As difficult as it is to find any important stories not related to the health care decision at the moment, one actually appeared from Reuters late Friday. It seems that despite ending one war and drawing down from another, the defense department cannot endure any budgetary cuts at the moment. I recently commented on the marketing of defense/war in the interests of maintaining such a large budget so I read the article looking for a legitimate reason not to enact any cuts, particularly since the person asking for the block was Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Surely a member of the allegedly hard-lined liberal Obama administration would have a sensible reason not to cut military spending at a time when it should reasonably be cut.
And he did have a reason. Saving his own job. From the article and worth quoting at length:
Industry leaders (defense contractors) who met with Panetta this week warned that the Pentagon could face billions of dollars in contract termination fees and other costs when the new cuts go into force next year. Panetta said the industry executives shared many of the Pentagons fears about the cuts.
“They’re very concerned about the impact that it will have on their companies and on their employees,” Panetta told the news conference.
He noted that company executives faced legal requirements to notify their employees about possible terminations, letters that would have to go out just days before the November elections. (Emphasis mine)
In other words, the defense contractors have the officials in the Defense Department (regardless of political party I would add) by their family jewels and they are, in a not-so-veiled way, threatening to cause a firestorm days before an election if they do not get their way. No doubt part of this situation is the timing of it all but it is hard to believe no one, particularly contractor lobbyists, saw it playing out in this fashion.
Let’s be clear. Jobs and livelihoods are no doubt on the line here and that should be recognized. However, some other aspects should also be noted. Defense is a business in many aspects (certainly the private contracting element) and, in the case of the United States, it is an extremely big business. And just like any other business, when sales go down/wars come to an end, cuts should be expected and actions will be taken accordingly. This is obviously a very easy concept to understand for many considering the recent years of financial crisis and economic gloom in the U.S. Peace should be seen as a time of recession for the defense department and anyone collecting a paycheck because of its existence. It may hurt many defense contractors and those involved but it is part of life and, in many ways, the writing should have been on the wall for some time.
Yet it wasn’t and clearly the contractors have no intention of settling for such cuts. And if this means essentially threatening the current administration’s chances at reelection in November, so be it. But either way, regardless of what party is elected and how things may play out in this situation the people with the money will get their way and will have a big role in who wins this election.
Rule by the wealthy people in and around the military industrial complex. Just like “democracy” should be. (Warning: not to be confused with actual democracy.)