In these years, much attention has been paid to the rise of the national security state and little indeed to what TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon calls the national (in)security state. The Trump administration and a Republican Congress have, of course, given a remarkable gift, a tax “reform” bill, to the already fabulously wealthy and are now hard at work slashing government funds for those in need. In addition, they are once again trying to cripple medical care for ordinary Americans by going after the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) — “halting billions of dollars in annual payments required under the law to even out the cost to insurers whose customers need expensive medical services.” Having vastly increased future budget deficits with that tax bill, Republicans in Congress are now promising to solve the problem by going after Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. And keep in mind that this is already a country in which three men (Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett) have as much wealth as the bottom half of society, while inequality has reached Gilded Age levels with more to come.
As it happens, Philip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, recently paid some rare attention to American inequality in an up-close-and-personal way. He took a tour of poverty zones in the richest nation on the planet, some within sight of soaring scenes of incredible wealth. In the process, he grimly recorded the rise of extreme poverty (particularly among the young). Here’s just a taste of what he found: “A shockingly high number of children in the U.S. live in poverty. In 2016, 18% of children — some 13.3 million — were living in poverty, with children comprising 32.6% of all people in poverty. Child poverty rates are highest in the southern states, with Mississippi [and] New Mexico at 30% and Louisiana at 29%.” Note that, in part as a response to Alston’s report — how dare he focus on poverty and human rights in America! — the Trump administration recently withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Today, Rajan Menon explores what might be thought of as the deep state of national (in)security in America. It’s a sordid story and, in the age of Trump, it’s undoubtedly just the preface to a tragic history still to come.