Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Big Money, Politics and the National Security State: "More, More More!"

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” 

― Dwight D. Eisenhower

"More, more, more
How do you like it, how do you like it?
More, more, more
How do you like it, how do you like it?"
More, more, more"--Lyrics from the disco hit "More, More, More" by  Andrea True Connection (1976)  

It is said one cannot travel in two directions at once. But it seems that's just the way we will be going after the 2012 Elections when the foks in Congress and The White House will take time off from the endless political campaign season to actually propose and try to pass a budget and a few laws for a couple months or three before the campaigning starts all over and the mainstream media gets all frothy about who is running for what seat in 2014 or the top job in 2016. 


One  direction they will cover is the budget deficit, the accumulated debt the nation has borrowed to pay its bills. To do this many politicians will scare the middle class into supporting drastic cuts in spending programs like education, senior services  and public health care.  We are after all in serious overall debt  to the tune of about 11 trillion dollars and  its legitimate to  want to address that issue in a comprehensive manner.

But let's say Obama is re-elected and the tea party Republicans don't advance like they did in the 2010 mid-terms. And maybe parts of the GW Bush Era tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 are really repealed, the ones passed in the middle of two wars that resulted in a net loss of jobs after the 2008 Wall Street banking/mortgage meltdown.  OK, well maybe some modest cuts in some domestic programs and increased tax revenue will actually both  stimulate the economy and bring down the deficit. 

That's a best case scenario by the way. If Romney wins the election, he's already signaled he is going to  push for cuts in just about all government spending in  the domestic realm.  He is marching in lock-step with that social Darwinist/Ayn Rand enthusiast, Paul Ryan of the House Budget Committee.  The tax cuts will stay in place and the cuts will be deeper and the poor and the middle class will suffer as will anybody who  is trying to get back on their feet in this economy.



Whoops! I left out the other direction we'll be heading in and it looks like we will be headed into it no matter who is in the White House and how the two parties  count noses in the Senate. 

 It's a  big omission called the National Security State. These are the people at Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney and Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, General Dynamamics, et al.  They have lobbyists who press our elected leaders to continue increasing the defense budget no matter how much we have already spent, how muc hwe need money for schools and police and job training programs. No matter how much we are already over stretched in foreign wars, no matter  how many weapons systems we are buying----to the exclusions of basic military equipment and  care for soldiers and marines after they return from tour after tour with physical and mental wounds.

 How do you handle these guys, they got national defense on their side?  Well, you don't handle them. You give in, even if, say, Pratt and Whitney or General Dynamics wants a program that the Pentagon itself doesn't want.     


Think I'm kidding you on that last part? I wish I was!  Here's a recent editorial in "The Baltimore Sun" that says otherwise: 


"...Republicans are once again trying to save weapons systems that the military doesn't actually want. That's the kind of micromanagement that inevitably harms national security; Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has already warned that saving a low-priority weapon could result in harmful cutbacks to hardware the military actually needs.

"But wait, you may say, that's just the authorization — the shopping list, if you will. Unfortunately, the House Appropriations Committee, which actually helps decide how much to spend, is moving in the same direction. Earlier this week, the defense subcommittee approved more than $3 billion in additional Pentagon spending in 2013.

"What makes all this misplaced generosity toward the military-industrial complex all the more ludicrous is that the Pentagon still has the proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over its head in the form of sequestration. Unless Congress and the White House reach some sort of budget compromise between now and the end of the year, automatic cuts will be triggered including more than $500 billion in future spending at the Pentagon, about $55 billion of it next year.

"Needless to say, Democrats and Republicans alike are unhappy with that threat, but it's the GOP that seems most interested in sidestepping it. "We shouldn't be cutting national defense spending and imperiling our security to meet arbitrary caps," was how Rep. Paul Ryan put it this week.

"To which we can only say, Mr. Ryan is absolutely correct. The problem is, that "train wreck" budget plan is there for a reason. The plan was adopted last summer, when Republicans and Democrats failed to reach agreement on a deficit-reduction deal. The required cuts were meant to be as painful as possible to force the two sides into negotiation.

"Naturally, that hasn't happened. The parties appear no closer to resolving their differences than they were when the automatic cuts were set in place. But if this is a game of chicken, the approaching cars are still a mile or two away, and there's time to swerve — just not a lot of it, given that the Pentagon must make some budget-related decisions by early next year.

"Mr. Ryan would avoid sequestration by foisting much more of the cutbacks on entitlement programs. It's essentially the same tune he has been singing for a couple of years now, and Democrats aren't dancing to it now any more than they did last year. Reducing the deficit can't be entirely at the expense of the nation's most vulnerable citizens in the form of cutbacks to Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, school nutrition or other safety net programs."


The United States spent in 2011 over 41 percent (!) of all the military spending in the world with one -twentieth the population.    China spent about 8.1 percent and Russia 4.2  percent.  This according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. For a list of all major countries and their defense spending, see the link below.



William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School, and now teaches History at the Pennsylvanis College of Technology. He also has written a book Confesions of a recovering Weapons Addict. One ofhis most recent posts at Tom Dispatch is "The National Security State Wins (Again)!   Here is a section from that blog.  It makes for very interesting analysis of the power of the NSS.  The full link is below.   

"Despite his record as a “warrior-president,” despite the breathless “Obama got Osama” campaign boosterism, common inside-the-Beltway wisdom has it that the president has backed himself into a national security corner.  He must continue to appear strong and uncompromising on defense or else he’ll get the usual Democrat-as-war-wimp label tattooed on his arm by the Republicans.

Similarly, to have a realistic chance of defeating him -- so goes American political thinking -- candidate Romney must be seen as even stronger and more uncompromising, a hawk among hawks.  Whatever military spending Obama calls for, however much he caters to neo-conservative agendas, however often he confesses his undying love for and extols the virtues of our troops, Romney will surpass him with promises of even more military spending, an even more muscular and interventionist foreign policy, and an even deeper love of our troops.

Indeed, with respect to the national security complex, candidate Romney already comes across like Edward G. Robinson’s Johnny Rocco in the classic film Key Largo: he knows he wants one thing, and that thing is moreMore ships for the Navy.  More planes for the Air Force.  More troops in general -- perhaps 100,000 more.  And much more spending on national defense."

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175542/tomgram%3A_william_astore%2C_hail_to_the_cheerleader-in-chief%21/ Please scroll down the Tomdispatch page after linking for the article cited.

Johnny Rocco was a gangster in a play that became a movie a long, long time ago.  But is this type of character---willing to scare and harm people just to make more money--really more modern than we think at first glance? I think so.  He lives in the attitude of any politican or lobbyist or CEO who views high-cost  arms program as a sacred cow.  Hei s  any arms merchant who wants to make a personal fortune on the backs of a nation whose greatest challenges are how we treat our neighbors and our neighbors' children.

       In summation: In a time of great deficits, and an attitude that taxing the one percenters is off the table for an entire politcal party, and that sophisicated and expensive weapons ALWAYS trump a  fraying social safety net, just how many "Johnny Roccos"  from a National Security State can we afford?  

1 comment:

  1. Here's that song again, fellow Babyboomers, now with a meaning that's more than just a come-on from a pretty "dame".