No Money for Bread but Lots for Bombs and Bullets

us-vs-worldSomething weird is going on but I can’t figure out what it is. Suddenly, everybody seems to be advocating cuts in Medicare, Social Security and other domestic programs while America’s military budget goes through the roof. What would these politicians gain by starving old people and denying them their medicines? What would they gain by killing men, women and children in faraway places? Are they driven by self interest? Or blood lust? Or both?

Look, I know the national debt is too high. I know current and projected deficits are alarming. But I do not agree that the answer is to cut back on social programs while spending a trillion dollars a year on war. America spends as much on arms as the rest of the world combined yet slips ever farther behind countries like China when it comes to exports.

cartoon2To me, the solution to America’s economic problems is obvious. Concentrate on producing goods and services instead of blowing up foreign cities. The solution to our economic woes cannot be a drastic reduction in “entitlement” programs. No matter how deep the cuts, the downward spiral will continue as long as Americans buy more than they sell month after month (cartoon at right).

And by “producing goods and services,” I don’t mean selling more McDonald’s hamburgers and video games. I mean creating (and growing) industries that attract foreign currency. As far as I can see, America’s main export now is “financial services” (the crap shoot on Wall Street). And look at the mess that industry is in!

Apparently the U.S. is also one of the world’s top exporters of arms, so I suppose you could argue that the military budget spurs research and production in that area, creating jobs at home. But the return on the defense dollar is not nearly enough to justify the strain on the rest of the economy. Besides, is that how Americans want to live? By promoting bloodshed and devastation throughout the world?

I wonder why no administration seems brave enough to stand up to America’s military-industrial interests. It’s not that the politicians don’t know the dangers involved. Dwight Eisenhower warned against the military industrial complex. And, decades before Eisenhower, James Madison said:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

No American administration seems willing and able to focus the country’s resources where they will be most productive. For example, the recent stimulus package leaves me shaking my head. It includes things that sound hip – like those “smart meters” we in Lakeland are supposed to get some day. I think the meters will let us know when electricity is cheapest so we can schedule our chores accordingly. But I can’t see Sandra getting up at 3 a.m. to do the washing just because power rates are low at that time.

And the government is proposing to force homeowners to weatherize their homes, even specifying that homes be brought up to some kind of environmental code before they can be sold. What nonsense! Especially in today’s America, where unemployment is raging. Without jobs, with our incomes shrinking and the cost of living rising, where are we to find the money to do these neat “green” things?

The stimulus package should have focused on areas likely to bring in foreign currency and create sustainable jobs. Wind and solar power equipment comes to mind, for example. But we seem to be letting China take the lead there, too. And Americans must realize that money spent on infrastructure, education, health and other domestic programs is an investment in future productivity – not extravagant indulgence.

Instead, Washington is in a hunker down mode, crippled by political corruption and the need to serve special interests. And for reasons that I cannot fathom, deficit hawks are becoming increasingly influential, demanding drastic cuts in social programs – but no reduction in military spending and endless war.