War, Budgets and Blind Ambition
The Limited Minds of the American
by Chris Floyd
The American elite's unbounded, unquestioned,
indeed unconscious sense of imperial entitlement and dominance
-- based ultimately on war, the threat of war and the profit from
war -- is one of the defining characteristics of our age. And
if you would like to see a glaring example of this attitude in
action, look no further than the front page of Tuesday's New York
Times, where one David Sanger gives us his penetrating "news
analysis" of the Administration's just-announced $3.8 trillion
Sanger focuses on the huge, continuing
deficits that the budget forecasts over the next decade. Completely
ignoring the plain truth that his own expert source tell him later
in the story -- that "forecasts 10 years out have no credibility"
-- Sanger boldly plunges forward to tell us just what it all means.
You will not be surprised to hear that the upshot of these big
deficits is that neither Obama nor his successors will be able
to spend any money on "new domestic initiatives" for
years to come. But let's let Sanger, savant and seer, tell it
in his own words:
"In a federal budget filled with
mind-boggling statistics, two numbers stand out as particularly
stunning, for the way they may change American politics and American
"The first is the projected deficit
in the coming year, nearly 11 percent of the country's entire
economic output. That is not unprecedented: During the Civil War,
World War I and World War II, the United States ran soaring deficits,
but usually with the expectation that they would come back down
once peace was restored and war spending abated.
"But the second number, buried deeper
in the budget's projections, is the one that really commands attention:
By President Obama's own optimistic projections, American deficits
will not return to what are widely considered sustainable levels
over the next 10 years.
"For Mr. Obama and his successors,
the effect of those projections is clear: Unless miraculous growth,
or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change
over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic
initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors. Beyond that lies
the possibility that the United States could begin to suffer the
same disease that has afflicted Japan over the past decade. As
debt grew more rapidly than income, that country's influence around
the world eroded."
What is most interesting here, of course,
is not Sanger's noodle-scratching over imaginary numbers projected
into an unknowable future, but his total and apparently completely
unconscious adoption of the mindset of militarist empire. For
as he puzzles and puzzles till his puzzler is sore on how in God's
name the United States can possibly find any money at all to spend
on bettering the lives of its citizens over the next 10 years,
it becomes clear that Sanger -- like the rest of our political
and media elite -- literally cannot conceive of an end to empire.
Our elites and their courtiers literally cannot imagine life without
a permanent war for global dominance, fueled by a gargantuan war
machine spread across hundreds and hundreds of bases implanted
in more than 100 countries.
And so this consideration, this possible
outcome, does not figure in Sanger's "analysis" because
it cannot: it lies far outside the scope of his consciousness.
The only possible alternative he can conceive to the empire's
bloody and bankrupting business as usual is some kind of divine
intervention, "miraculous growth" or some "miraculous
And make no mistake: the "miraculous
political compromise" he is talking about has nothing to
do with ending or even trimming the empire. A "compromise"
on this issue could only be posited if there was some present
conflict over it. But both parties are deeply committed to increasing
spending on the wars and the war machine.
No, by "compromise" Sanger means
some sort of "Grand Bargain" between the parties to
cut Social Security and Medicare, along the lines of the "blue-ribbon
panel" of entitlement cutters now being pushed by the Obama
Administration. The first effort to impose this elitist, unaccountable
commission failed in the Senate a few weeks ago -- although the
Republicans have proposed such panels before, they didn't like
this one because Obama proposed it -- but the idea will keep coming
back, and Sanger and the elite will doubtless get their "miracle"
of slashing the remaining bits of the safety net to shreds in
These are the only possibilities for deficit-cutting
that Sanger can even remotely contemplate: some whiz-bang new
gizmo -- or maybe some hot new "financial instruments"
cooked up by Wall Street -- that will goose the economy with a
bright new bubble ... or else finally telling our old, sick, vulnerable
and unfortunate to just crawl off and die already. That's it.
That's all that our elite can envision.
Yet the ending of the imperial wars and
the dismantling of America's global military empire -- and its
global gulag -- would save trillions of dollars in the coming
years. Not only from direct military spending, but also from the
vastly reduced need for "Homeland security" funding
in a world where the United States was no longer invading foreign
lands, killing their people, supporting their tyrants -- and inciting
revenge and resistance.
This would release a flood of money for
any number of "new domestic initiatives," while also
giving scope for deep tax cuts across the board. Working people
would thrive, the poor, the sick and the vulnerable would be bettered,
businesses would grow, opportunity would expand, the care and
education of our children would be greatly enhanced, our infrastructure
could be repaired and strengthened, our environment better cleansed
and cared for. In short, people could keep more of their own money
while government spending could be directed toward improving the
quality of life of all the nation's citizens.
This is no utopian vision. Many problems,
much suffering would remain. But it would be a better society
-- more humane, more just, more secure, more peaceful, more prosperous
than it is now. Such an alternative is entirely achievable, by
ordinary humans; it would require no divine miracles, no god-like
heroes to bring it about.
But such a society is precisely what our
elites cannot -- or, to be more accurate, will not -- imagine.
Because, yes, it would "erode" their "influence"
around the world to some extent. Although they would still be
comfortable, coddled and privileged, they could no longer merge
their individual psyches with the larger entity of a globe-spanning,
death-dealing empire -- a connection which, although itself a
projection of their own brains, gives them a forever-inflated
sense of worth and importance.
And on a more prosaic level, the end of
empire would mean an end to the horrendous economic distortion
wrought by our war-profiteering industries. Other businesses would
inevitably come to the fore, economic activity would be spread
more evenly across more sectors. And so, yes, those who have feasted
so gluttonously for so long on blood money would not be quite
as rich as they are now.
A better world -- not perfect, by no means
perfect, but much better -- is entirely possible. We could easily
dismantle the empire -- carefully, safely, with deliberation --
over the next ten years. It is a reasonable, moderate, serious
option. It would not require violent revolution, or vast social
upheaval. But our elites do not want this. They can no longer
fathom life without the exercise -- and worship -- of power that
empire entails. They will not accept -- or even contemplate --
any alternative to it.
And thus every option and policy we are
offered -- whether from right-wing Republicans or "progressive"
Democrats, or from "serious" news analysts on "serious"
papers -- must fall within these pathetically cramped, constricted
mental horizons. Empire -- the imposition of dominion by violence
and threat of violence, and the financial and moral corruption
this breeds, the example it sets at every level of society --
is the canker in the body politic. Until it is dealt with, there
will be no healing, no hope, no change -- just more degradation
and disaster all down the line.
Chris Floyd is a frequent contributor
to CounterPunch. His blog, "Empire Burlesque," can be
found at www.chris-floyd.com.
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