Let’s Not Spend Money on Dumb Wars Again, Shall We?

I gather from the Huffington Post and the NY Times that it’s 10 years after we started the Iraq war. 

Does anybody feel safer knowing that we overthrew Saddam Hussein? Maybe/probably there are Iraqi citizens that do, but as far as Americans go, I don’t know of anyone who is celebrating our entrance into Iraq, our deposing Saddam Hussein, or our staying in Iraq for all those years.  The tragic fact is that Iraqi politics had nothing to do with our safety, so we don’t feel any safer than we did when we went in there. 

Making matters worse is the fact that many of us didn’t think Hussein had Weapons of Mass destruction anyway. Joe Wilson told us as much, before we left to start the war. Others of us just don’t like war in general and weren’t for it. We think war is dumb in general, so any war is a bad idea and any military expenditures are, by extension, a bad idea. 

But the Iraqi war is notably dumb, even to people who don’t think that wars are dumb.     We fought a war to stop a man from using weapons he didn’t have.  We declared “Mission Accomplished” after a short period and stayed far longer.

To sum up, we stayed in a land we didn’t need to be in, because  our leadership felt we had failed to totally accomplish a mission which was based on a lie in the first place and therefore couldn’t be accomplished anyway. Now we don’t feel any safer after 10 years of fighting. That, it seems to me, is the very definition of a dumb war.  Catholic theologians have  thing called “Just War” which they are willing to allow if we have to have a war. Iraq doesn’t even come close to being a just war.

What did change, what did we accomplish by our time in Iraq?  We have lost multitudes of American lives to death. We have made a mess of multitudes of other lives through dismemberment, injury, and the typical losses of war. These might be worth it or freely chosen losses due to valor and heroism if they had to happen, but, as we just said, this particular war didn’t. In addition, there are all the multitudes of psychological traumas and traumatic brain injuries which will affect this country for the next generation of Americans at least.  

Beside all of the human tragedy, there is the cost of this particularly dumb war. We disrupted our economy here by sending workers to war. We spent all of the money on training soldiers. We then spent more and more for the weapons of war, and the contractors (aka mercenaries). For the next few years, we will spend money fixing and healing the soldiers who didn’t have to go in the first place…. if we can find the money.

Why can’t we find the money? We can’t find it now, we claim, because we have a massive debt problem, which we  refuse to fix and now have to face by way of “The Sequester”.

But the question no one seems to be asking in the first place is where did we get the debt in the first place? We blame it on the Chinese and the difficult competition with their system which guarantees cheap labor.  We blame it on “entitlements”, meaning we blame it on each other. We blame it on labor unions.  What we don’t blame it on is the war. Why not? 

According to costofwar.com , the war in Iraq cost us — at last count — $812 BILLION . That cost is going up with the accrual of interest, I’m sure.  
At the same time, according to  ideamoneywatch.com the sequester is designed to reduce our budget by $1.2 Trillion  over the next 10 years.  

That means that 80% of sequester cuts wouldn’t need to happen if we hadn’t had the war.  It is as simple as that.

Now, the past is the past and we can’t change it. We are stuck with all of the losses of life, limb and money.  There is nothing we can do about that now but heal and  try to recover economically. But it would be a terrible loss of a teaching moment if we didn’t learn from our mistakes.

Next time our government decides to have a war:

1) If there is any doubt at all  about the reason we’re going, let’s not go.

2) If our politicians lie to us and get caught about the reasons for the war, impeach them and take away their benefits. 

3) Now there will always be despots running countries and there may actually be a need to defend ourselves, not attack others. This may occasion a war. There will be people who will want to fight a war under less than necessary reasons. We should consider only fighting “Just Wars” that meet whatever criteria is set forth under the idea.

4) None of this should be construed to say that people who don’t believe in war, even Just War, must fight. 

5) Next time we consider having a war, included in whether it is “just”, let’s have a discussion of cost. What programs will have to be cut if we go to war? How will  we pay for it? I have to say that I’m sick of Congress not wanting to spend money on social programs because “we don’t have  it”, but when we want to go to war, we can suddenly find it, or the government doesn’t mind going into debt. 

If debt is bad, why isn’t it always bad? And , if some debt “has to” happen, why can’t we choose better things to go into debt over?

Just saying…






Human Choices, Economic Realities

Sometimes that Jesus guy just gets in the way — of sleep,  of politics, of economics, of every bit of “life as it is”.  Sometimes I wonder why he doesn’t get in the way of more people’s lives. When I say Jesus, I don’t mean “The Christ”,  “the church” or “theology” which are all open to interpretation and which we can endlessly prattle on about, pressing them into the service of whatever political viewpoint we want, so that we can talk about politics in the  abstract  rather than each other in reality.

This morning, the alarm went off to NPR, and the local version (Connecticut) began talking about housing and how the average person in Stamford must make $23.00 per hour at 40 hours per week in order to afford rental housing.  Not food or clothing, mind you, but just shelter.  Further, they went on to say that 94% of people in CT cannot afford to rent if they work 40 hours at minimum wage.

Forget about socialism vs democracy. Forget about the sequester. Stop arguing for or against gun control and listen to this:

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” and later … “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me”. 

Ok, maybe that requires belief that Jesus was somebody special (maybe even God) and  maybe it requires fear of a judgmental God  and you’re not into that.

What about this sentence, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself”? You can be an atheist and believe that’s a good idea,  What about this one — “Do to others as you would have them do to you”? Ditto.   

Ok. If anybody can believe those, why don’t we actually do them? How can a person, or an agency, or a hedge fund (both made up of people) charge someone more than they can possibly make for something they absolutely need? How can they require first month, last month, and a security deposit — in effect tripling  the cost of something already beyond their reach? 

I know many of us aren’t landlords, and that most of us don’t invest in hedge funds, but there are human beings all along this trail who could make choices which lighten the burden of their system on their brothers and sisters, and at least some of us are “them”.  If you wouldn’t want to be homeless, or spend all your money on a place to live, don’t charge anyone else to do the same .  

We each are a part of the economy.  if we don’t sell things, we make them, if we don’t make them, we buy them. In all of these things, we deal with each other. If we treated each other as we wanted to be treated, would we really need to make a 40% mark-up on something? If we value the worth of each human being, do we really need the most expensive car or $150.00 pairs of sneakers? If your brother or sister (either literally or figuratively) doesn’t have a pair of pants appropriate for the winter, how can you consider getting them without sharing what you have?

Do you really need another app or the most recent upgrade? Do you need to make people jealous or pressure them to have something can’t afford? If you make cars or build whatever, can you afford to not ask for a 10 cent raise or — when offered a contract where you don’t really work as much as you say you will, do you need to take it? Your  ten cents or your ethical contract can mean the difference between your brother or sister eating, or getting around, or having electricity.  

If you own a restaurant, I know you can pay your waitresses or waiters $2.50 per hour, but must you? If you know that Sally or Bill is working and not getting by, can’t you give them a raise or let them take food home or … or… Can’t you give them health insurance if they need it?  If you dine at a restaurant, do you need to be stingy with the tip? Would you want to feed your family on whatever your server makes?

Would you want to hear that people didn’t want to pay taxes to help “people like you”? If not, don’t say things like that.

Clearly, the economy is, in human terms,  messed up. People can’t afford food, clothing, or shelter. We buy water.  We pay for air we put in our tires.  We charge 30% interest on credit cards, or 500% on “payday loans”.   We spend more money on a phone bill than others do in food every month. Some of us charge more on a phone bill than budgets allow.

Do we really need to charge $50.00 for an aspirin ? Do you need to charge $100.00 per hour to fix a car?  Would you want to be charged more than you can afford? Then why would you do it to someone else? 

Then, if you’re a billionaire or a CEO, first I’d be greatly surprised that you’re reading this, but secondly and more importantly, do you really need those stock options? Jet plane? Yacht?  Do you need to be worth more than some school system’s budget for the next 20 years? 

The economic system of which we are all a part is made up of human beings. We have choices. We could live like Jesus says and think about each other or we could continue to do what we’re doing and mess up each other’s lives with no care or concern.  We could live as many religions and philosophies suggest or we can live the way we do — stepping all over each other and not caring about the pain we cause.  These are our choices, and they show up in things like politics, or the numbers on the stock exchange,  or wage structures or prices,  but in the long run they are about us and — karma or justice or God being what they are — they will come back to us.  Do we really want to be on the receiving end  of those choices?  These are the questions that that Jesus guy challenges us with, the ones that keep robbing us of sleep if we think abot them at all.





The Last Bigotry?

In today’s Huffington Post, there’s an article about a speech by Bill Clinton with this quote:

The country has made tremendous progress in shedding various forms of bigotry, Clinton said. “We have just one bigotry left. We don’t want to be around anyone who disagrees with us.”

Seriously? Ok. I’ll admit that we have developed a new bigotry. But there’s still enough old
bigotry out there. Nothing personal, but I still wouldn’t want to be Black in this country. I wouldn’t want to be a woman looking for the same pay as a man. I wouldn’t want to be gay and live in the South.

But the oldest prejudice I know is the one we haven’t even to think about in this country. The prejudice I’m talking about is the idea that poverty is a fault. We believe that wealth is in our control and that people who don’t have the necessary resources for living deserve — on some level- to die, because it’s their fault. If bad things happen to you, you must have done something wrong. If you are poor, you haven’t done something right. Forget that you can’t find work. You didn’t work hard enough. Forget that no one will hire you. You are a mooch — a leach on the teat of America’s economy who doesn’t deserve to eat. Forget that you got a poor education or that your parent(s) had to work, you don’t have the skills to make it in polite society. Forget that people still doesn’t pay women the same as men. We fault “welfare mothers”. Forget that you can’t keep a job because you have a mental or physical illness you can’t do anything about. You deserve to be poor.

Don’t misunderstand me. There are poor people who are that way because of their own choices, just as there are Blacks who are lazy and women who abuse welfare, and gay pedophiles. But one doesn’t guarantee the other. It just points out our bigotry that we see all when it’s actually some. If you are offended by that comparison, you can feel the offense that poor folk put up with daily.

There are so many ways to become poor in this society, so many handicaps to prevent people from getting ahead, so many small mistakes with so many huge consequences, so many con men with no morals who rob the weak.
We need to get over ourselves and the idea that poverty is controllable. We need to stop punishing people for things they can’t do anything about. We need to give people an actual equal opportunity. We need to start helping them become their best self, despite what we might think. To do otherwise would be to maintain bigotry.