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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Murphy’s pork is inflation; and U.S. wrecks Ukraine

    Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, whose idea of national security is to have border control agents wave across 5,000 illegal entrants per day, quite apart from the hundreds more who sneak into the country out of sight, has another great idea.

    He calls it the Connecticut Fund Finder — an interactive map on his office's internet site that allows constituents to track the $4.2 billion worth of projects in the state that have been financed by federal government money Murphy has helped to arrange in the last four years.

    "I'm really proud that we have been able to bring billions of federal dollars back to Connecticut since 2020," the senator says.

    But "bring back" isn't right.

    For most of the patronage pork for which Murphy claims credit — items not part of the federal government's ordinary operations — has been financed not by taxes drawn from the senator's constituents but from deficit spending, borrowed money. This money is not free or a sort of refund as the senator suggests. Instead it is debt that his constituents have just begun to repay and will be repaying for decades, and not necessarily repaying through direct taxes but through the indirect tax of inflation, which is already rampant in Connecticut and the country.

    That's why Murphy's Connecticut Fund Finder would be more honest if it was accompanied by an interactive map that might be called the Connecticut Inflation Finder. It would try to calculate how much each project touted on the Connecticut Fund Finder map contributed to the rising prices of groceries, gasoline, housing, insurance, medical care and such.

    Then the senator's constituents could make more informed judgments as to the worth of each project and would be reminded that nothing is really free.

    A valuable interview

    Independent journalist and provocateur Tucker Carlson may be criticized for not putting enough hard questions to Russian President Vladimir Putin in their interview in Moscow the other day. Of course Putin may be criticized for being a murderous tyrant. But the interview was valuable for illuminating Putin's main rationale for Russia's war with Ukraine.

    That rationale is the longstanding meddling of the United States on Russia's border. The U.S. was much involved in the 2014 coup that toppled an elected Ukrainian government friendly to Russia. Then the U.S. began encouraging Ukraine and other eastern European countries — former satellites of Russia (also known as the Soviet Union) — to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

    NATO membership would have put U.S. and the military forces of its Western European allies close to the Russian border, even though U.S. diplomats and diplomats from other NATO countries had informally assured Russia, upon the Soviet Union's breakup and Germany's reunification, that NATO would not expand eastward and that the former satellites would provide Russia a buffer against the Western powers.

    Putin repeatedly warned the U.S. and NATO to stop intervening in Ukraine. His warnings were treated with contempt. In effect he was dared to do something about the intervention. So Russia invaded. The war has devastated Ukraine.

    In 1962 the United States responded similarly to provocation, imposing a naval blockade on Cuba after the Soviet Union's placement of nuclear missiles there, 90 miles from Florida. Indeed, via the Monroe Doctrine, since 1823 the U.S. has insisted on buffering the whole Western Hemisphere against intervention by other powers.

    Despite the clamor for ever more billions of dollars for Ukraine to fight Russia with, the United States has never clearly articulated its war aims. Is the U.S. insisting on Ukraine's recovery of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, and the Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine, more recently occupied and annexed? Those objectives seem wildly impractical and risk nuclear war.

    Indeed, while Americans have hardly noticed it, through NATO's expansion they recently have become obligated to defend five more countries abutting Russia, countries Russia had not been menacing before the U.S. intervention in Ukraine.

    This is madness. Having provoked the war in Ukraine, the U.S. urgently should repent by helping to make the most practical peace possible.

    Chris Powell has written about Connecticut government and politics for many years. He can be reached at CPowell@cox.net.

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