Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The High Cost of Hope and Change

Laughter has become a kind of coping mechanism in the face of the bloodbath on Wall Street (and in all of our stock portfolios). But how much longer will Americans maintain their good humor? And at what price? Lost financial dreams and vague retirement plans are one thing. But who can summon laughter (nay, even a smile) at the prospect of what lies before us in the face of massive defense cuts of Carter and Clinton proportions? We see before us a world with a host of dangerous tyrants and hostile regimes . . . and our President chooses to engage in guerrilla warfare against which of these beastly personages? Why, Rush Limbaugh of course! The promised change has come, but we maintain hope in it at our peril. It is now time to start hoping and, more important, working for yet another change. Michael J. Boskin’s piece in today’s Wall Street Journal is not to be missed. If there is any lingering doubt on the part of Obamacons regarding their complete and utter imprudence this November, this should be the final blow to it.

Discussions - 14 Comments

Julie -- do you think that spending on education necessarily produces better education? If not, then why do you think spending on defense necessarily produces better defense?

A good challenge David and, in specifics, I am sure that you know more than I do about a myriad of wasteful, unnecessary, outrageous and shameful spending programs in the name of national defense. There are pigs at every trough. But I do not deny their existence nor do I reject efforts to make amends for them or even, when necessary, cutting them off. But good sense in teachers (all we really need for good education) does not cost as much as it costs to obtain the nuclear submarines, missiles, military personnel, intelligence, etc. that we need to keep our nation safe with so many enemies ready to take advantage of our lack of preparedness. It may be more difficult for us to find that good sense in teachers than it is for us to produce all of this weaponry, but it is certainly true that more money in education will not make it appear. And yes, all the fancy and expensive weaponry in the world is no substitute for good sense in military/strategic judgment. But it has a stronger claim on the title and more persuasive capacities than a wired classroom can expect to provide likewise for education.

Increasingly, the Obamacons seem to understand they were conned.

Julie -- good response. But one thing that did not make sense to me in Boskin's article was his comments about cutting defense spending. He would be suspicious of the self-interest of other bureaucrats, why not of those who spend on defense? Also, if I remember correctly, the WSJ had published a graphic that showed Obama's budget increasing defense spending slightly. The decline in defense spending overall comes from cuts in money for Iraq, which the Biush administration kept out of the budget. So perhaps the "cut" in defense spending depends on what money one is counting.

David, if you want a heads-up on which way the wind is blowing regarding Pentagon spending, keep your eye on the F-22 Raptor, as well as missle defense.

Dan -- The point of the exchange is that spending and weapons are not decisive. It is, I think, a fundamental mistake to think that buying Raptors or anything else will provide national security.

David: While it may be true that spending on any particular defense program (Raptors or T-Rex's or whatever) will not in itself provide national security, it may be fair to say that not providing for that spending may harm it. Put another way: buying a laptop for myself will not guarantee that I write a book. I still have to have the gumption, the capacity and the discipline required to do it. And, if I neglect to buy the laptop, I may still write a book with pen and paper or with an old typewriter. But it does go without saying that if I combined any native gumption, capacity, and discipline I may have with the laptop, I would be better equipped to do what I needed to do. This is not a perfect metaphor . . . but you see where I'm going. Cuts in defense spending should demand a lot more scrutiny than cuts in most other spending because the room for error is much tighter. I do not like waste in any part of government and I certainly do not like fraud or abuse. But I am not naive about the ability to detect or combat it. It is not exactly a lost cause . . . but it's a permanent condition of life and it will never be totally successful. And, as these things go, I prefer a little overkill than not enough spending/planning. Do you disagree?

Julie -- If you are saying that spending on defense is a proper function of the national government, I agree but could anyone disagree? THere is no necessary connection between spending on defense and national security. Spending on defense can make use less secure. That is why some people object to the Raptor. In the 1990s, Bill Kristol argued that DoD should get 60 Billion more dollars. I never found him giving an explanation for that sum or how it should be spent. That sort of approach does not improve our national security.

You can write a book with a pencil and a pad of paper.

But if I were in a race to write that book and the competition had a laptop combined with an equal amount of (or even slightly less) gumption, energy and capacity, it is likely that the guy with the laptop would beat me. Again, it's not a perfect metaphor. But the general point stands. I trust that you don't mean to imply that we can fight (or prevent) the wars of the 21st century with the weapons equivalent of a pencil and pad of paper.

Julie -- the equivalent of the pencil and the paper may be more important than the computer or may be more important most of the time but it is not a question of either/or. It is the mix that counts and all the tradeoffs that go into making the right mix. The problem with the "let's give DoD 60 Billion" approach is that it encourages DoD to stop thinking and just spend, just as giving any money to any bureaucracy does. So, precisely because we care about our security, we should not simply assume that there is a necessary connection between national security spending and national security.

I don't think we really disagree, after all, David. I'm no fan of the "let's give the DoD 60 Billion" for whatever approach either. I am a foe of the "let's cut Defense because we don't really need it and the Pentagon is probably full of imperialistic creeps" approach, but I know that this approach is not yours. When I see wholesale cuts to defense, I get suspicious about the motivation behind them. Surely that suspicion is a healthy one. But I agree with you that suspicion without evidence ought not to be the thing informing policy.

"let's cut Defense because we don't really need it and the Pentagon is probably full of imperialistic creeps" Read the project for a new American Century and get back with us.

What would happen if stopped spending on defense? Who is safer other than the retirment plans of the employees of Notrhrup Grummand, Lockheed Martin, or Haliburton because of this? Is the military having secret wars in our skies that we will never hear about, possibly keeping the martians under raps? What happended in Vietnam and Iraq? Did the bedowins and the rice eaters out tech us? The national defense rests in the will of the people to resist, not in a bunch of high dollar weapons systems. I think our government taking away the citizens right to own certain weapons is more likely to cause us to fall in an invasion then us not spending enough on the F22 Raptor. Better get those AR15's before despot Obama makes them illegal and interprets the 2nd amendment to mean that the citizens are allowed to have flintlock muskets only. If a nuclear weapon ever goes off in this country then look first at who proposes the sollution. I don't doubt it could happen, but it won't come from Iran or Russia or China. It will likely be the last desperate act of a rouge government trying to galvanize the public towards and imaginary outside tormentor in order the increase its own grip on the thoats of free Americans.

What happened on D-Day when our tanks wouldn't go over the hedges off of Omaha Beach? Some smart and mechanically inclined guys on the lines invented--and in a pinch--a type of blade to fasten onto our tanks and cut down those hedges. It worked--though imperfectly. This was an utterly American and admirable thing, of course. My civic pride bursts my chest walls when I read of it. But, when that's your son or your husband or your father out there trying to pinch hit, you will cuss the geniuses who did not think ahead or did not invest in that thinking ahead because they arrogantly trusted in American ingenuity alone (and thought your loved one's life was cheap) to beat out better equipped enemies. All I'm saying is that there are few things more blameworthy in a people than to ask men possibly to lay down their lives in our defense but then not equip them to defend their own.

Julie, as the mother of men in service, I couldn't agree more. Anyone in military service knows that there is waste, but they also know that your last lines in that last comment are true. The veterans in my classes also say "If we had the tools, we could get the job done." but they also recognize that in the sort of vast bureaucracy needed to supply even ammunition where it is needed, there will be waste.

Maybe the Obama administration will cut costs by eliminating things like mandatory "sensitivity" training? Will they remove redundant military bases from the districts of influential congressmen? Fat chance. Looking at past presidential administrations, defense budget cutting rarely enhances military efficiency.

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