John Edwards in the Media

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As the media focuses this week and an entire weekend on the John Edward’s extra marital affair story (note the media calls it a sex scandal to make it more juicy) and on the obsession by John Mccain’s campaign to trivialize Barrack Obama’s advice to keep tires inflated to help with the gas mileage, the American people once again were diverted from paying attention to one of the the most important events of the year – the mid session review of the national budget for the year 2009.

In a nutshell, we anticipate a deficit of 490 billion that does not include the supplement spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that may add an additional 100 billion. The projected deficit is higher than what was projected when the budget was first proposed by about 150 billion – the amount almost equals the stimulus package that was handed out to we the people.

Of course as usual the President was able to simplify the selling of the stimulus package – it is the people’s money and we are just giving you back what you have paid as taxes. Really? Are you not going to borrow more from countries like China and Russia to cover the additional 150 billion dollars you just gave us. So let me see if you know the answer to do female cats spray. You borrowed money from China, gave it to us and we spent most of it at Walmart. Walmart bought most of the stuff from China and so the Chinese got most of the money back but yet we owe them everything we borrowed plus interest until we can pay it off. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Bush stimulus package.

Anyway this is not the biggest problem in the budget. As I take the 1 hour it takes to browse through the line items in the budget, I see that the welfare benefits that everyone complains about in every political season seems to be less than 1% of the whole budget. When I say welfare it is primarily the AFDC (Aid to Families with dependent children) that is welfare that people complain about. Of course it does not include Medicaid and Social Security which is something we pay for and get it when we are old and retired – something we all do not have a problem with.

And the line items that drew my attention were

1) Defense spending – 549 billion. But wait that does not include the fight against terrorism – there is another line item for that ‘Global War on Terror’ – 89.1 billion + supplemental line item of another 108.1 billion in 2008 and I suppose we can expect to see the same figures for 2009. It is not clear if these numbers include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or if they are additional supplementary budgets for them.

2) Contrast that with the line item on Energy – 25 billion out of which 60% are subsidies to the oil industry.

When I read the breakdown of the 549 billion, it seems we spend only 20.1 billion on the actual troops – the remaining seems to be spent on equipment and training. Things such as missiles. We already own enough missiles to destroy this planet 5 times over. Add to that the fact that countries like China and Russia are fighting us not with weapons but by buying stakes in our treasury and our industries. Who are we building these missiles for?

When I look at these facts and  figures I am reminded of the moment in our history when a great military leader and two term US President Dwight Eisenhower coined the phrase ‘Military Industrial Complex’ in his farewell speech to the Nation. Prior to World War II, the US did not have any permanent military weapon manufacturers. Throughout the World War, the conflicts in Korea and the tensions of the cold war, President Eisenhower saw the transformation and the establishment of a private armaments industry. He could foresee where this transformation could lead us and what he saw disturbed him. He warned us during this farewell speech of the impact of the military industrial complex. He trusted democracy but also knew that it cannot function if people are not in full possession of the facts. In his words ‘In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence whether sought or unsought by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist’.

Of course President Eisenhower knew whether or not do male cats spray – a former military leader and a two term President – nobody has more authority on these matters.

Apply this lesson from history to today and many of the President’s predictions during that farewell speech have proven to be correct and his observations seem to be timeless. And now this industry has been expanded to include oil and private military contractors

We have a President today who ran an oil company – the cost of oil is up 4 times since he took office. The Vice President went from being secretary of defense under Bush 1 to the CEO of Halliburton/KBR to the Vice President of the country under Bush II. Halliburton/KBR wins no bid contracts. The company that was hired by Cheney as Secretary of Defense in 1991 to study the outsourcing of defense activities – Halliburton/KBR at a cost of 8 million dollars. Roll your clock 12 years forward and who gets the most defense outsourcing contracts – Halliburton KBR.

When Uncle Ben is President and the cost of rice goes up by 4 times, maybe it has something to do with Uncle Ben becoming the President. Or do you still think this is just a conspiracy theory? Because if you do then you are calling General and President Eisenhower a conspiracy theorist. And if I think like Sean Hannity, when you say that I will call you unpatriotic for calling a former Republican President a conspiracy theorist. But I do not think like him and so I will listen to you as long as you can reason with me and provide some evidence to the contrary.

The point here is that the free market economy that we love has created a system that profits from war. Like any industry this industry would like to expand. When one war ends, the industry will find and if it cannot find create another enemy and another war. The industry found a legitimate enemy – the terrorists that caused 9/11, thus leading to a legitimate war in Afghanistan. But the Neo Cons who are the political brokers and lobbyists for this industry created a war in Iraq. Of course as a nation we slept and did not pay attention. Our media focussed on trivial things, largely our fault because we watch trivial things and give them higher Nelson’s ratings.

And so it remains to be seen in this election year whether we have learned anything from the last 8 years and our history. Our job as citizens of this country has never been more important. If we take this job seriously, then we will see the budget to find new sources of energy go up 200 to 300% and the defense budget (mind you the defense budget and not the budget to fight the global war on terror which is real and necessary) go down to more acceptable levels. If not we will prove President Eisenhower right yet again. And this is one time the former President would not mind being wrong even in his grave.

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