Center of Concern | Thu, Jan 24, 2008
Washington, DC, January 24, 2008
Three news items have given me a furious start on the day. No need for caffeine. In case you missed them:
Dateline: The White House. The Bush administration is pushing to conclude this summer "a long term security agreement" with the Iraqi Administration which would guarantee U.S. military bases and major troop deployments on Iraqi soil for decades to come. The Iraqi foreign minister speaks of this agreement openly as a treaty, while the Bush Administration insists that it is not a treaty. Why? As a treaty, it must, by law, go to the Senate for ratification. There it will trigger a heated national debate and it will not be ratified.
A treaty it is, going much farther than any other security agreement. It obligates U.S. forces to resist any unrest that might threaten the current government of Iraq. This will reinforce the faction of the current government that favors privatizing Iraq's oil industry. According to a soon-to-be-released analysis of the Iraq situation by Pax Christi-USA and the Center of Concern (www.coc.org/election2008), this type of "U.S. backing for the Al-Maliki government is viewed as interfering with the possibilities for reaching an Iraqi political solution."
What this shows the people of the Middle East and should show the citizens of the U.S. is that, despite all the president's disclaimers, it is about the oil and always has been. This is clearly not what this country or the world wants or needs. Unless the national and global uproar can stop this "security agreement" before it gets off the ground, we will have to chalk up one more loss for democracy, transparency in government, and peace.
Dateline: South Carolina Airwaves. The Clinton campaign aired a new radio ad in South Carolina yesterday repeating the attack on Obama claiming that he admired Ronald Reagan and suggesting he supported Reagan's economic policies. This attack has been confronted publically by objective analysts and demonstrated to be categorically wrong. Senator Obama's words were taken out of context and misconstrued.
To make that kind of mistake once in the fast pace of a political race could be an honest accident. But to repeat the charges after they have been so thoroughly discredited and you know they are a distortion is nothing more than a dirty, dishonest political attack.
My vote was Hillary's to lose. This type of tactic is just what will cause her to lose it. If this type of politicking continues, we may well have to chalk up one more loss for integrity in government and leadership for the type of change that can restore the nation to our best values. I consider the promotion of this new radio ad "One small attack on truth, one large boost to cynicism about U.S. politics."
Dateline: Capitol Hill. Congressional leaders this morning signed off on a bi-partisan stimulus package in an effort to stop the slide of the U.S. economy into recession. Republicans gave up their refusal of tax rebates to lower income families; Democrats gave up their demands for extended unemployment benefits and increased food stamps. Both embraced a higher-than-expected $70 billion tax break for businesses.
Let's duck the deluge of hype and the façade of "˜bipartisan compromise' that are sure to accompany this agreement and reflect honestly for a moment. It is a well-publicized fact that the food stamps and the extended unemployment benefits would have been the quickest stimulus to the economy. They could have been implemented quickly and would have provided money that would have been spent immediately. The tax rebates to individuals and businesses will take 6 months to implement. The "sense of urgency" to get a political solution here apparently doesn't translate into a sense of urgency about fiscal stimulus.
Tax stimulus to businesses could promote the creation of new jobs by the Fall, but such tax relief has at least as good a chance of financing investment in technologies that eliminate jobs. We now have decades of experience with that dynamic.
Those in need of food stamps and unemployment benefits are, of course, the people in our society most vulnerable to harm from an economic downturn. Our politicians don't seem to share their sense of urgency about food or shelter or economic security.
Chalk it up as one more case of the most vulnerable in our society being elbowed aside. Will government of the moneyed, by the moneyed, and for the moneyed never perish from the earth?
Posted by James E. Hug, SJ - President