America’s biggest — and only major — jobs program is the U.S. military.It is maddening to watch American politics from the sideline and see both parties continue to fumble the ball, waste time, and let the economy slide. I'm an interested observer because Canada's economy is tied to the US. A third of our economy is directly related to cross-border trade with the US (and 18% of US exports go to Canada). Keeping the two economies healthy should be a prime concern on both sides. But it isn't clear that the politicians in the US understand economics or care about their people and their economy. Instead they seem willing to wage ideological war and let the economy suffer. Odd.
Over 1,400,000 Americans are now on active duty; another 833,000 are in the reserves, many full time. Another 1,600,000 Americans work iin companies that supply the military with everything from weapons to utensils. (I’m not even including all the foreign contractors employing non-US citizens.)
If we didn’t have this giant military jobs program, the U.S. unemployment rate would be over 11.5 percent today instead of 9.5 percent.
And without our military jobs program personal incomes would be dropping faster.
The Pentagon’s budget — and its giant undercover jobs program — keeps expanding. The President has asked Congress to hike total defense spending next year 2.2 percent, to $708 billion. That’s 6.1 percent higher than peak defense spending during the Bush administration.
This sum doesn’t even include Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, nuclear weapons management, and intelligence. Add these, and next year’s national security budget totals about $950 billion.
That’s a major chunk of the entire federal budget. But most deficit hawks don’t dare cut it. National security is sacrosanct.
Yet what’s really sacrosanct is the giant jobs program that’s justified by national security. National security is a cover for job security.
This is nuts.
Wouldn’t it be better to have a jobs program that created things we really need — like light-rail trains, better school facilities, public parks, water and sewer systems, and non-carbon energy sources — than things we don’t, like obsolete weapons systems?
Historically some of America’s biggest jobs programs that were critical to the nation’s future have been justified by national defense, although they’ve borne almost no relation to it. The National Defense Education Act of the late 1950s trained a generation of math and science teachers. The National Defense Highway Act created millions of construction jobs turning the nation’s two-lane highways into four- and six-lane Interstates.
Maybe this is the way to convince Republicans and blue-dog Democrats to spend more federal dollars putting Americans back, and working on things we genuinely need: Call it the National Defense Full Employment Act.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The Hidden US Fiscal Stimulus Program
Robert Reich puts his finger on the fundamental hypocrisy of US politics. They won't honestly spend the federal budget to stimulate the economy, but secretly they are running a military "jobs" program that stimulates the economy: