POSITION STATEMENTS

DESHEFY’S SHORTLIST FOR PROGRESSIVE CHANGE AND A WORKING DEMOCRACY

 

The 5 keys to simultaneously protecting the environment, emerging from America’s economic/unemployment crises and ceasing to be a debtor nation are (1) creating jobs through green/alternative energy technologies, (2) promoting a “New Green Deal” to create jobs to repair America’s dilapidated infrastructure (including our community water distribution and sewer systems), (3) ending congressional subsidies for ecologically destructive practices (such as oil and coal industries, factory farming and the meat industry), (4) ending corporate welfare, which has socialized Wall Street, our banking system and our automotive industry to the detriment of low income and middle class Americans, and (5) reducing America’s gluttonous military budget and imperialist foreign policy.

 

How do I plan to pay for these job creation initiatives?  I will fight to slash government spending in its most wasteful, corporately-driven forms (i.e., military spending, earmarks and congressional subsidies for harmful and destructive enterprises).  My proposals to immediately withdraw U.S troops and military contractors from Afghanistan and Iraq, to reduce our military budget by 30%, to reduce U.S. military aid to foreign countries by 50%, to reduce our nuclear arsenal, and to end congressional subsidies for ecologically destructive industries and agricultural practices will generate approximately $1.2 trillion per year.  Single-payer, universal health care will generate at least another $350 billion per year in savings to American taxpayers and relieve small businesses of the burden of health care for employees.  Alternative energy development and conservation measures, such as smart meters and storage of otherwise wasted electrical energy during low usage periods, will pay even greater dividends in terms of energy cost savings to every American.  Because small businesses are the engine of the economy (70% of U.S. jobs reside in small businesses and 90% of U.S. businesses employ less than 20 people), I also will fight for modest reductions in payroll taxes to small businesses which demonstrate environmentally sound operations, thereby providing incentives for hiring.  Furthermore, I will work to repeal the death tax.

As I will describe further when delineating my position on the ecology, climate change can and should be addressed at zero cost to taxpayers by reducing taxes on jobs and business and up-taxing resource use, land value tax reform and taxing those businesses and corporations which still conclude that pollution is a privilege. A great deal of money can be saved, for instance, through revenue-neutral carbon levies to offset income taxes.   British Columbia has done this successfully, resulting in tax credits for its citizens.  As opposed to so-called “cap and trade,” which will only be a shell game exploited by polluters, moving sources of government revenue away from personal incomes and small business profits and onto levies/fees for use and abuse of the global commons should be a matter of policy for many reasons in addition to mitigating climate change.  With implementation of each of my proposals, we will simultaneously reduce our federal taxes and lower our trade deficit while creating sustainable, green jobs and improving America’s overall health and quality of life.  In time, should congress adopt my proposals, America will have the infrastructure, revitalized communities and mass transit system its citizens deserve. 

Aggressive job creation centered on green technology, alternative energy production and a living wage, a “New Green Deal.”  During elections, Americans are particularly susceptible to lies and political dogma from democrats and republicans, who exaggerate government accomplishments and minimize the nation’s problem in order to get elected.  The Green Party and I will never resort to such practices.  The road ahead is difficult and long.  Those Americans, who have lost permanent jobs, may not become fully employed again for years without major initiatives to create sustainable employment in cutting edge technologies.  Stimulus packages to create “shovel-ready” jobs which disappear when stimulus money is exhausted merely create temporary and misleading statistical improvements for incumbents in the next election cycle.  As a nation, we need systemic changes to produce long-term employment opportunities.  Democrats and republicans strangle such progressive measures in the cradle in order to appease corporate “sponsors” contributing to their campaigns for the sake of maintaining the status quo.

 

The United Nations’ International Labor Organization estimates that over 50 million workers around the globe lost their jobs in 2009.  In the United States, roughly 10 million jobs were lost.  Unemployment has been reported as 10.2%, but that figure inaccurately camouflages our nation’s economic decline because it does not include citizens who have given up looking for work and citizens who want full-time employment but can only find part-time work.  When these individuals are properly included in the statistics for unemployment, the national rate soars to 18.7%.  Close to one fifth of the country’s work force may be effectively unemployed.  Additionally, an estimated 62,000 U.S. companies closed their doors in 2009.  Consumers, thanks to predatory credit card practices and easy lines of credit, are $14 trillion in debt.  The government has lent, spent or guaranteed over $12 trillion to correct the crisis, mostly money either borrowed or newly printed.

 

Expected to spend our way out of a problem largely caused by excessive spending in the first place, the country is clearly facing a Depression not merely a recession.  Rather than face this reality and strategize accordingly, the democrats and republicans in congress, resorting to “denialism” and “incrementalism,” point reassuringly to the consumer price index (CPI), used by our government to measure inflation, and keep interest rates low enough so people can continue to borrow money to support our profligate lifestyles and get still deeper in debt.  Unfortunately, debt has been encouraged by corporate America via its politicians for decades as a means of controlling and indenturing the work force, and the CPI is an economic indicator which misreads cost-of-living.  By substituting products tracked for inflation with products which rise insignificantly in price, the government has been keeping reported inflation figures artificially low.  Such underestimates keep down equitable interest payment on bank accounts and certificates of deposit, discouraging savings.  The fabricated CPI figures enable corporations to pay lower than cost-of-living wages to employees, and less is paid out to Social Security and pensions.

 

With democrats and republicans fudging the numbers on behalf of corporations and with one third of the employed work force in America making less than $10 per hour, it is time for the country to adopt a living wage of between $10 and $12 an hour depending on location in the country.  The regional adjustment criteria needed to correlate living wages with costs of living already exist and have been used for decades by federal employees to determine per diem reimbursements for meals, travel and hotel accommodations during travel to interstate meetings and conferences.  Additionally, we have learned that the ideology of unlimited growth is unsustainable and destructive on many levels.  That fallacy did not consider the consequences of depleting natural resources, globally and nationally, from potable water to fossil fuels to soil erosion and fish populations.  It did not consider the consequences of overpopulation and climate change or how multinational corporations and globalization could result in unregulated flows of capital and jobs outside the United States.   The delusion of unlimited growth has taken a wrecking ball to our manufacturing base and smashed our economy on the rocks in pursuit of the sirens’ call of self-regulated markets.

 

There is one point where many of our ecological, economic and employment problems intersect, and that is where our solutions lie: creation of jobs through development of alternative energy, mass transit and green technologies.  That is not to say that we should not also create long-term employment by addressing our most serious infrastructure breakdowns.  As referenced during my congressional candidacy in 2008, I again propose a New Green Deal not to repair potholes or resurface a few short stretches of highway to garner votes, but to undertake major improvements to our dilapidated national infrastructure.  In addition to roads and bridges, our airports and rail system in America require major overhauls, improvements and expansion.  Moreover, our cities are not only plagued by sinkholes, but our sewage and water distribution systems are deteriorated to the point of endangering human and ecological health.

 

The bigger keys to creating sustainable jobs in America lie in alternative energy, mass transit and green technologies.  By not accepting corporate campaign donations as do democrats and republicans, I will be free to work vigorously in Congress for research and development of alternative energy, both on a national scale and for individual home owners, as well.  Democrats and republicans are unable to do so because wind, solar and geothermal development impacts profits of oil and gas industries and military corporations “sponsoring” their campaigns.   For much less than we spend annually on foreign oil, the United States can not only develop wind and solar energy facilities but also the infrastructure delivery system to make that electricity available to all corners of the country.   Liken to the WPA, a Green Corps of trained personnel can provide inexpensive labor for installation of solar, geothermal and wind power units for individual homes, making such conversions much more affordable and quality workmanship guaranteed by the government.

Immediate withdrawal of ALL U.S. troops and military contractors from Iraq and Afghanistan, 30% reduction in U.S. military spending for foreign military bases and 50% reduction in military aid to foreign countries.  Partial conversion of military industries to globally competitive, commercial manufacturing, an inevitable step, long-supported by trade unions, in order to save jobs, eliminate the trade deficit, expand mass transit and create sustainable alternative energy/green tech jobs.    The U.S. spends over 50% of what the entire world spends on the military.  Put another way, the U.S. military outspends all other militaries on earth combined.  Additionally, at tax payer expense, Congress subsidizes the militaries of most of our allies.  Sold to American taxpayers as providential missions, these wars impose American values, better or worse, on other cultures by force.  Increasingly frequent and protracted by tactics which defy conventional military strategy, we have neither the armies nor the economy to sustain this policy of open-ended, global war against illusory or exaggerated foes.   Meanwhile, inadequate amounts of funding go to the care of our physically and mentally wounded veterans (an estimated 40% of our troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq).

 

The U.S. is the largest single seller of arms and munitions on earth, and the 2010 “defense” budget is the largest since 1945.  In fact, well over half of congressional discretionary spending goes to defense.  $2.5 billion Virginia-class submarines, while high-tech, are Cold War antiquities, often unwanted by the Navy, and of little use in the unconventional warfare currently (and historically) employed to frustrate decisive American military engagement.  Admittedly, we still require significant naval strength, including submarines, and air superiority to buffer relations between China and Taiwan, as an example, or to intercede where acts of genocide occur overseas, but, as representatives of labor agree, the future for Connecticut workers is bleak if we do not make a concerted and at least partial transition from military industry to commercial ship building, train and mass transit construction, and green industry.  Billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted each year on missile defense systems which are useless to stop a dirty bomb concealed in shipping containers.  Stealth fighters are designed to evade radar systems which the former U.S.S.R. never produced and Russia has no intention or need to produce now. The U.S. maintains at annual costs fast approaching $1 trillion (or on average $8,000 per U.S. taxpayer per year) some 800 U.S. military bases in over 130 countries around the globe.   According to the CIA, the next closest national military budget is China’s $65 billion.  As with escalated wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan, supported by loans from China and other foreign lenders (projected to cost to date some over $4 trillion by final tally and no doubt funding military and manufacturing programs of lenders), those 800 military bases overseas are designed not to protect U.S. citizenry or out of humanitarian benevolence, but to protect U.S. and multinational corporate interests and our profligate American culture. A culture of consumption which disproportionately and unsustainably squanders the world’s resources and maintains our status as #1 polluter and contributor to climate change.  In other words, every dollar spent by congressional incumbents to fund military ventures is a dollar spent to pollute the planet.

 

Every dollar spent on imperialism is a dollar stolen from American taxpayers and from programs which could improve the quality of life of our citizenry.  Among those programs are equitable and affordable health care, repair of America’s dilapidated infrastructure, energy independence and job creation associated with renewable/alternative energies, a living wage, small business incentives and improvements in our educational system.  President Dwight Eisenhower made this same analogy in the 1950s when he warned the nation about continuing a permanent war economy, emphasizing the need for “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” to guard against the manipulative influence and power over congress of a “military-industrial complex.”  Democracy cannot be attained in an imperial society.  The massive resources and allocations devoted to American militarism are causing the nation to falter as if succumbing to infection.  We pour money into development of high-priced weaponry while renewable energy technologies, enabling the nation to achieve energy independence and mitigate global warming, remain unfunded.  Universities find little money for ecological studies, but defense-related grants multiply.  Our bridges and levees collapse; our deteriorated and overwhelmed sewage systems cause 40,000 annual discharges of raw sewage into our streams, homes and drinking water, but the media distract us with military euphemisms, such as insurgencies and nation-building.  Since the conclusion of World War II, democrats and republicans elected to congress have allocated more than half of America’s tax dollars on past, current and future military operations.

Moreover, democrats and republicans have borrowed against our future tax dollars and those of our children in order to fund our ill-fated ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.  If we include the direct and indirect costs of on-going wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen with the annual costs to American taxpayers to maintain our 761 military bases around the world, the U.S. taxpayer and the next generation of taxpayers are saddled with a per capita debt of roughly $42,000.  It is a debt primarily to China and Saudi Arabia, which continues to deepen and accrue interest, making China the most powerful and influential nation on earth.   Ultimately, it is not the size of a nation’s military which determines its fate, but the strength of its economy.   The U.S.S.R. still had the second most powerful military on earth when its invasion of Afghanistan consumed the Soviet economy and caused the U.S.S.R. to crumble.   The Roman Empire collapsed by pushing its frontiers unsustainably to acquire resources, finally resorting to mercenaries in remote outposts to keep the growing resistance to Rome’s hegemony at bay. If the United States congress is preordained to accrue debt, should we not spend a much smaller amount of money in America to improve the quality of life of our citizenry rather than trillions of dollars overseas to maximize corporate profits?  Because of incompetent choices by democrats and republicans in congress and the fabricated pretexts for invasion of Iraq uncritically disseminated by American print, radio and television media, the United States is facing an end game to its superpower status in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Furthermore, like imperial Spain circa 1600 and the British Empire in 1900, America is economically and militarily unable to remain inheritor of the worldwide and strategic commitments made decades earlier, nor can an incapable two-party politic, interchangeably designed by corporate interests to maintain the status quo, keep up with the rapidly changing international dynamics of the 21st century.

 

The defense industries produce nothing useful for American society or to balance the national trade account.  The jobs produced by military contracts are far fewer than the number of jobs produced by equivalent funding for commercial construction, alternative energy and most other enterprises.  But the military-industrial establishment is a golden goose to corporations.  Every military contract supported by democrats and republicans in congress is a bail-out, and the military industries in turn provide lucrative forms of corporate welfare. “Defense products” produced by military industries are sold prior to production, and, contractually, charges to our tax dollars for cost overruns, are standard practice, no matter how large.  Enormous profits are guaranteed in this manner.  Furthermore, foreign aid allotted by congress to countries such as Egypt and Israel carries the condition that large portions of that aid be spent by those nations to buy American weapons.  We, the taxpayers, fund the R&D and building of weapons systems and then buy them on behalf of foreign nations.

 

It is imperative that we immediately withdraw U.S. troops and military contractors from Iraq and Afghanistan.  As your congressman, I will join Representative Dennis Kucinich in the fight to immediately bring the troops home.  We must look to history and abandon the delusion of American “exceptionalism,” which ultimately threatens our national security. Afghanistan has been a graveyard for every empire which chose to invade its borders. Darius of Persia failed.  Alexander the Great and the Greeks, who had earlier conquered Persia, failed.  Sandwiching a second Persian failure to control Afghanistan, the Huns and Genghis Khan’s Mongols laid waste to parts of the country, but had the good sense not to stick around.  The Persians took Kandahar in 1738, but were forced to withdraw after nine years.  The Sikhs took Peshawar in 1834, but the “insurgent” Afghans destroyed them. Great Britain tried three times to control Afghanistan and utterly failed each time.  In 1839, they propped up a puppet regime administered by Shah Shuja.  Three years later, the Shah was assassinated and the British were annihilated.  Of 3,600 British and Indian troops and 12,000 civilians occupying Kabul, only one British soldier and 39 others survived the retreat.  After ten years of military commitment, which helped destroy the Soviet economy, and a loss of 40,000 to 50,000 Soviet troops, the U.S.S.R. conceded failure to conquer Afghanistan in 1989.  It is unconscionable that democrats and republicans elected to congress are unwilling to learn from 2,600 years of history.  Because it is in their political interest to support military corporations, which donate enormous amounts of money to their campaigns (demonstrating the need for campaign finance reform, publicly financed elections and strict term limits), incumbents have put retention of power and political treasure chests ahead of our nation’s welfare.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, America’s invasion force still numbers nearly 100,000 U.S. troops in harm’s way.  Added to the thousands of U.S. war dead and tens of thousands of U.S. wounded (both physically and psychologically), over 1.2 million Iraqi citizens have been killed by the war, most of Iraq still remains in varying states of disrepair or complete destruction, and many basic services in Iraq remain either unavailable to the general public or intermittent at best.  Unemployment is over 60% in Iraq.  Food, clothing, shelter and even gasoline, when available, are purchased by Iraqis at increasingly high and unaffordable prices.  Of course, U.S. military contractors monopolizing the bulk of our tax dollars (e.g., Halliburton) reap enormous profits in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Much of the aid congress sends to prop up Afghanistan’s corrupt government (money again borrowed from China) is diverted to President Hamid Karzai’s siblings and cronies, some of whom are engaged in illegal drug and lumber trades.  In fact, following the U.S.-installed government, Afghanistan quickly reclaimed status as the world’s leading producer of illegal drugs, providing by 2007 over 93% of the heroin, morphine and other opiates on the world market.  Because Afghanistan is unlikely to reconcile its own differences and be a stable government, it is a Pollyannaish expectation by President Obama and congress that the Karzai government, reportedly as misogynistic as the Taliban, will either institute culture changes to significantly ameliorate gender bias in that nation or will train enough troops to keep the country stable and allow partial withdrawal of U.S. soldiers committed to date.   Even if the latter were to occur, the Taliban will likely remain resilient, and it will be the United States (again borrowing money from China) which will supply billions of dollars each year to support the Afghan military.   Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations in the world and cannot fund such military misadventures itself.