We are told that the United States is deeply divided today. If only it were true.
Let’s talk about some real divisions in American history.
The nation was deeply divided in 1775-81 when the non-Canadian North American colonies of the British Empire had a civil war over secession. It produced the only hyperinflation in American history. It had begun with a tax revolt when total Empire taxes constituted about 1% of GDP. The tax rate never again was this low in America.
The nation was deeply divided again in 1787-88 when the Anti-Federalists warned that the proposed Constitution, written by an assembly of rich men during a secret convention that was closed to the public, would become an instrument for a vast centralization of power.
The nation was divided again in 1791 when Alexander Hamilton got the Federalist Party-dominated government to grant a central bank monopoly to the privately owned Bank of the United States. He also persuaded Congress to establish a system of massive federal debt in order to subsidize a handful of big-money investors. In 1811, Congress failed to re-charter the bank by a single vote in the Senate. But the former anti-Bank politician and President, James Madison, changed sides in 1816 and supported the grant of a central bank monopoly to the richest man in the colonies, immigrant Stephen Girard: the Second Bank of the U.S.
The nation was deeply divided in December 1860, when South Carolina seceded, taking the South with it. A civil war began over two issues: federal control over tariffs (Lincoln) and slavery (Davis).
That’s what serious division does.
If you want to find unity, look at government budgets. Where budgets rarely change, there is unity. Where it is considered politically suicidal or eccentric to call for a 20% budget cut — let alone 100% — there we find unity.
1. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. These three programs constitute 50% of the U.S. government’s annual budget. There is an old political slogan: “Social Security is the third rail of American politicians. Touch it, and you die.” No one is allowed to say on the campaign trail that these programs are over $200 trillion — present value — in the red. Prof. Lawrence Kotlikoff has been warning about this for a decade. No one in Congress pays any attention. These programs will literally bankrupt the government. No one in Congress dares call for the massive cuts in spending and increases in taxes required to keep these programs remotely solvent.
2. The Pentagon. The Pentagon funds the American Empire. The U.S. government has about 800 military bases in 70 foreign nations. The military budget is generally treated as non-discretionary. It runs about 15% of the budget. Any attempt to close bases, either inside the United States or outside, is met with immediate resistance in Congress. The war in Afghanistan is only the tip of the iceberg. It has been going on since 2001.
3. The spying agencies. Americans have supported the CIA ever since Harry Truman created it out of the remnants of the OSS. The NSA — “No Such Agency” — has an untouchable budget for spying on Americans. Edward Snowden exposed how large these “black-ops” budgets were in 2013: $52 billion. Congress had never asked. “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.” Congress has made no move to reduce these expenditures or report on them. If Snowden ever leaves Russia, he will be kidnapped by the CIA and returned to the United States for trial as a traitor. No one ran for Congress this year on an amnesty for Snowden platform. The American public is agreed: our privacy does not count. Fighting an invisible terrorism does.