The Real State of the Union: Fundamental Flaws in the US Economy, Climate Approach and Foreign Policy

In anticipation of President Obama’s State of the Union address this evening, Dr. Margaret Flowers, candidate for US Senate seeking the Green Party of Maryland nomination, presents her assessment of the state of the Union and directions that Congress needs to take to solve the major crises we face as a nation.

Dr. Flowers states:

“The President is expected to talk about domestic policy reforms that are gaining popular support such as his recent gun control measures and proposed criminal justice reform, but these are largely put forth at this time as an appeasement for his widely unpopular international agenda which includes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and expanded wars as well as to district from a dangerously flawed economy. President Obama is expected to sign the TPP on February 4 in New Zealand. See “The Facts on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Compared to the Obama Administrations’ Claims, by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese.”

Missing from the speech will be meaningful discussion of major crises that loom before the United States and the world such as the fundamentally broken global economy, the climate crisis and US Empire which is expanding wars and conflicts.”

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Economic Collapse: The Fundamentals of the US Economy Are Flawed

“The President began his administration on the heels of a financial crisis and may leave office with an even worse crisis. This is largely due to his failure to address the roots of the crisis during his terms; corruption, too-big-to-fail banks, growing wealth inequality and a population largely in debt.

After the financial crisis of 2008, instead of holding those who were responsible for it accountable for widespread fraud and corruption, then candidate Obama rewarded them by leaving his campaign to push through the Bush administration’s bailout package. As President, he put the bankers in positions of power on his economic team where they continued to protect Wall Street at the expense of everyone else. The Obama Department of Justice did not prosecute a single bank head and the attorney general and top officials returned to law firms that work for the big banks when their tenures ended.

While the public was desperately calling for relief, Obama failed to use the power of his office to put in place changes that would protect the victims of predatory mortgages and the looting of pensions and make credit available to smaller businesses. Millions of people lost their jobs and homes. Now, suicide rates among the shrinking middle class are at an all-time high while wealth continues to skew to the wealthiest.

Over the past eight years, the ‘recovery’ has really only been for those in the top 1% where wealth continues to be consolidated. The twenty richest people in the US own as much wealth as the bottom half of the population.The 99% are experiencing flattened wages, chronic unemployment and under-employment and high debt burdens just to meet their basic necessities. Poverty rates have grown in more than 3,000 counties around the country and have stayed steady in most of the rest. Employment participation is at an all-time low; and of those who are working, more than 50% are earning less than $30,000 a year. The reported unemployment figures are artificially low in part because they don’t consider that record numbers of people are working multiple jobs in order to get by or that many have given up looking for work. The fact is US workers are in an economic crisis.

Households in the US are carrying almost $12 trillion in debt. Over $1 trillion is student loans. Student debt has ballooned making many young people question the value of a higher education in this service-economy reality.

The failure to address the fundamental flaws in the economy and demand accountability has again placed the economy in a precarious position. We are facing the third bubble in fifteen years, this time a massive ‘bond bubble’ while the Federal Reserve is over-leveraged at 78:1 and risky derivatives have grown to $555 trillion globally, almost eighty times the global Gross Domestic Product. Inflated stock values do not reflect the reality of a global stagnating economy and a surplus of goods that impoverished people cannot afford to buy.There are widespread predictions of an economic crash in 2016, that could be more severe than the 2008 crash.

None of these economic realities are expected to be discussed in the State of the Union, nor will there be discussion of steps that could be taken to protect people and the economy such as holding Wall Street accountable, establishing public banks, abolishing student debt, restructuring mortgages to make them more affordable, moving to a guaranteed basic income and creating a public jobs program to meet our needs for infrastructure repair, public education, health care and a rapid transition to a green energy economy.”

The Climate Crisis Remains Inadequately Addressed When Urged Action Is Needed

“The climate crisis is another crisis that demands immediate steps. According to researchers, the world will reach the limits of its carbon budget in 2018. The US continues to be a major contributor to the crisis with the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world. The federal government is more concerned with protecting the profits of the oil, gas and nuclear industries rather than the rapid energy and economic transitions that are needed.

In 2009, the Obama administration derailed the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen when negotiations between other nations were working towards binding carbon limits. The resultant 2015 Paris agreement is entirely voluntary with carbon commitments that are inadequate to mitigate climate change. The Paris Treaty amounts to ‘too little, too late’.

While sound academic studies show that the US can move rapidly to a carbon-free and nuclear-free energy economy, Obama’s Clean Power Plan incentivizes more gas and more nuclear power. These dirty energies are being widely protested by the public in locations where new projects are being proposed. From excavation, to building infrastructure and dealing with waste, these are dirty energies that not only add to climate gases but cause widespread environmental and health problems.

Now that oil and gas prices are falling and there are record bankruptcies by oil and gas companies, there is an opportunity for a just transition to a green energy economy. Instead of listening to the oil and gas companies which are pushing Congress for a bailout, the administration and Congress need to listen to the people. This is the time to end the fossil fuel era and invest in a public works program for jobs in green energy production and infrastructure which includes transportation, retrofitting current structures to be more efficient and enhancing local production of foods and necessary goods. Such a program will create much-needed jobs, more than similar investments in oil and gas would create, and returns from that investment can be applied to a universal basic guaranteed income as tax payers should be considered investors in the new energy economy.”

US Foreign Policy Based On Intervention, Domination and Militarism Hurts the US and World

“Finally, US Empire, the largest in human history, will not be discussed even though it is a driver of the climate and economic crises. The US military is the largest single user of oil in the world, most of it for aviation fuel which produces triple the amount of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) as oil and diesel. The military also uses large amounts of electricity to power its 1,100 bases and outposts around the world.

The Empire Economy, which consumes 55% of discretionary federal dollars, has expanded unreasonably under President Obama to the point where even projects that the Pentagon rejects are funded while domestic needs are left unmet. President Obama is even wasting a trillion dollars over ten years to upgrade the US nuclear weapons program. Under President Obama, the US is surrounding China with the Asian Pivot and militarizing the European border with Russia while continuing to be entrenched in wars in the Middle East. Rather than making the world a safer place, US foreign policy which is based on intervention into other nations, global hegemony and aggression, has created greater insecurity.

It is time for the US to end its global hegemony and become a cooperative partner in the world. According to “Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World,” the US spends up to $120 billion annually on foreign military bases, which cost as much as four times the amount spent on Social Security, Unemployment & Labor ($29 billion); nearly twice as much as Housing and Community ($63 billion); four times as much as Science ($30 billion); and 1.7 times as much as Education ($70 billion). Rather than building more bases, especially bases that are widely opposed such as the ones on Jeju Island in Korea and on Okinawa in Japan, the US needs to close bases and outposts as part of remaking a foreign policy that emphasizes diplomacy, cooperation and nonintervention into the affairs of other nations. We can bring the skills of military personnel and the military dollars home to address the urgent crises we face domestically.”

The Obama Legacy: Corporate Power Grows, Democracy Shrinks

“These are the major crises that we face and they require serious public discussion and effective steps to solve them. President Obama could leave his final term with a reckoning of this reality, but that is unlikely. Instead, President Obama will sugarcoat his minimal steps on gun violence and criminal justice while he pushes the TransPacific Partnership, an agreement which will further devastate the US economy, prevent measures to address the climate crisis and further empower the US’ military pivot to the Asia Pacific by seeking to isolate China economically, the opposite of what the US should be doing.

The Obama legacy will be recognized for its failures to protect people and the planet.”

Dr. Margaret Flowers will be participating in the Green Party of the United States' official response to the State of the Union Address. The party will be streaming the speech live on Tuesday evening followed by reactions from Green candidates for federal office, including Dr. Flowers. The party's live stream and responses can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/user/GreenPartyVideos/live

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