Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Crucial Issue No Candidate Will Touch

Amid all the hoopla over the party horseraces on Super Tuesday, at least someone has his eye on the ball (sorry to mix sports metaphors): good ol' Robert Scheer. In his truthdig column, "The Legacy of Bush II" , Scheer raises the alarm about Bush's budget-busting military spending proposal, which would raise "defense" spending
to a level exceeding any other year since the end of World War II, and there will be precious little left over to improve education and medical research, fight poverty, protect the environment or do anything else a decent person might care about.

This issue is the one that nobody seems to talk about, which is so crucial for addressing all the other things that matter so much: the health care crisis, reducing the impact of climate change, stopping immoral wars, ending poverty, you name it. I am really saddened by the political impasse--Democrats afraid of seeming weak on defense and covetous of the military aura, Republicans who see rising military spending as a given and even more beholden to the military-industrial complex--which makes it impossible to move forward on reducing this obscenely high level of military spending. (Just to be clear, I support fully funding veterans benefits, a cause championed by my erstwhile preferred Presidential candidate, John Edwards.) We spend more on the military than everyone else in the world combined. Much of it is wasted on ridiculously expensive weapons systems and an imperialistic global network of military bases. We simply cannot sustain this level of spending into the future. It is already bankrupting us, not even counting the taxpayer dollars that are being poured down the Iraq drain of death and destruction. Our economy is still big, but it is no longer dominant enough in the world to support a military that runs the world.

It depresses me that both Clinton and Obama seem to have declared this issue off the table. Both seem to be promising increased military expenditures. At least Edwards played coy about it, insisting on re-evaluating and determining the right amount that would be required for future missions. (I thought that was a particularly clever part of his platform: avoiding any concrete promises of increased dollar amounts. He knows how tough it will be accomplish other priorities while the defense industry gorges on our public treasury.) Is there any possibility that the extended primary/caucus season will allow us to push Clinton and Obama to take a more courageous stand on this issue? I suppose it is a lost cause, since they would see it as toxic in the general electoral climate. But we can still dream (imagine).


Ambivalent_Maybe said...

The Senate Majority Leader's office has a nice rundown of Bush's budget. Not only a large increase in defense spending, but cuts in popular domestic programs (including the *elimination* of Pell Grants), AND a huge deficit.

I expect to see Dems talking a good deal about these cuts, but alas, you're probably correct that no one is going to seriously consider cutting back the Pentagon's budget.

Ambivalent_Maybe said...

Oops: forgot the link to Harry Reid's overview of the budget. It's here:

Robert Ellman said...

As long as fear remains in America's political culture we will continue to have both a military industrial complex and a prison industrial complex.

Hopefully, an Obama presidency that promotes a community of nations will remove some of the need for military excess. Declining empires though don't give up on their imperial ambitions easily. Just look at Putin's Russia.

Anonymous said...

Looks like The Nation has picked up this theme. See here.