June 09, 2009
By Paul Craig Roberts
The power of irrational fear in the US is extraordinary. It ranks up there with the Israel Lobby, the military/security complex, and the financial gangsters. Indeed, fear might be the most powerful force in America.
Americans are at ease with their country’s aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, which has resulted in a million dead Muslim civilians and several million refugees, because the US government has filled Americans with fear of terrorists. “We have to kill them over there before they come over here.”
Fearful of American citizens, the US government is building concentration camps apparently all over the country. According to news reports, a $385 million US government contract was given by the Bush/Cheney Regime to Cheney’s company, Halliburton, to build “detention centers” in the US. The corporate media never explained for whom the detention centers are intended.
Most Americans dismiss such reports. “It can’t happen here.” However, in north-eastern Florida not far from Tallahassee, I have seen what might be one of these camps. There is a building inside a huge open area fenced with razor wire. There is no one there and no signs. The facility appears new and unused and does not look like an abandoned prisoner work camp.
What is it for?
Who spent all that money for what?
There are Americans who are so terrified of their lives being taken by terrorists that they are hoping the US government will use nuclear weapons to destroy “the Muslim enemy.” The justifications concocted for the use of nuclear bombs against Japanese civilian populations have had their effect. There are millions of Americans who wish “their” government would kill everyone that “their” government has demonized.
From One Assault on the Constitution to Another
Hat tip: Lou Rockwell
by Paul Craig Roberts
April 20th, 2009
Anyone who has been around for a while and who pays any attention to the news sees many disturbing changes. Recently, I read a report that two children, ages seven and eight, had an altercation at school during recess. They were carted off in handcuffs by the police. The teachers or principal had dealt with the boys’ disagreement by calling in the law.
I wonder if the kids now have felonious assault records that will cancel their Second Amendment rights when they come of age.
When I was a kid there were no age limits to the Second Amendment. We all had firearms before we reached puberty. Anyone with the money could purchase a .22 caliber rifle at the local hardware store. If you were too young to see over the counter, the proprietor might call your parents to get an OK. You could purchase .22 caliber ammunition and shotgun shells at most any gas station.
None of us ever shot anyone or any farmer’s cow or mule. There were no gun accidents among my armed companions.
My grandmother never batted an eye when I walked out of her farmhouse with my grandfather’s shotgun. Guns were just a routine item. We all learned gun safety from the Boy Scouts. My grandmother only became concerned for my safety when I became the proud owner of a spirited horse.
If the attitudes that exist today had been around when I was coming along, my entire generation would be felons. I had my first altercation at the age of three. Bullies were ever present. A kid had to steel himself against them. At six years of age I learned that, Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers bravado notwithstanding, an older and stronger kid was just that. Fortunately, my mother was there to rescue me.
In our neighborhood elementary school, to which we all walked or rode our bikes from kindergarten on, recess was where one’s mettle was tested. One of our classmates, Robert, was much bigger than the rest of us and became overbearing.
Generally, our fights were wrestling matches. The first to get a scissors or a headlock on the other party would prevail. But Robert was a boxer, and as he was a head taller and long-armed, he was a problem. One day Herbert had enough of Robert, and a fistfight emerged. It was the first time we saw blood. Herbert was game, but Robert had the reach and the punch, and Herbert got a bloody nose and a busted lip.
The fight lasted a fairly long time, but the playground monitor, Mrs. Humphrey, a pretty young woman who taught the second grade, finally broke it up.
No police were called.
Robert won the fight, but it was the end of his bullying. Herbert, who was about 14 inches shorter, had stood up to him and continued the fight until rescued by Mrs. Humphrey.
Fighting was just normal. It wasn’t a police issue. Notes might have gone home to parents to explain the cut lip and bloody nose, but fights were just part of growing up. A person had to learn how to stand up for himself.
by Paul Craig Roberts
April 15, 2009
This April 15 is the 94th year that Americans have had to file an income tax. For most Americans, the day is a non-event. The federal and state governments have already collected the taxes due by withholding from each paycheck over the course of the calendar year. Most Americans never saw the money and have no real idea that they earned it.
Some Americans have their incomes over-withheld as a form of forced savings. They look forward to tax time as it means they will receive a refund check from the government that they can use for a summer vacation, a big screen TV, a new appliance, or a down payment on a new car.
Few Americans realize that over the last 94 years they have been enserfed and have no more rights to their own labor than medieval serfs or 19th-century slaves.
The 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified because the income tax was only for the rich. Some states ratified the amendment because no one in the state had an income high enough to be subject to the tax.
According to the US Department of the Treasury’s history of the income tax, less than one percent of the US population was subject to the income tax. A progressive structure was applied to this less than one percent of rich Americans, with rates ranging from 1 percent to 7 percent on incomes over $500,000, a great sum of money in those days.
In the first year of the income tax, the world’s richest person, John D. Rockefeller, paid $2 million in income tax, almost 3 percent of the total income tax collected.
People were happy. They had finally gotten the rich.
And themselves as well. Exemptions were reduced and tax rates were raised in rapid succession in 1916, 1917, and 1918. Within five years the tax rates ranged from 6 percent to 77 percent, and people whose incomes were initially exempt now paid tax at more than double the initial top rate that had applied to John D. Rockefeller.
In “free” America today, despite the Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush tax rate reductions, ordinary Americans have no more claim to their own labor than a medieval serf. Most are content, however, with handing over 30 percent of their income as long as they can hope to tax the rich at 50 percent, the tax rate on 19th-century slaves.
By Paul Craig Roberts (archive)
April 14, 2003
Now that you have paid your income taxes, calculate how much you own of your own labor.
You can do this by dividing the federal, state and local income taxes you paid (including Social Security and Medicare) by your taxable income.
Generally speaking, the higher your income, the less you own of yourself. A person with $300,000 in taxable income will discover that government in the year 2002 has a claim to about one-third of his labor – the maximum tax that could be levied on a medieval serf.
If you have a low income or work primarily off the books, you will be rewarded with an “earned income tax credit,” that is, you will receive a tax “refund” even though you paid no tax. You not only own all your own labor, but also have legal claims to the incomes of higher income persons.
Democracy produces the opposite results of feudalism. Instead of an upper class living off the sweat of a lower class, the lower class lives off the sweat of an upper class.
Philosophers such as John Rawls created a philosophy to justify the latter as “moral” and the former as “immoral,” but it all comes down to the same thing: some people live off other people’s activities.
Income taxes are not the only taxes. There are property taxes, wealth taxes, excise taxes, and sales taxes. If you add together all the taxes you paid, you might find that you own no more of your own income than a 19th century slave. (A slave owed his master about half his work product, the rest being necessary for his own maintenance.)
March 25, 2009
By Paul Craig Roberts
At his March 24 press conference President Obama demonstrated that he is capable of understanding issues as presented to him by his advisers and able to pass on the explanations to the press. The question is whether Obama’s advisers understand the issues.
Obama’s advisers are focused on rescuing banks and the insurance company, AIG. They perceive the problems as solvency and paralyzing uncertainly or fear. Financial institutions, unsure of their own and other institutions solvency, hoard cash and refuse to lend. Credit is needed to get the economy moving, and the Federal Reserve and Treasury are doing their best to inject liquidity and to remove troubled assets from the banks’ books.
This perception of the problem and the “remedies” being applied, might be causing a greater problem for which there is no solution. Obama’s approach, and that of the previous administration, requires massive monetization of debt by the Federal Reserve and massive new debt issues by the Treasury.
The unaddressed question remains: Is the US dollar’s status as world reserve currency threatened by the massive debt monetization and multi-year, multi-trillion dollar issuance of new Treasuries?
The United States has become an import-dependent country. The US is dependent on imports for energy, manufactured goods including clothes and shoes, and advanced technology products. If the US dollar loses its reserve currency status, the US will not be able to pay for its imports. The ensuing crisis would dwarf the current one.
Obama’s advisers believe that the US can monetize debt and issue new debt endlessly, because America’s capital markets are the deepest and most liquid. The dollar is strong, Obama said at his press conference.
But already cracks and strains are appearing. The day after Obama’s press conference, an auction of UK bonds, known as gilts, failed when bids fell short of the supply offered and interest rates rose. This is a bad sign for Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s plan to market an unprecedented amount of new debt during the current fiscal year.
Envy, one of the seven deadly sins, is not unknown to Americans.
My last column noted the absurdity of Obama lumping the upper middle class in with the rich. The income distribution in the US is so skewed that the rich are found in the top one percent. The truly rich with the accoutrements associated with that class are in the top half of one percent.
Those points were lost on those Americans who regard anyone slightly better off than themselves as “rich.” A slightly bigger house in a better neighborhood, a BMW instead of a Toyota, and the ability to go on vacation without going into debt is all it takes to be rich in the minds of those whose eyes are green with envy.
This observation led me to the realization that freedom has been lost to envy.
Americans no longer know what freedom is. Historically, the definition of a free person is one who owns his own labor. Serfs and slaves were not free, because they do not own all of their own labor.
An income tax is inconsistent with the historical definition of freedom. Today in America government has a claim on every person’s labor, just as feudal lords, the government of that time, had claims on the labor of serfs and nineteenth century plantation owners had on slaves.
Understanding that an income tax was serfdom, our Founding Fathers wrote the US Constitution in a way that prevented an income tax. This was altered in 1913 with a constitutional amendment that some claim was not properly carried out.
This first step in the enserfment of the American people was taken in envy. The rich were the targets of the income tax. Once in place, the income tax was extended by law and by inflation until ordinary people were being taxed at rates several times as high as the original top rate for the rich.
After almost 100 years of income tax, generations have been born into serfdom and accept the government’s claim on their labor as normal, even just. Some say they don’t mind paying taxes to help the poor. They should look to see what share goes to the poor and what share to war, armaments, and the bailout of the Treasury Secretary’s rich friends.
by Ralph Lopez
hat tip: www.opednews.com
Saying that calls for prosecution of Bush officials can never let up, the director of the staid and respectable Center for Constitutional Rights, who is a legal scholar, has said that the legal arguments made in the infamous Yoo memos amount to treason against the nation’s institutions, similar to the “Fuhrer’s law” of Nazi Germany.
Naomi Wolf, a non-lawyer, mused before her interview with Michael Ratner:
The memos [revealed in early March] lay the legal groundwork for the president to send the military to wage war against U.S. citizens; take them from their homes to Navy brigs without trial and keep them forever; close down the First Amendment; and invade whatever country he chooses without regard to any treaty or objection by Congress…The memos could not be clearer: This was the legal groundwork of an attempted coup. I expected massive front page headlines from the revelation that these memos exited. Almost nothing. I was shocked.
Wolf then sought out the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Michael Ratner to understand what she was missing. The Yoo memos seemed to say that the president’s authority as commander in chief is not bound by any law, any treaty, or the protections of free speech, due process and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. “The First, Fourth and Fifth amendments — gone,” she wrote.
What [the Yoo memos] actually mean is that the president can order the military to operate in the U.S. and to operate without constitutional restrictions. They — the military — can pick you or me up in the U.S. for any reason and without any legal process. They would not have any restrictions on entering your house to search it, or to seize you. They can put you into a brig without any due process or going to court. (That’s the Fourth and Fifth amendments.)
Who has suspended the law this way in the past? It is like a Caesar’s law in Rome; a Mussolini’s law in Italy; a Fuhrer’s law in Germany; a Stalin’s law in the Soviet Union. It is right down the line. It is enforcing the will of the dictator through the military.
Paul Craig Roberts
Ronald Cotton spent 11 years in prison because Jennifer Thompson provided eyewitness testimony that he was the person who raped her. On March 9, National Public Radio revisited the story.
It turned out that Thompson was completely wrong, DNA evidence indicated that it was not Cotton but another man who had bragged about the rape.
Thompson asked Cotton for forgive-ness, and he gave it. The two became friends and collaborated on a book. On NPR, Thompson said that eyewitness testimony is incorrect 70 percent of the time.
I am familiar with psychological studies that conclude that eye witness accounts are wrong half of the time. That is enough to discredit eye witness testimony as evidence; yet, police and juries always bank on it.
Rape victims tend to be angry, and they want someone to pay. When shown a lineup, they tend to pick someone, naively believing that if it is the wrong person the police investigation will clear them.
Witnesses to crimes who are not themselves victims want to be helpful to the police. Consequently, they also tend to deliver up the innocent to justice.
And then there is the purchased “witness” testimony that prosecutors pay for with money and dropped charges in order to close a case. A favorite trick is to put a “snitch” in the cell with a defendant. The snitch then comes forward and reports that the defendant confessed.
Law and order conservatives think that the only miscarriages of justice are effected by liberal judges and liberal parole boards who can’t wait to release dangerous criminals to prey on the public.
The absurd idea that the justice system doesn’t make mistakes about those it convicts, except when they are let off by liberals, has made it impossible for innocent people wrongfully convicted to be paroled.
President Lyndon B. Johnson’s policy of Great Society spending and Vietnam War is credited with the rising American inflation that persisted until checked by President Reagan’s supply-side policy.
In Johnson’s time the American economy and the US dollar were strong, and there was no current account deficit. Yet, LBJ’s policy of guns and butter did long-term harm.
The Bush/Obama 21st century policy of guns and butter makes LBJ look like a piker.
The 2009 and 2010 federal budget deficits will be monstrous even without guns. But Obama is exiting (apparently) the Iraq War in order to start two, possibly three, more wars.