Saturday, January 24, 2015

Department of Homeland Insecurity

The mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is to make America more secure. Former director of DHS, Tom Ridge, said this on the first anniversary of DHS: "this Department has a clear mission statement -- specifically, that we will lead the unified national effort to secure America. We will prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the nation."

FEMA is a division of DHS, and their mission is, "to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards (www.fema.gov)."

This has caused me to wonder, "how secure have Americans been feeling since DHS was established in 2003?" This brief post will consider some of the highlights.

Natural Disasters

Since we're on the subject of FEMA, we can be optimistic and suppose that they've improved on their performance since the epic fail that was hurricane Katrina. But the American people might be feeling less secure -- despite the presence of DHS and FEMA -- because they are noticing that something's going on with the climate, and it's either an evil genius with a weather machine or global warming. FEMA is there to address the symptoms, but not very much is being done about the underlying cause.



Terrorism


The most conspicuous function of DHS is securing America from terrorism. According to a Gallup poll, Americans felt less safe in 2013 than they did shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. This perception is well-founded, because the United States armed forces have been entering a growing number of nations and causing their residents to become bitterly resentful of the United States and its people. Foreign intelligence experts believe that our Syrian intervention will likely create an unprecedented "terrorist diaspora" to various locations around the world.


Immigration

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a second department of DHS, and the mission of ICE has been to control unauthorized immigration into the United States. If we look at the trends since DHS was established, the flow of unauthorized immigrants has increased (see chart).

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

TSA employees operate metal detectors and engage in various other activities that are said to improve airline safety. But it is worth mentioning that, from the standpoint of basic psychology, seeing a metal detector or being scrutinized by a security officer may remind people of terrorism (see a study on this topic). So, instead of making people feel safer, these measures may make many people feel less safe.

Government

Since DHS was established, Americans have become more afraid of their government. This may have less to do with DHS than with the shady activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the realization by growing numbers of Americans that their elected leaders and the judiciary serve the interests of the few and definitely do not serve the interests of the many. 

If you believe the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the largest threat to national security is the national debt, and low confidence in the U.S. government may have something to do with concerns about the debt. The government spent $222.8 billion in 2013 just to cover the interest owed.

Similarly, U.S. General Carter Ham has declared, “I believe ever more firmly about this very strong connection between sound economic policy and our national security,”  he added that... [countries] where people feel they have opportunities — for themselves and their children — have more stability and security. Those areas also have the best governments, least amount of conflict and increasing respect for human rights (source).

Personal debt may be making a lot of Americans anxious, and if the people are anxious, they're apt to lose confidence in the government. As it stands, millions of Americans likely consider themselves to be "middle class" on account of owning a car, big screen TV, and a house (or at least, the bank's permission to occupy the dwelling). However, Debt-serfdom and zero assets does not equate to middle class (source).

I'm not suggesting that there's anything the DHS can really do about that. But it is entirely possible that DHS is designed to deal with threats that are neither the most likely to happen nor the most severe threats to the homeland. And this is a big deal because, in the coming year, the cost to the American taxpayer for DHS will be $38 billion. 

The More Serious Threat
As already mentioned, the nation's coffers are emptying and Americans' coffers are emptying, we are all more vulnerable to unanticipated events such as (yet another) military engagement or another economic meltdown.
Income-strapped Americans are unable to save for retirement.

"From the end of 2000 to the end of 2013, the gold value of the dollar fell by 77%," according to this source. This is because both G.W. Bush and President Obama have been pursuing a weak dollar policy. If current trends continue, an increasing number of elderly will seek relief (Social Security and Medicare) from a relatively small proportion of working-age Americans. American jobs will continue to be exported, thus downward wage pressure will also continue.