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More Austerity as a “Solution” to Austerity?

By KEVIN ZEESE and MARGARET FLOWERS | IT’S OUR ECONOMY | FEBRUARY 21, 2013

As the economy shows signs of recession, the leeches return. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles have issued a new report calling for even deeper austerity. It is not what the economy needs as it stagnates and sputters toward a possible new collapse. Their report combined with President Obama’s State of the Union, the sequestration and Republican dogma are all combining to bring on another round of budget cuts, which will only make recession more likely.

It is important to put the current economic debate in context. Dr. Jack Rasmus, an economist who gets it right more than any other we are aware of, provides the framework with his in-depth analysis of the US GDP over the last 15 months.  He summarizes the present dismal situation:

“Nearly the entire European Union, including its core economies of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom are all now clearly mired in recession. The Euro southern periphery is in a bona fide depression. Japan has entered its third recession since 2008. China, India, and Brazilian growth rates have fallen by half. And the US in the fourth quarter 2012 has come to a virtual economic standstill, the second time in two years in which a quarterly GDP recorded virtually no growth.”

Rasmus predicts “The dual strategy of capitalist politicians across the globe—of QE and money injections into the banks and financial system combined with austerity for the rest—has clearly failed and will continue to fail even more visibly.” Rasmus foresees a double dip recession, with the shrinking US GDP of the last quarter as a harbinger of things to come.

Simpson and Bowles come into this situation recommending the wrong prescription – more cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other social programs, as well as closing corporate tax loopholes.  They want to cut $2.4 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade, $1.5 trillion more than President Obama has called for and this is on top of the $2.7 trillion in reductions that have already been implemented causing the most rapid fall in deficit to GDP ratio since World War II. All of this means an ‘Obama recession’ becomes more likely.

No doubt Republican dogma of shrinking federal government and low taxes deserve a lot of the blame, but President Obama does as well.  His State of the Union address kept the Grand Bargain of cuts to essential programs along with closing corporate tax loopholes on the table.

Dr. Richard Wolff cuts through the rhetoric of “fiscal cliff,” “austerity” and “market” to pinpoint who benefits from austerity, writing that those who own the “US public debt are easy to list: large banks, insurance companies, large corporations, wealthy individuals and central banks around the world. Austerity justified as satisfying ‘the market’ in fact serves those US creditors first and foremost.”

Multiple  commentators have noted President Obama’s sly language on Medicare cuts and his silence on protecting Social Security. Symptoms of a sick health care system continue to show.  Executive salaries at non-profit hospitals continued to rise despite a frail health care system. And though the US ranks dead last in male life expectancy and near the very bottom in prevention of premature deaths, infant mortality, total health care coverage, number of practicing doctors, and prevention of deaths due to heart disease among developed nations; we may begin to look better in the international rankings soon – not because health care is improving here but because bankers are now demanding privatization of European heath care systems which will bring their outcomes down too.

The more we learn about Obama’s Treasury Secretary appointment, Jacob Lew, the less hopeful we are of decent policies coming from his leadership.  Confirmation hearings have brought out his Romney-like economics: personal investment in the Cayman Islands,  creating foreign tax havens for customers when he was at Citi, and that prior to Citi, when he was an executive at NYU, he steered students to expensive Citigroup loans. Of course, we remember his $950,000 bonus when Citigroup was bailed out. It seems impossible for Americans to trust Lew’s economic ethics and plutocratic economic behavior.

All this talk about austerity comes as we learn that the Federal Reserve continues to bailout the big banks, not only by pumping $85 billion each month into banks through Quantitative Easing, but court documents revealed that the Fed also forgave $7 billion in mortgage security losses by Bank of America. Bailouts continue but outside of the public eye and should lead to more calls for Fed transparency, which is unlikely to come from the two Wall Street parties.

And, austerity comes at a time when new census analysis shows that during the Obama ‘recovery’ only the rich got richer; the poorer got poorer.  According to a new analysis by Emanuel Saez. perhaps the leading economist on incomes in the world, from 2007-2009 the “average  real income for the bottom 99% . . . fell sharply by 11.6%, . . . by far the largest two year decline since the Great Depression.” And new data covering 2009-2011 indicate that “Top 1% incomes grew by 11.2% while bottom 99% incomes shrunk by 0.4%. Hence, the top 1% captured 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the recovery.” [Emphasis added.] We got a glimpse into the rigged system this week when it was reported that Facebook, which made $1 billion in profits, will be paying no income taxes, indeed will receive a $429 million refund. Why? Tax deductions allowed for executive pay in stock options.

And, don’t believe that the rich getting richer will create jobs. The claim that the wealthiest are job creators has been proven to be a myth. Another myth exploded in this week’s news was that it was important to pay CEO’s exorbitant pay to prevent their unique talents from being lured away. Both myths are not consistent with the facts.

What will another economic collapse cost us?  The GAO issued a report this week that indicated the last collapse cost the US economy $22 trillion; that is about 1.5 years of total GDP.  And, most of that came on the back of homeowners suffering from the housing collapse.

What is the alternative? Countries that are breaking from the Washington Consensus are showing the way. This week an analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research of Ecuador found “government’s taking control of the Central Bank, implementation of capital controls, increased taxation of the financial sector, and other regulatory reforms. It concludes that these played a major role in bringing about Ecuador’s strong economic growth, increased government revenue, a substantial decline in poverty and unemployment, and other improvements in economic and social indicators.”  Unemployment has fallen to 4.1 percent, the lowest level in 25 years and poverty has been cut 27 percent below its 2006 level.

The report gives us hope finding: “Ecuador’s success shows that a government committed to reform of the financial system, can – with popular support – confront an alliance of powerful, entrenched financial, political, and media interests and win.” By the way, Raphael Correa won re-election on Sunday by a landslide with more than 60% of the vote in a race with 8 candidates.  Is there any US politician that wants to get on the side of the people?

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When Firearms are Confiscated, Innocents are Betrayed

JPFO | DECEMBER 27, 2012

In the history of the 20th Century, there were zero wars between what we would term “democratic” countries. The wars that killed so many millions involved either (1) non-democratic vs. democratic countries, or (2) non-democratic vs. nondemocratic countries.

Governments mass murdered their own citizens, or civilians under their control (as with occupation), in numbers exceeding 170,000,000 in the 20th Century alone. Over 95% of those killed were murdered by nondemocratic governments.

The mass murder of at least 70,000,000 (perhaps many millions more) civilians (men, women and children) by governments in the 20th Century occurred in nations where “gun control” ideas and laws had taken a strong hold.

Three Elements For Human Suffering Hold the above facts in mind, and consider this three-element formula for horrific human suffering:

(1) Evil exists in the world. This concept sounds obvious, but actually there are legions of people, many of them highly-educated and highly-placed, who believe that “bad things happen because there is too much inequality of wealth and not enough education.” Many of these people cannot accept the idea that Evil exists and that people are capable of doing Evil. They prefer the “poverty, disease, and ignorance” explanation
for bad behavior.

If the concept of Evil needs proof, then consider just a few examples of terrible things done by people who are not poor and not ignorant: (a) when government leaders develop written plans to persecute and exterminate a disfavored group, and then carry them out; (b) when a parent methodically goes from room to room strangling or drowning or stabbing several children; (c) when a young adult straps on a bomb and boards a city bus carrying people to work or school, detonates the bomb, and kills dozens of the people
and seriously maims dozens more.

(2) Imbalance of Power Creates Opportunities for Evil. This point should be obvious, too. On the micro level, consider the Carlie Bruscia case. Remember how a security video camera caught the act of the predator contacting Carlie, then grabbing her by the wrist and taking her away. This is just one example, but it makes the point. Carlie was 12. The predator was 35 or so and a strong male. The predator was probably three times a strong as Carlie, plus he had a plan and a motivation. Carlie had much less strength and no plan for defense. It was nearly a sure thing that the predator would win.

Carlie was brutally raped and murdered.

Consider the recent case where Iraqi terrorists shot down in cold blood a whole bus load of women and children. The victims were powerless compared to the terrorists. All it took then was an Evil idea, and the victims being selected. The power advantage of the aggressors made the rest easy.

Now on the macro level. The Framers of the U.S. Constitution worked to ensure that there was no great imbalance of power among the branches of government. In each branch of our Constitutional government there are checks and balances. Where government systems have checks and balances, and where these operate with open discussion and competition for votes, you have the sort of “democratic” society that rarely makes war on another “democratic” society. As Professor Rummel pointed out, unbalanced political power within nations is a major factor in the outbreak of wars between nations.

(3) Betrayal of Trust Multiplies the Results of Evil. This point is much more subtle because most of us do not want to think about it. It’s too painful. On the micro level, consider the doctor or nurse or medic who starts killing the patients. One doctor in Britain was believed to have murdered some 35 patients (he killed himself in jail). A male nurse in the Pacific Northwest also terminated dozens of patients. How could this happen?

Notice: in addition to the Evil idea and the imbalance of power, these victims had put themselves into a position of dependence. The patients submitted themselves willingly to the potential killer. They trusted the doctor or nurse – they willingly gave up their self defense – they created the imbalance of power – and placed their lives at the mercy of the supposed caregiver and protector. When an Evil idea formed in the minds of the caregivers and protectors, then the killing was next.

This terrible result is worse than just murder because it involves the evil of taking advantage of someone who has placed his or her trust in the killer. Many of the Jews who boarded trains bound for death camps in Nazi Germany could not allow themselves to believe that their own countrymen, their own police and army, would betray them so fatally. Children and teens often fail to even try to resist a child molester or kidnapper, because the children cannot grasp that a trusted adult could turn against them.

The Effects of Civilian Disarmament Ideas

Now you have the basic groundwork. Next, consider “gun control” ideas and laws. To the extent that “gun control” causes any results, those results are:

(1) The non-evil, peaceful, law-abiding people will be discouraged from owning, carrying, using, and even learning more about or practicing with firearms. “Gun control” laws act to discourage firearms ownership and use by making it more expensive, embarrassing, difficult, or legally risky to have and use guns.

(2) “Gun control” laws do not decrease the incidence of Evil – not one bit. Gun control laws discourage people, or impose costs on people – but they do not affect evil minds and evil intentions.

(3) “Gun control” laws encourage people to render themselves less powerful. Turn in guns, not own guns, avoid guns, learn little or nothing about guns. “Gun control” laws work only in the direction of causing law-abiding people to reduce their personal defense power.

(4) “Gun control” laws thus make it necessary for people to rely upon their government or private defense providers. For most people, hiring a private body guard or other security service that would come anywhere close to the effectiveness of being personally armed, is too expensive. So most people depend upon their government police and upon dialing Emergency 911.

(5) The more Draconian the “gun control” laws and policies, the more it is likely the civilians are unarmed.

(6) When a government takes power with evil intentions, and extensive “gun control” laws are in place, then you have the set-up for destruction. Most of the people have obeyed the laws and placed their self-defense trust in their governments. The people are relatively we ak. Meanwhile, the aggressors are mostly undeterred by gun control laws. The aggressors would include street criminals, organized crime, and government agencies (e.g. the Nazi SS, the Soviet KGB, various death squads). In fact, the government agencies are usually specifically exempted from the “gun control” laws.

So, there are deliberate programs of persecution by government, as in Nazi Germany or in Soviet Russia / Ukraine or in Cambodia. There are cultures of civilian powerlessness as in China during the Japanese invasion and rape of Nanking in 1937. There is the malign neglect that allows armed parties to raid and attack defenseless people, as in El Salvador and Uganda. In all cases, the imbalance of power, coupled with the people’s helpless dependence upon the same entity that doesn’t mind if they get killed or enslaved, produces the worst human suffering imaginable.

How Can An Armed Society Help?

Now, you may ask: “Yes, but what difference would it make if the people were armed?” The answer is pretty simple: even evil people calculate the costs. Bad guys rob convenience stores and pizza delivery guys whom they know are unarmed. Bad guys do not rob gun stores nor do they burgle police stations, because the criminal’s personal risk of getting caught and killed is too high.1

It is known that Nazi Germany did not invade Switzerland largely because the Nazis did not want to invest a lot of machinery and manpower to subjugate a nation that was civilian-armed to the teeth.2 Similarly, historians tell us that the Imperial Japanese military leaders did not want to invade the United States during World War II because they knew they would encounter fierce resistance from armed citizens.3

Remember that human beings are the ones who carry out orders. People calculate risks. Even though there is a lot of crime and lots of criminals infesting certain parts of Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. (for example), the police will not go to those parts of town without backup. And in some areas, they will not go at all –certainly not at night.

We learn from all of these examples that armed civilians can deter even armed government functionaries.
Likewise, in the Iraq War, the American military chooses to deploy its forces in a manner less likely to result in American casualties. Thus, the American military does not blindly attempt to move into some towns and regions where they know the civilian resisters (“insurgents”) are armed and dangerous.

We therefore learn from modern military history that even powerful armies steer clear of armed and motivated civilian populations. All of these facts and observations suggest the following conclusion:
When a civilian population widely possesses firearms such as rifles, shotguns and handguns, along with ammunition for them, and the population has the training with the weapons along with the ethic of self defense, then the population is very unlikely to be conquered and persecuted either by their own government or by an invading force.

This conclusion means that lives are saved and human suffering is avoided when the population generally undertakes to prepare for its own armed defense. Stated simply: an armed population saves lives.
The data from the 20th Century suggest that millions of non-combatant lives were lost to genocide and persecution, because (a) the afflicted populations were tremendously underpowered compared to the killers, (b) the population relied solely upon their government to protect them, and (c) the government protectors either failed or actively turned against the populations.

Can All Evil Be Prevented?

Is an armed population absolutely safe from all invasion and persecution? No. But we have to consider the incentives of the aggressors. The better question is: will an invader or persecutor be more likely or less likely to attack an armed civilian population? Or, given a choice, would an invader or persecutor more often choose to afflict an armed population or an unarmed population?

It is possible to imagine scenarios where an armed population cannot do anything to protect itself against nuclear attack, for example. Such scenarios suggest only that no defense strategy is perfect, and that Evil can find a way to hurt and kill people. Overall, however, an armed population stands a much better chance of freedom from attack, persecution and slaughter than does an unarmed population.

History shows that Evil forces look for populations to enslave and annihilate. Evil selects those populations where it can operate with the least cost to itself. It is thus both a moral and practical imperative for populations to possess and learn to effectively use firearms for defense of self, family, community, and nation.

We hope this answers your question about the need and effectiveness of widespread private ownership of firearms.

Watch the film Innocents Betrayed below:

Resources

(1) Innocents Betrayed – the video documentary – makes a strong case because it presents the pictures and the flesh and blood reality of how the powerful can so easily destroy the powerless. It shows also how “gun control” laws are instrumental in paving the way for destruction.

(2) Death by Gun Control: The Human Cost of Victim Disarmament is our book upon which Innocents Betrayed is based. The book does not talk about the Second Amendment – it talks about the problem of disarmed citizens vs. powerful forces, and it develops further how the rhetoric of “gun control” leads to a deadly physical and moral paralysis.

(3) Death by Government, by Professor R.J. Rummel, takes a different tack from our book. While our book focuses on the civilian disarmament issues, Prof. Rummel looks at the political systems that create the situations that make genocides and mass persecutions possible … even inevitable.

Obama Renews Pledge to get rid of Second Amendment

It did not even take 24 hours after his reelection for the U.S. president to throw his support behind a proposed U.N. Arms Treaty.

By LOUIS CHARBONNEAU | REUTERS | NOVEMBER 8, 2012

Hours after U.S. President Barack Obama was re-elected, the United States backed a U.N. committee’s call on Wednesday to renew debate over a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global conventional arms trade.

U.N. delegates and gun control activists have complained that talks collapsed in July largely because Obama feared attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney if his administration was seen as supporting the pact, a charge Washington denies.

The month-long talks at U.N. headquarters broke off after the United States – along with Russia and other major arms producers – said it had problems with the draft treaty and asked for more time.

But the U.N. General Assembly’s disarmament committee moved quickly after Obama’s win to approve a resolution calling for a new round of talks March 18-28. It passed with 157 votes in favor, none against and 18 abstentions.

U.N. diplomats said the vote had been expected before Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election but was delayed due to Superstorm Sandy, which caused a three-day closure of the United Nations last week.

An official at the U.S. mission said Washington’s objectives have not changed.

“We seek a treaty that contributes to international security by fighting illicit arms trafficking and proliferation, protects the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meets the concerns that we have been articulating throughout,” the official said.

“We will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of our citizens to bear arms,” he said.

U.S. officials have acknowledged privately that the treaty under discussion would have no effect on domestic gun sales and ownership because it would apply only to exports.

The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States – the world’s biggest arms trader accounting for more than 40 percent of global conventional arms transfers – reversed U.S. policy on the issue after Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.

‘MONTHS AWAY’ FROM DEAL?

Countries that abstained included Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Belarus, Cuba and Iran. China, a major arms producer that has traditionally abstained, voted in favor.

Among the top six arms-exporting nations, Russia cast the only abstention. Britain, France and Germany joined China and the United States in support of the resolution.

The measure now goes to the 193-nation General Assembly for a formal vote. It is expected to pass.

The resolution said countries are “determined to build on the progress made to date towards the adoption of a strong, balanced and effective Arms Trade Treaty.”

Jeff Abramson, director of Control Arms, a coalition of advocacy groups, urged states to agree on stringent provisions.

“In Syria, we have seen the death toll rise well over 30,000, with weapons and ammunition pouring in the country for months now,” he said. “We need a treaty that will set tough rules to control the arms trade, that will save lives and truly make the world a better place.”

Brian Wood of Amnesty International said: “After today’s resounding vote, if the larger arms trading countries show real political will in the negotiations, we’re only months away from securing a new global deal that has the potential to stop weapons reaching those who seriously abuse human rights.”

The treaty would require states to make respecting human rights a criterion for allowing arms exports.

Britain’s U.N. mission said on its Twitter feed it hoped that the March negotiations would yield the final text of a treaty. Such a pact would then need to be ratified by the individual signatories before it could enter into force.

The National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. interest group, strongly opposes the arms treaty and had endorsed Romney.

The United States has denied it sought to delay negotiations for political reasons, saying it had genuine problems with the draft as written.

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