THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES: A WORLD CLASS MERCENARY FORCE?

 

Oregon Army National Guard, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers from load onto a C-17 Globemaster III Aug. 13, 2013, bound for Afghanistan from Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania. The flight is one of more than 500, deploying and redeploying transportation missions, that the U.S. Army Europe's 21st Theater Sustainment Command and Air Force's 780th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron have supported since opening the transit hub in February 2014. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Brandon Hubbard -- from here)
Oregon Army National Guard, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers from load onto a C-17 Globemaster III Aug. 13, 2013, bound for Afghanistan from Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania. The flight is one of more than 500, deploying and redeploying transportation missions, that the U.S. Army Europe’s 21st Theater Sustainment Command and Air Force’s 780th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron have supported since opening the transit hub in February 2014. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. Brandon Hubbard — from here)

Part One Of A Book Report

I have read about half of Donald Trump’s book, Crippled America: How To Make America Great Again. Thus far, I have gotten through Chapter 5, which is about our failing education system. However, this post is mostly about Chapter 4, “Foreign Policy: Fighting for Peace.”

I did not especially like what I saw in Chapter 4. What concerns me is Trump’s determination to get the “best deal.”

There is another way to pay to modernize our military forces. If other countries are depending upon us to protect them, shouldn’t they be willing to make sure we have the capability to do it? Shouldn’t they be willing to pay for the servicemen and servicewomen and the equipment we’re providing?

Depending upon the price of oil, Saudi Arabia earns somewhere between half a billion and a billion dollars every day. They wouldn’t exist, let alone have that wealth, without our protection. We get nothing from them. Nothing.

It’s time to change all that. It’s time to win again.

We’ve got 28,500 wonderful American soldiers on South Korea’s border with North Korea. They’re in harm’s way every single day. They’re the only thing that is protecting South Korea. And what do we get from South Korea for it? They sell us products — at a nice profit. They compete with us.

What Trump is suggesting is that if we are going to be the world’s policeman, the world ought to pay us. That’s a very bad idea. Do we really want our soldiers to be mercenaries?

Because they are just human beings like us, our allies will never be perfect. Therefore, when we station troops in another country or come to the defense of another nation, we must set aside our prejudices. We must objectively consider what is in our own nation’s best interests. Did Donald Trump? No.

An Aside On Immigration Policy

What is it that blinds Trump? Is he blind? I don’t know. I just see a pattern developing, and it is about silly things. Before we continue, let’s briefly consider another example, from Chapter 3, “Immigration: Good Walls Make Good Neighbors.” Trump wants Mexico to pay for the wall. Why would we want Mexicans to pay for the wall? To screw them? Because their leaders have encouraged their poor and their troublemakers to go north? That’s laughable!

Our problem is that our politicians won’t enforce our immigration laws. That is our fault, not Mexico’s, but Trump does not want to pay the bill. He refuses to admit we are at fault. So in addition to passing the bill for the wall to Mexico, he wants to pass the blame. Yet it is our own corrupt politicians — American politicians — who control who crosses into the United States and who stays here, not corrupt Mexican politicians.

Working With Our Allies

Trump did not even bother to consider the contributions our allies already make. He just looked at the bill and suggested someone else ought to pay.

The Unintended Consequences

As far as I can tell, Ted Cruz has not proposed a scheme to get other nations to help pay for our military forces (see American Resolve: Rebuilding America’s Military). Why not? I can only guess, but consider what would happen if other nations actually were to give us money for the use of our soldiers, regular payments for services rendered. Consider how too many of our politicians look upon money. Are they not always ravenous for more to spend?

Currently, Congress looks upon military spending as a grim necessity. From the

Strykers teams with the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regment prepare 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division armored vehicles for offloading March 18, 2015 in Poland. (from here)
Strykers teams with the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regment prepare 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division armored vehicles for offloading March 18, 2015 in Poland. (from here)

perspective of corrupt politicians, military spending doesn’t have much bang for the buck. That is, there are much more efficient ways to buy votes However, if other nations suddenly realize they can pay for the use of the world’s finest…..

When so many of our leaders already believe they exist just to spend other people’s money and as much money as they can spend, do we really want to let them use our nation’s armed forces as an excuse to solicit funds from other nations?

The Grim Necessity Of War

The United States Armed Forces exist to protect the vital interests of the United States. That is, military service is supposed to be about duty, honor, and country.  Hence when we station our military forces in another nation, we should be doing so only for these three reasons:

  • Duty. We have may a valid commitment. We have a moral or legal obligation that requires our forces to be in that nation.
  • Honor. In addition to treaty obligations, there are crimes and atrocities we cannot honorably ignore. When we have the capacity to stop a mass murder, we should seriously consider doing so.
  • Country. Few Americans long to be stationed for years, especially to fight, in faraway lands. Yet our soldiers volunteer to do so. They know it is far better to fight in a faraway land than it is to watch their own people suffer in their own country.

So what is the true cost of our armed forces? Is it money? No. We must always keep at the forefront of our minds what our nation’s soldiers have signed up to do, risk life and limb for us.  Therefore, when we deploy our armed forces, we should always remember it is not about money.  It is about duty. It is about honor. It is about country. It is about our friends and neighbors going into harm’s way for our sakes.

 

130320-N-TG831-099 WATERS TO THE WEST OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA (March 20, 2013) The Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE-7), left, performs a replenishment-at-sea with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85). McCampbell is part of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and is underway to conduct exercise Foal Eagle 2013 with allied nation Republic of Korea in support of regional security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Released)
130320-N-TG831-099
WATERS TO THE WEST OF THE KOREAN
PENINSULA (March 20, 2013) The Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE-7), left, performs a replenishment-at-sea with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85). McCampbell is part of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and is underway to conduct exercise Foal Eagle 2013 with allied nation Republic of Korea in support of regional security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Released) (from here)
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43 thoughts on “THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES: A WORLD CLASS MERCENARY FORCE?

  1. I agree with your assessment that “What concerns me is Trump’s determination to get the “best deal.” I don’t think the issue with our military or the border is inherently about good or bad deals. As you point out so well, our leaders have refused to enforce our immigration laws. My guess is that Mr. Trump has also taken advantage of that.

    Thanks for the great insight as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Even if the Europeans really wanted to protect themselves they couldn’t.

    That’s because wealth cannot be created by socialist economies.

    That has left it to the wealth creating United States to defend and bank role Europe.

    But President Obama has effectively killed the US economy for the foreseeable future so we can look forward to one blood bath after another.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not that socialist governments cannot create wealth, they’re just very bad at it. European nations contribute cash and troops to NATO, but the amounts are tiny compared to those of the US. Since we are offering to carry most of the burden, this “military welfare” is readily accepted.

      It’s interesting that according to Trump, we get “nothing” from Saudi Arabia. We do get billions of dollars worth of oil from that country. They can simply raise prices slightly to cover additional costs. Same with Mexico; they are our #1 or #2 oil import source.

      It is against the law for the US to export oil, though with fracking we easily could. This arbitrary limitation could and should be ended.

      Many pundits like to comment that the United States has the biggest military in the world. This is simply not true; ours is simply the most expensive. In terms of manpower, we’re somewhere between #7 and #9 depending on how they’re counted and how current the data is. The Obama administration is decommissioning ships and aircraft, and strongly discouraging new recruits. Our capabilities will continue to shrink so long as current policies continue.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Keith,

        Only the free market can actually create wealth.

        All socialist regimes can do to increase their wealth is strip it from the land or steal it from someone else.

        Socialism is all about using “other people’s money.”

        It’s simple economics.

        Socialism is a trip back to the barbarous past where the few super rich ruled over the poor, huddled masses with an iron fist.

        Socialism is a crime against humanity.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think you are right in spirit, but literally wrong. With an utterly ruthless, terrifying leader like Joseph Stalin, the USSR was dangerous. Their economy stank, but whereas we devoted 6 percent of our GDP to defense, the Russians devoted 25 percent. Also, unlike us, the Russians did not gold plate their systems with fancy stuff. They just made them work. Moreover, while their systems might not beat ours one on one, they produced in quantity.

          What eventually killed the USSR is the corruption that comes with Socialism. Without the ruthless fear inspired by a Stalin, too many bureaucrats started wasting huge sums or feathering their nests. The economy could not handle both the military spending and the waste. So it collapsed. So-called capitalist China now has similar problems.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Many pundits like to comment that the United States has the biggest military in the world. This is simply not true; ours is simply the most expensive. In terms of manpower, we’re somewhere between #7 and #9 depending on how they’re counted and how current the data is.

        Our military procurement system is something of a mess. Congress keeps “fixing” it.

        To keep the price of our military systems down, we need to encourage competition. Get the lawyers out of it and let the services buy their own equipment. It takes too many years to buy anything. The real corruption, however, is Congress. Here is an old joke that makes that point.

        Question: What is the only invulnerable weapons system in the whole world?

        Answer: That’s a weapons system with parts made in all 535 congressional districts.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. mastersamwise

        “…but the amounts are tiny compared to those of the US.” Wrong. While the US designates 1.6% more of its GDP than necessary to defense spending, the relative percentages of GDP contributed are pretty close and no NATO ally is wholly incapable of reaching and surpassing the target 2% GDP that the alliance set.

        The US may contribute more but that is less because the US has to or needs to in order to fulfill NATO requirements and more because our extra-NATO operations–i.e. two wars–has placed our defense spending above the necessary amount or even the norm.

        What is actually changing the NATO and indeed national defense world wide is the change from the Cold War doctrine–large standing armies and regional commands–to a more modern doctrine that replaces once needed manpower with better technology.

        Take the infantry squad of 1980 and the infantry squad of 2016. The 1980 rifle squad had, at most, LMG capabilities with AT and indirect fires being separate squads or even companies. Now, the rifle squad is modular in that it is trained to be equipped with whatever capabilities the command deems necessary. With that shift, most engagements are no longer between brigade or even battalion size elements but company size. Thus, an area that once required 800 soldiers to hold can now be held by 250.

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    2. In what way has Mr. Obama “effectively killed the US economy for the foreseeable future” SoM? The economy, by all the indicators that are generally used to measure it, seems to be doing quite nicely, particularly when compared to its state when Mr. Obama took office. The larger risks to prosperity seem to be coming from overseas.

      To be clear, I don’t particularly give any sitting President sole credit for economic conditions, good or bad. There is much that happens in an interconnected international economy that is beyond the power of any US President to control. The economy churned along nicely under Clinton, but much of that was an uptick in normal business cycles that had actually started in the last year of the previous Bush administration. But a president can really distort normal economic realignments by standing too hard on the brakes or on the accelerator. Clinton didn’t make any huge blunders, and neither has Obama.

      As for the main theme of Tom’s post, I think what Mr. Trump in his ignorance misses is the notion that it is in the core central security interests of the United States to have a forward defense posture that protects the security of this Nation at a geographic position away from our borders. This has been the conventional wisdom since the beginning of the Cold War. It is well worth a discussion of whether all these assumptions remain valid and whether the price and costs are fairly allocated. Trump’s perception, however, is that we are engaged in some sort of charitable exercise on behalf of other nations and that we really haven’t recouped the monetary value to our allies of that undertaking. I agree with Tom that this reflects a tendency by Trump to view everything as some sort of business transaction. There may be a place for a little more of that attitude in some elements of national policy, but we aren’t just renting out our military to the highest bidder. Our use of military assets should solely be based on an accurate assessment of what is in the security interests of the United States. Where those interests coincide with our European or Asian allies, so much the better.

      Where Mr. Trump makes a better point, in my view, is in his critical assessment of the Iraq fandango. That gratuitous frolic (redundant – all frolics are gratuitous, I guess) has cost us billions that are unrecoverable, has degraded our military capabilities, and increased the strength of our enemies in the region. I haven’t done any independent research to see whether Trump was accurately predicting this in 2002-3, or is just clamping on to the obvious now to make himself look prescient.

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      1. SoM is perfectly capable of defending his own assertions. So I will just say a few words about the economy. Obamacare. Fossil fuels regulations. High taxes. Nationalization of student loans…..

        Glad you agree with the main thrust of the post.

        Iraq? Most of my posts on that subject were written almost ten years ago. This one still has good links => https://citizentom.com/2007/08/17/a-post-for-the-confessors/

        That old post of mine links to one by Waldo Jaquith. Jaquith is still out there trying to make our political system so complicated I will never be able to understand it. Some people are too smart for their own good, but that is another subject.

        In his old post Jaquith makes a confession. In addition, he digs up an old video of Dick Cheney that was made after our first excursion into Iraq. I guess nothing changed between the years Cheney made that video and our invasion of Iraq (sarcasm intended).

        Anyway, hindsight is 20-20. All I know is that when W decided to invade Iraq, Congress supported him. Nobody actually wanted to invade Iraq, but Hussein had everyone convinced he was too dangerous and too reckless to leave to his own devices, and he was.

        You want to discuss an utterly dumb move? Why don’t you discuss our withdrawal from Iraq?

        Like

        1. If it was dumb to go into Iraq, how dumb could it have been to leave, especially if we were being told that a condition of staying was that US military personnel would have to be subject to justice in Iraqi courts? It is a legitimate discussion to question whether things would have been better, worse, or indifferent if we had been able to negotiate the continuation of some residual force there. But the real cost, both in terms of national security and financially, was the decision to get involved in the first place. And I think you are wrong that “nobody actually wanted to invade Iraq.” I think there were quite a few very highly placed individuals in government who were actively Jones-ing for an invasion starting about 24 hours (maybe 24 minutes) after the attacks of 11 September 2001.

          As for the economy, our taxes are not particularly high, at least not when compared to other OECD countries (the corporate tax is ridiculous, to be sure, but that pre-dates Obama by decades. It needs to be fixed and I hope the next president does so). Obamacare imposes costs on some people who weren’t bearing them before because it required risk-takers to get some coverage and pay for it. That should, however, have some netting out effect in relieving burdens on taxpayers of having to pay for care for the uninsured. The only tax, however, in Obamacare is the penalty for failing to place insurance. As for student loans, I’m unclear as to what you mean when you refer to “nationalization” of student loans. I hear Dems talking about ideas that might meet that description in the current campaign, but, as far as I know, the federal government has not yet written off outstanding student indebtedness and is unlikely to do so in the current political and fiscal environment.

          Like

        2. @scout

          When we left Iraq, we left a power vacuum behind. That’s why you mentioned the part about US military personnel being subject to Iraqi courts. Could the Obama administration have negotiated that issue with the Iraqi government? Nobody with any sense believes they even tried. Nobody with any sense believes anything that comes out of the Obama administration.

          It must be fun to be a Liberal Democrat. Even when the subject is Donald Trump, we can change the subject and start blaming Bush.
          😆

          US taxes are not high? That’s just too funny. That must explain why companies are just aching to bring their corporate HQs here. That must explain why U.S corporations immediately bring back their oversea’s profits so that they pay taxes twice on the same profits.

          Obamacare is blatantly unconstitutional. You want to defend it? I think you have to be warped. Your comment on student loans inadvertently makes a point. Liberal Democrats think it makes good economic sense to redistribute the wealth. That’s how they “fix” the economy. Instead of working, we just find an excuse to receive a handout.

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      2. The US economy is broke. We owe 20 Trillion dollars.. The only reason our economy appears better is because we are using borrowed dollars to spruce up our economy.

        And the foreign lenders buying up US farmland and US businesses and 50 million Americans are surviving on food stamps of which 40 million are still working because of unlivable wages.

        Our economy is doing good or just appears good?

        Regards and goodwill blogging.

        Like

      3. Scout,

        There are over 92,000,000 Americans who are now out of the workforce.

        That’s nearly a third of the population of the entire country.

        Surely you realize that the labor statistics published by the Obama regime are all cooked to make trusting people like you think everything is okay.

        During the Great Depression there were bread lines. Today, America’s vast welfare state has taken the place of those bread lines.

        The Ruling Class remains in command because everyone is eating, driving their cars, watching their Netflix and texting on their Obama phones.

        Also, our national debt has mushroom from about 8 trillion dollars at the start of the Obama regime to nearly 20 trillion dollars today.

        The economy we are all looking at is completely bogus.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. mastersamwise

      That is not necessarily true. Of the NATO allies in Europe, none are incapable of meeting the 2% GDP spending goal that was set. This myth that if America was not around, Europe could not defend itself is categorically false.

      Like

  3. I know a number of men and women who serve in our armed forces. I don’t think any of them believe that other countries should pay for their presence in those places. They go there to protect American interests and promote American values. Donald Trump is, as usual, spouting nonsense to gather attention and keep us talking about him. J.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think you’re right, Tom. Trump has many ideas like this that may make sense if you are running a for profit business, but they don’t translate well into running a government. Many people are so concerned about the economy and government spending however, that they really want to believe that Trump is going to save us all this money, and pay down the debt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trump is a salesman. All politicians are salesmen. If we don’t want to be taken in by them, we have to make certain what they propose follows sound principles. We also have to check their record. Except for giving political donations to politicians he now wants to run against, Trump does not have a record in politics.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Tom, I know you do not approve of Trump, however he does have a pragmatic approach to try to fix our 20 Trillion dollar National Debt.

    Do we really need 800 military bases all over the world?

    I don’t think so.

    Regards and good will blogging.

    The Lord helps those who help themselves.

    We cannot afford to police the world anymore. The US military is a mercenary force in a sense because we only seem to intervene in countries that we can profit to protect US interests.

    Like

    1. Why do you call Trump’s approach to “fix” the debt “pragmatic, Scatterwisdom? Trump says that he will eliminate the national debt in 8 years. He also says that he will deport millions of illegal aliens (a costly exercise in itself, both in terms of direct outlays and in terms of impact on the economy) and build a multi-billion dollar wall on the southern border while significantly increasing military spending. Even assuming the Mexican government announces itself delighted to buy us a spiffy wall (no sign that they will, but why not start each day with some magical thinking?) Trump would have to cut the entire current federal budget (not just parts of it mind you – the entire budget) by over 90% to achieve his goal of eliminating the debt in eight years. All this while increasing spending, canceling trade agreements, lowering tax revenues, and, apparently, not addressing in any significant way (judging from campaign remarks to date) entitlement spending, the core tough nut of the federal budget structure. Right now, until Trump reveals secrets that only he knows, he has to be regarded as the primary budget buster out on the hustings (Sanders is the number 1 government expander, but he is proposing heavy tax increases that keep his proposals slightly less debt-expanding than Trump).

      Almost all candidates tend to make fantastical claims. It’s to be expected. It’s not expected that people should believe them. Of the five remaining candidates in both parties, only Kasich and Clinton have shown much realism about fiscal policy. If your concern is the national debt, they are the only two candidates who will not break your heart, at least if one goes by what they’ve said to date.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The difference between the candidates proposed methods and Trumps, as I interpret is the to return dollars to the US to be spent in the USA instead of other nations.

        For example, build military bases in the US instead of closing them.

        Close borders to drug traffickers to keep dollars in USA.

        Pay US legal workers to work and pay taxes instead of illegal workers to work and send dollars out of the US.

        Have US military guard US borders instead of other nations borders.

        At least that is what I surmise the he intends to do.

        He will probably tax the rich to pay down the debt.

        He cannot do anything or even say anything of his plans because if he does, the media will launch a scare campaign against him.

        If anyone else is elected, nothing will change in Washington in my opinion.

        Regards and goodwill blogging.

        .

        A

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    2. @scatterwisdom

      At best, Donald Trump is a fiscal conservative. We have little reason to believe he is a social conservative, and he most certainly is not a philosophical conservative. That is the point of my post.

      Trump is throwing out ideas. He is seeing what people like. If he wins the nomination, then to win the general election, he will give himself a makeover. He may try to cut spending, but he is more interested in making deals. Since he does not seem to have a coherent philosophy — he is pragmatic — we have no idea what he will do. What pragmatic to one person is asinine to another. Pragmatism has one principle. We do what “we think” will work.

      We cannot afford to police the world anymore. The US military is a mercenary force in a sense because we only seem to intervene in countries that we can profit to protect US interests.

      I have no idea what you are saying here. If we only intervene in countries where we can profit by protecting US interests, then why can we not afford it?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. @ SW : your faith that the Donald has a secret plan to overcome the sheer arithmetic impossibility of his claims re the debt is a marvel. None of the items you mention would decrease the national debt in any statistically meaningful way. You also seem to describe a kind of New Deal public works program (building walls and military bases, putting soldiers here rather than there, etc), are still major expenditures of public monies.

    Tom is being generous to say that Trump is “at best . . . a fiscal conservative”. Trump is am absolute fiscal profligate of the first order. His programs would have a significant negative impact on the fiscal health of the nation, perhaps even more than Bernie Sanders. Cruz could be fairly lumped with those three.

    Again, this is a bit of an imaginary concern, because of the three, only Sanders probably has any real intention of trying to effectuate the programs he is running on and it seems very unlikely that he will be nominated, and even more doubtful that he could be elected. Trump has no idea what his ideas would cost the country and once he started learning about the workings of government after his election, he’d realize that he has been spouting nonsense and pivot. Cruz is a whip-smart guy and knows full well that his ideas are impossible and unaffordable, but he’s counting on voters, particularly in the fantasy world of Republican primaries, being easily seduced by the buzzwords. Of the three I think he has the clearest vision of what’s going on here – it’s all a sham necessary to get votes.

    The one positive footnote for Cruz is that his proposal for a national Value Added Tax is something that should be thoroughly debated and considered. Properly implemented, it offers a realistic way of getting away from dependency on our hopelessly complex, expensive, and corrupt personal income tax system and would stop the political dodge of dispensing favors from government through exemptions and other favorable tax treatments. I give Cruz full marks for at least embracing the concept. Unfortunately, Cruz couples his talk of replacing the income tax with a VAT with other malarkey that indicates that Cruz would implement rates that would reduce federal revenues by around $9 trillion over ten years, would not remove the middle income earners from the system, and would use the VAT primarily to eliminate corporate, estate and gift taxes – taxes that are largely paid by the upper reaches of earners. But it’s well worth considering, and, whether or not Cruz gets the nomination, I hope the idea starts getting some ventilation in this year’s election.

    Like

      1. I think Conservatives should be able to use the word “sham”, Tom. I’m not sure why you would think otherwise. It’s kind of a neutral term, politically. I don’t think either major party is without vulnerabilities in terms of putting up sham verbiage at election time.

        I certainly don’t take myself all that seriously, so I don’t expect others to, particularly in this medium. This is just a place where we express opinions. Whether they are taken seriously or not is solely a product of their content when given a fair reading.

        Like

    1. @Scout:

      You keep saying “VAT” — but Cruz has never suggested a value added tax. The term, which describes systems in Canada and the UK, has a negative connotation to most Americans, and I suspect that this is why you use it for Cruz.

      You assume that the plan is not revenue neutral, and that Cruz — who has an extraordinary track record of meaning what he says — is just saying something to get votes. You have no apparent knowledge of Cruz’s history. His personal integrity is very high, especially for one in politics, and this has resulted in Trump’s (and the media’s) attacks on what is clearly a very strong suit for the man.

      It’s nice, by the way, to see that there are people (Trump and Sanders) whom you despise even more than Constitutional conservatives like Cruz — or some of us here.

      Cruz’s suggested flat tax is an intermediate step to his ultimate goal, the FairTax. I would much prefer going directly to the FairTax and be done with it. That is an excellent system with few negatives indeed, and it is essentially impervious to cronyism.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Keith, I use the term “Value Added Tax ” or “VAT” because that is essentially what the core of the Cruz proposal is. You are probably right that in some circles the term has negative connotations, but I think those perceptions are invalid. Cruz’s plan is a consumption tax. He calls it a “business flat tax” and you may be right that he does that to avoid the VAT designation, but it is what it is. I attach no opprobrium to a VAT and think it is the best element of what Cruz is putting before the country, assuming that he is serious about evolving it and implementing it.

        I agree with you that a consumption tax has many advantages, including, as you note, that it puts the kibosh on the insidious corruption of the current income tax system. A VAT, if applied transparently (you would see it on every sales slip), lets you know every day how much your government is costing you. I went to see my CPA today re my 2015 taxes. I didn’t like what I was hearing. If I heard that throughout the year every time I bought something at Home Depot or Target, I’d probably be even less enamored with many federal programs. Canada and Australia have had federal VATs since the early 90s and 2000s, respectively, that have never been increased. That’s because the average citizen supplies tremendous inertia to raising a simple visible rate. This is a sharp contrast to all the clandestine tinkering that goes on with our tax code.

        To offset regressively under a consumption tax, middle and low income earners could receive rebates, and would be exempt from income tax payments. The rates on upper income earners could be reduced and filings significantly simplified, and payroll taxes markedly diminished. A VAT would also provide a means to eliminate the myriad tax loopholes and favors dispensed by pols in Congress. Our current tax code makes it very easy for politicians to obscure their grants of largesse to favored classes or individuals. This is the cronyism to which you correctly refer. Special interest tax breaks would be a thing of the past.

        We’ve had the federal individual income tax for 100 years (more if you refer to events like the Civil War). It is a mess. Although I have reservations about Cruz, I do think his proposal is more constructive than any of the other candidates. I hope it takes wing, even if he doesn’t.

        By the way, I’m a great fan of constitutional conservatives, although it is perhaps a bit immodest to feel so positively about individuals among whom I number myself. I “despise” no living man with whom I have any acquaintance, least of all those of us who revere the Constitution. And, I certainly despise no one here, particularly those whose opinions sometimes differ from mine. They and I simply, from time to time, have a different outlook on one or another subject. Nothing despicable about that, right?

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  7. @ Tom (comment at 0647): You may be right that it is “fun to be a liberal Democrat”. As a college Young Republican, I tended to think that the YD girls were fairly interesting. However, in those days, I think my criteria for “interesting” or “fun” may have been shallow and that I have acquired some wisdom since then. That you openly identify with liberal democrats takes me a little by surprise, however, but you use “we” so often to mean “I” that I’m not sure who is included in your “we’s”. In any event, the fun factor of differing political outlooks might be a good subject for a post, particularly since, like everything else, there may be some studies on the subject that you could pull together.

    But back to the subject. Indeed, corporate taxes in the US are particularly high and should be reduced. I think that point is widely recognized, even by some of your Democratic funsters. This is one of the attractions of the Cruz tax program, to which I have alluded elsewhere in the thread. Properly constructed (and Cruz hasn’t got there yet, but he’s on the right path) a VAT would permit a significant reduction in the corporate tax from one of the highest in the developing world to one of the lowest. This is not only sound and equitable tax policy, but it also would probably put a sudden halt to the inversion problem and possibly attract foreign investment.

    My statement about tax burden, however, was directed at the federal income tax on individuals relative to taxes in other developed countries.

    The constitutionality of Obamacare has already been defended far beyond my poor powers to add or detract (that phrase has a nice ring to it – I need to find an occasion to use in a few appropriate remarks). I don’t particularly have ambition to re-do it. The problem with Obamacare is that it is, except for the mandate that everyone have health insurance or pay a tax penalty, merely a tweak of the pre-existing system which hangs around employers’ necks an obligation to provide insurance through private companies. It broke no new constitutional ground beyond what the Court has already addressed.

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    1. @scout

      The fact your party has only Sanders and Clinton to choose from must be quite unsettling. So what do you do? You offer up nonsense about Republicans. Pity.

      Like as not I will not be entirely happy with the Republican Party’s nominee. Still, Trump is not a out and out Socialist, and Cruz isn’t the outrageous liar and security risk that Clinton has proven to be.

      I have no idea how Democrats are going stomach either of their potential candidates, but that is not my problem. It is yours.

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  8. You appear to be confused, Tom. I’ve stated some opinions about our Republican candidates, but calling it “nonsense” without explanation doesn’t really advance the discussion much. I thought I was making reasonably good sense. That you disagree with my defense of Cruz’s fairly daring tax program doesn’t make my opinion “nonsense” any more than it makes your statement reasonable.

    Beyond that, I wouldn’t say that Republicans “have” Sanders and Clinton, either to choose from or in any other sense. We really can’t dictate what the Democrats do. I think both of those candidates could be formidable opponents, each in his/her own way, but it is too early for us to say we “have” them in any sense – either because they are sure to lose or because they are sure to win and we will then “have” them in the sense of having to put up with them. Nor is it for us to “choose” who the Democrats select, although we might favor one or the other based on which one would be more readily defeatable. I think I would, if I had the power, choose Sanders, because I doubt that the general electorate country is ready for his ambitious plans for expanding the budget and the powers of the federal government. If we knew that Mrs. Clinton were indeed about to encounter legal difficulties because of her reckless handling of classified (or classifiable) information, we may get Sanders as an opponent in any event. Unfortunately, we are fielding a very flawed counter-ticket. Kasich is the most qualified candidate remaining by temperament and experience, and the one who does best in head-to-head polling against either Democrat candidate, but he seems fairly far out of contention barring some groundswell.

    What my party has to “choose from” is Kasich and Cruz. Trump is renting space in the party for this cycle in pursuit of a personal project.

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  9. About taxes.

    Why everyone wants to reduce taxes when our nation is twenty trillion in debt is beyond me. If you check who pays taxes, Corporation only pay ten percent on average and many very large ones pay nothing. Any taxes Corps pay are just passed on in the form of added price to consumers. Shareholders pay individual taxes on earnings paid to Corps.

    What we need in my opinion, are livable wage jobs so the millions of Americans who pay no taxes, can pay taxes.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

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    1. @scatterwisdom

      There several reasons that some people want to cut taxes.
      1. Some people think the taxes stifle the economy and that we have a high enough tax rate that we would actually collect more money if we reduced the rate. During the Reagan administration, this theory was tried, and it seemed to work.
      2. Some people want to cut spending more than they want to cut taxes. These folks regard cutting spending as the ONLY WAY to balance the budget. Given what the Constitution actually authorizes Congress to do, spending is way out of control. However, to get people to support cutting spending, we also have to advocate cutting taxes.
      3. Some people think taxes just feed the beast. In one sense this is quite true. Consider why our money still has any value. Our government demands taxpayers pay it in dollars or else. That is, we use fiat money to taxes, and the the fiat that requires us to pay in greenbacks give our currency its real value. Therefore, if we cut taxes without cutting spending, inflation would skyrocket. Thus, cutting taxes would scare the powers that be enough to force them cut spending too. Personally, I doubt that theory would work in practice. Where is the indication they have that much for inflation?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The only hope, in my opinion is to cut up the US credit car and then start cutting expenses.

        What expenses to cut? Cut across the board every expense that will not result in a death when cut.

        Then cut every budget across the board by whatever percentage exceed tax revenues. Who to cut, leave that decision to every Dept head.

        That is what happens in every private business when costs exceeds revenues.

        Regards and goodwill blogging..

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s why I wrote that post on Philosophical Conservatism. Until people understand the limits of what we can trust our government to do, we won’t stop giving it too much power.

          Taxing and spending is an expression of power and control; it is how politicians exercise power and control.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. You make an important point, SW. Fixing on tax reduction as an end in itself is a pathway to fiscal anarchy. Fiscal conservatives look for a balance of costs and revenues in essential programs on which there is democratic political consensus. In recent times, as you suggest, sometimes the focus gets stuck on the tax side and ignores the fiscal necessity of being willing to pay for what we consume in government services. Both Cruz and Trump, to the extent they have revealed their visions for fiscal policy in their respective presidencies, have been anything but fiscally conservative, and are advocating policies that would vastly increase budget deficits and structural indebtedness. As I said up the thread, there may be more to it than either has made clear, but they had better come up with details if they do not want to fairly be tagged as tax-and-spend Rs.

    It is certainly not fiscal conservatism to advocate large scale military adventures without identifying the revenue sources to pay for these undertakings (as the Bush Administration did in Iraq) or to argue for significant upgrading and modernization of our defense capabilities without putting before the voters the price tag and the revenue sources that will be used to finance those improvements (as Trump, Cruz, and, to an extent Clinton have been doing). To be clear, I believe the candidates for President in 2016 should squarely address the substantial investments that much be made in the Defense commitment in order to address a multi-polar world where there are two strong military adversaries and several lesser threats that could, if not carefully managed and controlled, do us great harm.

    However, on the corporate tax, my own view, one shared by a pretty eclectic cross-section of political economists and knowledgeable tax experts, is that our corporate tax is simply out of synch with global norms. Corporate taxes are inherently suspect to begin with, because they tax revenues at the corporate level that are taxed again on distributions in the form of dividends, salaries and wages. Of course, Congress in its wisdom and/or venality, has created such complexity in the application of these taxes that the effective rates for many large companies are much lower than the nominal rate – the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. This imbalance leads to forum-shopping on tax situs. The corporate tax doesn’t need to be reduced as simply a goal to reduce taxes, it needs to be reduced to eliminate tax burden discrepancies that lead to economic distortions domestically and internationally. If done, it has to be done in a way that is deficit neutral, both in terms of annual federal budgets and in terms of long-term debt.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Cutting taxes in hope it will increase US exports is a myth. US workers cannot and never will be able to compete with a labor intensive product made by a trade partner who pays their workers $200 a month when a US worker has to pay #800 a month in rent alone in the US.

    Check out my series of posts on Unfair Trade if your are interested.

    https://rudymartinka.wordpress.com/?s=fair+trade

    Regard and goodwill blogging.

    PS I agree we should know where and how military expenditures will bs used before we vote. If we had a war tax in Iraq, US involvement would have ended in the first term of Bush, in my opinion..

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    1. @scatterwisdom

      You are comparing apples with oranges.

      What labor is worth depends upon the demand for the work and the productivity the workers. Things like scarcity of skilled workers, capital assets that increase productivity, and market access all drive that.

      The United States is a great location with a trained work force. Unskilled workers, under the direction of skilled workers, benefit if we don’t import illegal immigrants. What is killing us is our government. High taxes eat up profits and discourage capital investment. Deficits, because they require borrowing, require the government to compete in the market for capital. Stupid regulations further increase the cost of production.

      Here is something to think about. We have this huge deficit, yet interests rates are low, near zero. So the economy is creeping. Economists call it secular stagnation. Yet oddly enough, I expect our politicians like this situation. They borrow and spend with very little inflation. Were the economy to start growing, inflation would reveal the stupidity of their deficits.

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  12. novascout

    Your last comment, while containing some generalities I agree with about the deficit, leaves me a bit puzzled, especially the last paragraph. “We have this huge deficit, yet interest rates are low, near zero. So the economy is creeping.”

    Is the economy “creeping” because interest rates are low (that seems counterintuitive) or because we have huge deficits, or because of the interaction of these two conditions?

    Would not high rates of inflation be more encouraging of debt financing than low rates? In a high inflation environment, one borrows dear and pay off cheap.

    Because interest rates are historically low, some argue that we are losing (and have lost, because we are probably nearing the end of a long period of these remarkably low rates) a major opportunity to address our massive, growth constricting problem of failing national infrastructure. The financing and direct costs are likely to be lower now than in the future.

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    1. @novascout

      I don’t qualify as an economist, but I have given the matter some thought. Moreover, our economy has become such a weird mess it would interesting to hear what others think. So I suppose I will do a post.

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