READERSHIP OF THIS SPACE
Before reviewing my personal list of United States national security issues, I'll take a moment to acknowledge that this space has an international audience as well as an American one. Half the readers are from the US while the balance is from other countries including Netherlands, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia, South Africa, Germany, Ukraine, France, Sweden, Brazil and Switzerland. The proportion of international readers has been increasing lately.
GOAL OF THIS SCRIBE
So Barry, as you work on your address on the State of the Union, you most likely have your speech down pat and are just putting on the finishing touches. Probably your goal is to be as balanced as possible and to encourage hope about our future.
My goal here is a little different - I will try to be as realistic as possible without being overly cynical.
I began this exercise in 2007 by commenting on a list of nine items critical to the national security of the United States. An update of that list follows.
SUPPERRICH: GROWING THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY
A new item has come to the head of the list: The biggest threat to our future is the continuing creation of a class of super rich billionaires. As addressed in earlier posts, this trend has created a plutocracy which will be with us for generations. These vast fortunes take on a momentum of their own and corrupt the systems the Founding Fathers installed to prevent just the problem we face today.
At the same time this new class of billionaires has been created, the living standard of most Americans has remained the same or declined slightly from the 1970's. For example, African Americans have seen half of the total wealth they accumulated as a group since the civil war eliminated due to the recent housing bubble.
Without direct action to tax away the big fortunes and ensure the prosperity of the middle class, the United States will decline as a nation and a force for good in the world.
This situation is especially troubling for your administration since one of your campaign issues was specifically to address this issue.
Second on my list of national security issues is political corruption. This issue damages national security if private interests can sway public policy to favor private gain over public good. The United States of America is thoroughly corrupt. Money interests routinely gain laws that favor them over the greater public good.
Third is the military industrial complex. While the negative effect of this issue is somewhat subsumed under the income disparity issue above, the concentration of interests designed to promote war and wasteful government spending for weapons is still a major threat to our security. Your administration and Defense Secretary Gates have made some laudable moves to control this question, but so far the results are not adequate to remove this issue from the critical list. The Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act is only a start.
Fourth is energy. Although your administration has worked diligently to revise our national energy policy, political corruption has thwarted most of your proposals. This is a clear case where private interests act against the national interest.
Fifth are unions. I perceive this issue as a means to counteract the influence of the plutocracy and to assist the middle class achieve a better living standard. I have not seen any progress in this area; of course, it is entirely possible I have missed it.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act helps women and the Health insurance reform helps families and small businesses. But, the health insurance reform does not bring the USA up to first world standards and will be attacked by the REPS.
Sixth are elections. Electronic voting machines are susceptible to fraud and there has been no significant movement to restore more trustworthy voting methods. We are vulnerable to election fraud.
Seventh is judicial independence. This question remains critical and there is little movement to repair it. Congress continues to block judicial appointments for spurious reasons. This inability to appoint an adequate number of judges compromises the integrity of the process.
Eighth is our trade deficit. As a nation we continue to run a substantial trade deficit. Ultimately this imbalance will be corrected whether we correct it deliberately or wait for financial forces to make the adjustment. If we do not act deliberately, we will suffer greater hardship by letting outside forces make the adjustment for us. A continuing infatuation with the economic theory of Free Trade prevents us from examining the question honestly. It is past time to re-examine our trade policy.
Last, but not least, our banks have continued to run amok. The recent housing bubble resulted from shoddy or criminal bank practices and brought ruin to millions of families worldwide. While you did pass a bank regulation act that promises better regulation, the law is not adequate to the task. We will see further crises until and unless the regulations are strengthened.
A banker told me that the next bubble will be in tech stocks. Already there are cubicle farms of people doing nothing while an IPO is being written. The founders' game plan: pocket the cash and disappear.
Your appointment of Elizabeth Warren is a notable bright spot.
OTHER CRITICAL ISSUES
In addition to the above challenges, we face a number of issues that demand immediate attention; among these are: huge and unsustainable budget deficits; the present and future fiscal crisis at the city, county and state levels that will reduce local services such as police, fire and schools [see article about Camden NJ - http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/01/18/national/a055102S83.DTL]; lack of domestic demand sufficient to promote domestic growth while that growth is required to overcome the budget deficits; a political deadlock with parties who refuse to act in the national interest; the looming shadow of a European financial meltdown; and, actively fighting two major wars drains our treasury, undermines political support of your government and kills our young people. There are others of course, but these spring to mind immediately.
We are with you Barry. We know your plate is full.
Just keep telling what we can do to help you.