Sunday, January 11, 2009

Truest statement of the week II

If you want a glimpse of the fundamental moral obscenity that underlies our bold new era of hope and change, look no further than Barack Obama's promise this week to "overhaul" Social Security and Medicare. This effort to cut back on support for the sick, the old, the weak, the unfortunate and the abandoned will be a "central part" of the new administration's economic program, a linchpin of its struggle to curb federal spending, Obama declared.

[. . .]

At the same time, he promises to expand -- to expand -- the multitrillion-dollar war machine that has literally bled the nation dry. He wants to expand a military-industrial-security complex that already devours more money and resources than every other military force on earth combined. He wants more troops, more weapons, an ever-increasing "global strike capability," an escalation of the endless, pointless "War on Terror" in Afghanistan and Pakistan (for starters). He has never said a single word about "curbing government spending" on this vast conglomerate of death and destruction. He has not said a single word about rolling back even a few of American military outposts that in their several hundreds now cover the entire globe. At every point, it seems, government spending on the war machine -- including the tens of billions of dollars spent in secret each year on the various tentacles of the "national security" apparatus -- will be increased under the Obama administration.

No "cutbacks" here then. No concerns that spending in this area might "grow so large as to be unsustainable in the long run." Spending on death and domination is sacrosanct, the true "third rail of American politics," and Obama is not going to touch it -- except to augment it. Instead, he will let the great budget axe fall on what he and political and media establishments are pleased to call "entitlements" -- a weasel-word that conjures up images of welfare queens and lazy bums living large and easy, in the belief that the world owes them a living. It is strange how this description of the programs has gained such universal currency. Or rather, it's not strange at all; think how differently we might perceive them -- and their recipients -- if we spoke of them more straightforwardly, as, say, "old-age pensions," "family support programs," "medical assistance programs," and so on. Instead, the use of such a bland and abstract term distances us from the intent, and the reality, of the programs. They are not helping sick people with medical bills, they aren't supporting a widow or an orphan, or helping a retired couple or an injured worker attempt to live with a modicum of dignity; no, they are just this opaque, abstract thing out there, some kind of political football up in Washington, to be "dealt with," "tackled" and "curbed" by "efficient managers." Nothing human about them at all.

-- Chris Floyd, "Enduring Priorities in an Age of Change: War and Profits Over People" (Empire Burlesque).
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