Tuesday, June 2, 2015

$0 spent to create a new national jobs program, but TRILLIONS spent to destabilize a nation and arm our opponents

(A WPA poster by artist Albert Bender, created in Chicago, 1941. The CCC employed millions of Americans. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

In 2012, when Republicans blocked a bill to create a new national jobs program for unemployed veterans, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla) said, "We ought to do nothing now that makes the problem worse for our kids and grandkids." Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev), one of the few Republicans to support the bill, disagreed with Coburn: "After everything our veterans have done for us, the least we can do is make sure they are afforded every opportunity to thrive here at home." ("Senate GOP blocks veterans jobs bill," CBS News, September 20, 2012)

Over the last several years, Republicans have scoffed at every effort to create a new national jobs program. Democrats too, have been weak. For example, when the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) tried to create a new WPA in 2011, he received little or no support from his fellow Democrats and no support from President Obama. Hence, Lautenberg's bill died in committee.

Meanwhile, according to the National Priorities Project, we've spent over $818 billion on the war in Iraq. And, when other war-related items are thrown in, estimates of the total cost typically extend into the trillions (see, e.g., "Iraq war costs U.S. more than $2 trillion," Reuters, March 14, 2013).

And what have we received from our multi-trillion dollar investment? Well, according to a 2013 report from Brown University (as summarized by Reuters, see previous note): "...the United States gained little from the war while Iraq was traumatized by it. The war reinvigorated radical Islamist militants in the region, set back women's rights, and weakened an already precarious healthcare system...Meanwhile, the $212 billion reconstruction effort was largely a failure with most of that money spent on security or lost to waste and fraud..."   

In 2014, after ISIL took over the city of Mosul, they seized 2,300 U.S.-supplied Humvees and "approximately three divisions worth of equipment" (enough equipment for about 50,000 soldiers). More recently, when ISIL overtook the city of Ramadi, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter reported that "Iraqi forces showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force and yet they failed to fight and withdrew from the site. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves."

Why are we spending trillions of dollars on a war where the opposing forces are acquiring a great mass of our weaponry and equipment, and where many of those who we fund do not want to fight...but spending zero dollars on a new national jobs program - especially when 21 million Americans wish they had a full-time job but can't find one?

(In the New Deal's National Youth Administration, young unemployed men and women could earn some money and learn a trade. Above, an NYA woman trains at the Washington Navy Yard in 1943. The NYA employed millions of Americans. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

A few months ago, Doug Bandow of the conservative CATO Institute wrote, "American foreign policy is controlled by fools. What else can one conclude from the bipartisan demand that the U.S. intervene everywhere all the time, irrespective of consequences?...Not only has virtually every bombing, invasion, occupation, and other interference made problems worse. Almost every new intervention is an attempt to redress problems created by previous U.S. actions. And every new military step is likely, indeed, almost guaranteed, to create even bigger new problems" ("American People Must Say No To Washington's Foolish Policy Of Constant War," Huffington Post, March 19, 2015).

I am not usually in agreement with someone from the CATO Institute, but on this matter I wholeheartedly agree. The only change I would make to Bandow's statement would be to add the words "and domestic," i.e., "American foreign and domestic policy is controlled by fools."

As Republicans are trying to reduce funding for education; as our infrastructure crumbles; as our beautiful national parks are suffering from a multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog; and as millions of Americans can't find a decent paying job (if any job at all), we keep spending billions upon billions of dollars on a war started on misinformation and lies - on a war with bad outcomes. Worse still, outside of small pockets of resistance, the American public has shown no will to resist (in a substantial way) these wasteful and deadly policies.  

Isn't that amazing?

(Older unemployed Americans could find job opportunities funded by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and the WPA. Above, a group of WPA workers are creating an atlas for Baltimore City in 1936. The WPA employed millions of Americans. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

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