Editor's note: This is the second of a six-part series by Matt Horween, CPA, FSO (retired), that will run each day this week. The previous column was Fix America First.I find it strange but true that Congress has not taken any real responsibility for the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s nor 9/11/2001, the Iraq war, the current endless war in Afghanistan, or the continued occupation of Iraq. Congress certainly does not take much if any responsibility for repealing Depression-era laws restricting the activities of banks to act as investment banks. This was a major reason for the subprime mortgage scandal as well as the ensuing financial meltdown caused by unregulated derivatives issued by insurance companies and others. (And we ended up with the bailout of such banks as Bank of America ( BAC), Citigroup ( C), Goldman Sachs ( GS), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Wells Fargo ( WFC), not to mention the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.) Not only is Congress immune from accountability, but almost the entire executive branch of the federal government has been immune from anyone being held responsible for these catastrophes that have destroyed so much of our wealth over the years. Except for a few Securities and Exchange Commission employees who recently resigned, no one has even lost a job or been demoted. It is as if representational democracy has ceased to exist during the past 30 years and our federal government just goes along committing one blunder after another no matter which party is in power. We have created a governing class that does not care what 60% to 80% of the voting-age population thinks. We all know that the U.S. cannot continue to be Lady Bountiful on borrowed money to the entire world including our enemies. In addition, we now have millions of people out of work and underemployed. Self-employed people who many times work as contractors of some type do not even qualify for unemployment.
Our physical infrastructure is in need of repair and expansion to take into account our rising population and the administration's drive to grant amnesty to people who are here illegally and to double legal immigration in the coming years. Bill Gates and many other CEOs want unlimited work visas to keep American wages down. Besides our physical infrastructure, we also have a massive problem to fix with our public educational system, which is drowning in unfunded federal mandates and the children of legal and illegal immigrants and now the massive decline in home prices and sales-tax receipts that are draining the resources available to local school boards. There is also the ACLU, that has drained many school districts of money for education by suing them over relatively trivial matters related to student rights and funding for special-needs children. Once we start to bring our troops home, we will help our current account deficit because we will be able to spend a lot more money at home instead of abroad. Another huge drain on our fiscal resources and our current account deficit is our physical presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The decision to invade Iraq and to topple Saddam Hussein, who was a huge bulwark against Iranian expansionism, was a huge blunder. We made a second blunder by not having enough ground troops to maintain order after we totally disbanded Iraq's army. I mention these blunders to point out that Congress approved all this madness, and most of our military leaders did, too. Larry Lindsey had the nerve to tell us what it would really cost so Bush fired him and a few generals demurred and Rumsfeld, the second coming of McNamara, fired the dissenters. But most of our top military just went along with Colin Powell at the State Department supporting Bush.
We need to leave Iraq as soon as possible and let it take care of itself, and we need to stop building power plants and roads and schools in Iraq and Afghanistan and giving medical care there and change the spending to here. Let Saudi Arabia take care of Iraq and Afghanistan. If you want to learn something about Afghanistan, read James Michener's book, Caravans, from more than 30 years ago. No one has ever succeeded in taming Afghanistan. Again, we ignore very recent history where we taught the Soviet Union a lesson in Afghanistan. We fought the conflict with too few troops, we did not get bin Laden and we allowed the entire Taliban leadership to escape and set up shop in Pakistan, where they have nearly brought down a country that has more than 50 nuclear weapons. We are paying for most of the fighting and nation-building in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Many of the drones we use in Pakistan and Afghanistan are actually "flown" by Air Force personnel from the Indian Springs Air Base in Nevada. It seems to me that the way to fight the Taliban and or al Qaeda is by using our air power and Special Forces to strike them whenever and wherever we find them. Afghanistan's government is hopelessly corrupt, and our effort there will become more costly in terms of American lives lost. Furthermore, the battle upsets whatever allies we have in the Arab world and the rest of the world, which looks down on us as bullies. The main reason that al Qaeda was able to strike us on Sept. 11, 2001, was because our clueless State Department issued visas to most of the attackers, then our totally ineffective immigration system did not go after them once they did not leave on time. The FBI ignored many warnings about the pilot training they were receiving right here in the U.S. Of course, we still have the same FBI director on the job now that we had on 9/11. Therefore, I say bring the troops home from Afghanistan and let them run their country the way they want to run it without us paying for it in blood and money and in international prestige.