Friday, July 13, 2012

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Billions of Tax Dollars for Drones While Kids Starve and Cities Go Broke

A PBS disturbing report aired the other night about families in the state of Nevada that lost their jobs and homes. The children of these families were pocketing free ketchup packages from their school lunches because they're hungry at night. In this state alone, there are thousands of parents with children in this situation. Beyond Nevada, millions of families have fallen into despair and poverty. It is embarrassingly shameful, and worse, it's unnecessary. These economic problems could be solved if it weren't for the out-of-control defense spending over the last decade. Entitlements such as health care and social security are not draining the country; it's the U.S. war economy that has left large segments of our society impoverished. Nevada's unemployment rate is 11 percent, and that's a conservative figure. Prior to losing their jobs, the majority of these families owned middle-class homes and held decent paying jobs. Now they can't afford to feed their children and they must rely on private charities to get by.
Once upon a time, Hillary Clinton wrote a book called It Takes a Village. The central theme of the book was about improving children's lives. It's a shame that the pragmatic ideas from her book were never implemented. Instead, President Obama and his Defense and State Secretaries' Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton have increased the wealth of weapon contractors with our tax dollars beyond comprehension:
"The price tag for the remote control drone war keeps rising," explained Jefferson Morley in his Salon column. "Americans are paying an extra $100 million a month because of the drone war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta."
There is no justification for U.S. drone attacks which have terrorized the residents of the region by randomly killing children and civilians in Afghanistan as well as patrol soldiers on the border of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, as unemployment and poverty rises and as more and more cities go bankrupt such as Scranton, Pennsylvania, ( where firefighters and police workers' earnings were slashed to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, as climate change disasters sweep the country, leaving crops barren from droughts, and as wildfires consume entire communities and forests, as electrical power outages from hurricane force winds during the hottest summer on record create more burdens and suffering for Americans, the Pentagon and White House team came up with another brilliant idea to increase the wealth of contractors: they approved of more spending, an estimated $200 billion for thousands of surveillance drones that will be used to illegally spy on Americans. "US taxpayers will have invested about $11.8 billion on a single drone among many, (Reapers) ( It's hard to be sure what the exact cost figures are-but between the drone wars and domestic drones-it adds up to billions of dollars.
So in addition to the drone wars, taxpayers will spend billions of dollars more on drones used to spy on us-while an estimated 6 million children go hungry every night in this country, and while public services, fire and police departments are slashed because there is no money to support them.(
Raising taxes won't fix our economy when we have a huge perpetual leak (weapon contracts) in the ship that is draining the country dry, when we have mismanagement of tax dollars that serve the top 1 percent at the expense of the entire country.
This is what happens when politicians have the power to spend money that doesn't belong to them. Certainly if the surveillance drone allocation were put to the voters, it would be flatly rejected. Spending billions of dollars on drones in the middle of a dire economic depression is not only immoral, when our tax dollars are supposed to be used for public services to improve the well-being of our lives, it's also as unconstitutional and as un-American as it gets.
Spying on American citizens presents a clear and present danger to the Rule of Law. When a government intrusively spies on its citizens, it is called a totalitarian state. Just as President Bush claimed unlimited and unchecked power, President Obama has also adopted the same extremist position by opting to ignore the surveillance laws pertaining to the FISA court. ¹
Regarding the question of abuse of executive power, it's worth repeating the question that Sen. Russ Feingold asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, January 31, 2006:
"Does the president...have the authority, acting as commander in chief, to authorize warrantless searches of Americans' homes and wiretaps of their conversations in violation of the criminal and foreign intelligence surveillance (FISA) statutes of this country?"
Gonzales dodged the question, but we know that a president does not have that authority. Furthermore, there is nothing reasonable about spying on every single citizen. If we still had a functional system of checks & balances, Bush would have been impeached for committing high crimes and misdemeanors. But Congress only impeaches presidents for lying about sex affairs.
Illegal surveillance is far more threatening to citizens of this country than trumped up threats of terrorism. A few days ago, Naked Capitalism reported that "Drone pilots may practice spying activities by tracking civilian cars." The feds have absolutely no constitutional right to invade the privacy of our homes or to track civilian cars without our consent. That's beyond illegal, it's creepy and perverted. (Drone Pilots May Practice by Tracking Civilian Cars, and More) (
Under the Fourth Amendment, all searches, whether conducted with or without a warrant, must be "reasonable".
Spying on everyone is not reasonable. ( It is, as Glenn Greenwald expressed it, "wholly antithetical to the system of government under which Americans have lived for more than two centuries." In addition to tapping our phone conversations and tracking our internet interests, from the books we buy to the movies we watch to the organizations and blogs that we visit, the president approved of sending thousands of drones into the airways that will be used to spy inside our homes at the cost of billions of tax dollars. They can follow us from room to room, listen to what we're saying, they can photograph us, and they can send all the information collected directly to the NSA (National Security Agency). Perhaps the drones will capture millions of pictures of starving American children squeezing ketchup packages for food?
The U.S. government is systematically violating our privacy in ways that we can't even begin to fathom, given the technology. Our privacy is the most sacred freedom of all freedoms: The right to privacy, as Justice Louis D. Brandeis said, is to be left alone.
Ironically, we are paying for their criminal surveillance activities with our tax dollars. Shouldn't our tax dollars be used for climate change disaster preparation instead of drones, which would create thousands of jobs and would help save lives? What about the 6 million starving children in this country? What about funding to support our police, fire and postal departments? No money for our public workers, but plenty of billions for unnecessary and illegal drones and the expansion of drone wars in the Middle East.

1. Constitutional lawyer and author, Glenn Greenwald, summarized the critical and important functions that the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court plays. Notice the word "foreign" - such operations were never supposed to be used domestically on every single American:
"FISA's truly meaningful check on abuse in the eavesdropping process is that the president is prevented form engaging in improper eavesdropping because he knows that every instance of eavesdropping he orders will be known to a federal judge-a high-level judicial officer who is not subject to the president's authority and whose constitutional duties are separate from the president's."
Recommended Reading:
How Would A Patriot Act? / Defending American Values from a President Run Amok by Glenn Greenwald
With Liberty and Justice for Some / How the law is used to destroy equality and protect the powerful by Glenn Greenwald
Jacqueline Marcus taught ethics and political philosophy for twenty years at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, California. Her book of poems, Close to the Shore, was published by Michigan State University Press. She is the editor of