January 28, 2009
By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
It's become a real trend: Big companies turn to the government
to plead for hard cash. And politicians are listening -- which is a
In spending public dollars to pump up the private sector,
Washington risks turning the Pentagon into a carbon copy of the bad
businesses the government insists on bailing out. The problem is,
when the Pentagon loses out to the competition, it endangers
freedom and the nation's future.
Everybody wants the government's (i.e., the taxpayers') money.
Joplin, Mo., wants $8 million for two parking garages. Carmakers
want a bailout.
What Joplin, Detroit, and everybody else wants adds up to about
a trillion dollars to "stimulate" the economy. At the same time,
the same politicians who want to throw money at almost everything
often railed about deficit spending in the Bush administration. So
to prove they are not as profligate as they really are, they are
promising to not waste money.
"We're going to have to make some hard choices in the months
ahead about how to invest these tax dollars," President Barack
Obama declared in a pre-inauguration speech to the Democratic
Their plan to reduce some spending largely rests on cutting
funding for defense (which the Constitution obligates government to
do) to dole out money to Wall Street and Main Street.
"There's going to be less defense spending," declared Democratic
Congressman John Murtha at public forum before military officials.
A key defense leader in the House, Murtha pointed to the many times
Washington has cut spending on the armed forces following wars and
economic hard times. "If we use history> as a guide, defense
spending will come under increased pressure in the coming years,"
That's just the way Washington does things. And with the added
pressure of paying for the stimulus package, lawmakers will
probably want to follow that formula again.
In the past, however, Washington took a "peace dividend"
following a period where it had mobilized for war. The long war
from Iraq to Afghanistan was largely fought with a peacetime budget
and a peacetime force. In fact, what we are spending in total on
defense now (only about 4 percent of GDP) is what should have been
average defense spending for the last 20 years. In short,
Washington is planning on subtracting a "peace dividend" from an
already peacetime military.
Cutting back on defense couldn't come at a worse time. Like
Detroit, the military has spiraling manpower costs and its
modernization demands are growing at an unprecedented rate, with
many ships, planes and tanks that are older than their crews. The
difference is that Detroit got into trouble because of bad
businesses practices. The armed forces are in trouble because when
the Cold War ended, Washington under-funded the military and shrunk
its size too much to cope with the troubles of the post-Cold War
Now there is a serious danger that the men and women of today's
force will become a "hollow military," lacking adequate numbers,
sufficient training and properly maintained equipment to get the
job done and bring the troops back safe.
Obama was right when he declared, "We are not, as a nation,
going to be able to just keep on printing money. So at some point,
we're also going to have to make some long-term decisions in terms
of fiscal responsibility." But, in pushing for a Godzilla-size
stimulus, he would be taking a bad situation and making it much
Governments don't create wealth out of thin air. Washington's
stimulus plan would use new spending and taxes to redistribute
existing income. It also would balloon the deficit and starve
legitimate government enterprises such as, oh, "providing for the
common defense." Turning the armed forces into Chrysler could wind
up the pitiful legacy of the new administration.
Carafano is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation
and the author of GI Ingenuity: Improvisation, Technology and
Winning World War II.
First appeared on Fox News
It's become a real trend: Big companies turn to the government to plead for hard cash. And politicians are listening — which is a problem.
Protect America Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
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