Reflections during another Memorial Day
The fulcrum on which political decisions are leveraged and the world’s future mortgaged is inherently tied to the welfare of investors in “defense” industries, of their senior executives and directors, and secondarily, the welfare of ancillary industries and businesses that profit from war and the threat of war, and if war and the threat of war are constants, then investments in “defense” industries are predictably secure. Something the commander of allied forces in the Second World War and later, president of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower begged us to avoid. To the extent related government expenditures are not carefully monitored and waste prevails, so much the better. That millions subsidize such profits with their lives in diverse parts of the world is merely “collateral damage”, at least to those not suffering such consequences, directly or indirectly. And of course, on this Memorial Day, we recognize that such casualties are not only innocent foreigners, but also the bravest Americans, those who, believing that their service is essential, volunteer to put their lives and welfare on the line.
The Athenians attitude towards those who provided the armaments for their military and naval forces was wise. They were required to serve on the front lines. Not so our own war profiteers, neither they nor their families, except in extremely rare cases, serve at all, being too busy enjoying the fruits of others’ labors. And most of those who do serve, Albert Gore and George W. Bush being prime examples, do so ensconced in protective cocoons, far from danger, surrounded by photographers so that their purported service can be documented for future use. The Clintons and the Obamas and the Bidens (Joe and Hunter and Jimmy) and the Trumps were excused from service through the labyrinth of useful loopholes available to those wealthy or influential enough to avoid service, something which needs to be differentiated from the refusal to serve by those opposed to war, and who would never send the children, spouses, siblings or relatives of others to tread where they refused to serve. Those who declined to serve but on attaining power of any sort, do not hesitate to send others to die or kill, and to suffer and cause mayhem, and to suffer and cause irreparable psychological trauma, are contemptuously referred to by those who served, as well as by conscientious objectors, as “chicken hawks”. Our country is led by chicken hawks. Chicken hawks in government, in the “defense” industries and in the corporate media as well. And the results are predictable. Profits for the few, massive profits. But famine and chaos and mayhem and death and destruction for far too many on the other side of the ledger. Some of them our own. Some of them the best among us.
This Memorial Day takes place at an interesting time. There has been hugely hyperbolic debate between the Republican led House of Representatives and the Biden administration concerning the need to raise the national debt limit, an increase once again required, for the 82nd time, because rather than pay for federal expenditures through taxes, to which voters would object and, as a result, might seriously consider what their taxes were being used to fund, it is more palatable, at least for now, to just, well, … borrow the money. Federal debt financing is done through unsecured borrowing from third parties, largely banks and financial institutions but also investors, foreign and domestic. Interestingly, the interest paid to holders of United States debt securities is higher than that paid by financial institutions to the Federal Reserve for the money borrowed to acquire such securities, among other things. Many might wonder why the prohibitions against “ponzi” schemes which the Federal government prosecutes, are not applicable to the largest ponzi scheme of all.
The current direct national debt, that which is disclosed (it may well be substantially greater and does not include state, municipal or local debt), currently stands at almost thirty-two-trillion dollars, but the Biden administration insists that it must be increased immediately, if not sooner, and traditionalist members of the Republican Party are in agreement, although its populist branch is not. There is a current proposal on the table in Congress to acquiesce to the Biden administration’s demand to increase the national debt during the period preceding the next presidential election (so that it need not be revisited and become a political issue therein), by one-and-a-half-trillion dollars.
Because the United States government wants to spend the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China into oblivion by funding wars involving the Ukraine, already under way, and Taiwan, even at the risk of a nuclear holocaust, and anyway, that addition to the national debt, like the accumulated debt before it, ends up in the pockets of, well, you may have already guessed the answer from the introductory material above, “investors in “defense” industries, their senior executives and directors, and secondarily, the welfare of ancillary industries and businesses that profit from war and the threat of war”.
And who, you may ask, will pay that accumulated debt?
The answer is interesting and reminiscent of the attitude of French King Louis XV, you know, the one who preceded Luis XVI, who, along with his family and many others, lost his head in the French Revolution of 1789 (which, to an extent, may explain the drastic reaction by the powers that be to the political protests of January 6, 2020). The answer is, … “who cares”! At worse, the United States could print the money necessary to pay off the debt, although that would create never before imagined hyperinflation, inflation that would make that suffered in Germany following the War to End All Wars (well, we now call it the first of the world wars) at the dawn of the twentieth century a trifle. One might recall that the inflation following the first of the world wars led to the rise of fascism in various countries, and threatened to do the same in most others. Of course, some consider that fascism is currently in vogue among those who most criticized it way back then.
This Memorial Day, as I mourn my many friends and my former classmates who’ve perished in combat during the past six decades (I’m a Citadel graduate), it occurred to me that the answer to our ludicrous national debt crisis is rather simple and does not require a reinvention of the wheel. It’s called a “windfall profits tax”. One that should be imposed on those who’ve so profited from the perpetual wars (what would Emanuel Kant think). You may have guessed the answer again, it’s the same as the answer to the former query: “investors in “defense” industries, their senior executives and directors, and secondarily, the welfare of ancillary industries and businesses that profit from war and the threat of war”. A tax of 90% on all profits derived from them, directly and indirectly, from whatever sources and wherever derived, until the national debt is paid off, with tax avoidance punishable by forfeiture of all assets and life imprisonment.
Simple, sort of. At least in a democracy where voters have some awareness of how things work, and why.
A suggestion as we remember those of our fellow men and woman who’ve sacrificed so much, unfortunately, all too often uselessly, on this Memorial Day.
Something on which not only to reflect, but perhaps on which to act.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2023; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently the publisher of the Inannite Review, available at Substack.com. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). However, he is also fascinated by mythology, religion, physics, astronomy and mathematics, especially with matters related to quanta and cosmogony. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at https://guillermocalvo.com/.
 Information based on the national debt clock as of this Memorial Day, available at https://www.usdebtclock.org/.