Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
GOD SAVE HRC, FROM REALITY — Jeffrey St. Clair on Hillary Clinton’s miraculous rags-to-riches method of financial success; LA CONFIDENTIAL: Lee Ballinger on race, violence and inequality in Los Angeles; PAPER DRAGON: Peter Lee on China’s military; THE BATTLE OVER PAT TILLMAN: David Hoelscher provides a 10 year retrospective on the changing legacy of Pat Tillman; MY BROTHER AND THE SPACE PROGRAM: Paul Krassner on the FBI and rocket science. PLUS: Mike Whitney on how the Central Bank feeds state capitalism; JoAnn Wypijewski on what’s crazier than Bowe Bergdahl?; Kristin Kolb on guns and the American psyche; Chris Floyd on the Terror War’s disastrous course.
When the Government Comes First

From Citizen to Serf in 200 Years

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

America is a strange place.  Liberals get emotionally distraught that the Founding Fathers stuck Second Amendment rights in the Constitution.  For American citizens to possess firearms is considered to be dangerous.  Yet, it is quite alright for Americans to possess deadly green mambas.  

Mambas are large, fast, and very poisonous African snakes whose bite is usually fatal. Their venom is neurotoxic and cardiotoxic.  It attacks the central nervous system and shuts down the lungs and heart. On August 20 a Comcast workman was installing an underground cable outside an apartment building in Hollywood, Florida, when he was bitten by a green mamba. 

Captain Ernie Jillson, head of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Venom Response Unit, said the green mamba probably only delivered a warning bite instead of a lethal one.  The Comcast worker was saved by antivenin.  It is unclear how the dangerous snake, which is still on the loose, was identified.  How many Americans could identify a green mamba?  Perhaps the cable company worker was an immigrant from Africa able to recognize the snake.

No one knows where the snake came from. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 187 green mambas have been imported into the US as pets since 2004. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says that all people licensed to own or sell green mambas in the area have their snakes accounted for. 

Americans who tire of their pet pythons, when they grow too large, have been dumping the snakes in the Everglades, where a large breeding population now exists that is helping destroy the remaining ecology of the Everglades not already destroyed by real estate developers and sugar plantations. 

Will green mambas be the next invader?

Try to imagine what it is like living in a house with a mamba.  Are bedroom doors tightly shut at night and carefully opened in the mornings?  Do you first check to make sure the snake is still in its container before moving around the house in the morning?  Imagine coming home and finding the container empty.  Strikes me as far more stress than living with a handgun in the house.

I would put the stress level from a mamba right up there with the stress our politicians create for us.  We never know when “our” government will next strike at our livelihood and liberty. 

The White House Office of Management and Budget just announced that the federal government will be running trillion dollar annual budget deficits for the next decade.  If the past is a guide, this is an underestimate.  

Obama says he is going to attack the deficit by getting entitlements spending under control.  He means Social Security and Medicare.  Getting them under control means reducing the funding. Americans have paid taxes all their lives for retirement pensions and health care, but Obama is going to cut the promised benefits in order to fund his wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to pay for new US military bases in Colombia, South America.

We are now into the third presidential term in which the US government remains mired in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Inheriting two wars didn’t stop Obama from starting a third one in Pakistan and from threatening more wars.  

These wars bring no benefits to American citizens, only high costs, but the wars bring political contributions to the politicians from the interest groups that profit from the wars. 

Where is the World War I, World War II, and Korean War excess-profits tax?  The answer is that instead of paying the US Treasury, the war profiteers pay the politicians.

Obama’s Budget Director, Peter Orszag, says the US is in a “dire fiscal situation” and requires “serious steps to put our nation back on a sustainable fiscal path.”  However, halting pointless wars is not part of the Obama administration’s solution.  The wars will continue.  Orszag says the US will be put on “a fiscally sustainable path” by “slowing the rate of health care cost growth in the long run.”  

Orszag says that health care reform will not only be deficit neutral–that is, provide no new services–but also “will incorporate changes that will help reduce the deficit.”  The budget is to be balanced on the backs of Americans denied health care. And you thought your private health insurer was evil.

Many thanks to Orszag for a clear statement of US government priorities.  

In the face of such clarity, why are Democratic groups associated with Obama pushing a “health care reform” that will reduce health care?

The attitude of government toward taxpayers is no different at the state and local levels.  Some conservatives still suffer from the delusion that government is more accountable the closer it is to the people. 

Recently, NPR reported that it was the Correctional Officers Union that was behind California’s “three-strikes” law.  Once that unjust law passed, California’s prison population increased five-fold.  The Correctional Officers Union grew dramatically in membership. Of the $10 billion annual cost of California’s prison system, 70 per cent goes for salaries and administration.  One in ten correctional officers makes $100,000 a year.

What was sold to a gullible public as an “anti-crime” measure was just another way for an organized interest group to pick the taxpayers’ pockets.

Even the “clunkers law” divided the spoils between two interest groups.  Car dealers got taxpayers’  help in reducing their unaffordable inventories, and parts manufacturers saved their business by having “clunkers” limited to vehicles made in 1984 or afterwards. Older cars did not qualify for the trade-in subsidy, which was hyped as a way of getting fuel-inefficient and polluting vehicles out of service.

All you need to know about “governments close to the people” can be learned by examining the property tax response to falling real estate values, foreclosures, and homelessness.  Jurisdictions everywhere are raising the property tax.

In America government always comes first.  The citizen last.  The transformation from citizen to serf has been completed.  

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. This fall CounterPunch/AK Press will publish Robert’s War of the Worlds: How the Economy Was Lost. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com