In “The Tortured Logic of the Heritage Foundation on Public Transportation,” a piece by Kevin DeGood for The Center for American Progress, demonstrates the undeniability that “conservative intellectual” is an oxymoron. There is however another, equally damning section of “The Budget Book: 106 ways to Reduce the Size & Scope of Government” that also shows the hypocrisy of the reactionary right.
If Republican sequester-mandated cuts to SNAP payments that benefited thousands of military personnel are not enough to shed light on hypocrisy of their lip service to the concept of supporting our troops, the section of “The Budget Book” that outlines further cuts should make it clear. While a few of the recommendations may be reasonable—and are notably already being implemented by the Department of Defense (DoD), five of them are ill considered or constitute nothing short of a betrayal of the personnel in uniform who serve our country.
The call to “cut funding to research to programs that are not related to increasing military capabilities” overlooks two salient points about DoD research. The research along several disciplines has not only found cures for diseases that have plagued mankind for millennia, but provided the basis for ensuing research that has improved mankind’s condition. The principal argument, which specifically targets DoD environmental research and policy:
In addition, the DOD spends significant amounts of money on green-energy initiatives. While finding alternative fuels could be extremely beneficial to the troops and reduce DOD energy costs, these projects should be limited to those focused on providing cost-efficiencies, or improving warfighting capabilities. However, some of the DOD’s programs are more focused on promoting green energy than military capabilities. One example is the current mandate that requires 25 percent of electricity used by the DOD to come from renewable sources by 2025. Congress should repeal this mandate.
What they seem unaware of is that the DoD did a long term assessment of the consequences of our reliance on fossil fuels, and found our national security at risk. Personally, I prefer having the personnel at DoD decide what is in our best security interests—and busily implementing policy that helps reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. In fact, I feel that it is just short of treasonous to say, “Congress should repeal this mandate.”
Understanding why closing the 63 schools on military bases in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Cuba is a bad idea is a bit more complicated. It first requires a sense that educating our young is critical to our nation’s future. These schools have incredibly high standards that are unparallelled by the public schools in the states in which they are located. I can testify to this based on my own experience. After four years in Germany,where I attended DoD junior and senioir high schools, my father was transferred to Texas in the middle of my junior year. My grades instantly went from C level to A level. At the end of that school year, my Algebra II class had still not advanced as far through the text book as my class in Germany had. My study habits had not changed, yet I excelled and earned As and Bs throughout my senior year.
One other fact about these DoD operated schools needs mention. The DoD no longer compensates schools for enrolling military dependents who live on base/post, thanks to legislation passed in 2005 by our Republican Congress, and signed into law by President George W. Bush. Since local schools cannot collect taxes on property on military reservations, local schools must absorb the entire cost of teaching our military’s dependent children who live on military bases/posts.
Perhaps the worst recommendation is the call to cut the cost of military compensation. Bla, bla, bla needs to be done, the foundation hatchet-men (it is actually a woman) says—including the pension system, which is among the few reasons military men and women make careers of the military. With vague recommendations to “reduce costs to the military,” the bottom line comes to cutting already inadequate pay in order to meet the needed cuts.
Let’s get real, any all all the cuts necessary to reduce the burden of taxation should first come from what I call the Fact, Fiction and a Sense of Entitlement, that permeates the reality behind the stated ideology of the reactionary right. As for cuts that the DoD can make, let’s start by eliminating the ongoing fraud by contractors which runs rife through the military procurement system. Alone, the 37 companies that engaged in fraud over the last decade cost the tax payer more than $1.1 trillion. Getting a handle on this problem would dwarf anything the Heritage Foundation has come up with.Thereafter, let’s cut some of the “welfare” payments to which the reactionary right seems to have no objection. No, this is not about taking food out of children’s mouths or heaping further hardship on the working poor and military, like the Republicans intend. Nor is it about the usual liberal complaint about “corporate welfare.” This is about our tax dollars being used to pad the salaries and bonuses paid to executives in the military procurement process.
Yes, you read that right! 10 U.S.C. § 2324(e)(1)(P) and 41 U.S.C. § 256(e)(1)(P), aka: Executive Compensation Benchmarks, are paid out in addition to the costs to fulfill government contracts. The amount, currently capped at $763,029 per contract, is paid out on everything from aircraft artificial horizons to toilet paper. Guess what else? This neat little bonus has risen from, $200,000 in 1995 to its current level, during the period of Republican hegemony in Congress.
To be sure, the limit was raised a whopping $70,000 in 2011, but the House rejected an amendment (PDF) to HR 4310, the 2013 NDAA, that would have limited the amount to $400,000. While the Democrats do not get an “all clear” on this point, it should be clear who the principal benefactors of this largess were. Estimates put the savings as high as $6 billion a year if the cap were lowered to $200,000 on defense spending alone.
It is hard to imagine that executives like Halliburton’s David J. Lesar and other executives who bring home seven and eight digit incomes will suffer needlessly if the rest of the 99 percent draw the line and demand that Congress remove all this padding from their compensation. Considering the campaign contributions, especially to Republicans, that the defense industry heaps on politicians, it should however be pretty easy to imagine why they receive this largess.
Then there are the ongoing problems with military procurement like those of the 1981 findings of the Project On Government Oversight. Who can forget the $640 toilet seats, $7,600 coffee makers and $436 Stanley hammers (which retailed for $12 in 1981) and other overpriced spare parts used by the military. Add to this the “$586 billion in ‘wasteful defense and contractor spending over the next 10 years” on weapons systems that “even the Pentagon says it doesn’t need or want.”
Let us note here that Republicans acknowledged that government spending creates jobs when they complained that cuts to the defense budget mandated in the sequester would result in job losses. While canceling $586 billion in contracts would undoubtedly result in job losses, the bloated procurement system thus far demonstrated assures that they would be relatively few. Unlike the impact on consumerism by reducing transfer payments, little of that money would be removed from the consumer economy.
In the end, the more we learn about the reactionary right, the more incredible their claim of fiscal conservatism becomes. Truly, borrow and spend conservatives—borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund to spend on unfunded wars and Medicare Part D, while giving billions away to corporations that are reaping record profits, and tax breaks for the wealthy—contributes far more to the budget deficit than transfer payments to the poor. Then too, recent revelations about the very real shift in the tax burden onto the middle class secured by their demands during the budget debate reveal them to be anything but concerned over the taxes paid by the overwhelming majority of Americans.