$22 Billion to Fight ISIL in same Year Congress cut $8.7 bn in Food Stamps

By Juan Cole

It was all the way back in February, so the memory of this headline has faded:

” Congress passes $8.7 billion food stamp cut

By Ned Resnikoff

It’s official: 850,000 households across the country are set to lose an average of $90 per month in food stamp benefits.

The Senate on Tuesday voted 68-32 to send the 2014 Farm Bill – which includes an $8.7 billion cut to food stamps – to President Obama’s desk. Nine Democrats opposed the bill, and 46 members of the Democratic caucus voted for it, joining 22 Republicans.”

The GOP Congress’s assault on the American working class has been waged with the pretext that the Federal government has no money (what with being in debt and all). This despite the money being owed to the American people on the whole, and despite the long tradition of deficits in government budgets, which have seldom in history been balanced. But note that when there was a Republican president in the zeroes, the same voices did not demand austerity, but ran up the deficit with obvious glee.

In contrast, Congress has no problem with the war on ISIL in Iraq and Syria, which could cost from $18 bn to $22 bn a year. Admittedly, in military terms this expense is relatively small. The point is that the same people who have trouble justifying a safety net for the working poor and find it urgent to cut billions from the programs that keep us a civilized society rather than a predatory jungle– the same people have no difficulty authorizing billions for vague bombing campaigns that are unlikely to be successful on any genuine metric.

The failure of an air campaign in Syria where there is no effective fighting force on the ground allied with the US, which could take advantage of the bombings, is becoming evident at Kobane. Despite US and other aerial bombings, ISIL fighters have moved to only a couple of miles from the besieged Kurdish city.

In contrast, in Iraq the Kurdish Peshmerga have taken a few villages and a border crossing with Syria back from ISIL in the past couple of days, and may have benefited in this push from close air support from the US and other governments. Even there, while intervention to stop the Kurdish capital of Erbil from falling to ISIL might be justifiable, helping the Kurdish Peshmerga capture Sunni Arab towns is a more delicate proposition.

In any case, all of a sudden I guess cost is no object for the Tea Party and its fellow travelers.

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23 Responses

  1. We are there to steal the oil.
    I was a Marine in Vietnam and I know that air strikes can be devastating or useless depending on the target.
    But all air strikes need boots on the ground and you need boots on the ground to steal oil, so I’m pretty sure we will be sending troops and I’m just as sure this is going to blow up in our faces.
    Bomb the bad guys, support the good guys and they will love us so much they will help us take their one resource .
    It’s insane, it does not work, but they are going to do it again.

    • They are winning too. $22 Billion is pocket change compared with the full amount that the US WILL spend over there against ISIS, led by none other than THE incomparable Big Daddy (al-Baghdadi) himself!
      If Big Daddy and his ilk can get America to sprinkle a few trillion dollars on the subject, then they will see serious cracks in America’s culture—not to mention receiving the bin Laden AWARD for causing America to again flail wildly on a budget busting spending spree to kill EVIL.

  2. As an addendum: I see a new study this morning concludes that global vertebrate populations are down 52% since the 1970s – that is a huge story, and the amount of biomass loss unimaginable. Now THAT’S a big f*****g story!

    And for a good takedown on Maher’s bigoted screed last Friday go to:

    link to digbysblog.blogspot.com

    (Scroll down to “It’s not a religious problem it’s a species problem”).

    (Link to link to thinkprogress.org).

    It puts the global environment as we know it at obviously great risk – but don’t look for this story to be covered even on MSNBC; it might get traction on FOX, but only if they can twist it to convince viewers that such environmental catastrophe is beneficial for the economy.

  3. Exactly the same process is under-way in the UK, 3 billion savings on Social Security payments for the most vulnerable and a bombing spree in Iraq. Cumulatively these actions further weaken confidence in the political system and any residual respect for it. This, of course, increases manifestations in the streets and a corresponding rise in brutal police action to quell them.

    Meanwhile the State Department just held a lavish feast to honour the Hindu president of India in the middle of a nine day Hindu fasting period, an extravagant culinary gesture justified, according to the spokesperson, for its ‘symbolic’ significance. Has she ever uttered a truer word!

  4. … to cut billions from the programs that keep us a civilized society rather than a predatory jungle–

    Ours is a civilized society? Did you mean: … that keep us a predatory jungle rather than a civilized society.”?

    From another angle: “Just When We Thought They Had Tormented Us Enough: It’s Going to Be a Sorry Day for the American Working Class” by DAVID MACARAY – link to counterpunch.org

  5. This is the problem with the ability of our democracy for collective risk assessment and the costs and value of properly assessing those risks. The costs of not feeding our children and the hungry are enormous. I will repeat myself until I am blue in the face, but as I’ve posted in comments before:

    Children who are hungry and malnourished generally do not develop into normal healthy adults. Many suffer from damaged immune systems, behavioral and mental problems, and lower intelligence. Imagine how lousy you feel if you are an hour or two late for lunch. Well, multiply that by a half-day, or day or two, then imagine that is being imposed on a developing human being. This is how our children, and many children of the world, suffer. Damaged immune systems in turn mean adult illnesses down the road, meaning stress on an already over-burdened health care system as well as lost productivity and wages from work. Behavioral problems can often be aggressive, resulting in violence and ultimately prison.

    In sum: lost productivity over a lifetime, health problems, prison, means expensive outlays by our health care providers, our schools (where many of the behavioral problems play themselves out), our criminal justice system, and at the same time a loss in revenue as we bandage these problems rather than addressing their root causes. This is not my opinion – it’s the hard cold science of pediatrics and statistics.

    Another major threat to which we have given scant collective attention or action is human driven climate change. Just how much is the cost of losing Louisiana going to come to? Or Florida? Or our ability to reliably grow crops in the plain states or California? Or our ability to absorb displaced climate refugees, whether from Bangladesh or the Nile Delta?

    Yet were we to address either problem we would obtain some tangible good – e.g. a healthy productive citizen body, more revenue from more productive citizens, stable climate, etc.

    Just what will we get for this investment of 22B? Nothing – except the status quo where creatures such as Erik Prince and Dick Cheney see war profits, elected representatives reassure defense industries so that their firms won’t leave their districts, and the perpetuation of this whole Danse Macabre as we now can add Syria to Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, and Pakistan to the list of predominantly Muslim countries we’ve bombed, thereby alienating still more citizens on the ground. But not to worry – I’m sure the Great Liberal Bill Maher will perform his Friday Sabbath ritual of appeasing pseudo-Lefties about how backward Muslims are and how in the end people who bomb them have much better values than those who live under our bombs anyway. Hey, we might be killers but at least we believe in civil liberties (sort of).

    • Add to that the psychological problems created by poverty that lead to a variety of social problems. It isn’t like this is news. I believe it was Aristotle who said a couple of millennia ago that poverty is the parent of crime and revolution.

  6. What to do about ISIL is not an easy question to answer. In Iraq, the Peshmerga and other ground forces contain and might even roll back ISIL but in Syria, their HQ, no ground forces makes an air campaign much more difficult.

    The Civil War in Syria is stalemated with 300,000 deaths in just three years. Comparing it to our Civil War, the overall population was 30 million with 620,000 deaths in four years. The population in Syria was about 17 million in 2011. Our Civil War ended, but in Syria no end is in sight. It’s a VERY nasty conflict and ending it is the real problem. Clearly, this stalemated conflict will cause much bigger problems if it continues. That’s already happening in Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. It won’t get better by itself.

    What should the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran even Israel and Russia do to solve the ever growing CATASTROPHE in Syria?

      • The civil war in Syria is at a stalemate. It won’t work itself out. I suspect that’s the reason Obama went from not having a strategy to against ISIL to fighting an all out air war against them so quickly. The administration has given hints of an ISIL first, then a regime change Assad strategy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Saudi Arabia and Turkey are already on board with that.

        Why else would Obama makes comments about fighting for years?

        • p.s. The vote in the Turkish parliament today makes me think crippling ISIS is just the first part of the overall strategy in Syria. How else is it possible for Obama’s coalition to come together so quickly?

  7. And the lesser-evil vote went to Obama. Just think what it would have been like if McCain or Romney were in the Executing Office.

  8. The United States effectively has no limit on the amount of money that can be given to a congressperson or executive. Essentially, this legalized bribery gives the briber the privilege to demand a piece of the US treasury. In Egypt under Mubarak, it was friends and family of Mubarak that had the loot privileges. In the US, though, loot privileges are spread much wider to whatever corporation or oligarch is willing to spend the money,

    I read an article in Current History a while back which discussed corruption in China. It indicated that, in the absence of bureaucratic transparency, corruption was actually a way to introduce a degree of efficiency into government service delivery. In effect, it allowed those who most demonstrated a need (by spending the most on bribes) to get access to a limited service. I think this has a resonance with the American situation. Although legalized corruption hurts transparency and hurts efficiency via parasitic rent seekers, the market can establish prices to corruption, and more or less function as normal.

    On the other hand, those without the cash to demand a piece of the treasury, like food stamp recipients, will steadily lose access. At a certain point it will be like Egypt under Mubarak where only enough money will be spent on the poor to keep them from revolting. And as Mubarak demonstrated, knowing how much to spend can prove to be a bit problematic.

    • Essentially, this legalized bribery gives the briber the privilege to demand a piece of the US treasury.

      And gives the bribed politician a chance to sell his or her soul and the nation down the river.

    • You are exactly right. It boils down to who makes up the constituency in a democracy. Unless steps are taken to prevent it, money power will be the constituency and that is what we have, a democracy for money (i.e. those who can afford to pay for lobbying).

  9. ISIL. Muslims who destroy Mosques? Their own historical artifacts? Makes no sense. Only Oil explains it all. As we change to new forms of energy, these corporations have again shown themselves morally bankrupt. We have to get out from under them. Vote — and remember every dollar you spend also empowers something. One by one, we step to our future.

  10. ISIS is an entity engaged in conquering land and populations to form a new country. I believe this type of activity has been vigorously pursued since the beginning of communal organizing..

    Violence is typically used to quell the indigenous population. The Spanish Conquistadors’ devotion to Christianity certainly gave them a moral basis for their extreme viciousness. .ISIS gets theirs from the Muslim faith. . But conquest is the objective, and ISIS has succeeded. Like an invasive species, they have no natural enemies (with military strength) in their portions of Syria and Iraq.

    Seems like it might be worthwhile to stop trading airstrikes for beheadings, and start looking for restraining accommodations. Obama’s three years of airstrikes mean an awful lot of collateral damage.. .

  11. Of course they cut SNAP and boost funding for war…we have a volunteer military, so cutting the social safety net is one way to ensure a steady flow of recruits.
    This isn’t new…poor people have been given this choice for centuries: become a soldier, and you’ll be fed (at least, until you’re killed)…the governments leave that part out.

    • Even when troops were drafted into the Imperial military, the poor made up a disproportionate set of us. With the sardonic humor typical of troops, we consoled ourselves that Uncle was at least providing us with “three squares and a flop,” or room and board for the uninitiated. And cool uniforms, and enough, just enough, sometimes too much to their fragged dismay, oppression, to make us displace all that rage and focus our “patriotic” sentiments on killing Others. Same phrase serves well in the lives of our prison populations, another fertile incubator of psychopathology… Amazing, isn’t it, how as a species, busily burning our house down around us, we continue the same idiocies for the immense pleasure and benefit of so very few of us? (Recent research indicates that the relationship of ants and aphids is predatory and parasitic — and that ants use the insect equivalent of FOX propaganda to lull the aphids into bovine, uncomplaining productivity of nectar, while eating up the plant resource they live on and awaiting their turn to be eaten by some ant with a sudden taste for protein…)

  12. What if we offer them a big sum of money to quit fighting? Just a thought. It is all so stupid. What a world this would be with no wars.

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