The State of American Politics, 2017

 

PresidentsThe states and the people of America are no longer “united”. The country that pledged to be “one nation, indivisible” has become a polarized morass of contentious factions and competing interest groups.

Opposing sides have hardened into ideological opposites with seemingly disparate motives and goals. Rigid loyalty to a particular ideology (deeply ingrained on the political right and growing on the left) trumps the vision of the nation’s founders, a vision of a “more perfect union” formed to ensure the general welfare of the people. Continue reading “The State of American Politics, 2017”

Political Patronage Trumps Military Advice

Members of Congress continually harp at the president about following the advice of uniformed leaders when making decisions about the military. They, however, do not practice what they preach. The Pentagon opposes continued use of the A-10 “Warthog”, a close-air support jet. The Air Force wants to retire the “Warthog” by 2019 because it lacks the versatility of other aircraft. This would save $4.3 billion that could be used for higher priorities.

Did Members of Congress follow the advice they gave the president and support the wisdom of the military? No. An amendment was tacked on the defense funding bill that forbids the Pentagon from allocating any funds to “divest, retire, transfer or place in storage, or prepare to divest, retire, transfer or place in storage any A-10 aircraft.” It also prohibits the Pentagon from closing any unit that flies or is associated with the A-10. Congressman Ron Barber (D-Tucson, Arizona) led the effort.

Did Barber (who was a former colleague of mine in the Arizona Department of Economic Security) take this action based on his high level of experience and expertise in military affairs? No, he is trying to protect jobs at Tucson’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and, not coincidently, trying to protect his own office in a tough election. Barber’s proposal passed the House 300-114 and now goes to the Senate, where Senator John McCain (R-AZ) awaits.

McCain is among the loudest (and often the most incoherent) of those who blast away at the president about following military advice in regard to military affairs. He is also one of the biggest supporters of the A-10.

 

Absurdities: Gravy Train and the Poor House

The Walton family members are heirs to the Wal-Mart billions, making them the richest family in America. They hold more than 50% of the company’s stock and six of them are on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans. Together the Waltons have more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined. Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest private employer and, despite their great personal wealth, the owners do not share their financial bonanza with the employees who work for them. Taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart’s low-wage employees through food stamps, Medicaid and other assistance programs. The estimated amount of the subsidy is $6.2 billion.

Is Russia America’s Number One Enemy?

 

Al Qaeda and Pakistan

“Why are US policy makers so focused on Russia? Russia is not the world’s real enemy. The real enemy is Al Qaeda.” These are the words of Tarik, the San Francisco cab driver who took me from my downtown hotel to a meeting at the Presidio.

He was from Pakistan and he asked, “Why cannot America see that Pakistan is not your friend? It is a willing home to Al Qaeda and a friend of radicals. The corrupt leaders of Pakistan take American money and use it for themselves and for supporting violent radicals.

“I am a Muslim. Al Qaeda is not a sincere Muslim organization. They use a false intrepretation  of the Quran as a recruiting tool, not as a guide to life. They are not faithful to Islam, but are fanatics who use terror to build their power, and Pakistan is their nest. And their chicks fly off to Africa, Yeman, Afghanistan to pursue their violent agenda. ”

The Five Supremes

Republican presidents appointed five of the nine justices on the United States Supreme Court. So, should we be surprised that all five voted to uphold the Republican National Committee’s bizarre interpretation of the Constitution?

All five expanded on their theory that free speech is a product to be purchased by the highest bidders when they voted to further remove limits on the amount of money wealthy donors can contribute to candidates and political action committees. This was the fifth case in which the Chief Justice John Roberts Court made it unconstitutional to restrict the influence of money in politics.

Escalating a Tragedy into a Scandal?

These are the words the New York Times editorial page used to describe the formation of another committee to investigate the Benghazi tragedy. There is no question–––bad things happened, horrible mistakes were made, and Americans lost their lives.

But one more fishing expedition is not going to change the facts found in previous hearings and investigations. If Congress really wants to investigate a scandal they should turn their sights on the lies and obfuscation that took us into the Iraq war at the cost of 4,489 U.S. service men and women, and another 3,000 American contractors and tens of thousands of Iraqis; and, syphoned $2.2 trillion out of the American economy.

Or better yet, they should turn their attention to the national economy, the declining American education system, the ever-accelerating dangers of climate change, the dehumanizing and unjust U.S. immigration system, and the increasing inequality gap between the rich and the poor. But there are two big problems with this idea: to tackle these issues will not serve the purpose of discrediting Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election, and Barack Obama just might get some of the credit.

Why Are So Many Journalists Perceived as Liberal?

Based on my experience in the political arena, I am not sure this popular perception is true. I would say that journalists, in general, are skeptical of power, often to the point of cynicism, and they consistently challenge the conventional wisdom spouted by politicians, political institutions and business leaders.

This casts journalists in the position of seeming to be adversaries to the powerful, but I believe they are instead ardent truth seekers whose questioning is essential to a balanced public conversation.

But, if they really are mostly liberals here is a possible reason: Journalists are smart. About 90% of those in the mainstream media have college degrees, compared to approximately 26% in the population as a whole.