Chicken Little

David M. Walker

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The Wall Street Journal, for example, calls you Chicken Little”, opined Steve Kraft, of CBS Sixty Minutes, on July 8, 2007. This was said to David Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States, during the George W. Bush administration. Walker’s response was, “Unfortunately, they don’t get it. We’ve gone from surpluses to huge deficits. We suffer from a fiscal cancer. It is growing within us, and if we do not treat it, it could have catastrophic consequences.” Walker spoke about the American healthcare system, of how it is much too expensive and over rated. “The real problem is healthcare costs. Our healthcare problem is much more significant than Social Security. The Medicare problem is five times greater than the Social Security problem.”

He continued, “On cost, we’re number one in the world. We spend fifty per cent more of our economy on healthcare than any nation on earth. We have the largest uninsured population of any industrialized nation. We have above average infant mortality, below average life expectancy, and much higher medical error rates for an industrialized nation.” In this he spoke the truth; we pay more and get less. Michael Moore interviewed an English physician in Sicko. It was apparent that the physician was doing quite well financially. In fact, he said as much. How much does one need? Statistics demonstrated over twenty years ago, that an American orthopedic surgeon should have made his first million within two years of completing residency, or something was wrong. The argument that a physician has to charge so much money, to offset the cost of education, can be answered simply. Other countries underwrite higher education from their tax base. Rather than financing cold war era military bases overseas, and spending enormous amounts of money on ‘defense’, Americans could restructure spending to ensure infrastructure and education. Removing the middle man, the insurance company, would further reduce cost. In certain European nations, it is illegal to profit from a citizen’s disease or injury. Insurance exists, but is confined to the realm of special patient amenities, such as private rooms and upgrades on diet.

Walker stated that ‘the cancer’ is ‘entitlement’ programs we can no longer afford, such as Social Security and Medicare, and that programs like “national defense, homeland security and education” would be severely impacted.  “You name it,” he declared, emphasizing the perceived threat.

In his prologue to the interview, Kraft said of Walker, “He’s the nation’s top accountant,” and implied that only a small handful of economists disagreed with him, further adding that his gloom and doom predictions were by and large considered to be correct.

Walker is presently making a whirlwind tour of the United States with Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, allegedly to alert the American people to the current financial crisis and offering their solutions, most recently appearing together at a deficit reduction town hall courtesy of US Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ office, in Tucson, Arizona, where Giffords staffers  prevented members of the audience from speaking out in response to these men and their presentation.

The Concord Coalition is, according to their website, “a non-partisan, grass roots organization dedicated to fiscal responsibility.” It is neither. ‘Grass roots’ refers to the common or ordinary people. Common people do not form official ‘coalitions’. Bixby has a bachelor’s degree in political science from American University in Washington, D.C. and a juris doctorate from George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va, an institution heavily influenced by tens of millions of dollars of donations by the libertarian Koch brothers. Most, if not all, of the staff of its Economics Department are affiliated with the Koch-financed Mercatus Center, a libertarian pro-corporatist think-tank. Libertarian influence is hardly non-partisan.

As aforementioned, David Walker was Comptroller of the United States under George W. Bush. Rather than following Bush’s lead in lockstep, Walker was openly critical of what he perceived to be an administrative fiscal irresponsibility of the period, as evidenced in his Sixty Minutes interview. He was to the right of Bush. The Chicago Tribune reported Bush’s greatest regret from the eight years he served in the White House, was his failure in not reforming Social Security. He tried, unsuccessfully, to privatize Social Security in 2005. Why would these men target Social Security and Medicare?

Since being signed into law by FDR in 1935 as part of the New Deal, the Social Security Administration has provided benefits for retirement, disability, survivorship, and death for US citizens in need. It is a social insurance program which is funded through dedicated payroll taxes called the Federal Insurance Contributions Act or FICA. Medicare is also funded by FICA. These are not entitlement programs. Everyone who earns a paycheck must comply. Only those contributing to these programs reap the benefits. Fake Social Security numbers, utilized by some undocumented workers, allow them to pay into the system, but preclude their receiving any return on their investment. This program is separate from the US deficit, because it is funded by payroll taxes. Currently, Social Security has a 2.6 trillion dollar surplus. So, where is the problem?

The Guardian reports that the Koch brothers have paid $28.4 million dollars to think tanks, including 13.6 million to the Cato Institute, 9 million to the Mercatus Center, 3.4 million to the Heritage Foundation, and 2.4 million to The Reason Foundation to discredit Social Security. Andrew Biggs and Jose Pinera of the Cato Institute, Veronique De Rugy and David Johns of the Heritage Foundation, each representing organizations heavily funded by the Koch brothers, have continually echoed the predictions of doom and gloom. Adolf Hitler said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” Why would they do this?

According to US Senator Bernie Sanders, I, VT, it is because it has been a successful federal program; a federal program. Charles and David Koch are the sons of Fred C. Koch, who along with Robert W. Welch founded the John Birch Society, an organization which has as its core belief the tenet that all government programs are inspired by Godless communists, therefore evil, and must be abolished. Welch and the John Birch Society were removed from mainstream conservatism by noted  intellectual, William F. Buckley, who considered Welch’s disparaging remarks about Dwight D. Eisenhower being a communist, to be worse than merely absurd. They were idiotic, and an embarrassment.

The Koch’s obtaining control of the 2.4 trillion dollars of Social Security funds, through Wall Street manipulation, would be a nice side effect of Social Security’s demise, too. Ideologically and fiscally you have motive for the Koch brothers to seek to destroy the Social Security system.

George W. Bush once addressed his base, referring to them as the ‘haves and have mores’. His mother is reputed to have said that victims of hurricane Katrina had it better in shelters than they had had in their own homes. Bush represents a patrician class which is totally out of touch with most Americans. It is a class which sees itself as elevated above the masses, affording better education and a higher level of medical care and a standard of living which most Americans cannot even imagine.  Michael Pollan speaks of a tiered food system, wherein the well heeled obtain fresher, more wholesome foods than the rest of the population. He notes how many grocery stores place ‘junk foods’ in the center of the store, with vegetables and fruits located further away. In this way, the masses are not inconvenienced as they seek out foods which grant them more calories for the dollar. Obesity is ironically a sign of malnutrition in America. Warren Buffett said, in a New York Times interview, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”  Indeed, a separation between ‘the haves and have mores’ exists, and the gap is widening in America.

Recalling recent US history, in 1933, certain very wealthy industrialists and businessmen, among them, Robert Sterling Clark, heir to the Singer Corporation fortune, Irenee Du Pont, chemical industrialist and founder of the American Liberty League, Grayson Murphy, Director of Goodyear, Bethlehem Steel, and a group of J.P. Morgan banks, and one Prescott Bush, Wall Street executive, and later a US senator, the grandfather of President George W. Bush sought, with the help of half-a-million disgruntled war veterans, to topple the government of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and finally bury the concept of a New Deal. A fascist government was to replace the administration, forever cementing the power of the wealthy.

Although the press and history have cast doubt upon the incident, and it never appears in high school history books, in the opinion of the McCormack–Dickstein Committee, the allegations of a plot were credible. It is of note, that Prescott Bush was a director of and shareholder in companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany. This activity continued until assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The war, about which Warren Buffett speaks, has been long in the making.

Bush’s former comptroller is passionate about fiscal responsibility, but not at a cost to those benefiting from the Regan tax cuts, the top one to two per cent of Americans, Bush’s ‘haves and have mores’. Removing these cuts could infuse enough capital into the American economy to eliminate any deficit, and even allow for a raise in Social Security payments to recipients.

The fears which Walker expressed in 2007 were that the US would be unable to maintain its costly defense program or the burgeoning homeland security budget, if our healthcare issues weren’t solved, not that it would be unable to provide for the needs of the US citizen. European countries and Canada, which is to say, the rest of the industrialized world, afford their medical costs by utilizing  tax bases. A portion of the income tax goes to healthcare. Should this prove insufficient, again, why not make the extraordinarily wealthy pay their fair share of taxes? They reap the benefits of our society. Why should they deserve a free ride?

Let us not repeat ‘the business plot’ of 1933 in a different fashion. FDR allowed the wealthy plotters of that incident to survive if they would endorse the New Deal. Their patrician condescension survived in their descendants.

This is a crime in the making. Disinformation is strengthened and reinforced by power point.  The motives are greed, bizarre ideology, and a total disregard for the needs of the average American.

David Walker, as George W. Bush’s former comptroller, seeks to finish the damage attempted by his former master and turn over the 2.6 trillion dollars of Social Security assets to Wall Street. Robert Bixby is nothing more than a libertarian trained lawyer, who is ideologically opposed to federal programs. In the former, we see the tradition of the fascist leanings of Bush’s grandfather. In the latter, we see the ideological persuasions of the John Birch Society. In both, we appreciate the odious apparition of the Koch brothers. Walker and Bixby are willing participants in this crime. Representative Giffords’ staffers shielding them in the telling of their lies, from the futile attempts of common citizens to expose the truth, is collusion.

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About Stefan Jacke

MagicRobert presented me with a vellum document, composed in an insane script. We were in a well secured vault in the Michener Library. His face exploded into a broad smile, as he saw me recognize the words, "That government governs best which governs least." It was a copy of "On Civil Disobedience" in the author's own hand. The experience called to mind a conversation Henry David Thoreau had with Ralph Waldo Emerson, as Thoreau sat in a jail cell, incarcerated for protesting the Mexican War. Emerson asked, "David, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau responded, "The point is, Ralph, what are you doing out there?" Once, long ago, I jumped off of big red trucks, lifted weights, and cleaned toilets for a living. Then I wrestled drunks, ran around in circles, and got splattered with blood and all manner of body fluids for a living. Now I enjoy the stillness of early morning in my rocking chair on the porch, with a hot cup of coffee, trying in vain to forget the past. Thank you, Robert!
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