March 7, 2006


Liberals seek $60B in cuts to defense (Josephine Hearn, 3/07/06, The Hill)

In its latest move to draw attention to liberal ideas, the Congressional Progressive Caucus will introduce a plan today to divert $60 billion in defense spending to humanitarian assistance, social programs, energy conservation, homeland security and deficit reduction. [...]

Some political observers fear that publicizing a Democratic proposal to cut military spending could open Democrats up to criticism that they are weak on security issues. But Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), the other co-chairwoman of the caucus, argued that the defense spending is not crucial to national defense, noting that a panel of military experts had vetted the Democrats’ plan.

“We’re talking about taking 60 billion away from defense programs we don’t even use. To me, that looks like Democrats are making sense,” she said. “If all you do around here is fear that it’s going to look like something you shouldn’t look like rather than something you should look like, then you’re wasting your time.”

As a matter of policy they are, of course, right that we're way over-spending on defense, but politically it's a bad position for Democrats, especially because they propose just wasting the money on social programs instead. They should at least have sense enough to cast it as a way of cutting the deficit, which is a good political mantra, if silly policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 7, 2006 11:25 PM

We're building way too many expensive toys that do not respond to any conceivable threat -- $3 billion attack subs, fighter aircraft well north of $50 million per copy. But yes, someone like McCain needs to deliver the message.

Posted by: curt at March 8, 2006 12:12 AM

No. The attack subs and expensive fighters all serve a vital need, even if it's one we are not likely to confront in the next fifteen minutes. But since the development and procurement cycles for these items span decades, not years, it's time to be buying them now.

Here's another clue: the cost per item wouldn't be so high if we were buying more of each. Most of the expense of these programs is in the "makereadies", not the production runs.

Posted by: HT at March 8, 2006 12:40 AM

As HT pointed out, the development costs are where the money goes. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress cost $3 billion to develop. That's 1940's dollars. It cost more to develop than the atomic bomb.

The markup today would be...a whole lotta money.

Posted by: Mikey at March 8, 2006 8:11 AM

HT Please identify that "vital need." The emergent Red China threat? Please. Russia, with its vanishing population? Those belligerent Brazilians? The awesome Iranian military/industrial complex?

Posted by: curt at March 8, 2006 8:25 AM

HT is correct. I used to work for McDonnel Douglas, and later for Boeing, at their St. Louis facility. I worked in the same buildings where the F15, F18, T45, and AV8B were built and I can vouch for the fact that the lead time it takes to get these production lines up to speed is measured in months, and it can be over a year before production lines are operating at a capacity to produce aircraft at a sufficient rate to replace significant combat losses.

People never think about the fact that there are thousands of parts that must be manufactured to strict engineering tolerances to produce a single combat aircraft, or that subsystem components of the avionics are manufactured by other companies that have their own production lead times. They just assume it's like Ford/GM retooling their factories in WWII and going from the production of cars to tanks in a few months. Of course the short sightedness of pols and the ignorance of those unfamiliar of with military procurement lead times has a habit of biting us in the ass and putting the U.S. in militarily undesirable positions. The fact that the Democrats support this lunacy comes as no surprise, the fact that you do Orrin is simply dissapointing.

Posted by: Robert Modean at March 8, 2006 8:40 AM


The vital need regarding China? Well let's see: China building it's first modern air craft carriers (yes, plural), check. China modernizing it's ballistic missile systems, check. China building submarines capable of challenging the U.S. fleet, check. China building air superiority aircraft to challenge the U.S. Airforce, check. The Chinese Defense Minister giving a speech in favor of a war with the United States about six months ago, check. Chinese generals issuing statements that they believes they can invade and take Taiwan in seven days and keep the U.S. out of it by defeating sinking a U.S. carrier group or two, check. Hmm, seems to me that the Chinese trying to make themselves a credible threat to the United States, and maybe defending against that treat doesn't qualify as a "vital need" in your book, but I'd rather err on the side of caution that see the West Coast glow because you and Orrin couldn't see the dragon on the doorstep for all your warm fuzzies about the Chinese.

Posted by: Robert Modean at March 8, 2006 8:55 AM


HT is correct. Assuming that the enemy that we might face thirty years from now will be the same sort as that which we face today is a classic military blunder, akin to assuming that the enemy that we'll face in five years is the same as that which we faced twenty years ago.

The F-117, B-2, F-35, and particularly the F/A-22 are all bleeding edge technology, vastly superior to ANYTHING ELSE flown in the world today, by friend, foe, or not-exactly-hostile-rival.

They will continue to be world-class for another thirty or forty years, although we might expect that they'll have credible competition in the next few decades.

However, look at the next-best airframe, built and flown by the Eurozone: The Eurofighter 2000.
It's a sweet bird, but it's also their best effort, designed and built while the F/A-22 was being developed, and it ended up being only half as good as the Raptor.

The F/A-22 programme began in 1986, which speaks to the very long lead times any peacetime weapons programme needs, and it and the F-35 may well end up being the last major fighter programmes designed to be piloted by on-board humans.

Because of their overwhelming dominance, our advanced aircraft programmes may help to prevent any threat similar to that which we faced during the Cold War, as nations seek non-military ways to compete with America.

Finally, SLBMs will become more important relative to ICBMs during the 21st century era of ballistic missile defense shields, and to have SLBMs a nation needs subs - the stealthier, the better.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at March 8, 2006 8:55 AM

The military you have is the one you use, which is why we should reduce down to missiles & nukes.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 9:14 AM

We'd sink the Chinese navy in toto in the first hour of a war.

It's manpower that really wastes money though, not weapons.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 9:14 AM

As others have pointed out, there are extremely long lead times on development and procurement, Certainly beyond the horizon that anyone can predict. Defense spending is cheap insurance - what a couple of pennies on the dollar of GDP?

Posted by: Rick T. at March 8, 2006 9:17 AM


4% of GDP is at least twice what we need.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 9:25 AM


The problem with having only missiles and nukes is (at least) two-fold.

First, there are many situations where you want to project force, but don't want to totally destroy an area, or where you need to have human actors present.

You're a big supporter of American intervention in the Darfur problem; are you saying that we should, much less would, nuke Khartoum ?

Would it have solved the Iraqi/Saddam problem to level Baghdad with cruise missiles ?

Second, the 21st century will definitely feature missile defense, both against ballistic and powered threats.

The U.S. is going to be rolling out a truck-mounted laser that will destroy incoming mortar shells, in '08 or so, we're developing a plane-mounted laser system for regional missile threats, and we already have an ICBM shield deployed.

Other nations will gradually catch up.

Finally, missiles require a launching platform, which means at the very least aircraft and subs, and probably a surface navy as well.

Launching cruise missiles from the U.S. against targets half-way around the world makes no sense whatsoever, from a fuel/payload standpoint.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at March 8, 2006 9:37 AM


Yes, I'm saying it would be better to decapitate regimes even by nuclear means than launch invasions. We're also more likely to do so once the activity is casualty free for us.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 9:49 AM

Our founding fathers saw a standing military as a grave danger to our democracy.

Read Jefferson some time - he saw few worse dangers.

Eisenhower was right about the dangers of the 'unwarranted influence' of the huge dollars bringing corruption to the process between government and defense contracters.

Our defense industry today IMO is largely corrupt; this is why they try to make enough Americans simly not question where the largest single budget item for our country is spent, giving them a blank check without scrutiny.

Anyone who bleats out that questioning it is somehow anti-American is not acting as a citizen but as a dupe, one who will inevatibly be ruled rather than being the ruling citizen our country is all about.

We spend far too much on defense IMO, and are moving towards the world's first uncontestable government, powerful enough to never be threatened by any challenge, however corrupt its 'absolute power' leads it to become.

If we want our democracy, we need to oppose the problems we now have, including the problem with the inordinate, dominating role of money from corporate interests in the campaigns.

Posted by: Craig at March 8, 2006 10:33 AM

Except that the defense budget is trivial compared to what it was during our statist phase.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 10:37 AM

"Corporate interests." Otherwise known as people Craig disfavors and wishes to shut up.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 8, 2006 10:47 AM

Actually Orrin, what you are proscribing isn't viable for our defense, merely sufficient to ensure that we become the global equivalent of France with a better economy.

Posted by: Robert Modean at March 8, 2006 10:52 AM

We don't need a defense, just sufficient offense to annihilate regimes we disapprove of.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 11:02 AM

It cracks me up that the right will admit that it's wrong but then presses the point that its own absurd demagoguery makes the correct decision a bad one politically. Support rational policy.

Posted by: matt at March 8, 2006 11:15 AM

Any examples, Matt?

Posted by: David Cohen at March 8, 2006 11:19 AM

Seeing as china is spending approximately $60 billion dollars a year and we spend $480 billion I think we can afford to let 60 billion slide. And that doesn't even count the money for the wars!!!!

Posted by: madmatt at March 8, 2006 11:22 AM

Seeing as china is spending approximately $60 billion dollars a year and we spend $480 billion I think we can afford to let 60 billion slide. And that doesn't even count the money for the wars!!!!

Posted by: madmatt at March 8, 2006 11:22 AM

Seeing as china is spending approximately $60 billion dollars a year and we spend $480 billion I think we can afford to let 60 billion slide. And that doesn't even count the money for the wars!!!!

Posted by: madmatt at March 8, 2006 11:23 AM

If anyone thinks that a standing military is a danger to America, they should try not having a standing military.
We'd last about 36 hours.

Lesser nations, of course, can get away with such, in part because America's standing military protects them - like our good neighbors to the north, with their aversion to military spending and vastly large petroleum deposits...

Our defense industry today IMO is largely corrupt...

On the contrary, our defense industry eats money, of which we have overmuch, and births fantastic technologies that make science fiction into reality.

Whether we need those wonders, or whether we should spend so much on them, are good political questions, but the defense industry itself is not only NOT corrupt, they're crackin' miracle workers.

And, in point of fact, the democratic process does control the "military industrial complex". The number of F/A-22s that Congress is willing to pay for has been cut three times already.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at March 8, 2006 11:30 AM


we've done very well by decimating ourt military after nearly every war but poorly by maintaining it after WWII.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 11:50 AM

Relieving the burden on the elderly, of a host of problems, and seeing to it that our children get an education - however that needs to be implimented - is NOT "wasting money on social programs". Both problems are of such gargantuan proportions that they have become America's Problem - not just the cities, or the individual states.

Posted by: Rev. Michael McCarthy at March 8, 2006 11:57 AM

The elderly are rich and our children are over-educated.

Jefferson also thought that one man could own another, so there might be limit to arguing from that particular authority.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 8, 2006 12:03 PM

They're problems we know how to deal with fairly easily and on which we spend more money now than we need to. Squandering another 60 billion on failed liberal programs is indeed wasting money.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 12:06 PM

Let me get a handle on your logic. Sure the Progressive Caucus is right, but their proposal sounds bad. So its better to sound good but be wrong than be right? Jesus, do youwrite for Steven Colbert? But I guess that's really been the administration policy for the last 5 years, hasn't it.

Posted by: Burt at March 8, 2006 12:18 PM


They're right we waste to much on Defense, but Democrats can't say that for the same reason only Nixon could go to China.

They're totally wrong about what to do with the money we cut from Defense.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 12:22 PM

Demonstrating nicely one of the real benefits of a big defence budget: it soaks up the money that would otherwise be wasted on social spending.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 8, 2006 12:25 PM

Yes, but actually not spending it is best of all, which is where Democrats could make some hay, if they weren't Democrats...

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 12:28 PM

Republicans aren't any better, mostly because all politicians understand that they're elected to spend money. When have the American people ever demanded that the federal government spend less money?

Posted by: David Cohen at March 8, 2006 12:50 PM


Yes,, but as soon as the GOP gets to 60 seats in the Senate it will cut spending because that's its bent.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 12:58 PM

Robert (re China) --

Sounds like you are reading from a CIA report circa 1980 about the terrible Soviet Threat. The Chinese defense industry is light years behind ours and they are not fullhardy enough to try to catch up, let alone ruin their economy by attacking their best customers. China is the nation that turns to Boeing and Airbus when it needs reliable aircraft for the coming decades.

Noam --

"Assuming that the enemy that we might face thirty years from now will be the same sort as that which we face today is a classic military blunder"

Precisely. We'll never again face an enemy seeking to duel with fighter aircraft and attack subs.

Posted by: curt at March 8, 2006 12:59 PM

When was the last time the American military went all-out in raging fury? 1945? 1991?

Fighting the Chinese would be ..... interesting. Their eastern coast is quite long, and the NKs could hardly be expected to remain 'neutral'. Sure, we could probably sink everything they have, but that isn't going to happen in 12 or 24 hours. It might take more than a week. Can the press be good for even a day? Johnny Apple would be writing about the dim sum quagmire on Day 2. And we don't have a 600-ship Navy (more like 275, last number I saw).

The attack submarine is something we build because no one else can do it like we do (just like the aircraft mentioned on this thread). We can launch cruise missiles from the safest possible platform, one that is out of sight, with no giveaway on location. Ballistic missile subs are less important today, but the attack subs are a necessity.

The Democrats want the US to be weak, so that our choices in foreign policy are easy. It's the Howard Dean approach - we won't always have the strongest military, so let's disarm now. Fools.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 8, 2006 1:37 PM

The Navy won't sink them.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 1:42 PM

You want to talk about about the $200 billion dollars that have been thrown at missile defense since hitler I mean reagan was in office! They just ran more tests, it still can't hit a missile that has a beacon to attract the incoming missile (yeah the ruskies put that on all their missiles) and the russians and chinese have both developed missiles that negate the technology anyway...but we are still paying for that dumb ass is corporate welfare! In general I would rather give the money to schools and the poor rather than corporate bloodsuckers.

Posted by: madmatt at March 8, 2006 1:43 PM

We'll never again face an enemy seeking to duel with fighter aircraft and attack subs.

That's the assumption that I was talking about.

You're probably right, but as Rick T. notes, maintaining our ability to do so is cheap, and if we stop being able to face an enemy with advanced fighters, what do you think that any potential enemy is going to equip themselves with ?

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at March 8, 2006 1:44 PM


Star Wars is just a way fopr the government to finance R&D and technology development. If we get a workable missile defense it's a bonus. $200 billion in 25 years is insignificant.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 1:49 PM

madmatt, you are completely wrong about our ballistic missile defense system.

It doesn't work 100% of the time, but why throw away a 50% chance to shoot down an incoming ICBM ?!?

And I can guarantee one thing: It's going to get much, MUCH better.

BTW, it's cost far more than $ 200 billion.

But you'd know that if you'd actually learned anything about the subject before posting.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at March 8, 2006 1:50 PM


You keep proving the point. You're accepting the idea we should duel, when instead we should devastate.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 1:50 PM


And you pretend that we'll routinely devastate, if that's our only option.

Sure, we'll nuke whomever we have to, to survive, but we aren't going to nuke every two-bit genocidal dictator.

It plays into the hands of the very isolationists that you think are mistaken.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at March 8, 2006 1:55 PM


No one's ever lost money betting on our savagery when needed.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 2:00 PM

noam.....actually if you look at the tests they have run it is more like 20% success rate and if there was more than one missile that would decrease as well, so no I don't think that would make a difference

oj...why does the govt have to finance r&d I thought that in a "market driven" economy that companies should spend their own cash in hopes of big rewards? Its not like they couldn't sell the system to every country that had the funds.

Posted by: madmatt at March 8, 2006 2:07 PM

Noam -- It would make more sense to reestablish the horse cavalry rather than keep putting men in ever more advanced fighter aircraft...the former might actually be useful in a future conflict.

Jim -- We keep building the subs because General Dynamics & Northrup and their subcontractors own all of the Va. & Conn. congressional delegations and large chunks of many other delegations.

Posted by: curt at March 8, 2006 2:08 PM


Government shapes markets.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 2:15 PM

Yes, they're "owned" -- although we were promised that campaign regulation would take even the appearance of impropriety out of politics and, in fact, no corporate contributions are allowed. It couldn't have anything to do with the, for example, 10,000 um, what's that word, oh yeah, voters that Electric Boat employs in Connecticut, could it? And, for that matter, the powerful Va and Ct delegations have been screwing the pooch for their owners, given that we've scaled back to one sub a year shared between Norfolk and Groton and the Navy has taken maintenance away from the private contractors.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 8, 2006 3:49 PM

And, for what it's worth, in the 2004 election cycle, General Dynamics employees made 271 donations totaling $173,381, which is to say bupkes. And that includes donations to

Posted by: David Cohen at March 8, 2006 3:55 PM

David --

One will never know how much General Dynamics, its PACs, its employees, its employee spouses & kids, its lobbyists, its subsidiaries and suppliers etc spend in hard and soft money, but it plainly spreads around millions every cycle. Here are some numbers for the House alone:

I'll never forget the day I say that leftwing nut Congresswoman DeLauro from Conn. take the floor and fight for nuclear subs - almost choked on my dentures.

Posted by: curt at March 8, 2006 4:42 PM

Curt: Fair cop. I should have dug up the numbers for the GD PAC, too. It gave $1.3 million in the 2004 cycle. Still nothing in a system where incumbants can't be beat and about what the average winning House campaign costs.

The real point -- and one you help make -- is that any "corporate interest" is just people; citizens who are at the mercy of the government and want it to act in a particular way. "Corporate interests" is what we call people we don't like and who we want to shut out of politics.

People who think that donors control politicians because of the direction the money flows must also think that cows control farmers because of the direction the milk flows. As Microsoft found out, the name for cows who don't produce is "dinner."

Posted by: David Cohen at March 8, 2006 6:09 PM

Wow, I can't believe a conservative actually said "As a matter of policy they are, of course, right that we're way over-spending on defense."

There is hope for the world.

Eisenhower was right. We should fear the military industrial complex. It IS the reason we have enemies. The cold war is over yet our military is still all around the world. Our defense industry (and the Russians)have armed the globe and are somewhat resposnible for most of the war that happens anywhere. And if we'd just get our army bases out of the Muslim world, off of their holy land, we'd have far fewer people who hate us in the Muslim world. Bombing muslims under false pretenses doesn't help either, but it was supposed to be a resposne to terrorists attacks that are largely motivated by the presence of our military on foreign soil that is of religious significane to certain groups.

I just wish our country would look at the root of terrorism, much of which is due to the cold war and the military's participation and influence over the affairs of other nations.

Imagine what our country could be if we spent even half of what we do on guns and bombs and training people to kill, on education and health care. What potential we have that is squandered by the entrenched financial interests of the defense industry.

Posted by: lazerlou at March 8, 2006 8:21 PM


It would be a terrible waste to divert this money from one boondoggle to another, but you're certainly right that the problem with the world today is the Cold War, which we should have ended in '45 by nuking Moscow.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 8:34 PM

the defense budget should be re-allocated to getting s/w engineers larger monitors and more RAM. and pr0n accounts.

Posted by: toe at March 8, 2006 8:44 PM

A conservative said that? I thought it was just OJ.

The reason our troops were in the Muslim "Holy Land," which is a somewhat tendentious description, is because Saddam Hussein's expansionist policies. Everyone here agrees we should have gotten rid of Hussein in the first Gulf War but by 2001 that's water over the bridge.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 8, 2006 9:57 PM

Oh, and we spend way too much on education.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 8, 2006 9:57 PM

Spending money on social programs is much worse tahn a waste of money. It is really dis-investing in people.

Posted by: Perry at March 8, 2006 10:43 PM

No one's ever lost money betting on our savagery when needed.

That's exactly the point - we're not going to find it "needful" very often.

We'd just stop doing the interventions that you favor.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at March 9, 2006 1:30 AM

They've never been truly needful before and we've done them. We won't do them less as casualties and costs decline.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 7:13 AM

Imagine what our country could be if we spent even half of what we do on guns and bombs and training people to kill, on education and health care. What potential we have that is squandered by the entrenched financial interests of the defense industry.

You do know that we spend significantly more on K-12 public education than we do on the military, right? And that health care, at 14% of the economy, dwarfs them both?

Posted by: David Cohen at March 9, 2006 8:16 AM

How many trillions were spent on LBJ's War on Poverty which put the poor even further into despair.

Posted by: erp at March 9, 2006 10:44 AM

Er, yea, if you count state dollars, and I think the 14% of GDP is total spending on healthcare public and private, no? I was obviously referring to fed spending.

the sad thing is Bush is the wrost president ever precisely becasue hes spends so much, but on handouts to big business. The prescription drug "benefit"? A joke, and even you conservatives know that. A handout to big pharama. And $457 billion for the DOD? My god. That's a lot of $5 screws. Not to mention a couple hundo bill more on the "war" we are fighting.

Let's all say it together:


p.s. the war on poverty is why republicans are in control: it provided the requisite amount of social welfare to allow lower middle class dupes drunk on sex and religion and tv to vote against their economic interests and for the fearmongers.

rockin. USA! USA!

Posted by: lazerlou at March 9, 2006 6:05 PM

Total spending on public K-12 education reached $437.0 billion in the 2002-03 school year.

So we are awfully close, but I'm guessing we spend more on guns and bombs at this point if you factor in the separate war spending. I doubt education spending has increased anywher since Bush's trickle down deficit spending.

Posted by: lazerlou at March 9, 2006 6:09 PM

Under the Republican-backed plan, defense funding would hit $457.1 billion, about $18 billion more than requested by President George W. Bush last month and a $25 billion increase from this year's budget.

I take it back, there is no way we spend as much on education any more. Back when the DOD budget was a measly $300 billion, perhaps. Not any longer. Mind you this $457.1 billion does not include war costs.

Thank god for my Lockheed and Boeing and GD futures. I'm rich, bitch!

Posted by: lazerlou at March 9, 2006 6:12 PM

Bush needs to watch out though, spending over $500 billion on guns bombs and war will preclude him from claiming he is a proponent of a culture of life. That graduates him into a culture of taking life.

Posted by: lazerlou at March 9, 2006 6:14 PM


You're confusing innocent life with guilty.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 6:23 PM


Defense is the feds job. Education is a local matter.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 6:28 PM

I'm confusing innocent life with guilty?
Uh, no. i promise the number of innocent lives lost far outnumber the guilty in Bush's war, not the least of which are innocent American lives.
Have we lost more troops yet than people who were killed in 9/11? If not we are getting close.

Education is the proper object of both fed and state spending. In fact most scool districts get about 45% state money, 45% local and 10% Federal. Eduation is certainly and undisputably within the spending power of the US congress.

Posted by: lazerlou at March 9, 2006 6:40 PM

Lazlo wrote:

"p.s. the war on poverty is why republicans are in control: it provided the requisite amount of social welfare to allow lower middle class dupes drunk on sex and religion and tv to vote against their economic interests and for the fearmongers."

oops, let your elitism show a bit there aye? Well I guess you know what is better for the "dupes" than they know for themselves. It must be tough beong so taken for granted.

Posted by: Perry at March 9, 2006 6:40 PM

OJ, did you even read you link? It says:

Expenditures for public and private education, from pre-primary through graduate school, were about $508 billion for 1994-95. The expenditures of elementary and secondary schools were about $308 billion for 1994-95, while institutions of higher education spent about $201 billion.

So compared to 94-95 (nice citation!) spending *through graduate school*, we still spend more on guns and bombs war included.

Sorry, that makes you wrong and guilty of not even botehring to read your cite. I couldnt open the non-pbs link.

Posted by: lazerlou at March 9, 2006 6:47 PM


We've lost a few, but minimal compared to the numbers liberated. 9-11 doesn't have anything to do with it.

Education spending is in the feds power, it's just a waste when they do it. Education is properly handled at the local level where towns don't maintain armies.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 6:47 PM

Ok OJ, so you admit you are wrong on all counts now? Good.

Let's review:

The Feds can and do spend on education (note spending and policy are distinct issues, I'm all for local determination of school policy, certainly not Bush's retarded federalized no child not left behind initiative.

Even your link confirms we spend more money on guns bombs and war as a nation than we do education, good.

We've lost a few? where are we? over 2100 soldiers dead, right(did you know they dont count 'em if they die outside of Iraq, like in the hosiptal plane on the way back to Germany?)
And OJ, Let's not forget the innocent Irais killed. 10s of thousands of them - women, children, husmands wives brothers sisters.


Ok, you are either 14 years old or didn;t make it past highschool, right?

Posted by: lazerlou at March 9, 2006 6:57 PM

OJ et al.

Here are your guilty parties:

So so obviously guilty.

And Perry, yes I do know what is better for them. And yes, I am an elitest. No apologies here. For instance most of them think Iraq was involved with 9/11. I wonder why? Most can't name a single Supreme Court Justice. Ther is a reason the republican are in power, and it is not due to their wealthy base - it is due to manipulated the poorly educated and shletered citizens with fear and religion. You think Bush cares about abortion and that he is really a born-again christian? Or do yo acknowledge he claims to be what he is for political reasons. Anyone who is not in the upper 1% of wealth is a republican dupe, IMHO, dominated by old money and the corporations they run.

Posted by: lazerlou at March 9, 2006 7:09 PM

P.S. That link above is pretty gory stuff. be careful if you are squeemish.

Posted by: lazerlou at March 9, 2006 7:20 PM


Yes, those pictures are very much part of the story, as they exist only because we liberated 23 million Iraqis. There are no pictures of Saddam's genocide nor of the 500,000 Iraqi children we killed via UN sanctions.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 8:57 PM


No, the feds do spend money on education, it just isn't the federal job to spend on education. It is uniquely the feds job to provide defense. As the links demonstrate we spend more on education than we do on defense.

yes, 2,000 dead is one one ship in WWII, D-Day or a couple hours in a Civil War battle. It's insignificant.

Iraq is a democracy.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 9:00 PM

Yes, 5% of GDP on Education and 14% on Health Care, both are higher than defense.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 9:02 PM


As a self-proclaimed 'elitist', do you think increasing the amount of spending on education automatically improves the quality? Would an extra $50 billion from Uncle Sam lead to demonstrable results? Would $100 billion more lead to twice that?

Ditto for health-care: would a single-payer, single-provider system offer a demonstrable increase in quality?

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 9, 2006 11:23 PM

Ditto for health-care: would a single-payer, single-provider system offer a demonstrable increase in quality?

As the documented experiences of Canada, Cuba, France, and the UK show, clearly NOT.

It's just a question of which set of health-care-system problems that your society prefers to have.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 10, 2006 6:58 AM

Back to the original post...

It appears from the Hill article that only 1/4 of the diverted money would go to "social programs." $10b for health insurance for children, and $5b for training unemployed workers, out of the $60b. I guess if you consider education a social program, the plan to improve school infrastructure ($10b) would free up other spending in school budgets, but that seems a stretch.

A while back, a poster stated that he thought defense spending was a good way to soak up money that might otherwise be spent on social programs. What would people think if the money was diverted entirely to, say, port security? Would it be worth it if it was split, for example, 50% deficit reduction, 25% homeland security, 25% ininsured children? I'm curious how people weight these priorities, or if social spending is a poison pill that would be totally unacceptable.

Posted by: tomchaps at March 10, 2006 10:12 AM

No one wants to pay for port security.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 10:17 AM

Total US spending on K-12 education in the 2004-2005 school year: $536 billion.

Total US military budget in 2004: $437 billion.

In 2005, actual federal expenditures just for Medicare and Medicaid were $481 billion. This does not include billions of dollars of other federal healthcare expenditures as, for example, the VA's $29 billion medical program.

All of these expenditures have grown sharply under President Bush, as conservatives are constantly complaining.

Really, the most touching thing about the left is their conviction that they are the educated sophisticates, combined with their almost total ignorance.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 10, 2006 11:37 AM

We also spend $9000 per student per year, making our education system the third most expensive in the world. Is the theory that it our's were the second most expensive, we'd be doing a lot better?

Break the NEA and we'll be doing a lot better.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 10, 2006 11:40 AM

Just give every kid in America a $9k voucher.

Posted by: oj at March 10, 2006 11:50 AM

Actually, when I said that all these expenditures rose sharply under President Bush, I was (unintentionally) a little misleading. Military spending fell in 2005 from 2004.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 10, 2006 11:59 AM

The comments here are clear indications of why our country is doomed to major mistakes.

They're filled with arrogance, fear, parroting of the most simplistic talking points fed from the special interests, naivete, and often simply inaccuracy.

The United States can pursue one of two main directions: global dominance, or a strong *defense*. Almost no one is advocating the lie that the right attacks the left with, a 'weak defense' leaving the US terribly vulnerable.

I don't think any reasonable analysis could deny that the special interests have too much sway.

Can one person here make a case why we should not put controls in the system which make the public officials put the public interest ahead of the private interests, removing conflicts of interest?

Posted by: Craig at March 12, 2006 1:27 PM


They're called elections. Republicans win them. Special interests are called voters.

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2006 4:08 PM


You could not be more wrong.

First, you fail to grasp the concept of how elections can be undermined.

This, of course, leaves you compltely vulnerable to that happening - you won't know it.

Second, special interests are the opposite of the broad voters' interest. Hence the name.

When you or I give $20 to a candidate or party, it's likely out of a sense of citizenship - we don't expect to get back $1000 if we donate $100. But when a corporation gives $100,000, it's not to make the country a better place out of altruism; it's to influence public policy in their favor.

Often they do get 10 to 1, 100 to 1, even 1000 to 1 returns on the 'investment'.

When there's a weapons system, for example, the country doesn't need, some strategic donations, some strategic job offers to defense officials, can have a large payoff in helping the people who make that decision see the 'need'. Thst's called a special interest.

You should learn the very basic concept of the difference between 'special interest' and 'public interest' before you post any more, as it's a pretty important issue.

Posted by: Craig at March 12, 2006 8:52 PM


Stuff you like is in the public interest. Stuff you oppose is special interests. The same is true for everyone.

Posted by: oj at March 12, 2006 9:11 PM

You just keep getting it wrong oj.

You fail to understand differences such as those between what individual citizens do that they believe is in the interest of the nation, and what people do which they know is in their own selfish self-interest.

You are an example of why our country is at risk of democracy failing - because citzens who cannot recognize the problems of such special interests are powerlss to do anything about them, and the corruption leads to the undermining of democracy.

However, I'll try some explanation to point you in the right direction.


If Citizen A votes for abortion rights, and citizen B votes against them, they can both be voting in 'the public interest' as they see it, despite the fact that they are voting for opposite policies.

If Citizen A votes for or against a politician based on their support of a new weapon system, that's typically the citizen voting for what he thinks is in the public interest, regardless of how he votes. HOWEVER:

When the company who MAKES the weapon system donates, that's a 'special interest' donation: they aremotivated by the desire for profit, and not the public good. They may well be serving the public good - maybe it's a very good, needed weapons system - but their donations are made for their self-interest with regards only to their profit and not to the public interest. Any overlap is coincidental.

The people who work in the company are free to vote that way, to donate that way; in theory, no one company is so dominant for that to have much effect. But when you get the corporations doing it broadly, you get a perversion of the political system to where it's not representing the public.

You and I donating out of concern for the country can't begin to match the funding of those who stand to get back many dollars for each dollar donated. Corporations have no business countering the influence of the voters' direct donations.

Your attempt at cynical commentary was just a mess - quite untrue.

Some things I oppose are not 'special interests' and some things I support are.

That completely contradicts your claim.

Posted by: Craig at March 12, 2006 9:33 PM


No, they can't. The person voting for abortion is a classic special interest, who insists on the right of one class of humans, women, to kill another, babies.

And when I vote for the pol who supports a weapons system because I want to use it on the French and you vote for him because your uncle owns a coffee shop near a plant where parts are made for it we're both just special interests. And if you oppose that pol because you want to spend the money on some other pet project or get it back in the form of tax cuts you're just a special interest. Everything you support is a special interest, it just happens that you think your opinion is special.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 12:04 AM

oj, you're close to completing all the permutations of wrong, so this is wrapping up.

"No, they can't. The person voting for abortion is a classic special interest, who insists on the right of one class of humans, women, to kill another, babies."

No more than a person voting against abortion rights is a person who is a 'classic special interest' who insists on the right of fetuses to take precedence over the reproductive freedom of the mother.

Posted by: Craig at March 13, 2006 2:49 AM


Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 7:20 AM

For some reason, most of my post above is missing.

After I made the above point which equated the pro- and anti-abortion people in terms of being 'special interests', I went on to say that neither are special interests.

I did this by discussing the basic concept of democracy that the citizens are the ones who are entitled to political power, not only the few most powerful. The citizens have interests - they are not 'special interests'.

A citizen is entitled to vote for or against abortion based on his beliefs; if he's CEO of a weapon maker he can vote for someone who supports contracts going to him, and if he's a worker there he can vote for someone who supports labor rights, and so on. These are all the intended uses of political power by our system: the citizens having political say.

This includes citizens' groups who organize for their views.

Where it crosses the line to the problematic 'special interests' is when a virtual entity corrupts the system from representing the public interest - meaning, the representatives being free to try to decide what's right for the country without undue influence from a business in terms of money or other leverage being put ahead of the public's interest.

A group of citizens who want to march for that new weapon system? Fine. Fifty people each handing a $100 check to the representative in the name of the 'pro-weapon' or 'anti-weapon' group they support? Fine. A $50,000 check handed to the representative by the company in order to get the representative to put their view ahead of the general public? Not ok.

The way things are today, representatives need huge sums to get elected, which means they have to spend a lot of time asking for money from these 'special interests' who can often donate $50,000 and get millions in return - the $50,000 goes to the re-election campaign to convince the public to vote for the guy, and the millions come out of their pocket. In some theory, the public would realize the problem and vote the guy out, but it doesn't work that way - incumbents who play this game are almost entirely safe.

Check the correlation of the money spent and getting the office and you will see that money speaks more loudly. It's a vulnerability of our system, and one which is bad for the country.

There is no reason for these entities to be allowed to buy elected officials' interest, no matter how coy they try to be about it 'only buying access'. Citizens are entitled to representation; corporations are not, IMO. Yes, you can include 'unions' in that list.

The workers at the corporation, the workers in the union, are free to vote, to organize a political group, but the entity should not be allowed to make 'investments' in political donations, which dominate the system; only the citizens are entitled to representation.

Today, we have a perversion, a corruption: arms makers can influence the leaders to unnecessary wars, drug companies can influence the government to lower safety standards and protect their monopoly pricing and give them immunity from lawsuits and create bad programs which waste hundred of billions on overpriced drug assistance paid for by taxpayers, and so on.

Posted by: Craig at March 13, 2006 11:11 AM


Sure, only individuals should be allowed to contribute to campaigns, since only they are citizens. You've burrowed down to a truth. The rest is just ranting.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 11:18 AM

I'm pleased to see we agree:

Allow only citizens the political role of representation (as individuals or groups).

Donations are one important part of it; another is the 'revolving door' that needs to be closed.

I support Kerry's proposal for a 5-year waiting period for people who leave a public position to be employed by any company they dealt with in their public position. Today, the public interest is far too often put in second place as the officials sell it out and then get a reward.

Posted by: Craig at March 13, 2006 11:26 AM


Anglo-American legal tradition sensibly opposes such employment restraints.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 12:55 PM

ok, your post lacks any substance.

In discussing issues, more is needed than simply saying your opinion - some sort of combination of logic and evidence, called 'support', is how you make an argument, lest the discussion just be two people talking at each other, one adding the word "not", but otherwise saying the same thing.

The argument for my position is almost self-evident:

The government officials have a public trust, to put the public interest ahead of the private interests they're dealing with. Incentives to benefit them which take priority over the public trust cause them to waste public money and otherwise harm the public interest.

Having a revolving door where the companies who want a corrupt contract to be paid for by the government can imply invest the cost of a virtual bribe with an offer of employment to the official who represents the public is a problem for the public.

That's a pretty strong argument for not allowing the practice - it's a form of banning bribery.

Many studies, such as the link I think I posted above, document the harm.

Now, you would need to present your argument why it's a bad idea. You have yet to make any attempt.

Posted by: Craig at March 14, 2006 12:00 AM


No, we're a conservative and tradition-bound society--that's our genius. We don't chuck hundreds of years of legal tradition just because you don't like politicians. There's no evidence that it's worse to have ex-politicians lobby than other lawyers and there's no reason to interfere in private employment decisions, something our law disfavors.

Posted by: oj at March 14, 2006 7:39 AM

You continue to have zero logical argument for your side, and zero response to mine.

You fail to even indicate you have any grasp of the point I made.

Claiming that this is how it's been for the history of 'anglo-american tradition' is just you trying to sound like you have a point: anglo-american sounds awfully fancy, doesn't it? One problem for a start: the long majority of 'anglo-american' history isn't democracy, which makes this issue irrelevant for most of 'anglo-american history'. Indeed, you can pretty much only ask it about American history, and the 'revolving door' issue with the military-industrial complex pretty much exists only post-WWII; before that there has been other terrible corruption throughout our history involving government-contracter relations, which are an argument for my side, not yours.

Need I revisit history in any war of your choosing, such as civil war soldiers who were given rifles that blew up in their faces, rotted uniforms, and food with worms by corrupt contracters? The Truman commission on WWII profiteering? Or non-military examples?

And of course, you'r ewrong on the facts as well; for example, there has long been a practice that people may not harm a current employer by going to another employer and using the information from the trust with the first employer, for years after, enforced by signing agreements; this is standard practice where relevant in th eprivate sector, but there's no such restrictions typically in the public sector, as there should be.

No, you are offering no argument whatsoever, rather you are not even offering dogman with the facts right; just dogma in contradiction to the facts. You have some little dogma about 'restricting the free move of employees' which you are reciting as if reading out of the 'little red handbook', without offering any argument ot say why you are right, other than the phony claim that there have not been restrictions, and therefore there should not be.

I've proven why there should, and given you one of many available links for more evidence.

Did you do your homework and read the link?

Get some common sense about why having a bureacrat - I'm talking far more about bureacrats than elected officials here - get a lot more money in what is effectively bribery by not acting in the public interest is bad. Why having contracters tell the people who are representing the public that they can have a nice cushy position if they award contracts is bad. Why having a revolving door where people are not simply doing the procurement the right way, based on the facts, but are using 'insider info' to get unfair weight for the contracters who pay the former bureacrats, is bad for the public.

Posted by: Craig at March 14, 2006 11:40 AM


To the contrary, the law disfavors even those arrangements that seek to prevent an employee from going to work for a direct competitor. But it's not that I don;t grasp your argument, just that it's wrong. There's no reason elected officials should be barred from lobbying after they leave public office. Such a ban assumes a harm that is not in evidence and assigns guilt to a whole class who don't deserve it.

Posted by: oj at March 14, 2006 11:49 AM

oj, you are posting as if you haven't even read what I posted.

Here you are talking about an employee *working for* someone else in the private sector, when that's not what I wrote about - I wrote about the fact that they cannot use what they gained in trust from the first employer. You missed the point completely.

You say you don't fail to grasp the argument, but your only answer to proof you do is 'it's wrong'.

After I say I'm mainly discussing bureacrats more than those in public office, you continue to refer only to those in public office. Even for those in public office, wno I include as a smaller part, when I explain the problem with the cronyism in the 'revolving door system' as being injurious to the public interest, placing the effective bribery ahead of the public interest, you fail to answer with anything but a simplistic denial of the problem. You are not posting any argument of substance - simply "nuh uh".

Again, read, for one example:

Posted by: Craig at March 14, 2006 11:57 AM

There's ample reason to reduce the bureaucracy, but none to inhibit the most qualified people from working for it or from lobbying as such bans would do.

Lobbying exists because of regulation and taxation., get rid of them and the lobbyists go away.

Posted by: oj at March 14, 2006 12:01 PM

You confuse qualified and corruption.

When I mention a problem with a contracter offering the bureacrat a $200K position after he awards them a contract, you dodge the issue completely, as well as any similar if less blatant examples. You are simply a dogmatist, not posting any rational argument.

It's not an issue of qualifications. It's an issue of the public being represented honestly, and the issue of corruption requires the measure to protect from the revolving door.

Your solution, get rid of regulation and taxation?

Great, let's just get rid of democracy then, which cannot exist without regulation and taxation.

Or are you suggesting a democracy where we elect an all-volunteer, unpaid government who has no power to actual do anything requiring any rules, i.e. regulations?

Let me clarify, you're not just a dogmatist but a utterly extreme dogmatist.

I wish you well, and see little reason given the fundamental difference in our position to continue since our differences are far larger than the issue of dealing with the revolving door. Too bad you didn't bother to read the link, though, but it, too, assumes an actual government not fantasy.

Posted by: Craig at March 14, 2006 12:10 PM

Yes, the problem isn't the contractor or the contractee but the contract. A government that exists to deal out favors will be corrupt. It's no coincidence that the first administration known for corruption was Grant's, which was the first to run a nationalized big government.

Make a flat tax or a sales tax the sole source of federal revue by constiutional amendment and you'd solve much of the problem.

Posted by: oj at March 14, 2006 1:02 PM


System 1: government employee has no incentive but the public interest, and chooses Vendor1, who gives the best deal for the tax dollar, over Vendor2.

System 2: government employee gets an offer for a well-paying position at Vendor2, and chooses Vendor2 over Vendor1 for his own benefit, despite Vendor1 being better for the taxpayer.

Now, how do your comments fit that? What do you mean the problem is the contract, not the people involved? No, the problem is the set of rules under which they operate, which encourage the wrong behavior, bad for the public.

As for your solution of how we tax, it's a non-sequitor: the problem is in the payment, not the tax method. It doesn't matter how the money got to the treasury, it matters how the government selects who to give it to.

Your even bringing up the tax method implies that you have an agenda of a flat tax or sales tax, which are standard positions of the radical libertarian types, who dupe some people into supporting them, but whose policies would benefit few people.

But why are you bringing up something so unrelated, trying to fit a round problem into a square hole? To someone who only has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Posted by: Craig at March 14, 2006 7:03 PM

Bureaucrats never serve the public, they serve the bureaucracy. That's just how power works.

If you want less corruption you need fewer bureaucrats, less bureaucracy, less money for governmenmt to dole out, and fewer regulations to be bent.

Posted by: oj at March 14, 2006 9:32 PM

You are wrong and you didge the question, too.

What does 'serving the bureacracy' even mean?

Look, this is getting tiresome, but try to apply your claim to a real world example.

Company A sells a nice jet for $1 billion. Company B sells a nice jet for $1.5B.

The way it's support to work is that general Smith takes bids, and selects Company A, acting according to the public interest to get the weapon for the best value.

The way it might work is that Company B offers general Smith a nice $250,000 consulting gig when he retires a month after this contract is done, and so he picks Company B, wastes $500 million of the public tax revenue, and gets his money.

As I'm pointing out the problem with this scenario, you're saying let's get rid of General Smith as the only way to deal with the issue. You are so blinded by your libertarian ideology you can't have a rational conversation on any topic without going into irrelevancies.

How much government there should be is a totally separate, unrelated issue. Shelve it.

For the government there should be, whatever that is, there is an issue with conflict of interest.

If you can't discuss the issue and can only spout libertarian cliches, have fun.

Posted by: Craig at March 14, 2006 11:58 PM

General Smith doesn't serve the public--he serves the Pentagon. He'll take whichever plane serves the bureaucracy best.

He doesn't go to work for a given company because of anything that happened when he was in the military--he goes because it's the area of his expertise where he can make some well-deserved cash. Your desire to rob him of the opportunity to earn money won't lead to a better bureaucracy. It will, in fact, make corruption more likely, since they'll need to cash in while they have political power if they can't afterwards.

Posted by: oj at March 15, 2006 12:03 AM