March 19, 2006
Defense Budget Disasters
Conservatives have a tendency to see military spending as less wasteful and porkish than domestic spending. I suppose that it comes out of a libertarian view of government's responsibility -- the state is supposed to defend you from foreign enemies and uphold property rights, but not to actually help people. And if you see spending that falls outside the narrow obligations of the government as inherently wasteful, domestic spending looks wasteful while military spending doesn't.
That's why it's important that people know about the defense contracting scandals that Josh Marshall has been so intent on publicizing -- first Duke Cunningham and his bribe menu (if you haven't seen it yet, by all means have a look), and now this business with John Doolittle taking bribes through his wife from the one of the same defense contractors who bribed Cunningham. In exchange for bribes, these Republicans would award millions of dollars in contracts for junk that the military didn't actually need. When you trust the party of corruption with national security, that's what you get.
I don't know if billion-dollar contracts hinge on bribes, but they can often be just as wasteful, and even more destructive. Take the Star Wars missile defense system, which fails to shoot down enemy missiles in tests, even when they rig the tests and put a homing beacon on the missiles so that the interceptor can find them. Or take the enormous amount of military hardware that the anti-China lobby is hoping to sell. In both of these cases, there are much better solutions to the problems than the defense contractors can offer. Buy up loose nukes in the former USSR, and you'll do a whole lot more to protect America than you will by putting a bunch of crap that doesn't work in space. Pursue a smart policy of engagement with China, and we won't ever have to go to war with them. (Keep in mind that war with China would be an utterly horrific event, with the possibility of literally millions of casualties, even if the nuclear weapons didn't come out.)
This issue is at the crossroads of so many issues Democrats care about. We want a more humanitarian foreign policy, so we don't want defense contractors leading us into stupid and bloody wars. We care about the deficit, so we don't want billions of dollars to be blown on useless junk. We care about a bunch of domestic programs, so we want people to know that those aren't the thing to cut if you're looking to cut waste. And we care about successfully defending this country, not just enriching defense contractors -- so we want the money to be spent where it'll actually do what it's supposed to.
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"I don't know if billion-dollar contracts hinge on bribes, but they can often be just as wasteful, and even more destructive."
They do in every other country in the world, and given how corrupt American policy-making is, there's no reason to think they don't in the US too.
Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Mar 19, 2006 4:10:18 PM
Actually, Republicans and Democrats both like to spend money lavishly, its just whether you prefer military or domestic spending...the Libertarians, in theory, would only spend what is necessary on military--thus achieving your goals...left leaning Libertarians like me would like to see domestic spending also but done more mean and lean, if you will.
And on the defense contractors wasteful spending...heh, Eisenhower warned us 50 years ago about that...
Posted by: Steve Mudge | Mar 19, 2006 4:19:08 PM
One mustn't forget Florida's 2006 Republican Senate candidate Katherine Harris when one considers defense industry bribes:
Posted by: jami | Mar 19, 2006 5:54:56 PM
it's pretty funny(not ha-ha) that the american military budget is so massive, yet they cannot de-porkify it enough to fully fund the VA or buy the best armour for the troops.
Posted by: almostinfamous | Mar 20, 2006 3:40:23 AM
Both parties have long been compromised by "defense" expenditures. Hence the maxim that the perfect weapons system is one with a subcontractor in every congressional district. The graft that's been turning up thanks to "Duke" Cunningham's disgrace is more venal and blatant than the norm, and if it can send more congressional slimeballs to the slammer, that's great. But if you honestly expect the Democrats to make any significant changes to the industry-Pentagon-Congress Iron Triangle, you're incredibly naive.
Posted by: sglover | Mar 20, 2006 10:51:01 AM
"We care about a bunch of domestic programs, so we want people to know that those aren't the thing to cut if you're looking to cut waste."
That makes a lot of sense. We care about them, so there is no waste to cut. If Democrats gave a damn about deficits they would at least discuss the possibility of controlling entitlement spending which continues to be the single largest budget item.
Posted by: Alex | Mar 21, 2006 4:33:30 PM
Alex, the best way to reduce deficits is actually to raise taxes on rich people. That way poor and old people get their entitlement money, and only the rich -- who can afford to pay -- are harmed.
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