P.O. Box 351
Encinitas, CA. 92024
December 20, 1987
The Honorable Mikhail Gorbachev
General Secretary of the Communist Party
Moscow, The Soviet Union
President Ronald Reagan
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Members of Congress
Christmas Greetings to all!
This is the time of year to count our blessings, to reflect on where we've been, where we've come to and where we're going. Thank you President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev for signing the INF Treaty and moving the world one step back from the brink of nuclear war. Gorbachev has infused the world situation with a fresh breath of sanity and deserves the most credit for creating a situation that was virtually unthinkable three short years ago: the actual destruction of nuclear weapons and a reversal of the arms race. Prior to Gorbachev it seems that the best that could be hoped for was a reduction in the rate of increase in the production of nuclear weapons. The personal chemistry between the two leaders has made the world a safer and more peaceful place even though, ideologically, they are poles apart. There's a lesson in that: Peace in the nuclear age especially is more important than ideology and can and should transcend it.
Thanks to Gorbachev for his excellent book, “Perestroika,” which should be read by every American. Gorbachev has succeeded to a considerable extent in dispelling the "enemy image" of the USSR in the US by reaching out to Americans through his books, the excellent NBC TV interview with Tom Brokaw and by sheer dint of personal example convincing us that the Russian people are after all human beings much like ourselves with the same kinds of problems and concerns, that the Soviet system like the American system is not perfect, but that people of good will all over the world are trying to rectify problems in their own societies, cooperate internationally and make the world a better place. As Gorbachev said in his book, the Soviets don't have all the answers. We Americans would do well to admit as much. To quote from "Perestroika, page 132:"We are saying openly for all to hear: We need lasting peace in order to concentrate on the development of our society and to cope with the tasks of improving the life of the Soviet people. Ours are long-term and fundamental plans. That is why everyone, our Western partner-rivals included, must realize that our international policy of building a nuclear-weapon-free and non-violent world and asserting civilized standards in interstate relations is equally fundamental and equally trustworthy in its underlying principles." Citizen to citizen diplomacy between the US and USSR has also done much to create a more favorable climate.
Coming from me, praise for President Reagan is high praise indeed as this is the first time I have found cause to praise him since before he was Governor of California. I would have to give Gorbachev more of the credit, though, for the shift in the world climate and the reduction of tension since I'm left with the perception that to some extent, when Reagan was presented by the Soviets with an offer he couldn't refuse, he didn't refuse it, and I cannot give him an enthusiastic endorsement for doing that. Gorbachev seems to be genuinely on the high road of fostering world peace having bent over backward to bring about this treaty, and Reagan seems to have been bent upon the pursuit of narrow national self-interest taking great pleasure in the fact that the Russians are going to have to destroy four times as many missiles as the US. It is like two little boys playing marbles and Reagan feels he has won since Gorbachev, according to the treaty, has to give up more of his marbles than he, Reagan, has to give up. Gorbachev is definitely the peacemaker having advanced the cause of mankind all over the world; Reagan, the pursuer of narrow, sectarian national self-interest. For these reasons, I believe Gorbachev deserves the Nobel Prize for peace.
Another note of sanity that Gorbachev has struck is to state forthrightly the relationship between the allocation of resources to the military sector and, consequently, away from the consumer sector. There is an acknowledgment of the direct link between lack of progress and build-up in the consumer economy and the diversion of funds to the military. In a command economy like the Soviet Union's, this direct link is easier to comprehend than it is in the US economy where the linkages between cause and effect are more indirect. For example, the stock market crashed in October falling more than 500 points and no one can even agree as to why. This is truly a scary situation with the implication that maybe the Soviets are more fortunate simply because they can see the handwriting on the wall: their consumer economy is being hurt by the diversion of resources to the military and their consumer economy will be helped by a reduction in tensions with the US and a reallocation of resources away from the military sector and towards the consumer sector. We in the US have been able to avoid that reality and that sanity pursuing a military build-up with no apparent increase of consumer austerity simply because we have been able to borrow the money on the international capital markets. As a consequence, we have acquired an unprecedented amount of debt. We have been able to smugly hide our heads in the sand not acknowledging the terrible toll that our military build-up has taken on our civilian, consumer economy. The profit motive has been distorted by government demand for military products so that the most profitable pursuits have been the production of military products. It has been more profitable to research, develop and produce, say, an avionics system for a military aircraft than a VCR for the consumer economy. As a consequence corporations like General Electric and Singer Sewing Machine who used to produce things like TV sets and sewing machines now are more or less solely devoted to being defense contractors. This, of course, has left the consumer market wide open for a country like Japan which, by law, devotes next to nothing to the production of military products and puts virtually all its resources into the production of consumer products. American companies have found it more profitable to sell military products to the US government than to produce civilian products for the consumer economy and have virtually abdicated to the Japanese with the consequence of the gigantic and mounting trade deficits. The indirect linkages between cause and effect provided by the international capital markets make it possible for the US to indulge in massive self-delusion and even after a catastrophe such as the stock market crash, there is no universal agreement as to why it happened.
America’s debt crisis came to the fore this year with the stock market crash. How is it that the US has changed from the world's largest creditor nation into the world's largest debtor nation in the course of the current Presidential administration? How come good Dutch Uncle Sam, who has been padding the coffers of Banana Republic dictators in return for the provision of safe havens for the operations of American corporations is suddenly in the position of going around hat in hand not being able to “buy” anybody?
The US with 6% of the world's population has been consuming 40% of the world’s resources for years. Long before there was a debt crisis, Americans had become consumer junkies. Why wasn't there a debt crisis in the fifties, sixties and seventies? The answer is that during that period the world was more or less under American economic hegemony. Third world countries were essentially American colonies in which political stability was bought by Uncle Sam and American corporations were free to buy off corrupt local officials and buy up local resources. Then, after the application of some cheap local labor, those resources were shipped back to the proverbial American consumer. Were they imports? Well, yes and no. The world’s wealth has been shipped to the US for years. So in that sense they were imports. The real question is who owns the imports? When the world's wealth that was being shipped to the US was owned by American corporations, American corporations made the profits and reinvested the money. There was no capital outflow to foreigners, hence no trade deficit. The money stayed right here in the US. The Third World was the worse off for the loss of its resources purchased at bargain basement prices.
What has happened is that foreigners have gotten control of their own resources, are taking advantage of their own cheap labor and are making their own profits on the American market. The world's resources are still being shipped to the US. The difference is that the world’s profits are now being made by foreigners hence capital outflow hence trade imbalance. Meanwhile, American corporations have long since found it more profitable to feed at the government trough and market military products to the Big Buyer.
The fact is that Japan and Europe have followed in our footsteps, done what we’ve told them to do and beaten us at our own game. The success of Japan is testimony to what a society that doesn't invest huge quantities of its resources in building a military machine, but does invest its resources in the manufacturing arena, can do. It is the US's colossal stupidity to have squandered its resources pouring money down the rat hole of the military-industrial complex.
Take the Persian Gulf. We're there spending three million dollars a day to protect the flow of oil to where? You guessed it-Japan. If an American-owned tanker gets hit we do nothing. Why? Because they are flying Panamanian flags. If a reflagged Kuwaiti tanker gets hit, we retaliate. They must be having a good laugh over this in Japan. We are protecting the flow of oil so they can turn around and loan us money to keep on defending their flow of oil at a substantial rate of interest of course. The Japanese are profiting from our machismo as we fancy ourselves the leader of the free world. They must be saying, “Go on. You are the leaders of the free world. You have the military capability. You defend the Persian Gulf. But if you need a loan...?” It is no secret that foreigners have become the bankrollers of American national debt while Americans are fast slipping into the role of the world's rent-a-cops and hamburger flippers. Rather than taking their profits and buying American products, they take their profits and buy up American real estate and take over American corporations as well as American financial instruments. They're not dumb. A quote from the LA Times, November 12, 1987, from an article entitled “Digging a Foundation-or a Deeper Hole” by Oswald Johnston, reads as follows: “Fully 80% of downtown Los Angeles real estate, according to the consulting firm of Landauer Associates, is owned by foreign investors mostly Japanese.” As a friend recently said, “I guess they figured that, if you couldn't bomb them out, you might as well buy them out.” Large percentages of most major American cities are now foreign owned including our nation's capital, Washington D.C. I think the White House is still American owned but I'm not absolutely sure.
Meanwhile, we American comfort junkies continue our consumaholic lifestyles. What is the difference between a Latin American debtor nation and a US debtor nation? Why it is that the Latin American debtor nations have to undergo austerity to repay their debts while the US continues to borrow money to refinance theirs. According to the litmus of the capital markets, North Americans are inherently more deserving of a comfortable lifestyle than are South Americans evidently. To quote the aforementioned article again:
“Like a family on a credit card binge, these analysts say, the United States has been consuming beyond its means. The budget deficit reflects the public’s unwillingness to sacrifice personal consumption in order to pay for the services it demands of its government. Similarly, the trade deficit has mounted as Americans have insisted on consuming more than they can produce.
“For now, the nation is paying for its profligacy with foreign capital. A net creditor as recently as 1984, the US has become the world's largest debtor nation; its investments abroad at the end of last year were valued at about $263 billion less than foreign investments in the US. At current growth rates, the mountain of debt will soar to $1 trillion by the early 1990s.”
However, austerity does not fit in with the American lifestyle. The mention of the austerity of increased taxes has become the kiss of death for any American politician so far removed is it from the American character to countenance the notion of working harder, consuming less and paying our own collective way. We Americans, however, may not always have the luxury of deciding among ourselves whether to raise taxes or not. The bankers that are presently allowing us to continuously refinance our debt may decide to take their investments elsewhere, to cut off our credit line thus creating a problem with the national cash flow. Perhaps they will choose to withdraw their money from the volatile capital markets and American financial instruments as the dollar declines and buy up even more American real estate. Foreign capital flight from US capital markets is a real possibility. The result: a program of austerity for Americans whether they like it or not. Cold turkey for consumaholics. The interest on the national debt is $150 billion a year and must be paid come hell or high water. When it can be longer be refinanced and American exports continue to languish in world markets, we will have a tax increase of potentially gargantuan proportions essentially dictated to us by the demands of foreign capital at the same time as Americans are increasingly paying rent to foreign landlords.
This scenario of Americans potentially losing control of their country to foreigners hardly represents a communist take-over. It's more like a capitalist take-over if you will. The biggest threat to American life as we've known it does not come from the Soviet Union or Cuba or Nicaragua but from our own capitalist allies.
One interesting trend underway in the USSR is the process of democratization. Of course we hear that this is not “Western style” democracy and there is the suggestion, therefore, that it is somewhat tainted and inferior from the start. What the US needs to own up to is that US democracy is not the perfect realization of democratic ideals either. The US like the USSR is on a historical continuum that represents a certain but by no means fully realized manifestation of human ideals. Let us ask what an ideal democratic election might look like. May I suggest that it would be an election in which any citizen might voluntarily present himself as a candidate and be supported by the society in his campaign? Now, we might ask, what are the chances for both the US and the USSR to evolve into such a system. Whether a society has a one party system such as the USSR or a two party system such as the US really has nothing to do with it. Parties per se, or the number of them, have nothing to do with democracy. They are organizations whose main purpose is to do fundraising for candidates they select. As such they exclude in the nomination process more actual candidates than they include. If candidates are supported in their campaigns by the society then, there will be a “withering away” of political parties. In the US candidates are supported by private contributions mainly from the wealthy and corporations funneled to them by Political Action Committees (PACs). These PACs control the flow of money to both political parties so that even though Republicans and Democrats speak a different Party line, they dance to the same tune since he who pays the piper calls the tune. PACs contribute heavily to incumbents thus having the anti-democratic effect of discriminating against challengers. Candidates who have been elected due to PAC money are naturally beholden to the interests the PACs represent which are mainly the interests of the wealthy and large corporations. Effectively, what we have here is a two party system which represents the interests of one party: the wealthy.
In the USSR, until recently, candidates were chosen by the Communist party and for the most part there was not even a choice of candidates. Candidates were ratified by the election process rather than elected. Today with the democratization process, more than one candidate is selected by the Party giving the voters some choice in the election. Presumably, the candidates are still “handpicked” by the Party, and also, presumably, their campaigns are socially rather than privately funded.
Now, we might ask, what would have to happen in both the Soviet and American political systems for both to evolve into more ideal political systems. In the US any individual can come forth and nominate himself. The problem is that very few individuals have the means financially to run for office. The democratic process is vitiated when potential candidates are forced to have wealthy backers and take PAC money. Therefore, for the American system to become more democratic, candidates would have to be socially rather than privately funded. What are the chances of this happening in the US? Not too great. What would have to happen in the Soviet Union to approach the democratic ideal? They would have to pass a law and establish a policy that any individual could come forth and present himself as a candidate, not just those individuals “handpicked” by the Party. What are the chances of this happening in the USSR? Probably greater than the chances of US political candidates being socially funded. Of course in either system the total number of candidates might have to be limited due to practical necessity. This could be done fairly by some sort of random selection process to get the total number down to the actual number. Thus we are led to the conclusion that the chances for the one party Russian system evolving into a true democracy are greater than the chances for the two party American system.
The extension of democracy to the economic sector is automatic in the USSR where, for instance, the position of plant manager is an elected position subject to being voted upon by the workers. In the US it would be difficult to imagine any positions within privately owned corporations being put up to election by the workers. Therefore, many more positions in the USSR than in the US are potentially subject to democratic selection both in the political and in the economic spheres.
There has been much ado about human rights with the Reagan administration attempting with considerable success it would seem to put the Soviets on the defensive over this issue. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948 and contained some 30 Articles covering both political and economic rights. What President Reagan has been successful in doing is to confine the debate over human rights just to political rights mainly the free emigration of Soviet Jews. The complete debate on human rights is broader and more complex than that. But let's consider for the moment just immigration and emigration. There is considerable US hypocrisy on that score when we note that Salvadoran refugees are held in jail for a year or more waiting hearings to determine whether they will be allowed to remain in the US or be deported to face almost certain death in their own country. Cuban Marielitas with mental problems but guilty of no crime were held in jail deemed as not suitable for American society. Other Cubans served time for crimes they committed and then were not released when their time had been served. These represent American political human rights violations.
Every society has a policy of some sort regarding immigration. It is only reasonable that a society has the right to decide who will be allowed to enter it. The US has immigration quotas and doesn't let everyone in that wants to come. By the same token why doesn't a society have a right to have an emigration policy and not just let everyone out that wants to leave? The reality of emigration is that very bright, talented people can make a whole lot more money in the First World than they can in the Second or Third World. Consequently, nations in which the living conditions are not as advanced as in the US and other developed nations and with completely open and free emigration policies tend to lose their best and brightest people to the developed world. These people evidently would rather have a life of luxury for themselves than to put themselves in the service of the betterment of their country. The reality is that the USSR doesn't want to lose its most talented people who, like some celebrated defectors, could earn a lot more money in the West. Of course the US would love to have the most talented people from all over the world come here and contribute to the US economy. Any nation to be healthy needs a balance between talented people, net contributors to society, and people, who for perhaps legitimate reasons, need to be helped by the society and are a net drain on social resources. For these reasons any nation in order to remain healthy needs to control the flow of people over its borders and have a reasonable emigration as well as immigration policy.
I am an American refusenik, a graduate of three illustrious educational institutions: Georgia Tech, Stanford and University of California at San Diego. Twelve years ago I refused to work any longer in the military-industrial complex and was “sentenced to Siberia” not by political dictate but by economic reality. I have a published paper in the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory, Vol. IT. 23, No. 4, entitled "A Universal Coding Scheme for the Binary , Memoryless Source," and for the last twelve years I have made my living cleaning windows and carpets, painting and as a jazz musician.
When we consider the issue of economic rights as part of the full spectrum of human rights, most socialist societies including the USSR have a much better record than the US. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” While Japan dumps computer chips on the market, US hospitals dump patients on the street if they lack insurance and can't afford to pay. The largest class of poor people in the US is children. The rest of Article 25 states: “Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.” Social protection for all people is precisely what the US lacks and the USSR provides, and this is precisely the subject that needs to be included in the debate on human rights. The fact is that the Reagan administration is ideologically opposed to economic rights and the societal provision of social protection for all people.
We need look no farther than the Canadian border for an example of a society that provides social protection for its citizens far superior to that in the US. We aren't used to thinking of Canada as a beachhead for socialism. However, the subversive potential of a society which provides auto insurance comparable to the US at half the rates dispensed by state owned agencies cannot be underestimated. This is a breadbasket issue which most Americans can understand! Also medical insurance is provided by the society to all citizens. No one is turned away from hospitals and doctors are as well off as their American counterparts. The fact that doctors are happy with the system speaks volumes for its worthiness. Also since victims of malpractice as well as other accidents are compensated adequately by the society, there is not the need for the extensive litigation that there is in the US which drives liability insurance rates in general and malpractice insurance in particular sky high. An excellent series in the LA Times in November 1986 details the Canadian insurance system which is both more humane and less costly than our own. By the way contrary to popular belief, Canadians can choose their own doctors and the quality of medical care is as high as in the US. As one Canadian conservative was quoted in the article as saying: “America is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to get sick there.”
In light of the subversive potential represented by the Canadian system, I suggest we divert the permanent, off-the-shelf, stand-alone proxy army we have created in the contras to service in the cause of freedom in Canada. The contras could be transported to base camps near the North Pole from which they could strike southward through the Canadian hinterlands eventually reaching Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. This would have the advantage of eliminating base camps on the soil of presumably neutral countries. In the meantime we should step up our production of acid rain so as to undermine the Canadian economy. Then we could look forward to the day in which insurance companies such as Aetna, The Hartford and Prudential could operate freely on Canadian soil with their rights protected.
As a resident of California, I am required by law to purchase auto insurance from a private corporation. This amounts to a tax imposed by private corporations and taxation without representation at that, something my American forefathers fought against in the revolutionary war with Great Britain. For all I know, my insurance company is a subsidiary of a British-owned corporation and we are back to where we started with King George-paying taxes to the British without representation.
We can be thankful this Christmas season that a first step toward peace has been taken. Swords haven't exactly been beaten into plowshares but I guess that we should be satisfied for the present that mobile missile launchers have been exchanged for mobile pizza launchers. Gorbachev has walked the extra mile. Reagan made the point that we are still adversaries thereby undermining the spirit of peace. If Ron and Mikhail can be friends, why can't the US and USSR? I look forward to the day when an American President receives a Soviet leader in the fraternal spirit of brotherly love that was practiced by Jesus 2000 years ago.
Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men.
I would welcome a response from General Secretary Gorbachev, President Reagan, Members of Congress or any of my friends. May “Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men” become a reality in our lives and our hearts this Christmas season and throughout the year.