Avoiding the Necessity
“Avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.” -George Washington, 1st US president, general (1732-1799)
I know its out-of-fashion to lean back, draw an uncluttered vision of the past in our minds and simply reflect. But Washington’s comment reflected a general’s view of combat and matches mirror-like another general and president’s statement by Dwight Eisenhower to “Beware the military-industrial complex.”
It’s no surprise to me that both men served in times of existential wars, the first in a war of birth and the second a war of survival. They, along with Harry Truman, are among our most revered leaders and each of them had seen up close the human and physical destruction of combat.
Truman’s answer was the Marshall Plan, the first time in human history that a conqueror footed the bill to rebuild the conquered so that Europe and Asia might never fight again.
Yet here we are today, living in an America whose military sucks all the financial oxygen from progress and is double the size of the next six global militaries. That fruitless extravagance utterly destroyed our peaceful reputation, upended political balances (as nasty as they may have been), made allies of despotic rulers and undertook the total destruction of functioning nations.
Other than those minor shortcomings, it worked out just fine.
Proving the truths of Washington and Eisenhower, we haven’t been able, with all that dearly assembled might, to win a military conflict since World War II.
Eisenhower again: “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.”
So we ponder these imponderables at a time when we face another existential threat. This one doesn’t wear a uniform, nor a raggedy head-scarf or threaten car-bombs and jihad in America, but it’s far more deadly and immutable.
Yet, like war, it’s a battle we choose not to understand and our leaders choose not to face with anything approaching reality. It’s that sneaky and, chosen or not, will end life on earth as we know it. Bomb-shelters and hiding under classroom desks won’t solve this one, baby.
You know by now where I’m going with this, but it’s such a toxic phrase these days, devoid of immediacy and with no flags flying or troops saving our nation from the enemy.
The word dare not be spoken anymore—climate change—oh god forgive me, I said it.
“We can’t possibly afford it,” sputters Mitch McConnell, who never put on a uniform in defense of his country. “Even if I believed it” (which I don’t) and even if I was not paid to disbelieve it (which I am), “it would cost trillions and where would those trillions come from?”
Well, Mitch, to begin with you might well ask where the $6 trillion your beloved (and feckless) Department of Defense can’t even account for.
Simply vanished in the lack of accounting procedures Congress requires of the DOD by law. Then duck back into your office and scratch your head over the supposed (there are no clear records here either) $10 trillion wasted on wars not won over the past half-century.
Now I know you are a great supporter of the military-industrial guys and homelessness, busted infrastructure, joblessness and offshore banking are well below your pay-grade in Washington, but they still matter. Somehow, to those of us in outlying America, they matter. The American Fist hasn’t had all that much luck making America First.
But I understand the money has to come from somewhere.
Enact (I know that’s an unusual concept for you) a ½ of one percent tax on ‘flash trades,’ that Wall Street innovation that very nearly crashed our stock exchanges systems twice without so much as a human hand on the wheel. The revenue generated is hard to nail down, but it’s in the hundreds of billions annually.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is already ‘beyond our means’ according to the blossoming opposition, but it’s a multi-propositional deal that supports renewables and infrastructure rehab, along with a slew of social support.
Even this early in the conversation, today Yale University announced a poll that showed 81% of American voters supported the Green New Deal. Not good news for you, Mitch, as you peek out from behind your fingers and contemplate your own leadership sell-by date.
A return to those brave-old-days of the booming sixties-through-eighties would bring us the return of graduated income taxes. There’s growing support even from the 1% for just that. Take another hunk from the military as Eisenhower did for his highway program…or just plain print the money.
Calm yourself, Mitch and listen very closely. There is deficit spending (think military and social programs) that is necessary, but leaves no end-product. Gotta watch that deficit spending like a hawk.
Then there is asset-based spending (think Eisenhower’s interstates and the nationwide electric grid) that leaves enormous assets behind. Most economists agree you can spend extensively on asset-based projects without increasing inflation, because you increase the nation’s net worth.
Every dollar spent by Eisenhower’s interstate highway program delivered back six bucks in economic gains for the country. Can you imagine the impact on business and individuals if there was no cost at all (other than infrastructure) for energy sources?
Breathe deeply, Mitch. Eisenhower was a Republican and, if you move quickly, the Green New Deal could have your name all over it.
The length of what people are willing to read (usually not even this much) leaves but one final argument. Jobs, that magical political noun. Not tens of thousands of jobs, Mitch. Tens of millions of jobs. Good Republican jobs, buddy. High-paying jobs from truck-drivers to engineers, with plenty of over-spill for Republican contractors.
And those jobs can’t be outsourced to China.
All we need do is avoid the necessity of the worthless and celebrate the necessity of the worthwhile—before we end our own civilization by an accident of ignorance.
Think of it, Mitch. Think McConnell’s Green New Deal and put your name in the history books. Now get out there on the Senate floor and make the speech that will save your party and your ass, both at the same time.