We’ve been devoting more coverage to the War on Drugs lately, so it’s worth noting when a politician says anything about it other than “full speed ahead.” It’s especially worth noting when a presidential candidate says “I fear the War on Drugs a lot more than I fear the drugs themselves” on a wildly popular TV show:
My neck will grasp as the rope descends
How much the ass weighs in the end.
Paul Krugman got a lot of applause from progressives last week for blasting the politicians and pundits who “cash[ed] in on the horror” of 9/11. A few days later, as if to prove that even Donald Rumsfeld makes good decisions occasionally (albeit for bad reasons), Krugman twisted Rep. Ron Paul’s answer to a why-are-libertarians-so-awful question at the tea party debate.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”
And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”
The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.
Perhaps. Someone definitely needs to visit a moral ophthalmologist, anyway. Erik Wemple of The Washington Postremarked, “The distortion of which Krugman is guilty on this front summons parallels to Hannity and Limbaugh.” Ouch.
Our government is utterly broke. There are signs everywhere one looks. Social Security can no longer afford to send us our annual benefit statements. The House can no longer afford its congressional pages. The Pentagon can no longer afford the pension and health care benefits of retired service members. NASA is no longer planning a manned mission to Mars.
We’re broke for a reason. We’ve spent six decades accumulating a huge official debt (U.S. Treasury bills and bonds) and vastly larger unofficial debts to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits to today’s and tomorrow’s 100 million-plus retirees.
The government’s total indebtedness — its fiscal gap — now stands at $211 trillion, by my arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the difference, measured in present value, between all projected future spending obligations — including our huge defense expenditures and massive entitlement programs, as well as making interest and principal payments on the official debt — and all projected future taxes.
The data underlying this figure come straight from the horse’s mouth — the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO’s June 22 Alternative Fiscal Scenario presents nothing less than a Greek tragedy. It’s actually worse than the Greek tragedy now playing in Athens. Our fiscal gap is 14 times our GDP. Greece’s fiscal gap is 12 times its GDP, according to Professor Bernd Raffelhüschen of the University of Freiburg.
In other words, the U.S. is in worse long-term fiscal shape than Greece. The financial sharks are circling Greece because Greece is small and defenseless, but they’ll soon be swimming our way.
Monday night’s debate reminds me of an insightful analysis from the last campaign. Randy Barnett, Georgetown University law professor and anarchist, wrote the following in The Wall Street Journal in July 2007:
While the number of Americans who self-identify as “libertarian” remains small, a substantial proportion agree with the core stances of limited constitutional government in both the economic and social spheres — what is sometimes called “economic conservatism” and “social liberalism.” But if they watched the Republican presidential debate on May 15, many Americans might resist the libertarian label, because they now identify it with strident opposition to the war in Iraq, and perhaps even to the war against Islamic jihadists.
During that debate, the riveting exchange between Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul about whether American foreign policy provoked the 9/11 attack raised the visibility of both candidates. When Mr. Paul, a libertarian, said that the 9/11 attack happened “because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years,” Mr. Giuliani’s retort — that this was the first time he had heard that “we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq . . . and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11” — sparked a spontaneous ovation from the audience. It was an electrifying moment that allowed one to imagine Mr. Giuliani as a forceful, articulate president.
This turned up in a Google image search for Randy Barnett. It's not the Randy I'm talking about, but it seems appropriate.
The Des Moines news reporter who noted our anti-war message at the entrance of yesterday’s Republican Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa, was not present with us long enough to see the real story. Our banners actually got an amazingly good reception! Our group of sign holders were all surprised how many of the thousands of straw poll attendees, even Pawlenty and Santorum t-shirted fans, were responding positively to the “Come Home America” message and banners warning that “Endless War = Endless Debt” and “War IS Taxing”: The anti-war enthusiasm also manifested itself as people from all political (conservative, libertarian, and socially progressive) backgrounds stopped to talk, with many even giving up an hour or two to help us hold the banners.
Attendees seemed genuinely interested when we encouraged them to sign our recent “Dear Obama” letter and told them we were part of a non-partisan effort to focus on the most important ISSUES of the day, instead of the promises, slogans, cute winks and other crazy antics of any particular political candidate.
The truth is that progressives who support social safety nets, funding of public education, and who are opposed to the widening disparity between the wealthiest and the poor in the United States cannot possibly see their goals realized without the US government making a clean break from the last decade of destructive and costly wars.
Libertarians will not see a return to adherence to the Constitution, civil liberties and away from national security policing and “War Presidency” empowerment. “Greens” will not see more funding and research diverted to sustainable and environmentally clean energy technologies. And fiscal conservatives cannot possibly get the small, decentralized government they long for while the United States seeks costly world empire and military superpower status.
All the people’s worthwhile goals are connected by money and are antithetical to the US’ spending on runaway militarism. If the American government continues to be controlled by the military-industrial-congressional-media complex, in defiance of this popular consensus, throwing trillions of hard-earned and increasingly scarce taxpayer dollars on bombs, drone technology, armoring tanks, and outright corporate contractor fraud, none of these other popular group objectives are possible.
While the hundreds of national media in Iowa covered the actual, close straw poll finish (near tie) of Michele Bachmann only beating Ron Paul by 152 votes, they did not seem to care or cover the enormous outpouring we witnessed from people of different political backgrounds and loyalties—confirmed by numerous national polls–showing consensus for ending the wars and runaway militarism. Perhaps the “Come Home America” kick-off bannering at the early Iowa Straw Poll event revealed the unique moment we’re in, watching a perfect storm of various rationales coming together.
In any event, look for our Come Home America initiative to represent this convergence and strengthening consensus outside many of Obama’s upcoming speeches as well as other major political events throughout the nation. We hope to mount banners as in the photos of yesterday’s event in Iowa. While politicos and horse race bettors constantly talk of making their selections using the “lesser of two evils”, one thing is clear: It is the issues more than the political personalities that matter and WAR is not the lesser of two evils! It is THE EVIL that poisons and contaminates everything else.
The two worst of the other candidates, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, finished with 10 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Among the moderately atrocious, businessman Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also combined for 12 percent. Not-entirely-wretched former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman got 1 percent. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson did not participate.
As I noted last week, Bachmann has infuriated some of the right people by being less than reflexively bellicose. Whether her deviation on Libya reflects mere opportunism or nascent realism is hard to say, though her reported coziness with Frank Gaffney makes me shudder. Still, if we place Bachmann in the center of this nonet, with Paul, Huntsman, Romney, and Cain to the less-Gaffneyesque side and Gingrich, Santorum, Pawlenty, and Perry to the other, we get 41 percent for the former set and 30 percent for the latter. In the 2007 straw poll, Paul was the only candidate who wasn’t running on a Bush-Cheney foreign policy, and he received only 9 percent of the vote. The winner that year, Mitt Romney 1.0, was much more belligerent than either Mitt Romney 2.0 or Michele Bachmann has been so far. Maybe even the Republican base is inching our way.