House Budget Committee Takes $200 Billion Step Toward Restoring Fiscal Sanity
The House Budget Committee, under Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.), has taken a strong first step toward reining in out-of-control federal spending by putting forward a budget that cuts $200 billion from “mandatory spending” over the next decade. It’s a start.
By Robert Romano
Sixty-nine percent of the $3.8 trillion federal budget consists of so-called “mandatory” spending. That is, $2.7 trillion of spending that occurs automatically whether or not Congress votes to adopt a budget or even pass a single appropriations bill—a constitutionally dubious process, but there it is.
Much of it includes things like Social Security ($910.2 billion), Medicare ($588.4 billion), Medicaid ($368.3 billion), food stamps ($96 billion), and unemployment payments ($32.3 billion). It also includes interest owed on the nearly $20 trillion national debt, now $429.9 billion, including $145 billion of interest paid to government trust funds.
This is the spending that occurs on autopilot, and tends to increase every year based on the population of people eligible to receive the benefits increases. This is why they are often called entitlements, because recipients are “entitled” to receive them under the law, although many readers might take exception to that term because they paid taxes into those programs. Fair enough.
But because it increases almost every year, it is refreshing then to finally see a proposal coming out of Congress that would cut other parts of it—without touching Social Security or Medicare that seniors depend on.
The House Budget Committee, led by Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.), has put a budget on the table that would actually cut so-called “mandatory” spending by $200 billion over the next decade off of the baseline. It actually started out as $150 billion of cuts, but another $50 billion was added to offset planned increases in defense spending.
Guess mandatory spending isn’t so mandatory after all.
It may seem comparatively small, a little less than 1% of the mandatory spending budget, but Chairwoman Black says it’s a start.
“I strongly believe that we need to begin to address mandatory spending and to change the culture of Washington with real reforms. This is an important first step that we can continue to build on in future Congresses,” Black said in an emailed statement.
It could add up. For example, if Congress found $200 billion of 10-year cuts every year out of mandatory spending, after five years, that would add up to $1 trillion of real savings over 15 years.
That’s still a ways to go to get to the $2.5 trillion of mandatory spending cuts proposed over the next decade in the Trump budget, but we’re making progress.
So far, it is not clear where the $200 billion of cuts will specifically fall, as House committee leaders hammer out the details. But, said Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning, it’s a step in the right direction.
“We have to get the nation’s $20 trillion debt under control, and Congress’s part in that is clamping down on spending. The House’s constitutional role is to set the stage for the nation’s spending priorities. Chairwoman Black’s budget is doing what Congress is supposed to do, which is to set priorities and make choices,” Manning said.
Manning also called on Congress to build on the proposal, with even more cuts: “The only amendments that should be accepted to Chairwoman Black’s budget are additional deficit-reducing cuts.”
To which, there is a major incentive in Congress’s budget rules. The budget bill Chairwoman Black is working on is supposed to become the basis of the tax cut bill Republicans want to pass on budget reconciliation. Rightly or wrongly, tax cuts get counted toward the deficit by the bean counters at the Congressional Budget Office.
Meaning, the bigger the spending cuts that go into the bill, the bigger the tax cuts Congress will be able to get via the budget rules.
Just one more reason for the American people to root for more spending cuts in the budget as this legislation winds through the budget reconciliation process.
After the budget is signed into law by President Trump, don’t forget to thank Chairwoman Black when you get your tax refund next year.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.
Are Illinois & Puerto Rico Our Future?
By Patrick J. Buchanan
If Gov. Bruce Rauner and his legislature in Springfield, Ill. do not put a budget together by Friday, the Land of Lincoln will be the first state in the Union to see its debt plunge into junk-bond status.
Illinois has $14.5 billion in overdue bills, $130 billion in unfunded pension obligations, and no budget. “We can’t manage our money,” says Rauner. “We’re like a banana republic.”
Speaking of banana republics, Puerto Rico, which owes $74 billion to creditors who hold its tax-exempt bonds and $40 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, has already entered bankruptcy proceedings.
The island’s imaginative 38-year-old governor, Ricardo Rossello, however, has a solution. Call Uncle Sam. On June 11, Rossello held a plebiscite, with a 23% turnout, that voted 97% to make Puerto Rico our 51st state.
“(T)he federal government will no longer be able to ignore the voice of the majority of the American citizens in Puerto Rico,” said Rossello. Washington cannot “demand democracy in other parts of the world, and not respond to the legitimate right to self-determination that was exercised today in the American territory of Puerto Rico.”
Had the governor been talking about the island’s right to become free and independent, he would have had a point. But statehood inside the U.S.A. is something Uncle Sam decides.
Rossello calls to mind Count Mountjoy of Grand Fenwick, who, in The Mouse that Roared, plotted to rescue his bankrupt duchy by declaring war on the U.S., sailing to America to surrender, and then demanding the foreign aid America bestows on defeated enemies.
Yet Puerto Rico’s defaults on its debts may soon be our problem. Many bond funds in which Americans have invested their savings and retirement money are full of Puerto Rican bonds.
According to The New York Times, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Marianas, and Guam are in the same boat. With 100,000 people, the Virgin Islands owes $6.5 billion to pensioners and creditors.
Then there is Connecticut, a state that has long ranked in the top tier in per capita income and wealth.
Connecticut, too, appears wobbly. Rising pension benefits, the cost of servicing the state debt, and falling tax revenue due to fleeing residents and companies like Aetna and General Electric have dropped Connecticut to near the national bottom in growth prospects.
“The state’s population is falling: Its net domestic out-migration was nearly 30,000 from 2015 to 2016. In 2016, it lost slightly more than 8,000 people, leaving its population at 3.6 million,” reports Fox News. “(R)ecent national moving company surveys (show) more people leaving Connecticut than moving in. In 2016, the state also saw a population decline for the third consecutive year.”
As its example of a welfare state going belly up, the EU offers us Greece. And questions arise from all of these examples. Is this an inexorable trend? Has the old New Deal formula of “tax and tax, spend and spend, and elect and elect” finally run its course?
Across the West, social welfare states are threatened by falling revenues, taxpayer flight, rising debt as a share of GDP, sinking bond ratings, and proliferating defaults.
Record-high social welfare spending is among the reasons that Western nations skimp on defense. Even the Americans, who spent 9% of GDP on defense under President Kennedy and 6% under President Reagan, are now well below that, though U.S. security commitments are as great as they were in the Cold War.
Among NATO nations, the U.S. is among the least socialist, with less than 40% of GDP consumed by government at all levels. France, with 57% of GDP siphoned off, is at the opposite pole.
Yet even here in America we no longer grow at 4% a year, or even 3%. We seem to be nearing a point of government consumption beyond the capacity of the private sector to provide the necessary funds.
Some Democrats are discovering there are limits to how much the government can consume of the nation’s wealth without adversely affecting their own fortunes. And in the Obamacare debate this week, Republicans are running head-on into the reality that clawing back social welfare benefits already voted may be political suicide.
Has democratic socialism passed its apogee?
Native-born populations in the West are aging, shrinking, and dying, not reproducing themselves. The cost of pensions and healthcare for the elderly is inexorably going up. Immigration into the West, almost entirely from the Third World, is bringing in peoples who, on balance, take more in social welfare than they pay in taxes.
Deficits and national debts as a share of GDP are rising. Almost nowhere does one see the old robust growth rates returning. And the infrastructure of the West—roads, bridges, tunnels, ports, airports, subways, train tracks—continues to crumble for lack of investment.
The days of interstate highway systems and moon shots seem to be behind us. Are Puerto Rico and Illinois the harbingers of what is to come?
Pat Buchanan is a writer, political commentator and presidential candidate. He is the author of a new book, Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever and previous titles, including The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority. Both are available from the AFP Bookstore.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM
It Is the Presstitutes, Not Russia, Who Interfered in the US Presidential Election
Even Paul Craig Roberts can only shake his head in frustration, wondering why the U.S. increases, rather than decreases, tension with Russia—especially given continuing insistence by U.S. “leadership” and mainstream press that Russia interfered in the election, despite an utter lack of evidence.
By Paul Craig Roberts
Unlike Oliver Stone, who knew how to interview Vladimir Putin, Megyn Kelly did not. Thus, she made a fool of herself, which is par for her course.
Now the entire Western media has joined Megyn in foolishness, or so it appears from a RT report. James O’Keefe has senior CNN producer John Bonifield on video telling O’Keefe that CNN’s anti-Russia reporting is purely for ratings: “It’s mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don’t have any big giant proof.” CNN’s Bonifield is reported to go on to say that “our CIA is doing shit all the time, we’re out there trying to manipulate governments.”
And, of course, the American people, the European peoples, and the US and European governments are being conditioned by the “Russia did it” storyline to distrust Russia and to accept whatever dangerous and irresponsible policy toward Russia that Washington comes up with next.
Is the anti-Russian propaganda driven by ratings, as Bonifield is reported to claim, or are ratings the neoconservatives and military/security complex’s cover for media disinformation that increases tensions between the superpowers and prepares the ground for nuclear war?
RT acknowledges that the entire story could be just another piece of false news, which is all that the Western media is known for.
Nevertheless, what we do know is that the fake news reporting pertains to Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election. Allegedly, Trump was elected by Putin’s interference in the election. This claim is absurd, but if you are Megyn Kelly you lack the IQ to see that. Instead, presstitutes turn a nonsense story into a real story despite the absence of any evidence.
Who actually interfered in the U.S. presidential election, Putin or the presstitutes themselves? The answer is clear and obvious. It was the presstitutes, who were out to get Trump from day one of the presidential campaign. It is CIA director John Brennan, who did everything in his power to brand Trump some sort of Russian agent. It is FBI director Comey who did likewise by continuing to “investigate” what he knew was a non-event. We now have a former FBI director playing the role of special prosecutor investigating Trump for “obstruction of justice” when there is no evidence of a crime to be obstructed! What we are witnessing is the ongoing interference in the presidential election, an interference that not only makes a mockery of democracy but also of the rule of law.
The presstitutes not only interfered in the presidential election; they are now interfering with democracy itself. They are seeking to overturn the people’s choice by discrediting the president of the United States and those who elected him. The Democratic Party is a part of this attack on American democracy. It is the DNC that insists that a Putin/Trump conspiracy stole the presidency from Hillary. The Democrats’ position is that it is too risky to permit the American people—the “deplorables”— to vote. The Democratic Party’s line is that if you let Americans vote, they will elect a Putin stooge and America will be ruled by Russia.
Many wonder why Trump doesn’t use the power of the office of the presidency to indict the hit squad that is out to get him. There is no doubt that a jury of deplorables would indict Brennan, Comey, Megyn Kelly, and the rest. On the other hand, perhaps Trump’s view is that the Republican Party cannot afford to go down with him, and, therefore, as he is politically protected by the Republican majority, the best strategy is to let the Democrats and the presstitutes destroy themselves in the eyes of flyover America.
What our survival as Americans depends on is the Russians’ view of this conflict between a U.S. president who intended to reduce the tensions between the nuclear powers and those determined to increase the tensions. The Russian high command has already announced its conclusion that Washington is preparing a surprise nuclear attack on Russia. It is not possible to imagine a more dangerous conclusion. So far, no one in Washington or any Western government has made an effort to reassure Russia that no such attack is being prepared. Instead, the calls are for more punishment of Russia and more tension.
This most extraordinary of failures demonstrates the complete separation of the West from reality.
It is difficult to imagine a more extreme danger than for the insouciant West to convince Russia that the West is incapable of rational behavior. But that is precisely what the West is doing.
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury under President Ronald Reagan and was associate editor and columnist at The Wall Street Journal. He has been a professor of economics in six universities, and is the author of numerous books available at www.AmericanFreePress.net.
Senate releases Obamacare repeal and replace—actually makes some improvements on House bill
The Senate’s Obamacare replacement healthcare bill, introduced for discussion today, is an example of the way the legislative process should work, says Robert Romano. Before being brought to the floor, legislators will have an opportunity to “analyze, discuss, and provide thoughts.”
By Robert Romano
The GOP Senate majority has released its discussion draft of its plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor, “There will be ample time to analyze, discuss, and provide thoughts before legislation comes to the floor.”
The American people should be pleased that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not rushed to bring the final version of the Senate proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare to the floor, for there is much to discuss.
The discussion draft ends the tyranny of the individual and employer mandates, phases out Medicaid expansion—although perhaps not soon enough—but also provides states more flexibility in implementing Medicaid.
The Senate bill even improves on the House version by eliminating the “continuous coverage” penalty—which as reported by Kaiser Health News, “increases premiums for people who buy insurance if they have gone 63 consecutive days without a policy during the past 12 months. Their premiums would rise by 30% and that surcharge would last for a year.” That’s gone now, leaving no vestige of the individual mandate.
Overall, the Senate bill appears to stick to many of the parameters of the House legislation, including creating a meaningful opt-out for states to get out from under Obamacare’s crushing Section 1302 regulations, as the House version did via the MacArthur amendment.
These state waivers should be strengthened by providing for automatic approval, as the MacArthur Amendment does. That way, a future president cannot attempt to administratively re-institute Section 1302 nationwide. This is critical. State opt-outs were the cornerstone of the compromise that got through the House, and should be fully reflected in the Senate version—and protected to avert any future implementation of Obamacare regulations without a vote of Congress.
Elsewhere, there is obviously more that can be done.
Neither the House nor Senate bills end the American Medical Association’s monopoly on doctor certification via control of medical schools, the Food and Drug Administration monopoly on approving new drugs, or the government-created state-by-state insurance monopolies. They also do not address medical malpractice reform.
Also, solo physicians and small practices could be given a waiver to MACRA, which requires electronic medical record keeping in order for doctors to treat Medicare patients. At a time when there are more seniors than ever entering the Medicare program, they will need as many doctors as possible to treat them.
Forcing electronic medical records on Medicare doctors is compelling many doctors to simply stop treating Medicare patients. With a limited waiver for smaller practices, seniors could get at least a few more options for care.
Other obvious areas for improvement would be to give consumers the option of going across state lines to purchase insurance, as Republicans have been promising on the campaign trail for several election cycles.
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) opened the door for additional changes focused upon lowering consumer healthcare costs in a joint statement, saying: “Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor. There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current healthcare system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their healthcare costs.”
And this is how legislation should happen: drafts proposed, individual Senators providing input and negotiating changes, the public informed in advance of votes, and eventually passage through both houses with the president’s signature. This is a far cry from the ‘you’ll have to pass it to read it’ approach taken by Obama, Reid, and Pelosi that delivered the nation the failed Obamacare plan.
The framework for a deal is basically in place, and if through the efforts of Cruz, Johnson, Lee, and Paul the healthcare system becomes more free-market and less state-control focused, providing more individual choices, the legislative process will have worked the way it is supposed to. And most importantly, the American people will no longer be compelled to buy health insurance packages that they cannot afford with deductibles that make it useless in all but the most extreme circumstances.
The Obamacare replacement bill has turned an important corner and, with a few improvements, will hopefully soon be heading for home.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government. Rick Manning contributed to this report.
Liberty Survivors Remember 50th
Survivors of the brutal attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 gathered together, earlier this month, to honor the fallen and preserve the memory of what happened on that terrible day.
By Dave Gahary
NORFOLK, Va.—The 50th reunion of the most decorated ship for a single action in the U.S. Navy’s 241-year history took place from June 8-11 at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel. Norfolk, home to the largest Navy base in the world—Naval Station Norfolk—was the Liberty’s home port city from its commissioning in 1964 to its decommissioning in 1968. Crewmembers, along with their families and supporters, converged on the hotel, determined to not let the truth about the Liberty fade from the pages of time. By all accounts, the reunion cemented old friendships, forged new ones, and launched a new round of supporters, eager to tell the Liberty’s story to all who will listen.
Exactly 34 Liberty crewmembers were slaughtered on that beautiful, sunny day in the Eastern Mediterranean on June 8, 1967, and that exact number of survivors was present for the reunion—one unofficial representative for each man killed that horrific day. Additionally, over 100 family members and supporters were at the reunion, making it one of the best attended get-togethers since they began meeting.
The first stop for those honoring the ship and crew was Arlington National Cemetery for a noon memorial service for those murdered by Israel, attended by around 150. Liberty survivor Bob Scarborough and his wife came up from Georgia for the reunion, and he spoke with this reporter about his time at the national military cemetery.
“I was proud and happy to see that it was the biggest crowd I’d seen among those ceremonies so far,” he said.
Sadly, no public officials were present for the hour-long somber event.
“I don’t recall seeing any senators or congressmen,” he said. “Thank you very much to the American government for their support. I’ve been damning them for 50 years.”
He continued: “We went straight to Arlington for the ceremony. . . . We had 34 crewmembers there, and what a coincidence that the 34 crewmembers—I thought—represented the 34 shipmates that we lost on June 8, 1967. As they called the names of the men who were lost, they laid roses on the front of the mass gravestone for the men who were killed in action and lost at sea.”
Six Liberty crewmembers—five sailors and one Marine—lie in a mass grave there, although it’s impossible to know if any of their remains are actually present, as the Israeli torpedo shredded the 25 Americans so thoroughly as to prevent identification.
The next day, following a photo shoot and a crew’s meeting, three buses were loaded at the hotel headed for Naval Station Norfolk’s David Adams Memorial Chapel for a memorial carillon concert. “Carillon” is derived from the French word quadrillon, “four bells,” and is a musical instrument usually housed in the belfry of a church, consisting of cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, struck to produce a melody or chord.
Saturday featured a noon banquet at the hotel, where the new USS Liberty Veterans Association (LVA) board was introduced and several speakers took their turn at the microphone, including three-time president of the LVA, Phil Tourney, who traveled from Colorado. Although Tourney felt this was the best reunion he had attended, he still held sour feelings for being quarantined by the power-that-be.
“The only thing that really disappoints me,” Tourney began, “is that we didn’t get any local media coverage; they’re not gonna touch us with a 10-foot pole, because of the people who attacked us. Even more disconcerting for me is how the United States Navy shunned us, as they did 50 years ago, leaving us out there alone to be slaughtered by the Zionist state of Israel.”
Tourney concluded with a message that bears remembering.
“When they attacked our ship, they didn’t just attack a U.S. naval ship in international waters, they attacked each and every American then and now,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the U.S. government is just as guilty as Israel for covering up premeditated, cold-blooded murder.”
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, prevailed in a suit brought by the New York Stock Exchange in an attempt to silence him. Dave is the producer of an upcoming full-length feature film about the attack on the USS Liberty. See erasingtheliberty.com for more information and to get the new book on which the movie will be based, Erasing the Liberty.
Wells Fargo Cancels AFP’s Credit Card Processing With No Notice
Day after day, it seems, this popular, unattributed quote becomes more appropriate. . . . “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
By AFP Staff
First they came for the “fringe, radical right” and the so-called “haters.” Now they’re coming for anyone who is simply politically incorrect. Who will be left if you don’t take a stand today?
Will all politically incorrect publications be railroaded out of business? Let’s be honest: That is the true goal of those behind this outrageous assault on the independent media and American Free Press in particular. And it is a concerted effort involving the wealthiest corporations on the planet and the most powerful, well-funded pressure groups. It is a direct attack upon the very principles on which our nation was founded.
Understand, what the powers that be are doing makes any alleged book burnings in all of history pale in comparison.
And that’s no exaggeration.
On June 22, when AFP staffers checked the orders first thing in the morning, they noticed something was strange. The online credit charges beginning at midnight had all come back as unsettled. A “general error” was listed as the reason for the processing problem.
After calling AFP’s merchant service provider, the company that processes our credit cards, we were told in no uncertain terms that our account had been closed.
“The risk department sent over the closure notice yesterday afternoon,” said “Jacob,” the poor guy from Colorado who was being paid close to minimum wage by an answering service to field the phone calls. “I guess it went through at midnight.”
In 2013, AFP had set up an account with USB Payment Services, a merchant service provider based out of Baltimore, Md., for the sole reason that we preferred to do business with an independent company that was not beholden to shareholders at some mega-bank. For four years, that company took a percentage in “fees” of all of the credit card sales that AFP made.
A few months ago, however, USB was bought out by banking giant Wells Fargo.
And with no phone call, letter, or email, someone at Wells Fargo just decided to cancel AFP’s credit card processing account, and they were not even going to tell us about it.
Doing business with banks is bad enough, but in 2017 you unfortunately have to hold your nose and do it if you want to make it easy for your supporters to help fund your organization.
The truth is, we knew it was only a matter of time before it happened to us. Already, more controversial publications and organizations had lost their merchant and PayPal accounts. So far, AFP’s PayPal account is still active, but we’re not holding our breath in anticipation of what’s to come.
Despite the fact that Wells Fargo does business in countries that jail and kill religious heretics, gays, and political dissidents, selling books that tackle important topics like race and war from a truly conservative and politically incorrect perspective was apparently too much for them.
AFP is in the process of contacting other merchant service providers so we can get back up and running. However, we ask, until further notice, that you
- Continue to buy books and DVDs from us; and
- Print out your order and mail us cash or a check.
And please take a moment to send in a donation to help keep us going as well.
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The big banks, radical pressure groups, and the entrenched establishment are working together, day and night, to crush free speech and free thought in this country—and across the world.
Take a stand today to support the First Amendment by helping AFP. But remember: cash, checks, and money orders only!
Democracy Is a Front for Central Bank Rule
The U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, is once again moving to prop up the “too-big-to-fail” banks by playing games with interest rates, and the financial media will not explain this, let alone cover it, so that average Americans can understand what is being done to the U.S. economy and them.
By Paul Craig Roberts
Several years ago when the Federal Reserve had its Fed funds rate at zero to 25 basis points (one-quarter of 1% to 0.25%), there was a great deal of talk, somehow presented as urgent, whether the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates.
Russian news agency RT recently asked me if the Fed was going to raise interest rates. I answered that the purpose of low interest rates was to restore the solvency of the balance sheets of the “banks too big to fail” by raising debt prices. The lower the interest rate, the higher the prices of debt instruments. The Fed drives bond prices up by purchasing bonds, and the Fed raises interest rates by selling bonds, or by purchasing fewer of them than previously.
I told RT that a real increase in interest rates would undercut the Fed’s policy of rescuing the balance sheets of the big banks whose balance sheets were loaded up with bad debt that desperately needed a rise in debt prices for the banks to remain solvent.
When shortly thereafter the Fed raised the overnight funds rate, it blew my credibility with RT. RT did not understand that real interest rates had not increased. Indeed, two days after the “rate increase” the nominal interest rate had not changed. It was still 18 basis points. The announced rate had gone from the old range of zero to 25 basis points to a new range of 25 basis points to 50 basis points. The former max was the current minimum.
Moreover, over the long time period in which there was such well marketed concern over whether such an inconsequential interest rate rise would occur, inflation had risen, making the real interest rate negative well below the 18 basis points official interest rate. By the time the Fed raised the nominal rate, the real rate was already more negative. Thus, there was no rise in real interest rates.
The financial press did not explain this, either from incompetence or collusion. RT accepted the fake news as reality and wrote off my credibility. I am often interviewed by RT, but no longer on economic matters, about which I know the most.
A couple of days ago, after a long period of waiting for another interest rate rise, an announcement from the Fed, amidst further indication of U.S. economic decline, announced another 25 basis point increase in the target range for the Fed funds rate.
Inflation aside, in fact interest rates declined, as my sometime co-author Dave Kranzler reports: Despite this publicized “rise” of the Fed funds rate, the 10-year interest rate on treasuries “has declined 30 basis points this year. Thus for certain borrowers, the Fed has effectively lowered the cost of borrowing.”
Kranzler goes on to point out that “the spread between the 30-day treasury bill and the 10-year treasury has declined this year from 193 basis points to 125 basis points—a 68 basis point drop in the cost of funding for borrowers who have access to the highly engineered derivative products that enable these borrowers to take advantage of the shape of the yield curve in order to lower their cost of borrowing.”
Kranzler provides a chart that shows that the spread between the 30-day treasury bill and the 10-year treasury bond is narrowing. As the short-term rate rises, the long-term rate is falling, and the spread between the long and short rate has declined 68 basis points from almost two percentage points to one and one-quarter percentage point.
Clearly, this is not a rise in interest rates.
Clearly also, a rise in the Fed funds rate no longer signals a rise in all interest rates.
Why is the Fed raising short rates when the long rates are falling?
Why do “democratic Western democracies” have central banks that do nothing except protect big banks at the expense of the people?
How long will the insouciant peoples of the West continue to conspire in their own demise?
Paul Craig Roberts was assistant secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of The Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for BusinessWeek, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has held many university appointments. His Internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’s latest books are How AMERICA Was LOST: From 9/11 to the Police/Warfare State and The NEOCONSERVATIVE THREAT to WORLD ORDER: Washington’s Perilous War for Hegemony.
Execution by Firing Squad: The Militarized Police State Opens Fire
The Second Amendment was enshrined in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution as a means to ensure that a well-armed populace would be able to defend itself against all domestic and foreign enemies. The U.S. government, however, has been pushing back against that, effectively authorizing law enforcement to prosecute and murder Americans for merely exercising their constitutional right to bear arms.
By John W. Whitehead
“It is often the case that police shootings, incidents where law enforcement officers pull the trigger on civilians, are left out of the conversation on gun violence. But a police officer shooting a civilian counts as gun violence. Every time an officer uses a gun against an innocent or an unarmed person contributes to the culture of gun violence in this country.”—Journalist Celisa Calacal
Legally owning a gun in America could get you killed by a government agent. While it still technically remains legal to own a firearm in America, possessing one can now get you pulled over, searched, arrested, subjected to all manner of surveillance, treated as a suspect without ever having committed a crime, shot at, and killed. This same rule does not apply to government agents, however, who are armed to the hilt and rarely given more than a slap on the wrist for using their weapons to shoot and kill American citizens.
According to The Washington Post, “1 in 13 people killed by guns are killed by police.”
Just recently, for example, a Minnesota jury acquitted a police officer who shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor, during a routine traffic stop merely because Castile disclosed that he had a gun in his possession, for which he had a lawful conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times as he was reaching for his license and registration. Castile’s girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter witnessed the entire exchange.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that Florida police will not be held accountable for banging on the wrong door at 1:30 a.m., failing to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shooting and killing the innocent homeowner who answered the door while holding a gun in self defense. Although 26-year-old Andrew Scott had committed no crime and never fired a single bullet or lifted his firearm against police, he was gunned down by police who were investigating a speeding incident by engaging in a middle-of-the-night “knock and talk” in Scott’s apartment complex.
As attorney David French writes for the National Review, “Shooting an innocent man in his own home because he grabs a gun when an unidentified person pounds on his door or barges through it isn’t just an ‘unreasonable search or seizure.’ It’s a direct violation of his clearly established right to keep and bear arms.”
Continuing its own disturbing trend of siding with police in cases of excessive use of force, a unanimous Supreme Court recently acquitted police who recklessly fired 15 times into a backyard shack in which a homeless couple—Angel and Jennifer Mendez—was sheltering. Angel Mendez suffered numerous gunshot wounds, one of which required the amputation of his right leg below the knee, and his wife Jennifer was shot in the back. Incredibly, the court ruled that the Los Angeles County police officers’ use of force against the homeless couple was justified as a defensive action, because Angel was allegedly seen holding a BB gun that he used for shooting rats.
In yet another case, a Texas homeowner was subjected to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally owned firearms in his household. Making matters worse, police panicked and opened fire through a solid wood door on the homeowner, who had already gone to bed.
In Maryland, a Florida man traveling through the state with his wife and kids was stopped by a police officer and interrogated about the whereabouts of his registered handgun. Despite the man’s insistence that the handgun had been left at home, the officer spent nearly two hours searching through the couple’s car, patting them down along with their children, and having them sit in the back of a patrol car. No weapon was found.
In Philadelphia, a 25-year-old man was confronted by police, verbally threatened, and arrested for carrying a gun in public, which is legal within the city. When Mark Fiorino attempted to explain his rights under the law to police, police ordered him to get on his knees or else “I am gonna shoot ya.” Fiorino was later released without charges.
What these cases add up to is a new paradigm in which legally owning a gun turns you into a target for government sharp-shooters.
Ironically, while America continues to debate who or what is responsible for gun violence—the guns, the gun owners, or our violent culture—little has been said about the fact that the greatest perpetrator of violence in American society and around the world is the U.S. government.
Government violence is the missing link in the gun control debate.
Violence has become the government’s calling card, starting at the top and trickling down, from the more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans by heavily armed, black-garbed commandos and the increasingly rapid militarization of local police forces across the country to the drone killings used to target insurgents. The government even exports violence worldwide, with one of this country’s most profitable exports being weapons.
Thus, any serious discussion about minimizing the violence in our society needs to address the manner in which the government and its cohorts (the police, the various government agencies that are now armed to the hilt, the military, the defense contractors etc.) use violence as a means to an end, whether domestically or in matters of foreign policy.
You want to reduce gun violence? Start with the government.
Except that the government has no intention of scaling back on its weapons. To the contrary, the government’s efforts to militarize and weaponize its own agencies and employees is reaching epic proportions, with federal agencies as varied as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration placing orders for hundreds of millions of rounds of hollow point bullets.
Talk about a double standard.
The government’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy.
Under the auspices of a military “recycling” program, which allows local police agencies to acquire military-grade weaponry and equipment, more than $4.2 billion worth of equipment has been transferred from the Defense Department to domestic police agencies since 1990. Included among these “gifts” are tank-like, 20-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, tactical gear, and assault rifles.
Ironically, while gun critics continue to clamor for bans on military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets, expanded background checks, and tougher gun-trafficking laws, the U.S. military boasts all of these and more, including some weapons the rest of the world doesn’t have.
Included in the government’s arsenal are armed, surveillance Reaper drones capable of reading a license plate from over two miles away; an AA12 Atchisson Assault Shotgun that can shoot five 12-gauge shells per second and “can fire up to 9,000 rounds without being cleaned or jamming”; an ADAPTIV invisibility cloak that can make a tank disappear or seemingly reshape it to look like a car; a PHASR rifle capable of blinding and disorienting anyone caught in its sights; a Taser shockwave that can electrocute a crowd of people at the touch of a button; an XM2010 enhanced sniper rifle with built-in sound and flash suppressors that can hit a man-sized target nine out of ten times from over a third of a mile away; and an XM25 “Punisher” grenade launcher that can be programmed to accurately shoot grenades at a target up to 500 meters away.
In the hands of government agents, whether they are members of the military, law enforcement or some other government agency, these weapons have become accepted instruments of tyranny, routine parts of America’s day-to-day life, a byproduct of the rapid militarization of law enforcement over the past several decades.
This lopsided, top-heavy, authoritarian state of affairs is not the balance of power the founders intended for “we the people.”
The Second Amendment, in conjunction with the multitude of prohibitions on government overreach enshrined in the Bill of Rights, was supposed to serve as a clear shackle on the government’s powers. As 20th century libertarian Edmund A. Opitz observed in 1964, “No one can read our Constitution without concluding that the people who wrote it wanted their government severely limited; the words ‘no’ and ‘not’ employed in restraint of government power occur 24 times in the first seven articles of the Constitution and 22 more times in the Bill of Rights.”
To founders such as Thomas Jefferson, who viewed the government as a powerful entity that must be bound “down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution,” the right to bear arms was no different from any other right enshrined in the Constitution: It was intended to stand as a bulwark against a police state.
Without any one of those freedoms, we are that much more vulnerable to the vagaries of out-of-control policemen, benevolent dictators, genuflecting politicians, and overly ambitious bureaucrats.
Writing for CounterPunch, journalist Kevin Carson suggests that prohibiting Americans from owning weapons would be as dangerously ineffective as Prohibition and the War on the Drugs:
[W]hat strict gun laws will do is take the level of police statism, lawlessness, and general social pathology up a notch in the same way Prohibition and the Drug War have done. I’d expect a War on Guns to expand the volume of organized crime, and to empower criminal gangs fighting over control over the black market, in exactly the same way Prohibition did in the 1920s and strict drug laws have done since the 1980s. I’d expect it to lead to further erosion of Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, further militarization of local police via SWAT teams, and further expansion of the squalid empire of civil forfeiture, perjured jailhouse snitch testimony, entrapment, planted evidence, and plea deal blackmail.
This is exactly what those who drafted the Constitution feared: that laws and law enforcers would be used as tools by a despotic government to wage war against the citizenry.
This phenomenon is what philosopher Abraham Kaplan referred to as the law of the instrument, which essentially says that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. As I explain in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we the citizenry have become the nails to be hammered by the government’s battalion of laws and law enforcers (its police officers, technicians, bureaucrats, spies, snitches, inspectors, accountants etc.), and we’re supposed to take the beatings without complaint or reproach.
Now don’t get me wrong. I do not sanction violence, nor do I believe that violence should ever be the answer to our problems. As John Lennon warned: “When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you—pull your beard, flick your face—to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you.”
Still there’s something to be said for George Orwell’s view that “that rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”
The Second Amendment serves as a check on the political power of the ruling authorities. It represents an implicit warning against governmental encroachments on one’s freedoms, the warning shot over the bow to discourage any unlawful violations of our persons or property.
Certainly, dictators in past regimes have understood this principle only too well.
As Adolf Hitler noted: “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that starting in December 1935, Jews in Germany were prevented from obtaining shooting licenses, because authorities believed that to allow them to do so would “endanger the German population.”
In late 1938, special orders were delivered barring Jews from owning firearms, with the punishment for arms possession being 20 years in a concentration camp.
The rest, as they say, is history. Yet it is a history that we should be wary of repeating.
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available from the American Free Press bookstore. Whitehead can be contacted at [email protected].
U.S. Picks a Fight in Syria
Not content to allow the Syrian war to wind down, the Pentagon and the CIA continue to escalate tension. Now, they’ve shot down a Syrian army jet bound for radical Islamic targets, which Russia declared an “act of war,” in the warmongers’ latest efforts to protect their creation, ISIS.
By Matthew Raphael Johnson
The United States has shot down a Syrian army jet on a mission to hit radical Islamic targets near Raqqa. To say that the U.S. is waging war against ISIS would be willful dishonesty. In truth, ISIS was the creation of U.S. and Israeli intelligence.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister rightly called the shooting down of the jet not only an “act of war” but also “support for terrorists.” This is something the Russian government has known for some time. As Russia makes plans to dump the dollar and as the present depression continues to wrack the U.S., the elite are demanding war.
The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that any planes interfering with the war on ISIS will be “intercepted“ by the Russian Air Force. This is the escalation the American ruling class wanted.
“In areas where Russian aviation is conducting combat missions in the Syrian skies, any flying objects, including jets and unmanned aerial vehicles of the international coalition discovered west of the Euphrates River will be followed by Russian air and ground defenses as air targets,” the Russian Defense Ministry announced.
There is a telephone line, a channel established between Russia and the U.S. in the case of any intensification of tension. Russia claims that this was not used prior to the incident. The U.S. denies this claim.
Ironically, the U.S. stated: “The Coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. . . . The Coalition does not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russia, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.”
No one can possibly believe this. The purpose of the attack was to defend ISIS, not defeat it. Whenever the Syrian Army liberates a town from ISIS, they find tons of Israeli and American weapons.
The U.S. military claims that the Syrian army plane was sent to attack the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a “moderate” group whose founding purpose was to make war on the Syrian government. Damascus claims the jet was headed toward an ISIS camp, one that the SDF was protecting.
The SDF allegedly seeks a “stable, secular” Syria, which is precisely what Syria was prior to the creation of this present war. American sponsorship of this Kurdish group deeply alienates Turkey, showing the continued disaster of U.S. Mideast policy.
It’s worth mentioning that most prisoners of war taken in this conflict by Russian or Syrian forces are not Syrians.
The SDF admitted its use of the banned white phosphorus shells in its operations against Damascus. The Russian military states that the purpose of the SDF is to act as a buffer between ISIS and the Syrian government, hindering Russian and Syrian forces.
In a recent interview with Le Figaro, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated about the U.S.: “Presidents come and go, but policy remains the same. Do you know why that is? Because the bureaucracy has too much power. A president is elected with new ideas. Then men in dark suits come and visit him. They tell him what to do.” This is the foundation of this reckless attack on Syria. Other, non-elected, forces have control over foreign policy.
On May 20 of this year, presidential spokesman Brett McGurk stated, “There is no government in Syria and we will never cooperate with the Assad regime.” Since the U.S. considers Assad illegitimate, any violation of Syrian sovereignty is warranted; anything goes. This is in contradiction to the military’s position stated above, because factions backed by the CIA are fighting factions backed by the Pentagon. The SDF is the Pentagon’s creation, called “our troops” by U.S. generals, while al Qaeda’s various offshoots are backed by the CIA. The larger question as to why the U.S. has authority to back any side in this war is a question few in the halls of power are asking.
This is why “self-defense” is the justification for the attack on the Syrian jet. Since these troops are essentially proxies of the Pentagon, it is considered no differently than if the warplane were going to attack Fort Leavenworth.
Recently, the Assad government was winding down this war, which in its seventh year has claimed more than 450,000 lives. Dissatisfied, however, both the CIA and Pentagon poured more money into these factions, making sure they had the resources to keep the war going.
Matthew Raphael Johnson, Ph.D. is originally from Union County, N.J. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska, writing his dissertation on Michael Oakeshott’s critique of modernity. His first job out of college was working with The Barnes Review. He is a former professor of history at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmetsville, Md. Matt resides in Franklin County, Pa., where he teaches and writes on Russian history and politics. Matt’s latest books Russian Populist: The Political Thought of Vladimir Putin and The Third Rome: Holy Russia, Tsarism and Orthodoxy are available from TBR Book Club. Send payment with request to TBR. 16000 Trade Zone Avenue, Unit 406, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774. Order online at www.BarnesReview.com or call 1-877-773-9077 toll free to charge.
This Week’s Edition of American Free Press Now Online
Without Glass-Steagall, America Will Fail
Paul Craig Roberts explains the critical need for separation of residential from investment banking and how, without such regulation, the 99% pay dearly for the outrageous gains of the 1%.
By Paul Craig Roberts
For 66 years the Glass-Steagall Act reduced the risks in the banking system. Eight years after the act was repealed, the banking system blew up, threatening the international economy. U.S. taxpayers were forced to come up with $750 billion dollars, a sum much larger than the Pentagon’s budget, in order to bail out the banks. This huge sum was insufficient to do the job. The Federal Reserve had to step in and expand its balance sheet by $4 trillion in order to protect the solvency of banks declared “too big to fail.”
The enormous increase in the supply of dollars known as Quantitative Easing inflated financial asset prices instead of the consumer price index. This rise in bond and stock prices is a major cause of the worsening income and wealth distribution in the United States. The economic polarization has undercut the image and reality of the U.S. as a land of opportunity and has introduced political and economic instability into the life of the country.
These are huge costs and for the benefit only of the rich who were already rich.
So, what we can say about the repeal of Glass-Steagall is that it turned a somewhat egalitarian democracy with a large middle class into the 1% vs. the 99%. The repeal resulted in the destruction of the image of the United States as an open, prosperous society. The electorate is very much aware of the decline in their economic situation, and this awareness expressed itself in the last presidential election.
Americans know that the nonsense from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics about a 4.3% unemployment rate and an abundance of new jobs is fake news. The BLS gets the low rate of unemployment by not counting the millions of discouraged workers who cannot find employment. If you haven’t looked for a job in the last four weeks, you are not considered unemployed. The birth/death model, a purely theoretical construct, accounts for a large percentage of the non-existent new jobs. The jobs are there by assumption. The jobs are not really there. Moreover, the replacement of full-time jobs with part-time jobs proceeds. Pension and healthcare benefits that once were a substantial part of the pay package are being terminated.
It makes perfect sense to separate commercial from investment banking. The taxpayer-insured deposits of commercial banking should not serve as backing for investment banking’s creation of risky financial instruments, such as subprime and other derivatives. The U.S. government understood that in 1933, but no longer did in 1999. This deterioration in government competence has cost America dearly.
By merging commercial banking with investment banking, the repeal of Glass-Steagall greatly increased the capability of the banking system to create risky financial instruments for which taxpayer backing was available. So, we have the extraordinary situation that the repeal of Glass-Steagall forced the 99% to bail out the 1%.
The repeal of Glass-Steagall has turned the United States into an unstable economic, political, and social system. We have a situation in which millions of Americans who have lost full-time employment with benefits to jobs offshoring, whose lower-income employment in part-time and contract employment leaves them no discretionary income after payment of interest and fees to the financial system (insurance on home and car, health insurance, credit card interest, car payment interest, student loan interest, home mortgage interest, bank charges for insufficient minimum balance, etc.), are on the hook for bailing out financial institutions that make foolish and risky investments.
This is not politically viable unless Congress and the president are going to resign and turn over the governance of America to Wall Street and the Big Banks. A growing crescendo of voices are saying that this has already happened.
So, where is there any democracy when the 1% can cover their losses at the expense of the 99%, which is what the repeal of Glass-Steagall guarantees?
Not only must Glass-Steagall be restored, but also the large banks must be reduced in size. That any corporation is too big to fail is a contradiction of the justification of capitalism. Capitalism’s justification is that those corporations that misuse resources and make losses go out of business, thus releasing the misused resources to those who can use them profitably. Capitalism is supposed to benefit society, not be dependent on society to bail it out.
I was present when George Champion, former CEO and chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank testified before the Senate Banking Committee against national branch banking. Champion said that it would result in the banks becoming too large and that the branches would suck savings out of local communities for investment in traded financial assets. Consequently, local communities would be faced with a dearth of loanable funds, and local businesses would die or not be born from lack of loanable funds.
I covered the story for Business Week. But despite the facts as laid out by the pre-eminent banker of our time, the palms had been greased, and the folly proceeded.
As assistant secretary of the US Treasury in the Reagan Administration, I opposed all financial deregulation. Financial deregulation does nothing but open the gates to fraud and sharp dealing. It allows one institution, even one individual, to make a fortune by wrecking the lives of millions.
The American public is not sufficiently sophisticated to understand these matters, but they know when they are hurting. Few in the House and Senate are sufficiently sophisticated to understand these matters, but they do know that to understand them is not conducive to having their palms greased. So how do the elected representatives manage to represent those who vote them into office?
The answer is that they seldom do.
The question before Congress today is whether they will take the country down for the sake of campaign contributions and cushy jobs if they lose their seat, or if they will take personal risks in order to save the country.
America cannot survive if excessive risks and financial fraud can be bailed out by taxpayers.
U.S. Representatives Walter Jones and Marcy Kaptur and members of the House and staff on both sides of the aisle, along with former Goldman Sachs executive Nomi Prins and leaders of citizens’ groups, have arranged a briefing in the House of Representatives on June 14 about the importance of Glass-Steagall to the economic, political, and social stability of the United States. Let your representative know that you do not want the financial responsibility for the reckless financial practices of the big banks. Let your representative know also that you do not want big banks that dominate the financial arena. Let them know that you want the return of Glass-Steagall.
The effort to reduce the financial risks arising from the comingling of commercial and investment banking by requiring stronger capital positions of financial corporations is futile. The 2007-08 financial crisis required the taxpayers and the printing press and an amount of money that exceeded any realistic capital and liquidity requirements for financial institutions.
If we don’t re-enact Glass-Steagall, the risks taken by financial greed will complete the economic destruction of America.
Congress must serve the people, not mammon.
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury under President Ronald Reagan and was associate editor and columnist at The Wall Street Journal. He has been a professor of economics in six universities, and is the author of numerous books available at www.AmericanFreePress.net.
Why Are We Attacking the Syrians Who Are Fighting ISIS?
What happened to Donald Trump’s non-interventionist America-First policy? If the U.S. is interested in stopping ISIS, and Syria is working to stop ISIS, why is the U.S. working to stop Syria?
By Ron Paul
Just when you thought our Syria policy could not get any worse, last week it did. The U.S. military twice attacked Syrian government forces from a military base it illegally occupies inside Syria. According to the Pentagon, the attacks on Syrian government-backed forces were “defensive,” because the Syrian fighters were approaching a U.S. self-declared “de-confliction” zone inside Syria. The Syrian forces were pursuing ISIS in the area, but the U.S. attacked anyway.
The U.S. is training yet another rebel group fighting from that base, located near the border of Iraq at al-Tanf, and it claims that Syrian government forces pose a threat to the U.S. military presence there. But the Pentagon has forgotten one thing: It has no authority to be in Syria in the first place! Neither the U.S. Congress nor the UN Security Council has authorized a U.S. military presence inside Syria.
So what gives the Trump Administration the right to set up military bases on foreign soil without the permission of that government? Why are we violating the sovereignty of Syria and attacking its military as they are fighting ISIS? Why does Washington claim that its primary mission in Syria is to defeat ISIS while taking military actions that benefit ISIS?
The Pentagon issued a statement saying its presence in Syria is necessary because the Syrian government is not strong enough to defeat ISIS on its own. But the “de-escalation zones” agreed upon by the Syrians, Russians, Iranians, and Turks have led to a reduction in fighting and a possible end to the six-year war. Even if true that the Syrian military is weakened, its weakness is due to six years of U.S.-sponsored rebels fighting to overthrow it!
What is this really all about? Why does the U.S. military occupy this base inside Syria? It’s partly about preventing the Syrians and Iraqis from working together to fight ISIS, but I think it’s mostly about Iran. If the Syrians and Iraqis join up to fight ISIS with the help of Iranian-allied Shia militia, the U.S. believes it will strengthen Iran’s hand in the region. President Trump has recently returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia where he swore he would not allow that to happen.
But is this policy really in our interest, or are we just doing the bidding of our Middle East “allies,” who seem desperate for war with Iran? Saudi Arabia exports its radical form of Islam worldwide, including recently into moderate Asian Muslim countries like Indonesia. Iran does not. That is not to say that Iran is perfect, but does it make any sense to jump into the Sunni/Shia conflict on either side? The Syrians, along with their Russian and Iranian allies, are defeating ISIS and al Qaeda. As candidate Trump said, what’s so bad about that?
We were told that if the Syrian government was allowed to liberate Aleppo from al Qaeda, Assad would kill thousands who were trapped there. But the opposite has happened: Life is returning to normal in Aleppo. The Christian minority there celebrated Easter for the first time in several years. They are rebuilding. Can’t we finally just leave the Syrians alone?
When you get to the point where your actions are actually helping ISIS, whether intended or not, perhaps it’s time to stop. It’s past time for the U.S. to abandon its dangerous and counterproductive Syria policy and just bring the troops home.
Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at www.ronpaulinstitute.org.
Lynching Free Speech: The Intolerant State of America
We have been warned by numerous authors, not so long ago, as to what would happen to society if we acquiesced to the government’s fear mongering … Have we now quietly, obediently entered a Brave New American World of 1984?
By John Whitehead
“What are the defenders of free speech to do? The sad fact is that this fundamental freedom is on its heels across America. Politicians of both parties want to use the power of government to silence their foes. Some in the university community seek to drive it from their campuses. And an entire generation of Americans is being taught that free speech should be curtailed as soon as it makes someone else feel uncomfortable. On the current trajectory, our nation’s dynamic marketplace of ideas will soon be replaced by either disengaged intellectual silos or even a stagnant ideological conformity. Few things would be so disastrous for our nation and the well-being of our citizenry.”—William Ruger, “Free Speech Is Central to Our Dignity as Humans”
My hometown of Charlottesville, Va. has become the latest poster child in a heated war of words—and actions—over racism, “sanitizing history,” extremism (both right and left), political correctness, hate speech, partisan politics, and a growing fear that violent words will end in violent actions.
In Charlottesville, as in so many parts of the country right now, the conflict is over how to reconcile the nation’s checkered past, particularly as it relates to slavery, with the present need to sanitize the environment of anything—words and images—that might cause offense, especially if it’s a Confederate flag or monument.
In Charlottesville, that fear of offense prompted the city council to get rid of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that has graced one of its public parks for 82 years. In doing so, they have attracted the unwanted attention of the Ku Klux Klan.
Yale University actually went so far as to change the name of one of its residential colleges, which was named after John C. Calhoun, the nation’s seventh vice president, a secretary of state, secretary of war, senator, and Yale alum who supported slavery.
New Orleans ran up a $2 million tab in its efforts to remove its four Confederate monuments, with the majority of the funds being used for security to police the ensuing protests and demonstrations.
With more than 1,000 Confederate monuments in 31 states (in public parks, courthouse squares, and state capitols), not to mention Confederate battle flags on display in military cemeteries, and countless more buildings and parks named after historic figures who were slaveholders, this isn’t an issue that is going away anytime soon, no matter how much we ignore it, shout over it, criminalize it, legislate it, adjudicate or police it.
The temperature is rising all across the nation, and not just over this Confederate issue.
The “winter of our discontent” has given way to an overheated, sweltering summer in which shouting matches are skating dangerously close to becoming physical altercations.
As journalist Dahlia Lithwick writes for Slate, “These days, people who used to feel free to shout and threaten are emboldened to punch, body-slam, and stab. It is a short hop, we are learning, from ‘words can never hurt us’ to actual sticks and stones and the attendant breaking of bones. That is what has become of free speech in this country.”
Here’s the thing: If Americans don’t learn how to get along—at the very least, agreeing to disagree and respecting each other’s right to subscribe to beliefs and opinions that may be offensive, hateful, intolerant or merely different—then we’re going to soon find that we have no rights whatsoever (to speak, assemble, agree, disagree, protest, opt in, opt out, or forge our own paths as individuals).
The government will lock down the nation at the slightest provocation.
It is ready, willing and able to impose martial law within 24 hours.
Indeed, the government has been anticipating and preparing for civil unrest for years now, as evidenced by the build-up of guns and tanks and militarized police and military training drills and threat assessments and extremism reports and surveillance systems and private prisons.
Connect the dots, people.
The government doesn’t care about who you voted for in the presidential election or whether you think the Civil War was fought over states’ rights versus slavery. It doesn’t care about your race or gender or religion or sexual orientation.
When the police state cracks down, it will not discriminate.
We’ll all be muzzled together.
We’ll all be jailed together.
We’ll all be viewed as a collective enemy to be catalogued, conquered, and caged.
Thus, the last thing we need to do is play into the government’s hands by turning on one another, turning in one another, and giving the government’s standing army an excuse to take over.
The police state could not ask for a better citizenry than one that carries out its own censorship, spying, and policing.
This is how you turn a nation of free people into extensions of the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent police state, and in the process turn a citizenry against each other. It’s a brilliant ploy, with the added bonus that while the citizenry remains focused on and distrustful of each other, they’re incapable of presenting a united front against the threats posed by the government and its cabal of Constitution-destroying agencies and corporate partners.
Unfortunately, we have already become a nation of snowflakes, snitches, and book burners: a legalistic, intolerant, elitist, squealing bystander nation eager to report fellow citizens to the police for the slightest offense.
Mind you, once the police are called in, with their ramped-up protocols, battlefield mindset, militarized weapons, uniforms and equipment, and war zone tactics, it’s a process that is near impossible to turn back and one that too often ends in tragedy for all those involved.
So how do we stop this train from barreling down the tracks past the police state and straight into martial law?
Let’s start with a little more patience, a lot more tolerance, and a civics lesson on the First Amendment.
As my good friend Nat Hentoff, that inveterate champion of the First Amendment, once observed, “The quintessential difference between a free nation, as we profess to be, and a totalitarian state, is that here everyone, including a foe of democracy, has the right to speak his mind.”
What this means is opening the door to more speech not less, even if that speech is offensive to some.
Understanding that freedom for those in the unpopular minority constitutes the ultimate tolerance in a free society, James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, fought for a First Amendment that protected the “minority” against the majority, ensuring that even in the face of overwhelming pressure, a minority of one—even one who espouses distasteful viewpoints—would still have the right to speak freely, pray freely, assemble freely, challenge the government freely, and broadcast his views in the press freely.
We haven’t done ourselves—or the nation—any favors by becoming so fearfully polite, careful to avoid offense, and largely unwilling to be labeled intolerant, hateful or closed-minded that we’ve eliminated words, phrases, and symbols from public discourse.
The result is a nation where no one really says what they really think anymore, at least if it runs counter to the prevailing views. Intolerance is the new scarlet letter of our day, a badge to be worn in shame and humiliation, deserving of society’s fear, loathing, and utter banishment from society.
For those who dare to voice an opinion that runs counter to the accepted norms, retribution is swift: They are shamed, shouted down, silenced, censored, fired, cast out, and generally relegated to the dust heap of ignorant, mean-spirited bullies who are guilty of various “word crimes.”
We have entered a new age where, as commentator Mark Steyn notes, “we have to tiptoe around on ever thinner eggshells,” and “the forces of ‘tolerance’ are intolerant of anything less than full-blown celebratory approval.”
In such a climate of intolerance, there can be no freedom of speech, expression or thought.
We have become a nation of snowflakes.
We have allowed our fears—fear for our safety, fear of each other, fear of being labeled racist or hateful or prejudiced, etc.—to trump our freedom of speech and muzzle us far more effectively than any government edict could. Ultimately the war on free speech—and that’s exactly what it is, a war being waged by Americans against other Americans—is a war that is driven by fear.
By bottling up dissent, we have created a pressure cooker of stifled misery and discontent that is now bubbling over and fomenting even more hate, distrust, and paranoia among portions of the populace.
The First Amendment is a steam valve. It allows people to speak their minds, air their grievances, and contribute to a larger dialogue that hopefully results in a more just world.
When there is no steam valve to release the pressure, frustration builds, anger grows, and people become more volatile and desperate to force a conversation.
The problem as I see it is that we’ve allowed ourselves to be persuaded that we need someone else to think and speak for us. The result is a society in which we’ve stopped debating among ourselves, stopped thinking for ourselves, and stopped believing that we can fix our own problems and resolve our own differences.
Not only has free speech become a “politically incorrect” four-letter word—profane, obscene, uncouth, not to be uttered in so-called public places—but in more and more cases, the government deems free speech to be downright dangerous and in some instances illegal.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the U.S. government has become particularly intolerant of speech that challenges the government’s power, reveals the government’s corruption, exposes the government’s lies, and encourages the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices. Indeed, there is a long and growing list of the kinds of speech that the government considers dangerous enough to red flag and subject to censorship, surveillance, investigation, and prosecution: hate speech, bullying speech, intolerant speech, conspiratorial speech, treasonous speech, threatening speech, incendiary speech, inflammatory speech, radical speech, anti-government speech, right-wing speech, extremist speech, etc.
The powers-that-be understand that if the government can control speech, it controls thought, and, in turn, it can control the minds of the citizenry. In fact, some of this past century’s greatest dystopian authors warned of this very danger.
In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, reading is banned and books are burned in order to suppress dissenting ideas, while televised entertainment is used to anesthetize the populace and render them easily pacified, distracted, and controlled.
In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, serious literature, scientific thinking, and experimentation are banned as subversive, while critical thinking is discouraged through the use of conditioning, social taboos, and inferior education. Likewise, expressions of individuality, independence, and morality are viewed as vulgar and abnormal.
In George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother does away with all undesirable and unnecessary words and meanings, even going so far as to routinely rewrite history and punish “thoughtcrimes.”
And in almost every episode of Twilight Zone, Rod Serling urged viewers to unlock their minds and free themselves of prejudice, hate, violence, and fear. “We’re developing a new citizenry,” Serling declared, “one that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”
It’s time to start thinking for ourselves again.
It’s time to start talking to each other. It’s time to start listening more and shouting less.
Most of all, it’s time to start acting like people who will choose dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.
As Dahlia Lithwick concluded for Slate:
To guarantee an escape from conflict, from violence, requires censorship. To have free speech in this moment, when the stakes are so high, is to live with fear. This is not an easy thing to confront—or to accept… Conversation might still be our best chance of getting out of this mess. Free speech is just free speech. It takes actual humans making the effort to talk to each other to transform speech into something more vital and more valuable. Conversations don’t always work. They may sometimes go wrong—horribly, terribly wrong… The First Amendment will never be able to protect us from horrible words and horrific acts. It does guarantee that we’ll keep talking.
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People, is available from AFP at http://www.americanfreepress.net/ or 1-888-699-6397. Whitehead can be contacted at [email protected]
Are We Nearing Civil War?
If Trump hopes to carry out his America-first policies, he must stop the “deep state-media coup,” which includes even administration insiders, currently working to undermine his every effort.
By Patrick J. Buchanan
President Trump may be chief of state, head of government, and commander in chief, but his administration is shot through with disloyalists plotting to bring him down.
We are approaching something of a civil war where the capital city seeks the overthrow of the sovereign and its own restoration.
Thus far, it is a nonviolent struggle, though street clashes between pro- and anti-Trump forces are increasingly marked by fistfights and brawls. Police are having difficulty keeping people apart. A few have been arrested carrying concealed weapons.
That the objective of this city is to bring Trump down via a deep state-media coup is no secret. Few deny it.
Last week, fired director of the FBI James Comey, a successor to J. Edgar Hoover, admitted under oath that he used a cutout to leak to The New York Times an Oval Office conversation with the president.
Goal: Have the Times story trigger the appointment of a special prosecutor to bring down the president.
Comey wanted a special prosecutor to target Trump, despite his knowledge, from his own FBI investigation, that Trump was innocent of the pervasive charge that he colluded with the Kremlin in the hacking of the DNC.
Comey’s deceit was designed to enlist the police powers of the state to bring down his president. And it worked. For the special counsel named, with broad powers to pursue Trump, is Comey’s friend and predecessor at the FBI, Robert Mueller.
As Newt Gingrich said Sunday: “Look at who Mueller’s starting to hire.. . . (T)hese are people that . . . look to me like they’re . . . setting up to go after Trump . . . including people, by the way, who have been reprimanded for hiding from the defense information into major cases.. . .
“This is going to be a witch hunt.”
Another example. According to Daily Kos, Trump planned a swift lifting of sanctions on Russia after inauguration and a summit meeting with Vladimir Putin to prevent a second Cold War.
The State Department was tasked with working out the details.
Instead, says Daniel Fried, the coordinator for sanctions policy, he received “panicky” calls of, “Please, my God, can you stop this?”
Operatives at State, disloyal to the president and hostile to the Russia policy on which he had been elected, collaborated with elements in Congress to sabotage any detente. They succeeded.
“It would have been a win-win for Moscow,” said Tom Malinowski of State, who boasted last week of his role in blocking a rapprochement with Russia. State employees sabotaged one of the principal policies for which Americans had voted, and they substituted their own.
Not in memory have there been so many leaks to injure a president from within his own government, and not just political leaks, but leaks of confidential, classified, and secret documents. The leaks are coming out of the supposedly secure investigative and intelligence agencies of the U.S. government.
The media, the beneficiaries of these leaks, are giving cover to those breaking the law. The real criminal “collusion” in Washington is between Big Media and the deep state, colluding to destroy a president they detest and to sink the policies they oppose.
Yet another example is the unfolding “unmasking” scandal.
While all the evidence is not yet in, it appears an abnormal number of conversations between Trump associates and Russians were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.
On orders higher up, the conversations were transcribed, and, contrary to law, the names of Trump associates unmasked.
Then those transcripts, with names revealed, were spread to all 16 agencies of the intel community at the direction of Susan Rice, and with the possible knowledge of Barack Obama, assuring some would be leaked after Trump became president.
The leak of Gen. Michael Flynn’s conversation with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, after Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for the hacking of the DNC, may have been a product of the unmasking operation. The media hit on Flynn cost him the National Security Council post.
Trump has had many accomplishments since his election. Yet his enemies in the media and their deep state allies have often made a purgatory of his presidency.
What he and his White House need to understand is that this is not going to end, that this is a fight to the finish, that his enemies will not relent until they see him impeached or resigning in disgrace.
To prevail, Trump will have to campaign across this country and wage guerrilla war in this capital, using the legal and political weapons at his disposal to ferret out the enemies within his own government.
Not only is this battle essential, if Trump hopes to realize his agenda, it is winnable. For the people sense that the Beltway elites are cynically engaged in preserving their own privileges, positions, and power.
If the president cannot rewrite Obamacare or achieve tax reform, he should not go around the country in 2018 wailing about Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer. They are not the real adversaries. They are but interchangeable parts.
He should campaign against the real enemies of America First by promising to purge the deep state and flog its media collaborators.
Time to burn down the Bastille.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever, available from the American Free Press Store.