Economics is not called the dismal science for nothing. Brandon Givens had an excellent column in The Times last week, but I wonder how many people read it all the way through. Givens' numbers, his comments on Keynesian economics, his history of taxation in the U.S., are all educational, but they don't exactly make for fun reading.
Economics isn't taught in most high schools. It's not a popular subject in American colleges, so while everyone seems to have an opinion, I wonder how many Americans actually understand anything at all about the nation's economic problems. Joe Minarik, a budget expert on the Committee for Economic Development, has complained publicly that even members of Congress appear confused about the difference between debts and deficits.
One can't be an expert on everything, but we ‘re living in a highly politicized atmosphere. Neither political party listens to anything the other side has to say. Facts don't matter, history doesn't matter, the future security of the nation doesn't matter. Partisans aren't interested in the issues, only "if they're for it, we're against it."
I am particularly worried about the new START agreement. For those who don't recognize the acronym, it stands for Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The first such proposal, known then as SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty), was negotiated by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, and every president since has supported it in one form or another. The most recent START treaty expired in December of 2009 and President Barack Obama signed the new treaty in April of this year.
But here's the problem: As with every international treaty it must be ratified by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate. There was a time when partisan politics ended at the country's borders. Not anymore. Too many Republicans see this as an opportunity to undercut the Obama administration.
Note: Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson is not one of them. Isakson sits on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He supported START when it came to a committee vote. "It's the right thing to do," he said.
But now Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl has put a hold on the upcoming Senate vote insisting that it be postponed until the newly elected Congress convenes. If readers want to know more about the treaty itself, there is plenty of nonpartisan information available.
My point is simply that the opposition to reification is politically motivated and not based on fact, history, and the future security of the nation.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when that opinion is based on nothing more than animosity to an unpopular president or the haranguing of talk-show hosts, the nation is in trouble. It doesn't matter if the issue is taxation or international treaties, facts matter. History matters.
The vast majority of nuclear weapons in the world are held by just two nations, the U.S. and Russia. Even during the Cold War, leaders in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union realized their vast nuclear arsenals were becoming counterproductive. Both countries began to disarm, sometimes through negotiation, sometimes unilaterally.
(President George H.W. Bush in 1991).
They not only reduced the number of nuclear bombs in their arsenals, they began a program of mutual inspection. Our military visited their nuclear sites, and they visited ours. This kind of face-to-face exchange builds trust, exactly the kind of trust Reagan talked about when he said, "Trust, but verify."
Since the last START treaty expired, inspections have been put on hold, and trust between the two nations has begun to crumble. Moreover, the U.S. is losing the trust of the rest of the world. If we're going to deal with rogue nuclear nations like Iran and North Korea, we need international cooperation, and this is not the way to get it.
More nuclear spending — which is what Kyl wants — tension between the U.S. and Russia, and disunity in the U.S. Senate only strengthen the hand of our enemies.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.