Sunday, February 7, 2010

what's strangely absent from the political discourse

I wasn't going to link to this. But then, for some curious reason, I visited the Sunday Funnies and saw a whole lot of unfunny cartoons, mostly complaining about the US's financial disaster, and none pointing to the cause.

So here it is, from Life After Empire:



The average Brit was better off after their ruling class realized they couldn't afford their empire. That will be true in the US, too, if our ruling class doesn't keep ignoring the obvious.

22 comments:

  1. The thing is, while that is an inordinately huge number, it's barely 1/5 of the budget.

    I ran into the same problem when I was researching a rant on how much interest we are paying on the $13 trillion in loans the government has taken out. $251 billion is huge, but not significant overall. Take a look at the 2011 proposed budget.

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/02/01/us/budget.html

    Social Security is sufficiently bloated and out of control that it gets the same amount as Defense. Strangely, some of the "socialist" spending took big hits, unemployment insurance took a 47% cut. Medicaid took an 11% cut.

    That's not to say Defense spending isn't outrageous, it is. What is really called for is a complete revamp of the way the government spends money.

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  2. Just today, I was thinking of what an irresponsible egotist Bill Clinton was for leaving a surplus rather than spending it on social programs, so Bush could piss it away on war and tax cuts for the rich.

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  3. Actually, the "balanced budget" and "surplus" were bipartisan lies. If you look at the national debt for the "balanced" and "surplus" budget years, you'll see that the national debt increased during those years. In the rest of the world outside of Washington, if your debt load increases, then you were running a deficit.

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  4. And a related post on the Quadrennial Defense Review.

    http://greathistory.com/qdr-%E2%80%93-doa.htm

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  5. Jeff, I agree that giving up our empire wouldn't solve all our problems. But other things we need aren't on the table either, like Medicare for all, the cheapest way to deal with our health care problem.

    Thanks for the Quadrennial Defense Review link!

    John, I'd like to think Gore would've done things differently, but I look at the history of Democrats marching to war, and I'm not sure. The military-industrial complex needs to consume to prosper.

    Joel, I do remember a whole lot of handwaving going on during those years. Do you have hard numbers for the debt at the beginning of Clinton's reign and at the end?

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  6. Will, I have no doubt Gore would have gone to war of some sort after 9/11, probably limited to Afghanistan and almost certainly not Iraq, but I don't see anything like the Bush tax cuts from him.

    Or maybe I just still have Bill Clinton stuck in my craw.

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  7. Will, you can go to the US Treasury web site and look at the data (I have), but the stuff at wikipedia is pretty accurate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt

    John, there are a lot of variables in the Iraq equation, but I suspect that a military confrontation was inevitable (under our governmental conditions) once Iraq switched to the Euro in 2000 as their oil currency.

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  8. Jeff, thanks for the link (Wikipedia's very dependable for this sort of thing) and the note about Iraq and the Euro. It's oddly comforting to know that Clinton was even less successful than I thought.

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  9. here are the official government debt totals by year. Notice that they increase every single year. Yes, there are reductions in the rate of growth, but the debt load does grow every year. Now if one has a balanced budget, and one of the budget items is loan payments, then the debt would go down-or, at worst, if you were only paying interest, stay the same. An increase in debt indicatesan unbalanced debt.

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  10. Joel, thanks. Jeff had your back, but it's nice to have another source.

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  11. Will, I have no doubt Gore would have gone to war of some sort after 9/11, probably limited to Afghanistan and almost certainly not Iraq, but I don't see anything like the Bush tax cuts from him.

    I don't know if 9/11 would have happened on Gore's watch. Remember the "Y2K" bug that was supposed to crash all our computers, yet didn't? Gore was in charge of that one. Say what you want about Gore, if he was told "Bid Laden determined to strike in US", he wouldn't have gone on vacation to play golf. Sure, the press hated him for being an uptight know-it-all, but that's the kind of person I'd like to have in charge during a crisis, not a freewheeling simpleton they'd like to have a beer with.

    Now, I'm not saying Gore wouldn't have gotten sucked into the Iraq quagmire for some other reason, or that he would have never made any mistakes, but I think we would still have the Twin Towers today instead of a concrete ruin.

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  12. I don't think so, Blue Jean. Remember that the 9/11 plot had been in progress for more than a year before the election; it spanned both the Clinton and Bush administrations. September 11 was only seven months, three weeks into the new administration, and most of the various heads of intelligence intelligence agencies had not yet been replaced, so the new president would have had little impact whoever he was. Gore couldn't have gotten new people appointed, confirmed by the Senate, and in place changing policies any faster than Bush- maybe not as fast, as the Senate would have balked more against him.

    Actually, it would have been far worse for Gore than Bush- no matter how Bill and Al had fueded during their administration, Had Gore won, in the public eye it would have been a continuation of the administration he was part of, and so the intelligence failure would have been seen as 100% his fault.

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  13. I'm not sure about your first paragraph, Joel, but your second one makes a good point. I think there's a chance Gore might've really gone to town on Afghanistan, much more destructively than all Bush's wars, both to overcome the perceptions you describe and to try to overcome the wimp label hung on the Democrats. (Your point had never occurred to me before; my point came to mind days after 9/11.)

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  14. That may be true, Joel, but I'm thinking that Gore would have kept the Clinton intelligence operation and focus largely intact, the way Bush I kept Reagan's structure intact for the most part. Bush II didn't seem to have much of a focus, other than "Let's do everything opposite of Clinton!" and "How can we go to war against Saddam Hussein?"

    If 9/11 had happened on Gore's watch, sure, lots of people would have blamed him--I would have blamed him myself. But a large percentage of those condemning him would have condemned him whether he was in office or not--because a terrorist attack is always a Democrat's fault, amiright?

    To go really far down the hypothetical road, Gore might have been more destructive in Afghanistan, but I think he wouldn't have branched out into attacking Iraq. Clinton was largely focused on containing Iraq, while Shrub wanted to destroy Saddam, partly as a matter of family honor. (another reason why democracies are better than monarchies). YMMV.

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  15. Obligatory insert: There's no evidence that anyone from Iraq actually tried to kill the Shrub's daddy.

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  16. Blue Jean- "That may be true, Joel, but I'm thinking that Gore would have kept the Clinton intelligence operation and focus largely intact, the way Bush I kept Reagan's structure intact for the most part." That's exactly my point. Bush, too, kept the Clinton intelligence operation largely intact, if only because he simply didn't have time to change it. The failures that led to 9/11 were systemic, and not really Clinton or Bush's fault, having to do with laws about separation of agencies' areas of authority, etc. It required acts of Congress to change the system. (and, of course, they mucked that up, too, but that's another discussion)

    "...--because a terrorist attack is always a Democrat's fault, amiright?" No, you're not. A large number of people believe 9/11 was a conspiracy involving the governments of America and/or Israel- but none of those conspiracists name Gore or any other Democrat that I'm aware of.

    To be fair, I don't believe Gore would have been more destructive in Afghanistan. Since he was much less likely to have gone into Iraq, many more troops would have been available for deployment in Afghanistan; and that's all we really needed, more boots on the ground, not more bombing. If we had them then, we wouldn't be needing them now.

    In the long run, though, greater success in Afghanistan would have made an invasion of Iraq more probable, just at a later date. I say that because if the terrorists had been driven out of Afghanistan, they would have been routed from Pakistan as well- by the Pakistanis, made more confident by a credible presence shown in Afghanistan. This would have made Iraq a very attractive new home base for them.

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  17. Joel, your last paragraph shows an unfortunate lack of understanding of the region. Skip the nationalism, and look at tribalism, the tribes that formed the core of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan are the same tribes that control most of the military in Pakistan. Hence the issues with Al Qaeda crossing the border without issues, and US Military operations into Pakistan without prior permission.

    In addition, Iraq would never allow Al Qaeda to operate inside Iraq, Saddam was to paranoid to allow a potential threat to his regime in the country. He was a military dictator, but not “true enough to the faith” for Islamic hardliners like Bin Laden.

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  18. Obligatory insert: There's no evidence that anyone from Iraq actually tried to kill the Shrub's daddy.

    Of course not; that's just silliness. However, "He tried to kill my daddy!" sounds a lot better than "We want their oil." And to be fair, Clinton used the same excuse to order an air strike on Iraq.

    However, there's a large section of neo-cons who think Bush I didn't go far enough with the first Iraq war. They wanted Poppy to depose Saddam, not just chase him back to his own borders. Shrub's appeal to the neo-cons (added to a wide streak of royalism in the GOP) was "I'm gonna finish what Poppy started. And we'll finish the way you wanted to." Thus, with Bush II, we got Iraq War II; Shrub's Revenge.

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  19. "...--because a terrorist attack is always a Democrat's fault, amiright?" No, you're not.

    Joel, hon, I'm afraid I was goofing on you. "Amiright?" is an ironic aside to let the cognoscenti you're spoofing the BB Brains, those great mansplainers who say they know everything when they obviously know nothing. Thus "Shrub was the greatest Preznit ever, amiright?" or "Women hate football, amiright?" In this case I'm flashing back to the folks who blamed President Obama for Underwear Bomber, because they'll jump at any chance to make a Democrat look weak on defense.

    A large number of people believe 9/11 was a conspiracy involving the governments of America and/or Israel- but none of those conspiracists name Gore or any other Democrat that I'm aware of.

    I'll take your word for it that that particular tin foil hat crowd doesn't blame Gore or any other Democrat. However, many more mainstream GOPers have often blamed President Clinton for 9/11, including Condoleeza Rice in 2006. They'd blame Gore more if they thought they could get away with it--and if he was running for office again.

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  20. However, there's a large section of neo-cons who think Bush I didn't go far enough with the first Iraq war.

    I'm not a neo-con, but I don't think that Bush went far enough. Only because we encouraged the peoples of Iraq to revolt, implying that we would support them. We didn't, and thousands paid for our hypocrisy. I’m still old fashioned enough to think that our word should be worth something.

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  21. It reminded me of the Bay of Pigs. Sometimes I wonder why anyone listens to us anymore... but then I look at the UN's incompetence, and sadly realize it's because at least we MIGHT do the right thing.

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