

America will be defined in history as either the nation that faced its challenges and overcame them or it will be seen like Rome, as a great civilization that by inner corruption and indifference to the forces forming beyond its borders, succumbed to decline and destruction…bringing most of Western civilization to the “Dark Ages.”

We welcome your comments.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

 

National Security and Crazy Economics: The Debt Debacle: Further Reflections on Our Downfall Without Firing a Shot

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Klaus but the bad news is that self-destruction is coming and it is called the GOP! That could be a literary answer to the “crazy economics” that I wrote about earlier on this blog. Now it has gotten to the point where we have further proof – if any was needed – that we are in the hands of those who act like they seek the destruction of our nation for narrow political gain.

We have heard from an array of top economists that we are facing a major financial disaster if America defaults on its national debt. Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, both Nobel Economics laureates, have pointed to the disastrous global consequences of a default on our debt. Even the likelihood would do long-term damage to our currency and our economy.

As I have noted, there are many dimensions to “national security” as well as military security, and our nation’s security is clearly threaten by “crazy economics.” These crazy economics are motivated by greed and not by concern for the unemployed nor for the average, struggling citizens. But it manifestly greatly degrades America’s leadership abroad.

The contemplated GOP Congressional proposals that threaten to not pay our debt unless depression type cuts are made to our nation’s vital programs will make financing that debt greatly more expensive. It will entice other nations to give up holding dollars as their reserve currencies, which will undermine our global leadership, and it will make some forego taking our bonds. It will likely contribute to a second, and possibly worse, global recession that will further destroy the industrial, technological, and scientific base of our economy, which may take decades if it is ever to fully recover. Unemployment will undoubtedly grow, which seems to be a conservative Republican goal.

With the “pro-depression” economic policies already enacted in the EU and severe budget cutting approaches already enforced in Europe, including in the UK, the knock-on effect will likely be devastating.  It will not grow us out of our financial difficulties, but we will be digging our deficit and unemployment holes deeper by the rapid lowering of our GDP. Lower taxes do not help employment; they make it worse when budgets are cut now and in the future. The wholesale laying off of public servants, teachers, and road construction workers and others in the States has once again only proved the point.

Our ability to provide resources and funding for vital global challenges will diminish, if not disappear, making these global problems far worse, hurting global security by exacerbating conflicts and poverty across the entire globe. Budget cuts will make humanitarian disasters worse through lack of resources to respond. It will affect the spread of disease and poverty when we cut foreign assistance. And it will undermine our “soft power” diplomacy to address nuclear proliferation, threats to democracy, and regional conflicts and terrorism.

Finally, mindless cuts will unnecessarily undermine American leadership just when the world needs it the most as we face multi-crises. That will be the legacy of an unneeded debt default and its consequences. What are they thinking!

We welcome all comments and views! Join the debate!

By Harry C. Blaney III.

Costs of War Report Released

This week CIP senior fellow, Bill Hartung, and the Eisenhower Study Group at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies released the most thorough report to date on the costs of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Conducted by over twenty academics from wide-ranging fields, the study forces the public to consider the consequences of the wars and question what, if anything, has been gained over the last ten years.  The report considers other options the US could have employed and concludes that these options, which would have been cheaper and likely more effective, were hardly considered before the US engaged militarily. The primary recommendation of the study is the US to increase transparency to the public “because information facilitates democratic deliberation and effective decision-making.”

The findings of the report conclude that the costs of the two wars amount to more than $3.2 – 4 trillion spent (and obligated to be spent) and 225,000 killed.  Among the 225,000 dead, which the study lists as its conservative estimate, are 6,000 US soldiers, 2,300 US contractors, and 20,000 US allies, including Iraqi and Afghan security forces as well as other coalition members.  In civilian lives in Iraq and Afghan, the cost to date is 137,000 not including the often over-looked number of civilians killed in the violence in Pakistan.  In economic terms, the costs of war are much greater than the defense appropriations suggest.  The study includes the war-related spending by the VA and the State Department/USAID, increased federal spending on homeland security, and interest payments on the money borrowed to finance the war.  Beyond these dollar amounts, the increase in military spending and in the federal debt affects interest rates, employment, and investment.

Laudably, the study also addresses the social, political, and environmental costs of the wars.  The study found that the wars have been “accompanied by the erosion of civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.”  The US invasions have failed to bring democracy to Iraq, where segregation by gender and ethnicity has increased, and Afghanistan, where corruption is rampant and warlords retain political clout.

Click here to read CIP’s press release.
Click here to read the full report on the Costs of War website.

By Alyssa Warren.

Transcript of Chairman of the JCS Adm. Mike Mullen’s Speech at the Wilson Center

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen gave the inaugural lecture for the Wilson Center’s Lee Hamilton Lecture Series on Civil Defense and Democracy on May 25. In his wide-ranging address, Adm. Mullen presented some of his observations and comments on the current and future challenges to the United States.  Adm. Mullen predicts that as we move into the 21st century we will see a reduction of U.S. military presence in the Middle East, a “diffusion of power” based on shifting economic power and demographic trends, and the rise of “a certain pragmatism about the limitations of military force.”  As the federal deficit will require challenging trade offs particularly for the military, Adm. Mullen stressed the importance of  prioritization in order to responsibly maintain an effective and flexible military force that, along with smart decisions in diplomacy and development, will contribute to national security.

At the end of his speech, Adm. Mullen fielded an array of questions from the audience spanning topics such as the disclosure of intelligence capabilities and the Navy SEALs, the Arab Spring, the war in Afghanistan, the domestic budget discussion, and the role of diplomacy, development and defense in Africa.  Take a look, and, as always, we welcome your comments!

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