'Collateral damage' all over the landscape

My turn

Posted: Friday, May 11, 2001

The repugnance that has greeted Timothy McVeigh's use of the word "collateral damage" is understandable, but misplaced. At least he was honest in his description of the despicable act.

Missionaries are shot down over Peru in a war that tries to stop the selling of cocaine which has a 17,000 percent profit margin. Here the police spend their time getting the U.S. Supreme Court to give them handcuff rights on seat belt violations.

The U.S. promotes trade and preferences for China. The Chinese are in the driver's seat; American businessmen will not let some plane wreck interfere with the chance that they might lose out on sales. (We could boycott their goods, but then we would have to close most of America's stores.)

American drug lords - America's drug companies - sell drugs at absurd prices with huge profits. It supposedly goes mainly for research - when a whole lot of it goes for advertising and political lobbying. With many prescription drugs that should be OTC. Low-cost mainline drugs in hospitals stopped to produce more costly ones. The elderly, the needy, the poor, the African continent, are all, to put it mildly, collateral damage.

Now why did anyone think two oil industry insiders (Bush, Cheney) who have made millions from it per year would ever do other than what the industry wants? If George wants to drill in ANWR, then we must drill off of Jeb's Florida Gulf Coast (wana bet?).

But hey, deregulation is good. Look what it did to air travel in 20 years. Energy is going the same way. I'm glad health care is not going to be run by some big government monolith. Aren't we lucky we have private insurance and managed care companies with their bands of pencil-neck MBAs in charge; makes me feel well cared for.

The new tax plan sounds great! But I've been reading about all those Texans now wanting dollars from the feds because apparently a recent former governor cut revenues so much they're now running short.

What Timothy McVeigh did was wrong. But his metaphor is quite accurate for the society of today. And what's the big deal with not broadcasting his execution? A pay-per-view would work fine; we could collect dollars to help pay for the prison system. I would think we would want to gain the full deterrent potential - scare them all straight!

Alaska has its own version of collateral damage. It's called the effects of the well-publicized, but oh-so-phony "fiscal gap." The mythology of the permanent fund is so well propagandized; but you can have the current dividend, have it grow, have no income or sales tax, and use the excess for schools, roads, etc. If Anchorage won't put in a sales tax, why should the rest of the state pay an income tax? So we can get more money to special interests and set Alaskans against each other.

If only the politicians would just get down to business. But they're too busy trying to hold people hostage because they want to be the Supreme Court. And busy working on hate crime legislation that says hurting another human being is not a crime if they're gay. I sincerely doubt Jesus Christ would have agreed!

It's humorous hearing the bravado over not using Social Security numbers on licenses. For a few bucks anyone can look up anyone's SSN on the Internet - sold to you from government sources. But legislators won't stop that; that's business.

Collateral damage is a term that has been well defined by the military, CIA and the FBI. Ridiculous drug prices, denied basic health care, foreign sweat shops, cruise ship water pollution, phony privacy, underfunded schools, underfunded public safety services and an enormous amount of missed opportunities in Alaska. It's just collateral damage.

However, there are "winners." Look to the ever so pious and religious mainstream conservative Americans who tout family values but earn much of their money selling sex on pay-per-view, satellite systems and hotel rooms. I'm no saint, but then I don't claim to be one either.

In our society it has also become the norm to make sure that we privatize the profit (using public resources), but force the public to "socialize" the risk.

Anselm Staack of Juneau is a CPA and an attorney who came to Alaska in 1974.

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