Friday, April 4, 2014

Meet Putin’s New Military

While America is in a steep decline with Wall Street chosen politicians running the country, it seems Putin has learned a valuable lesson from this American “exceptionalism.”  The result of that lesson was seen in the Russian annexation of Crimea.  Russia’s investment in their military, as in people, has paid off big time. 
According to a New York Times article called “Crimea Offers Showcase for Russia’s Rebooted Military”:

PEREVALNOYE, Crimea — The soldiers guarding the entrances to the surrounded Ukrainian military base here just south of the capital, Simferopol, had little in common with their predecessors from past Russian military actions.

Lean and fit, few if any seemed to be conscripts. Their uniforms were crisp and neat, and their new helmets were bedecked with tinted safety goggles. They were sober…

Past Russian military actions have often showcased an army suffering from a poor state of discipline and supply, its ranks filled mostly with the conscripts who had not managed to buy deferments or otherwise evade military service. Public drunkenness was common, as were tactical indecisiveness and soldiers who often looked as if they could not run a mile, much less swiftly.

Yes, five years ago Russia’s army was a mess, with broken, outdated equipment, low pay, improper training and low morale.  Putin recognized you can’t have a strong military if you don’t value your military personnel.

The transformation of the armed forces has been a personal priority of Mr. Putin, who as prime minister from 2009 to 2012 and more recently in his return to the presidency has overseen billions of dollars in new military expenditures…

Since the start of 2012, salaries for most military personnel have roughly tripled, to between $700 and $1,150 a month for privates and sergeants — a respectable amount in Russian terms. The Kremlin has also expanded housing and education benefits.

Putin has increased the salaries, expanded housing and education benefits for military personnel in stark contrast to America.  In the meantime, American military personnel have had pay cuts, cuts in education benefits and slashed pensions in order to funnel those funds directly to Wall Street in the form of contracts to build outdated, unnecessary equipment that generates Wall Street profits.  According to

The Obama administration plans to cut the military pensions of those who served their country while giving public employees a break by exempting their ObamaCare subsidies from sequestration.

On the heels of announcing that Army troop levels will be cut below pre-World War II levels, the Military Times has reported that the Obama administration is planning to reduce military pension costs by 10% by converting part of their retirement to 401(k)-like defined-contribution plans from defined-benefit plans.

Yep, Obama is handing over military pensions to Wall Street to convert them from defined benefit plans to “401(k)-like” plans.  If you have seen what happened to your 401(k) plan after Wall Street installed George W. Bush into the presidency, you know what a crap idea that is.

That cost-saving measures are to be applied only to the military and not to politically favored groups and programs is seen in the administration's quiet removal of the cost-sharing subsidies designed to help lower-income people cover some out-of-pocket costs imposed by ObamaCare from its list of programs subject to the sequester, eliminating the 7% cut for 2015.

These low-income subsidies are paid directly to insurance companies that already have been promised that if they lose money because the risk pools ObamaCare is creating wind up with mostly the sick and the elderly — rather than the young and healthy ObamaCare needs — the taxpayers will bail them out.

The Military Officers Association of America has calculated that the typical Army sergeant, as a result of pension and other benefit changes, stands to lose up to $5,000 in annual benefits under the administration's fiscal 2015 budget.

The budget also calls for slashing subsidies for base commissaries, a 5% increase in the cost of military housing and a 1% cap on annual active-duty pay increases.

Wall Street’s disdain for the American people who serve in our Military was front and center when Donald Rumsfeld disparaged our military servicemen and women.  (From Dorian DeWind, Military Affairs Columnist for The Moderate Voice)

… the character – of the then secretary of defense on December 8, 2004, when he held a town hall meeting at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

At that time, the Iraq War was raging and our troops were being killed by the dozen every week in insurgent attacks.

Looking an Army soldier who was pleading for better protection against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) straight in the eye, Rumsfeld coldly, clinically and callously replied, “As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

Yes, according to Rumsfeld, a big “F” you to our soldiers.  That has been our Wall Street politicians’ answer to our army since 2000.  Spending on adequate equipment and safety measures cuts into Wall Street profits.

So how does Putin speak to his military?

In a speech to military officers in February shortly after the raises were enacted, Mr. Putin declared, “I have always believed that military servicemen should be paid, as has always been the case in Russia, by the way, even more than skilled specialists in the sphere of economics or administration or other civilian sectors.”

Imagine that, Putin values his lowest grade serviceman more than “skilled specialists in the sphere of economics or administration or other civilian sectors.”

America has chosen to fatten its military budget to enrich Wall Street banks whereas Putin has seen the value of investment in its people. 

This is what Russia’s takeover of Crimea looked like:

This is what America's “liberation" of Iraq looked like:

So, what does this mean for the people of Crimea?  Well, according to the New York Times:

MOSCOW — Moving quickly to envelop Crimea in the Russian bureaucracy and economy, the Kremlin said Monday that it had nearly doubled pensions paid to retirees on the peninsula, raising them to the average levels paid in Russia.

President Vladimir V. Putin signed a decree raising pensions and another increasing salaries for public sector workers like teachers and doctors, according to a statement posted on the Kremlin’s website. Officials also announced a number of new investment plans and tax breaks for Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine two weeks ago after a rushed vote in the Crimean Legislature. The Crimeans even realigned the clock, moving theirs ahead two hours, to be identical with Moscow’s time zone.

What’s really interesting here is Putin raised pensions for public sector workers like teachers and doctors.  And, what is America doing?  Dumping and closing public schools for Wall Street profit driven charter schools.  According to AlterNet:

Studies shows that charter schools don’t typically outperform public schools and they often tend to increase racial and class segregation. So one must wonder, what exactly is motivating these school “reformers”? And why have they pushed for more and more closure — and new charter schools — at such an unprecedented rate in recent years?

Pro-charter supporters will tell you that it’s time for public institutions like our schools to start competing more like for-profit institutions. Test scores and high enrollment, then, define success. Unsuccessful schools, they say, should close just as unsuccessful businesses do. For neoliberal school reformers from today’s Arne Duncan-led Department of Education to scandal-ridden movement leader Michelle Rhee to billionaire Bill Gates, it is taken on faith that market principles are desirable in education.

So, studies show charter schools don’t typically outperform public schools, why decimate public school and fund charter schools?

Public School

Charter School

And what precisely is the NMTC doing to restore these so-called “blighted communities”? It’s providing hedge fund managers and wealthy real estate investors with opportunities to cash in on the charter school boom. The government frames it as a useful tool that builds communities up, operating on the assumption that charter schools provide some sort of de facto restoration. But as Part I demonstrated, they don’t.

But they do provide wealthy investors with a 39 percent tax credit that more than doubles returns on these investments within just seven years. As NY Daily News reporter Juan Gonzalez reported for Democracy Now!, “this is a tax credit on money that they’re lending, so they’re collecting interest on the loans, as well as getting the 39 percent tax credit.” And that’s not all. As Gonzalez explained, the federal government “piggyback[s] the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits, like historic preservation or job creation or Brownfield’s credits. The result is, you can put in $10 million and in seven years double your money.” So, if you put in a couple million dollars, you’ll have double that amount within just seven years.

Well the road to hell is paved with Wall Street profits.  Putin’s Russia is beginning to look like what was once America, before our Wall Street selected politicians destroyed America’s military and public sector.
So, meet Putin’s new Russia, a strong vibrant army, enhanced public schools and pensions and a government that governs with the consent of the governed.  Where Wall Street demands austerity for America and western countries, Putin’s Russia is looking pretty good.

By Patricia Baeten

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