(By The Pragmatic Pundit)
In order to come to terms with what the deficit and our debt really mean, it is first necessary to dispel what author David Cay Johnson calls Republican’s “brazen lies, calculated deceptions and vacuous sound bites”. They are many.
For example, the idea that President Obama is the most spendthrift President in history is a calculated deception, while the redundant claim that “we have a spending problem” is a sound bite. Our spending isn’t the problem, it is what we spend our resources on. We have 5% of the world’s people and over 50% of the world’s military spending. Through that spending we enrich the richest 1%, because as General Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated soldier in history, said way back in 1935, “War is a Racket.” In his scathing indictment of the Military Industrial Complex, he wrote:
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.
I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.”
In his farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned us of the Military Industrial Complex.
If you paid attention to the recent debate surrounding “sequestration” and the “fiscal cliff”, you couldn’t miss the drive to settle the defense budget. There were no calls to cure unemployment or to bolster the housing market; none to make certain the sick can receive healthcare, seniors can buy their medication or poor children can eat and go to school; they blocked aide to the victims of hurricane Sandy, while they fought fiercely to preserve the theft and waste at the Department of Defense.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, in the weeks leading up to the “fiscal cliff,” the U.S. military doled out nearly $6.6 billion in contracts. Nearly all of the contracts went to Lockheed Martin Corp. to build the much maligned billion-dollar F-35 jets. Perhaps you remember Cheney hobbling up to Capitol Hill to lobby against defense cuts. Ever hear Cheney rally for jobs? In fact, when questioned about job creation, Robert F. Hale, Under-Secretary of the U.S. Department of Defense responded:
“Not my problem…I would prefer that job effects not enter into decisions about what we do in defense…we ought to try to propose and implement a good strategy for the nation and the job issues should be handled separately.”
Even as Republicans fought to award billions in defense contracts, they sought to reduce the benefits of veterans and raise the healthcare cost of soldiers. They insist that cuts to defense will effect jobs and gut the military, but the truth is Defense can easily find the cuts in the lucrative, bloated contracts they award to private firms.
A 2011 commission report revealed that billions had been lost to contract waste and fraud. According to McClatchy, the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act incorporated these changes, but I wager it’s just an accounting trick, because the total of the Defense budget of 2012 was $676 billion, while in 2013, it totaled $663 billion. One war over, another winding down and scaling back contractors only accounts for $13 billion?
I already touched on the military housing giveaway and tried to explain how private entities make profit off the military weapons and surplus supplies that taxpayers pay for. It is merely the tip of the iceberg, but Mother Jones gives an excellent synopsis of what it considers the 10 worst boondoggles, including:
The Gardez-Khost Highway, the world’s most expensive road. The Costly Afghanistan Road Project was initially slated at a cost of $69 million to complete, to date the cost of the 64-mile road has swelled to $176 million. In May, the New York Times reported that “a stretch of the highway completed just six months ago is already falling apart.”
KBR Bills $5 Million For Mechanics Who Work 43 Minutes a Month, work that is so shoddy, it has caused the death of our heroes.
Investigators want explanation of alleged overbilling in Afghanistan – The military paid more than $750 million in what it now alleges were double-billed and excessive charges. Defense Logistics Agency calculated that it overpaid Supreme Foodservice by $756,908,587. Despite the double billing and excessive charges, the company’s contract was extended.
In 2010, the Army was spending $119 million annually to lease cars at a rate of $40,000 a year per car. The General Services Administration found that the military “could lease and maintain vehicles for 16 percent of what it had been paying. Nevertheless, the Army continues paying the premium for rental cars.
Despite the enormous waste and fraud, Republicans nearly weep at the thought of cuts to defense. In fact, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asked Congress to trim the bill because it contained amounts allocated for weapons and programs that are no longer viable. Congress not only ignored his request, but even gave $1.7 billion more than the President requested. Is that the response of a Congress that desperately wants to cut the deficit?
Remember this when Congress debates to reduce military pay, veteran benefits and raise the cost of their healthcare. Are we more concerned about conquests in foreign lands than we are about the quality of life of those who risk their lives to keep us free? Many soldiers are paid poorly enough to qualify for foodstamps and WIC. What is the premium for an “American” life?
Remember this when they debate the need to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Are we less concerned about the elderly, our sick, our children? What price for the American Dream? We must decide what kind of country we want to be.
Tags: defense budget, Dick Cheney, Dwight Eisenhower, fiscal cliff, General Smedley Butler, KBR, Lockheed Martin, Military Industrial Complex, military spending, NDAA, sequestration, Supreme Foodservice, War is a Racket