Austerity Myth and Public Safety Reality

Is it austerity thinking that prevents us from preparing for natural disasters? Or is the simple arithmetic of limiting taxes on corporations and investors bankrupting our ability to make or execute public safety plans?

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June 1 is the first day of hurricane season. Emergency management officials caution that a “below average” year does not mean that the one that hits your community will not be THE BIG ONE.

Dr. Rick Knabb of the National Hurricane Center: “None of the forecasts, warnings, and emergency evaluation instructions will be as effective as they need to be if individuals, families, and business owners have not prepared in advance for what they need to do.” (1) And what about the preparation that governments need to do?

In the April Think Progress article, “ Big Insurance Companies Are Warning the US to Prepare for Climate Change” by Emily Atkin (2) reports on the SmarterSafer report that was painfully accurate in predicting current events.

“With the federal government taking on such an enormous share of the financial burden and nearly all recovery responsibility, there is little incentive for disaster-prone states to take action to reduce risk,” the report says. “For example, disaster-prone states like Texas and Louisiana are among those spending the least of their state budget on emergency response and mitigation programs that can reduce disaster costs.”

It is true that the cost of preparation can be formidable but certainly less than not preparing. The difference: who pays.

In example, The Las Vegas Valley Water Authority has spent millions on infrastructure designed to manage flash floods in the Valley and Clark County. This kind of activity is a logical part of a comprehensive water management program. So why do so many areas at risk not prepare?

It is my opinion that as long as multinational corporations and their investors consider themselves citizens of a world economy and NOT citizens of this country, state, or community, they will feel no obligation to contribute to the collective ability to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. And they will continue to use the austerity myth to convince us that it is always someone else who should pay – even if it means paying with their lives.

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(1)http://abcnews.go.com/topics/news/hurricane-season.htm

(2)http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/04/21/3649244/insurance-climate-change-disaster-relief/

The Two Faces of Hawk Talk

Situations in Europe would have us revisit the debate, “Democracy v Stability” as we consider our role in international affairs. Today I am asking, “what kind of stability?”

‘American leadership through the threat of force’ is consistent with a ‘maintenance of the status quo’ notion of stability, but currently fails any sustainability test. The very same who believe America should be ever ready to flex muscle do not support any viable means to fund their intentions.

These Hawks appear happy to spend tax dollars but reluctant to ask those who fund their campaigns to pay taxes. So, while top private and corporate earners have far more skin in the game than most, they pay proportionately less into the kitty than a kindergarden teacher.

In compensation for these opposing values, Hawks embrace austerity to justify the abuse of American warriors: enlistment promises are broken; the wounded are brought home and then left behind; and funds are found for new war planes but not for hand sanitizer for the remotely deployed. By now we should all know that austerity is a costume worn by too many at the masquerade ball we call American politics today.

As long as Hawks burden breadwinners and protect cake eaters The People must resist their chest-beating racketeering.

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Image thanks to rapgenius.com

A Tale of Two….

On Memorial Day I saw Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) deliver a keynote address. She spoke of her two tours in Iraq and the powerful memory of her first “unanswered roll call ceremony” for a friend lost in combat. She shared that only one percent of our citizens have fought in these, the two longest wars in American history.

And then it occurred to me: another one percent of us have made obscene fortunes from these, the two most blatantly economically motivated wars in American history.

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These two one percents could not be more different.

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One, members of the super-minority, are making record profits quarter after quarter, and “investing” frightening amounts of money in campaign contributions and spendy lobbyists in order to keep things going their way: war profiteering, monopoly building, too-big-to-care, tax dodging, unregulated global capitalism.

The other are public servants, willing to do their duty until their last breath doing a job few dare face. Too often they leave our service broken or ill, only go become the collateral damage of a system being starved out of existence by tax cuts, tax loopholes, and tax subsidies even as we spend trillions of dollars on two wars with no war tax. The call for austerity is a mocking of this one percent by the other. “We will take care of the money, now you figure out how to take care of yourself.”

I am not a pacifist, but I am very against preemptive war. The idea that we systematically abuse so few for the gain of so few –  and leave 98% of us out of the game entirely – is not sitting well with me. Yellow magnets and 4th of July flags are not enough to count as skin in the game.

I will no longer humor the self centered profiteers only to neglect our selfless patriots.

If that means less war, OK. If that means proper care for returning troops, OK. If that means higher taxes on the prosperous one percent to finance our responsibility to the in-harms-way one percent, OK.

No big box store, no stock broker, no crony contractor, no wealth building “corporate-person” is going to take the metaphorical bullet for anyone. I prefer to support the people who would take a real bullet for me.

The Anorexic Nature of Austerity

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Choosing to not eat has long been recognised as a mental health disorder that is more about taking control than about weight management. Each refused bite of nourishment may feel like success in the moment, but long term health prospects diminish by the day: too many are lost or damaged to consider “anorexia” a healthy strategy.

Every time I see an affluent and influential talking-head on TV suggest that “we” should take control in the short term by refusing to spend on those things that nourish this body of citizens, I am reminded of how dysfunctional, destructive, and seductive success in the moment can be: I believe “austerity” is an economic mental health disorder.

For the sake of ALL Americans, Congress needs to do some healthy, long term thinking. NOW.

America Run Like A Business: No Debt Ceiling “Emergency”

Attention, people who want America to be run like a business! Do not believe the fiction about to spew forth about the contrived debt ceiling “emergency”.

This retired business owner knows a few things about running a successful enterprise. If America were my business, hunkering-down (austerity) would not be my go-to solution.

The first thing I would do is end discounts I could not afford: think tax cuts (discounts), tax loopholes (discounts), and subsidies (discounts + refunds + incentives that can exceed the cost of the product)!

The second thing I would do is realistically price my product (reevaluate taxes). After a decade of unfunded war, should we add a war tax?  And the Medicare D non-compete giveaway: should we add tax to cover it or reconsider that decision? There are many pricing issues to discuss, but those two alone amount to $Billions per year.

While cost savings are always appropriate, cutting back on the American product line before doing the first two steps is just bad business. Why discount and underprice America out of existence? This is a revenue crisis, not a debt crisis.

My recommendation to Congress: the market (taxpayers)  having received the greatest value from discounts etc. in the last 10 years is well positioned to absorb a cost increase. End the dysfunctional discounting practices immediately. Recognize the national debt as predominantly unfunded war debt and plan for repayment accordingly.

Preserve the product line: the American way of life.