Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Can America be restored? (Review #400)

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, politics, polemics

In the DOD Annual Report for 2005 (the latest available), it is stated in Appendix B that American troop strength was 2.58 million, of which 1.16 million were "deployed". In the Fall of 2005 there were 152,000 troops in Iraq and 18,000 in Afghanistan. Numbers are similar today. It is said to be "hard" to add troops in Afghanistan without drawing down the number in Iraq, though this shift is occurring as the "surge" in Iraq is being wound down. If we have these millions of soldiers, where are they?

According to Ron Paul the U.S. maintains a military presence in 130 countries. This Wikipedia article details the 150 overseas countries to which 369,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed. It also states current total deployment as 1.4 million. Our largest deployments outside Iraq and Afghanistan are
  • Germany – 64,000
  • Japan – 49,000
  • South Korea – 26,500
  • Italy – 11,500
  • Great Britain – 11,000
Why do we need to occupy these five countries? What possible good can our troops be doing there? In The Revolution: A Manifesto Ron Paul asks, "For heaven's sake, what kind of debate is it in which all sides agree that America needs troops in 130 countries?" (p. 38)

This question illustrates the point the author makes in his opening chapter, that the American public is being faced with false choices. In the face of a 10 trillion dollar national debt, the economic debates we hear are over a few billion dollars in "earmarks". By the way, check out TreasuryDirect for the national debt, to the penny, for any day you choose to ask. The national debt ten years ago today was 5.5 trillion ($5,534,495,650,216.57). What else has doubled in ten years?!?

And that is Ron Paul's point. The government, just in my lifetime (60 years) has removed restraint after restraint once imposed by public oversight, and now operates 99% in the dark. In his chapter on the Constitution, he shows how nearly the entire mass of regulation and bureaucracy has been built up outside constitutional lines. Just as an example, the departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, and Justice are the only ones mandated by the Constitution, which relegates all other matters to the individual states. George Washington appointed a Cabinet member to oversee each of these four departments. Since then, cabinet members, and departments, have been added for Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, HHS, HUD, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veteran's Affairs, and Homeland Security. That's eleven things the U.S. government is "doing for us" that the Constitution does not tell it to do. A strict constructionist such as Justice Thomas would state that these should all be abolished, as does Ron Paul. That is the revolution he is talking about.

Here is an example of a department whose leaders need a new hobby. "In 2004," Paul writes, "a presidential initiative called the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health issued a report calling for forced mental health screening for all American children. beginning in preschool." So far the men in white coats have yet to invade you child's day care center, but they are working on it. Isn't that comforting? Who will this actually benefit? The makers of Ritalin, Abilify and other drugs that could keep school kids from bedeviling teachers, that's who.

The book states clear dangers, and ends in a discussion of what a President can do to turn back the tide. It does not have much that you or I could do to help. I am not satisfied that more informed voting will be much help; the problem is that nearly all the candidates offered for our vote will simply perpetuate the problem. The U.S. is currently structured, from Federal Reserve to Homeland Security, to favor the powerful at the expense of the powerless (the middle and lower classes). What we need is a ton of young non-lawyers to run for public office, and to do it outside the established party structure. This is what the Bill Clinton/G.W. Bush generation did starting in 1970, with success that is (sad to say) visible all around. How about a new generation of responsible young adults repeating the process?

As I read, reading a book composed months ago, it seemed the author was writing just today, when the stock market is in free fall, following a horde of mortgages into the dumpster of history. "The Fed" has just reduced interest a half point (bandaid on a broken leg) and Japan's market has lost 7% of its value overnight. Were I to sell my mutual funds, I'd be a big loser: 40% so far (I won't. I am young enough to ride it out, but I will probably have to delay retirement. A note to investors: if the whole world crashes, it won't matter where your money is, and if it doesn't, the investments you currently hold will recover in a few years, maybe only one or two years).

In the end, a healthy America requires an end to the American Empire overseas, genuine free trade (not the travesty we currently have), and a smaller, much smaller, government that governs within Constitutional bounds. Can this be achieved without widespread bloodshed? I hope so, but history does not offer me much comfort in that regard.

No comments: