I have been bemused, to put it politely, by the assertion by various people, many of whom know better, that the recently passed stimulus package should include money for military spending.
I mean, after all, the very last thing the Pentagon needs is to be stimulated to spend more American tax dollars. In its entire history it has never lacked a reason, good or fanciful, for spending money. Indeed, to itemize all its rationales recalls Elizabeth Barret Browning, “Let me count the ways.”
But for some inexplicable reason normally level headed people are giving the Pentagon a share of the stimulus package. Admittedly, it is not a huge share, although how small a few billion is remains an interesting question.
But one of the defenses being trotted out is that military spending will trickle down – yes, right, remind you of anyone – and help create jobs in cities across America.
Look, there are legitimate reasons for spending money on the military. For example a lot of military housing is frankly crappy and should be demolished tomorrow. One might also want to repair or build new hospitals, clinics, child-care centers. But none of this is a secret; it has been known for many years.
But this is why we have something called, wait for it, wait for it, an annual budget. The idea that you should pay for it in a stimulus package is beyond me. Perhaps the Obama administration figures tossing the Pentagon a bone now will make it easier for them later on. Note to administration: appeasement never works.
By the way, if you are confident that any money given to the Pentagon will be well spent you should note that part of the money going there includes $15 million for the office of its Inspector General .
The idea that military spending is an efficient way to create job is laughable. Every other form of non-military governmental spending is more effective. Hiring Dick Cheney to sell shotguns on behalf of the NRA would be better. It is theoretical military Keynesianism, pure and simple, which has long been debunked by all reputable economists. That would exclude the loonies at the American Enterprise Institute.
Even Kim Holmes, a vice president at the Heritage Foundation, wrote last month, “A word of caution. More defense spending is needed, but not as a jobs program, as some defense contractors recommend. That would be bad economics (there are more productive ways to stimulate the economy, like reducing taxes). It also would be a misappropriation of public funds.” That should tell you something.
Evidently Boeing officials didn’t read the paper that day. They argued last month that with Boeing layoffs of 10,000 workers, buying two tankers should be part of the White House’s economic stimulus program.
Just over a year ago Chalmers Johnson, author and professor emeritus of the University of California, wrote :
On May 1, 2007, the Center for Economic and Policy Research of Washington, D.C., released a study prepared by the global forecasting company Global Insight on the long-term economic impact of increased military spending. Guided by economist Dean Baker, this research showed that, after an initial demand stimulus, by about the sixth year the effect of increased military spending turns negative.
“It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.”
The one good thing about the stimulus package for military spending is that with it and the Wall Street bailout now projected by some estimates to top $2 trillion, and the federal deficit spiraling, U.S. officials are fretting that current levels of defense spending may be unsustainable.
That would mean the American public and the legislature might actually have to sit down and think and make tough choices about real national defense. Gee, that’s so crazy it just might work.