The Middle Class Is Dead


As we approach President Obama’s Second Inauguration, why do I have this overwhelming feeling that the Middle Class is dead? In both the UK and the US. And that the major political parties in both countries are complicit?

It’s a feeling which has been nagging at me for some time now. But it began to crystallize this past week when I read a series of newspaper articles:

* We are told that the US economy is almost back to its ‘historic’ regular annual growth of 3%, with stocks about to break through to a new record. Yet, unemployment among we mere minions remains high.

* At the grocery co-op where I have now worked for seven years (silent scream), sales reach new heights, week-by-week, and talk of three new stores electrifies the air – but my annual pay raise remains a pittance.

* All around us, we are told that the union-created US Middle Class is dying. But the 1% continue to thrive.

* Daily we read of the billions of dollars in settlements that banks are having to pay in penalties for their various malfeasances leading up to, through and after the Great Banking Crash of 2008. Yet, bank stock prices shudder only a ripple. Huge bonuses are back. Dodd-Frank has no teeth. And no-one cares.

* I regularly read the culture sections of The New York Times, and various fashion and lifestyle magazines, just to see what are the trends. And what I see is fashion extolling the virtues of glamour – in the middle of a recession which still bites for ordinary working folk. Luxury cars. Property in the Hamptons, going for gazillions. Who is this aimed at? Because, for sure, it isn’t intended for me and my mates.

Then, my eye alights on a piece written by Adam Davidson in the NYTimes. Adam almost always comes up with cultural and economic analyses that start out spot-on, and then completely lose themselves in spot-off.

On this occasion, he is wondering what is causing the change in consumer buying habits. He has noticed that the predilection of the Middle Class in the Seventies and Eighties to buy in cheap and in bulk (Sam’s Club, Costco) is dwindling. To be replaced by a tendency to buy more expensive, more consumer-friendly and more specialized. He cites local and organic produce and Tide-Pods.

Right. We’re on my territory now. He has my attention. But then his reasoning goes all to heck. Adam claims that the reason is that the Middle Class, due to the recession, are still having to work long hours, and do not have time to buy in bulk any more. Nor to separate their own portions of food and detergent. So, it is worth the extra pennies to have someone else prepare the portions. And, at the same time, no-one can afford to be ill. So, we eat healthier.


No, Adam. Sorry mate. I know. I see it every day. I work in a store that specializes in organic and Do-It-Someone-Else portions. The folks doing the latter are not Middle Class. They are a step up. Not quite 1%. More 3-4%. Annual salaries of $200,000 – $400,000. In jobs which service the 1%. Primarily computer or web-related.

They don’t buy this stuff because they are overworked. They buy this stuff because they are nouveau riche ponces. And they are showing off. To themselves. And because they can.

Bulk-buying is dying because these new, hmm, what shall we call them, I know, Middle Upper Class. Or MUC (Muck). The new MUC wouldn’t be seen dead in Costco. Let alone Sam’s Club.

The folks who buy cheap are ordinary working folks. Because it’s all they can afford. And they don’t buy bulk, because they don’t have that much cash at any one time.

Well. Seeing as we’ve just got past the Twelve Days of Christmas, I’ll say this observation led to a personal epiphany. I’ll spare you the yelling, screaming and staining of the living room walls. And leap straight to the thoughts that followed.

And bear in mind I’m still thinking as I write. As Daniel Day-Lewis said in ‘Lincoln’ (may that terrible and contrived disaster win only Razzies) – “I’m too lazy to stop writing”:

The 1% drive the economies of the US and the UK. I’m not talking trickle-down. So keep your hair on. Bugger all trickles down. That’s the point. But what it is that the 1% does, accounts for most of the dollar amount in the economy. Frankly, in economic terms, Great Britain has been reduced to the City of London, surrounded by a rather quaint tourist attraction called ‘England.’

The same is true (at least for the moment) with the emerging economies in the rest of the world. BRIC, and the countries close behind them – Bangladesh, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, et al.

These are the folks buying the $1.2 million Bugatti hatchbacks, for the wifeys to take the kids to the faux grocery store. These are the people shopping at Bal Harbor. Buying villas in the Caribbean. And driving the fashion world’s obsession with old-style glitter and glamour.

Now, these folks need services. And those (everything from computer services to fashion to airline pilots) are provided by the new MUC. These guys and gals can’t swim with the sharks. They can’t donate millions. Or buy jetliners. But they can ape the lifestyle.

So, they buy the expensive brand fashion copies from Saks Fifth. They do Porsche, not Bugatti. And they want all that personal service that makes them feel grand.

Enter the old Middle Class. We poor buggers who are still struggling to pay off student loans. Teachers losing their jobs through budget cuts. Doctors getting hit by Medicare belt-tightening. College graduates mowing lawns to pay the bills. And some, who have accepted this might be a permanent change. And are going self-employed. Dreaming up niches to serve the new MUC. But at a much lower pay grade. Personal physical and motivational training is a favorite.

After that, what’s left? Well, the working folks. The working class. But, I hear you say, what of aspiration? What of all this talk by political parties on both sides of the Atlantic about wanting to support folks in their aspiration to work hard, play fair, pay in, get out, climb up, better life for kids, landing on Mars?

Bollocks. Not going to happen any more. And the pols don’t want it, either.

In the US, the myth is that the Middle Class there was created by the unions. Not so much in the UK. But the end result on both sides of the pond was the same. Out of the bipolar societies that existed prior to the Industrial Revolution (rich, poor, and some grasshoppers), grew a Middle Class, which was needed to provide middle management to run industries. White collar. Skilled blue collar. And the services to support them. Family GP. Family lawyer. Family banker – yes, they used to exist. Etc.

The essence of the survival of the Middle Class was the recognition that they aspired to a lifestyle working folk could not afford, ever. But they couldn’t pay for it up front in cash, as did the rich. And so developed the whole concept of pay in now-get out later services. Especially for public services, like education, pensions and now, health.

But those days are over. Forget how we got here, or why. But the 1-4% don’t need pay-in. And they don’t want to pay the taxes to give it to others. But, I hear you say, surely they want to keep the Middle Class happy, because they represent market and labor? Not no more.

The 1-4% can find both elsewhere in the world. Industry is dying in the US. It was declared rigor mortis some time ago in the UK. The 1-4% no longer need overpaid, underworked white collar or skilled blue collar.

But surely the pay-in schemes still exist? Nope. They are under daily attack from budget cuts, at both national and local level. I owe an apology to FB mate, Chris Telesca, with whom I fenced the other day about Obamacare. After which I read that, under Obamacare, insurance premiums for the self-employed and middle-level payees (the classic Middle Class) are about to go up by double digit percentages. And this wasn’t foreseen – or worse still, deliberate?

Without a doubt, the next step in ‘fiscal prudence’ will be the re-introduction of means testing. Which will almost certainly reduce the provision of pay-in services only to the very needy. In turn, bringing the old Middle Class down to the level of other working folk. Which leads me now to re-label the old Middle Class as the new Upper Working Class.

What of the unions? The folks who created and surely would now protect the US Middle Class? Well. As goes manufacturing industry, so go the unions. And unions in the US are becoming ever more irrelevant. But don’t the Democrats rely on them during Presidential Elections? Nope. Not any more. Two successful election efforts by Barack Obama put paid to that myth.

But hang on, what about all those political parties (cf. British Tory rebrand) yelling about Jobs, Family and Education for the Middle Class? Oh yes. You can have a college education. But unless you intend to sell out to MUC (at which point law firms, investment bankers et al will happily pay off your loan as a golden ‘hey there’), then you’re stuck in penury for most of the rest of your working life.

Jobs? Why would any government spend money from the dwindling public piggy bank to create uncompetitive jobs? When they can get election cash from the 1% in return for tax breaks to allow the 1% to export jobs to Myanmar?

Family? Ha. Take a good long look at how benefit reform is helping Middle Class families in the UK. For sure (and I applaud it), there may be better and more sensible coverage for the disadvantaged, without the welfare trap. But the Middle Class are getting razed.

Their ‘benefits’ are being taken away, one-by-one. Child benefit has already gone. And in the past few months, a new scheme began, under which every single employee is having to fork out a monthly amount for their own private pay-in pension plan, to supplement the state pension.

Expect this formula to become the template for benefit ‘reform’ in the US.

Ah ha. I hear you say. But what about the Democrats? They’ll fight for the Middle Class. They will continue to work to keep in place a system that allows social mobility from working to Middle Class. No, they won’t.

First, the money isn’t there. Secondly, the votes aren’t there. We just had the most polarized Presidential and Congressional Elections since 1864. All the talk was of the 1% buying the result. Well, that didn’t happen. But what did happen was that, against the flow, Romney got 47% of the vote. And Congress remained Republican – and Tea Party. This wasn’t the work of the 1%. This was the work of the 3-4%, silently, but determinedly, voting to maintain their newfound lifestyle.

The new MUC, risen from working folks and the old Middle Class, safe in their gated communities, educated but not worldly-wise, nouveau riche but not noblesse oblige. Guilty. Self-contained. Selfish. They don’t want to share. They don’t like giving back. They don’t like taxes. And they don’t give a fig for maintaining the Middle Class, or offering a leg-up for the working folks. And here’s the rub. They will only become more potent as a voting base.

I don’t care about Dems saying that Hispanics and Asians are natural Dem voters. No, they aren’t. Everything about their culture will have them working their asses off to see their offspring aspire to MUC. If you want to know what America might look like with third generation Hispanics and Asians, try Singapore, South Korea or Texas.

The Dems are going to be fighting hard to maintain any voting base they can find. And there is the dagger in the heart of the Middle Class. Why would Dems want to support and extend a new reality that has folks aspire to leave the working ranks and join the Republican MUC?

It is my view that you will see Dems increasingly working towards keeping their voters as a client base. As the British Labour Party did in the Seventies and Eighties. Oh. It will be wrapped up all pretty in language about re-discovering our purpose. Putting working folks first. But what will transpire is a Democratic Party focusing its advocacy on directing the reduced public purse towards those same working folk, and away from the Upper Working Class.

If you allow a situation where the UWC can no longer receive benefit or the leg-up needed to meet aspiration, they slip back down the salary scale, to find themselves shopping at Dollar General, with every other working person. And that’s where the Dems of the future will want to keep them.

So. Even though we may have a short-lived hiccup of Republican hand-wringing. Which we already have had in the UK. But Dave Cameron chose hugging a hoodie over wringing his hands. We will move to a bi-polar political situation where a right-wing, tax-hating Republican Party (or British Conservative Party) will regularly face off against a newly-energized, worker-loving/trapping social Democratic Party (or British Labour Party of old). And the Middle Class will be a footnote in the history books.

So. What to do? For myself. I learn from Occupy. Or my lesson with Occupy. Forget the system. Don’t waste time trying to bring it down. Who cares? Become self-sufficient, and live outside of the system as much as possible. Oh. And hope that your self-penned pop song does viral …

Published in: on January 18, 2013 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Afghani Body Parts Scandal — When Life (and Death) Imitate Your Remote Control

Do we really care that US soldiers paraded in front of cameras with body parts of slain Afghans? Or do we affect our over-inflated anger, disbelief and horror for much the same reason? To see how many ‘Likes’ we can elicit, before the world changes its channel?

Politicians talk of a loss of honor. But the honor was lost when those same politicians voted for a war, in the certain belief that they, and their sons and daughters, would never have to fight it.

When and where did it all go wrong? When we first realized it was not enough to survive? When we determined we wanted also to acquire? Even that which was unnecessary? And especially if it belonged to someone else?

When we knew that we needed strength to accumulate? And more specifically, that we needed to be stronger than our neighbor, in order to possess what was his?

When brute strength gave way to politics. Supplanted by diplomacy. Aided once more by military power. Supported by lies. Spread by media. Which then wilted in the face of the online revolution. When all could be achieved at ten times the pace. And more particularly, needed to be achieved at that pace, lest the electorate’s attention be lost.

Whom do we blame? The soldiers, who fight a fight we’re too cowardly to fight? The office-holders, who serve because we’re too busy to vote? The corporations who buy the elected, with the money we spend on their goods?

Or do we point the finger at ourselves? We, who decry the massacre, yet trawl the web to find the pictures? We, who demand gas for our cars, yet protest the wars which secure the crude oil? We, who stand idly by while state legislators gut our education system, so that the young men serving in Afghanistan never have the chance to learn about My Lai?

After all, isn’t that why we have computers? To keep the pain of the world at arm’s length? Heaven forbid we should have to witness the horrors required to bring us the goodies. We’d much rather just have fun poked at them in a Jon Stewart skit. Treat life as if it’s just one gigantic video game.

We’ve been telling ourselves for 40 years now that we can do what we want, to whom we want, how we want, without any concern for the repercussions, because our kids will pay the price for us. Why should we be surprised that our kids are now taking their cue from us – all over primetime?

When we are truly ready to lower our expectations, to stop mindless consuming and to halt waste. To live only on what we need. And to accept responsibility for the consequences of what we do and say.

When we finally wake up and come to the realization that our very existence does not depend on a continuous diet of virtual sensory stimulation. Then and only then may we begin to build a society where massacres do not occur. Do not go viral. And do not get forgotten the moment we hit the remote control …

Published in: on April 19, 2012 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Maybe Corporate Personhood is a Good Thing … ??

No, no, really (he says, doing his very best, over-the-top, under-the-weather Ricky Gervais). Bear with me for a sec. If those who advocate for corporations to be persons (*cough* *hack* — the 1%) follow through consistently with their political beliefs (granted, with Gingrich and Romney as standard-bearers, not very likely – but this is my satirical piece, so let me finish) …

Anyways, if corporations are persons (especially those megadeath Wall Street banks), then it follows (a la Tea Party Republicans in Mississippi) that they are persons from the point of their conception.

Now, bearing in mind that it can take years, if not decades, for corporations to be incorporated (and, therefore, start to pay taxes), long after they have been conceived, I would say that most of America’s corporations (keep thinking, megadeath Wall Street banks) owe gazillions in back taxes. Cha ching!

Back to Tea Party Republican principles, if corporations are persons, then you can’t abort them. So, all those insolvencies are now redundant. And a whole slew of ‘former’ corporations owe another huge chunk of back taxes. Double cha ching!!

Finally, since all of our Republican corporatist brethren are so opposed to same sex marriage among persons, our newly-personified corporations are no longer allowed to merge and acquire like-minded companies. So, all those merged corporations now have to un-merge – and pay all the extra corporation taxes they would have paid had they been separate. Triple cha ching!!!

Bottom line? If we were to enforce the notion of corporate personhood, in a manner consistent with the political beliefs of those who dreamt up corporate personhood in the first place, we could:

1) Collect enough unpaid corporation tax to wipe out the current deficit and the entirety of the $15 trillion US national debt, in one fell swoop – and have sufficient left over to buy a brand new Ferrari for every single taxpayer earning less than $30,000 a year.

2) Unmerge Fox. And get back all of those nice, warm and cuddly, old-timey, local television stations we miss so much.

3) Tie up corporate lawyers with enough red tape unraveling the tax affairs of their 1% clients that they wouldn’t have the time or money to go on sticking it to the 99%.

4) Leave corporations so drained of cash that they would have to close all their Super-PAC’s – and we would be able to reclaim our elections.

So. Like I say. I’m wondering. Who says corporate personhood is such a bad thing … ?!?

Published in: on January 21, 2012 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

A Victorian Englishman’s Perambulations At The Beach …

Just got back from the beach. Indulged in some arts and crafts. This was the product. Enjoy.

Published in: on June 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Climate Change [The Fairy Tale]: “And They All Lived…”

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, where no man had boldly gone before, in a land where the sun never set and the climate never changed, lived a lovely young princess called Airwick.

Wherever she went, gaily tripping around the land, singing her sweet songs, and dancing her pretty little dances, the air was fresh and clean smelling. And the good folk who inhabited the land were happy and abundant.

Then one day, a large and sweaty giant, known as Al Ogre, came and settled right in the middle of Princess Airwick’s kingdom.

Al was a goodly soul. He hurt no-one. But he did talk a lot. I mean, on and on and on and on. It burned your ears. You wanted to take the good folk of the kingdom and smash them into…I’m sorry, medication…now, where was I?

Oh yes. Goodly soul. But Al Ogre had a BIG PROBLEM. He had an Inconvenient Tooth. So, he could only imbibe liquids. And those liquids caused Al to emit the foulest, most toxic whitehouse gases.

Poor Al couldn’t cure his problem because he had no healthcare. And no private insurer would take him since Inconvenient Teeth are top of the list of Unacceptable Pre-conditions.

Al’s whitehouse gases became the bane of the kingdom. The air turned green. The birds fell from the sky. The rivers ran dank and dark. And the livestock turned quite mad.

They took to reading Gary Larson. Smoking cigarettes. And attending tea-bagging parties. Look, have you ever been tea-bagged by a full-grown, prize-winning Angus bull? It’s not pretty…sorry, medication again.

The Princess grabbed Al by his big, sweaty paw and dragged him into her father’s royal chamber, to see if he could find a solution. The King – for it was he: King Stephen The Colbert – thought and thought. But all he could think of was a joke about a Rabbi, a Bush and eight gallons of industrial lubricant.

In desperation, King Stephen leapt to his feet and cried in anguish, “Can no-one rid me of these whitehouse gases? I will give my daughter’s hand in marriage and half of my Treasury to the man who can fix my kingdom!”

“Er, Daddy,” whispered the lovely Airwick, “I’m gay. Remember? Civic partnerships? Benefits? Countess Ellen von Idol de Generes?”

“Oh,” stuttered the good King, “Right. Half my Treasury, then.”

“Um, Your Majesty?” came a little squeak. Everyone looked around to see who had made the squeaking sound. The squeaking seemed to be coming from beneath the robes of Sir Benjamin Shalom Burn-That-Key-And-Repel-All-Boarders, the Grand Pooh-Bah of the Royal Marmalade Preserve Bank of the Kingdom and Everything Beyond.

There was a rustling of the robes, and out scampered Tiny Timbelina, the Holder of the Royal Purse and Lord High Crayola of the Treasury Chest.

“I’m awful sorry, Your Majesty,” squeaked Tiny Tim, “But there’s no gold in the Treasury. Remember, we lost it all bailing out the kingdom’s banks, when we defaulted on the twenty-first mortgage you took out on the castle.”

Doom and gloom settled on the royal chamber and all of the courtiers. There was wailing. There was gnashing of teeth. Then, there was some whining, and a tad more wailing. Just when all seemed lost, a fanfare erupted from the courtyard. Princess Airwick ran to the balcony.

“It’s Lady Hillary of Florida and Michigan,” exclaimed the lovely Princess, “Maybe she can help us. Gorgeous hunk of womanhood that she…”

Airwick was interrupted by the sound of the great doors to the royal chamber being flung open. There was a hushed silence as a huge Knight entered the portal. He removed his helmet, to reveal flowing blond locks and a chiseled chin. The dust motes danced playfully in the sunlight glinting from his perfect armor.

It was Sir Willam Du Rex. The lady courtiers fainted. The menfolk muttered. The sheep were terrified. And Princess Airwick sniffed loudly. “Bloody cradle robber…,” she muttered, under now less than fresh breath.

Sir William strode to the middle of the room, and without a sideways glance, or bow towards the King, cleared his throat loudly and bellowed, “I give you the Mistress of New Hampshire…”

Sir Bill then slunk back towards the crackling fireplace, grabbed a steaming tankard of malt and placed a serving wench called Moanithica on his knee. “Oh Sir Bill,” she squealed, “I ’ant cleaned orf the last stain yet, ye knave…”

Lady Hillary circled the room, her expression haughty, her eyes burning hot coals of fire. “I bring good news and bad news,” she screeched, in her lilting southern purr.

“On my travels around the globe,” she continued, “I met with the wicked Snow Witch of Narnaska, Queen Hopes-Palin-By-The-Moment. She has told me that her ice is melting. And that she does not believe us when we say it is being caused by whitehouse gas emissions. Unless we rectify the situation immediately, she tells me she will be forced to surge into our kingdom, build a new nation and call it Republi-stan.”

The room gasped as one. Then the room took a turn for the worse. And had to lie down until it felt more like a greenhouse…[Editor: Thish can’t be right (hic). Shurely shome mishtake. Get back (burp) to the shtory…] The room gasped as one. The menfolk took to fainting. The women were terrified. And the sheep began to mutter dark oaths.

“But wait,” screamed Lady Hillary, in her soothing, honey-soaked caress, “There’s more: the good news. A band of goodly and kind wizards and witches are meeting in CopenKayHagan. They are led by Harry Obama, Gordon Weaselly and Hermione Murkyl. Maybe they can get rid of the Inconvenient Tooth?”

Right. Much discussion. Blah, blah. Dinner. Drinking ’til stupid. Blah, blah. Commercial break. Watching a game or too on the telly. Blah, blah. Packing. Blah. Good-byes. Blah. Digging Sir Bill out of the wenches’ quarters. Blah.

And fast forward to the whole Royal Court on its way to CopenKayHagan. Fighting off the lecherous Tiger-In-The-Woods and his band of club-hurling Wild Cats. Ten? Thirteen? Who knew? Who could keep count?

In any event. Chapter Thirteen: The Royal Party eventually came across Harry Obama and his goodly wizards and witches in the Nobel School of Shagwitch, right in the heart of CopenKayHagen. Where they were deep in the middle of an enormous filly-blustering. Sir William was game. But backed off, after seeing the death ray in Lady Hillary’s eyes.

King Stephen begged Harry and his friends to help them. Harry made a long speech. It went into the night. All of the next day. And half way into the following week. The women fainted. The men muttered. The sheep had already been eaten on the long journey to CopenKayHagan. With some fava beans. And a nice Chianti.

Eventually the School’s Headmaster, Professor Grumblebore shooed Harry back to his seat, and announced that the oldest sage in the land might have the answer.

A sound of shuffling came from a dark corner of the room. A bent and wizened old man, with a long, white beard, hobbled forward. He coughed. He hacked. He wheezed. Then he took a deep breath, and in a voice heavy with the trace of a foreign accent, exclaimed, “My name is Rip Bin Liner. Why did it take you so bloody long to find me…?”

“Get out of town,” trilled a voice behind the old geezer. A young man, bearing a striking resemblance to Danny Kaye, skipped forward. “My name is Hans Cooper Anderson,” he sang, in his perfect tenor pitch, “I once was an ugly duckling. But now I have the answer.”

Hans executed a huge grande jete, landing right in front of Harry. Dramatically, Hans pointed to the livid scar on Harry’s forehead. “The answer lies therein,” he announced.

“When the evil Lord MoldyBeck left you with that scar, he also gave you powers beyond comprehension. I comprehend because I wrote the script. With those powers, you can cure Al Ogre, and save the kingdom.”

“Oh,” mumbled Harry. “Brilliant.”

He picked up his wand and made to tap Al on the shoulder. Unfortunately, just as the tap was about to land, Ron and Hermione, in flagrante delicto, fell on Harry and the wand was hurled into the air.

There was a blinding flash. The ground shook. The walls rumbled and fell. The earth opened. The plates moved. The frog kissed the Princess. Lava erupted. The sun was covered by a huge dust cloud. And an Ice Age descended for the afternoon. Manfred and Diego gobbled up Sid. The whole world was covered with water. And everyone, but everyone disappeared.

When finally the waters receded, the only person left was Airwick. But the poor Princess had caught the full blast of the distorted magic from the miscreant wand, and had been turned into an iron statue of a Little Mermaid. Which statue still sits, all alone, in the harbor of CopenKayHagen, in the shadow of the ruins of the former Nobel School of Shagwitch.

As for King Stephen, Sir William, Harry Obama and the rest, they were never seen nor heard from again.

So there.


Who says every story has to end with “…and they all lived happily ever after”? Have you read the papers lately? Do you see how bad things are? Did you vote? Did you? No-one’s ever satisfied. My job is never done…

[The Moral of the Story: “Don’t count your climate change protocols until your carbon-trading fraudsters have been snatched.” – (]

Published in: on December 12, 2009 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Dr. David Kelly: Was He Killed By Israel?

Let’s get one thing clear straight away. Factions of Israeli intelligence and para-military organizations are active in both the US and the UK. And they do engage in assassination. This much I learned while researching my book on British Government involvement in illegal international arms sales [].

The question is not so much did Israeli intelligence kill David Kelly, as which faction might it have been? The point arises as a consequence of FB Friend Aulde Holborne’s comment on my earlier post [] on Dr. David Kelly’s death, linking Kelly to Israel’s ‘interest’ in micro-biological research and bio-weapons [].

Israeli Intelligence (like most of Israeli bureaucracy) is a kaleidoscope of rival political factions, which mirror the prevailing divisions on the mainstream political scene. The two primary factions are those with allegiance to Likud and to Labor. And the rivalry is as intense as that with Arab nations. Leading to many of the same consequences.

Beginning with President Carter, and the rise to power of Likud and its first Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, the Likud faction within Israeli intelligence lost faith in the US always to have its back. Likud never forgave Carter for the Camp David Accords with Egypt.

As a consequence, the Likud faction took the view that it could not rely on defending the state merely by mounting operations against its Arab neighbors, in situ. It took the view that it needed to be able to strike at its enemies (real and perceived: and after Camp David, many European countries, along with the US, were no longer perceived by the Likud faction as friendlies) wherever they were to be found.

This approach first found expression in the follow-up to the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972 (and the subject of the movie, “Munich”), and with Operation Entebbe, the hostage-rescue mission carried out by the Israel Defense Forces at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976. Indeed, many of the men and women involved in those two operations formed the basis of the foreign operations of the Likud faction thereafter.

It was one of those officers who was the primary Israeli source for my book. One of his most illuminating comments was that the West would never understand Israel until it understood that Israel (by which he meant the Likud faction) was not interested in peace. It wanted victory.

And to that end, the Likud faction engaged in illicit arms-dealing, money-laundering, assassinations, what-have-you, all across Europe, in the Eighties and beyond, in support of what they perceived as their agenda for Israel’s security. Not just against Arabs and Palestinian terrorists. But also against any they perceived might be less than friendly to that agenda.

My source told me that this included active psy-ops against the British Conservative Party in the Eighties, since they perceived both Margaret Thatcher and John Major as being way too friendly towards the Arabs.

These activities included the major sex scandal that brought down Cabinet Minister David Mellor, who was introduced to his belle by a man in the pay of the Likud faction; and at least one MP, who lost his seat after being set up by the Likud faction in what became known as the ‘Cash-for-Questions’ scandal.

I vividly remember my last encounter with my source, in a hotel room in Montreal, when I recall how clever I felt at catching him out. He had been referring to his knowledge of the circumstances of the death of my mate, Hugh Simmonds, in third party terms, as if he’d heard about it all somewhere else…vague…unkown…

After some pithy ‘cross-examination,’ I got him to admit that he’d actually known Hugh personally, and had done business with him. The corollary was clear to both of us, as an icy silence descended on the small hotel room.

The context for our ongoing conversation up to that point had been that Hugh had been actively engaged in organizing illegal sales of arms to Iraq at the personal behest of Margaret Thatcher. And that my source’s Likud faction had been none too happy. My source had already hinted at his involvement in the assassinations of billionaire publisher, Robert Maxwell (illegal arms sales to Iraq), and rocket scientist, Gerald Bull (who was helping to develop Iraq’s missile program).

The silence ended only as he glanced at me with his piercing blue eyes and spat out that “…we would never have killed someone like Hugh…” [Makes mental note to self: don’t piss off self-confessed Israeli assassins in dingy hotel rooms in Montreal, when no-one knows where you are. Change trousers…]

So, the point is this. Israeli intelligence kills to protect its interests. The Likud faction does so quite happily all round the world, even in those countries that are ‘friendly.’ The question is, what was there about Kelly that the Likud faction might have believed represented a threat to their interests?

Well. AH’s forward link suggests it might be something wider, namely too much knowledge about Israeli research on bio-weapons. But could it also have been something to do specifically with Iraq?

I have no knowledge myself. But I have some thoughts. Over the years, Israel has engaged in some fairly strange covert relationships, in order to further what it sees as its own legitimate interests.

It shared technology being developed by gun developer and rocket scientist, Gerald Bull, with the apartheid regime of South Africa. It bought weaponry from North Korea, to sell to the Iranians. It sold weapons to Pakistan, in order to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Could it have been that, through some heavily-disguised cover operation (at which the Israeli’s are supremely skilled), the Israeli’s had some sort of shared development with Iraq in the field of bio-weapons? And Kelly (in his role as lead UN Inspector of Iraq’s biological weapons effort) discovered this? A stretch, I grant you. But nothing stretches the Israeli’s. Not really.

Or, did the Israeli’s view Kelly’s attempt at exposing what the US and the UK were really up to with the WMD’s in Iraq as an interference with their objectives for that operation?

Were the Israeli’s to become the recipients of the WMD largesse? For their own uses, or as surrogate provocateurs around the world? Again, one of the things that I have learned about the intelligence underworld is that nothing is too far-fetched. Not in the current climate of the covert War on Terror.

For example, I have mentioned that the Labor faction of Israeli intelligence, at least initially, opposed the modus that allowed the Likud faction to take the fight into other countries around the world, and to target not just Arabs and terrorists, but those they believed were not supporting their agenda.

That fight between the two factions became sufficiently ugly that personnel on both sides were targeted by the other for assassination, and the rivalry itself became the cause of the exposure of Iran-Contra in 1986.

My Israeli source was part of the Iran-Contra operation run by the Likud faction. And by the way, the Middle Eastern end of Iran-Contra was not begun by the US. It commenced as an attempt by the Israeli’s to curry favor with the new Iranian regime of Khomeini. The US jumped on the bandwagon when they wanted to use Iran to free their hostages held by Iranian-backed guerrilla groups in The Lebanon.

So, my source was in New York on one of his trips to buy arms for the Likud Iran operation (known as “The Blue Pipeline”), when he was arrested and put on trial for illegal trade in weaponry. He had been shopped by a member of the rival Labor Iran operation.

The Labor Iran operation was much smaller than “The Blue Pipeline.” It was begun by then Israeli (Labor Party) Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, because he wasn’t getting a cut of the Likud operation. This was the operation on which Oliver North piggy-backed his activities.

In retaliation for snitching on my source, the Likud faction leaked details of the Labor Iran operation (and Oliver North) to a Lebanese newspaper, and so the Iran-Contra scandal began.

By the by, my source was eventually released from jail due to the intervention of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. And “The Blue Pipeline” merrily continued, because the media totally bought the line that Oliver North was the be all and end all of all Iranian operations (rather than a curious sideshow).

And don’t be thinking that it is only Israeli intelligence that operates in this unconscionable fashion. My mate, Hugh, was trained to kill. There is some circumstantial evidence that he was used in the Eighties to ‘clean away’ a rather strange byproduct of sensitive weaponry research in the UK.

Let’s say you have a small company. It has a hush-hush contract to develop, oh, I don’t know, one of the little gizmo’s that will be at the heart of some US killer satellite. You can sign the proprietors of the company to silence, because they are in the thick of it. They may even be former armed forces or intelligence personnel.

But what of the secretaries? The janitors? The low-level staff? You can’t go prancing around highlighting the fact that the trash in the dustbin is highly classified. And. You can’t have them popping down to the pub and telling their boyfriend that they found this really interesting piece of paper. “’Ere, have a look at this, Harold…”

So, some bright spark decided the best way to deal with the problem was to ‘clean’ it away. You may have noticed a rather deviant substitution by intelligence agencies with laundry and cleaning metaphors for killing.

Anyway, it was my mate, Hugh, who was given the task of ‘cleaning away’ a whole bunch of low-level employees of UK firms associated with developing aspects of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Buy a book called “Open Verdict” []. He isn’t named. But he was spotted, and was perfectly described.

Which, of course, raises the possibility that, if Kelly was killed, and it was by an intelligence operation, it may not have been the Israeli’s. It could have been one of the UK home-grown varieties.

And that’s quite enough conspiracy for a sunny Sunday morning…buy my book…

Published in: on December 6, 2009 at 11:20 am  Leave a Comment  

**EXCLUSIVE** Surge-gate!!

Once again, I have beaten National Enquirer to the conspiracy story. I have uncovered the devastating connection between Tiger’s surge into his neighbor’s tree and Obama’s surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Let’s review the similarities between the two situations:-

1) Barack and Tiger are both geniuses in their chosen vocation, and both demonstrated that genius at a young age.

2) They are both Leaders of the Free World. Well. Barack IS the Leader of the Free World, and Tiger pretty much always heads the Leader board in any golf tournament that he plays in the Free World.

3) Both have weird names. Barack Hussein Obama. And, in fact, Tiger’s real name is: Eldrick Tont Woods [Tont! What? Was his father watching “The Lone Ranger” at the time? But, I digress…].

4) Both have nicknames that psychiatrists have said drive them to be over-achievers: ‘Tiger’ and ‘The One.’

5) Both are both left-handed. And, of course, the Latin root for left-handed is ‘sinister.’

6) Tiger’s mother was from Thailand. Barack was raised in Indonesia and Hawaii (which is…well…um…in the same ocean! Right!).

7) They are both of them at the center of high profile ‘social triangles,’ involving blondes. Tiger, of course, was cheating on his blonde wife with a blonde from Las Vegas. Barack had a surging moment with that blonde who crashed his State Dinner. And Michelle is a former sorority girl…which means she is an honorary blonde! Uh huh? Geddit?

8) Tiger crashed into some trees. Barack suffered that party crash. AND has been dealing with the economic crash. [Nope. I have no idea why my blog decided to replace the (8) with a smiley's 'sinister,' innit...?]

9) Barack plays golf. And established his Nevada state campaign in early 2007. In Las Vegas. Where Tiger began his affair with the cocktail waitress, also in early 2007.

10) In January 2009, Woods delivered a political speech commemorating the military at the “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration,” at the Lincoln Memorial. AND. In April 2009, Tiger visited the White House while in the Washington, D.C. area promoting the golf tournament he hosts, the AT&T National. [Getting curious now, huh?]

11) They both make speeches using long words that none of us understand, like ‘transgression.’

12) Tiger surged into his neighbor’s tree. Barack surged into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tiger’s girlfriend caused a surge in his…hang on, can I say that? And the party-crasher lady was definitely causing quite a few surges when she surged towards Barack in the greeting line at the crashed State Dinner. [In fact, the whole Tiger-Barack experience of recent weeks is giving rise to a new social expression, called ‘Surge ’n Crash;’ much like the economic ‘Boom ’n Bust’…]

13) Pakistan (where, of course, Barack is surging) now has its own Open golf tournament, and just qualified for the golf World Cup, in which Tiger will be playing. And. And. Oh yes. Tiger’s girlfriend will have them Packed-In-The-Stands, when she releases the sex-tape we’re now hearing about. Ok. Alright. It’s not with Tiger. And I’m grasping…

…but the fact remains there is an obvious connection. And only the silly can really miss it. It’s this: Tiger and Barack are both love-children of the same visiting alien from outer space [hence, the problem with Barack's Birth Certificate...]. And this avatar alien left them with special superpowers.

And more than that. They moonlight for each other. Oh yes! You just wait. I predict that in this coming year, Barack will start to use the word ‘transgression,’ and Tiger will develop an ugly follow-through on his swing…

Published in: on December 4, 2009 at 10:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Scientology: “12 Days of Xenu-mas”

With Advent here, why shouldn’t the Church of Scientology have its own Christmas…I mean…Xenu-mas song? Especially after all their troubles this year:

“On the Twelfth Day of Xenu-mas, my Xenu sent to me (by way of inter-galactic FedExChurchMember)…

12. (French) Drummers Drumming (us out of France for committing fraud).

11. (Australian) Pipers Piping (up that we kidnap and brainwash folks in Australia).

10. (Same-sex married) Gay Warlords a-Time Warp Leaping.

9. Ladies Cruisin’ (and none of them Katie Holmes, who is NOT leaving Tom because of his religious views, but because he has an obsession with his body. Mind you, I have an obsession with Katie’s body…but I digress…).

8. Maids a-Milkin’ (all of our Church Members for as much cash as we can get).

7. Heads a-Swimming (from being forced to read every last bloody one of L. Ron Hubbard’s collected ‘Stories From The Golden Age’).

6. Hollywood Turkeys a-Laying (the Golden Egg, over and over and over again…).

5. Golden Ringtones (for the iPods Xenu is now giving all his followers so that we are no longer confused about his real message).

4. Calling Birds (Xenu Tweet-Tweeting on those bloody iPods).

3. French Pens (I mean…Penitentiaries).

2. Travolting (Old) Dogs (Ok. Shoot me. I ran out of ideas).

And A Cartridge In A Shotgun…”

[Merry Xenu-mas and a Dianetic New Year. Right. I’m off to have a shower now…]

Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  

“Audacity To Spin”: Plouffe on Edwards (Not)

It’s easy now to dismiss John Edwards. But in early 2007, it was John Edwards whom Barack Obama had to best in order to be the primary opponent of the ‘inevitable’ Hillary Clinton.

I had a front-row seat in that early contest between Edwards and Obama, in that my place of work (Weaver Street Market Co-operative) was situated across the modern equivalent of a village green from the office which housed Edwards’ National Campaign HQ, in Chapel Hill, NC.

I’m fascinated to be reading David Plouffe’s book of his management of the Obama Campaign (“Audacity To Win”), not least because I’m able to compare his perspective, from inside the Obama camp, with what I was writing on my lighthearted Edwards’ Campaign blog at the time.

And I gotta say this about our Dave. For a bloke who prided himself on being the anti-spin, he sure weaves in a lot of…um…interesting hindsight, let’s call it.

I’ve just reached the moment in 2007 which we acknowledged at the time, and which Dave confirms in his book, was the first major milestone in the long two-year process. The March 31, 2007 reporting of the fund-raising totals for the first quarter of 2007.

At the time, everyone – pundits, press, campaigns, public – everyone knew those totals would set the scene for the rest of the campaign. The figures would separate the men from the boys – or girls. The contenders from the pretenders.

What I find interesting about what Dave says on this issue is not so much his view of the figures that were announced (which is not that different from mine at the time), as the almost complete absence of John Edwards from his build-up to those figures.

Whatever we think of John now, the fact is that, from the moment of their respective announcements (John in late December 2006; Barack in early 2007), Edwards was the initial primary target of the Obama Campaign, not Clinton.

Dave re-writes history a tad, bless his heart, pretending that the only worry was Clinton. But my own blog reminds me that this can not have been the case at the time. And Dave Boy is engaging in the very process he says he abhors: the audacity to spin. Let’s recap the situation on the ground in the run-up to March 31, 2007.

Hillary was the heavyweight. She had the name. She had the money. She had the organization on the ground. She was the candidate to beat. And the bloke who had set out four years before to be the one to beat her was John Edwards, not Barack Obama.

Now, Dave admits that Barack started late, and with precious little by way of comparison with Hillary. And he goes into great detail in his book about how little by way of comparison. But what he fails to mention is just how much more Edwards had than his candidate.

Both Obama and Edwards knew that the only chance they had of denting the Clinton juggernaut was to win in Iowa and make a substantial showing in New Hampshire, and let momentum take over after that.

Dave admits that Obama had nothing by way of a national organization or any kind of staff or volunteer effort in states after Iowa and New Hampshire (indeed, Obama had f*** all in Iowa or New Hampshire at the very beginning of 2007).

The strategy was to pile everything into Iowa and New Hampshire and take it from there. Where disingenuousness enters the picture is the claim (by omission) that Edwards was in exactly the same boat. But that was not the case, and Dave knows it.

Edwards had achieved a brilliant second place in Iowa in 2004. He was well liked there. He continued to visit Iowa throughout the following four years. And in early 2007 he was handsomely winning state-wide polls in Iowa. He was no neophyte struggling against Clinton – not in Iowa.

Next, Edwards had maintained his national organization after 2004. And although it didn’t have the poke of Hillary’s, it was nevertheless a substantial national network of volunteers and potential state organizations.

2008 will always be remembered as the Election in which political social networking became a hugely viable tool in organizing volunteers, energizing the base and raising money. And we will always associate that fact with

But the fact is that, in early 2007, was basically nothing more than a dead-letter drop box. The poster-child for fancy interactive web-sites at that time was the Edwards’ web-site. It informed. It raised money. It had a community that blogged with itself and with others.

Dave sets out in meticulous detail in the early part of his book what Obama’s strategists knew they had to accomplish before March 31, in order to be seen as a viable competitor to Hillary Clinton – a presence in Iowa and New Hampshire; the beginnings of a national organization of volunteers; a credible interactive web-site; and a plan.

Obama and his staff had a plan. They had decided the way to distinguish themselves from Hillary was to position themselves as change versus her experience and ‘inevitability.’ Edwards also knew that he had to distance himself from Hillary if he was to have a chance of overtaking her. He chose the path of appealing to the party base of liberal bloggers and trade unionists.

But while Dave claims that he and Obama were succeeding in their efforts to position Obama as the only viable contender for Clinton in the run-up to March 31, the fact is that it was Edwards who held all the cards, and it is for this reason I claim Dave is being a little…hmm…we call it ‘naughty’ in England.

And that brings us to the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle of naughtiness. Dave says in his book (I said in my blog): March 31 was going to be the make or break date for every campaign.

Now Dave’s information at that time can not have been worse than mine. And even I knew the Edwards’ Campaign was putting it around that their find-raising total for the first quarter of 2007 would be $20 million.

Dave says in his book that he expected the Obama Campaign to raise $12 million. Leave alone all the other strengths of the Edwards’ campaign, that information of itself would have meant that the Dave and the rest of the Obama Campaign knew in the run-up to March 31 that the initial target of their Campaign was Edwards.

John occupied the second if not indeed the first place in the Democratic race. Obama had to get past John to get to Hillary. And Dave does not describe the race at that time in those terms. Naughty Dave. I trust your recollection gets a bit better as the book continues. And watch this space for my updates on that score.

Now, I just popped off to attend to nature. And while nature was having it way with me, I got to thinking. I don’t like untidiness. My mind constantly looks for pattern and rationale. And this omission of Dave’s just does not make any sense.

Indeed and ironically, it’s that very same search for pattern and rationale which was the basis for my extended blog on the Edwards’ Campaign.

Once I began writing my blog, I realized there was something which just did not add up about John’s Campaign. There was a disconnect between what he was saying and what he was doing. Of course, we all now know why that was. And that’s sort of my point about Dave.

What little I know off David Plouffe leads me to respect him as a talented organizer and a straight shooter. Which makes my confusion on this issue all the more puzzling – at least for me.

We all know that John self-imploded during 2008 (more of that in later installments of ‘Plouffe Stuff’). But is that really enough reason for Dave to be so pissed that he totally dismisses the status of the entire Edwards’ Campaign in early 2007?

Be pissed at John, yes. But completely diss all the good folks who put together John’s superb Campaign? No. Don’t see it. So what else is or was going on?

Well, I’m sure the folks who were with Edwards and Obama at that time know way more than me. But a little guess-work is always fun.

I’ve just explained, in so many words, that, at the beginning of 2007, and in fact pretty much through 2007 and all the way to the February 2008 Super Tuesday, Edwards had what Obama wanted – a functioning interactive web-site; a vast and inter-connected national network of committed volunteers; money-raising potential; not to mention a detailed platform of policy, credibility with the liberal bloggers, and strong relationships with trade unions.

Yet, when Edwards withdrew precipitately (and more of that later, too) just before Super Tuesday, he did not at that time, nor in fact at any useful point did he ever, ‘hand over’ all of the above to Obama in any kind of formal way.

Is this what still rankles with Dave? We wanted it. He didn’t give it to us. We won anyway. So, we’ll just pretend we never did want it? I’d love to know…

In the meantime, I will say that a number of my other thoughts and predictions at that time were not far off base. Have a gander at my blog to compare the unvarnished (and unspun truth) with what actually happened. And stay tuned for future installments of ‘Stuff On Plouffe’ – well, if I can get off the computer long enough to finish the book…

NB By the by. Dave reminds us that while Hillary announced her figures on April 1, 2007, Obama deliberately withheld his figures until April 3, in order to elevate interest by way of suspense. And Dave claims the ruse worked.

Well. Dave. Bless your heart – again. It may have amused the oldtime political poker players in Washington. But it left us ordinary folk in the country completely bewildered.

As I said that the time, it betrayed a level of political naivety at a time when your Campaign was looking to establish credibility. For two whole days, you let the Clinton Campaign control the headlines.

Got to disagree with you on that ploy, Dave. It was a mistake.

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Budget Deficit Crises: Whither or Wither Government Spending?

61281575aa7ba69571877aacddd1e5fb (1)There are some – and not just conspiracy theory wacko’s – who say that George Bush deliberately engaged in his seemingly inexplicable public spending spree and his economic mismanagement precisely because it would so overburden the US federal budget that his successor(s) would be forced massively to overhaul and reduce public spending on social programs.

There are those – and not just right-wing nutjobs – who say that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown produced a similar crisis with the budget deficit in the UK because of the natural inclination of the Labour Party – new or old – to tax and spend.

There are many who look at the budget debacles in half the states in the United States, whether run by Republicans in California or Democrats in North Carolina, and who simply throw their hands up in the air wondering if state governments will ever get out of the repetitive cycle of lavish in good times, burn the needy in bad.

Deliberate or accidental, considered or negligent, the fact is that on both sides of the Atlantic at all levels of government over the next decade policy-makers will find themselves challenged to address innovative ways of taming burgeoning deficits.

We can play ostrich, bury our heads in the sand and make pretend that it will all go away with a few speeches about efficiency savings and a couple of sessions with glorified fortune-tellers swearing blind it will be better with the next economic upturn.

We can simply give up and hand the whole debate over to the slash and burn, tea bag tax reductionists who so easily convince themselves and us that the disadvantaged can look after themselves while we congratulate ourselves on ripping compassion out of the heart of the public purse.

Or we can engage in a mature discussion about the very nature and purpose of government spending so as to produce a new paradigm that sees government taking care of its business in a sustainable fashion while finally ending the cycle that has us facing deficit crises at the end of every generation.

In the Eighties, developed economies around the world finally put a stop to the boom-bust cycle of economic growth followed by inflation when we woke up to the connection between money supply and that same inflation.

Maybe we find ourselves so regularly facing up to deficit crises, regardless of our political label, because we have yet to figure out and enunciate a similar, fundamental and consistent philosophical approach to government spending?

And I mean a philosophical approach that takes us beyond and away from the simplistic tubthumpers who reduce the debate to a puerile feud between ‘ooh, pretty bauble, let’s spend’ and the ‘hey, my money, give it back.’

I would posit that any such discussion might want to address the following questions:

1) Should government be the primary provider of public services, or merely the agency that finances those who use them and who cannot afford to pay for them on their own? There’s probably more than one question there.

The first part of the question was one that was addressed by some in the British Conservative government in the Eighties, with regards to the National Health Service in particular – without being satisfactorily resolved.

It could be argued that it is a question that might usefully be addressed with regards to the provision of many other public services, from garbage collection to education.

It is the question that almost always leads to the emotive issue of privatization, which is so often misunderstood because those proposing the notion are none too clear about what they mean.

I’m neither proposing nor opposing. I’m merely suggesting that there is room for discussing whether government is the most cost-effective agency for doing the actual work of building and running schools, hospitals, garbage collection businesses, whatever. Or whether this is better done by private or social enterprise, with government then footing the bill.

The second part of the question is for whom precisely should the government be footing the bill?

Do we have enough money to continue engaging in the Butskellian ideal of removing stigma from the equation of public provision by making available public services to all, regardless of their means? Or do we now want to restrict largesse only to those genuinely in need?

While this may seem a question aimed only at British public policy debate, I wonder whether, for example, it is not time for Americans to ask themselves if they could make more resources available for educating the historically disadvantaged if the ‘historically advantaged’ were now invited to pay for their publicly-provided education?

2) Is all government spending really necessary? Or are there areas where we could usefully question government involvement?

I don’t think I can honestly engage in this monologue without sticking my neck out just a little bit.

I think I would describe myself as a social or progressive libertarian. I believe fundamentally that the economy is a natural force, which is best left to its own devices, with government intervening only to maximize the opportunity of all to participate, or aiding and empowering people and communities during periods of transition.

Within that context, experience has taught me that I may have a more limited view of the usefulness of government than many – while having little if any empathy with those who simply reject government because life has smiled on them and they are too selfish to share their good fortune.

It is not that I do not care for the marginalized or historically disadvantaged. Quite the reverse. I simply wonder if we might not be able to make more public resources more usefully available to aid in empowering the disadvantaged if we stopped wasting public funds in areas where government frankly has no business being involved.

This is where my socially-extended definition of economic libertarianism kicks in. I think that government should restrict itself to those areas of spending which are demonstrably in support of the common good and where communal action is seen as being the best and most cost-effective agency for such spending.

I start with the common defense of our citizenry from threats, both foreign and domestic. And I then include public funds judiciously spent empowering people to look after themselves (so that they might then look after society) and supporting those who may not be able to look after themselves on their own.

After that, I’m pretty much open to questioning any and all public spending. Yes. I think I can live with that as my own personal definition of progressive libertarianism. It may not be where I end up, but it’s a good place for me to start in this discussion.

3) Is it time to start aggressively prioritizing government spending? Is it the case that, too often, we put the cart before the horse and decide what we want to support before working out how much we have to spend?

I’m not sure this is all that complicated. Or maybe I’m just being over simplistic? But I wonder if, philosophical discussion aside, it doesn’t bluntly come down to a succession of one-on-one decisions?

I hold a grant for a museum in one hand, and the funds for a homeless shelter in the other. Which do I choose? I hold spending for Head Start in one hand, and the research for a new fighter-interceptor in the other. Which do we support?

This raises the point that is obvious for many of us, less so for others, that the debate about government finance will not just be about money, it will also and primarily be about values.

For example, we could eradicate the immediate consequences of poverty in the US virtually overnight with a simple declaration from the White House that we will henceforth guarantee every man, woman and child in the United States adequate access to food, clothing, housing and healthcare.

And we could make such a declaration budget and tax neutral. All we would have to do is reduce the federal defense budget and all federal discretionary spending by 50%.

Again, I’m not proposing or opposing such a concept. I’m merely saying that, if we take the view that we no longer have the will or the funds to finance budget deficits, then maybe we need to engage in radical thinking about budget priorities.

The one notion I am advancing is that it is better that such thinking be organized and deliberate rather than allowing it to be haphazard and reactive.

4) I have tried to avoid sinking into rumination that is driven by ideology rather than pragmatism. But political reality demands that I recognize certain emotional bottom lines.

In this regard, should any discussion about government spending and the attendant taxation policies include debate about overall tax and spending burdens?

All I will offer is that in the social democracies of Europe the average for each burden as a percentage of GDP is between 35% and 40%, while in the more libertarian United States it is more like 25%.

Americans may think their percentage too low. Europeans may think theirs is too high.

Around the world, at all levels of government, we face historically high budget deficits. Whatever our political hue, whatever our political rhetoric, sooner or later we will have to reduce government spending.

It’s up to each of us – not just the professional politicians and wonks – to involve ourselves in the public debate about how best to engage in that spending reduction.

We ask for more citizen government. It starts right here.

Published in: on July 7, 2009 at 7:24 am  Leave a Comment  

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