Changing the budget conversation

December 19, 2011

If you’re going to bring the nation’s finances under control, you’re going to have to bring under control the single most out-of-control part  of the national budget, and that’s the military. In our descent toward empire since November, 1963, “we the people of the United States” have lost all control over the military, and the result is not only intervention everywhere, sometimes on the flimsiest of pretenses, but looming bankruptcy.

Some people think that the problem of unemployment or underemployment  would be worse without massive military spending, but economic theory is quite clear that the repair expenditures that follow a rock breaking a window do not add to the total wealth, but divert it, forcing someone to spend on repairs what s/he otherwise would have had available to spend for other things, or invest. Spending doesn’t make one richer unless the spending is in the form of a productive investment.

Thinking about that argument sent me looking for an Eisenhower quotation about excessive military spending I remembered he had made very early in his presidency, and via Google I found this interesting website — — that begins thus:

Eisenhower’s Wisdom

When we think about budget priorities, we should recall the wisdom of President Dwight D. Eisenhower from an address on “The Chance for Peace” that he delivered on April 16, 1953. So important is this speech to Eisenhower’s heritage that his family had three key sentences carved into the wall of his tomb in Abilene, Kansas.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

In between these oft-quoted sentences Eisenhower said,

“This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

Someone with Eisenhower’s views could not be nominated by the Republican Party today, nor by the Democratic Party, and if nominated could not win. If that’s not an unmistakable sign of political, social and spiritual decay, show me a better one.


One Response to “Changing the budget conversation”

  1. No question here, as far as I’m concerned at least; The Pentagon and its budget inflating pals in the intelligence agencies, have hijacked Congress and its budgetary decision making since the 50’s. Evidence so far would suggest the Vietnam con was the beginning, but further research on Korea, i think, might reveal a deeper root.
    How much NATO can take over the world’s policeman role from the US (consider Libya) remains to be seen, but when the costs are tallied and weighed against Europe’s own fiscal crisis, I suspect their enthusiasm will soon wither, leaving all major players looking to China to underwrite their adventures.

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