Eras of the Military-Industrial Complex

Military spending by country

President Dwight D. Eisenhower used the term Military Industrial Complex (MIC) in his Farewell Address to the United States in 1961:

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Eisenhower explained how the MIC could hurt the nation if the government spent too much money on military weapons. While the POTUS talked about the MIC in a new way, the idea itself was not new. Nor would it end in the years to follow.

The First Era

From the beginning until 1941, the U.S. government used its people to make arms during wartime. The government owned shipyards and munitions factories. World War II changed the picture.

FDR created the War Production Board to use civilians to make weapons for war. The people made a great deal of money at that time. The War ended but the WPB stayed in place. Private companies began to supply services to the government to outfit the military.

The Second Era

The Second Era began with the withdrawal of the Warsaw Pact in 1990 and the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Pentagon asked defense contractors to unite to work within the defense budget, which had been cut.

The Third Era

The Third Era is the state of the Military-Industrial Complex from 1992-present. Defense contractors make other goods, from weapons to other items including surveillance, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and other advancements. Large companies merge with smaller businesses to create bigger companies worth billions of dollars. The Department of Defense imports many forms of technology, but no longer shares them on the open market.

Private industry creates more opportunities for technology companies, but defense contractors have a strong hold on making weapons for the government, just as former military officers cash in on their experiences.

 

The History of U.S. Prisons

2014 picture of the Old Jail in Barnstable, MA

The United States has more prisoners than any other country. American jails have the largest number of inmates per capita – 655 per 100,000 adults. The number of people that have been in prison at one time is more than 70 million, or 1 in 35.

States have been unable to keep up with the demand for prisons or the funds to build them. As a result, private companies fund prisons and run them as profitable businesses. It seems to be a good solution to the problem. However, the prison industrial complex is a controversial issue.

Nineteen states use private prisons to house their inmates, creating a “prison for profit” model. Private companies report making over $7 billion dollars per year. Detractors claim that the companies view prisons as cash cows, cutting corners and providing bad service to inmates. Prisoners released from private prisons have a higher recidivism rate than those from government-run facilities.

In the Beginning

The U.S. Constitution is based on British law. Incarceration in England was rare. Police sent criminals to workhouses with bad conditions. The government hoped that their “houses of correction” would rehabilitate the criminals. In the 1700s the practice of reform began. Philosophers believed that criminals needed to become “morally pure.” Inmates often ended up in solitary confinement to ponder the error of their ways. When the first settlers came to America, so did the British rules on punishment.

The Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colony courts built the first jail circa 1690 in Barnstable, MA. “The Old Jail” housed up to six prisoners, and was used until about 1820 when it was replaced by a stone building. In 1968, the Old Jail was moved onto the grounds of the Coast Guard Heritage Museum. In 1971, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

While there were jails in America in the 17th and 18th centuries, there were no prisons. Colonists built the first prison in Philadelphia in 1790. The existing Walnut Street jail had been expanded to hold convicted criminals. The prison was established by the peace-keeping Quakers, who intended to use the prison for hard work, self-examination, and spiritual reflection. The plan was not successful. By the 1820s, prison had become the ultimate punishment. The government was able to keep criminals in horrific conditions, and to use them as slave labor.

Incarceration

Law enforcement locked up prisoners for a short time. People arrested for public drunkenness slept it off. Sheriffs told fighters to calm down. Those accused of more serious crimes were held over for trial, which usually occurred within a couple of days. Criminals were branded, shamed, or run out of town. The law used corporal punishment for more serious crimes.

Most people that came to America worked as laborers, so it didn’t make sense to lock them up for long periods of time. Additionally, the colonists could not feed and house criminals, so they were set free. The colonists did have a restriction on who could come to America from England. Those refused included rapists, burglars, witches, and murderers.

The era of the American Revolution changed things. The government installed two systems of punishment. One system locked up prisoners alone while the second system incarcerated prisoners in groups. At that time, the issue of incarceration was considered a Northern problem. Most of the prisons were in the North; the South used violence and the honor system to keep crime at bay.

Very little changed in the prison system until the 1970s. The War on Drugs began, causing an explosion in the number of prison inmates. States sorely needed funds to house prisoners and began to rely on corporations to fund the system. Prisons for profit were born.

Prison laborers provide big profit

Prison Labor

Prison labor goes back to the days of the convict lease system in the late 1880s. Prisons began to “lease out” their prisoners, making a profit from the work. Judges sent prisoners to plantations. Other common uses for labor were coal mining and building roads and railroads. However, the death rate of convicts was high.

The convict lease system died out. However, the government replaced the program with systems similar to convict labor. Chain gangs and prison farms became popular.

The 13th Amendment permits prison labor if the prisoner has been convicted.  The 13th Amendment states, “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Today, privatized prisons make billions of dollars from inmates who are typically paid a few cents an hour.

Prisoners went on strike protesting forced labor. Inmates demanded that prisons pay them to work. They wanted to work under better conditions. In 2018, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and Jailhouse Lawyers Speak sponsored a prison strike. Inmates told prison officials that the inmates should not be excluded from the 13th amendment, claiming that such low pay equals “modern-day slavery.”

 

 

Who is Nicolas Maduro?: A Look At Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro

Nicolás Maduro Moros is the current President of Venezuela. Born in 1962, Maduro became the President of Venezuela in 2013 when his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, died from cancer. In 2018, Maduro was reelected to the office by a with 67.8% of the vote. The legitimacy of the election was in question and deemed as fraudulent by neighboring countries, including Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, the United States, and Canada.

Previous to serving as the President, Maduro was the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2013 and served as Vice President to Hugo Chavez from 2012 to 2013.

Controversy

Currently, Venezuela is undergoing an extreme socioeconomic crisis. Many blame Maduro for his governmental policies, referring to him as a dictator. At present, the country is experiencing hyperinflation, the Venezuelan exchange rate is plummeting, and there is mass emigration to neighboring South American countries and the U.S. Over 3 million people have fled Venezuela since 2015, citing starvation. The IMF predicts that the Venezuela’s inflation rate will reach 1 million percent by the end of 2018, the highest rate seen since the beginning of the 20th century.

The huge reduction in oil production, Venezuela’s main source of income, has caused severe decreases in resources including food and medicine. Maduro has recently put a plan in place to revitalize the country’s wealth by mining for gold in the Orinoco Arc. The plan may be sound in theory, but to date poor treatment of workers, environmental crimes, and murder have been the only outcome of Maduro’s mission.

Citizens believe that Maduro’s form of socialism is what will be the downfall of the country, not the lack of oil.

There are other controversies surrounding the President, including his place of birth. By law, a citizen must be born in Venezuela to serve as the country’s president. In the past it has been stated that Maduro was born in Colombia, not in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. No proof has been brought forward to substantiate the claim though.

Background

Maduro attended Liceo José Ávalos, a public high school. He allegedly became interested in politics during high school, but never graduated.

In 1979, Maduro was named as a person of interest in the kidnapping of American, William Niehous.

Maduro began his professional career as a bus driver for the Caracas Metro company. He ventured into formal politics in the 1980s, when he became an unofficial trade unionist representing fellow bus drivers.

At age 24 , Maduro lived in Cuba with other South American leftist militants. He attended a one-year course at the Escuela Nacional de Cuadros Julio Antonio Mella. Reportedly Maduro studied under Pedro Miret Prieto. Prieto was a close associate to Fidel Castro and senior member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Maduro’s introduction to Hugo Chavez is unclear. The Cuban government allegedly assigned Maduro to work as a mole for Cuba’s Dirección de Inteligencia, with the aim of approaching Chávez.

In the early 1990s, he joined The Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200), a political and social movement founded by Hugo Chávez in 1982. In the 1990s, Maduro also co-founded the Movement of the Fifth Republic, the main supporter for Chávez’s presidential election in 1998.

Maduro rose quickly through the political ranks:

  • 1998 – The Venezuelan Chamber of Deputies
  • 1999 – The National Constituent Assembly
  • 2000 – The NationalAssembly
  • 2005 – Assembly elected Maduro to the position of Speaker
  • 2006 – Appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs

In 2012, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appointed Maduro as Vice President. Shortly after Chavez’s victory and Maduro’s appointment, Chavez announced that he would have to return to Cuba for cancer surgery. Chavez secured Maduro’s position as President by naming the VP as his successor.

Sanctions

In 2017, the United States sanctioned Maduro following his election. The U.S. labels him as a “dictator,” which prevents him from entering the United States. In 2018, Donald Trump placed more sanctions against Venezuela regarding their gold mining operation, forbidding any U.S. entities from participating in the process or from buying any of the gold mined in the country.