In the Arena

More Stimulus Foolishness

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It is hilarious to watch Republicans make distinctions between stimulus and…stimulus. Take Max Boot, for example. Please. Boot quotes the Wall Street Journal editorial board–which stands somewhere to the right of Hoover–on the inadvisability of spending money on things like rail transport (essential to move the country away from oil dependency and the source of a slew of construction jobs) and research into carbon recapture (if it can be perfected, US coal can remain a significant part of the national energy solution), and even the poor old NEA, which receives $50 million under the stimulus bill–which will employ more than a few musicians, artists, music and art teachers, as Franklin Roosevelt demonstrated. Those are all bad forms of stimulus, he says. 

Boot likes–you’ll be totally amazed (not)–an increase in the Defense Budget. Or, at least not the $55 billion cut allegedly proposed by the Office of Management and Budget (and here, his only source is a Fox news report, a questionable source given that network’s track record). Now, Boot does have a point. Defense research has spawned great American industries and it should be fed to the max. But the DOD is also the source of some of the government’s stupidest, most wasteful spending—the tens of billions spent on outdated, irrelevant weapons systems, and the unnecessary military bases that survived two rounds at base-closing  (although it is difficult to eliminate the jobs created by such programs in the current downturn). 

I am sure there’s plenty of garbage in the stimulus bill and I hope most of it will be weeded out in the next two weeks. At the same time, I am not sure the Pentagon budget should be cut; I haven’t looked at the specifics. During the campaign, Obama said it should be increased–mostly to add to Army and Marine troop levels. But when it comes to stimulus, defense spending is no more righteous, and arguably less efficacious in the long-term, than spending on, say, carbon recapture or railroads–which may lead us to decrease our dependence on the Middle Eastern oil that causes us to send our sons and daughters off to unnecessary wars in the first place. Those who supported the $1 trillion expenditure that the war of choice in Iraq has cost us should be a bit more humble when it comes to criticizing government spending on such direct, job-creating programs as day care (which, by the way, is an absolute necessity for most military families).