In the final days of the midterm campaign President Donald Trump's camo clown car has all eyes on the southern border as 15,000 American troops are assembled to prepare for the onslaught of a ragtag caravan of refugees.He’s been visualizing a kind of Gaza-like scenario where American troops will get to fire on rock throwing migrants.
We look where he points no matter what. We can’t help it. He’s the ‘entertainer-in-chief’. His skilled misdirection has the effect of obscuring his disastrous misrule. You have to always ask what are the things he’s not attending to, or leaving on automatic pilot, that could come crashing down on his watch or somebody else’s later on down the line.
So, we should not be surprised that there was scant attention paid last week when the U.S. Treasury Department disclosed that it was going to issue $425 billion in new debt for this quarter, bringing our grand total for 2018 to an eye popping $1.3 trillion in debt. As the Fiscal Times pointed out, that reflects “a 145 percent increase from the $546 billion issued in 2017.” That’s the biggest annual issuance of federal public debt since 2010 when Uncle Sam issued $1.586 trillion in debt.
Back then the Obama Administration at least had the rationale that they were grappling with a real crisis brought on by the Great Recession and close to nine million Americans losing their jobs.
Does Trump’s presidency, in and of itself, meet the “crisis” standard? Perhaps.
Of course, this latest explosion in debt is linked to the GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax cut, skewed for the corporations and individuals that have already been doing so well, as the levels of wealth concentration and inequality hit historic highs. Working at the behest of their wealthy friends, Trump and the GOP reduced the amount of tax revenue coming into the government and gifted that flow to their already wealthy donors, leaving future generations to deal with the mountain of public debt left behind.
By 2028, the Congressional Budget Office predicts the amount of the government’s debt will be equal to the size of the U.S. economy, swelling to 96 percent of the GDP, blowing past the post-World War II record set in 1946, when it was equal to 104 percent of the GDP.
Similarly, back in September there were no reporters present when President Trump signed a $854 billion-dollar spending bill that included an obscene $674 billion defense budget.
The Pentagon budget included Lockheed Martin Corporation’s troubled F-35 which Popular Mechanics described as a “trillion-dollar” albatross. “For over two decades, the F-35 has been the symbol of everything that's wrong with mammoth defense contracts: behind schedule, over budget, and initially, over-sold,” reported the magazine.
“In development for nearly 17 years and seven years behind schedule, total acquisition costs now exceed $406 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion,” according to a report from Citizens Against Government Waste, a non-profit government accountability group. “An April 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted that the lifetime operation and maintenance costs of the most expensive weapon system in history will total approximately $1 trillion.”
And also under reported was that just a few weeks after the President doubled down on funding the F-35, the U.S. military grounded all the F-35s on the planet, after one crashed near Beaufort, S.C. The aviation press reported "suspect fuel tubes.”
A week after that in Afghanistan, where there are people still shooting at American troops, U.S. Army General Austin Scott Miller, the 17th commander to lead U.S. forces in Afghanistan, barely escaped an attack that left Kandahar’s police and intelligence chiefs dead. The deadly attack came in the run-up to parliamentary elections that were marred by violence.
The spectacular attack underscored the reality that conditions on the ground continue to deteriorate. As the Special Inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported last month “the Afghan government control or influence of its districts reached the lowest level (55.5%) since SIGAR began tracking district control in November 2015.”
Over those four years “Afghan government control and influence over its districts has declined by about 16 percentage points; contested districts have increased by about 11 points; and insurgent control or influence has risen by 5.5 points,” according to the latest SIGAR report to Congress.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan reported 649 civilian casualties (313 deaths and 336 injuries) “due to aerial operations by pro-government forces from January 1 to September 30, 2018, a 39% increase in from the same period in 2017 and a record number of civilian casualties caused by air strikes since UNAMA began recording civilian-casualty data in 2009.”
SIGAR reports that Afghanistan’s Attorney General continues to resist cooperation with U.S. anti-corruption efforts “by pursuing a number of low-level, rather than high-level, corruption cases.”
And as the Afghan government’s control on the ground continues to slip, its defense force is struggling to maintain troop strength now hitting its “lowest level recorded in the third quarter of the year since 2012…. decreased by 1,914 personnel since last quarter and by 8,827 personnel since the same period last year.” That leaves the ANDSF roughly 40,000 soldiers short of their 352,000 troop target.
But have no fear, POTUS has us covered with a surge bearing down on Mexico.
Bob Hennelly has written and reported for the Village Voice, Pacifica Radio, WNYC, CBS MoneyWatch and other outlets. He is now a reporter for the Chief-Leader, covering public unions and the civil service in New York City. Follow him on Twitter: @stucknation MORE FROM Bob Hennelly
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