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American infrastructure in freefall while military blooms

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Minneapolis Bridge collapse on I35 interstate highway. Photo: Mark Ryan.

US President Joe Biden admits that the US is falling far behind other countries in infrastructure and childcare. Meanwhile, it's spending 40% of the world's entire defense expenditure on its military.

History shows no country stayed on top forever. One hundred 200 years is the max and then they peak and go into decline. So I presume we're no different from anybody else. One of the problems with history is people don't learn the lessons of history.

We had a president recently who didn't know history. Or he did know history, but thought that he was smarter than history. I know I'm not smarter than history. And history is very clear. No nation and no currency, by the way, for they sometimes go hand in hand, has stayed on top forever.

So America is now the largest debtor nation in the history of the world, We have troops in over 100 countries, There are people who would say that we are overextended financially, economically, militarily. It looks like they might be right. So yeah, no, I worry.

It's not a good time to be young in America. Because, what these young people going to inherit is mind boggling.

The rest of the world has started to out educate us. Early education is earlier and more prevalent in European countries. ... We are ranked number 34 out of 37 industrial nations in the world, and, a number of where we rank in terms of people getting a degree beyond high school.

Joe Biden, US President

Joe Biden had also said a few days before that announcement that the US infrastructure ranking has fallen from the best in the world and now ranks 13th in the world. America is also behind in investing in early childhood education and care. Biden stressed that the world is catching up and beginning to pass the US.

Why is America falling behind the rest of the planet?

Because the United States, if it were a [horse] race, would be the one riding the 12 year old horse with bad teeth and going ‘well you know it keeps getting me around the track. Why do I need to worry whether I'm at the front of the pack or the back of the pack?’ In other words we haven't tried. And if you don't try, you get farther and farther behind.

Dr William Black, Professor of Economic and Law, University of Missouri

Unsafe water supply

It seems that the problems in the United States are far more severe than Mr Biden is letting on.

For example, a report from the Harvard School of Public Health revealed in 2019 that more than 40% of schools in America that sampled their water discovered that the water contains too much lead. This is while most schools are not even testing for it.

The report goes on to state that there is no safe level of lead and that it causes irreversible nerve damage and permanently damages the brains of babies and children.

It's never been this way. So it's, from an economic perspective, unknown. What I mean by that is these supply chain shortages and bottlenecks, never seen anything like it. And what the world went to over the last 30 years is called just in time inventory, which means very little extra inventory.

And so if there is a shortage, it can shut things down very rapidly and then people bid up the price because it's so short. And so you're seeing these particular areas of inflation, but also particular areas where you can't, for example, build a car unless you have all the components and so if even one necessary components isn't there, it's going to slow down production.

At the same time that's happening we have record numbers of people that regained employment over the last eight months, so the economy is complicated.

Dr William Black, Professor of Economics and Law, University of Missouri

Now two years later, a report shows that 91% of Pennsylvania schools that tested drinking water found lead but only 9% removed it.

On the issue of climate change Biden is facing mounting pressure from environmental activists to pass a bill to help reverse climate change. But the bill is not only opposed by the Republicans, but also from some Democrats, like Joe Manchin III.

Joe Manchin III, who is a senior US senator from West Virginia is also a businessman whose interests include founding an energy brokerage firm and has made millions of dollars from his coal company.

The coal industry may be hurt by the bill, which tries to reduce gas emissions. This is while at the same time US power plants are on track to burn 23% more coal this year, which is the first increase since 2013.

[The] whole idea that when you have a sovereign currency, you fund things through taxation is not correct, but you are also correct, that the extreme rich in the United States are taxed, after the Trump tax cuts in particular but even before, at an exceptionally low rate compared to many countries.

And during the pandemic they have added over $3 trillion in wealth to a very tiny number of families, less than 1000, have added over 3 trillion in wealth.

Dr William Black, Professor of Economics and Law, University of Missouri

So Joe Biden is trying to pass legislation for his domestic agenda, the Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill, before the two huge pieces of legislation. The other bill is focused on infrastructure.

Build Back Better focuses on a list of social policies, from education to health care, from housing to climate change, the programme includes publicly funded preschool programs, free community college for two years, expanded Medicare services and Medicaid, lower prescription drug costs, housing investments, tax cuts for electric vehicles and other climate incentives.

Why is the US infrastructure in such a shambolic state?

On the matter of why our infrastructure is falling behind, that’s plain and simple. That is simple corruption.

There's so much theft and pandering and just, you know, malfeasance on the part of government officials, where they're not doing the jobs that they're paid to do.

There may be a contract for a bridge go out or for highway projects go out and something and they try to seek the lowest bidder.

A lot of times when you get the lowest bidder, you get the lowest quality and they've been neglecting the projects for years and years and years. Our Bridges are falling apart. Our airports are falling apart.

Mike Harris, Journalist.

The bill does not include universal health care or any provisions for student loan debt forgiveness. The average student loan debt owed in the US is $37,693. There are also no additional increases in Social Security, federal assistance for the poor, elderly and disabled, either.

The cost of these bills is supposed to be covered by new tax plans, but with the opposition of two Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona the fate of these bills is unknown.

The bill would cost $3.5 trillion over 10 years. Manchin and Sinema want a much smaller cost. Manchin had suggested 1.5 trillion the White House and Democrats were trying to decrease the costs so they could pass the bill by the end of October.

Very strong policy reasons for taxing people in terms of quality in that sense, and this is where you have to remember how narrow the margin is, in other words, it's tied in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans.

In our system, for most purposes, that means the vice president could break the tie and the Vice President, of course, is Democrat.

But if that means every single Democratic senator has a veto power over this kind of legislation, and two of our Democratic senators are exercising that veto power and they are exceptionally protective of the extreme wealthy.

Dr William Black, Professor of Economics and Law, University of Missouri

A US media outlet based in the Capitol explains that the cost of the legislation for small businesses and ordinary Americans is too real and that it would be paid for by the biggest tax increases in generations.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, Over 1.4 million small businesses which employ almost 13 million Americans, would have to pay higher taxes and would see a rise of as much as 26%.

A small company structured as pass-throughs would see their access to the 20% small business tax reduction plan dramatically curtailed and would face other tax hikes.

California, has a 51 cent per gallon gasoline tax, Arizona, my state, has a 19 cents a gallon gasoline tax, New York, has a 27 cents a gallon gasoline tax.

Where does this money go? No one seems to know. It's supposed to go to improve the highways and the roads and bridges and yet every year the roads and bridges are worse and worse.

So there is no accountability. And I blame it on corruption within our government and failure to to act on the behest of the American people, and protecting their best interest. Instead, these politicians find their pockets.

 We see so many politicians who come into office with very little money and they retire as multimillionaires. How is it possible? It's a flat out corruption in the US system that's plain and simple.

Mike Harris, Journalist

Now while the government is scrambling to pass these bills, a Pew Research Centre poll found that from July to September, Biden's approval rating fell by 18 points among black voters, 16 points among Hispanics and 12 points among women.

Biden won all three groups with high margins last year. His approval ratings among Democrats fell by 13 points and his approval among independents, who had contributed significantly to his election, fell from 54% to 42%.

Let us be straight here. You know, we look at the war on poverty that was initiated by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. We've spent since then, as of 2015, $23 trillion on the war on poverty, and yet there's more poverty than ever in this country. It's a number of things.

One of them is that these programs that they have, you know, the welfare programs, the welfare system, how the system is constructed, is not effective. It hasn't been effective at all. What the Democrat Party primarily has done with this policy is to build themselves a poverty constituency that will always vote for the Democrats, because they will support increases in welfare and other poverty programs.

The programs plainly don't work. And they never have. It was compounded and made worse by what Bill Clinton did by passing NAFTA, to get with China in the WTO. When US jobs were offshored, we were promised by Mr. Clinton that whenever he did these things that we were going to replace those low wage dirty manufacturing jobs with high wage knowledge worker jobs.

Here we are 20 plus years later and those knowledge worker jobs still have not yet appeared.

Mike Harris, Journalist

Experts believe that the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the COVID-19 pandemic, and democratic infighting over Joe Biden's domestic agenda are the main reasons for its colossal setback.

92% of African American voters voted for Biden in the 2020 election, but now, only 67% of them actually approve of his performance so far.

Two of these Democrats in the Senate want to wreak havoc on the Biden agenda, in particular. And so, for example, the Democrats are talking about the fact that the bill would reduce childhood poverty by half, which is of course a very good thing.

But the obvious question is who would design a bill that would leave half the children in poverty? And have these two senators don't want to take even half of the children of America out of poverty; so that was quite insane. And that would be the primary two areas, childhood health care, and in terms of dealing with global climate disruption.

Dr William Black, Professor of Economics and Law, University of Missouri

Poverty, homelessness, unemployment, failing infrastructure

So as the opposition grows over the cost of Joe Biden's main legislation, the US spends trillions of dollars to invade other countries throughout the world and keep its military bases abroad without a second thought, while the land of the brave and the free is suffering from poverty, homelessness, unemployment, a broken down infrastructure, and cannot seem to find a way to pay for the people's needs, except by increasing taxes.

Because [the] US primarily works on a military economy, we have never stopped being on a wartime economy since World War Two. You can witness this with the war in Korea, We didn't win; the war in Vietnam, We didn't win; Afghanistan and Iraq, We didn't win.

The military needs more money every year, because they're beholden to the military contractors and shareholders. ... These contractors need an ongoing state of war, and they need more money every year to increase their profits and their bottom line in order to appease their shareholders so that they can get their bonuses and after that we have a revolving door.

Generals and Colonels leave the military and go directly to work for the military contractors. That is why the military, every year, consumes more and more money.

Mike Harris, Journalist

The Americans, especially in the African American and Hispanic communities, are suffering from the lack of much needed investment, especially with the rise of unemployment due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

The health system of the country is also crumbling and ordinary people are not able to afford health care. The minorities in the US are the ones who are dying disproportionately from COVID-19.

The US has corruption that is rampant and the system is not sustainable. We are essentially run by a criminal enterprise at this point in time, and the vestiges of our Constitution have been stripped away. They double the lobbyists that the money to spend on that, the way campaigns are financed [sic]. It truly is tragic, what has been allowed to happen to the United States.

Mike Harris, Journalist

The US defense budget this year is more than $700 billion, which is almost 40% of all military spending in the world and more than the budget of the highest spending 11 countries after the US combined, and the budget has increased throughout the years and the voice of critics has gone unheard.

We have our controlled news media in the country. Back whenever Ron Reagan was president, he deregulated telecom and at that time, we had over 153 independent news outlets, media outlet that is [sic] consolidated down to six.

And those six are all marching in lockstep. They all have the same message all the time. That is why you don't see the outrage because the news media does not emphasize what's going on.

Mike Harris, Journalist

According to The Washington Post in 2019, America's military budget is said to grow for a fifth consecutive year to near historic highs in 2020 as lawmakers push increases in defense spending for the following year, despite opposition from some liberals in Congress and deficit hawks.

At a time when the Democrats wanted a smaller increase, regardless, the US is now spending more on its military than at any point since the Second World War, except for just a few years on the high point of the war on Iraq.

It is interesting that despite the massive spending, a 2018 report by the Pentagon in connection with the White House, stated that all facets of manufacturing and defence industrial bases are currently under threat and claim that some entire industries within the military supply chain are near extinction.

Would the US be better off spending less money on the military? Absolutely. And again, I go back to the military contractors and how they do business. The US spends 10 times more than the next five countries combined annually on the military.

And we don't have the largest military as far as number of people [is concerned]. But we do have the most expensive weapon systems. And many of these weapon systems simply do not perform to standard.

The Russians, on the contrary, spend 10% of what the US does on weapons platforms and their stuff is state of the art, it's highly functional and works better than anything the US will generate.

We overcomplicate things, by design, because these require constant upgrades, cost and maintenance and that's a revenue stream important military industrial contractors.

You know that the Raytheons, the Boeings, the Northrop Grummans the Shipyards, all of those people that profit off of our military, and it has become our, like I said before, the US is based on a military, on a wartime economy.

And that's why these things are there, to keep the profitability of these defense contracts.

Mike Harris, Journalist

The United States is losing the devastating wars of destructions it has instigated around the world.

The most recent example is Afghanistan, where they were left them no other choice than to retreat after begging the Taliban, whom they had removed twenty years earlier, to permit the orderly evacuation of its limping forces.

We need regime change in the US, you know, we need we need a completely new set of governing people and governing principles.

The US has sold itself out. Greed has taken over. The politicians are for sale. The Defence contracts are for sale.

The lobbyist[s] make their money by persuading politicians to do things that are not in the interest of the American people. And that really seems to be the number one reason why the US is failing. Not just in those areas, but in every area.

We are at this point in time failing as a country. This is just a [sic] tip of the iceberg. The American people, we don't trust anything.

Mike Harris, Journalist

Defund the military, fund childcare

Some domestic critics of overspending in the military say that by cutting military costs, America could fund a universal childcare policy, extend health insurance to the millions of Americans who lack it, and provide significant investment in infrastructure without increasing taxes on ordinary citizens.

The FBI, which was originally put together to investigate bank robberies, now is the greatest sponsor of domestic terrorism. They have turned toxic against the United States.

The same could be said for the CIA, which is supposed to be an intelligence gathering network overseas. [The] CIA is active in this country, working against American citizens. Same for the NSA.

All of our systems have turned into a command and control system against the American people to extract as much money out of us as possible without inciting a revolution organization at this point in time, and the criminals have tightened their control over every facet of the American government.

And the American government is taking control over every facet of American life. And so we say we are a free country.

Freedom is only an illusion in this country. You're not free in this country anymore.

Mike Harris, Journalist

The US has to first stop meddling in the affairs of other nations. Nations whose corrupt officials and representatives failed to put national interests above their own.

US politicians earn a great deal of money, both salaried and through their election Campaigns from arms companies, which makes it that much harder to imagine that without enough pressure from the public, they would ever abandon the business of killing people abroad in the foreseeable future.


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