It's still the economy stupid

Benjamin Barber

KAI RYSSDAL: The closer the election gets, the less voters are hearing from Republican candidates about Iraq. Polls show a majority of Americans now think invading that country was the wrong move. Today's news won't change that: 101 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq so far this month. Commentator Benjamin Barber says the election next week is about the war. Something else, too.


BENJAMIN BARBER: The Republicans would be in great shape if the upcoming congressional elections were about the economy.

After all, oil prices are down, the stock market is up, and anxiety about jobs has eased. But instead, Americans are upset about the unending war in Iraq, Washington corruption and sexual scandal.

And guess what? Behind each of these issues lurks economics.

Take Iraq. We're losing partly because President Bush went for a war on the cheap: too few troops, too little body and vehicle armor, virtually no long-term planning, and far too much outsourcing.

Just think. Congress sprinkled $18 billion of our money on private contractors for Iraq reconstruction. And it turns out lots of those contractors have been spending half of that money on overhead — their own housing and security.

Meantime, Iraqis still have miniscule oil production, episodic electrical service and zero security.

And what about our cultural values? Income inequality has been increasing for decades. But there's another kind of inequality at work here too.

It's mostly poor and lower-middle-class Americans who "volunteer" to fight a war motivated by oil and greed because they need the money, training, and a free college education.

They do double and triple tours, while the rest of us stay home, go shopping, and neither make nor feel any sacrifice.

The so-called cultural wars are, in fact, a study in hypocrisy. Everyone talks about cultural values but so many profit from violence and sex in films, video games, and music.

The government ballyhoos democracy and assails the axis of evil, but it does big business with the world's most totalitarian remaining tyranny, the Chinese government.

Once again, the quest for endless profits. No folks, no matter how you slice it, it's still the economy, stupid.

RYSSDAL: Benjamin Barber runs the nonprofit Democracy Collaborative.

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