The definition of fascism is "the union of private interest and government for the protection of property".
The following archive shows how the monopolists employ the the mercenary ideology of the "Tea Party", and how much phrases like "National Security" mean to them when it is deregulation of toxic products that is happening.
The ideology of unrestricted private enterprise does exclude freedom and human rights for all but the enriched, but it includes a dominance by a private security force employed by the clandestine agencies and US CON military command against all threats, domestic, while protecting financial contracts which force the dumping of trillions of dollars out of the People's economy into the pockets of the monopolist companies and the contractors doing the dirty business of warfare and repression, with less social services for the People [link]!
Economic Libertarianism is an ideology for fascism, as seen in by the writings of their intellectual authors [link]
The USA Federal Shutdown's affect on Labor Unions [link]
"Government Shutdown a Multibillion Bonanza for Wall Street"
Student Researcher: Brenda Montanez (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)
The October 2013 “shutdown” of the US government, and the financial climax associated with the deadline for a possible “debt default” by the federal government, was profitable for Wall Street. As Michael Chossudovsky reports, powerful corporate lobby groups acting directly or indirectly on behalf of Wall Street influenced the key actors in the US Congress involved in the shutdown debate. Major interests on Wall Street were not only in a position to influence Congress; they also had inside information regarding the government shutdown impasse. As a result, Chossudovsky writes, Wall Street was “slated to make billions of dollars in windfall profits in speculative activities which are “secure” assuming that they are in a position to exert their influence on relevant policy outcomes.”
The manipulation of markets is carried out on the orders of major bank executives including the CEOs of JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas. The “too big to fail banks” are portrayed, in the words of JP Morgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon’s, as the “victims” of the debt default crisis, when in fact they are the architects of economic chaos as well as the unspoken recipients of billions of dollars of stolen taxpayers’ money. “These corrupt mega banks,” Chossudovsky writes, “are responsible for creating the ‘gaping wound’ referred to by Deutsche Bank’s Anshu Jain in relation to the US public debt crisis.”
Four major Wall Street financial institutions account for more than 90 percent of the so-called derivative exposure: J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank America, and Goldman Sachs. These major banks exert a pervasive influence on the conduct of monetary policy, including the debate within the US Congress on the debt ceiling. They are also among the World’s largest speculators.
* Source: Michael Chossudovsky, “The Speculative Endgame: The Government ‘Shutdown’ and ‘Debt Default,’ A Multibillion Bonanza for Wall Street,” Global Research, October 16, 2013, [http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-speculative-endgame-the-government-shutdown-and-debt-default-a-multibillion-bonanza-for-wall-street/5354420].
"Obama DOJ Still Won't Explain Opposition To 14th Amendment Option"
2013-09-30 from "Huffington Post" [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/30/14th-amendment-option_n_4018599.html]:
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is still refusing to disclose what its legal team concluded about the 14th Amendment option, which many progressives believe would allow the president to continue to pay the government's obligations if Congress refused to raise the statutory debt limit.
In January, ahead of what was sure to be another budget battle, The Huffington Post filed a Freedom of Information Act request with The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, seeking documents regarding the office's advice to the president on the 14th Amendment option. Last week, the office rejected that request but acknowledged the existence of memorandums on the option -- meaning the Obama administration had at least given the option significant consideration.
Proponents of the option point to Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which says that the “validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” It follows, then, that the president could raise the government's borrowing limit, independent of congressional gridlock -- a potential way forward as the government again approaches a shutdown.
Five documents sought by the FOIA request, an Office of Legal Counsel lawyer wrote, "are protected by the deliberative process, attorney-client, and presidential communications privileges, and we have determined that none of them is appropriate for discretionary release."
The OLC previously declined to provide any 14th Amendment option memos during the latest budget fight back in 2011. But that was before White House spokesman Jay Carney stated directly that the administration "does not believe that the 14th Amendment gives the President the power to ignore the debt ceiling -- period."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week that she still believed the 14th Amendment route was an option, but the administration has not commented on the option during this latest battle over funding the federal government.
The sought-after documents would likely explain in detail why the administration does not believe the 14th Amendment allows the president to raise the debt ceiling limit without congressional approval. Yet, it is possible the memos conclude that the president could raise the debt ceiling limit, and the president simply disagreed with their advice.
If the U.S. hits the debt ceiling, the consequences could be even worse than those of the looming government shutdown. It would mean the government would default on its debt obligations, which could trigger another financial crisis. The government will likely run out of money around Oct. 17 unless some sort of deal is reached to raise the debt ceiling above the current $16.7 trillion number.
"Amid government shutdown, Obama signals cuts to Social Security, Medicare"
2013-10-09 by Andre Damon from "World Socialist Web Site" [http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/10/09/budg-o09.html]:
US President Barack Obama restated his support for cutting Social Security and Medicare in a press conference Tuesday, reassuring congressional Republicans of his willingness to agree to these cuts if the Republicans vote to increase the government’s debt limit.
Obama for the first time in his Wednesday press conference went on record in supporting a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, saying, “If they can’t do it for a long time, do it for the period of time in which these negotiations are taking place.”
As the October 17 deadline for raising the US government’s borrowing limit approaches, both sides are zeroing in on their real goals: a “Grand Bargain” to make sweeping cuts to social programs, while lowering corporate taxes.
Obama reiterated that the Democrat-controlled Senate has already passed a budget at funding levels demanded by Republicans, and that “we’re willing to have conversations about anything.” He added, “I will sit down and work with anyone of any party, not only to talk about the budget; I’ll talk about ways to improve the health care system … I’ll talk about ways that we can shrink our long-term deficits.” This is Washington-speak for cutting social programs.
Obama added, “If anybody doubts my sincerity about that, I’ve put forward proposals in my budget to reform entitlement programs for the long haul and reform our tax code in a way that would ... lower rates for corporations.”
Leaders of both parties had been angling for such a deal during the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, but such a sweeping agreement proved elusive. Instead, the White House and Congressional Republicans approved a more limited series of cuts that largely left Social Security and Medicare intact.
Obama made a stark admission of his broader goals in the debt negotiations during the press conference, when, in response to a reporter’s question, he said, “Whenever I see John Boehner to this day, I still say, you should have taken the deal that I offered you back then, which would have dealt with our long-term deficit problems, would not have impeded growth as much, would have really boosted confidence.”
Obama’s 2011 proposal, according to documents leaked in 2012, included over $1 trillion in cuts to Medicare and Social Security as part of $2.8 trillion in total cuts.
Julie Pace of AP, who was preselected to pose the first question, asked, “If Congress does pass a clean [continuing resolution] and a clean debt ceiling bill, those may just be short-term measures. If that happens, does your offer to negotiate with them on issues like health care and spending and deficit reduction still stand in the intervening weeks if they pass measures that are just perhaps six weeks or two months long?"
To this, Obama Replied, “Absolutely. I mean, what I’ve said is that I will talk about anything.”
Obama’s remarks came amid growing calls from Wall Street and major US creditors to prevent any threat to default on the US government debt. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters this week, “The US must avoid a situation where it cannot pay [for its debt] and its triple-A ranking plunges all of a sudden.” He added, “The US must be fully aware that if that happens, the US would fall into fiscal crisis.”
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) likewise warned of the consequences of a US default. “Failure to lift the debt ceiling would be a major event,” said IMF economic counsellor Olivier Blanchard on Tuesday. He added that “the effects of any failure to repay the debt would be felt right away... leading to potentially major disruptions in financial markets both in the United States and abroad.”
Obama noted these concerns in his press conference, saying that “according to many CEOs,” a failure to raise the debt limit by the US Congress would be “insane, catastrophic, chaos.”
Obama met with the CEOs of major banks last week at the White House to discuss the potential impact of the US government’s failure to raise the debt limit. “We’d like to see the fight not be on this ground,” said Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein as he left the meeting, adding that, “They shouldn’t use the threat of causing the US to fail on its obligations to repay its debt as a cudgel.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 159 points Tuesday, while the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, the so-called “fear gauge,” hit the highest level since the start of the year. The index is up by 22 percent since the beginning of the US government shutdown.
The borrowing costs of the US government, meanwhile, hit the highest level in five years Tuesday, while the cost of insuring bonds against a possible default grew by up to ten percent.
During the press conference Obama repeatedly stressed his administration’s debt-cutting credentials, gloating, “Our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in 60 years.” He noted, moreover, that the continuing resolution passed by the Senate “is at Republican spending levels. It’s their budget that Democrats were willing to put votes on just to make sure the government was open.”
"A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning"
2013-10-06 by Sheryl Stolberg and Mike McIntire from "New York Times" [http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/us/a-federal-budget-crisis-months-in-the-planning.html]:
WASHINGTON — Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.
Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.
It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.
“We felt very strongly at the start of this year that the House needed to use the power of the purse,” said one coalition member, Michael A. Needham, who runs Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation. “At least at Heritage Action, we felt very strongly from the start that this was a fight that we were going to pick.”
Last week the country witnessed the fallout from that strategy: a standoff that has shuttered much of the federal bureaucracy and unsettled the nation.
To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.
With polls showing Americans deeply divided over the law, conservatives believe that the public is behind them. Although the law’s opponents say that shutting down the government was not their objective, the activists anticipated that a shutdown could occur — and worked with members of the Tea Party caucus in Congress who were excited about drawing a red line against a law they despise.
A defunding “tool kit” created in early September included talking points for the question, “What happens when you shut down the government and you are blamed for it?” The suggested answer was the one House Republicans give today: “We are simply calling to fund the entire government except for the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare.”
The current budget brinkmanship is just the latest development in a well-financed, broad-based assault on the health law, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.
The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.
The groups have also sought to pressure vulnerable Republican members of Congress with scorecards keeping track of their health care votes; have burned faux “Obamacare cards” on college campuses; and have distributed scripts for phone calls to Congressional offices, sample letters to editors and Twitter and Facebook offerings for followers to present as their own.
One sample Twitter offering — “Obamacare is a train wreck” — is a common refrain for Speaker John A. Boehner.
As the defunding movement picked up steam among outside advocates, Republicans who sounded tepid became targets. The Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee dedicated to “electing true conservatives,” ran radio advertisements against three Republican incumbents.
Heritage Action ran critical Internet advertisements in the districts of 100 Republican lawmakers who had failed to sign a letter by a North Carolina freshman, Representative Mark Meadows, urging Mr. Boehner to take up the defunding cause.
“They’ve been hugely influential,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “When else in our history has a freshman member of Congress from North Carolina been able to round up a gang of 80 that’s essentially ground the government to a halt?”
On Capitol Hill, the advocates found willing partners in Tea Party conservatives, who have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they do not get their way on spending issues. This time they said they were so alarmed by the health law that they were willing to risk a shutdown over it. (“This is exactly what the public wants,” Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, said on the eve of the shutdown.)
Despite Mrs. Bachmann’s comments, not all of the groups have been on board with the defunding campaign. Some, like the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity, which spent $5.5 million on health care television advertisements over the past three months, are more focused on sowing public doubts about the law. But all have a common goal, which is to cripple a measure that Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and leader of the defunding effort, has likened to a horror movie.
“We view this as a long-term effort,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity. He said his group expected to spend “tens of millions” of dollars on a “multifront effort” that includes working to prevent states from expanding Medicaid under the law. The group’s goal is not to defund the law.
“We want to see this law repealed,” Mr. Phillips said.
A Familiar Tactic -
The crowd was raucous at the Hilton Anatole, just north of downtown Dallas, when Mr. Needham’s group, Heritage Action, arrived on a Tuesday in August for the second stop on a nine-city “Defund Obamacare Town Hall Tour.” Nearly 1,000 people turned out to hear two stars of the Tea Party movement: Mr. Cruz, and Jim DeMint, a former South Carolina senator who runs the Heritage Foundation.
“You’re here because now is the single best time we have to defund Obamacare,” declared Mr. Cruz, who would go on to rail against the law on the Senate floor in September with a monologue that ran for 21 hours. “This is a fight we can win.”
Although Mr. Cruz is new to the Senate, the tactic of defunding in Washington is not. For years, Congress has banned the use of certain federal money to pay for abortions, except in the case of incest and rape, by attaching the so-called Hyde Amendment to spending bills.
After the health law passed in 2010, Todd Tiahrt, then a Republican congressman from Kansas, proposed defunding bits and pieces of it. He said he spoke to Mr. Boehner’s staff about the idea while the Supreme Court, which upheld the central provision, was weighing the law’s constitutionality.
“There just wasn’t the appetite for it at the time,” Mr. Tiahrt said in an interview. “They thought, we don’t need to worry about it because the Supreme Court will strike it down.”
But the idea of using the appropriations process to defund an entire federal program, particularly one as far-reaching as the health care overhaul, raised the stakes considerably. In an interview, Mr. DeMint, who left the Senate to join the Heritage Foundation in January, said he had been thinking about it since the law’s passage, in part because Republican leaders were not more aggressive.
“They’ve been through a series of C.R.s and debt limits,” Mr. DeMint said, referring to continuing resolutions on spending, “and all the time there was discussion of ‘O.K., we’re not going to fight the Obamacare fight, we’ll do it next time.’ The conservatives who ran in 2010 promising to repeal it kept hearing, ‘This is not the right time to fight this battle.’ ”
Mr. DeMint is hardly alone in his distaste for the health law, or his willingness to do something about it. In the three years since Mr. Obama signed the health measure, Tea Party-inspired groups have mobilized, aided by a financing network that continues to grow, both in its complexity and the sheer amount of money that flows through it.
A review of tax records, campaign finance reports and corporate filings shows that hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised and spent since 2012 by organizations, many of them loosely connected, leading opposition to the measure.
One of the biggest sources of conservative money is Freedom Partners, a tax-exempt “business league” that claims more than 200 members, each of whom pays at least $100,000 in dues. The group’s board is headed by a longtime executive of Koch Industries, the conglomerate run by the Koch brothers, who were among the original financiers of the Tea Party movement. The Kochs declined to comment.
While Freedom Partners has financed organizations that are pushing to defund the law, like Heritage Action and Tea Party Patriots, Freedom Partners has not advocated that. A spokesman for the group, James Davis, said it was more focused on “educating Americans around the country on the negative impacts of Obamacare.”
The largest recipient of Freedom Partners cash — about $115 million — was the Center to Protect Patient Rights, according to the groups’ latest tax filings. Run by a political consultant with ties to the Kochs and listing an Arizona post office box for its address, the center appears to be little more than a clearinghouse for donations to still more groups, including American Commitment and the 60 Plus Association, both ardent foes of the health care law.
American Commitment and 60 Plus were among a handful of groups calling themselves the “Repeal Coalition” that sent a letter in August urging Republican leaders in the House and the Senate to insist “at a minimum” in a one-year delay of carrying out the health care law as part of any budget deal. Another group, the Conservative 50 Plus Alliance, delivered a defunding petition with 68,700 signatures to the Senate.
In the fight to shape public opinion, conservatives face well-organized liberal foes. Enroll America, a nonprofit group allied with the Obama White House, is waging a campaign to persuade millions of the uninsured to buy coverage. The law’s supporters are also getting huge assistance from the insurance industry, which is expected to spend $1 billion on advertising to help sell its plans on the exchanges.
“It is David versus Goliath,” said Mr. Phillips of Americans for Prosperity.
But conservatives are finding that with relatively small advertising buys, they can make a splash. Generation Opportunity, the youth-oriented outfit behind the “Creepy Uncle Sam” ads, is spending $750,000 on that effort, aimed at dissuading young people — a cohort critical to the success of the health care overhaul — from signing up for insurance under the new law.
The group receives substantial backing from Freedom Partners and appears ready to expand. Recently, Generation Opportunity moved into spacious new offices in Arlington, Va., where exposed ductwork, Ikea chairs and a Ping-Pong table give off the feel of a Silicon Valley start-up.
Its executive director, Evan Feinberg, a 29-year-old former Capitol Hill aide and onetime instructor for a leadership institute founded by Charles Koch, said there would be more Uncle Sam ads, coupled with college campus visits, this fall. Two other groups, FreedomWorks, with its “Burn Your Obamacare Card” protests, and Young Americans for Liberty, are also running campus events.
“A lot of folks have asked us, ‘Are we trying to sabotage the law?’ ” Mr. Feinberg said in an interview last week. His answer echoes the Freedom Partners philosophy: “Our goal is to educate and empower young people.”
Critical Timing -
But many on the Republican right wanted to do more.
Mr. Meese’s low-profile coalition, the Conservative Action Project, which seeks to find common ground among leaders of an array of fiscally and socially conservative groups, was looking ahead to last Tuesday, when the new online health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, were set to open. If the law took full effect as planned, many conservatives feared, it would be nearly impossible to repeal — even if a Republican president were elected in 2016.
“I think people realized that with the imminent beginning of Obamacare, that this was a critical time to make every effort to stop something,” Mr. Meese said in an interview. (He has since stepped down as the coalition’s chairman and has been succeeded by David McIntosh, a former congressman from Indiana.)
The defunding idea, Mr. Meese said, was “a logical strategy.” The idea drew broad support. Fiscal conservatives like Chris Chocola, the president of the Club for Growth, signed on to the blueprint. So did social and religious conservatives, like the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition.
The document set a target date: March 27, when a continuing resolution allowing the government to function was to expire. Its message was direct: “Conservatives should not approve a C.R. unless it defunds Obamacare.”
But the March date came and went without a defunding struggle. In the Senate, Mr. Cruz and Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, talked up the defunding idea, but it went nowhere in the Democratic-controlled chamber. In the House, Mr. Boehner wanted to concentrate instead on locking in the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, and Tea Party lawmakers followed his lead. Outside advocates were unhappy but held their fire.
“We didn’t cause any trouble,” Mr. Chocola said.
Yet by summer, with an August recess looming and another temporary spending bill expiring at the end of September, the groups were done waiting.
“I remember talking to reporters at the end of July, and they said, ‘This didn’t go anywhere,’ ” Mr. Needham recalled. “What all of us felt at the time was, this was never going to be a strategy that was going to win inside the Beltway. It was going to be a strategy where, during August, people would go home and hear from their constituents, saying: ‘You pledged to do everything you could to stop Obamacare. Will you defund it?’ ”
Heritage Action, which has trained 6,000 people it calls sentinels around the country, sent them to open meetings and other events to confront their elected representatives. Its “Defund Obamacare Town Hall Tour,” which began in Fayetteville, Ark., on Aug. 19 and ended 10 days later in Wilmington, Del., drew hundreds at every stop.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, led by Mr. DeMint when he was in the Senate, put up a Web site in July called dontfundobamacare.com and ran television ads featuring Mr. Cruz and Mr. Lee urging people to tell their representatives not to fund the law.
When Senator Richard M. Burr, a North Carolina Republican, told a reporter that defunding the law was “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” the fund bought a radio ad to attack him. Two other Republican senators up for re-election in 2014, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were also targeted. Both face Tea Party challengers.
In Washington, Tea Party Patriots, which created the defunding tool kit, set up a Web site, exemptamerica.com, to promote a rally last month showcasing many of the Republicans in Congress whom Democrats — and a number of fellow Republicans — say are most responsible for the shutdown.
While conservatives believe that the public will back them on defunding, a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a majority — 57 percent — disapproves of cutting off funding as a way to stop the law.
Last week, with the health care exchanges open for business and a number of prominent Republicans complaining that the “Defund Obamacare” strategy was politically damaging and pointless, Mr. Needham of Heritage Action said he felt good about what the groups had accomplished.
“It really was a groundswell,” he said, “that changed Washington from the outside in.”
"States Eliminating Aid for Poor as Shutdown Forces Cuts"
2013-10-09 by William Selway, Chris Christoff & Margaret Newkirk [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-09/states-eliminating-aid-for-poor-as-u-s-shutdown-forces-layoffs.html]:
States are planning to idle workers and cut services because federal funding is drying up as a partial U.S. government shutdown extends into a 10th day.
Michigan is preparing to put as many as 20,000 workers on unpaid leave and eliminate cash and food aid to the poor. North Carolina sent 366 employees home and closed its nutrition aid program to tens of thousands of women and children. Illinois this week may issue furloughs to hundreds of federally funded employees, including workplace safety inspectors.
The state-level fallout shows the widening impact of the first partial U.S. government shutdown since 1996, as Republicans won’t pass spending bills unless President Barack Obama agrees to roll back part of his signature health-care law, which he refuses to do. About a third of the $1.7 trillion that states spent in 2012 came from federal sources, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.
“You send people to D.C. to work,” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican who drew support from the Tea Party movement, said Oct. 8 at a luncheon for business and civic leaders in North Charleston. “You don’t send them to shut something down. So I am frustrated with both the Republicans and the Democrats. There are no saints in Washington right now.”
The U.S. is poised to reach its statutory borrowing limit next week, which would cut even more deeply into the government’s ability to spend.
Closing Parks -
The shutdown, which began Oct. 1, closed national parks, idled workers and curbed economic activity. It has also crimped funding for state programs run on the U.S. government’s behalf.
While the largest of these, Medicaid, the joint state and federal health insurer for the poor, hasn’t been affected, other programs will run out of cash unless funding is passed or governors use local money to keep them afloat.
“We’re right on the cusp of the point where they are going to have to make some difficult decisions,” said Scott Pattison, executive director of the Washington-based budget officers’ group. “Do they put their own money into these programs that are not being funded, or do they not fund them either?”
In Augusta, Maine, Republican Governor Paul LePage declared a civil emergency yesterday, citing a “failure of leadership in Washington” and the effects of the shutdown on programs in his state. He said more than 2,700 Maine workers are paid partly or entirely with U.S. funds.
Fiscal Gap -
“This means that a large number of our federally funded state employees may have to be laid off,” LePage said in a statement. “Maine simply cannot fill the financial gap created by the prolonged loss of federal dollars. It would be unlawful for the state to ask our federally funded employees to continue to work without having the authority to pay them.”
LePage said a civil emergency will give him flexibility to deal with the effects of the lost funding.
Even with the shutdown and default threat, the $3.7 trillion U.S. municipal-bond market is near its highest in three months, according to Standard & Poor’s index data.
Without a resolution in coming weeks, state officials say they would be forced to cut programs including: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which provides cash to the poor; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps; and grants to help residents pay their energy bills.
Bipartisan Criticism -
Congress’s failure has drawn criticism from governors of both parties in the most populous states. Florida’s Rick Scott and Rick Perry of Texas, both Republicans, faulted Obama, while California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, blamed “extreme radicals” in the House of Representatives. New Jersey’s Chris Christie, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, criticized both sides.
“People who say that they want to be in public life to try to run the government and then their solution to doing that is to not speak to each other, not work with each other, and shut our government down, that’s a failure,” Christie told reporters Oct. 1. “What we pay them to do when we send them down there is to run the government, not to shut it down.”
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, this week ordered welfare officials to use state money to restore assistance that ran out because of the shutdown for thousands of families. Democratic lawmakers in Ohio proposed using as much as $25 million in state money to keep a supplemental food program for women, infants and children in operation.
Restored Aid -
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is picking up the cost of National Guard work in areas recently hit by flooding. Indiana is paying $33,000 a day to keep employees on the job assisting the Guard there.
Most states won’t be able to cover the cost of major programs should the shutdown persist through this month, said Pattison, of the budget officers group.
“In most cases, they are going to say if the federal government isn’t funding it, you have to shut it,” he said.
California, the most populous state, has enough money to continue providing food stamps, school lunches and aid to poor mothers and children through the end of October, said H.D. Palmer, a Finance Department spokesman.
“We can’t say there is going to be enough to fully cover November,” Palmer said. “The longer this shutdown goes on, the more questionable the funding is for those programs.”
In North Carolina, more workers may be idled. Last week, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services said as many as 4,500 may be put on leave or have their hours cut.
On Notice -
In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s office gave unionized employees notice that the state may issue furloughs to as many as 20,000. As many as 6,600 may be put on leave as soon as Oct. 15, with the rest delayed until the end of the month, because of notice required under contracts, said Kurt Weiss, a spokesman for the budget office.
The state may end cash and food aid next month, Weiss said. Almost one in every five Michigan residents gets food assistance.
“We’re hopeful it doesn’t get to that point,” he said. “But it looks like both sides are pretty polarized and firmly dug in.”
In South Carolina, Governor Haley said her state is ensuring that unemployment benefits for the jobless and aid to poor and pregnant women aren’t cut off. The state’s health and environment department said last week that it may put its 3,500 employees on leave to free money for a women’s nutrition program if federal funding doesn’t come through.
“They have got to get into a room and not leave until they solve the problem, because you can’t do this on the backs of the people,” Haley said. “You just can’t. There’s too many people hurting from this.”
"Nuclear regulator prepares for furloughs"
2013-10-07 by Julian Hattem [http://thehill.com/blogs/regwatch/energyenvironment/326981-nuclear-regulator-to-begin-sending-furlough-notices-]:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is expecting to run out of its rainy day fund later this week and has begun notifying those employees that will escape furloughs.
Like some other agencies, the NRC has been using some leftover money, which it calls the “no-year” fund, to keep workers on the job while the rest of the government has shut down.
That money will run out after Thursday, though, an agency spokesman told The Hill.
At that point, all but about 300 of its 3,900 workers will be sent home and won’t be allowed to come back to the office until Congress passes a funding bill.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been sent home by the shutdown.
Federal agencies are allowed to keep essential personnel on the jobs to protect safety and property.
NRC staffers responsible for responding to emergency situations, security and licensing will not be furloughed. Neither will some public affairs workers necessary to inform the public about potential emergencies, legal advisors and liaisons with states, Congress and foreign governments.
On Monday, the NRC began notifying those workers that would be able to ride out a shutdown at the agency.
In a shutdown plan filed with the White House budget office, the NRC adds that it may call back some specialized workers to deal with any “emergent issue[s]” that arise.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is also using its rainy day fund to keep its lights on for the time being. A spokeswoman was not able to give a specific timeframe about when it expected to have to shut down.
"FDA Food Safety Inspections Suspended During Government Shutdown"
2013-10-02 by Joe Satran from "Huffington Post" [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/01/fda-food-safety-inspections-shutdown_n_4025487.html]:
One troubling casualty of the federal government shutdown -- more troubling even than the blackout of the panda cam at the National Zoo -- is the suspension of the Food and Drug Administration's food safety inspection program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service will continue manning every meat production facility with full-time inspectors, even as many government programs are halted. But the FDA actually oversees the safety of the vast majority of the country's food industry. And according to a memo released by the Department of Health and Human Services, the bulk of FDA food inspectors have been deemed non-essential, so will inspect few if any food facilities until Congress and the president agree on a bill to fund the federal government.
In fiscal 2011, the FDA coordinated or conducted inspections of about 20,000 food facilities for compliance with safety regulations. (The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act actually requires U.S. inspectors to check almost 35,000 facilities a year, but funding has not been provided to meet that mandate.) The number of past inspections suggests FDA officials normally inspect about 80 facilities per business day. So, for every day the government doesn't work, approximately 80 food facilities will go without federal inspections. If the shutdown lasts until Oct. 17, 960 facilities may go without U.S. inspections.
A spokesman from the FDA contacted The Huffington Post on Wednesday to note that a portion of these inspections would be conducted by the agency's partners in state agriculture and public health departments. But he couldn't say how big a portion, or whether the FDA would continue, during the shutdown, to pay state agencies their normal fee for inspections conducted on the FDA's behalf.
To get a sense of what that means, let's take a look at 23 food safety warning letters the FDA sent to food facilities that failed inspections. They reveal gnarly conditions at major food manufacturing facilities, including cooking implements covered in mold and stored in brown, soiled water at a Detroit donut factory; high levels of illegal drug residues in veal from a farm in upstate New York; and flies buzzing around a tortilla factory in Hagerstown, Md..
The warning letters give the facilities in question a chance to correct sanitation mistakes before they cause serious outbreaks of foodborne illness. If the commands in a warning letter are not obeyed, the FDA has the authority to punish, or even shutter, the facility in question.
These warning letters are sent to just a small fraction of all facilities that are inspected, and not all of these facilities have infractions that lead directly to illness. That means it's impossible to say whether cancelled food safety inspections will directly lead to food consumers getting sick.
But the threat of random government inspections keeps food producers vigilant. If they know the FDA is unlikely to pop in unannounced for a few weeks, they may be more likely to cut corners on food safety.
For this reason, food safety advocates called on Congress to end the government shutdown as soon as possible, or, barring that, to fund food safety programs with a separate bill.
"Speaker Boehner should not let food safety and other vital government functions be held hostage just because an extreme faction in his caucus opposes the health care reform law," Caroline Smith deWaal, head of food safety at the Center for Science for Public Interest, said in a statement. "The government's food safety functions are far more pressing than the unrealistic demands being made by petulant extremists in the House."
"Pentagon Spent $5 Billion on Weapons on the Eve of the Shutdown"
2013-10-01 by John Reed from "Foreign Policy" magazine [http://killerapps.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/10/01/on_the_eve_of_the_government_shutdown_the_pentagon_spent_billions_on_weapons]:
The Pentagon pumped billions of dollars into contractors' bank accounts on the eve of the U.S. government's shutdown that saw 400,000 Defense Department employees furloughed.
All told, the Pentagon awarded 94 contracts yesterday evening on its annual end-of-the-fiscal-year spending spree, spending more than five billion dollars on everything from robot submarines to Finnish hand grenades and a radar base mounted on an offshore oil platform. To put things in perspective, the Pentagon gave out only 14 contracts on September 3, the first workday of the month.
Here are some of the more interesting purchases from Monday's dollar-dump.
First up: the Defense Logistics Agency, the Pentagon branch that provides the armed services with things like fuel and spare parts. DLA has the honor of dropping the most cash in one contract last night with the $2.5 billion award it gave to aircraft engine-maker Pratt & Whitney for "various weapons system spare parts" used by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Other highlights of DLA's last-minute spree included: $65 million for military helmets from BAE Systems, $24 million for "traveling wave tubes" to amplify radio signals from Thales, $17 million for liquid nitrogen, $15 million for helium and $19 million on cots. Yes, cots.
Then came the Navy. The sea service spent hundreds of millions of dollars on 31 contracts buying everything from high-tech Finnish hand grenades to janitorial services.
The service's biggest contracts were aimed at protecting ships from underwater attack. It gave Lockheed Martin a total of $139 million for sonar that allows Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to detect submarines and underwater mines. The Navy is also buying $40 million worth of hand grenades made in Vihtavuori, Finland, that allow "users to choose the level of blast needed for the situation." Another $18 million is going to Phoenix International Holdings to operate a robot submarine called the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System that can save people from disabled subs sitting up to 2,000 feet underwater.
Not everything the Navy spent its end of year cash on was high tech, however. The service also gave $64 million contract to build a new fuel pier in Point Loma, Calif. It also added $9 million onto an existing $138 million contract for janitors at Navy medical centers in San Diego.
The Air Force, traditionally DOD's biggest spender, was relatively restrained; it dished out only 17 contracts. One of the big themes of the Air Force's spend was spying. The service spent cash on everything from spy satellites to drones to planes that can be used to hunt drug dealers.
The air service gave General Atomics $49 million to help France buy 16 MQ-9 Reaper drones. It also dished out $64 million to Lockheed for help operating spy satellites that are equipped with infrared cameras. Another $9 million went to URS Corp. for maintenance work on the Air National Guard's fleet of RC-26B spy planes that help domestic law enforcement agencies catch drug dealers. Johns Hopkins University got $7 million from the Air Force Research Lab to develop software that can monitor raw communications signals and images collected around the world to detect significant "events" in real time. $8 million is going to a company called McCrone Associates to analyze particles in order to ensure someone is complying international ban on nuclear weapons tests. It doesn't say who that someone is or what type of particles are being analyzed.
The service also spent $9 million on a new gym at the Air Force Academy that includes areas for CrossFit training, space for the academy's Triathlon Club and a "television studio."
The Army only had a couple of relatively large contracts last night. The first was a $600 million award spread out between nine companies to develop alternative energy projects for the Army Corps of Engineers. The ground service also spent $200 million on for Interceptor-brand body armor made by Federal Prisons Industries for sales to other countries. In addition to these deals, the service gave out plenty of relatively small contracts -- and relatively is an important word here -- for everything from renovations on a reserve center in New Jersey to the purchase of 60 Mercedes Benz trucks for African countries.
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) gave Raytheon $230 million to support operation of the massive, sea-going X-band radar station that MDA uses to detect ballistic missile launches in Asia. MDA also gave Trex Enterprises $6 million for telescope mirrors that are impervious to changes in temperature.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Pentagon's arm responsible for defeating threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, gave Johns Hopkins University $9 million for research into detecting "chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive material."
Finally, U.S. Special Operations Command got in on the spending last night, giving out one $49 million contract to Boeing for development work on an upgraded version of the Army's MH-6 Little Bird chopper.
This goes to show that even when the federal government is shutdown and the military has temporarily lost half its civilian workforce, the Pentagon can spend money like almost no one else.
"US Army chief warns budget cuts could have dire effect"
2013-10-21 from "AFP" newswire:
A top commander warned Monday that looming budget cuts and misguided military planning could potentially cripple the US Army if reductions in troop levels are taken too far.
General Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, railed against chronic financial uncertainty facing the military due to political deadlock and said more automatic budget cuts could possibly render the country's ground forces unable to carry out vital missions.
"It has to do with the amount of money that we're provided," Odierno told a news conference when asked about the possible effect of budget cuts.
"And there's going to come a time when we just simply don't have enough money to provide what I believe to be the right amount of ground forces to (carry out)... contingency operations," he said.
"But we'll see, we're not there yet."
The next round of sweeping automatic budget cuts, known as the sequester, are due to take effect in January unless Congress breaks an impasse over taxes and spending. The Defense Department could see some $21 billion slashed.
More than any other branch of the military, the US Army -- the largest of all the armed services -- is in the cross-hairs as officials look for savings to comply with the funding reductions.
The Army is already weighing a possible reduction in the active duty force from a wartime peak of 570,000 troops to 420,000, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said the Army could shrink to 380,000 in a worst-case scenario.
The Pentagon chief has said the budget cuts will force a difficult choice between scaling back manpower or giving up funds to maintain the military's technological edge.
At a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee last month, Odierno said even the reduction to 420,000 active duty troops would "put at substantial risk our ability to conduct even one sustained major combat operation."
Military planners are now reviewing options as part of a "Quadrennial Defense Review," a study conducted every four years that tends to shape decisions on Pentagon spending.
Odierno said he and other commanders were taking part in the review but he castigated some unspecified proposals that would have the budget cuts come with drastic reductions to the Army's troop numbers.
"There are lots of different opinions out there. There are people that want to change how the Army fights, and they believe we don't need ground forces, that we can do everything with technology, stand-off weapons, missiles," he said.
"I can tell you emphatically I absolutely disagree with that. I think that's a grave mistake if we head in that direction. I think it's irresponsible, frankly."
Army Secretary John McHugh told the same news conference that budget pressures will mean all the service's weapons programs would be delayed or even canceled, including high priority projects for a new armored vehicle and new communications networks.
"I find it difficult to envision any significant number of our developmental initiatives that won't be affected," the secretary said. "And some we'll have to cancel."
Monday's comments from Army leaders reflect growing alarm by senior officers that budget reductions could seriously weaken the ground force, which bore the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.
Under current plans, the Army has already committed to shrinking to 490,000 troops over five years. The US Marine Corps is due to fall to 182,000 troops from 202,000.
New Air Force Planes Go Directly to 'Boneyard'
2013-10-07 from "Dayton Daily News" [http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/10/07/new-air-force-planes-go-directly-to-boneyard.html]:
New cargo planes on order for the U.S. Air Force are being delivered straight into storage in the Arizona desert because the military has no use for them, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.
A dozen nearly new C-27J Spartans from Ohio and elsewhere have already been taken out of service and shipped to the so-called boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. Five more are expected to be built by April 2014, all of which are headed to the boneyard unless another use for them is found.
The Air Force has spent $567 million on 21 C-27J aircraft since 2007, according to purchasing officials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Sixteen had been delivered by the end of September.
The Air Force almost had to buy more of the planes against its will, the newspaper found. A solicitation issued from Wright-Patterson in May sought vendors to build more C-27Js, citing Congressional language requiring the military to spend money budgeted for the planes, despite Pentagon protests.
Congress put the brakes on the expenditure, which was the right thing to do according to government watchers such as Mike O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute. He said the planned additional purchase would have been "simply wasting precious taxpayer money."
The military initally wanted the C-27J because it had unique capabilities, such as the ability to take off and land on less developed runways, according to Ethan Rosenkranz, national security analyst at the Project on Government Oversight. But when sequestration hit, the military realized the planes weren't a necessity, but instead a luxury it couldn't afford, he said.
"When they start discarding these programs, it's wasteful," he said.
O'Hanlon said their near-resurrection was largely due to parochialism.
"It's too bad, and a waste," he said. "I'm not sure the program was ever a white elephant, and yet given budget cuts I'm not sure it should be saved now."
National defense, or a jobs program?
Ohio's Senate delegation was among the most ardent defenders of the C-27J when a mission at Mansfield Air National Guard Base, and 800 jobs there, were dependent on it.
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and six other Democratic senators wrote a letter in 2011 urging the military to purchase up to 42 of the aircraft, saying too few planes "will weaken our national and homeland defense."
Then came sequestration, and a nearly trillion dollar cut to the Pentagon's projected spending over the next nine years. That will bring the military's budget down to roughly 2006-2007 levels, Rosenkranz said.
Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz testified before Congress last year that the military wanted to divest its C-27J fleet to come in line with budget cuts. He said the C-130 can do everything currently asked for and costs $213 million to fly over its 25-year lifespan. The C-27J, on the other hand, would cost $308 million per aircraft.
"In this fiscal environment it certainly caught our attention," Schwartz said.
That put the Mansfield base in peril, and Brown along with Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who in February 2012 called the aircraft "critically important," worked to save the C-27J.
But President Barack Obama, after making a campaign stop in Mansfield last year, promised to "find a mission" for the base. This led to eight C-130s being transferred to the base, giving it about 40 more full-time and 200 more part-time military positions. That also left it with the same mission it had prior to a cost-saving round of base closures in 2005.
Now the U.S. Senate is poised to strip the requirement that the Pentagon spend money on new planes from the 2014 defense budget, and Wright-Patterson officials are saying they were told to put a hold on purchasing. Ohio's senators are not opposing the change of plans.
"Sen. Brown is encouraged that the Air Force is looking for new opportunities to redeploy existing C-27J aircraft for use in the Forest Service and Coast Guard, and if requested by the appropriate agencies would support continued C-27J construction for homeland security needs," Brown spokesman Ben Famous told the Daily News.
Parked in the desert -
When asked why the Air Force can't simply put the brakes on having the other five planes delivered, Air Force spokesman Darryl Mayer responded, "They are too near completion for a termination to be cost effective and other government agencies have requested the aircraft."
Military officials are working to find another user for the planes. In the meantime they will be kept operational by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, overseen by Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson. It was established near Tucson after World War II because the region's low rainfall, humidity and soil minimize deterioration and corrosion. Also, the soil is so hard that no tarmac is needed.
The sprawling desert complex currently stores more than 4,400 unused aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles from all branches of the military and NASA, with a total value of more than $35 billion.
"This aerospace fleet provides a unique savings account from which military units throughout the world may withdraw parts and aircraft," according to the base's website. "The government earns additional income by selling aircraft to our allies."
"It is anything but just a boneyard or a storage facility," said Ron Fry, Materiel Command spokesman. "They have a very robust mission to turn aircraft and equipment back into service."
Other unwanted projects kept -
A Daily News investigation last year identified the C-27J as one of several weapons systems and programs the Pentagon wanted to cut but Congress budgeted billions of dollars for anyway.
Others included the M-1 Abrams tank and the Global Hawk drone, both of which were protected by Ohio lawmakers and linked to Ohio jobs, leading critics to call the moves the new face of pork barrel spending. Lawmakers said they believed the systems are needed for national defense.
Congress specifically forbade the military from sending Global Hawk drones to the boneyard, putting language in the defense authorization budget saying the military can't spend a dime to "retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage" a Global Hawk drone.
The C-27J is manufactured by Alenia North America -- a part of the Italian firm Finmeccanica Inc. -- and prime contractor L-3 Communications.
Finmeccanica and L-3 Communications both have multi-million dollar lobbying efforts and the two companies and their PACs spent more than $1 million on campaign contributions during last year's election cycle, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.
POGO's Rosenkranz said lawmakers are partially driven to protect these programs both by campaign and lobbying money, and by the desire to save jobs in their districts with military spending.
"Clearly, money has a role to play in this, and clearly where these systems are manufactured, where they are based and located is very important," he said.
"With U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, American military gear sold as scrap"
2013-10-20 by Kevin Sieff [http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/with-us-withdrawal-from-afghanistan-american-military-gear-sold-as-scrap/2013/10/19/910e68fe-359d-11e3-89db-8002ba99b894_story.html]:
IN BAGRAM, Afghanistan — The armored trucks, televisions, ice cream scoops and nearly everything else shipped here for America’s war against the Taliban are now part of the world’s biggest garage sale. Every week, as the U.S. troop drawdown accelerates, the United States is selling 12 million to 14 million pounds of its equipment on the Afghan market.
Returning that gear to the United States from a landlocked country halfway around the world would be prohibitively expensive, according to U.S. officials. Instead, they’re leaving behind $7 billion worth of supplies, a would-be boon to the fragile Afghan economy.
But there’s one catch: The equipment is being destroyed before it’s offered to the Afghan people — to ensure that treadmills, air-conditioning units and other rudimentary appliances aren’t used to make roadside bombs.
“Many non-military items have timing equipment or other components in them that can pose a threat. For example, timers can be attached to explosives. Treadmills, stationary bikes, many household appliances and devices, et cetera, have timers,” said Michelle McCaskill, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency.
That policy has produced more scrap metal than Afghanistan has ever seen. It has also led to frustration among Afghans, who feel as if they are being robbed of items such as flat-panel televisions and armored vehicles that they could use or sell — no small thing in a country where the average annual income hovers at just over $500.
In Afghanistan, nicknamed the “graveyard of empires,” foreign forces are remembered for what they leave behind. In the 1840s, the British left forts that still stand today. In the 1980s, the Russians left tanks, trucks and aircraft strewn about the country. The United States is leaving heaps of mattresses, barbed wire and shipping containers in scrap yards near its shrinking bases.
“This is America’s dustbin,” said Sufi Khan, a trader standing in the middle of an immense scrap yard outside Bagram air base, the U.S. military’s sprawling headquarters for eastern Afghanistan.
The scrap yard looks like a post-industrial landfill in the middle of the Afghan desert, a surreal outcropping of mangled metal and plastic. There’s a tower of treadmills 50 feet high and an acre of American buses, trucks and vans, stripped of seats and engines. An ambulance is perched unsteadily atop a pile of scrap, as if it fell from the sky. A mountain of air-conditioning units sits next to a mountain of truck axles.
Some of the scrap still shows signs of its previous owners — vehicles spray-painted with American names, mattresses sunken from 12 years of use, bumper stickers from Hawaii or Oklahoma.
A torrent of scrap -
The Bagram scrap yard is owned by Feda Mohammad Ulfat, who helped build the neighboring base more than a decade ago, transporting gravel and concrete. Now Ulfat is helping to dismantle the base, taking in thousands of pounds of American scrap metal every day.
“I never imagined we’d be getting this much stuff,” he said.
Not all of the equipment reaching the scrap yard was deliberately damaged: Some was already broken after a decade of use. Ulfat decided several years ago that he would invest in it anyway.
Some of his friends thought he was crazy, but Ulfat had an idea: The expensive American gear could be melted and reconstituted as raw material for an Afghan building boom. He’d gotten rich on dozens of other contracts with the U.S. military, and he assumed that this one would be no different.
When he signed the contract, the scrap metal was only trickling in. But over the past six months, the U.S. drawdown has reached a fever pitch in eastern Afghanistan, with dozens of bases being closed. Suddenly, a torrent of scrap metal was being delivered to Ulfat’s farm. He had to buy more land. Scrap was piled atop scrap. He now spends up to a half-million dollars a month on gear that has been shredded or flattened.
When U.S. officials began planning for their exit, the idea was to ship home the majority of their equipment, especially expensive military gear such as mine-resistant vehicles. That calculus has changed.
The Pentagon has budgeted $5 billion to $7 billion to ship gear back to the United States. But that sum isn’t enough to take everything currently in Afghanistan.
Wanting at least a small return on its investment, the U.S. military decided to sell the leftovers for pennies on the pound. That’s where Ulfat came in.
He has now opened his scrap yard for the public to rummage through. Small groups of men wander around, buying broken air conditioners that can be stripped of their copper wiring or sheets of corrugated iron that can be sold to Pakistani traders. Many of the supplies that the U.S. military used to fight its longest war have begun their second lives in South and Central Asia.
This month, Haji Montazer paced the scrap yard with his son. They were looking for generators that might be repairable or really anything that they could sell in Kabul or Pakistan. One of their customers makes bed frames out of the metal beams that once held up American military structures. Another takes metal pieces — parts of military vehicles and barbed wire — to Lahore, where they are melted and sold as corrugated rooftops for cheap Pakistani homes.
Not like the Russians -
Montazer once bought equipment from the Soviet forces, which began their withdrawal in the late 1980s.
“But the Russians didn’t break their things before they sold them to us,” he said.
That bitter sentiment is shared by many who visit Ulfat’s scrap yard. The United States has not publicly explained why its gear is destroyed before being sold. U.S. officials are quick to point out that the Afghan government typically has an opportunity to express interest in American military equipment, which is sometimes handed over intact.
Lately, Ulfat’s dream of getting rich off the U.S. scrap has started to fade. Kabul’s real estate boom is over, he said. All he hears from Afghans are concerns about what will happen to the country after the U.S. withdrawal. His scrap yard tells the story of the drawdown.
“What will we do with all of this? Right now, no one will buy it. And if the future is as bad as people say it will be . . . .” His voice trailed off. “It could be bad.”
Hafizullah, an employee of Ulfat’s who goes by one name, wandered through the scrap yard one day this month, overseeing the latest delivery — a mix of blast walls and carburetors. With Bagram still the most active base in eastern Afghanistan, aircraft flew over his head incessantly.
One helicopter flew particularly close, hovering near the scrap yard. Hafizullah pointed to the Black Hawk and laughed.
“I can’t wait until they start selling those here,” he said.