Friday, June 23, 2017

Buying Influence in Washington - The Health Care Sector

With the Republican mantra "we must repeal Obamacare at all costs" ringing through the halls of Congress and the most recent announcement about its replacement, it's interesting to see exactly who in Congress has been the recipient of largesse from the health care industry, the part of Corporate America which has the most to win and lose in the health care battle.  Thanks to the Center for Responsive Politics, we can now see how much money the members of the 115th Congress have received from the health care sector.  For the purposes of this study, the health care industry includes health insurance and HMOs, health professionals, hospitals and nursing homes, health services as well as pharmaceuticals and health products.   

Let's start by looking at the health care sector donations from 2012 to 2016 for the top 10 Senate Republicans recipients:


The top ten recipients of health care sector donations received a total of $24.106 million over the four year period.

As well, we must keep in mind that Mitch McConnell's handpicked Senate health care working group has the following members, most of whom appear on the listing of major recipients above:

Mitch McConnell
Orrin Hatch
John Cornyn
Pat Toomey
Robert Portman
Lamar Alexander
John Barrasso
John Thune
Mike Enzi
Ted Cruz
Cory Gardner
Mike Lee

These 13 gentlemen have received a total of $18.1 million in campaign contributions since 2012, giving them plenty to think about while they debate America's next kick at the health care "can".

Here is a graph showing the health care sector donations from 2012 to 2016 for the top 10 Senate Democrats recipients:


While not quite as large as their Republican counterparts, the top 10 Democratic Senators received a total of $18.169 million from the health care sector over the four year period.

Here is a graph showing the health care sector donations for the 2016 election cycle for the top 10 House Republican recipients:


The top ten House Republican recipients received a total of $10.726 million in donations during the 2016 election cycle alone.

Lastly, here is a graph showing the health care sector donations for the 2016 election cycle for the top 10 House Democrat recipients:


The top ten House Democrat recipients received a total of $6.484 million in donations during the 2016 election cycle alone.

Obviously, as we can see from this information, the health care business in the United States is vastly influential at the political level and willing to pay handsomely to get access to the hallowed halls of Congress.  The health care sector successfully shaped the Affordable Care Act during the Obama Administration and there is no reason to believe that it will be any less successful at prodding Congress to change the laws to benefit itself under the Trump Administration.  Repealing and replacing Obamacare with the American Health Care Act will certainly make one sector even wealthier than it already is and, at the same time, cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Qatar and Washington - Bedfellows in Terrorism?

Let's open this posting by looking at a three recent tweets from Donald Trump:







Let's look at the United States relationship with this sponsor of terrorism by looking at some recent defense industry contracts with Qatar that have been announced by Washington.

1.) On November 17, 2016, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the State Department had made a determination approving a possible sale to the Government of Qatar for 72 F-15QA aircraft with a total cost of $21.1 billion.

Here's a quote from the news release:

"This proposed sale enhances the foreign policy and national security of the United State by helping to improve the security of a friendly country and strengthening our strategically important relationship. Qatar is an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Persian Gulf region. Our mutual defense interests anchor our relationship and the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) plays a predominant role in Qatar's defense.
The proposed sale improves Qatar's capability to meet current and future enemy air-to-air and air-to-ground threats. Qatar will use the capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense. Qatar will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this aircraft, equipment, training, and support services will not alter the basic military balance in the region."

The primary contractor for this sale is Boeing Corporation.

2.) On December 8, 2016, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the State Department had made a determination approving a possible sale to the Government of Qatar for spare C-17 heavy aircraft engines, equipment and support with a total estimated cost of $81 million.  The news release used the same boilerplate justification as in the case of the November 17, 2016 sale.  Again, the primary contractor for this sale is Boeing Corporation.

3.) On December 8, 2016, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the State Department had made a determination approving a possible sale to the Government of Qatar for continuation of logistics support services for eight C-17 aircraft and equipment, upgrades to satellite systems and operations lading ramps with a total estimated cost of $700 million.   Once again, the same boilerplate justification was used and, not surprisingly, the primary contractor for this sale is Boeing Corporation.

While all three of these contracts were struck under the Obama Administration, it is interesting to see how Washington is quite comfortable dealing with Qatar, a "purveyor of terrorism".  In addition, a recent meeting between U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Qatar's Minister of State for Defense Affairs, Khalid al-Attiyah, resulted in the signing of a $12 billion contract to purchase F-15 fighter jets, finalizing the deal announced on November 17, 2016. 

Let's close this posting by looking at why Boeing is such a big player in Washington's world.  From Open Secrets, here's how much Boeing has donated to American politicians going back to 1990:


The total of $28.302 million in political donations was split 46 percent to Democrats and 53 percent to Republicans.

Here are the top recipients for the 2016 election cycle:


Even Donald Trump received $41,512 in donations from Boeing, about one fifth of the amount received by Hillary Clinton. 

Here's how much Boeing has spent on lobbying in Washington:


Over the period from 1998 to 2017, Boeing has spent a total of $246,923,310 on getting the power brokers in Washington to see things their way, putting them in 10th place overall as shown here:


As we can see from this posting, Washington's power elite are quite capable of not practicing what they preach.  While, on one hand, they condemn Qatar for their links to terrorism, they are only too happy to grant the nation significant armaments sourced from America's military-industrial complex.  I guess its job creation at any cost!


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Afghanistan - The War That Keeps On Taking

Recent testimony by Defense Secretary James Mattis before the Senate Armed Services Committee provides us with an interesting glimpse into what lies ahead in Afghanistan.  This conflict which began on October 7, 2001, within a month of the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, has ground on for nearly 16 years and the nation is still no safer for its people and no less politically unstable than it was in 2001.  While the American-led combat mission officially ended on December 28, 2014, making this the longest war fought in U.S. history, as you will see in this posting, the cost of the war continues to mount.

Let's look at some statistics first.  Here is a table showing the coalition military fatalities linked to Operation Enduring Freedom:


Here is a table showing the number of deaths of U.S. military personnel:


Here is a table showing the number of deaths related to the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs):


Here is a bar graph showing the number of civilians killed in the Afghani hostilities up to 2015:


It is estimated that more than 31,000 civilians were killed in direct violence since the October 7, 2001 invasion.

Here is a graphic showing the patterns of civilian killings in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2015:


Here is a graphic showing both the number of Afghani civilians killed and injured from 2009 to 2015:


According to the Watson Institute,  the cumulative total spent (in current dollars) on the Afghanistan war from fiscal 2001 to 2016 reached $783 billion.  Here is a graphic showing the annual appropriations for each of the U.S. war operations:


In addition, the Obama Administration admitted in mid-2016 that its plan to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan would be delayed; as a result, they requested more than $44 billion for the operations in the Afghanistan theatre for fiscal 2017.  As well, more than $117 billion has been allocated to reconstruction projects throughout the nation according to SIGAR. 

With that background, let's look at Defense Secretary Mattis' most recent comments on Afghanistan.  He requested $64.6 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations which includes operations in Afghanistan, Iran and Syria with the goal of "increasing efforts to sustain NATO's defences to deter aggression and global counterterrorism operations.  He states that it is necessary for the United States to "sustain the international presence in Afghanistan to help stabilize the South Asia region and deny terrorists a safe haven."  According to Reuters, he also remarked that the United States was "not winning" the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan as shown here:

 

Here is his justification for these expenditures:

"More broadly, this need to preserve our security also requires us to sustain the international presence in Afghanistan to help stabilize the South Asia region and deny terrorists a safe haven.  Instability in the Middle East spills over into other regions. Extremists and extremist ideologies have spread to Europe, Africa, and Asia. Numerous countries are dealing with forced migration of people seeking to escape violence and despair, reminding us that problems originating in ungoverned or combat torn areas don’t remain there. The United States is engaged in the Middle East to help restore order and give the people who live there a more hopeful future, building a better security situation for Americans who want a safer and more prosperous world for our future."

Again, according to SIGAR, the period between January and October 2016 saw armed clashes between Afghani security forces and the Taliban rise by 22 percent over the same period a year earlier and actually reached their highest level since United Nations reporting began in 2007.  Here is a graphic showing the number of reported security incidents per day between November 2012 and November 2016:


Secretary Mattis also told Congress that by mid-July, he would have a strategy for combating the Taliban, a plan that many experts predict will include the addition of thousands of troops to the roughly 9000 that are still in-country, particularly given the nation's declining security status.  Currently, the fight between the coalition and the Taliban is at a stalemate and, in fact, once again, the Afghanis are losing as shown here:



According to mainstream media sources, the bombing which took place in a secured diplomatic area of Kabul killed at least 90 people and wounded more than 460.

In case you still aren't convinced that the Afghanistan war has been a complete loss, here is a graphic showing the number of deaths in Afghanistan due to terrorist attacks on an annual basis between 2009 and 2015:


It would be nice to think that we learned lessons from the failed Soviet occupation of the 1980s but, apparently, Afghanistan is the war that keeps on taking and taking and taking.....