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“A Corporate Honeypot”: Look Out, Here Comes The New Border-Industrial Complex

“Good fences make good neighbors,” goes the old adage. That civilizing thought refers to such friendly structures as the beautiful rock walls of New England, elegant split rails in the South, iconic whitewashed pickets of the Midwest and even privacy fences in neighborhoods all across our country.

But the neighborly adage definitely did not contemplate the 700-mile, 20-foot-high, drone-patrolled, electronically monitored fence of steel and razor wire that our government has erected across our nation’s border with Mexico, from the tip of Texas to California’s Pacific Coast.

This thing is not a fence, but a monstrous wall of hostility, a deliberate affront to our Mexican neighbors. As Senator John McCain aptly put it in a recent debate on immigration, our Land of the Free has constructed “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall!”

There are four big flaws with the theory that you can “secure” a border (i.e., keep people from crossing it) by throwing up a big ol’ wall. First, it doesn’t work. A 20-foot wall quickly begets 22-foot ladders — people are innately inventive, and those determined to get in or out will find many ways to do it.

Second, walls create bigger problems than they resolve, for they are deeply divisive. Our Mexican wall is ugly, both literally and in the unmistakable message of contempt it screams nonstop at the Mexican people. It’s generating bitterness toward us — and that turns neighbors into enemies.

Third, that wall has physically ripped healthy relationships apart. For centuries, families, friends, businesses and cities themselves were thoroughly integrated into unified communities across the artificial line drawn on a map.

Fourth, such walls are insanely expensive — so far, Washington has hurled tens of billions of dollars at this one to build, maintain and police it. Enforcement alone costs $18 billion per year. In addition, states have dumped untallied billions into it.

Can these policymakers even spell w-a-s-t-e? Yet the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly in June to waste another $46 billion to build 700 more miles of the hateful wall and double the number of militarized border agents.

Is there no other need in our country for that money? Nothing constructive we might do with it?

But I shouldn’t be too harsh on Washington, for both Republicans and Democrats are beginning to respond aggressively to economic needs. “It has been a tough time,” says one Washington insider, noting with relief that a new spending proposal “could help out.”

Unfortunately, he and Congress aren’t referring to your tough times or helping out with your needs. No, no — they are rushing to the aid of the multibillion-dollar military-industrial complex. The government, you see, has not been getting our nation into enough wars to satisfy the insatiable appetite that Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and other war profiteers have for government money. But now they’ve spied a new place they can militarize with their high-tech, high-cost, razzle-dazzle weaponry: yes, that border we share with Mexico.

In recent months, these corporate predators deployed an army of lobbyists to Congress, armed with mass campaign contributions. Targeting the immigration issue, “border security!” is their battle cry. They’ve already conquered the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill, stuffing it with $46 billion for goosed up militarization of the 2,000-mile border. They’ve literally turned the immigration bill into a corporate honeypot. More drones! More electronic gadgetry! More agents needing more weapons, night-vision goggles and other war toys!

Various corporate lobbyists put their specific wish lists directly in the Senate bill. Rather than calling generally for the purchase of certain categories of hardware, it mandates brand-name purchases. For example, the bill requires the border patrol to buy six airborne radar systems from Northrop at $9.3 million each and 15 Black Hawk helicopters from Sikorsky at $17 million apiece.

What we have here is the emergence of a full-fledged monster — a Border-Industrial Complex that literally will tax us with an ever-expanding policy of permanent border war.

How long before they use the cry of “terrorism!” to militarize the Canadian border, too? And what after that? My guess is they’ll want to seal off those pesky antiwar radicals in places like Vermont! Ultimately, they can fence all of us in. Or is it out?

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, July 31, 2013

August 3, 2013 Posted by | Corporations, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Worse Than Patriots In Arms”: A Patriot Or A Profiteer, But You Can’t Be Both

This week, the three military contractors that do the most business with the Pentagon announced their quarterly profits for 2012. Their profits continue to grow while they push Washington, D.C. to protect their budgets at the expense of the rest of us.

Here’s the breakdown so far for this year:

This week’s announcement raises a fundamental question: Should people and companies be allowed to make huge profits from war? Even raising this question in today’s environment may seem trite, but we used to have different answers than those that prevail in modern-day Washington, D.C.

“I don’t want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 22, 1940.

“Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the Nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and their countrymen mouldering the dust.” –President Abraham Lincoln.

This last quote is particularly relevant to this week’s profit announcements. Lincoln referred to war profiteers making money by cheating the Union Army. Outrage at war profiteering during this period led to the passage of “Lincoln’s Law,” officially known as the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act is the very same law that two of the companies listed above, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, violated through price-fixing and double-billing the taxpayer, leading to their having to pay roughly $20 million in the first quarter of 2012 to settle suits brought by the U.S. government.

During Roosevelt’s time, the idea of a single contractor company making almost a billion dollars worth of profit in three months would have received short shrift. As Roosevelt’s quote above shows, the idea of people profiting from war’s “disaster” disgusted him, and during his presidency the Truman Committee relentlessly investigated and exposed war profiteers. The closest analogy in our time would be the Committee on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which found that up to $60 billion (as of September 2011) was lost to waste and fraud in military contracting in those conflicts.

And yet, despite this historical lack of patience for war profiteering, and despite the current record showing gross misconduct and waste, the U.S. government keeps shoveling taxpayer money at these huge corporations. Could it be that the $5 million in campaign donations and $32 million in lobbying dollars so far this election cycle from the military contractors keep Congress intentionally ignorant of the problem?

President George Washington knew a few things about war profiteers, and he didn’t mince words:

“There is such a thirst for gain [among military suppliers]…that it is enough to make one curse their own Species, for possessing so little virtue and patriotism.”

As long as we continue to allow the profit motive to play a role in America’s war, virtue and patriotism–to say nothing of peace–will continue to be in short supply.

 

By: Robert Greenwald, Co-Authored by Derrick Crowe, AlterNet, April 27, 2012

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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