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An easier
question could be: Which one of the two would be better for Ukraine’s
oligarchs? And for American oligarchs, of course.

Answers are
coming in an avalanche from positions taken by Obama, Romney and his Republican
Party on the issues of U.S. economy, in which America’s oligarchs are deeply
enmeshed. Their role in the USA may not be as glaring as that of their
counterparts in Ukraine, but they are among the key players in the corridors of
power. 

Although
the U.S. presidential and congressional elections are over, the debate about
taxes and budgets —  the centerpiece of
election politics —  continues unabated
in Washington.

The
all-absorbing media attention is now on “the fiscal cliff” – the approaching
date (Dec.  31) of expiration of tax cuts
enacted by former U.S. President George W. Bush, and the spending cuts going
into effect at the same time, as agreed by a specially empowered commission
earlier this year.

This fiscal
cliff is dreaded by all sides, because, according to the media and everybody of
any standing, the country will plunge into recession.

Only a
compromise between the president and the Republican Party on taxes and spending
can avert the inevitable, according to pundits and political heavyweights. But
the Republicans remain intransigent in their determination to extend all tax
cuts beyond the scheduled expiration date, while the president insists that tax
cuts must expire for the wealthiest Americans.

On the spending
side, the Republicans oppose meaningful cuts for military, and demand means testing
for Social Security and Medicare recipients — a devious way of downgrading
these earned benefits into welfare programs. The Social Security Trust Fund is
financed by payroll tax. It is not the cause of US budget deficits, and in fact
it has been lending trillions of dollars to the government by investing in US
Treasury bonds over many years now. And Medicare needs mainly a change in legislated
ground rules to reduce its excessive payments to pharmaceutical cartels and conglomerates. 

To
complicate matters, the fiscal policy debate in the USA fails to address a very
major issue — the deplorable state of the country’s infrastructure.   

When fiscal
debates and sewer lines belong in a single sentence, it is not that they are
physically or figuratively connected. They are not, although they should be.

Here is
why. The 80 years old sewer lines that are emptying into the Hudson River in
upstate New York after treatment in sewage plants cannot last forever. And yet,
replacing or renovating them has not been high on the public priority list.

It is not
pretty when sewage treatment plants leak or pipes break and disintegrate. It happened
twice in year 2012 (prior to the super-storm Sandy), with millions of gallons
of raw sewage emptying into the river and causing havoc around the New York
City periphery.

By a coincidence,
a brand new US Navy $1.2 billion destroyer was having its maiden voyage in the
Hudson Bay at the same time at the beginning of October.

All of this
is about money. Should the nation’s wealth continue to be spent on private
jets, Mac-Mansions, wars, and stashing of billions in private off-shore
accounts of the oligarchs and the upper crust, or should it be taxed at a fair
rate? This is the perennial question of public interest vs private indulgence.

Over the
last two years, Obama has been attempting to get funding through Congress for
major repairs of America’s rusted infrastructure. Over 2,000 bridges in the
country are near collapse, not to mention the ancient electric grid with its
blackouts, barely able to keep up with the modern day requirements, and
promising the USA  a banana republic
status. 

Equally
important, committing public funds for infrastructure work would be a powerful,
and in the ongoing recession the only realistic rapid stimulus for jobs
creation.

The
president was stopped cold by the Republican party- controlled Congress. It is
no secret that the Republicans have engaged in obstructionism because they needed
a bad economy to make Obama a one-term president.

In
contrast, ritual spending for the Pentagon – at the current clip of $2 billion every
24 hours according to Brian Williams on the NBC Evening News – seldom meets
serious objections. We must “stay the course in Afghanistan”, advised the Financial
Times editorial of March 13, 2012. 
Getting out by 2014?  Maybe, or
maybe the date will slide if more U.S. soldiers are killed by friendly Afghan
government troops. That’s how it goes in “the graveyard of empires.”

It doesn’t
get better as nearly one-half of American veterans of the two unaffordable wars
are applying for disability compensation for multiple physical and
psychological injuries. The Veterans Administration is swamped. It is one year
behind in processing one million applications each year (per The New York Times
on Sept. 27), and has received no funding from Congress to handle the huge cost
that was not expected (you got it right) by politicians.

And then
came the punch from the super-storm Sandy at the end of October that exposed
big time the neglect of waste disposal facilities in the New York and New
Jersey metropolitan area.

The New
York Times account (Nov. 29) has it: “Hurricane Sandy crippled treatment plants
in New York and New Jersey, revealing problems in the region’s wastewater
infrastructure that could take years and billions of dollars to fix.”

After a tax-cutting
binge in 2001 alongside the two semi-permanent unfunded wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, US tax revenues have been grossly inadequate relative to spending.
The deficit has grown by five trillion dollars during the eight years of George
Bush’s presidency, with no rumblings from the Republican Party, which suddenly
became fiscally super-sensitive when Barack Obama became president.

The Wall
Street financial meltdown in 2008 and bank bailouts that followed added another
several trillion to the deficit, while the Republicans have been pressing for
more tax cutting and gutting of social programs. America’s big-time oligarchs have
been financing the overall Republican full-court press as well as presidential
campaigning.

Is it not
incongruous to preach and rail against fiscal deficits and at the same time to

cringe in
horror in the face of “the fiscal cliff” that would be the first real step
toward budgetary discipline since Bill Clinton left the White House? And
blaming Obama, as the Republicans are doing daily, for “not doing something” to
avert it?

Also, the
prolonged Afghan war has now entered the inevitable scandal phase, in which the
only lasting victory by the commanding general David Petraeus was the one
scored with his easy on the eye female biographer. For an encore, his
successor, General John Allen came close to a long-distance stunt with a
voluptuous Tampa socialite, which sparked an FBI investigation and put on hold
his putative appointment as commander of US troops in Europe. This came after
shattering WikiLeaks revelations about less than honorable conduct of US troops
toward civilian population in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama’s
re-election is a much bigger blow to America’s oligarchs than acknowledged by
the mainstream media or understood by most people (except in Western Europe,
where Obama is a favorite of both the liberals and conservatives).

Obama’s exuberance
is muted by his deliberate avoidance of overplaying his hand. He cannot afford
to antagonize the secretive national security state within a state, that since
the late 1940s sometimes attempted to conduct its own foreign policy — as it
tried during the Cuban missile crisis. The more self-confident presidents
Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy were able to put their foot down, but
the latter paid for it dearly with his life 
— the crime was subsequently covered up by a high-level whitewash committee,
and a dead patsy was blamed, as no one could stomach the ugly truth of
something that admittedly can happen only in a banana republic.

Wall
Street, with its tooth-and-nail resistance to new financial regulation laws, is
perhaps the principal loser in Obama’s re-election. The Street, accustomed to
absorbing over 70 percent of all business profits in the USA, is now trimming
its work force.

And what
about Ukraine’s oligarchs?

Are they
not cozy in the exclusive lounges in London, Cyprus and Amsterdam?

Are they
not shaking sleazy hands with the gentlemen in Geneva?

 Were they not applauded, as owners of the
Regions Party and of most of Ukraine, by the big business East and West when
Viktor Yanukovych was elected president?

If the
answer is yes, they are not exactly winners with Obama’s re-election.

Boris Danik is a retired Ukrainian-American
living in North Caldwell, New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

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