Saturday, February 4, 2012

Militarized Budgets + Toys For Boys = War Without End

Sen. John McCain introduced a bill this week to block the automatic cuts to military spending that were part of the deficit compromise by Congress. There's a similar bill in the House.  ==>Take action against the madness, or get talking points and letter to editor tips and Abby Shahn's great example here.

Who'll make up the $$ difference? Federal workers -- if McCain gets his way. Hey, wasn't he running to be the top federal worker awhile back? I suppose there are things a senator can say that a candidate for POTUS can't.

Lincoln famously said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." Presidents with one foot out the door of the Oval Office sometimes experience a burst of candor, and stop trying to fool anybody: in 1960 Dwight D. Eisenhower calledl out the “military-industrial complex,” warning his fellow taxpayers about the threat it posed to both their solvency and their sovereignty.

President Obama, nearing the end of his first term, and hoping for a second, can afford no such truth telling. Instead, Obama used the bully pulpit to deliver a stump speech disguised as a State of the Union address, the theme of which was rah rah military.

The military-industrial complex could be the poster child for people's disgust with the best government corporate lobbyists can buy. Turn over the rock of $669 billion that Congress and the President just authorized for next year's military expenses, and what comes scurrying out? Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman and General Dynamics campaign contributions, that's what. CEOs of those companies command such obscene levels of wealth that they aren't even the 1%, they're the 0.01%.

The fact is that the union is in a dreadful state, with millions of citizens unemployed, foreclosed, and in debt up to their eyebrows for college degrees that only lead to part-time McJobs. Tens of thousands nationwide have taken to the streets calling for an end to corporate control of government and the politics of unbridled greed. Since September 17 on Wall Street – and as recently as last month during the New Hampshire Primary – Occupy crowds have chanted: “How do we fix the deficit? End the wars and tax the rich!”

Pandering to as many voters as possible, Obama delivered a flag waving, chest thumping paean to U.S. military might and global dominance that included a tiny call to reduce military funding in favor of debt service and generating jobs via housing starts: “In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive Order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”

The fact that Secretary of Defense Panetta immediately followed the SOTU address by promising to reduce the proposed Pentagon budget over the next decade is not the point. Neither is the fact that they're cutting back on troops, not the uber expensive drones which cost a minimum of $2 million per crash. (And yes, they crash quite often.) The point is that the Obama and Panetta feel compelled to claim to be reducing military spending in order to ward off regime change.

It's a sign of the times. Ron Paul is spooking both Democrats and Republicans by calling to reduce spending on foreign military adventures, a position he took long before he was officially in campaign mode. On his website currently we find: “Acting as the world’s policeman and nation-building weakens our country, puts our troops in harm’s way, and sends precious resources to other nations in the midst of an historic economic crisis.Taxpayers are forced to spend billions of dollars each year to protect the borders of other countries...”

Don't get me wrong, I have no fondness for Ron Paul. His anti-immigrant stance would have us spending plenty on military measures to “protect” our own border. But some people are on the verge of letting themselves be fooled into thinking he's a peace candidate rather than an old-fashion fiscal conservative.

From the other end of the spectrum Rep. Chellie Pingree toots her horn for voting “no” on so-called defense spending. (Never mind that she voted “ought to pass” when the National Defense Authorization Act was still in the committee. Her website explains: "The situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate with no end in site(sic)... It's time to stop funding the war ...As we struggle to get budget deficits under control, we have to come to grips with the fact that nearly one-quarter of the deficits that have been run up since 2003 are the result of war spending.”

Is this what the U.S. public understands about the connection between the endless war on terror and ongoing economic distress? The U.S. Conference of Mayors voted last June to send a resolution to Washington calling for reductions in military spending in order to fund the critical needs of big cities. A lively floor debate in advance of the vote became the focus of media coverage of the entire conference, which is an annual effort to influence federal policies impacting urban areas.

Apparently spending more than half of the discretionary budget (i.e. income tax revenues) each year on what the Pentagon wants -- while failing to fund essential services – was enough to make big city mayors take an unusual stand. It's the first time they have even debated military spending since the war in Vietnam even though the choice is ever guns or butter, so you'd think mayors would talk about it every year. Who do mayors work for?
Oakland Police at work for Mayor Jean Quan, who traveled to Wash DC to confer with the federal govt and other big city officials about OWS and affiliates. Occupy Oakland is shown being evicted October 2011, probably the event that sparked all the ensuing big strikes and port shutdowns.
The man who swept into office last time around on the promise of hope and change will deliver campaign speeches with a little bit of something for everybody: the continued glory of the mighty U.S. military, with maybe a little funding shaved off to keep construction workers from rioting in the streets. And the man who didn't get the job will keep working on behalf of the Pentagon, too. 

Meanwhile, people who have to choose between rent, food, or health care – and who may have loved ones on deployment, or just back from combat are getting harder to fool even some of the time.

 The Military-Industrial Complex at 50, based on the national conference of the same title held October, 2011 in Virginia.

1 comment:

chrisrushlau said...

Congresswoman Pingree's main contribution to history has been her announcement that the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden set the pattern we should follow in the future.
Israel's drones are piloted primarily by women. It is their natural nurturing instincts that make them such effective killers of Palestinian children. Golda Meir joked that the Palestinians themselves forced her and her colleagues to kill the Palestinian children: something she would never forgive them for. Ha, ha, ha.
My male take on the Global War On Terror and Israel is that it's amazing they don't get laughed out of the door. It's like an episode of Batman from the '60's, so over-the-top that nobody, absolutely nobody, could take it seriously. And yet we frown and say it's too bad these evil Washington people force us to kill the Palestinian children: something we'll never forgive them for.