Everyone who wants to know already understands how disastrous President Bush’s Iraq War has been. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost, perhaps several million displaced people and financial costs in the $ trillions. This to depose a dictator not much different than many dictators the US has supported and continues to support elsewhere. After the close of the military phase we undertook the completely idiotic grand administration of the country by Bush’s cronies, most notably Paul Bremer. In his role as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Bremer ruled by fiat. His first two orders were to disband the Ba’ath Party and dismantle the Iraqi Army. In one fell swoop he released a swarm of armed angry men to the countryside. The rest is the rapid decline into violence and chaos and the creation of Iraq as a central rallying point for extremist of all brands. It turns out that exporting American democracy, rule of law and all the other delights of our civilization was not as simple as shock and awe that began the war.
The ensuing history up to this day can only be seen as a catastrophically expensive and destabilizing bit of American overreach for objectives that were never clear excepting the weapons of mass destruction that were never found.
In the context of ceaseless angst and drum beating by politicians and experts over the threat of Iran to us and the rest of the world there is new evidence that the Iraq War has redounded to the benefit of Iran. In the July 15, 2017 NYTimes Tim Arango wrote an article about Iran’s quite comprehensive penetration of Iraqi society and government and the pipeline that exists between Iraq and the fighting in Syria. “Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over'” appears to be Part 1 so presumably there will be more to follow.
Netflix has just released War Machine onto the streaming media waters. This movie fits into the long tradition of American media mostly puffing up our military exploits or turning them into light tragi-comedy. Brad Pitt, applying the acting style of a trimmed down George Clooney, portrays the fictional General Glen McMahon. Broadly and obviously based on the story of the real General Stanley McChrystal who took over the War in Afghanistan in June 2009 only to be ousted in June 2010 after a profile appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine revealed much foolishness and derogatory comments about President Obama and VP Biden. The movie has its comedic moments and the very broadly played General MaMahon is bound to either really annoy those enamored of the US military or fulfill the image of buffoonish generals that others may prefer.
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The political rhetoric of the current moment, chiefly flowing from Republicans, but barely challenged by the Democrats, describes tales of profligate over-spending by the Federal government matched with burdensome taxation. While it is true that Federal spending is higher proportionately than post-WWII norms, social programs are not the source of this over spending. One only has to look back to George Bush’s two terms to see the true sources of the debt.
War, Wars, More Wars
First up are our profligate wars. A recent study at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies finds that since 2001 we have spent between $2.3 and $2.7 trillion on our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.All of these dollars are deficit dollars. George Bush did not ask for increased taxes to fund his wars. Barack Obama has not asked for increased taxes to fund his continuation of the Bush wars and now his new war in Libya. The final bills for these wars will reach $3.7 to $4.4 trillion. We are fighting these wars on the backs of our grandchildren and, as is becoming obvious from the disgusting collusion between Obama and the Republicans, on the backs of the poor and the rapidly disappearing middle class. You might think that since these wars are in our national security interests (the rhetoric of all recent Presidents) they would feel it right to ask the American people to sacrifice more than just our mercenary military but also take money out of their pockets. It has been too easy to have the Chinese pay the bill.
Pills, Pills, Drug Companies and the Health Industry
President Bush, aided by the drug industry and health insurance industry, pushed through a new Part D Drug Benefit for Medicare. This was unfunded by new tax revenues. The estimate for 2009 to 2018 is an additional $727 billion
Tax Breaks Everywhere – The Gully Swamper of Them All
Part of the religion of the right is that cutting taxes will increase economic activity and in the end generate higher tax revenues. History has proven this theory to be nonsense. George Bush, aided by members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, passed enormous tax decreases. These bills with their charming titles, Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, created an enormous windfall for the rich and have not produced any job growth. In fact George Bush’s presidency is marked with the lowest job growth record of any president back to Herbert Hoover. As is demonstrated by the graphic from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities the tax cuts of the Bush years are the largets single source of debt.
Under Tax – But Are We Over Spending?
With all of the Bush tax cuts (and the extensions by Obama and the Democrats) Federal tax revenues are now 14.9% of GDP. This is roughly 16% lower than the share typical during the post WWII era while Federal expenditures are 24% of GDP. The chart from the National Priorities Project “Federal Outlays and Revenues, 1930-2015” shows the historical trends of revenues versus spending. Note that the projected increases in revenue for 2011 to 2014 are the result of the projected lapsing of the Bush tax cuts. As demonstrated by Obama and the Democrats at the end of 2010, it is hardly a forgone conclusion that this enormous giveaway will not be continued.
The chart clearly shows that overall Federal spending is higher than the post WWII norm. Despite the political rhetoric of the moment, it is hardly shockingly high. This is especially true if you take into account the war spending and outlays for economic recovery during what is now obviously the most serious economic slump since the Great Depression.