Santa gives US rich a tax break, Russia hopes for New START

A political firestorm is raging in Washington as US President Barack Obama agreed on Tuesday to Bush-era tax cuts for the rich in a backroom deal that may help to save the US-Russia START Treaty.

Following the most brutal economic crisis since the Great Depression, many people expected more backbone from the Democratic Party when it came to demanding tax hikes for the rich and now “super-rich,” (made up of over 1,000 US billionaires).

Instead, the White House caved in to relentless Republican opposition and agreed to a tax break for everybody, even for America’s wealthiest citizens.

In normal times, a tax break across the board for all Americans may sound appealing. But these are not normal times. The United States continues to dig itself into a hole, trying to pay back a mountain of debt with increasingly fewer funds to work with.  

The extension of the tax break to every American will cost about $900 billion over the next two years, and comes at a time when the US government is struggling with a $1.3 trillion budget deficit and a $13.8 trillion national debt that it cannot ignore forever (The idea that tax breaks for the rich will create jobs and economic growth has already been destroyed by the economist James K. Galbraith in his book, The Predator State, where he convincingly argues, “The conservative faith in tax cuts is based… on a mirage.”).

For many Democrats and economists, the most obvious way out of this vicious cycle of spend, spend, and spend would be to tax the richest class of Americans. In other words, the 20 per cent of the population that now holds a whopping 85 per cent of the nation’s total wealth. Clearly, these people can afford to crack open their wallet and pay a little extra. After all, it was the American middle class that saved capitalism, right?

But the "Party of No Ideas" is playing Ebenezer Scrooge (again) this Christmas and “holding the American people hostage,” as President Obama explained his predicament. So instead of taking aim at the hostage taker, and risking hitting the innocent hostage instead, Obama let the rich keep their “holy grail,” as he called it, which is low taxes for the rich regardless of the economic season.

Now political observers are beginning to ask if the Democrats agreed to the Republican demand for a tax break in return for ratification of the New START treaty with Russia.

Will New START gets its start?

First, in trying to figure out the mindset of the US Republicans, it is important to remember that they will never be happy with what you give them. After all, it is in their interests to serve the insatiable corporate lobbyists, not the American people, which should come as now surprise considering who is bankrolling US elections these days [Hint: the biggest contributor to Obama's election campaign was none other than Goldman Sachs].

For example, here is Zbigniew Mazurak writing [“Why the Senate should reject the New START”] in the American Thinker: “The new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) currently under consideration by Congress is irredeemably flawed.  Instead of accepting the "tax cuts for START" deal, Republican senators should reject the treaty for several reasons.”

Before even getting into the meat of this article, it is already predictable what those “reasons” will be, as every Republican utters them on a regular basis. There are three of them: security, security, and yet more security. And for the US Republicans, this paranoid obsessing over security translates into one thing: mega profits for the defense industry.

Meanwhile, the “heavy price” of not ratifying New START (more nukes, not to mention a possible arms race with Russia) will be picked up by the US taxpayer, who already bailed out the US banking and financial industries without so much as a squeak.

But for “American Thinkers” like Zbigniew Mazurak, the ability for the United States to launch 1,550 nuclear missile strikes is simply not enough.

“The treaty will severely reduce America's nuclear stockpile (to just 1,550 warheads, down from 5,113) and the number of delivery systems (to no more than 700 deployed systems and 800 in total), to wholly insufficient levels,” he warns.

Insuffient for what, we must ask? Insufficient for increasing the annual profits of the US military industrial complex, which is already spending over $1 trillion dollars a year?!

The writer then resorts to what is possibly the most dangerous misconception about Russia’s nuclear weapon arsenal: “The treaty,” he contends, “is clearly designed to bring the U.S. strategic arsenal down to the sorry state of the Russians'…Russia cannot afford to maintain its arsenal at its present size, let alone greatly increase it, as Putin has threatened to do.”

Talk about flying backwards. At a time when the US is buried up to the Statue of Liberty’s torch in paper debt – it is being argued that Russia is the one that cannot afford to maintain its nuclear arsenal.

Dear American Thinker! Modern Russia, which is presently awash in oil dollars, gas dollars, and even diamond dollars, is doing you a magnificent favor. It is offering you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relieve your beleaguered taxpayers of picking up the tab on yet another outrageous and unnecessary expenditure. It is offering you the ability to stop taxing the super-rich without provoking a public backlash. It is offering you the ability to balance your books, an annoying yet occasionally necessary task that Russia performed years ago.

Yes! National security is important, but surely 1,550 nuclear warheads are enough to protect the United States. After all, Russia is about four-times the size of the United States, yet somehow its military brass also thinks 1,550 nuclear warheads are enough to protect its vast territory.

The article goes on to argue that Russia is trying to “bring the U.S. arsenal down to the sorry state of the Russians”. This line of reasoning is strange on two accounts. First, if Muzarak really believes that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is in a “sorry state” (I wonder if he has personally visited a nuclear weapons facility?) why not agree to the cuts prescribed by New START and avoid the possibility that Russia (and, as a matter of course, the US) will be forced to pour more money into maintaining and developing nuclear weapons.

After all, there is no bigger waste of money than nuclear weapons. When we buy them, they just sit there getting dusty and rusty. When they do work, they destroy the entire planet, thus making the investment in the project a waste of time and money anyways. Yes, better to just pare them back and invest that money elsewhere.

Second, the regularly recycled myth that Russia’s nuclear weapons systems are rusting out and being held together with electrical tape needs to be dispelled once and for all. Although there may have been a moment following the collapse of the Soviet Union when the quality of Russia’s nuclear forces may have been a matter of concern (although personally I doubt it), it would be a major mistake to believe the same thing now.

Russia is not pushing for New START from a position of weakness, but rather more from the very noble idea forwarded by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama (and supported, by the way, by the rest of the planet) that envisions a “world without nuclear weapons.” Although the armaments industry may shudder at such a thought, someday it may actually become a reality.

Muzarak, perhaps sensing the weakness of his argument, proceeds to punch below the belt when he concludes that “[T]he treaty would be a huge reward to a dictatorship which has been uncooperative – indeed, hostile – towards the U.S. through the past decade.”

A dictatorship? Certainly even Mr. Muzarak would have to agree that the Russian elections are every bit as democratic as the American variety, albeit without the easily manipulated electronic voting machines. And as far as the “hostile” part of his argument goes, Russia has been incredibly patient with the United States and its global globetrotting ever since 9/11 broke on the scene.

Today, US military planes use Russian airspace in their ongoing war against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, while a mutual effort in the fight against terrorism continues. It would be the working of an irrational mind to define such a working relationship as “hostile.”

Instead of American thinkers wasting so much ink fretting over New START, which will likely pass Congress since the US rich got their tax break Christmas gift, they would do better to consider how Russia and the US will cooperate on a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, because unless such a cooperation is realized, New START will (probably) never get off the ground.

And I am sure that such a scenario would make a lot of US Republicans very happy this holiday season.

Robert Bridge, RT