Thank you Mr. Obama
In scenes reminiscent of the Great Depression these are the ramshackle homes of the desperate and destitute U.S. families who have set up their own 'Tent City' only an hour from Manhattan. More than 50 homeless people have joined the community within New Jersey's forests as the economic crisis has wrecked their American dream.
And as politicians in Washington trade blows over their country's £8.8 trillion debt, the prospect of more souls joining this rag tag group grows by the day.
Building their own tarpaulin tents, Native American teepees and makeshift balsa wood homes, every one of the Tent City residents has lost their job.
These people have been reduced to living on handouts from the local church and friendly restaurants and the community is a sad look at troubles caused as the world's most powerful country struggles with its finances.
'We have been in and out of the camp for a year,' said ex-hotel worker Burt Haut, 43, who lives with his wife, ex-teacher Barbara, 48 in a tent styled like a teepee from the Old West. 'Our financial difficulties since the credit crisis three years ago have caused us to camp on public ground, at the back of churches and down the backs of closed down stores. 'We have had help from our friends and family, but we have run that well dry.
'We are trying to get back on our feet and with help from the camp leadership we hope to get back onto a social security scheme or help with some assisted housing.'
Ravaged by the loss of their jobs and their homes, the residents of Tent City struggle to get by without day-to-day luxuries that we take for granted such as food on the table and a roof over their heads. Ex-minister Steve Brigham, 50, runs Tent City, which consists of a dirt road running through a two-acre encampment which has flowerpots laid out front of proud tents and homes.
Functioning as near to a normal town as possible, Tent City is governed by democratic rules agreed by all the residents.
Dereliction of Duty
The potentates on the Potomac claim that President Barack Obama's signature on the "debt deal" solves the immediate problems created by Washington's spendthrift fiscal madness while "protecting America's future." Truth be told, it does neither. Here's why.
The arcane legislation cobbled together by House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the Obama White House doesn't increase our taxes, but it does raise the U.S. government's debt limit by a staggering $2 trillion in order to "preserve our AAA credit rating." The agreement says our government will somehow reduce spending by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade. It also creates a special 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, six from each house of Congress -- to propose ways to reduce our federal deficit by $1.5 trillion. This joint committee is to present its deficit reduction plan by Thanksgiving, and Congress must pass it by Christmas. Sound complicated? It is. And worse, the whole agreement is chock-full of dirty little secrets.
The "deal" identifies no automatic cuts in so-called entitlement spending -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. But it does require reductions in national defense expenditures, of 6 percent next year and 7.5 percent in 2013. In round numbers, that's about $400 billion less that the U.S. will spend on defending itself over the next decade. Worse, the cuts will begin while we still are fighting 2.5 wars. And that's not all.
Though Republicans claim the legislation will "protect" our military -- now closing on a decade at war -- from "major cuts," that's a hollow promise. The new law mandates that funds for national security and "discretionary domestic programs," not entitlements, be automatically "sequestered" -- meaning "not spent" -- if Congress cannot agree on $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions by Christmas. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this "trigger mechanism" would double cuts in defense and require across-the-board reductions in military spending. He termed this outcome "dangerous" and "completely unacceptable."
The defense secretary's comments echo those of U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey's last week. During confirmation hearings to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dempsey warned members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would be "extraordinarily difficult and very high-risk" to double the Obama administration's commitment to cut $400 billion from our military over the next decade. In a written response to committee questions, he said, "National security didn't cause the debt crisis nor will it solve it."
It's hard to imagine Panetta and Dempsey's hard truth's being welcomed in the West Wing, but it's refreshing to hear nonetheless. For months, administration officials and too many in Congress have been quoting outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen's claim that "the biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt."
Notably, this "threat assessment" justified major cuts in defense by the Obama administration in the fiscal 2011 budget. Ballistic missile defense, the F-22 fifth-generation fighter, the Marines' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the Army's Future Combat Systems, new C-17 cargo aircraft and the Navy's next-generation nuclear submarine all got the ax. It didn't matter what risk these cuts imposed; all that mattered was cutting.
Since then, the Iranians have accelerated their quest to acquire nuclear weapons. China's new assertiveness in the Pacific now alarms our allies in Tokyo, Seoul and Manila. Russia's oil and natural gas-fueled modernization of its nuclear arsenal and intercontinental ballistic missiles has expanded -- even as Vladimir Putin describes us as "parasites."
For the record, the Obama administration's original fiscal 2012 request for our military -- made in February by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- was for $553 billion. The Pentagon now is planning to fight 2.5 wars, replace worn-out equipment and retain the world's brightest, best-educated and most combat-experienced military force on less than $520 billion. Though Congress is now on recess and the president is playing golf, the new fiscal year starts in less than eight weeks -- and there still is no defense budget.
When our elected officials finally get back to work in Washington, it would be nice if they would recall a few of their responsibilities. First, what we spend on defending ourselves should be based on the risks we face if we don't buy what we need. Second, "provide for the common defense" is an essential function of government. Third, the word "entitlement" does not appear in our Constitution. We the People regard failure to heed these admonitions as nothing less than dereliction of duty.
Obama’s hollow claim of commitment to Israel’s security
Is President Barack Obama committed to Israel’s security? Reassuring bromides to that effect in his recent speeches are nullified by specific statements that spell out dangerous Israeli concessions and disregard for Israeli vital interests. Worse, the administration’s wider Middle East policies further denude those commitments of meaning.
Moreover, Obama’s unprecedented call for a Palestinian state to have “permanent Palestinian borders with… Jordan” would require Israel ceding the Jordan Valley, whose retention successive Israeli governments have regarded as vital– another first for a US president.
Obama has also become the first US president to suggest that issues of “territory and security” be agreed upon first, before proceeding to negotiations on all other matters, including Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants.
Upholding Israel’s basic security would also mean repudiating the repatriation of the refugees and their descendants. Bush did so in his May 2004 letter; Obama has not. On the contrary, he has supported the so-called Saudi peace plan, which demands not only a return to the 1967 lines, but also the return of all refugees and their descendants.
In May, Obama reiterated that the US “will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.”
But he never has – nor does he now. When, in August 2009, Fatah held a conference in Bethlehem, reaffirming its refusal to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, glorifying terrorists, insisting on the so-called ‘right of return,’ and rejecting an end of claims in any future peace agreement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton astonishingly claimed that the conference showed “a broad consensus supporting negotiations with Israel and the two-state solution.”
When in 2010, the PA named a Ramallah square after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, Clinton falsely claimed that this ceremony was initiated by a “Hamas-run municipality.” Refusing to identify the PA as responsible, Obama has not penalized it.
INDEED, FAR from holding Palestinians accountable, Obama has consistently rewarded them, increasing aid to almost $1 billion per year. A Palestinian Media Watch report just presented to the US Congress documents that, in May 2011 alone, the PA paid $5,207,000 in salaries to Palestinians in Israeli jails, including blood-soaked terrorists. Last year the US provided $225 million to the general Palestinian budget from which these salaries are paid.
If Obama was genuine about holding the PA accountable, he would be demanding the disbanding of Fatah’s own Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – a US- recognized terrorist group. He would demand the abrogation of the PA’s unity agreement with Hamas (which calls for a genocide of Jews) as a precondition of any future talks. He has done neither.
It is also difficult to imagine what conception of American and Israeli security interests led Obama in January to ditch Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and call for political “transition… now” when protests erupted in Cairo. Still less clear is why his administration spoke immediately of involving “non-secular actors” – a clear allusion to the Muslim Brotherhood – given its virulent hostility to the US and Israel. Now, Obama has legitimized the Brotherhood by initiating contacts with it.
THE NET result is that Egypt is on the road from lukewarm ally and peace-maker to a dependable enemy – one to which Obama has announced the sale of 125 state-of-the-art M1A1 Abrams tanks. It is also disturbing that Obama has not pressured Egypt to close its Gaza border at Rafah, whose recent opening has enabled the flow of weaponry into Hamas-run Gaza.
For a year, Obama prohibited any new US sanctions to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons – a looming existential threat to both Israel and the US. Indeed, further measures which must be taken to stop Iran is precisely what Obama left untouched in his recent speeches.
Thus Obama’s words and deeds not only fail to match his stated commitment to Israel’s security – they negate it.
A Clash of Visions
In a revealing interview this week with The Wall Street Journal, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor addressed the division that will make compromise in the budget fights ahead nearly impossible. In describing the negotiations leading up to the debt-ceiling deal, Cantor said the talks were made difficult because of a major clash of visions between the parties.
"It's almost as if the president and his party really are bent on promoting a welfare state and then thinking about ... our free enterprise system second," Cantor said. "And their emphasis ... has been in trying to promote programs of economic redistribution. And if you hear them speak, it's always about 'everybody should pay their fair share.' And I think the difference is, we believe everyone should have a fair shot."
Indeed, Cantor's remarks succinctly describe the different worldviews of liberals and conservatives.
Liberals, who think of themselves as more compassionate than conservatives, are always trying to come up with programs and policies that even out the differences between individuals. Liberals want to take a bigger chunk of money from those who earn more because they are harder workers, are brighter or more skilled, have invested more in education, or just happen to have been born into a wealthy family. And liberals want to use that money to create programs to help those who are less fortunate. Our federal income tax system is based on this principle.
Conservatives, on the other hand, aren't as concerned about evening out inequalities between individuals and would rather encourage individuals to pursue their own interests, for better or worse. Most conservatives believe that government should not penalize hard work, risk-taking and success by insisting that government take a larger share of the fruits of those efforts.
But with the advent of the modern welfare state, conservatives have been on the losing end of the policy debate when it comes to providing government assistance to a growing portion of the American population. And the money to pay for those programs is coming from a shrinking portion of our population. According to the latest figures available from the Internal Revenue Service, nearly half of all Americans pay no federal income tax, and that proportion has been on a steady rise for decades.
Given these dramatic disparities between worldviews, it's hard to imagine how a divided government is going to achieve the budget cuts promised in the debt-ceiling compromise or rewrite tax laws that nearly everyone agrees need to be reformed. And an election year is probably the environment least likely to produce satisfactory results.
So what can we expect from the new congressional committee set up to tackle these issues? Not much, which means that the mandatory budget cuts agreed to in the compromise are likely to be the best we can hope for -- along with a hefty tax increase when the so-called Bush tax cuts expire. And when that happens, liberals will have won the day once again.
The $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts required if Congress doesn't accept the recommendations of the new bi-partisan committee come mostly from cuts in military spending and payments to Medicare providers. That's assuming that the committee can even come up with a plan. What these cuts don't do is tackle the entitlement infrastructure, which is what is threatening to bankrupt the country.
In 2008, the American people chose the liberal worldview by electing Barack Obama and large liberal majorities in both houses of Congress. By 2010, Americans were having second thoughts and gave conservatives a large majority in the House of Representatives. In 2012, voters are going to have to decide whether to complete what they started in 2010 and elect a conservative president and Senate or default to the liberal position of 2008.
With so many Americans now on the receiving end of the greatly expanded welfare state, I'm not sanguine about the prospects of the conservatives winning. But if we don't change course soon, liberals may find that there is little American wealth left to redistribute to anyone.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)