We have had twelve years of jingoist diatribes from both Democrats and Republicans that began in the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld White House, were the progeny of Ronald Reagan, and have been largely the product of Obama's White House.
The very nature of this country changed during these important twelve years. And its extraction from the grips of the military-industrial complex has not yet begun and could be dead on arrival. Indeed, if the complex has its way, it will be stalled by the very economic crisis it created.
On Monday, Senator Patty Murray let everyone know that the return to pre-Bush tax rates on the wealthy was necessary before any compromise on the budget takes place. The timing was intentional.
Because on Tuesday, Cheney and the Republicans showed that they are organizing their decades-long bully pulpit by arguing against the automatic January 2013 defense cuts. They claim the economy will suffer greatly, and the predictions certainly appear dire. According to the LA Times,
Congressional Republicans have launched a drumbeat of opposition to Pentagon cuts they agreed to last summer as part of the debt deal with President Obama, and want to shift the burden of cuts to food stamps, school lunches and other domestic programs. Armed with an industry-backed analysis that shows the loss of 2 million jobs – particularly hitting the aerospace industry in California and the critical swing state of Virginia -- Republicans are blaming Obama in an attack that stretches from Washington to the presidential campaign trail.
In the world of politics, perhaps the most important decision for who to choose as our president will be to consider whether the military-industrial complex is one this country wants to continue to pour money into, or if we want to begin to retract our support for the United States as policeman for the world. Are we in favor of efforts that are far more economical? Could we have far greater success in moving some of that money to other expenditures?
Among these potential changes in our economy are improvements in our country's infrastructure. Can we move from the Obama-Bush Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc. improvements to our own country, or are we so mired in senseless aid that we are bound to continue the military way into the next four years?
The world and our own country may hang in the balance, while we sort out the need for enormous, ever-growing military expenditures in the face of present and very demanding economic times.
The Farewell Address, reproduced in part or in whole in many locations including this column, was a reminder that the greatness of a president is not necessarily in what is accomplished, but also in the philosophy enunciated and followed and promises unfulfilled, left to future generations to consider and change as circumstances also change.
In 2010, we learned for the first time that this was no quick, spur of the moment speech but instead had been considered and written over nine months, showing how important Eisenhower believed the speech to be.
While the Farewell Speech held forth on several themes, the one that is best remembered even today is the reference to the "military-industrial complex."
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
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.
Drafts and other documents relating to the speech uncovered in 2010 have provided a better history of this speech than perhaps any other. They are the subject of a story in The New Yorker, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the speech.
Unwarranted influence by the military and foreign wars has gripped our country for far more than a decade. The perfect vehicle to extend and increase the military and its related industries presented itself in the form of 9/11. An attack on American soil, deaths in our largest city, and an enemy of unmentionable ferocity whose dangers were evident from the ability to succeed in the attack and growing influence throughout the world. Expenditures could be ramped up, and a war started without objection from Congress. And so it was. Vietnam was forgotten in the name of protecting our country and "terrorism," the replacement war for the Cold War.
We had no reasonable choice with Dick Cheney in the White House other than full fledged "shock and awe," invading a weak country like Iraq at night in order to make the war a spectacle of modern journalism.
Cheney's influence was felt from Afghanistan to the Iraq War. And his company, Halliburton, became a key player in the defense industry itself and in Iraq specifically.
Now we have Cheney coming to Washington and speaking for longer than some have ever heard him speak about the defense needs of the United States.
We have the defense aerospace industry association and so many others, all sponsored by Republican House committees seeking to retain and/or increase military expenditures.
All in the name of the military.
But now, in an ever starker reality show, we are confronted with the immense size of the military and its apparently essential role in the continuing battle to more jobs in the United States. Indeed, the number of jobs triggered by a less than 20% reduction in the defense budget of the United States makes it clear just how large the military's ties to US industry is in the 21st Century.
According to The Seattle Times,
A report commissioned by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and released Tuesday concluded that the cuts would trigger the biggest one-year drop in the gross domestic product, about $215 billion, directly and indirectly. The report also projected that more than 2 million jobs would vanish.
Let's extrapolate, even if this also apparently includes foreign jobs, a fact no where discussed despite the fact that one of the "companies" testifying is the US arm of the European arms and aerospace company European Aerospace Defense Systems (EADS). The current military directly employs about 10 million people in the US. It is hard to determine how much of our economy is wrapped up in the defense industry. However, it is easy to see that its influence is immense.
At 4%, a 1993 World Bank working paper shows that military spending in developing countries "is not associated with lower rates of economic growth, of capital formation, or of government spending on health, education, and infrastructure, or with higher rates of inflation."
There is no study that provides support for higher amounts of expenditure. And pure logic says that every dollar of defense department expenditure takes a dollar that could be spent elsewhere.
Of course, the World Bank study dealt with developing countries. The argument that our larger economy can sustain expenditures that include both US and other country expenditures is one that needs more review. But we are not going to get it from the Republicans.
We currently have around 50% of the total defense expenditures in the world by some estimates. Paul Ryan's promise that defense expenditures are no worry when considering how to address the deficit is contrary to the facts according to Reuters.
Ryan says we shouldn’t worry about military spending, even amid a supposed fiscal emergency, because such outlays are “shrinking as a share of government spending and as a share of the national economy.” America may have a spending problem, Ryan and the House Budget Committee believe, but the Pentagon is not part of that problem: “This category of spending is clearly not driving the unsustainable fiscal trajectory that is threatening the nation’s future.”
That’s strange to hear, since soaring security costs since 9/11 have been a key driver of deficits – accounting for about $1.4 trillion in new debt since 2001 by one widely cited non-partisan estimate. And, looking ahead, it’s hard to see a path to fiscal discipline that doesn’t include sharp cuts to the defense budget, which constitutes over half of all discretionary federal spending.
While the Supreme Court appointments are important, they have consistently proven through the years to be exceedingly unpredictable and of far less importance than the presidents we have endured.
So we have Romney, who wants to build more military materiel, from fighters to aircraft carriers, and Obama whose withdrawal from military expenditures has apparently been more influenced by Joe Biden than by his own kill list mentality.
Will Obama back up the promise of cutting defense and other programs except for the sacred cows of Medicare, Social Security (already gutted by "borrowings" that will never be returned) and the other social programs? Or will Obama cave to what he sees in his polls, favoring the United State electorate (such as it is portrayed by biased polls and media) by avoiding the mandatory cuts to the military that are required by what Republicans intentionally call "sequestration."
What is your vote for the military? Which is far above the claimed cost of about 20% of the current budget, or nearly half of the so-called discretionary budget.
Keep it or reduce it?
This climate is the first opportunity to make really meaningful cuts to the military budget since the Farewell Speech. But the facts show that the claims of the Republicans are less than honest, so that the cuts are not that significant after all.
The bet here is that Obama does not have the guts to carry through with the cuts. If he and the US Senate do have the guts, whatever the excuse, he may have my vote.