5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/12/15)

  • United States’ defense spending is still pretty ridiculous.  The United States spends over four times as much in its defense budget as its nearest rival, China.  In fact, its budget comes close to matching that of its 14th closest rivals put together.”  Just imagine where the U.S. could be in terms of truly important areas like education if we just cut that budget in half and spent the money on improving schools or infrastructure or shoring up Social Security for good.  But I guess it’s good that we can use our absurd military spending to stabilize places around the world like in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen and help keep the antiquated idea of monarchy alive and strong in places like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  Yay, America!
  • France sold the Egyptian government military equipment.  24 Rafale fighter jets along with other supplies amounting to over $5 billion will be headed to the government that came to power in a not-a-coup military coup.  While the Egyptian government is seemingly making some strides toward logic, it’s probably far too early to start selling them equipment that they may decide to use on say, I don’t know, their own people.  But, like the U.S. military industrial complex, when you have a bunch of war equipment burning a hole in your pocket, gotta find somewhere to sell it no matter how immoral.
  • U.S. crime rate continues to fall and it’s not because we are throwing more people in jail and prison than every other country on the planet.  A new report offers no definitive explanation as to the reason for the continued decline of crime but does state that mass incarceration is not the culprit.  And the incredible decrease should continually be noted since many people believe the opposite due to the way the media sensationalizes crime:

Between 1991 and 2013, the violent crime rate declined by more than 50 percent, according to FBI figures. During the same time frame, property crime fell by 46 percent.

  • Droughts in the U.S. are going to get a lot worse despite how bad they have already been in recent years.  Quite a bit to digest in the article but the key reality is this: droughts will start lasting for decades, not years, because of man-made climate change.  In other words, things are super great now in places like California and Texas compared to what they will be in the future if nothing drastic is done to avert the crisis.  At least there aren’t any climate change-deniers in power in Texas because that would just be crazy…  Speaking of Texas-style crazy…
  • On gay marriage, insane right-winger Ted Cruz morphs into…a moderate democrat?!  It’s true as the last-ditch effort before the nationwide legalizing of gay marriage coming in June is to apparently try to pass a bill calling for states’ rights on the issue.  Saying it should be left up to the states to decide is basically the exact argument many Democratic politicians were making 10 years ago when they were too cowardly to just stand up for what was right (I’m looking at you, former presidential candidate Kerry).  On a side note, the language Cruz and his ilk use on the issue is both ridiculous and vicious.  He states his bill will “safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for their citizens” (emphasis added).  This suggests “traditional marriage” will simply cease to exist if gay marriage is ever allowed, which has already proven to be clearly untrue and is just a ranting from a madman.

Obama waives sanctions on countries that use child soldiers | The Cable

Obama waives sanctions on countries that use child soldiers | The Cable.

The hypocrisy the United States government can show at times is appalling and this decision was no exception.  The justification given for the countries being waived from these sanction is, at best, loosely understandable and really unacceptable no matter how we look at it from a moral perspective.

When it boils down to the real excuse for this action, it is simple: the military industrial complex.  The U.S. military has become (and probably has been for a long time) the biggest export for the United States from an economic point of view. The likelihood this changes anytime in the near or even distant future is the same as the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell.

It should be noted that the sanctions did not go into effect until 2010 so only one party has had the chance to waive these.  If we have a Republican in office next year, the result will be the same and the rhetorical justification will be the same.  The actual justification is to use our military, whether it is through training, selling arms, or strategic interests, and to continue bloating that aspect of the government’s budget.

The U. S. government cannot claim to be an example of morality and freedom to the rest of the world while choosing policy decisions such as these.  It is decisions like these that give people around the world a reason to hate us before they make the choice to attack us in whatever way they can.  We should be better than this, yet are not.

Dear Voter, We Will Always Win. Sincerely, Military Industrial Complex

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.)