Tuesday, February 10, 2015

America-- Fractured and Fracked to Death

The subject of "Income Inequality" has become a hot topic. Even Mitt Romney recently tried his hand at advocating methods to help the poor and end poverty. This topic is one America must face because, for far too long now, our leaders have sought to benefit themselves by alleviating the pain of poverty instead of removing the underlying causes. As a result, the population living below the poverty line has remained constant at 15% for the last 30 years. The so-called War on Poverty has raged for 50 years with no victory in sight; instead inequality has spiraled to where the top 1% have accumulated a record slice of the nation's wealth!

To make sense of where we are today you must recognize that "we" are a huge and diverse conglomeration of souls. Finland and other small homogeneous nations in Europe are obviously going to display less violence, higher student scores, and more equal income, than we see in America. Their small congenial cities have an advantage: they are blessed with a small population of very similar and well educated citizens, while we are fractured into widely different classes.

Political history, for thousands of years back, is largely a record of elites manipulating and stealing from those they govern. But in the last 50 years America's elites have redefined this lust for power and money. Those in Washington and Wall Street have conspired to enrich themselves while turning  all other classes against each other. Our leaders condemn our past, ridicule our institutions and religions, and claim to be transforming America for the better! But, they stand idly by as new beliefs destroy our family structures; while bankers steal us blind, and they ignore the fact that almost half our children are illegitimate, and half the kids in urban areas do not finish high school! The elites, you see, want to create an expanding underclass that accepts, even demands, their entitlements, accept their dependency, and give up any dreams of moving up the socio-economic ladder.

Since 1970, while work places have become safer and less physically demanding, there has been a six-fold increase in claims for Social Security Disability Insurance. In the last 50 years,  the fraction of civilian men ages 25-34 who were neither working nor looking for work, approximately quadrupled. In 2012, more than half the recipients of poverty programs were not classified as "poor" but accepted being treated as needy. We no longer just provide a "safety net" for the truly deserving, but a free ride for any who can find a way to qualify for an ever increasing menu of benefits. This is what our elites want--a divided and dependent mass of voters to accept their place at the far end of the table.

In a recent editorial by George Will, he recalls Senator Moynihan's warning of a few decades ago: "The issue of welfare is not what it costs those who provide it, but what it costs those who receive it." As a growing portion of the population  succumbs to the entitlement temptation, we see a transformation of the nation's culture and a weakening of America's distinctive conception of self-reliance, personal responsibility, and self advancement. This rending of our traditional social fabric, Will asserts, is undermining the history of American exceptionalism. And it undermines our national character, our finances, and our peoples' faith in themselves.

 Those in the middle who do work find that they make no progress--inflation, taxes, regulations, and stagnant wages hold them locked in place. And everyone watches as the top .1%, joined at the hip to Washington pols, play dice with the American economy--heads they win, tails the public loses! The bankers run the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, the SEC, and the economy for their personal gain. And no one in the White House or Congress wants to stop them because the financiers pay for their re-election campaigns! Can you blame the needy for grabbing whatever they can when they see the president, the media, Hollywood celebrities, and the Wall Street bankers reveling in their extraordinary affluence?   

It has been this way for decades and it is hard to imagine it changing. Almost half the people now are dependent on government programs, and many of the rest are afraid to rock the boat or make any serious reforms. The Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party advocates are ridiculed, and none of their suggestions considered for a minute. The teachers and news reporters seem to like the present system, and they "teach" their readers and students to resist change. But, without an unprecedented change of direction, the fractures in our society will deepen and income inequality will become a permanent feature of American life. And, a house divided against itself will soon fall, weakened from within, and other nations will rise on its ashes. If there is a moral here, it is that Islamic terrorism and Global Warming won't ever kill us if we commit suicide first--and it looks like that is what we are doing!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Syria Today Is Not Germany in 1939

When it comes to foreign policy, President Obama can't seem to win. Critics correctly point to how his efforts to draw red lines have become an international joke. And even his success at toppling dictators, or his efforts to help the "reformists," whoever they are, have all had adverse unintended consequences. Indeed, the Arab Spring he helped nurture has witnessed widespread violence on an unprecedented scale. Chaos now reigns!

However, the fact that many of Obama's political opponents call for more boots on the ground and a concerted effort to "eradicate" ISIS shows that the president is not alone in his advocacy of irrational policies.  George Bush's ground war in the Middle East proved, if nothing else, that we can't "nation build" in the Middle East. The Muslim culture, their institutions, and even the people themselves, educated in religious schools to hate all Infidels, are not able to develop the ordered society needed for peace and prosperity. History proves this--their culture and their nations have stagnated, strangled by the Inman's adherence to Sharia law, backward-looking observers for the last 1,000 years, while the West grew prosperous and free.  They are still in a tribal culture, something Europeans left behind thousands of years ago.

Our continued meddling is based on the concept that we have a strategic interest in the region, or that we have a duty to stand up for human rights. Hawks compare our failure to solve the crises disrupting the Middle East to Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler that led to WWII.  But, this is not 1939 when Hitler and a modern militarized Germany threatened Europe. Perhaps there was a need to deter Germany then--before they ravaged Europe. However today the Middle East presents a very different situation. None of the countries are advanced industrial nations and none have the Blitzkrieg strength, aircraft, and armored forces that can run over their neighbors--let alone land on the shores of North America. Plus they are fractured into at least a dozen warring, tribal sects all set on dominating each other. Germany and Japan were led by a single leader who could marshal their forces along a consistent and malignant objective. In the Middle East, tribal and religious factions render national boundaries irrelevant and create constant insurgencies and horrific terrorist disruptions. Significantly, they are totally dependent on foreign nations for their arms and sustenance. They pose little threat to the nations outside the Middle East. If they have a nuclear factory it can be destroyed by missiles and bombs. Indeed, a true embargo would have them back fighting each other with clubs and sharpened stones!

It is curious that virtually all American politicians and pundits argue for some degree of force to wipe out the terrorist menace. Where are the Doves when you need them? Let's look at what's happened--all our efforts have failed to bring stability to the region. It seems that our presence impairs even what internal strength these countries possess. Most of the Muslim leaders are motivated to do nothing in the hopes we will solve their problems, and yet they enjoy our failures and resent our interference. It is a culture we fail to understand. It is very possible that if we disengaged they would begin to address their own problems. Even if they don't, it's not our problem!

As an inveterate contrarian, I suggest the best answer is that we should simply get out--totally--remove all Americans, close the Embassies and let them have at it. Give Israel a free hand to protect themselves. We have no strategic interest there. It's a hornet nest, the graveyard of civilizations, and our presence only muddles their conflicts. We don't even know who to help, who are the good guys, nor how to help them if we did. For over 60 years America has poured sweat, money, and blood into the Middle East with nothing to show for it. Hundreds of diplomatic meetings and billions of dollars of hand-outs have left a consistent record of failure. To continue such a failed effort is insanity.