THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Bayard H. Waterbury, III Headshot

How Our Leadership Can Solve the Budget Crisis -- And, Why They Won't

Posted: Updated:

I am an American, an aging American Baby Boomer. I was born in 1946, following the end of WWII. That was a tenuous time in American history, not unlike the present in the degree of challenges facing this country. With the end of WWII we had "recovered" from the disaster known as the Great Depression, and, although being credited with its resolution through social programs like TVA and WPA, FDR had only been able to finally stabilize the economy owing to the massive stimulus provided in a wartime economy. But, as America emerged from this struggle, a new one awaited. What to do with the burden of a crushing national debt incurred during the war, and what to do with the hundreds of thousands of workers and warriors who now would be threatened as G. I. Joe and Rosie the Riveter tried to find peacetime employment?

I don't know that anyone has actually written the story of how we were able to become prosperous beyond the conflict, but, suffice it to say that the country was really buoyed by the feelings of success and, may I say it, emerging as the unquestioned power player on the planet. Many other countries could claim a piece of the victories in Europe, Asia, and Africa, but there was no question in anyone's mind regarding who had done the job, what country had provided the final impetus for victory. Not only that, but this country had become the world's very first nuclear power. So, I can truthfully say that we emerged with a great sense of self congratulatory ego. And, we had, perhaps, rightly earned that sense of pride and satisfaction, but....

And then there was Stalin, providing a built-in rationale to continue to build a fighting force. The Red Devil was looming, and our Military-Industrial Complex made the most of this door that opened, using the necessary defense of democracy and national security to continue many war programs in the post WWII America. That was one thing. And then there was taxation. A simple glance at the historical marginal tax brackets, it becomes apparent how we were able to begin to right the Treasury, by setting the rates for the top earners at 93% to 77% (they never dropped below this until after Vietnam). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_tax_in_the_United_States.

This is background to where we are now, and I could go on, but a large part of my point is made. How could the government sponsor, by today's standards, such an absurdly high level of taxation, and, further, if you listen to the "trickle downers," why didn't this cripple our recovery from the war? The fact is that most of the wealthy were relieved to still have a country to call their own, and considered it patriotic to help rebuild the economy, even if it meant paying higher taxes. Sure, there were those who complained, but, at that time they didn't own Congress or the White House.

Then, spurred by Stalin's Soviet Russian regime, our MIC found ways to "sponsor" the first of lots of "protective actions" to help maintain our freedom (and power), the Korean War. In addition to these timely "police" actions directed (they said) to thwart the spread of Communism, there was a massive expansion of our military throughout the world. In addition to the spread of our military (now to more than 100 nations around the world and more than 800 locations, see Chalmers Johnson's book Nemesis, the Last Days of the American Republic), we sponsored the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe (this cost lots of money, but resulted in building back our trading partners in Europe, and creating massive and long lived good will).
Then, as now, we sponsored massive programs of economic assistance throughout the world, but these were not really altruistic in any sense, for many, if not most, sponsored governments which promised to cooperate with our imperial ambitions and acted, in many, if not most, cases, in ways detrimental to their own national progress, especially regarding their citizenry (instances of this notably include folks like the Shah of Iran, Pinochet, Marcos, Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi, the Pakistani dictators, the Indonesian dictators, a huge number of African leaders, many leaders in Eastern Europe and Southeastern Asia - you get the picture). This worked entirely to our benefit, because we inflamed public sentiment in those nations, gained access to power, and, in a sense, created a real reason to have such a strong military.

Then, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the nuclear non-proliferation treaties, we actually had the potential for a "peace dividend" which should have resulted in a massive reduction in military spending. It didn't happen. There's an old truism in Washington, and that is, once you start a program, it is difficult to control the spending curve on that program, and nearly impossible to shut it down. In watching a recent series on PBS regarding the career of our distinguished public servant, George Schultz, one remarkable piece of information which came out was that in Reagan's final disarmament treaty meeting in Iceland, the Soviet Union offered to do away with nuclear weapons entirely, if we agreed to do the same and stopped work on Reagan's pet "Star Wars" anti-missile defense system. Reagan chose not to go along. Not that he loved nuclear weapons, but, in the long run, he would be putting a big hole in our military, and that just wouldn't do.

Perhaps you can see a pattern emerging here. In the 1990's we decided to launch Desert Storm to control Saddam Hussein (who we had sponsored into power to control Iran after the Shah was deposed, another of our American stooges), when he decided to invade Kuwait. And now, we have the War on Terror resulting from 9/11 (which was sponsored by terrorists that we had created by our imperialistic Mideastern policies in support of Israel to the detriment of the entire Muslim world), and then the completely absurd Iraq War based upon manufactured evidence of WMD's, together with our Afghani misadventure (a part of the War on Terror), which is, once again, supporting a corrupt dictator. We have to ask ourselves, will this excuse for our Military Industrial Complex go on ad infinite, unabated (so cogently warned about to us by then departing President Eisenhower).

The upshot of all of these things is that we now spend more on our military than all other of the world's nations combined. This is pure nonsense in the name of national security, when all it does is, in fact, create greater instability in the world, and is, therefore, counterproductive to an order of magnitude. And then, how do we pay for all of this? That's the really scary part.
Without going into details, we pay for it by insufficient and imprudent taxation. After WWII, the top marginal tax rate on the top bracket varied from 94% in 1945 to 91% in 1963, then, in 1964 it dropped to 77%, 70% in 1965 until 1982, when it dropped to 50%, until 1987, when it fell to 38.5% and to 28% in 1988 until 1991 when it rose to 39.6%, and has gradually diminished since then to the present 35% (not to mention the vast special tax breaks for the wealthy contained in the US Tax Code of thousands of pages). Think about that, and the incredibly wide disparity between what the wealthiest pay in taxes and have in income and assets when compared to the other 99% of the electorate. This is a tragic failure of government. Not to mention the pork, not-budgeted war debts, Wall Street bailout, and other massive contrivances including both the Wall Street reforms (which do very, very little), and the massive health care cost growth and absurd Health Care reform. These last two items were basically gifts to the rich and created immense burdens for most of the rest of us.

I know, at this point that I must sound positively seditious. This is, after all, my country. I am a military veteran. I believe that, at one time, we were exceptional as a nation. But, sadly that is not true anymore, at least in much of any positive sense (we are rated at least 12th in education among the world's nations, and similarly rated in health care delivery and cost).
We continue to watch and listen while the giants of industry are continuously rewarded by their minions in government. What happened to Wall Street prosecution? What happened to BP to offset the cost of the oil spill to the average Gulf Coast resident? What happened to the banks with robo-signers foisting ill-founded foreclosures on people whose lives are already on the edge due to the massive mortgage conspiracy between Wall Street, regulators and legislators?
And, now, as the budget debates begin on Capitol Hill, can we expect somehow that things will get better? That our political elite will reduce our bloated and corrupt military, or tax our multimillionaires more? Even with the Tea Partiers working to get things right, are there enough honest, caring Senators and Congress people to somehow lead us to be optimistic? Even to be vaguely or cautiously optimistic or even neutral on this matter, well, you got a better chance of winning in the most rigged casino ever to exist -- or is that America these days, where folks like Donald Trump and Warren Buffet always draw to an inside straight, and we get nothing but jokers, when they're not wild? Why is that? These few rich elitists own the building, the land, the taxing authority, the card printing company, pay the pit bosses, and the print media who would like to talk about the abuses, but instead feeds us a few lines to make us outraged, but never report the whole story. They'd be out of business if they did, because they wouldn't be able to find advertisers.

Maybe at this point you understand why our leadership won't successfully solve the nation's budget crisis. The population is the host to a massive parasite (the plutocracy) which, in its ravenousness, is not concerned about killing the host. And why is that? These people are globalists with massive amounts in cold storage in Switzerland or the Caiman Islands, or elsewhere, who don't see themselves as Americans any more, but masters of the globe, and, by extension, the universe. By any account, except the occasional disingenuous sound bite, their actions tell us that clearly we aren't on their radar. Wait until late this year, when the campaigns begin to rev up. Oh, then you'll hear more empty rhetoric than your ears can bear. It's time to pay real attention, and stop listening to folks like Limbaugh, Beck, Maddow, and Olbermann. I don't hate these folks, but the answers don't lie at the extremes, but in rational thought. Not in throwing stones, but in working together to assure that we treat everyone with respect and dignity. More than anything we need truly rational government. Will it happen? My answer is quite simple. Unless we all start paying attention, the answer is an absolute negative. Until we are willing to risk what the Egyptian citizens risked to take back our nation, it won't happen.

What are you 30,000,000 unemployed people doing when you're not looking for jobs? Time to get a move on. Make a plan. Sign up for a real, non-violent, revolution. It's 320,000,000 of us against a few hundred or thousand of them. Time to be counted or ... well, who knows? I would have every reader go to this site:
http://public-consultation.org/exercise/

It is wonderful. Prove to yourself that rational minds can find a solution. When I finished doing it, my budget had a $278 billion surplus. And, I didn't do away with any social programs, and actually increased a few, like infrastructure spending. Do it. It takes about 20 minutes, if you go slowly, and it will teach you a lot.