Ruminations March 16, 2014
Reality-deniers in Washington
***The term “deniers” has come to mean a group of people who deny the existence of fact. The first use of the term was when it was applied to people who denied the Holocaust – the systematic murder of some six million Jews by Nazis prior to and during World War II. It has since been applied to those whose views run into conflict with the opinion held by the majority.
Science deniers. Last January, Haruko Obokata was the lead author in an article published in Nature in which she detailed experiments that allowed her team to create embryonic stem cells – a major breakthrough. Was she castigated for contravening established science? Was she called a denier of established science? Not a chance.
It seems that, contrary to supporters of climate change, cellular biologists set out to duplicate her experiments – and failed. This cast doubt on her findings. This is the way science works. Politics is not involved.
And yet, politician Barack Obama tells us, contrary to scientific findings, that “the climate is warming faster than anybody anticipated five or 10 years ago. … I don’t have much patience for people who deny climate change.” Actually, global warming has essentially stagnated over the past 15 years. This is in spite of the fact that we have put 400 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere during that time period – enough, according to the climate models used by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to raise the temperature 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
If we were to proceed along the lines of the cellular biologists on Obokata paper, we would probably conclude that the climate model is – at best – flawed. At worst, it would be thrown out and we would start over again.
But that’s not how Washington seems to work. They appear to be in science-denial.
Budget deniers. Not since Andrew Jackson’s presidency in 1835 has the United States budget produced a surplus. It would seem then that those in Washington have decided that a balanced budget is not necessary. There are a number of economists who agree.
However, this does not mean that the budget deficit and national debt can be ignored. To continue to increase the size of the national debt year after year will lead (or perhaps already has led) to problems of unmanageable proportions.
Consider the following:
1. China owns over $1.2 trillion of U.S. debt. It is in their interest to keep the U.S. financially afloat, since to do otherwise would jeopardize their holdings. But don’t think that they aren’t looking for ways to do it. Especially with the rising hostilities between the U.S. and China, U.S. trade imbalances and U.S. debt, there is nothing better that they would like to do.
2. BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have met over the past ten years to address common issues and how to exercise economic clout with the U.S. They have also discussed establishing a new reserve currency to replace the dollar because of worries about the United States’ debt. This is not likely to be enacted in the near term, but if it was, it would raise havoc in the world financial community and particularly in the United States. This is somewhat along the lines that Saddam Hussein began when he talked of replacing the dollar with the euro.
3. Social Security and Medicare are actuarially insolvent. That is, they do not have enough money nor will they acquire enough money to meet future obligations. Right now, both funds have a surplus but it is being drawn down. Unless we take steps to rectify this situation – increasing taxes, raising retirement ages, cutting payments, privatizing the accounts – we will face drastic actions. According to figures supplied by the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security will run out of money by 2031.
4. Right now, the interest rates that the Treasury pays when it borrows money is very low – a little over one percent. If something should happen or if buyers of treasuries begin to worry about the United States’ ability to pay, the interest rates will go up and the United States will have to finance the higher interest rates through higher taxes, reduced spending or some combination; it will be like the sequester cuts is spades.
But Washington is doing nothing serious about the debt or budget. They are in budget-denial.
Defense deniers. As Russia begins to move its military might about Eastern Europe, the United States is running short of options. One thing we can do is to place deterrent forces in the Baltic States, Poland and Hungary. Of course a deterrent force must be credible. Is ours?
According to economist Robert Samuelson writing in last week’s Washington Post, “Adjusted for inflation and population growth, [the defense budget] drops by a quarter [by 2024]. As a share of the federal budget, it falls from 18 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in 2024.” Army personnel will drop to as low as 420,000, Marines by 10 percent and the Air Force will retire all its A-10 Warthog ground support fighters.
We know that there are budget constraints behind the defense budget but isn’t one of the primary purposes of our government to defend the country? The latest issue of the Quadrennial Defense Review says that “Our forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale prolonged stability operations.” Does that mean that we will not be able to deploy a deterrent force to Eastern Europe? What message does that send to Russia? What message does that send to our Eastern European allies?
Washington is in defense denial.
Benghazi deniers. On September 11, 2012, terrorist groups affiliated with al Qaeda attacked the U.S. compound in Benghazi. The Administration immediately went into denial and sought to blame the attack not on al Qaeda and their affiliates, but on the creator of an anti-Muslim video, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Not only was the entire Administration on-script with this denial and blame, but on September 25, Obama made a speech at the UN condemning Nakoula and his video.
In spite of the contradictory evidence, the Obama Administration continues to stand by its story.
Washington is in Benghazi denial.
Healthcare deniers. There is little that can be said here about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that hasn’t been already said. It is a fiscal nightmare that won’t be addressed by the Administration because to do so would be to admit poor planning and worse – admit that the critics were right.
There are features of the plan that seem admirable but the cost to achieve such features -- the ACA -- is unconscionable. Now where since Woodrow Wilson torpedoed his own League of Nations by making it a partisan issue has a piece of legislation been wholly owned by a party that now disowns responsibility. Can they fix the ACA? Not while the Democrats are in charge.
Washington is in Healthcare denial.
Deny, deny, deny. It would seem that Washington is rife with deniers – to the point you can almost predict what is going to be said.
This is troubling because it has been said that the first step in fixing any problem is to acknowledge the problem’s existence. How will we solve any problem if the modus operandi is to deny that there is a problem?
Quote without comment
Political scientist Alexander Iskandaryan, Director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute, quoted in Pravda, March 16, 2014: “The events in Crimea once again evidenced that the boundaries drawn by the Soviet Union are not satisfactory for everyone. Karabakh held a referendum on independence over 20 years ago, and Karabakh residents have long formed their own authorities. But I do not think that we will see a domino effect after the events in Crimea. It has not happened after South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Kosovo, or Cyprus. Each case has its own local political reasons."