Military Might: Who Will Pay For It? Who Will Serve?

By James A. Kidney

       Every GOP presidential candidate except Rand Paul and, possibly, John Kasich, claims he or she will order a more muscular U.S. military presence wherever there is a perceived threat anywhere in the world, as they boldly asserted during the third debate Tuesday night.  (The Bloviating Donald said he would stay out of Syria for now, but otherwise seems inclined to toughen our policies by yelling at everyone.)  If their propositions are to be taken seriously, then the military needs more money and more able bodies.  But the frivolousness of their stated positions is proved by the fact they will offer up neither cash for costs, which would require higher taxes or add to the deficit, or bodies, through conscription.

As the respected Washington Post columnist David Ignatius remarked in a recent piece, “President Obama’s foreign policy has been a regular punching bag for Republican presidential candidates, but many of their criticisms are facile.  The next president – from whichever party – will have to confront the same puzzle that Obama has faced about how to best use U.S. power in a world that resists military solutions.”

But, the candidates say, never mind the complexities.  “Bulk Up, America!”

The Cost of a More Muscular Military Is High

Conservatively, the cost of our wars since 2001 has been nearly $1.7 trillion.  This only includes the costs specifically assigned to those wars, not the many more trillions spent to support the war effort and national security throughout the government.  For example, separately, the costs for Homeland Security military2_bigare estimated at $653 billion.  The Pentagon budget and related national security spending for FY 2015 was $598 billion, or 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending.  The new spending bill signed by the President this week provides for a $607 billion Pentagon budget.  According to the National Priorities Project, which tracks federal budget expenditures, U.S. military expenditures are “roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world.”

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Meaningless “Debates” Over Nothing — Else the GOP’s Sponsors Would Be Exposed

By James A. Kidney

America is in serious trouble.  It is breaking apart at the seams.  There is no consensus between the progressives and the conservatives on nearly any issue.  Although the blue states contain more voters of a progressive or liberal bent than conservatives, and constitute a plurality of the population, the constitutional structure of the Senate insures that the red states, with an average of 80 people per square mile, will be able to block legislation favored by blue states, with five times the population per square mile and squarely different issues at stake.  But no one will debate these issues.

Tuesday night’s Republican debate will contain no real surprises of substance, only the possibility of a second gop debate cartoongaffe here or there which probably will be treated by the GOP “base” as a one-finger salute to the political leadership.  It doesn’t really matter if each WSJ/Fox News panelist is a model of Edward R. Murrow or Chris Rock (there have been both in the past).  Good questioners grounded in facts will still lack the tools of corporal punishment required to make the candidates actually answer good questions.  There oughta’ be a law at least permitting a cream pie in the face to candidates who just run to their prepared text or “answer” by attacking the questioner.  Still, one hopes for better questions, so that at least those not part of the brainwashed base can more easily defend them in the inevitable finger-pointing aftermath of Wednesday morning.

In any event, the Big Lie is the foundation of the Republican Party philosophy, whether expressed by outliers such as Ted Cruz or Establishment figures such as Jeb Bush.  That lie is that Business, including or especially Big Business, will be the nation’s savior if only Government would get out of the way and taxes were cut for everyone, but especially the wealthy.  It is imperative to the GOP that the Lie not be exposed or even recognized as such.

Let’s see how just the events of the last couple of weeks have tended to show what happens when we rely on businessmen to be responsible for the future of the Republic.

  • Pfizer Pharmaceutical, best known for the drugs Lipitor, Viagra and Zoloft, and non-prescription products Advil, Centrum and ChapStick, is trying for a third time to merge with a nominally “foreign” corporation, Allergan, to take advantage of Ireland’s corporate tax breaks. News of the proposed acquisition of Allergen for this purpose came on the heels of Pfizer’s announcement that third quarter 2015 revenues increased 4 percent on a standalone basis and totaled $12.1 billion, including a recent acquisition.  Net income was $2.1 billion, or 17 percent of revenue.  R&D expenses for the quarter were $1.7 billion, or 14 percent of total revenue. In other words, Pfizer is hugely profitable but still spends less on R&D than it receives in net revenue. But Pfizer is a leader in crying how unfairly it is taxed.  The company estimated that its effective tax rate on adjusted income for 2015 would be “approximately 25%.”  This is well under the top corporate tax rate of 35 percent in the U.S., but far less than the 12 percent Pfizer would pay in Ireland.  According to Americans for Tax Fairness, Pfizer paid no U.S. income taxes from 2010 to 2012 while earning $43 billion worldwide.  Instead, it received $2.2 billion in federal tax refunds. For some reason, Pfizer believes federal tax treatment is still unfair.

Read more of this post . . .Meaningless “Debates” Over Nothing — Else the GOP’s Sponsors Would Be Exposed

To Quote the Congressman, “You Lie!”

By James A. Kidney The mendacity of the Republicans at last night’s debate was unbelievable. And I am not talking about just Donald Trump. The other 14 candidates at the two debates also misstated or ignored key fact after key fact. CNN, which purports to be a news organization, acted only as wrestling referee and did not call out the candidates on a single misrepresentation. Here are just three: FIRST.  All the candidates act as if they have the solution to the Middle East and that Obama is a scaredy-cat who just goes out on his own without consultation. They all ignored that President Obama solicited Congress less than a year ago, after the mid-term elections, for new authority to proceed with military actions in the Middle East. Congress – controlled by Republicans in both houses – could have imposed whatever limits or requirements it wished in freshening the war powers … Read more of this post . . .

Shameful Response by U.S. to Syrian Refugee Crisis

By James A. Kidney

[This is a reposting to include a helpful reference to an On The Media excerpt.]

When the United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in retaliation for the horrific 9/11 attack, the Administration claimed we would be welcomed as liberators and be a beacon for freedom. It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, we lit a fire in the Middle East that still burns with the intensity of a dry California forest.

Syrian-refugee-sea-travel-as-of-summer-2015One result, direct, indirect, or “collateral damage” – depending on your politics and sensitivity – is the human refugee flow from Syria and other war-torn countries of the Middle East to Europe. By now we are all familiar with the sad stories and heart wrenching photos from the area. Hopeful, scared refugees die every day in overturned rubber boats in the middle of the sea. If they reach shore, they are shoved into pens to await . . . . it’s not clear what. American editorialists moralistically cluck over the reactions of European countries to this human flow. But some of these nations, especially Hungary and Greece, face their own dismal economic prospects. Hungary’s government is falling back on Cold War habits with its own people.

Where is the United States and all of those politicians of both parties who constantly claim that this country should be that beacon of freedom? Mostly either silent, speaking in bland generalities, or are against doing much of anything.

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Beware of the Mannerly One! Ben Carson is Scarier than Donald Trump


Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks in town hall meeting in Baltimore, Thursday May 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Ben Carson, the up-from-poverty-and-separated-Siamese-Twins surgeon, now second only to The Donald in GOP popularity, is scarier than the bloviating, self-regarding Trump. According to Carson, he is God’s candidate. He is just what we need in this age of fundamentalism, where it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the Koran-thumpers and the Bible-thumpers. Which one is called by God? Does God own a gun. (Yes,)

Carson is gentlemanly and sounds reasonable. He does not usually attack opponents with personal insults. Unlike Trump, he was not born at home plate and thinks he hit a home run. His personal story is admirable – sort of Bill Clinton in a surgical gown and burdened not only by poverty, but also race. Like Trump, but not like Clinton (either one), Carson has zero government experience – which is his appeal to voters.

Plus, he is not Donald Trump. In at least one important way, he is worse.

Read more of this post . . .Beware of the Mannerly One! Ben Carson is Scarier than Donald Trump

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