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The State of the Union Bush
By Senator Bernie Sanders
I listened intently to President Bush’s State of the Union speech. Frankly, I had a hard time understanding what country he was talking about, what reality he was talking about. Certainly, if the “state of the union” refers to what is happening to the shrinking middle class of this country, and how we as a people are doing, the president had almost nothing to say that rang true. In fact, the speech just reminds us once again how far removed from the reality of ordinary life this president is, and how little he and his administration know about what is going on with the vast majority of Americans.
The president said that “in the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth.” I wish that was true. Unfortunately, Since President Bush has been in office it is important to understand that:
-Nearly five million Americans have slipped out of the middle class and into poverty. Amazingly, the poverty rate is higher today than it was during the last recession in 2001.
-Median household income for working-age Americans has declined by almost $2,500; and overall median household income has gone down by nearly $1,000.
-8.6 million Americans have lost their health insurance.
-Over three million manufacturing jobs have been lost, including more than 10,000 in my State of Vermont.
-Three million workers have lost their pensions, and about half of American workers in the private sector have no pension coverage whatsoever.
-The annual trade deficit has more than doubled, and the national debt has gone up by $3 trillion.
-Health care premiums have increased 78 percent; the prices of gas and heating oil have more than doubled; and college education costs have increased by over 60 percent.
In addition, to those statistics, let me just mention a few more:
-Last November, the personal savings rate was below zero, something that up until 2005 hasn’t happened since the Great Depression.
-According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 35.5 million Americans struggled to put food on the table last year and the number of the hungriest Americans keeps going up.
-The average college student has racked up nearly $20,000 in debt upon graduation and some 400,000 qualified high school students don’t go to college in the first place because they can’t afford it.
-Home foreclosures are the highest on record turning the American dream of homeownership into an American nightmare for millions of Americans.
-The number of working families paying more than half of their incomes on housing has increased by 72 percent over the past decade.
-The United States has the highest rate of childhood poverty, the highest infant mortality rate, the highest overall poverty rate, the largest gap between the rich and the poor, the largest incarceration rate, and is the only country not to have a national health care program of any major developed country on earth.
-And, the number of college graduates earning poverty level wages has more than doubled over the past 15 years.
In other words, not only is the middle class being squeezed by skyrocketing prices; the middle class is actually shrinking and poverty is increasing.
Meanwhile, the wealthiest people in our society have not had it so good since the 1920s.
Income inequality is on the rise. According to the latest figures from the IRS, the top 1 percent earned more income in 2005 than the bottom 50 percent, and the national share of income going to the wealthiest Americans is higher than at any time since 1929.
Perhaps even more disturbing is the unequal distribution of wealth.
According to Forbes magazine, the collective net worth of the wealthiest 400 Americans increased by $290 billion last year to $1.54 trillion. In addition, the top one percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.
As Robert Frank of The Wall Street Journal has pointed out in his book Richistan, the super wealthy, those worth between $100 million to $1 billion, spent an average of $182,000 on wrist watches; $311,000 on automobiles; $397,000 on jewelry; and $169,000 on spa services last year alone.
The middle class is shrinking, poverty is increasing, and the wealthiest Americans have not had it so good since the 1920s.
That is the real state of our economy.
Bernie Sanders is the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont.
Iraq Is Still a Bad Bargain
By Juan Cole
Last month, Andrew Bacevich eviscerated the Iraq War party with his passionate and clear-sighted essay, “Surge to Nowhere,” in the Washington Post. He points out that the real motivation behind last year’s troop escalation was to avoid popular outrage building in the US electorate to the point where the troops were pulled out. He observes that the argument for the “success” of the “surge” is purely a tactical one. When viewed from the vantage point of grand strategy, the Iraq War is as much a failure as it has always been.
If someone came to you six years ago and said that for only $2 trillion, you could have for your colony a burned out country, a failed state, and a semi-permanent incubator of terrorism and hatred against the US, would you have ponied up the money? That’s what you’ve got, and that is what it cost you. Detroit could have used some of that money. New Orleans could have used some of that money. Appalachia has lots of schools that need to be painted.
The argument could be made that Israel is safer with Saddam Hussein out of power. But that argument does not hold water. Current Iraqi leaders such as Muqtada al-Sadr and Adnan Dulaimi are not less anti-Israel than Saddam, and it turns out he did not have WMD with which to attack Israel anyway. The Shiites of Iraq will certainly side with Hizbullah against Israel, which may actually mean that Israel is less secure now than before. Moreover, to have substantial turmoil on their doorstep just cannot be good for the Israelis.
You could argue that US petroleum corporations are now well placed to bid on Iraqi oil development. But what with doomsday cults planning a takeover of the petroleum facilities, it will be some time before it is safe for US corporations to operate in Iraq. China and Holland (Shell) are being looked upon favorably by the Iraqi government as investors.
And anyway, if the US government had thrown the $2 trillion and more that Iraq will end up costing at green energy development, both we and the earth would have been far better off. At a time when the US military is paying 60,000 Sunni Arab Iraqis $300 a month each not to fight us, it is pretty hard to justify letting the US working class sink, without any government help, into penury and homelessness in the face of the mortgage crisis and the recession. The Iraq War may or may not be good for Houston. It is certainly bad for Iraq and for everyone else.
The current round of optimism about Iraq in the Washington press corps will eventually falter against the country’s hard realities, just as have previous such rounds. Or maybe worrying about Iraq and continued US troop deaths there is so yesterday for the punditocracy in DC.
The optimism is a planted story, a sleight of hand produced by looking at tactics rather than at strategy, or by making comparative statements (Iraq has less violence today than it did in the volcanic period a year ago) which obscure absolute reality (Iraq is very unstable and dangerous).
What the snake oil merchants like Fred Kagan and Bill Kristol (both of them hard right Zionists) are really saying is that if you just give them $2 trillion more, and are willing to expend another 12,000 killed and wounded American young people, boy do they have a deal on a neo-colony for you.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice– can’t get fooled again.
Juan R. I. Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan and has written extensively about Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. He has given numerous media and press interviews on the War on Terrorism since September 11, 2001, as well as interviews on the Iraq War and the building conflict with Iran.
Click here to visit Professor Coles’ home page.
A bone-chilling political
March 19, 2017