Tuesday, July 23, 2019

An Unspoken Travesty: How BOTH Parties Are Feeding The Pentagon's Bloated Coffers

Image result for brane space, Pentagon spending

Perhaps the biggest howler in WSJ editorial history appeared in one skewed sentence yesterday ('A Bad Budget Deal',  p. A16):

"Entitlements are already squeezing defense spending, and that squeeze will get worse without reform"

Thereby pushing one of  the most noisome and erroneous tropes, i.e.  that the poor little military budget is "small relatively as a percentage of GDP" and is being "squeezed" by them monstrous "entitlements".  If only!  But the true fact is that defense spending has more than doubled since 2000, from 2.4 % of GDP to nearly 5.9%. This uptick in GDP percentage led former Pentagon Analyst Chuck Spinney (the same person who exposed the unaccounted for $1.2 trillion) to remark nearly two decades ago that the increase was nothing less than "a war on domestic programs, including Social Security and Medicare".

Fast forward and the congress is now on the cusp of approving a budget that will literally break the bank with deficits - up to $2 trillion in the next two years - according to Steve Rattner this morning on MSNBC.   This is given the debt ceiling has now been "suspended" until July, 2021 (cf. WSJ, today, p. A1).  What happened to spending caps?  Why is the debt ceiling now abolished, errr.... suspended? What happened to financial sobriety?  What happened to 'Deficits matter!' ? Well they vanished, first with the Trump -GOP tax cuts, which were never going to "pay for themselves".  That was a financial fantasy much like the laughable "Laffer curve". And  second, in the race for both parties to avoid another gov't shutdown by erasing spending caps, especially for military spending. Much of which is misappropriated and plain old waste - as I will show.

Left unsaid, or at least under-reported - at least until Fareed Zakaria's CNN report Sunday morning -   has been:  a) How no military funding should be based on GDP % but on actual threats, and b) How both parties have shamelessly fattened the Pentagon's cash cow of shameful spending and waste, but for differing reasons.  As Zakaria pointed out on his Sunday a.m. show: 

 "Last week, the Democratic House - filled with radicals according to the Republicans-  voted to appropriate $733 billion for 2020 defense spending. The Republicans are outraged because they along with Trump want that number to be $750 billion.  In other words, on the largest item of discretionary spending in the federal budget,  Democrats and Republicans are divided by 2.3 percent."

Of course, this is totally batshit nuts, or as Zakaria so aptly put it:

"That is the cancerous consensus in Washington today."

Adding, in a description I can't improve upon:

"America's defense budget is out of control. Lacking strategic coherence.  Utterly mismanaged. Ruinously wasteful. And yet, eternally expanding. Fourteen thousand dollar toilet seat covers, and one thousand three hundred dollar cups. Yes cups!  Are par for the course."

Most abominable of all is how the Pentagon has clearly broken free from even congressional oversight, as if fulfilling Eisenhower's warning about the military industrial complex and its cancerous metastasis.  As Zakaria went on to note, last year the Pentagon finally subjected itself to audit, "after a quarter century of resisting".   And "in true Pentagon style, cost over $400 million."

And what, pray tell, was the outcome of this gargantuan costly audit?  I will let Zakaria tell it:

"Most of its agencies: Army, Navy.  Air Force, Marine, failed. The then Defense Secretary Shanahan admitted 'We never expected to pass'. "

Well, why the hell not?  As Chuck Spinney would have put it, the Pentagon has become a power unto itself even surpassing congressional checks and authority.    Reinforced by Coward Dotard's attitude to them, i.e. as an "indulgent parent".  As when he tweeted  not long ago in typical Trump-tardian style: "We love and need our military - and give them eveverything and more."

In Zakaria's parlance, "opening the piggy bank while trying to slash spending by almost every other government agency."

How explain for why a military coward would do such a thing? A putz who had his doc five times sign a release-excuse medical form based on "bone spurs" - without ever formally having to take a draft physical, as I and millions of others had to. My psychologist great niece Shayl as usual has the answer: "It's easy! He's using a compensation mechanism.  Making up for his cowardice then - by enabling huge military spending now - to ingratiate himself with the Pentagon's bigwigs so they will now respect him."
Image result for Trump the coward, images
Adding, "I believe they still believe he's a coward!"  Well, I agree. Can't get a much bigger coward than this yellow-bellied, orange -hued maggot.  But his compensation cowardice is unfortunately breaking this nation financially, even while exposing a much deeper danger.  As Zakaria went on:

"The much deeper danger is spotlighted by Jessica Tuchman Mathews, in a superb essay in the New York Review Of Books. Mathews points out that we think of defense budgets in an overall erroneous way, tying it to GDP. But the defense budget should be related to the threats the country faces."

Amen!   The key and most salient point being that as time goes on, defense spending as a percent of a growing economy should decline. I.e. as GDP increases by 30 percent the defense budget should not also increase by that amount unless there are very serious, imminent threats. But this isn't what we are seeing, including with this nonsensical budget now on the verge of passing.  

So let's examine Ms. Mathews' piece, 'America's Indefensible Defense Budget' in more detail.   As she writes in respect to the misplaced reference of defense spending as a percentage of GDP:
"If you have read anything about defense spending in recent years, it was probably expressed as a percentage of GDP. At roughly 3–4 percent (it was more than 40 percent in 1944, 15 percent during the Korean War, and over 10 percent in the early 1960s), it seems eminently affordable.
But this almost universally used measure is close to meaningless, except to make rough international comparisons. It makes no sense to expect that external threats will expand in parallel with a country’s economic growth. A country whose economy has grown by, for example, 30 percent has no reason to spend 30 percent more on its military. To the contrary, unless threats worsen, you would expect that, over time, defense spending as a percentage of a growing economy should decline."
She goes on to note:
"Instead, the valid measure of affordability is defense spending’s share of the federal discretionary budget: that is, of all federal spending other than the mandatory allotments to entitlements and interest on the national debt. Discretionary spending is everything else the government does: not just for the military but for the federal judiciary and law enforcement; support infrastructure, education, and agriculture; invest in science and technology; protect the environment, wilderness, and National Parks; manage relations with the rest of the world and with international organizations overseeing everything from trade to arms control; fund the National Weather Service; police the border; explore space; develop energy resources; ensure the safety and soundness of food, drugs, communications, airline travel, consumer products, banks, the stock exchanges, and on and on."
That's a LOT, and the pie chart below -  from 2013 - shows the military's chunk of discretionary spending then, which has since ballooned:
Ms. Mathews adds:

"The budget embodies the country’s core political choices: how much government its citizens want, what their priorities for it are, and how large a debt they choose to shoulder and to pass on. Defense spending now accounts for almost 60 percent of the budget: everything else is accommodated in the remaining two fifths".

That is, $3 out of every $5 for the military, and $2 of every $5 for everything else, which as Zakaria observed is more than the ten next nations combined.  Can anyone say "fiscal insanity" without registering objections as a paper patriot?  That is, a poltroon who wears the red, white and blue when it suits, but lacks any capacity for critical thought.   The most appalling aspect as both Zakaria and Mathews point out, is the abominable waste of money - leaving out for now how many audits the Pentagon has failed.   Let's let Ms. Tuchman Mathews tell us about the case of tanks and  aircraft carriers and money thereby wasted (ibid.):

"Tanks are a classic case. For years, the army has tried to convince Congress to stop buying new ones. They are expensive to build, maintain, exercise, and train troops to use. The army already has more than six thousand of them—far more than it needs for any conceivable future combat. More controversially, the navy remains wedded to new aircraft carriers, but at $13 billion each they are arguably more an outdated symbol of twentieth-century power than an effective weapon system for a future in which they will be increasingly vulnerable to attack by high-speed, maneuverable missiles that can be bought for a minuscule fraction of what a carrier costs."

 What's the reason for this inexcusable waste?  Well, pork barrel spending in red (and blue districts)  to protect defense contracting jobs.  Mathews again on these congress critters:

"They prefer to protect spending and jobs in their districts. The result is funding for weapons systems the armed forces don’t want, bases and facilities they would like to close, and bloated, inefficient back office—that is, noncombat—operations."

 You know we're in deep shit as a nation when the only major jobs program is not the repair of our collapsing infrastructure (a cost now estimated at over $2 trillion) but making cups for defense contractors at  $1300 each and Pentagon toilet seat covers for  $14,000 a pop.   Oh, and 'make work' adding to the 6,000 tanks the army already has which is way more than it'll ever use -  say in a modern war.

And of course, "Dotard the Coward"  Trump -   as Ms. Mathews observes-  fits into this toxic stew of waste and mismanagement as well (ibid.)

"The last ingredient in this political mix is, of course, the White House. After last year’s budget deal, Trump captured the unfortunate national mood when he tweeted, “We love and need our Military and gave them everything—and more.” This year, defending his failure to serve in Vietnam, he boasted that with his $750 billion budget, “I think I make up for that right now…. I think I’m making up for it rapidly.” Trump is not the first president to want to leave his mark on something new and bigger for defense spending. As in everything else, he is simply the least interested in the substance of his policies and the most transparently self-serving."

Meanwhile, as we blow through trillions the real critical needs for the future and asymmetrical warfare go begging, e.g.

"The world that lies ahead of us is unequivocally one in which more and more of the greatest challenges—cyber regulation, arms control, nonproliferation, financial stability and trade, climate change, health and the environment, crime and the rule of law—can only be dealt with multilaterally. Yet since the end of the cold war, the US has rejected most of the international agreements the rest of the world has approved, including the Law of the Sea Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Antipersonnel Landmine Ban, and the International Criminal Court. It has refused to ratify treaties protecting genetic resources, restricting trade in conventional arms, banning cluster bombs, and protecting persons with disabilities. In just two years under President Trump, it has rejected the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and withdrawn from the Paris Accord on climate, the INF Treaty on intermediate-range missiles, the UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO, the Iran nuclear deal, and NAFTA (which was renegotiated).
During this nearly thirty years of sweeping diplomatic withdrawal, America has been engaged in conflict for all but a few months. It has undertaken nine large-scale military actions, including three of the five major wars it has fought since 1945. Of these, the brief Gulf War of 1990–1991 was a clear success. The war of choice in Iraq was a catastrophic mistake. The now eighteen-year-long war in Afghanistan will almost certainly end in failure—if we can ever bring ourselves to let it end.
It has become increasingly clear that the largely intrastate conflicts in which the US has embroiled itself, fighting small groups of shifting, local opponents rather than national armies, have not been the kind of conventional interstate wars for which its weapons systems and doctrine were designed. Every approach the US has tried—regime change, nation-building, counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, redlines, responsibility to protect—alone or in concert with others, has failed to achieve the desired results.
We are now at the point of allocating too large a portion of the federal budget to defense as compared to domestic needs, tolerating too much spending that doesn’t buy useful capability, accumulating too much federal debt, and yet not acquiring a forward-looking, twenty-first-century military built around new cyber and space technologies. We have become complacent and strategically flabby about adapting to a profoundly altered world. Major change will require a quality of leadership we haven’t seen in a long time, from men and women in the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon who are respected for their knowledge and national security experience and who are willing to pay a political price for what must be done. Even then the process will be tough, slow, and painful, but it is surely overdue."

In other words, Ms. Mathews has accurately spelled out our path to collapse as a nation because of our misplaced priorities and lack of vision  engendered by venal politicians, their associated poltroons, a cowardly unfit "resident" and a myopic citizenry - often too invested in their own gadgets and comforts, and an inability to do critical thinking.  Especially after 63 million in the last general election put into office - with the aid of  an archaic system - an unqualified buffoon who isn't fit to be a dog catcher,  far less leader of the 'free world'.  (Since joined by another buffoon, Boris Johnson, in the UK.)  

Yeppers, we are in seriously deep shit, especially if Dotard Donnie somehow manages to bamboozle enough simpletons to get in again!

See also:


America's Indefensible Defense Budget | by Jessica T. Mathews | The ...

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