By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
06 January 16
conomic forecasters exist to make astrologers look good, but I’ll hazard a guess. I expect the U.S. economy to sputter in 2016. That’s because the economy faces a deep structural problem: not enough demand for all the goods and services it’s capable of producing.
American consumers account for almost 70 percent of economic activity, but they won’t have enough purchasing power in 2016 to keep the economy going on more than two cylinders. Blame widening inequality.
Consider: The median wage is 4 percent below what it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation. The median wage of young people, even those with college degrees, is also dropping, adjusted for inflation. That means a continued slowdown in the rate of family formation—more young people living at home and deferring marriage and children – and less demand for goods and services.
At the same time, the labor participation rate—the percentage of Americans of working age who have jobs—remains near a 40-year low.The giant boomer generation won’t and can’t take up the slack. Boomers haven’t saved nearly enough for retirement, so they’re being forced to cut back expenditures.
Exports won’t make up for this deficiency in demand. To the contrary, Europe remains in or close to recession, China’s growth is slowing dramatically, Japan is still on its back, and most developing countries are in the doldrums.
Business investment won’t save the day, either. Without enough customers, businesses won’t step up investment. Add in uncertainties about the future—including who will become president, the makeup of the next Congress, the Middle East, and even the possibilities of domestic terrorism—and I wouldn’t be surprised if business investment declined in 2016.
I’d feel more optimistic if I thought government was ready to spring into action to stimulate demand, but the opposite is true. The Federal Reserve has started to raise interest rates—spooked by an inflationary ghost that shows no sign of appearing. And Congress, notwithstanding its end-of-year tax-cutting binge, is still in the thralls of austerity economics.
Chances are, therefore, the next president will inherit an economy teetering on the edge of recession.
Daniel Ellsberg traveled to Vietnam for the first time in 1961 as part of a task force commissioned by President Kennedy commissioned to seek alternatives to nuclear war.
January 6, 2016
MINNEAPOLIS — MintPress News is proud to host “Lied to Death,” a 13-part audio conversation between famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and social justice activist Arn Menconi.
Menconi wrote that these interviews are a “mixture of historical, political science and Dan’s sixty-year scholarly analysis as a former nuclear planner for Rand Corporation.”
Chapter 3: U.S. Colonels Knew the War on Vietnam Would Fail Before It Began
In the third chapter of the interview, Menconi asks Ellsberg to explain more about the origins of the war in Vietnam and how it led to Ellsberg’s eventual decision to leak the “Pentagon Papers.”
The whistleblower explained that the war in Vietnam began as a covert war, with Kennedy in the 1950s publicly claiming only to be sending “advisors” to the region who would not participate directly in combat, although it’s clear they did participate directly in several parts of the conflict.
Today America seems to be using the same strategy on a global scale. From Iraq and Syria, where our military advisors try to train “moderate” rebels and local forces to fight ISIS, to Africa where ‘AFRICOM’ advisors are embedded in dozens’ of countries’ armed forces, the U.S. is involved in over 100 regional conflicts.
Ellsberg became involved in studying the brewing conflict in Vietnam in 1958 when he was loaned from the RAND corporation to the military’s pacific command, where he was asked to familiarize himself with all major U.S. war plans. A few years later, in 1961, Ellsberg traveled to Vietnam personally as part of a “limited war task force.” With the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Defense Department pushing for nuclear war, President John F. Kennedy created the task force to seek alternatives.
However, even as the military advised Kennedy to commit thousands of ground troops to fight on behalf of South Vietnam, privately the military brass on the task force doubted the effectiveness of the plan:
“The colonels I was speaking to gave the impression that even American ground troops would be very unpromising. They would make more of a difference than advisors but unless they were in very large numbers they would not be able to beat the Viet Cong, and probably not even then. In other words, our prospects were not better than the French prospects had been. That was the conclusion that Kennedy personally came to ten years earlier, that we should not replace the French.”
Nonetheless, Kennedy continued to increase the number of troops on the ground in Vietnam throughout the remainder of his presidency, setting the stage for Johnson to further escalate the conflict into a full ground war when he assumed the role of Commander-in-Chief after the Kennedy assassination.
Ellsberg also revealed that before becoming a whistleblower by leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, he spoke out against the Vietnam War internally within the Pentagon. He also came to the attention of Robert Kennedy when the U.S. senator ran for president in the 1968 election and offered the whistleblower an advisory role on his campaign.
Although Ellsberg turned down the position so that he could freely advise all candidates, Ellsberg said that, when they met in 1967, “He was the first person I’d seen in Washington who seemed passionate about getting out of Vietnam, an urgency of doing it.”
A year later, “Bobby” Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan on June 5, 1968 after winning the California primary.
Listen to Chapter 3 | U.S. Colonels Knew the War on Vietnam Would Fail Before It Began:
About Daniel Ellsberg
As sites like "WikiLeaks" and figures such as Edward Snowden continue to reveal uncomfortable truths about America’s endless wars for power and oil, one important figure stands apart as an inspiration to the whistleblowers of today: Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who leaked the “Pentagon Papers,” over 7,000 pages of top secret documents, in 1971.
A military veteran, Ellsberg began his career as a strategic analyst for the RAND Corporation, a massive U.S.-backed nonprofit, and worked directly for the government helping to craft poolicies around the potential use of nuclear weapons. In the 1960s, he faced a crisis of conscience while working for the Department of Defense as an assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs John T. McNaughton, where his primary duty was to find a pretext to escalate the war in Vietnam.
Inspired by the example of anti-war activists and great thinkers like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., he realized he was willing to risk arrest in order to prevent more war. Lacking the technology of today’s whistleblowers, who can carry gigabytes of data in their pockets, he painstakingly photocopied some 7,000 pages of top secret documents which became the “Pentagon Papers,” first excerpted by "The New York Times" in June 1971.
Ellsberg’s leaks exposed the corruption behind the war in Vietnam and had widespread ramifications for American foreign policy. Henry Kissinger, secretary of state at the time, famously referred to Ellsberg as “the most dangerous man in America.”
Ellsberg remains a sought-after expert on military and world affairs, and an outspoken supporter of whistleblowers from Edward Snowden to Chelsea Manning. In 2011, he told the Chelsea Manning Support Network that Manning was a “hero,” and added:
“I wish I could say that our government has improved its treatment of whistleblowers in the 40 years since the Pentagon Papers. Instead we’re seeing an unprecedented campaign to crack down on public servants who reveal information that Congress and American citizens have a need to know.”
Pam Martens and Russ Martens
January 6, 2016
Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont gave a speech yesterday that is destined to go down in the history books of this era, further enshrining him as one of the most courageous voices of our time. Sanders promised to break up the serially criminally-inclined banks on Wall Street and reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act to drive a permanent stake through the heart of too-big-to-fail. But if you watched either his official campaign’s YouTube video of his speech or the one provided by volunteers for his campaign, three key passages of what he said have gone missing from the video. We were able to reconstruct the full speech as delivered by transcribing the three missing sections from a YouTube video posted by the PBS which, notably, had no gaps in its video. (Watch the PBS video of the speech at the end of this article.)
Feeling the BRRRN yet?