Monday, November 27, 2006

A Bigger Threat Than Terrorism

If you’re weary of ‘threat thresholds,’ as I am, it may have slipped your notice that as we edge our way into the 21st century--an old terror simply continues to grow additional heads.

Sebastianmallaby_1 If you’re weary of ‘threat thresholds,’ as I am, it may have slipped your notice that as we edge our way into the 21st century--an old terror simply continues to grow additional heads.
Perusing Sebastian Mallaby’s column today, I was reminded of the essential meaning of homeland security. Stay with me on this, true American security has nothing whatever to do with Islamists in the Middle East. Quoting Gene Sperling, a former Clinton advisor, Mallaby writes
Sperling is motivated by a desire to help low-income people. As he writes in his book, "The Pro-Growth Progressive," 85 percent of workers in the bottom fifth of the labor force have no access to a company 401(k), nor do 75 percent of Hispanic workers or 60 percent of black workers. Globalization, which has boosted the volatility of family incomes, makes it especially important to help workers build assets that can cushion them against job loss, illness or the financial fallout from divorce. 
Sperlinggene Nice sentiment, Gene, but it’s elitist in its point of view.
A 401(k) isn’t going to do much asset-building for the systemically underemployed. It’s a feel-good fix, throwing a pricey entrée to those who haven’t a bone. If you don’t think that’s terror, try making a life out of split-shifts at $5.15 an hour. The bright red and blinking threat threshold that simply won’t go away isn’t poverty, it’s the system under which we have moved from a dynamic to a static economic power.
It’s not merely that America can do better, it’s that it better do better while there still remains a better to do. Terrorism, for all its psychic baggage, the lives that have been squandered in its name and the political vengeance with which we have rebuked the Bush administration, has never
  • Imposed an historic rift between Americans who have nearly all and those who have nearly none
  • Sucked American jobs offshore to an extent that we feel it necessary to build a wall between what’s left and those who would hope for a share of it
  • Weakened basic industry to the extent that a substantive blue-collar American working class no longer exists
If terrorism could have accomplished all that, 9-11 would have looked like a fire drill. But terrorists were unable to get that particular job done. Their best efforts fell short of what Congress has brought down in flames over the past eight decades. It’s called domestic economic policy.
Compared to knocking down two iconic New York office buildings, killing three thousand civilians and causing a knee-jerk reaction from government that (so far) has killed an American soldier for each 9-11 victim, current economic policy seems a dull subject indeed.
But it’s not.
Terrorism and the control of terrorism may be a constant over the next half-century of life in this country. But our economic policy and military waste of assets is the snake at the picnic.
Gulliver We have become a military Gulliver, tied down by congressional Lilliputians, willing, even eager to panic at every noise under the international bed. $400 billion a year for a Pentagon that Rumsfeld admits can’t account for a couple trillion in past spending. Can’t account? And we still shove money at them? Probably an additional $trillion spent on Iraq (that’s 1,000 billion, for the numerically challenged) before we’re done—all of it in a country with a $5.15 minimum wage.
And I’m not here to argue that military spending should be re-prioritized to the poor. Certainly we have tried through these misdirected eight decades to eliminate poverty by every means. It doesn’t seem to want to go away. Inelegantly and unsurprisingly, it’s spreading like an economic malignancy through the formerly middle-class. When the usual suspects are rounded-up, globalization is the miscreant common to all discussions.
Globalization is as unstoppable as nuclear proliferation. The cork is already out of the globalization bottle.
Makingmoney Workers are cheaper elsewhere and business follows a proven formula of lowest input, highest output. That won’t change, nor should it. Rage over steelworkers laid off and auto-workers bought off all you care to, but the die is cast and protective tariffs are a 19th and 20th century solution to a 21st century phenomenon. Bows and arrows against modern weaponry. Congress, having just turned Democrat and eager to please, is once again blowing the tariff whistle because they are reactive and new ideas are difficult to wrap their limited minds around.
What is needed is a solution that will bring jobs back home at robust middle-income wages. What is hungered for is business investment on our shores rather than India and China. If only there were such a possibility. If only a solution existed that answered the goals of business and labor at the same time, that actually did float all boats rather than trickling down crap wages and putting workers at each others’ throats in competition over grinding lives.
Then pigs would fly—or so they say.
Internalrevenuecode_1 Not so. The sea-anchor that’s persistently slowed our progress and sent our best jobs offshore is nothing more than the income tax. Tax policy
  • puts capital and ownership to flight
  • distorts every business decision
  • complicates the process of production
  • encourages theft and deception
  • makes liars and paupers of all who are unable to flee its sticky fingers.
A stake must be driven through its heart. The Constitutional amendment that attended its birth must be revoked, lest it be started up again from the ashes of its destruction.
Tax policy is also the darling of lobbyists—one of the reasons the tax code has become incomprehensible (and thus unenforceable). The money-trail from lobbyist to legislator has profited both, while destroying American enterprise and economic dominance. Replacement of the tax code in its entirety by a national sales tax would strike an international blow against terrorism.
The terrorism of lost American jobs.
Media comments on jobs


  1. You make many good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:
    I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.
    If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armements”
    The Pentagon is a giant,incredibly complex establishment,budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Adminisitrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.
    How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the Sec. Def. to be - Mr. Gates- understand such complexity, particulary if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?
    Answer- he can’t. Therefor he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.
    From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.
    This situation is unfortunate but it is ablsolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.
    This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen unitil it hits a brick wall at high speed.
    We will then have to run a Volkswagon instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.

  2. This article brought tears to my eyes. the "terorism" from within is a greater threat than any outside threat.Over decades the law-makers, with no souls have left America in dire straights.It is necessary to go back to the premise of our founding fathers who believed that a Democracy can only survive with a moral Guidline. We have forsaken the rule of do unto to others as you would have them do unto you. To right this ship of government, we must take an avid interest in insisting our elected leadership forget Globalization and get back to the survival of America, with a government of the people by the people,for the people.