Politics 2016: We are focusing on the wrong 1%

by DR. ROBIN MCFEE May 1, 2016

Is the election over yet? Are we there yet? After how many months of this political season, I feel like the toddler asking mom and dad if we got to the destination yet.  The only good news about our endless campaign season is the opportunity, however slight, to influence national affairs, as this one brief moment allows us access to the candidates in ways most citizens would never enjoy once the votes are counted, and the winner crowned.  We, you and I, can, and should, leverage this opportunity. More in a moment on that....

But in the meantime, you can't turn on the TV or radio without hearing the incessant yammering of various candidates screaming against the "1%" in American society, as each candidate continues to denounce the uppermost wealthy, blaming them for the growing income gap, and impugning the successful among us, as if they were the sum of all evil.  The near never ending commentary about the "1%" with the implication that virtually everything bad in society is the fault of that tiny group, beyond being ludicrous, is a powerful method of controlling the narrative in such a way that the real issues that should concern everyone from Main Street to the projects to Rodeo Drive are being obfuscated by divisive politics pitting the "have less" and "have not" against the "have a lot."  Clearly the politics of jealousy is alive and well in Election 2016 politics USA.  It is a bait and switch.

Not being rich or poor, I could care less about the economic top 1% in the US. My concerns are wider than that, and I suspect most readers of FSM feel the same way. Every society has a top echelon. In Bernie's happy land of Soviet Russia during his honeymoon vacation, that "worker's paradise" also had a wealth and power divide, with a communism version of a top 1% - government bureaucrats instead of industrial barons. In feudal days "the 1%" was the aristocracy and nobility. There will always be rich and poor in a society - regardless of economic construct.  It is the wrong 1% to worry about.

The 1% we ought to care about - as democrats, republicans, or libertarians - is our military.  The 1% I care about includes the men and women in uniform as members of active or reserve duty, and their families, stationed here and abroad in the many US bases across the globe.  Actually their numbers are probably less than 1% when you consider there are well over 300 million people in the US today and less than 3 million in military service.  Yet who do we rely upon to protect our interests worldwide? Who do we send when wars are declared (or undeclared as with the current POTUS), putting our volunteer military in harm's way?  Folks from the 3 million or the 300 million?

Consider our military depends upon volunteers.  Think about this scenario.... In 2001 terrorists destroy part of NYC. Soon we declare war - a shooting war, where people get hurt, blown up, and die - and out of a sense of duty, a bunch of people, some rich, some poor, some of color, some white, volunteer to go join the fight on behalf of our country (the folks who get to sit home, watching TV).  These volunteers willingly walk into the fire so others back home can be safe, live a peaceful existence without experiencing the hell of war. It is worth burning into our hearts and minds the reality in USA 2016 ‘the security of our nation depends upon adolescents and young adults willingly signing the bottom line, giving our leaders the right to send them anywhere in the world, including a hell hole in Africa or the Middle East, in the line of fire, in harm's way, on our behalf.'

That is one heck of a gift each soldier, sailor, airman, marine, and coast guardsman and service woman renders to the US, which means you and me.

And how do we- as individuals, and as a nation - say ‘thank you' or ensure that their sacrifice is neither overlooked, or in vain?

To be sure, military service is not just about being blown up in Afghanistan or Iraq. For the disadvantaged, the military can become a form of family, a source of inspiration, and a place to acquire great skills that can be translated into the civilian marketplace after separating from service. The potential for a higher education - once referred to as the GI Bill - and other benefits is a small way a grateful nation can say thank you to people who generally earn little money for the nature of the commitment, and inherent danger military life requires.  And the military is compromised of wealthy kids as well as poor ones. A sense of duty is a powerful motivator.

But the nature of their sacrifice and the benefit package we provide should more closely align. Starting with "thank you" when we encounter someone in uniform. At least thank God we are no longer the nation of the 60's where the loudest voices were from Hanoi Jane and similar antimilitary wastrels and pampered, self centered protestors who were protected by the very people they vilified, while safe and secure in their hallowed halls of academia or hazy Haight Asbury café's.  We are a better nation today towards our military, at least in attitude, than we were in 1968, right? Perhaps.  Nevertheless, we can do more than what we do.

Many of our fellow countrymen and women go blithely unaware that our military are fighting in unsavory places around the world. The wounded and dead continue to return, often without media coverage.  To me this is the most important, and potentially most dangerous of the gaps in our society, not the income or education or work parity gap, but the one where a small percent currently wear (or at some point wore) the uniform, and a much larger percent of society is totally distanced from military service or supporting it.

What does it say about a country when we care more about someone else's wealth than our neighbor's well being? Or that we all but ignore the reality that the security of our nation rests upon volunteers - mostly adolescents - who are treated worse than people on welfare? We continuously reduce our uniformed members' remuneration and benefit package in real world terms. We send our military to dangerous theatres of operation often without the proper protection - consider the delay in up-armored humvees, or the fact that charities had to provide helmet liners to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injuries, and other equipment, or that some soldiers on the battlefield had to improvise for their vehicle protection or even something like using cigarette filters as makeshift hearing protection because Uncle Sam failed to provide enough in a timely manner.

Then, once injured, we make it a Herculean task to get well, as the VA continues to be a national disgrace - overcrowded, over politicized, bureaucratic, outdated, and often in locations inconvenient for many of our wounded or their families to readily access. I did part of my early training at a VA - angels work in the land of frustration. Their electronic medical records print documents that look like a dot matrix printer vomited. The facility - not near major public transportation - was difficult. Services were overcrowded.  I loved the patients, and many of the physicians were there because of a shared sense of mission, duty, patriotism and gratitude for the servicemen and women who sacrificed so much. But most would agree the VA is a camel that won't fly, even with glue on wings and strap on balloons.  Then there is Tri-care and the various band aid repairs and iterations of that military insurance program.  The approval process to get specialty care for sick family members makes getting a million dollar mortgage with a FICO score of 351 look like a cake walk by comparison. As a physician I am saddened by the barriers to good medical care that our service men and women, as well as their dependents, endure.

But do you hear about that 1% from the candidates, or the pundits who cover them? Rarely! 

Yet it would make headline feature status on Fox news if certain candidates consistently supported the military by switching focus from the rich 1% to the military 1%.  But why would they? They barely talk about the military, unless it is to castigate them, castrate their budget, or protect the likes of a Bergdahl, or tamper with military culture that has served us well for centuries.  Even our current president is no lover of the uniform, though he enjoys controlling and benefitting from it.

Perhaps if the military voted democrat, POTUS and the DNC would care more about their fate?

To be sure, the GOP trio talk more about our military than the two blues left standing, not a grand distinction overall, given the fact in the field of 5 (2 DNC, 3 GOP), two (1 blue, 1 red) are sitting senators, and one a former senator (blue) - i.e. on their watch the care of our military, the VA, and our capabilities to protect, value, support, and treat men/women in uniform have degraded. Discussion

It is much more difficult to tackle real problems, than to leverage emotional issues towards political gain.  Some constituencies are inherently pro military while others prefer swords were turned into plow shares.  And clearly not everyone on the left is anti military any more than all folks on the right support our servicemen and women. The politics of "me" crosses political party lines, especially in times of economic hardship.

But reality is reality...class warfare is a clarion call in democrat politics. Focusing on the top 1% in the economic food chain plays well to that base. But to be fair, the other candidates are addressing the lousy economy, too.  But less on the politics of jealousy, and more focused on how it impacts the average worker. It too, is resonating with their base. It is understandable, and an easy sell. The economy is stalled, badly. The most recent GDP (the equivalent of a medical report on the health of the US economy) released this week shows our nation - a once mighty industrial nation - having a near code blue growth rate of ½ a percent. It is basically a flat line. Translating that to Main Street, as a country, our collective buying power has decreased substantially, as many Americans are unemployed or significantly underemployed. 

While all the divide and conquer politics may garner a vote or two, let's be honest....your lot in life, and my lot in life (and that of virtually anyone who votes) has very little to do with how we tax or treat the 1%, or for that matter how they acquire their money, or live their lives, or me paying my bills, or the health of my family, or my daily work activities.

Were we to strip Bill Gates of his wealth, and divide it equally between the remaining 99% - well I might be able to have an extra appetizer at L'Espalier or The Castle next month, after taxes. Politicians make it sound good - the Robin Hood scenario - of taking from the rich, who in politic-speak implicitly are bad, and giving it to the poor, who are implicitly good or at least victims, if not outright salt of the earth.  It is an age old tactic that politicians use to good effect. Think Tammany Hall, or ancient Romans who used bread and circus to control the masses, or Obama who clearly was the ultimate Santa Claus to his devoted followers....on our tax dollars.  It is a magician's misdirection to take focus away from the substantive issues facing Americans, and a means of deflecting questions from our leaders, who might otherwise be forced to provide real solutions instead of illusionary victims. And the real losers....us! Not because of the rich, but because we allow our politicians to bribe us, deceive us, and ignore the fundamentals necessary to fix the nation.

That said, the "1%" against which this current batch of presidential wannabees are talking about with such venom and disdain (ignoring their own wealthy circumstances) pales in importance compared with the 1% I care about - the military.

Conclusion

For my money - and VOTE - I will throw down with the candidate who commits to supporting our military, and puts into very specific detail how he or she will repair the VA, increase health care access for our returning wounded who do not live near a military medical facility, improve medical access for military dependents, and fund our military so that it can remain a projection of US influence, and continue to be fully capable of protecting our national interests no matter where they are in the world.  In essence whoever is dedicated to keeping the US as a military superpower (preferably restoring the US to Hyper-power), is more likely to earn my vote.

How do we change the focus of the candidates for POTUS from the wrong 1% (the politics of jealousy) to the correct 1% (the politics of patriotism)?

For starters - let the media realize the military is an important issue to you, your business, your friends (there is power in numbers and $) and you want their reporters to ask candidates about their views, level of commitment, attitudes and efforts towards the military in general, the VA, and specifically the needs of our servicemen and women

Second - in direct communications with the candidates - attend their rallies, and individually or en bloc let your concerns be known. Money talks, and ‘you know what' walks - money is access...if you have it, use it!

Third - the power of activism and peaceful protest. The left's rent a rioter Saul Alinsky style of political tactics work very well. We don't need to sink to their level of violence, intimidation or hate baiting. But we do need to be out there, present, visible and vocal on behalf of the issues that matter to us, and to the future of our nation. For too long we have been so busy with family, work, volunteerism, that pro military and service members have not been politically active.

Fourth - as most of us in the private sector recognize - government can only do so much. Public-private partnerships form the most lasting change.  We can use whatever influence and talent each of us possesses to reach out and make a difference. Some may own or control large companies; those resources can be utilized for employment, and for the community. Others may own small concerns, and might consider helping one veteran, one serviceman or woman, or their family,

Fifth - it isn't just about the presidency. All politics is local. Do we leverage the local nature of our Congressional representatives towards bettering the performance culture of our military?

Sixth - volunteer. There are many opportunities for philanthropy to use one or all of our ‘three t's" ...time, talent, and treasure. Whether it is wounded warrior, or some of the charities set up or supported by folks like Gary Sinise, Ben Affleck (paralyzed veterans), and Bill O'Reilly (special motorized mobility devices), the USO, or local veteran focused charities or at a VA, there are lots of ways to help. Maybe helping a local family where the mother or father is deployed, and struggling financially or in need of an extra set of hands.

Politics 2016: We are focusing on the wrong 1%. Already POTUS has ignored the needs of servicemen and women, forgotten the VA, and continues to cut the military budget.  We need to make this election about the 1% that matter - the folks who heed the call to protect our country so the 99 can stay safe.

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Dr. Robin McFee, MPH, FACPM, FAACT, is a physician, and clinical toxicologist. As medical director of Threat Science - and nationally recognized expert in WMD preparedness, she consults with government agencies, corporations and the media. Dr. McFee is the former director of the Center for Bioterrorism Preparedness (CB PREP) and bioweapons - WMD adviser to the Domestic Security Task Force, the former chair of the Global Terrorism Council of ASIS International, and a member of the US Counterterrorism Advisory Team. She has coauthored two books: Toxico-Terrorism by McGraw Hill and The Handbook of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Agents, published by Informa/CRC Press    

 

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