The debt negotiations in Washington look like a train wreck. In slow motion. They have a certain balletic quality to them, like the train wreck scene in the movie Super 8. Unless one of those five-ton pieces of twisted metal happens to land on you.
In a sense, it’s our fault. Nature abhors a vacuum, and politics abhors a policy vacuum. Since the 112th Congress took office, there has been a policy vacuum among the Democratics. The Republicans are trying to fill that vacuum, with cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Maybe we should try to fill that vacuum. I’d like to see us concentrate on helping the 23 million Americans who can’t find full-time work, the 50 million Americans who can’t see a doctor when they are sick, and the 15 million American families who owe more on their mortgage than the value of their homes.
The other side only wants to talk about the deficit, the deficit, the deficit. It’s what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has called “deficit fetishism.”
But as I said a couple of days ago, if you did feel compelled to save $2 trillion over the next ten years, there’s an easy, painless way to do it: PEACE.
And that’s not the only way. Off the top of my head, here are a few other things, each one of which would save up to $1 trillion, or more, over the next ten years:
- We could let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire. (“No! No!” shout the Koch brothers.)
- We could let Medicare negotiate the price of drugs, the way that the VA and private insurance companies already do.
- We could require the rich to pay the same percentage of their income toward Social Security and Medicare as the poor and the middle class do. Not a higher percentage – my God, that would be progressive taxation! Just the same percentage.
- We could impose the same alternative minimum tax on giant corporations that we mere humans must pay.
- We could reduce U.S. military spending to a paltry 40% of the world’s total, from the current 48%, which would still leave us spending four times as much as any other nation.
- We could make Warren Buffett pay the same tax rate on his income as his secretary pays on hers, by eliminating the long-term capital gains tax break, the great majority of which goes to the hyper-rich.
What do you think? How would you save the money? I’d like to hear your answers.
Do you see that button below that says “Tell Alan What You Think”? Go ahead and click it. I swear to you that it is not connected to any type of electronic shock device. Who do you think I am, Dick Cheney?
Whatever your answer on how to reduce the deficit might be, I’m pretty sure that you won’t say that we should cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. You wouldn’t throw Grandma from the train. Unlike some people.
Unlike the 235 Republican House members who voted for the Ryan budget in April, for instance.
P.S. Please sign our petition at www.No-Cuts.com. And pass it on to every friend you have. It’s the only way that constructive alternatives like these will ever have a chance.
About a year after 9/11, I was sitting in an airport terminal, waiting for a flight, when nature called. I turned to the young lady sitting next to me, and asked her if she would watch my carry-on baggage while I went to the restroom.
She looked at me, she hesitated, and then she asked, “How do I know that you’re not a terrorist?”
She wasn’t kidding. She looked a little scared.
I thought about delivering some snappy retort, like “I used to be a suicide bomber, but I quit, because I didn’t like the pension benefits.” I could see, though, that she was actually feeling some fear, so I looked her in the eye and said, “I’m not a terrorist.” She thought for a moment, and then she said, “OK, I’ll watch your bags.”
And off I went.
After that conversation, I realized that 9/11 had not only radically altered our national security priorities, but also the way that many people thought about others. And the weird possibility grew in many people’s minds that any stranger could be a killer.
Now that Osama Bin Laden is dead, I hope that that feeling also is dead. The feeling that we live in fear. Judging by all the spontaneous celebrations, maybe that feeling is dead.
We have often heard the phrase, “if xxxxxxx, then the terrorists have won.” Martha Stewart once told her employees that if not enough of them attended her company Christmas parties, then “the terrorists have certainly succeeded.”
Here is one formulation of that formula that we didn’t hear: “If the terrorists make you feel terror, if they make you fear them, then the terrorists have won.”
I hope that that’s over, now.
We spend roughly $3000 for every American each year on the U.S. military. There is a theory that the reason for this is that the military-industrial complex controls our foreign policy, in much the same way that the medical-industrial complex controls our health policy, and Wall Street’s money-industrial complex controls our economic policy. That public opinion is simply irrelevant.
Maybe. But public opinion since 9/11 has been skewed by the real fear that many Americans have felt. Urged on, of course, by certain parasites in the body politic who want us to believe that they are the only ones who can save us from the threat.
In George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, the fundamental basis for the totalitarian state that he portrays is the fear and hatred of the foreign enemy, Oceania. A siege mentality, brought about by endless war.
I hope that the death of Osama Bin Laden will mean the death of the siege mentality. The end of the perceived need for foreign occupations, and the end of foreign occupations.
I hope for peace.
One of the unfortunate imperatives of public life is that when something is the lead story, you think you’ve got to be doing something about it. Not just have an opinion on it. Be doing something about it.
Volcano erupts? Prepare a news release on the new anti-volcano policy.
Zombies are multiplying? Introduce anti-zombie legislation.
Well, Libya’s been on the front page for a month now. Demonstrations. Civil unrest. Army attacks, etc. So our world leaders think that they’ve got to be doing something about it.
Hence the Libya no-fly zone.
Here is a link to UN Security Resolution 1973, authorizing the Libya no-fly zone. It shows a laudable, albeit rather repetitive, concern for civilian wellbeing. It also completely fails to explain how a no-fly zone will ensure the safety of civilians.
The Libyan Air Force hasn’t received a major delivery of new aircraft in 22 years. Roughly three-quarters of its “air”craft can’t fly.
It is true that the Libyan Air Force, such as it is, has been deployed. But the serious threat to civilians in Libya is not from the Libyan Air Force. It’s from the government security forces on the ground. A no-fly zone does not take away their guns, or their artillery.
For outsiders like us, there are two questions to answer:
(1) Do you want Gaddafi in or out?
(2) Either way, what are you willing to do about it?
Here are my answers:
(1) Out, because Gaddafi is a dictator who has stunted the development of his country and its people (although in a list of the 5,000 things that are most important to America, I’d have to rank this close to the bottom, even if it is on the evening news every night).
(2) Economic sanctions, including extending the de facto oil embargo and asset freeze that already are in effect.
And it’s likely that an oil embargo/asset freeze will work. Oil is 95% of Libya’s exports, and 25% of GNP. Libya has about four years of oil revenue in the bank, but with an asset freeze and economic sanctions, that becomes meaningless. Whatever the result in the streets, as soon as Gaddafi runs out of money, he’s gone.
But a no-fly zone? In the case of Libya, that’s a tactic in search of a strategy. The Yiddish word for it is “shmei,” roughly translated as aimless strolling around. A no-fly zone is basically just looking like you’re doing something to remove Gaddafi, at the cost of $60 million in a day (which was the cost of the first day’s worth of cruise missiles launched).
The last time we tried this, in Iraq, we had to sustain it for 12 years. At enormous effort and expense. And it didn’t bring down Saddam at all.
More fundamentally, a no-fly zone in Libya feeds the dangerous fantasy that every problem has a military solution. That the answer to the use of force is the use of more force. That if a hammer doesn’t drive that nail in, try a howitzer.
It was Mao Tse-Tung who said that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Do we really want Mao’s principles running our foreign policy?
“I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’”
Before the election tomorrow, I want to tell you one last thing about my Republican opponent, Daniel Webster. Because it illustrates the mindset of the Far Right, and what will happen to us if Webster, and people like Webster, come to power again.
This year, jobs and the economy are on the voters’ minds. But every once in a while, a question comes up about war and peace. It happened here a few weeks ago. Someone asked Daniel Webster, “how long do we stay in Afghanistan?”
Webster’s answer: “However long we stay is a military decision that should not be shared with the world.”
Nor, apparently, shared with us. It’s our job to pay for the war, and to raise children who will fight and die in that war. But not to know how long the war will go on, even if it goes on forever.
But that’s not all. Webster said that the war in Afghanistan must continue indefinitely, because “we need a beachhead in the Middle East.” (Note to Webster: Afghanistan is in Central Asia, not the Middle East.) And occupying Afghanistan “protects us,” Webster said, “because once that beachhead is established, it can move further and further.”
In Thomas Greer’s book "A Brief History of the Western World", he describes the result of the Crusades as follows: “The feudal system of western Europe was thus transplanted to this Christian beachhead in the Middle East.”
But here is the punchline. Webster finishes his answer to the question “how long do we stay in Afghanistan” by referring to “the biggest threat to our country.” Which is this: “Losing the hand of God’s protection.”
Greer’s book describes the “orgy of looting and killing of Muslims and Jews” during the Crusades. In words echoing what Daniel Webster says today, one Crusader wrote in his journal, “It was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place [Jerusalem] should be filled with the blood of unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies.”
I support peace. Daniel Webster supports endless war. The choice is clear. Help us if you can.
I believe what Abraham Lincoln believed: "Don't pray that God's on our side; pray that we're on his side."
As we approach our MoneyBomb next Monday, I've been introducing you to my opponents. On Friday, it was Dan Fanelli, the racist. Yesterday, it was Bruce O'Donoghue, the tax cheat. And today, it's Kurt Kelly, the warmonger.
In Congress, I am one of the most outspoken opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before I was elected, I spent years prosecuting war profiteers. So I know what I'm talking about.
Unlike chickenhawk Kurt Kelly. On Fox News (where else?) Kelly said this about me: "He put our soldiers, and our men and women in the military in harm's way, and maybe he wants them to die."
Yes, Kurt. I do want them to die: of old age, at home in bed, surrounded by their loved ones, after enjoying many Thanksgiving turkeys between now and then. And you want them to die: in a scorching desert, 8000 miles from home, alone, screaming for help, with a leg blown off and their guts hanging out of their stomachs, bleeding to death.
I need your support to meet my $300,000 moneybomb goal by August 23rd.
Here again, we are not talking about some fringe teabagger. Kurt Kelly is an elected official (a State Representative), who has raised a quarter of a million dollars to take me down.
Are we going to let that happen? Will we let the lunatics win? I say, "NO!"
Rep. Alan Grayson
We're making progress toward peace.
Late last week, Congressional leaders refused to offer the House an up-or-down vote on $33 billion more for war. Why? Because they knew that they wouldn't get it.
So instead, they engaged in arcane procedural maneuvering, resorting to a "self-executing rule" festooned with impenetrable amendments. When they have to go that low, you know something weird is happening.
Or something beautiful. And something beautiful is happening - despite the procedural legerdemain, 168 members of Congress voted in favor of an amendment to require "a plan by April 4, 2011 on the safe orderly and expeditious redeployment of U.s. troops from Afghanistan, including a timeframe for the completion of the redeployment."
In other words, there are now 168 votes for peace. More than ever before.
50 more votes, and we're done.
So keep watching your inbox, and answer the call. You might have to send an e-mail, sign a petition, or make a telephone call. Whatever it might be, make your voice heard, and this war will end.
We can do it.
P.S. Here is a Roll Call of Honor, the ten Members of Congress who voted against the "self-executing rule," and in favor of all three amendments to end the war:
This week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on $33 billion for war. I will be voting no. And you have helped me vote no. Because of our Peace Party, over 5,000 people have helped to fund our reelection campaign. Along with all of us, veteran and storyteller Oliver Stone, actor and artist Martin Sheen, and the heroic Barbara Lee have preached peace.
Today, as the fundraising quarter ends and members of Congress will be comparing what he or she raised, help us make a statement, that the Democratic Party needs to be the party of peace. Join our peace party.
The scars of these wars will be with us for generations. Already, around a quarter of a million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have returned home with permanent brain abnormalities. They can't work, sleep, relax or concentrate normally. Thousands of our children have lost a father or mother to this war. And those children, all our children, and even our grandchildren, will be saddled by the debt incurred to pay for war.
But we can stop these wars. We are stopping these wars.
Progress is slow, but it's happening, because of you.
While we prefer an online contribution so that it can be processed before tonight's end of quarter deadline, you can also mail a check made out to "Committee to Elect Alan Grayson" and mail it to Grayson for Congress, 8419 Oak Park Road, Orlando, FL 32819
I just learned that the key Congresswoman in charge of funding aid to Afghanistan - Nita Lowey - has stood up and said no.
Chairwoman Lowey just stopped $3.9 billion of funding for Afghanistan until she has "confidence that U.S. taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords and terrorists."
This is how Americans ended the war in Vietnam - by ending the willingness of Congress to fund it.
We're making progress towards peace.
Let's keep it going at http://www.congressmanwithguts.com.
Let's show that the right thing to do is the smart thing to do. Tonight is the end of our peace party - so let's make a statement.
4356 of us have given so far. $114,765 raised.
More and more independent thinking on the war.
People are taking notice.