May 24, 2013
The Christian Conspiracy to Take Over the Military
Posted on Jul 13, 2011
Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio. I’m Peter Scheer in studio with Robert Scheer, and we’re joined from New York by Moshe Adler. When he’s not blogging for Truthdig, Moshe teaches economics at Columbia University, and he is the director of Public Interest Economics, which provides consulting services to unions and other progressive organizations. Welcome, Moshe.
Moshe Adler: Hello.
Peter Scheer: Hi. So Bob wrote a column today called “The GOP’s Sick Priorities,” and it talks about this debt-ceiling limit debate and the attack on entitlements—what they call entitlements—and you read it, I understand. What was your reaction? What’s the argument, first of all Bob—why don’t we start with you?
Robert Scheer: Well, my argument is that it’s a phony. Whatever problems exist with Medicare, they have to do with health care costs and have nothing to do with the current debt problem. And Social Security, I argue, is in pretty good shape; it can be fixed very easily by increasing the contribution of people making more than $250,000 a year, but Social Security is perfectly solvent for the next 25 years. How many corporations can make that claim? And even at that point, it can account for 75 percent, and there’s 2.4 trillion in a Social Security trust fund, so I think these, what they call entitlements … first of all, the whole word bothers me. It makes it sound like you inherited it from birth, you’re entitled, you’re privileged, you’re spoiled. In fact, these are programs that people paid for, and paid for over the years, and have a right to have those programs honored. I’m also very worried that the president seems to indicate he might even accept cuts in Medicaid, which protects 68 million very vulnerable people, and that would be an absolute outrage. My basic argument is that the banking meltdown caused this; there was a 50 percent increase in the debt because of the banking meltdown. We also had this 50 percent increase before, thanks to George W. Bush’s fighting two wars that he wouldn’t pay for, and his eagerness and willingness to give a tax break for the rich. So to my mind, the debt ceiling argument has nothing to do with these programs.
Moshe Adler: Yeah. I mean, I think that everything that Bob said is obviously true. And the only thing that … I just want to continue along the same line and say that the Republicans want us to think that what the government does is take care of old people with Social Security, and take care of old people by adding Medicare, and so on. But really what the government does is set rules that enrich the rich; this is really what the government does. And I think that if we come to have a stalemate with budget negotiations, with raising the deficit ceiling negotiations, and the government becomes underfunded, then the question becomes, OK, what functions should the government co-pay? And it bothers me a great deal that the president is kind of holding hostage all the poor, the most vulnerable people, and saying well, if you don’t give me what I want then I’m going to go hurt Social Security, the CPN, Medicare beneficiaries—instead of saying, if you don’t want to finance the government, if you don’t want to pay taxes, then OK, I’m going to stop the services that the government gives you, which actually let you exploit the rest of us. So I would say the first thing to do, if the government becomes underfunded, is let’s furlough the lawyers, say, that enforce the patent law. Let competition flourish, and let everybody who wants to produce something, let them produce something. And prices for drugs will fall, prices for software will fall; we will all be better off for it. Innovation will flourish, and these exorbitant monopolies that are all created by the patent law will vanish. So let’s start where the government makes you rich, and you pretend as if all the government does is kind of take from the rich and give to the poor, whereas what the government really does is give you the tools to become monopolies and exploit the rest of us. I mean, I would say let’s furlough all the lawyers that enforce the … that prevent local communities from having access to radio stations in their communities, and give these radio stations to big corporations. I mean, we have one corporation, for instance—Clearwater Communications—that owns 1,200 radio stations. And it’s notorious for not letting community voices be heard on its channels, and propagating right-wing ideology that says that patent law is a good idea, or letting the rich be rich is a good idea, and taxes are bad. So let’s start—if the government has to stop some functions—let’s start with the functions that make the rich rich and let’s … stop hurting people who are unemployed, or something.
Peter Scheer: Right. And you see this also with taxes, because the Republicans in Congress just walked away from an offer by the White House to cut, what, $4 trillion in spending because they would have had to raise taxes on wealthy people, and they refused to do that.
Moshe Adler: Right. So if they are not willing to pay for the government, then the government should stop protecting them. And I would say that this is the first function that the government should stop doing before it cuts unemployment benefits to a family that has no income, or cutting Social Security benefits to old people who most rely …
Peter Scheer: Dad, do you want to comment?
Robert Scheer: Yeah, I do. I think the point is really well taken. What the tea party has done—and by the way, these people are funded with a lot of money from big corporations and so forth, as is the Republican Party, and unfortunately also as is the Democratic Party—they’ve shifted the whole debate. And it’s big government versus little government. And what Moshe is saying is basically big government serves big business, and that’s the truth right across the board. The programs that have been singled out—Social Security and Medicare—working people are paying for; these are funded by, basically, regressive taxes. I mean, the math on that is really quite simple, particularly Social Security, which is paid for by working people and earned income. And, you know, people have hedge funds and so forth; they don’t pay into Social Security, they’ve been exempted from it. But if you really look at the budget, and what is big government, you have to first of all—and “entitled”—you have to look at the military. Certainly a big area, pushing a trillion dollars a year, Cold War levels, in real dollars, bigger than the rest of the whole word combined; all of the nation’s defense budget. And they don’t put that on the table. You’ll cut funding for kids who need medical care, pregnant women, but you won’t look at a weapons system designed to defeat a sophisticated military enemy, the old Soviet Union, that no longer exists? There’s no justification for it. But Lockheed and Boeing and these contractors, they feel entitled, and they keep that defense budget up—the military-industrial complex that … President Eisenhower warned us against. If you look at the whole bailout of Wall Street, which caused this big mess, caused the 50 percent rise in the debt, here we have the Fed and the Treasury keeping money costs for the banks low, protecting their interests. And finally, I would point out that it’s not just the preservation of law in terms of radio signals and patents and so forth, but the basic multinational corporation needs a powerful U.S. government to protect its interests around the world, whether diplomatically, in military terms, or economic clout—trade negotiations and so forth. So big government, big federal government, is at the service of the multinational corporations. And I agree, why doesn’t Obama call their bluff—which is, after all, what happened in the Clinton-Gingrich dust-up—and say, look, do you guys really want to curtail government? And we in fact had that statement this week from the business round-table, and all the big corporations saying hey, you better not do that.
Peter Scheer: I just want to, first of all, say we are speaking with Robert Scheer and Moshe Adler on Truthdig Radio. Moshe is an economics professor and expert, and Bob is the editor of Truthdig. I’m Peter Scheer.
Moshe, we were talking a lot about taxes, and you wrote a blog item, I believe, for Truthdig about why higher taxes would be good for us, would be good for the bottom line. Could you explain that?
Moshe Adler: Yes, but I just want to add about the debt ceiling … like Robert, I’m bothered by the fact that the president puts on the block Social Security and Medicare, et cetera, and not the programs that help the rich, like patent protection and so on. But I also want to say that the first thing that should go, if we don’t get the increase in the debt ceiling, is actually the payment of our, quote unquote, “debt obligations.” And I’m really upset that the Democrats have reached an agreement with the Republicans, that if they don’t reach an agreement, they will still pay… the interest on the debt obligations that are extending. Because I think that if we don’t reach an agreement, then definitely … You know that China is a big, big lender to the United States, and the government of China, as a matter of fact, is. And the reason that China does that is because it wants to weaken the yen against the dollar, or it wants to make the dollar strong, because what it is trying to do is it’s trying to make its labor cheap compared to American labor, and its products cheap compared to American products, and therefore shift employment from United States workers to workers in China. Now, I actually think that American workers and Chinese workers should work together rather than against each other, but surely American workers should not acquiesce with their own government paying interest—meaning making the Chinese government profit from their misery—and risk-free, because we promised that we would not renege on our obligations here. I think that this is the first thing that needs to go. I mean, American workers do not have any interest in protecting the credit ratings of the United States; they actually suffer from it. So all of these negotiations about the debt ceiling from the Democratic Party are all mishandled, because the interests of working people are just not well represented.
Peter Scheer: Well, let me ask Robert. Dad, do you agree that the first thing that should go is payments on the debt?
Robert Scheer: Actually, I don’t. I think that there is a national interest, when you borrow money, in paying it back. I don’t think that Moshe is saying this, but I don’t want to demonize the Chinese. I don’t think … I mean I think we’re very fortunate that they’re willing to underwrite our debt, and I think those debts have to be met. I think this is why the pressure should be on the business community, which even more handsomely supports the Republican Party than it does the Democratic Party. And we saw their statement this week to say, hey, cut it out! This is not kidding around; you are damaging our interests internationally. And I want to repeat a point that I made at the very beginning: the idea of scapegoating Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, which have nothing to do with this debt, is just the big lie. And for the business community to sit by and think Obama is going to save them, and yet they don’t put pressure on their Republican allies, this is a time when they have to speak up or they should be exposed. And that’s what Obama should do; he should say, look: We got into this mess because of what the bankers did, we got into this mess because of radical deregulation, we bailed you guys out, and you still support these Republicans who now want to put all the responsibility on working people and seniors, and that’s obscene.
Peter Scheer: We’re going to have to leave it there. Moshe and Bob, thank you so much for joining us.
Moshe Adler: Thank you for having me.
Kasia Anderson: This is Kasia Anderson, and I’m here with Johnny Temple, publisher and editor-in-chief of Akashic Books. We’re speaking to Johnny in Brooklyn. How’re you doing today?
Johnny Temple: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me on.
Kasia Anderson: And as many of our listeners might have heard about, your imprint was responsible for bringing the recent publishing phenomenon “Go the [F***] to Sleep” into the world. Can you tell us a little bit about the back story of how that fell into your clutches?
Johnny Temple: Yeah. The author, Adam Mansbach, is a friend of mine who I have published a little bit before. … He’s a literary novelist, and I’ve published a few of his short stories, and he co-edited an anthology that we published. And he came to me with the book proposal for “Go the [F***] to Sleep,” which he had put together in collaboration with Ricardo Cortés, a really excellent illustrator. When I first got the proposal, I laughed very hard, because it’s a book targeted for parents with young children, and I am in fact a parent with two young children. So I loved it, but I didn’t really think very seriously about publishing it when I first got it because it’s so unlike anything else that we publish. Most of what we publish is literary fiction, and a little bit of political nonfiction; we’ve never done a parody of a children’s book before. But I showed the proposal to my wife and to a few other friends who are parents of small children, and I got such a vehement, strong reaction from every parent I showed it to that it compelled me to show it to some more parents. And I kept getting the exact same reaction—people basically urging me to publish it. And so I quickly got my wits about me and decided, yeah, we’d be a great home for this book. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Kasia Anderson: So you did sort of some impromptu testing, field-testing of parents out there?
Johnny Temple: Definitely.
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