Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Our own policies do us harm

By Vashek Cervinka

No major enemy could have done greater harm to our country than our own national policies.

An enemy of the United States certainly would attempt to damage our political system, economy, the structure of our society and our standing in the world. I believe domestic and foreign policies have caused damage to our country much greater than the worst enemy ever could have achieved.

Our policies at home fail to “ensure the blessings of liberty” for all Americans.

The Supreme Court legalized the corruption of our political system with the Citizens United decision (2010).

Extremely long and costly political campaigns restrict candidates of parties other than Democratic and Republican to effectively compete, influence the national debate on important issues, and possibly be elected at the national level.

Fewer than 5 percent of Americans are millionaires, but more than 50 percent of the members of Congress are millionaires. Average citizens are not represented, and this may explain the characteristics of many government policies.

Our tax system benefits wealthy citizens. Taxes have been significantly reduced for the wealthiest citizens since the 1960s. This has led to economic inequality, negatively affecting the functioning of democracy. In reality, a single citizen earning $50 million annually is less important for the country than 1,000 citizens earning $50,000 each year.

During the past six years, the major objective of the Republican Party has been to destroy the elected president of our country. This reduces the effectiveness of the Congress to solve major social and economic problems.

The United States is a major developed country where universal medical care, free or at low cost, is not available to all citizens. Some politicians in Congress are rejecting it as a “socialist” concept. At the same time, they themselves are enjoying this form of medical care.

Public education is not viewed as a basic right of citizens, and its funding has been steadily reduced. Education is increasingly considered a business activity, rather than a service to citizens. While young people in most democratic countries, as well as in Russia or China, have access to free university education, students in our country are graduating from universities as slaves to debt.

Our foreign policy has led to costly wars, competition rather than cooperation, and a diversion of resources that could have benefited our own citizens and the world.

Since 1947, U.S. military expenditures have been about $19 trillion. The annual defense budget represents about 50 percent of global military expenditures. Still, our country cannot claim that its political or military objectives have been accomplished in wars such as in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. These and other such military actions have wasted national human and financial resources that could have been dedicated to other national priorities, such as education and health care, just to name two.

The wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have similar characteristics. The United States did not have to get involved. Impressive military technology was used, but it was ineffective in fighting guerrilla-type enemies. Without being able to claim a military victory, a politically feasible troop withdrawal was implemented, and a significant portion of military technology was abandoned during our withdrawal.

Peaceful conditions in the world would reduce or even eliminate any need for the production of weapons, and thus harm business activities and profits of the U.S. military-industrial complex.

In 1945, the United States played a major role in defeating dictators and creating functioning democratic states in Japan, Germany, and Italy. Since that time, our government has steadily supported dictators rather than popular elected leaders in many countries around the world. Chile is one such example.

Sometimes, the worldwide marketing of weapons makes U.S. foreign policies inconsistent. As two examples, our government did business with leaders in Iran, then supported Iraq in the war against Iran, and then invaded Iraq. It supported the Taliban in its war against the Soviets and now is fighting the Taliban as a terrorist organization.

Russia and China are major competitors of the United States. U.S. foreign policy in Europe and the Pacific is encouraging those two countries to cooperate more closely in the fields of energy, economy and military.

National Security Agency spying on world leaders in Germany, Brazil and other countries negatively affects the U.S. relationship with its allies in the world.

When will the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court develop policies beneficial to common citizens?

— Vashek Cervinka, a longtime Davis resident, is the author of “Questions We Have Forgotten to Ask.” He may be reached at vac@dcn.org



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