The Five Greatest Threats To America
5. The Military Industrial Complex
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex," warned Eisenhower in 1961 when he turned the reigns of power over the nation responsible for the largest economic engine the world had ever seen to a new president at the opening of a new decade.
The military industrial complex, is a triangulation of fiscal influence between bureaucracies responsible for the demarcation of the defense budget, campaign finance and lobbying, and the corporations responsible for the production of machines of war. Described sometimes as an, "iron triangle," it is easy to see that wealthy corporations with the capital required to sustain a career in politics influence those politicians and their bureaucratic spending and foreign policy in a way that will continue to grow their profits. This often results in, "pork barrel," spending on military equipment that is utterly unneeded like the 2,000 Abrams tanks that rolled off of assembly lines directly into the Sierra Army Depot, a place where tanks go to die shortly after birth. The army does not want, has not asked for, and does not need any more tanks and yet still congress allocates an exorbitant budget for tank production annually.
The U.S. spends half of the world's international collective defense budget every year (between 700 Billion and 900 Billion roughly). This is more than half of the government's yearly spending. Much of which is still going to reproduce machinery to fight the cold war. One is tempted to at least employ the argument that at least it produces jobs, this was certainly true during WWII during which the hounds of war dragged us out of the depression. But,like so many manufacturing related jobs most of these jobs have gone overseas leaving the benefits of this en-devour in the hands of a few already obscenely wealthy CEO's.
It can be effectively argued that a forth point has been added to this corrupt polygon, the media, especially since one of the political parties has acquired a media mouthpiece that masquerades as news. The narrative presented on these, "fair and balanced," programs is one paid for and constructed by the same titans of industry that stand to make money off of defense spending and the narrative is always one of fear thus garnering popular support for our needlessly, grotesquely swollen defense budget.
Further, the production of all these bellicose resources, gives the united states the unique means to intervene in every skirmish world-wide. We have in a sense become the world's police-officer because we are the guy on the block who has bought the most guns. This intervention costs us both trillions and the absolutely priceless, the lives of our young citizens.
4. Twenty-Four Hour New Networks
Journalism is not what it once was. With the advent of cable and it's installation into nearly every American home, news networks must work harder and harder for their audience share. This breeds a journalistic culture of sensationalism, hyperbolic opinion, and fluffy entertainment. The result as poll after poll has shown is not only a uninformed news consumer but a miss-informed new consumer.
In the decades previous to these declines in standards, the news was a relatively sponsor free, uninterrupted nightly (something like a) public service. The major networks detached from the business as usual ratings grab game in order to fulfill the essential duties of not only dispensing accurate objective information to the public but further ensuring that we had an informed electorate.
With the corporate investment in the twenty four-hour news cycle, journalism has lost all sense proportion and accountability, hitting us with sensationalist nonsense that not only obfuscates basic truths that align with reality but creates narratives that abandon reality completely. If a well-informed populace is indeed necessary for a functional democracy then this decline in standards is disconcerting to say the least.
Was Citizen's United a Good Decision?
3. The Citizens United Ruling
This 5-4 supreme court decision has completely deformed the process of running for political office. To learn more about it in depth see my separate hub, "What is The Citizen's United Ruling?" In a very rancid nutshell, the decision throws out all the common sense rules of quid pro quo that forbade labor unions and corporations from donating to political campaigns. With the absurd conclusion reached, that corporations are people and therefor entitled to free speech, the only floodgates that even ostensibly separated corporate interests from political legislation vanished over night in the 2010 ruling.
If corporations are now people then they can form PAC's and Super-PAC's (Political action Commitees) to further their interests. Since money equals message saturation, corporations can now actively sponsor the reelection of politicians that are so to speak, "in their pocket," or at the very least owe them a big favor. The result is legislation that is good for corporations and bad for actual people.
The most simple way to describe the landmark decision that was "Citizens United," is as the legalization of unlimited bribery of politician's by corporations. The Federal Election Board has safe guarded us from this obvious non-starter in the pursuit of balanced, appropriate, and populous favored domestic and foreign political policy, but has been rendered impotent by this massively partisan ruling.
2. The Tea Party
This new-breed of Republicanism is imbued with the fatal flaw of dogmatism. These dogmas include the belief that government doesn't work and is unnecessary, a belief which they deftly reinforce and bring to fruition through the election of increasingly ignorant, bigoted, and recalcitrant congress people that refuse to legislate in relation to reality.
A further tea-party dogma is that taxing anyone at any time is bad, no exceptions. With corporate taxation now all but nonexistent (see section number three) and tax rates for all but the wealthiest Americans at all time lows, a strategy sold to us based on the pseudo-scientific principles of supply-side economics and the fiction that marginal tax increases on the wealthy will deter them from doing business and stop all job creation (see section number two).
And the tenet of faith that I find most disturbing; the dogmatic rejection of information, intelligence, and science, in favor of a folksy down home-brand of common sense that can be found in and based upon nothing but traditional conceptions of family values. How the interaction of the family informs anyone of macro-economics, military history, or foreign affairs has not yet been demonstrated. But the exact antithesis of this proposition has been well-established by the muddled dross that, seemingly of it's own free-will, ejaculates from the mouths of tea-party Republicans on a daily basis.
The rejection of all things scientific and academic for the adoption of ideology and ignorance, may make the average American feeling a bit less insecure, but ironically is leading us all toward a precarious precipice over which we may tumble leaving the U.S. in a state of antiquation and irrelevance.
I may have saved this for the coveted number one spot, because it is the most direct and blatant hijacking of the spirit and letter of democratic consent of the governed, that no one talks about. Gerrymandering is the redrawing of congressional district lines to ensure the reelection (or sometimes ousting) of the incumbent.
It is achieved through,"Packing and Cracking." That is packing voters of one type into one district to eliminate their influence in other districts and cracking up like voters into many districts in order to deny them a voting bloc sufficient to effect elections.
We have gerrymandering to thank for a congressional approval rating in the single digits and concurrently an alarmingly high rate of retained incumbencies resulting in the consummate career politician. Such a politician has one focus, their next reelection, and the rest of their efforts go toward passing corporate friendly legislation to the many PAC's they are beholden to.
If you doubt the efficacy and prevalence of gerrymandering in keeping bad politicians in office simply look at a congressional district map of nearly anywhere in the country. These districts split up counties, cities, time codes, urban and rural areas, and every other logical way you might hope our congressional districts might be determined. The resulting meandering, absurdly demarcated districts take on such ridiculous shapes to serve only one purpose, the purpose of the party that controls the area, specifically the purpose of getting that person reelected.
It was hard to whittle this list down to five, and I'm certain I've neglected some of the panoplies of socio-political problems we face. Just off the top of my head other issues that might have a sure place on this list are; the drug war; The FED; the absence of a socialized health care system; The Patriot Act; systemic racism and white privilege; crumbling domestic infrastructure; etc. We have no shortage of problems. And the only way to begin addressing them is to begin constructing an accurate narrative about those problems. Unfortunately, the age of information seems very much to also be an age of misinformation. How do we begin to move in a coherent direction? I'm not sure, but the movement must come from a united front with ideas and solutions that conform to the realities we face rather than the narrative we are provided by corporate sponsored media.