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Nation That Says It Can’t Afford Medicare for All – Has Spent $5.6 Trillion on War Since 9/11

13 Nov

“From the civilians harmed and displaced by violence, to the soldiers killed and wounded, to the children who play years later on roads and fields sown with improvised explosive devices and cluster bombs, no set of numbers can convey the human toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how they have spilled into the neighboring states of Syria and Pakistan, and come home to the U.S. and its allies in the form of wounded veterans and contractors,” the new report states.

Because, as new study notes, wars force the question: “What we might have done differently with the money spent?” by 

new analysis offers a damning assessment of the United States’ so-called global war on terror, and it includes a “staggering” estimated price tag for wars waged since 9/11—over $5.6 trillion.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Center says the figure—which covers the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from 2001 through 2018—is the equivalent of more than $23,386 per taxpayer.

The “new report,” said Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action’s senior director for policy and political affairs, “once again shows that the true #costofwar represents a colossal burden to taxpayers on top of the tremendous human loss.”

The center’s figure is far greater than the $1.5 trillion the Pentagon estimated (pdf) in July for the costs of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, as it gives a fuller picture by including “war-related spending by the State Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security,” writes Neta C. Crawford, a professor of political science at Boston University.

“As obscene as it is to waste so much money, it is more obscene to waste human life.”
—Win Without War
Her report notes that even the $5.6 trillion tally underestimates the true figures, as it doesn’t capture “every budgetary expense related to these wars,” such as state and local costs to take care of veterans; nor does it take into account the funds used for military equipment “gifts” to countries involved in the conflicts.

“In sum,” it states, “although this report’s accounting is comprehensive, there are still billions of dollars not included in its estimate.”

In addition, as the Washington, D.C.-based organization Win Without War notes, “let’s not forget that when we talk about what war costs there are also human costs. As obscene as it is to waste so much money, it is more obscene to waste human life.”

 

 

Moreover, a full accounting of any war’s burdens cannot be placed in columns on a ledger. From the civilians harmed and displaced by violence, to the soldiers killed and wounded, to the children who play years later on roads and fields sown with improvised explosive devices and cluster bombs, no set of numbers can convey the human toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how they have spilled into the neighboring states of Syria and Pakistan, and come home to the U.S. and its allies in the form of wounded veterans and contractors. Wars also entail an opportunity cost—what we might have done differently with the money spent and obligated and how veterans’ and civilians’ lives could have been lived differently.”

Echoing a point made by other observers of failed U.S. counter-terrorism strategies, the report states that “the more people the U.S. kills, the more seem to join the organizations the U.S. was already fighting, even as new radical groups spring up.”

The report also suggests the war costs will only continue to pile up: “There is no end in sight to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the associated operations in Pakistan. Similarly, despite recent gains, there is little clear sense of how long the U.S. will be engaged in Iraq and Syria.”

Reacting to the new report, William D. Hartung , director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, writes in an op-ed at The Hill: “Was this huge expenditure of blood and treasure worth it? Did it substantially reduce the risks of terrorism, or reduce the likelihood of future conflicts? The short answer is no.”

 

The “Rigged Capitalist System” holds no future for the 99% a Revolution does – Left Wing & Progressive Books & Blogs – fah451bks.wordpress.com

 

 

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We can’t afford the Rich; Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett are wealthier than poorest half of US

12 Nov

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The three richest people in the US – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett – own as much wealth as the bottom half of the US population, or 160 million people.

Analysis of the wealth of America’s richest people found that Gates, Bezos and Buffett were sitting on a combined $248.5bn (£190bn) fortune. The Institute for Policy Studies said the growing gap between rich and poor had created a “moral crisis”.

In a report, the Billionaire Bonanza, the thinktank said Donald Trump’s tax change proposals would “exacerbate existing wealth disparities” as 80% of tax benefits would end up going to the wealthiest 1% of households.

“Wealth inequality is on the rise,” said Chuck Collins, an economist and co-author of the report. “Now is the time for actions that reduce inequality, not tax cuts for the very wealthy.”

The study found that the billionaires included in Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest people in the US were worth a combined $2.68tn – more than the gross domestic product (GDP) of the UK.

“Our wealthiest 400 now have more wealth combined than the bottom 64% of the US population, an estimated 80m households or 204 million people,” the report says. “That’s more people than the population of Canada and Mexico combined.”

The report says the “billionaire class” continues to “pull apart from the rest of us” at the fastest rate ever recorded. “We have not witnessed such extreme levels of concentrated wealth and power since the first gilded age a century ago.”

Forbes celebrated 2017 as “another record year for the wealthiest people in America”, as “the price of admission to the country’s most exclusive club jumped nearly 18% to $2bn”. That was a tenfold increase on the amount of money needed to enter the list when it first started in 1982.

 

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Josh Hoxie, another co-author of the thinktank report, said: “So much money concentrating in so few hands while so many people struggle is not just bad economics, it’s a moral crisis.”

The report says many Americans are joining an “emerging anti-inequality movement”. “A century ago, a similar anti-inequality upsurge took on America’s vastly unequal distribution of income and wealth and, over the course of little more than a generation, fashioned a much more equal America,” it says.

The rise at the wealthiest end of society comes as one in five US households live in what the report’s authors call the “underwater nation”, with either zero or negative wealth. Inequality is even more stark among minorities. Three in 10 black households and 27% of Latino ones have zero or negative wealth, compared with 14% of white families.

Just two African Americans made the Forbes 400: Oprah Winfrey (number 264 with $3bn) and the tech investor Robert Smith (226 with $3.3bn). Five members of the Forbes 400 have Latino backgrounds, including the property magnate Jorge Pérez, the LA Angels baseball team owner Arturo Moreno and three members of the family of late Colombian beer magnate Julio Mario Santo Domingo, a major shareholder of SABMiller.

The top 25 people in the survey are all white. The richest is Gates, the Microsoft founder, with $89bn, followed by Amazon’s Bezos with $81.5bn, then investor Warren Buffett with $78bn and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg with $71bn.

Since the Forbes 400 was published last month, Amazon’s share price has increased by more than 10%, lifting Bezos’s fortune to an estimated $95bn, putting him in the provisional number one spot.

 

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Socialism can never surrender its commitment to democracy.

10 Nov

Socialism can never surrender its commitment to democracy

 

The Centennial of the Russian Revolution

November 7, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the world’s first socialist state. To commemorate the occasion, People’s World presents a series of articles providing wide-angled assessments of the revolution’s legacy, the Soviet Union and world communist movement which were born out of it, and the revolution’s relevance to radical politics today. Other articles in the series can be read here

November 8, 2017 2:02 PM CST  BY JOHN BACHTELL

 

The October Revolution took place 100 years ago, on November 7, 1917. Even though the Soviet Union no longer exists, the revolution which gave birth to it reverberates still as one of the greatest history-changing events of the 20th century.

Millions of Russian workers and peasants engaged in an act of self-emancipation. Everything that followed provides those seeking a modern 21st century socialism a wealth of lessons, from both its achievements and mistakes.

The October Revolution occurred in a stormy and desperate time of barbaric world war, poverty, hunger, and insurrection. The demands propelling it were simple: peace, land, and bread.

It marked the beginning of the world’s first great socialist experiment, the first break with the system of global capitalism. Millions of ordinary working men and women were charting the unknown. They carried no blueprints and tried building socialism in conditions not of their choosing. From its inception, the Soviet Union’s path was shaped by the harshest of circumstances: the legacy of feudalism, theocracy, and a violent and repressive autocratic state.

It inherited a Russia that was the “prison house of nations,” a brutal oppressor and exploiter of other nationalities and peoples. It was a land characterized by oppression of women, anti-Semitic pogroms, and repression of Islam. The industrial working class was tiny and the level of industrial development low. Illiteracy was the norm for millions, and there was little civil society, and only hollow supposedly democratic institutions.

Without pause, the Soviet Union was forced to rebuild from the devastation of World War I while defending itself against hostile encirclement and invasion by capitalist powers, including the United States. Many U.S. working people showed their solidarity for the Soviet Union and protested the U.S. intervention, even though they lacked the political power to prevent the attacks.

 

 

The inspirations and the setbacks of the early decades

Against incredible odds, the revolution inspired hope and unleashed creative energy. Millions of workers and peasants threw themselves into building a new society. Under the leadership of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, the Soviet Union adopted the most advanced democratic constitution the world had yet seen. It represented a government led by workers and peasants, established new democratic forms, equality for women and formerly oppressed nationalities, and basic rights to healthcare, education, and housing were enshrined. It declared the people the stewards of the nation’s vast natural resources.

Once the revolution was defended and after initial policy mistakes, the Soviet Union embarked on construction of a mixed economy guided by the New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP was a policy that fit the actual state of development facing Russia, not an imagined or abstract one. It legalized multiple forms of property ownership, including private property, particularly of small landholdings, and foreign investment. The policy acknowledged that building socialism would be a protracted process; even after a socialist revolution, class society with all its restraints and inequities would be a feature of socialist construction for years to come.

Had Lenin lived, perhaps history would have turned out differently. But he died prematurely in 1924 and once Stalin assumed leadership, the NEP was scrapped in favor of forced expropriation of agricultural lands, collectivization, the centralization of power, and near total state ownership of industry.

With the threat of fascism rising in Germany, and its military machine aimed squarely at obliterating the world’s first socialist oriented state, the Soviet Union was forced into accelerated development. Under Stalin, this forced march was combined with fear of enemies, foreign and internal, real and increasingly invented. Political differences were viewed as political threats, and a culture of uniformity prevailed. Authoritarianism led to the enshrinement in the constitution of the Communist Party as the sole governing body and the development of a cult of personality around Stalin.

The campaign of fear reached its peak with the years of terror in 1937-38, when untold numbers of socialist patriots were executed and imprisoned, including substantial parts of the military general staff and Communist Party leadership.

Despite the terror of the ’30s, the now industrialized Soviet Union played the decisive role in the defeat of fascism in World War II. But the Soviet people bore an incalculable burden: Twenty-two million died and most of the country’s industrial and agricultural infrastructure, cities, villages, and farms lay in ruins.

Before it could rebuild itself from the rubble of World War II, the Soviet Union was forced to divert vast resources to the Cold War nuclear arms race with the United States and heightened competition with global capitalism.

The barrage of assaults of the first few decades of the new nation’s existence comprised an almost impossible set of circumstances for the world’s first socialist experiment. Every aspect of its development and its political and cultural life were impacted. The desperate and underdeveloped conditions and resulting chaos were fertile ground for the rise of Stalin and all subsequent crimes, imprisonments, and executions.

 

 

Moving on from Stalin

The Soviet Union may have survived Stalin, but it paid a price. The image of socialism and communism and the claim to democratic and moral authority suffered immeasurably. Marxism, as a creative body of thought, became stultified and dogmatic. This legacy, which seemed to contradict socialism’s democratic and humanitarian ideals, and the inability to fully overcome it, were also important factors in why socialism ultimately collapsed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc.

Despite all these negatives, the Soviet people could boast of vast achievements: modern industrial production that rivaled the U.S.; the ability to feed, clothe, and house its people; high-level scientific and technological development; universal literacy and access to health care and education; developed arts, sports, and culture; and formal social and economic equality for women and formerly oppressed minorities.

It provided immense aid to national liberation and anti-colonial movements, including Vietnam, Cuba, and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. It assisted developing nations, funded modern infrastructure projects, and educated countless scientists, engineers, and other personnel around the world.

The Soviet Union and socialist-oriented states acted as a global counterweight to U.S. imperialism. It was the Soviet Union that took the first steps to end the Cold War arms race by unilaterally announcing a moratorium on nuclear testing and deep reductions in military personnel and weapons in the 1980s.

Competing with an economic system where exploitation was outlawed, and people came before corporate profits, capitalist countries around the world, including the U.S. capitalist class, were forced to make concessions to workers’ demands. Similarly, to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy, concessions were made on issues of racial equality.

Even with all the gains, there were, not surprisingly, many mistakes made in this period, too. They included wrong assessments of the level of socialist development that had been attained, premature egalitarianism, wage leveling, the declaration that national equality had been achieved, the persistence of Great Russian chauvinism, the inability to transition to economic and political decentralization, and the despoiling of the environment.

The Soviet Union never sufficiently developed genuine grassroots forms of democracy and instead relied on administrative methods. Pluralism of political parties and movements was never permitted. Religious faith was stigmatized and church properties confiscated. Suppression of dissent substituted for the messy battle of ideas and the give-and-take of democratic civil society. The importance of the latter is particularly obvious in our day, given rise of the internet and social media. The information revolution demands engagement rather than directives, something the Soviet system would have trouble dealing with.

The Soviet Union was unable to decisively break with this economic and political model, which, when combined with negative external factors facing the country, brought on a period of crisis in the 1970s and ’80s. In response, the Communist Party leadership eventually launched a program of reforms on the prompting of Mikhail Gorbachev. These reforms were, at least at first, aimed at deepening socialist democracy, including at the workplace, permitting an independent media, demilitarization, and restructuring the economy.

Against the background of these needed reforms, however, Soviet leaders were deeply divided, weakened, and paralyzed—including within the Communist Party. By this point, the bureaucracy had become too entrenched, careerism too rampant, the centralized model too embedded, resistance to change too deep, and resentment toward the CPSU too widespread.

Demilitarization of the economy stalled, and other reforms, including a looser federation of Soviet republics, spun out of control. Gorbachev’s downgrading class struggle and the haphazard way that reforms—including workers’ self-management, state enterprise autonomy, and the institution of market mechanisms—were introduced was disarming and confusing. Out of the chaos, pro-capitalist and nationalist forces and corrupt elements like Boris Yeltsin eventually gained the upper hand.

In 1991, after 74 years, the Soviet Union collapsed. Its death represented an immense tragedy and loss to humanity, gave a boost to global reaction, war, anti-socialism, and U.S. imperialist aggression.

Above all, it represented a colossal loss to the Soviet people. Out of its collapse rose a class of oligarchs who enriched themselves by stealing the vast wealth created by the Soviet people and by restoring exploitation. Today, the Russian people live in impoverishment and under repressive authoritarian rule.

 

 

Learning from the Soviet experience

What lessons can be learned?

People, including revolutionaries, make mistakes. But they can be corrected, including by carrying out needed reforms, if revolutionary movements, including their leaderships, promote the capacity for sober self-reflection and flexibility and avoid dogma.

People build socialism under conditions not of their choosing. Socialist revolutions take place under very different conditions shaped by a nation’s history, level of class and socialist consciousness and unity, material development, and store of resources. There are no eternal models for either the path to achieving working class political power or for the development of socialism.

U.S. socialism will be based on our political and historical realities, the high level of cultural and material development achieved in our country, and our long history of struggle for expanding democratic rights. It will be able to take into account the hard-won lessons of the world’s working class and people.

It will be shaped by the conscious activity of the multi-racial American people to expand economic and political democracy; overcome social, racial, and gender inequity; achieve a better, more secure, humane life and creative work; pursue a sustainable path of development; and demilitarize the economy and society.

Socialism in the United States can be achieved peacefully and democratically through the electoral arena. Its achievement will be a protracted process encompassing many stages. It will not occur through the barrel of a gun. In fact, Frederick Engels suggested as much in the late 1880s with the winning of the universal franchise. “The day of the storming of the barricades is over,” he said.

A mass movement of the overwhelming majority of the American people who are conscious of the need for socialism and working class political power can and must compel the capitalist class to accept a path chosen by the majority and restrict its ability to resist or use violence.

Central to all of this, of course, is the struggle for democracy, the extension of political and economic rights, and the growing engagement and conscious participation of a majority of working people in political activity and civil society.

One hundreds years later, the flame lit by the October Revolution burns bright. It is our task to honestly analyze it and learn the lessons of both its achievements and its shortcomings for the socialism of the future.

 

 

November 8, 2017 2:02 PM CST  BY JOHN BACHTELL ….John Bachtell is national chair of the Communist Party USA. Previously he was Illinois organizer for the party, and is active in labor, peace and justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio and currently lives in Chicago.

 

The “Rigged Capitalist System” holds no future for the 99% a Revolution does – Left Wing & Progressive Books & Blogs – fah451bks.wordpress.com

 

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