If you only read one article about the 2008 election, make it this one – Matt Taibbi’s “It’s a Class War, Stupid” in Rolling Stone this month.
Taibbi’s article about the looming economic depression (yeah, you read that right – I didn’t say recession, I said depression) is spot on… and the mainstream media is playing Nero while Rome burns, talking about candidate’s wives dresses while people are beginning a show slide towards homelessness and starvation.
Okay, now, hold that thought. While we’re unable to find $5 billion for this simple program, and Sanders had to fight and claw to get even $250 million that was eventually slashed, here’s something else that’s going on. According to a recent report by the GAO, the Department of Defense has already “marked for disposal” hundreds of millions of dollars worth of spare parts — and not old spare parts, but new ones that are still on order! In fact, the GAO report claims that over half of the spare parts currently on order for the Air Force — some $235 million worth, or about the same amount Sanders unsuccessfully tried to get for the community health care program last year — are already marked for disposal! Our government is buying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Defense Department crap just to throw it away!
“They’re planning on throwing this stuff away and it hasn’t even come in yet,” says Sanders.
According to the report, we’re spending over $30 million a year, and employing over 1,400 people, just to warehouse all the defense equipment we don’t need. For instance — we already have thousands of unneeded aircraft blades, but 7,460 on the way, at a cost of $2 million, which will join those already earmarked for the waste pile.
This is why you need to pay careful attention when you hear about John McCain claiming that he’s going to “look at entitlement program” waste as a means of solving the budget crisis, or when you tune into the debate about the “death tax.” We are in the midst of a political movement to concentrate private wealth into fewer and fewer hands while at the same time placing more and more of the burden for public expenditures on working people. If that sounds like half-baked Marxian analysis… well, shit, what can I say? That’s what’s happening. Repealing the estate tax (the proposal to phase it out by the year 2010 would save the Walton family alone $30 billion) and targeting “entitlement” programs for cuts while continually funneling an ever-expanding treasure trove of military appropriations down the befouled anus of pointless war profiteering, government waste and North Virginia McMansions — this is all part of a conversation we should be having about who gets what share of the national pie. But we’re not going to have that conversation, because we’re going to spend this fall mesmerized by the typical media-generated distractions, yammering about whether or not Michelle Obama’s voice is too annoying, about flag lapel pins, about Jeremiah Wright and other such idiotic bullshit.
Our economic reality is as brutal as it is for a simple reason: whether we like it or not, we are in the midst of revolutionary economic changes. In the kind of breathtakingly ironic development that only real life can imagine, the collapse of the Soviet Union has allowed global capitalism to get into the political unfreedom business, turning China and the various impoverished dictatorships and semi-dictatorships of the third world into the sweatshop of the earth. This development has cut the balls out of American civil society by forcing the export abroad of our manufacturing economy, leaving us with a service/managerial economy that simply cannot support the vast, healthy middle class our government used to work very hard to both foster and protect. The Democratic party that was once the impetus behind much of these changes, that argued so eloquently in the New Deal era that our society would be richer and more powerful overall if the spoils were split up enough to create a strong base of middle class consumers — that party panicked in the years since Nixon and elected to pay for its continued relevance with corporate money. As a result the entire debate between the two major political parties in our country has devolved into an argument over just how quickly to dismantle the few remaining benefits of American middle-class existence — immediately, if you ask the Republicans, and only slightly less than immediately, if you ask the Democrats.
The Republicans wanted to take Social Security, the signature policy underpinning of the middle class, and put it into private accounts — which is a fancy way of saying that they wanted to take a huge bundle of American taxpayer cash and invest it in the very companies, the IBMs and Boeings and GMs and so on, that are exporting our jobs abroad. They want the American middle class to finance its very own impoverishment! The Democrats say no, let’s keep Social Security more or less as is, and let that impoverishment happen organically.