The state we're in

Source: Reuters/Vostock photo

Source: Reuters/Vostock photo

International citizens grit their teeth as the United States grapples with crushing debt and other demons.

The overheated political debate on reducing the United States’ astronomical debt has transfixed the world. From an international perspective, the United States – due to the size of its economy and its exclusive ownership of the green printing press – can help the entire global economy right now or plunge it off the cliff.

Two factors are overlooked in the political debate on reducing the national debt, which is fast approaching the mind-boggling figure of $15 trillion, or close to 100 percent of the country’s GDP.


First, you do not have to be an elite economist to figure out that even if the Republicans in Congress force President Barack Obama to accept a $4 trillion "deficit reduction" over the next decade, it does not mean that the current national debt will diminish by $4 trillion. It only means that the growth in the national debt will be $4 trillion less than otherwise, but 10 years from now the debt will still be much higher than the current $15 trillion. However, all these calculations may become totally meaningless as reckless policies lead to a global economic and financial collapse.

Second, although the main austerity measures are proposed for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, it is the military and security budgets that amount to about 70 percent of the current annual federal budget deficit.

According to reliable statistics, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost U.S. taxpayers the same $4 trillion by which Congress hopes to cut federal spending over the next 10 years. Add to this the thousands of lives of the brave American young men and women who died in these wars. What is there to show for the nation’s enormous sacrifices besides huge financial and economic losses and, yes, America’s diminished moral standing?  Is America now safer or better liked in the world or in Afghanistan and Iraq? It is difficult for many to believe that these countries are more democratic – or less corrupt.

One would have thought that these profound issues would be the subject of the Congressional hearings on foreign and security affairs. Instead, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican-Florida), chairperson of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is calling a hearing entitled: “Time to Pause the Reset? Defending U.S. Interests in the Face of Russian Aggression.”

Russian aggression? Pause the Reset?  It is hard to fathom that the U.S. Congress considers Russia an aggressor, even as the presidential administration talks about partnership and cooperation. Why does the Pentagon propose collaboration with Moscow on missile defense through a joint operations center, with military officers from both countries considering different scenarios? Is there a highly placed Russian mole in the Pentagon – or does this collaboration make sense after all?

Perhaps Ros-Lehtinen has not thought the issues through: A pause in the reset would also mean a hiatus in the use of Russian railroads and airspace for shipping American military supplies to Afghanistan. We now know that the use of the alternative supply routes often requires substantial kickbacks and protection payments to…The Taliban.

The investigation continues, but it is pretty obvious already that U.S. taxpayers’ money has been indirectly funneled to the Taliban under a $2.16 billion transportation contract that the United States has funded in part to promote Afghan businesses. Congressman John F. Tierney (Democrat-Massachusetts.) said in this connection: "I would hate like hell to think my kid was over there" and the Taliban was "coming after them with something bought with our money."

I have lately developed a need to finish my articles with this one-liner: “God, save America.” It looks like more and more world citizens wish to add, “And the rest of us.” For when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches pneumonia.

Edward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow and a professor of politics at Moscow State University.

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