by James J. Devine
As we approach the tenth anniversary of the successful terrorist attack, millions of Americans will solemnly pretend that the decade has not been an unmitigated disaster.
Unfortunately, the United States’ failure is supported by facts that show a lopsided Al Qaeda victory in spite of the recent death of Osama bin Laden.
Hijacking four airplanes was not intended as a blow to America military supremacy. It was intended to strip our rights to a free and fearless society, to turn our prosperity into poverty, to provoke madness that would achieve more American deaths, and to inspire global hatred toward our people.
The armed forces had a total of 1.4 million people on active duty in 2001, when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was weighing proposals that could have cut the military by well over 10 percent. Pentagon analysts recommended the elimination of two of 10 Army divisions, 16 of 61 Air Force fighter squadrons, and two of the Navy’s 12 carrier battle groups.
Since then, military funding has jumped at an annual average rate of 8 percent — four times faster than the average rate of growth for Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, and 27 times faster than domestic discretionary programs.
The defense & security budget, as a share of Gross Domestic Product, rose from a 3.6 percent of the economy in 2001 to 5.6 percent in 2008.
A large amount of that increase is the result of extremely rapid growth in regular defense funding that is unrelated to funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Pentagon funding, excluding costs of the wars, has increased 4.8 percent annually since 2001 — more than two-and-a-half times faster than the growth in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
We got nothing in return for this enormous expense. Can anyone describe what American victory in Afghanistan would look like? Other than a safe and rapid departure for our troops, is there anything we want from Iraq or Afghanistan?
The costs of our actions are great. There is exacted from this democratic republic, a great moral toll for every child left dead by our military adventures, but nobody is even counting innocent bodies.
America is complicit in worse crimes, because thousands of infants are being born with birth defects and cancer in places bombarded by our forces with depleted uranium.
We will never know how many people die in Cranford because a paramedic named Steve Benish was shot and killed by an Iraqi goat herder, who probably would never have posed a threat to any American until we became a foreign enemy invading his homeland.
Those uncalculated casualties must be multiplied by the thousands because twice as many young Americans died fighting pointless wars in the Middle East than the number of civilians who perished in the Twin Towers ten years ago. We also lost some part of what 50,000 wounded veterans would have contributed to society if they remained whole.
For all the killing and expense, we are no safer than we were. More people around the globe hate America. Our armed forces are spread thin and tired. Al Qaeda has been disrupted but it reorganized much faster than Americans will reclaim the civil rights lost in the post-9/11 panic.
America tortured captives detained without evidence or access to judicial review. We empowered the government with not only authority to spy on our own citizens, but to rifle through our possessions and touch our genitals as we board airplanes.
As we have abandoned our principles of justice, so have equality and prosperity been forgotten as American values. We patriotically destroyed everything that made America great while the rich robbed the poor and middle-class, ending equality as we knew it.
Politics has been badly tilted against working families since the attacks, but public attention on foreign exploits provided a perfect distraction to allow economic swindles that shifted $16 trillion in wealth from Main Street to Wall Street.
In the year before the terrorist attacks, unemployment in the U.S. stood at a flat four percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This easily beat jobless levels of 4.8 in Japan, 5.8 in Canada, 6.6 in Australia, 9.7 in France and 10.7 in Italy as well as Germany’s 8.3 and Sweden’s 5.9.
Now, the official 9.1 percent unemployment rate is divorced from reality because many of those displaced from work are uncounted because they stopped searching employment out of discouragement, accepted part-time jobs or hold positions for which they are over-qualified.
Home ownership in the United States increased from 62.1 percent in 1960 to 67.8 in 2001, then by 2011 declined to 65.9, essentially giving up all the gains made since 1997. The total percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at year-end, not seasonally adjusted, quadrupled from an average of one percent each year from 1990 to 2001 to 4.6 percent in 2009 and that figure is still increasing.
In addition to those in the process of foreclosure, the number of loans delinquent 30 days or more was 9.3 percent of all mortgages in 2009, up from the pre-9-11 average of about 4 percent.
The chance that a person with average demographic characteristics will experience an income decline of 50 percent or greater over a two-year period has risen from 3-4 percent in the early 1970s to nearly 10 percent in 2004. As many as 20 percent will see their income cut in half this year.
The shift away from traditional employer-provided pension plans, to a new retirement model known as defined contribution plans, places the responsibility for saving and investing entirely on the shoulders of the individual worker. Social Security payments have not increased in two years.
American peace, prosperity, and principles have been lost because of 19 men armed with razor blades and only a few other things have changed. The nation is politically divided, corporations have greater freedom to exploit people and there is a growing sense that we are helpless in America.
Our history of success in the face of adversity, reverence for democratic ideals and adherence to practical common sense would suggest we are better than this. Recent evidence, however, shows we are not.
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