Obama’s Fractured State of the Union: Part II

In his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama had nothing critical to say about Iraq, nor has he had much to say in a critical vein about Iraq since becoming president. A relative critical silence about one of the greatest blunders of the United States is an extreme disservice to the nation, as we should be forewarned about repeating this tragic course of action. The section on Iraq in this blog is by far the longest devoted to one topic and that is because we need to know how damaging the invasion of Iraq has been to that nation and to the United States.

Iraq – The last combat troops left Iraq on December 17, 2011, nominally ending a war that was started by President George W. Bush in March 2003, almost nine years ago — “nominally” because the war continues in many real ways for all Iraqis, especially for some 3.5 million who are either internally displaced in Iraq or refugees in another country. According to the Bloomberg-John Hopkins survey, using well-established survey methodology, a mean average of 600,000 plus Iraqis were killed in the war — since that survey was taken several years ago, the current number would be much higher. Moreover, the war has left a ruined country that was formerly one of the most advanced in the Middle East in terms of health and education:

* Up to 70 percent lack access to clean water

* Up to 80 percent lack access to sanitation

* Half of the doctors are either dead or have emigrated

* Average electricity availability is 14.6 hours per day.

The political situation in Iraq is also complicated and dangerous. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently accused Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi of running a hit squad five years ago. He is also pursuing a vote of no-confidence against Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlag. More broadly, al-Maliki has threatened to fire all nine of the cabinet ministers belonging to a grouping put together by Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister. Allawi’s grouping (Iraqiya) is boycotting all cabinet and parliamentary meetings, because even though Iraqiya won the most seats in the last parliamentary election, it feels it has been pushed out of a meaningful role in the governance of the country.

And in the United States, direct expenditures to date exceed $800 billion and there have been some 4,500 U.S. combat deaths, over 1,000 U.S. troop suicides and over 30,000 wounded. The $800 billion will grow substantially, despite the war’s nominal end, because as a nation we must keep our commitment to care for the veterans of the war.

The U.S. is maintaining a substantial presence in Iraq, with the largest embassy in the world and an army of mercenaries hired to guard the Americans working and living in that “embassy.”

This war was a moral, humanitarian, financial and foreign policy disaster for the United States and its ramifications will continue fro many decades.

Afghanistan – In his State of the Union speech, President Obama claimed that the Taliban’s “momentum has been broken, a statement that is at odds with the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Afghanistan “is mired in stalemate” and security gains have been cut.

Iran – President once again said that all options are on the table if Iran refuses to end what the U.S. considers its attempts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. One of the options is the use of nuclear warheads to destroy Iran’s deeply dug-in nuclear facilities. There is a computer model which calculates that three million people could die if the U.S. uses nuclear warheads on Iran.

Not only could the loss of life be horrendous, but Iran warns of closing the Strait of Hormuz to oil shipments and Iran has the capability to do other types of damage to U.S. interests.

Both ABC News and the Washington Post have done fact-checking on Obama’s State of the Union claims. Both media outlets dispute Obama’s jobs lost and gained figures. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, ABC News claims that Obama over-estimated the job lost figures under President Bush and over-estimated by almost a million the jobs created by his administration during its first three years. The Washington Post claimed that Obama had been inaccurate about the time periods in which jobs were lost or created.

ABC News raises doubts about Obama’s claim that he has doubled the number of trade cases brought by Bush against China: Bush brought seven cases to the World Trade Organization; Obama has filed three.

ABC News fact-checkers also challenge Obama’s proposal to use half of the money saved by reducing U.S. war-fighting costs to pay down the debt and half to do nation-building here at home. The fact-checkers point out that all of the money to fight wars was borrowed and there is no new money available to finance Obama’s proposal.

The Washington Post zeros in on Obama’s boast that domestic oil production is at its highest level in eight years. The Post regards this boast as meaningless since U.S. oil production has remained relatively steady for those eight years.

When President Obama said that the health care law “relies on  a reformed private market, not a government program,” he omitted the crucial fact that about half of the 34 million now uninsured who will receive coverage, will be placed in Medicaid. States are sharply reducing Medicaid coverage and lowered reimbursement rates are reducing the number of doctors who will take Medicaid recipients.

A Pew Research Center poll taken in May 2011 throws cold water on Obama’s claim that foreign opinions of the United States are at the highest levels in years. Pew found that among two of our closest allies, Turkey and Jordan, confidence in Obama has dropped sharply: from 33 percent in 2009 to 11 percent in 2011 in Turkey, and from 25 percent in 2009 to 13 percent in 2011 in Jordan. Obama’s confidence percentages have also fallen in Indonesia, part of the Asian theater where Obama wants to augment U.S. military pressure.

Instead of starting and ending his State of the Union speech with glorification of the military, at some point in his presidency Obama should have addressed the awful fact that widespread torture was approved through the entire chain of command of the armed forces. Among the acts of compassion and kindness shown to the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan  there have been acts of disrespect and crimes committed against the peoples of these two countries. The U.S. president must provide a more balanced assessment of how the U.S. armed forces perform in foreign lands.

Finally, what would have been illuminating is for President Obama to have given a ballpark figure on how much additional spending his proposals would cost and how much additional revenue he proposes to raise. Notable here is that Obama’s 12-year plan calls for only $1 trillion in additional revenue to achieve a $4 trillion reduction in the accumulated debt.

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Obama’s Fractured State of the Union

This will be a two-part blog focusing on President Obama’s State of the Union speech. The second part will focus on foreign policy issues and fact-checking.

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech was a long laundry list of proposals, a number of them distilled from prior State of the Union speeches and others either unworkable or dead on arrival in Congress. Obama started his speech with a claim that the current generation of military heroes has made the nation safer and more respected in the world and concluded it with a recommendation that a democratic republic should operate in the same way as the hierarchical, orders from the top down structure as found in the military. Except for a brief mention of a new defense strategy, Obama gave no indication that there would be a significant reduction of a bloated Pentagon, a less formidable nuclear weapons inventory and any trimming of a sprawling intelligence empire.

Obama’s celebration of killing those designated as terrorists overlooks the contention of some analysts, including former intelligence czar, Dennis Blair, that conducting the War on Terror through primary use of the military, especially missile-firing drones, is probably creating more terrorists. So Obama’s terrorist list is probably a seriously flawed definition  of success. Obama should also have explained why and how he has abrogated for himself the right to order killings, even of U.S. citizens.

President Obama’s “fair share” tax policy is heavily oriented to requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent. Only about a quarter of these very wealthy people pay a tax rate that is less than the average middle-class taxpayer. This tax provision would lead to a very modest increase in revenue.

Relative to the post-World War II, pre-Reagan years, when the nation was enormously prosperous, and the top marginal tax rate was never lower than 70.45 percent, U.S. taxpayers, in general, are under-taxed in regard to federal income tax. What is needed is a progressive tax rate schedule, with a top marginal tax rate of 60 to 70 percent.

In regard to income taxes on corporations, Obama proposed to have a two or even more tier system, whereby corporations that outsource work would pay a higher rate of taxes than would corporations that create U.S. jobs. Obama would also give high-tech manufacturers a double tax break; however, manufacturers currently receive multiple tax credits and deductions.Counting both national and state corporate income taxes, the average corporate tax rate is 39.2 percent but it falls to 27 percent when tax loopholes are included. These are Tax Foundation percentages. 280 corporations in the Fortune 500 paid an average rate of 18.5 percent in the last tax year studied.

When all loopholes, credits, deductions and exemptions are taken into account, U.S.-based corporations pay a lower tax rate than do corporations based in the other industrialized nations; also, according to the Congressional Budget Office, two-thirds of U.S. corporations pay no income tax. Moreover, a study of the top Fortune 100 found that 25 of them paid their CEO more than they paid in corporate income tax.

President Obama’s stated intent to create tax breaks for specific groups of people and corporation runs a danger of riddling the tax code with more exceptions than it now has. Military veterans already have a number of benefits which those without military service do not have. Why build more tax breaks for veterans into the tax code?

President Obama has already cut governmental revenue by more than he proposes to increase it during the rest of his presidency; therefore, the capacity to do more home nation-building will have been diminished during his presidency.

Obama’s claim that the Pentagon will be saving energy by making operations to be more fuel-efficient — the Navy will reputably save enough energy to power 3 million homes — is misguided because a much smaller military would use far less energy.

Renewable energy was to have been a major focus of the Obama administration; however, to this point, the administration has devoted more resources to the fossil fuel industry than to renewable energy sources, by opening up much more coal mining in Western states and opening up more offshore oil leases. Obama is now proposing to make available 75 percent of the potential offshore oil and gas leases; also, he wants much more reliance placed on natural gas, yet he has been depicted as “leaning” toward support of fracking. Fracking is suspected of contaminating underground water sources and possibly even causing earthquakes where they were unknown to occur before.

In regard to underwater homeowners, Obama is proposing to provide each “responsible” family a saving of $3,000 annually. This proposal is built on one he proposed in an October 2011 speech in Las Vegas. Most underwater homeowners didn’t participate in that program. Economists calculate that because of many restrictions built into the Obama proposal, only about one million of the six million underwater homeowners will fully participate in the program.

President Obama’s position on business regulation is tangled: he speaks of cutting red tape on small businesses but wants more regulation of Wall Street. He boosted of imposing fewer regulations on business than did George W. Bush. ABC News fact-check found that he had imposed 30 fewer regulations than Bush but Obama had imposed more on businesses earning over $100 million.

President Obama is also a day late and a dollar short when he proposes a trade inspection unit and a new unit in the Justice Department to focus on fraudulent business practices. He has shown little interest in investigating major malefactors in the Bush administration or holding anyone responsible for the massive mess created by major financial institutions. Obama’s vow that he will vigorously go after the bankers who played a big role in causing the housing fiasco sounds hollow when he and the attorney general  displayed little past concern for determining their culpability and the penalties they should pay.

Obama was being grossly hypocritical when he asked for an end to deportation of the fully Americanized children of illegals. Immigration rights groups have assailed Obama for heedlessly breaking up families in the one million plus illegals he has sent back to Mexico.

A Crumbling Medicaid System

The dominant story about Medicaid in many states is serious cutbacks in services. Recipients are unable to gain access to basic care: dental and vision coverage has been cut; the elderly don’t qualify for dentures and hearing aids; mental health services have been restricted; and day centers have been eliminated or seen their hours cut back.

Besides these cutbacks in services, reimbursement rates for doctors under Medicaid tend to be less than reimbursement rates for equivalent services under Medicare, which itself is causing doctors to reject Medicare recipients. Thus, Medicaid recipients are finding it harder and harder to find doctors who will treat them.

The burden on Medicaid is being increased from another direction. Poverty is at its highest level in nearly 20 years and the number of children living in deep poverty — in families with incomes less than 50 percent of the poverty line — is at its highest level since the late 1970s. Once more, the unemployment rate for single mothers is at a 25-year high. Welfare rolls are rising at a time when states are tightening restrictions on getting help.

What is happening to Medicaid recipients will have a profound impact on President Obama’s healthcare reform legislation. The young law is heavily dependent on the expansion of Medicaid to provide coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. Millions of the uninsured will need to be added to the seven million who have enrolled in Medicaid since the financial collapse of 2008.

The Troublesome Future of an Obama Second Term (continued)

16) Iraq: Not a Real Success – I am not sure if the voting public had been told by a campaigning Barack Obama that there would be a substantial U.S. military presence in Iraq throughout the first three years of his presidency that Barack Obama would have been elected president. He had created an impression in the campaign that  the troops would be out of Iraq well before three years had passed.

It is also the case that Obama would not have withdrawn all of the troops by December 31, 2011, if Iraq had agreed to give U.S. forces immunity from the exercise of Iraqi law. The Pentagon wanted to keep at least 3,000 troops in Iraq and maybe as many as 15,000. So what Obama did was withdraw the troops in accordance with an agreement drawn up between George W. Bush and the then-existing Iraqi government. Some legal scholars and lawmakers believe that the agreement was equivalent to a treaty and thus should have been subject to ratification in the U.S. Senate. Obama, the former instructor in constitutional law, has proven to interpret the Constitution very loosely.

Rather than a well-functioning government, Iraq is in shambles, no matter in what sector one chooses to look.

17)  Dangerous Take on Iran – A second term for Obama will keep the nation on tenterhooks regarding U.S. military attacks on Iran. Obama has not ruled out use of nuclear weapons if a “red line” is crossed. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a speech on December 2, 2011 that imminent or actual possession of a nuclear bomb by Iran would constitute “red lines” for a U.S. attack. A nuclear attack on Iran’s deeply buried nuclear facilities could cause as many as three million deaths according to a computer program projection.

Iranian disruption of shipping through the Strait of Hormuz would cause a major spike in oil prices and Iran can cause the United States major grief in many sorts of ways.

18) Proliferation of Overseas Military Bases Will Continue – Except for Iraq, where U.S. bases have been emptied of troops and a possible trimming of bases due to a draw down of troops from Afghanistan, there are no visible plans to reduce the large number of U.S. overseas bases. The Pentagon can’t give a specific figure for the total number of U.S. overseas military bases, due, in part, because there are a number of “lily-pad” bases with very few troops; however, the number is usually presented in terms of “over 800,” or “over 1,000.”

At least one major base will be added soon, as 2,500 U.S.Marines will be stationed in Darwin, Australia. The proposed shift of strategic military interest from the European to the Asia/Pacific theater may result in a wash between bases closed and bases opened.

What has been presented above in 18 chosen areas over a series of blogs is a projection of what a Obama second term will likely bring. The next four years will very likely be a continuation and even intensification of the policies of George W. Bush. A high percentage of the U.S. citizenry believes the nation is on the wrong track; however, when polled, the public splits almost evenly on whether the answer is more government or less government. President Barack is not likely to help them make that choice.

 

 

The Troublesome Future of an Obama Second Term (continued)

14) The Wrong Track on Education – President Obama has made useful changes in No Child Left Behind, by giving the states more control and removing the focus on failure as the predominant outcome; however, he has continued to support high stakes testing, with its attendant narrowing of the educational horizon for students.

Obama is also a strong proponent of charter schools, even though the evidence continues to accumulate that they don’t perform any better, in general, than traditional public schools; they are more segregated than the traditional public schools; and are more prone to fraud and corruption. Only about five percent of charter schools employ unionized teachers — a dagger aimed at his own party by Obama, because unionized teachers are among the most faithful constituencies of the Democratic Party.

As a general proposition, students from states with highly unionized teaching corps perform better on standardized tests than do students learning in right-to-work states. Students in industrialized nations with a heavily unionized teaching force also test better than do students from right-to-work states.

One of President Obama’s main educational projects is the Race to the Top. In order to quality, any cap on charter schools must be removed and teacher evaluations must be closely tied to student performances on tests. Race to the Top does not involve much of the public school population.

15) Relative Status Quo in the War on Drugs – President Obama has largely embraced the War on Drugs, increasingly seen as a colossal failure. Despite the expenditure of billions of U.S. dollars in Colombia, the nation remains a violent land for union leaders and other activists. Drug-related violence has actually increased in Mexico during the Obama years; and the “Fast and Furious” program to trace U.S.-supplied firearms to Mexican drug cartels has been a major fiasco.

The Obama White House has stepped up raids of medical marijuana dispensaries and users in those states that have liberalized their marijuana laws. These raids and prosecutions have created a terrible quandary for those following their state law, only to be hit with a federal prosecution.

The first drug czar appointed by President Obama spoke of the need to emphasize treatment over law enforcement; however, that called-for policy change has been mostly rhetorical in nature.

The next blog will begin a focus on the likely future foreign policy posture of the Obama administration.

 

The Troublesome Future of an Obama Second Term (continued)

6) Torture Not Ended – Although President Obama has disavowed the use of torture, it appears, based on Associated Press reporting and that of human rights groups, that the United States is employing torture in Afghanistan. Not only is the U.S. accused of treating detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions, but it is accused of overlooking torture being practiced by the Afghan government.

When the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was amended in 2009 to give detainees more rights, the provision in the 2006 law that permits the president to sanction CIA use of torture — euphemistically termed “enhanced interrogation” — was not removed.

7) Erosion of Civil Liberties – According to Bill Quigley, human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, President Obama privately promised Bush officials that no one would be prosecuted for torture. He also advocated a “just following orders” defense, which the Nuremberg trials had specifically termed invalid as a legal defense.

President Obama has adopted most of the civil liberties positions of George W. Bush: extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention — with periodic review — warrantless wiretapping, telecom immunity, the Patriot Act and Special Security Measures (SAMS), employing extra harsh conditions of confinement increasingly used during Obama’s first term.

Obama has made use of a state secrets legal theory to block dozens of public interest lawsuits; the FBI use of national security letters has increased dramatically; he has cracked down on whistleblowers after saying how valuable they were in an early speech after becoming president; and he has failed to close Guantanamo as promised.

The Bush administration got away with an unconstitutional legislative act of creating a new criminal category: the enemy combatant. President Obama has gone one up on Bush by asserting the power to order the killing of U.S. citizens. He recently signed into law the codification of indefinite detention through the National Defense Authorization Act; morever,  he helped create the real possibility that U.S. citizens can be detained indefinitely without charge or trial.

The Obama administration’s use of military commissions is troublesome due to the lack of legal safeguards found in state and federal courts.

The FBI’s infiltration of Muslim communities is yet another troublesome aspect of President Obama’s civil liberties record. The Associated Press has identified informants called “Mosque crawlers,” who monitor sermons, bookstores and cafes. The FBI has a substantial number of informants who keep especially close watch on the activities of U.S. Muslims. Virtually all of the terrorist plots exposed to public notice since 9/11 were instigated by FBI underground agents targeting those who had come under suspicion of harboring hostile feelings toward the U.S. society or government.

8) Broken Immigration Promises – Barack Obama made two immigrant-related promises during the presidential campaign: he said that immigration reform legislation would be a major priority and he would work to pass the Dream Act, allowing college-entry parity for the children of illegal immigrants. Obama has failed on both promises, although he faced and faces formidable political opposition to do either.

Besides the lack of movement on immigration reform and the Dream Act, immigrant rights groups have faulted Obama for the big increase in illegal immigrants deported south to Mexico. The number deported has now crossed the one million mark and the Obama administration has come under further fire for not taking care to avoid breaking up families in the deportations.

A major scandal is taking place in the detention of illegal immigrants. huge backlogs of cases make due process a mockery and the lack of a reliable database makes it almost impossible to locate many of the facilities and where individual detainees are being held.

9) Housing Crisis Deepened – The Obama administration has been far more concerned with helping bankers avoid the consequences of their bad and even potentially illegal loans, than with rescuing underwater homeowners. The programs set up to help underwater homeowners have been poorly promoted and ineptly administered, so that most underwater homeowners have not taken advantage of them.

Financial experts are saying that it will now be difficult for Obama to shift to a regulatory focus on bankers. No bankers have gone to prison for the major role they played in creating the housing mess.

10) Regulation of Big Business Weakened – It is not likely that big business would face an adverse regulatory climate in a second Obama term. Obama notably wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, in which he warned against placing regulatory controls on business. Probably the main reason that President Obama ignored the unanimous recommendation of the EPA’s independent panel of scientists and rejected the new rules on smog control that the EPA was going to put into effect, was because they would put too heavy a cost burden on the industries chiefly responsible for causing the smog.

One of the reasons that the Dodd-Frank legislation is criticized as being much too weak to control business malpractice is that President Obama did not press for stronger regulation. Even in regard to the new consumer protection agency, Obama reportedly wanted to lodge it in the Federal Reserve, where consumer protection advocates argued it would lose the independence it should have as an stand-alone agency.

11) Taxes and Spending – President Obama has been all over the waterfront in regard to taxes and spending. The best source of his long-term view is the 12- year plan, in which he proposes $4 trillion in deficit reduction, of which only $1 trillion will come from tax increases and only $400 billion will come from military spending cuts. Domestic spending will be hit the hardest.  This 3-to-1 ration of spending cuts to increased revenue was widened significantly when Obama put Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the table in negotiating on raising the debt ceiling.

President Obama subsequently endorsed other proposed long-term spending and taxation plans, even before the ink was dry on them: the Reid plan and the “Gang of Six” plan were most prominent among them. The “Gang of Six” plan was particularly recklessly and sloppily written. It would have eliminated the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), causing a substantial revenue loss in the future, and it set the top marginal tax rate in the range of 23 to 29 percent. Presumably, a future legislative action could have set the top rate as low as 23 percent. Even at 29 percent it would have been a huge giveaway to the top bracket people now paying 35 percent.

President Obama devoted much of his tax talk in July 2011 to calling for the closing of tax loopholes; in contrast, there was virtually no mention of allowing the Bush tax cut to expire. Of course, Obama’s agreement to a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts caused a big loss in revenue and broke a signature campaign promise not to extend them.

President Obama’s jobs package unveiled in September 2011 changes the tax-spending equation once again by breaking the package into “bite-sized pieces”; dropping the payroll tax cut for employers; and accepting a surcharge on incomes over $1 million — subsequently abandoned by the Democratic legislative leadership.

Given that Obama is arguing that the failure to extend the payroll tax cut is a tax increase for about 160 million wage earners, he will find it hard to argue against another payroll tax cut and even another extension of the Bush tax cuts if economic conditions continue to be dire in late 2012.

12) Renewables Slighted in Energy Policy – During his three years in office, Presient Obama has devoted more resources to fossil fuels than he has to renewable energy. He has opened up the Western states for much more production of coal and he has expanded the number of offshore oil drilling leases. Meanwhile, while he has inveighed against tax breaks for fossil fuel industries, no action has been taken to reduce or eliminate any of them.

President Obama did provide $80 billion for renewable energy in his initial stimulus spending plan. The electric-car industry received $5 billion of funding but much of it has not produced positive results: for instance, in August 2009, Obama announced $2.4 billion in more than 40 grants to car industry firms, much of it going to battery manufacturers. Several of these manufacturers have floundered or failed, laying off large numbers of workers. The Energy Department said in February 2011 that a goal was one million EV’s by 2015. Actual sales now stand at 16,800, or about 2/10 ths of one percent of 2011 domestic car sales.

13) Pluses and Minuses on the Environment – President Obama has has a mixed record on environmental policy. His most notable achievement was was to get an agreement to require passenger cars and light trucks to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Probably his next important achievement was to set a national standard for mercury, a toxic metal. The EPA has also reduced allowable downwind pollution from manufacturing and power plants.

Restrictions have also been placed on mountaintop removal and on the nationwide issuance of coal mining permits by the Corps of Engineers. However, mountaintop removal mining has not been banned and the EPA has issued some mining permits to mining companies blowing off the tops of mountains.

Easily the most controversial environmental decision made by Obama was to block tougher standards on smog creation, even though the EPA’s independent scientific panel was unanimous in supporting the tougher standards. Obama had punted on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, delaying a decision until 2013; however, as part of an agreement to get a two-month extension of the 2011 payroll tax cut, he agreed to make a decision on Keystone in 60 days, so the outcome is up in the air.

The next blog will continue with some more domestic policy considerations.

 

 

The Troublesome Aspects of an Obama Second Term

Supporters of President Barack Obama are contending that a second term for him would differ significantly from the first term, because he wouldn’t be saddled with as many “Bluedog” Democrats in the U.S. House; those who deserted the Democratic Party in the 2010 elections would come back due to fear of the election of a Republican president; and Obama would no longer need to trim his agenda to get re-elected. I believe that these kinds of contentions are rendered wistful in nature when looked at in terms of Obama’s performance to date and what he has revealed about his future courses of action. So what follows is a detailed look at where President Obama has stood on the issues and what he has revealed about his future plans.

1) A Bloated Pentagon – The United States, with about five percent of the world’s population, accounts for almost half of world military spending. In President Obama’s FY 2012 budget, he submitted a ten-year projection of Pentagon spending totaling nearly $6.4 trillion. Obama’s 12-year plan calls for only $400 billion in military spending cuts, or about five percent of projected spending in those years. The $6.4 trillion spending figure covers the base Pentagon budget and the cost of ongoing wars; it doesn’t cover the category of militarily-related spending, which some analysts believe to be a more accurate picture of what is spent on the military.

President Obama has also appointed a defense secretary, Leon Panetta, who sees any further cuts in military spending as disastrous for our national security.

2) More Nukes – President Obama gave a speech early in  his presidency, in which he painted a picture of a world without nuclear weapons. Since the speech, the only action Obama has taken to reduce the number of nuclear warheads has been the New START treaty with Russia. Getting that treaty ratified in the U.S. Senate was costly, however, because to get it, Obama poured many billions of dollars into a nuclear weapons modernization program.

The heart of that modernization program is the building of three new facilities, which will quadruple the capacity to build nuclear warheads. The Pentagon’s JASON study found that the nation’s nuclear stockpile is safe and reliable for another 100 years or more. Besides the estimated $185 billion to be spent on modernization and delivery systems over 10 years, the future blueprint includes a new nuclear weapons-equipped submarine fleet and a new bomber capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

3) A Sprawling Intelligence Empire – There has been a tremendous expansion of building complexes, organizations, locations for intelligence work, personnel and spending since 9/11, as chronicled in a series run in the Washington Post. In the presidential campaign,  Barack Obama promised to rein in the intelligence empire and increase its transparency; however, as set forth in a PBS “Frontline” program, he has taken no action to reduce the growth of this empire. Obama actually requested more intelligence funding in his FY 2012 budget than Congress was willing to give him  The Obama administration also strongly objected to the request by Congress for more information on what is happening in Guantanamo and more information on government-to-government contacts. So much for the campaign pledge of more intelligence transparency.

4) Increased Focus on Anti-Missile Defense – President Obama has followed the practice of prior presidents in continuing the funding of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars fantasy, which purported to destroy oncoming ballistic missiles (ICBMs) Not only have these anti-missile missiles failed many tests, but they stand as an admission that the national government has no faith in the large deterrent inventory of offensive missiles.

President Obama has also continued the George W. Bush plan to station anti-missile missiles in Eastern Europe to protect against Iran improbably launching nuclear warheads in that direction. The only change he has made in the Bush plan is to protect against short-range missiles, rather than long-range ones. This deployment has seriously strained relations with Russia.

5) Greater Use of Drones – The best estimate of the Obama administration’s use of drones is that it has quadrupled attacks by drones over what it was under George W. Bush. Great Britain’s Guardian newspaper says that the Obama White House has or is making use of drones in six countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Missile strikes by drones would, in days before the War on Terrorism, have been considered to be acts of war.

Some analysts fear that the growing popularity of drones in the world may make wars more likely because there are no pilots to be exposed to harm.

Subsequent blogs will continue on this theme of what we might expect from a second Obama term.