Wednesday, December 08, 2004

 

Budget first, fight war second

This is very long, but, I think, also very apt. (The original is much much longer, but also very well worth reading.)
The return of the Iron Triangle

It may be that we’re forever doomed to interpret current history through the lens developed in our past; I was a college student specializing in US modern diplomatic history during the late Reagan era, and so my world view will be forever tainted by the events of that time. But in this instance, I believe my intellectual biases and reality are in sync.

During his first term, Reagan saw an economy which rapidly de-accelerated, mostly in response to Fed Chairman Paul Volcker’s battle to curb soaring inflation via rising interest rates and Reagan’s massive income tax cuts. Over 17,000 businesses closed in during the worse recession since the 1930s, many of those private manufacturers.

Despite the severity of the recession and growing budget deficit, Reagan supported massive military expenditures. Despite the fact that the US had not been involved in an open conflict since its pullout from Vietnam in 1975, Reagan found justification for this arms race in the Cold War with the Soviet Union and its allies.

Ignoring the severity of the recession and a growing budget deficit, Reagan supported massive military expenditures. Despite the fact that the US had not been involved in an open conflict since its pullout from Vietnam in 1975, Reagan found justification for this lavish spending in the Cold War: The Red Menace, Soviet Union, China and their allies around the globe (include the pitiful island Grenada) had not been curtailed by the “half-measures” advanced by every post-WWII president, so draconian, and expensive, measures were in order. The Great Communicator won over the House, where the Democratic margin numbered over a hundred, and the money began to flow.

Under the eight years of the Reagan Administration (1981-1989), defense spending rose 35%, as the US attempted to force the Soviets into bankruptcy in an escalated arms race. While many contemporary observers recall new weapons systems, such as SDI (“Star Wars”,) and the reconstituted B-1, most defense spending was in procurement of nuclear missiles and traditional armaments.

Feeding the military-industrial complex had its benefits; while thousands of shoe, clothing, furniture and electronics manufacturers moved their operations offshore, leaving in their wake millions of unemployed factory workers, the production floors of Boeing and Sikorsky were humming. Reagan was able to fuel his purported economic “miracle” with defense contractor welfare. Of course, this benefited the sector’s executives, many of whom exercised the public/private revolving door with increasing regularity. Contractor profits bought more politicians, who then funneled ever larger contracts to their benefactors. A veritable circle of life.

Then the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

The scam was already almost up, to be honest. Stratospheric deficits spooked many of the pre-Reagan spendthrift Republicans such as Gramm and Rudman. Calls for spending cuts ensued, including in the Defense budget. But the evaporation of an actual military threat, a la the Soviets, pulled the rug out from an orator whose mental health was rapidly being consumed by Alzheimer’s. His successor, the Elder Bush, did not have either the genuine supply-side credentials nor the communicative skill to continue to hoodwink a nation, at least without a willing and able villain. For a short time, Saddam Hussein filled the bill, but Bush Sr., surprisingly enough, was too honest a commander in chief.

His son, however, did not inherit such ethics.

* * * *

When I first decided to write on this topic a few weeks back, I sent out the Googling monkeys with the term, "Bush defense budget” which retrieved an interesting result.
The “4% Solution.” Sounds almost like a Michael Crichton novel.

On July 21, 2000, Admiral Jay stepped down from his post as the Navy's top officer with the parting words that national security requires a defense expenditure of 4 percent of GDP. On August 16th, Gen. James Jones, Commandant of the Marine Corps in an interview with Defense an increase in defense spending "to about 4 to 4.5 percent of the US gross domestic product." On August 18th, Gen. Gordon Sullivan, formerly Army Chief of Staff joined the chorus: "We must prepare for the future of the security of our nation. We should set the marker at 4 percent."

But on August 13, 2000, Frank Gafney, Jr., founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, put all the puzzle pieces together in a San Diego Union Tribune article entitled, "The 'Four Percent Solution' for military readiness.”

The "4% Solution" calls for funding the Defense budget equal to 4% of GNP. If one looks at that historically, it doesn’t at all seem like an outrageous number; during the Reagan era, that percentage averaged around 6%. Under Clinton, it had decreased to 2.9%.

The reality, however, is the actual numbers. The 1987 defense budget, when adjusted for 2005 dollars, clocked out at $456.5 billion. The 2005 budget request, which represents 3.9% of GNP, totaled $419 billion. This represented a 35% increase over the 2001 defense appropriation of $309.5 billion, equal to the eight year increase during the Reagan Administration. If PNAC, CSP and other neo-con think tanks have their way, in 2010, the US defense budget will top out at over $600 billion.

There is little discussion as to why even a Republican Congress, particularly one facing near catastrophic deficits, would agree to such extravagant spending, unless faced with a major conflict in one or more theaters.

Would a "police action” in Afghanistan do? Probably not.

A full scale “hot” war in Iraq? How about Iran? North Korea? All of the above?

What liberal hawks like Beinhart fail to understand that for the militarists interested mostly in driving up defense spending and thus filling their private industry coffers, the hotter the war, the more money for them. Up to a point, of course. Don’t want to see another bad press event, a la Vietnam, which might turn off the spigot.

The Bush Administration is seeking to fulfill the Reagan Legacy: During the Clinton years, the military, faced with significant spending cuts, was forced to become leaner and meaner. So was the military-industrial complex. Companies merged or moved into non-defense areas. Those which were left became behemoths, with the top three accounting for 25 cents out of every defense budget dollar. In the past year alone, R&D and Procurement budgets have increased over 25%. Companies have evolved, and are now hungry. Furthermore, they’ve spent large sums of money getting their man elected, and its time for payback, deficits, casualties be damned.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld mused this week that American troops should be out of Iraq in, say, four or five years.

* * * * *

Eisenhower, and Moore, raised the red flags. How Progressives should respond is perhaps another lengthy post.
Thanks to Rising Hegemon for pointing out this post.
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Comments: "
Howdy!

I am out spreading the word
to all true supporters of evangelical lutheran synod

I believe that readers of this blog
would be fascinated to read about
the great new book at

evangelical lutheran synod
 
" "
Cool blog you have. I have a grant money related site. Check it out if you get a chance. The URL is grant money
 
" "
Very cool blog you got! I just added you to my bookmarks!

I have a great article resource you might want to check out.
 
" "
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