Column: And You Thought the Reagan Hangover Was Bad

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Mr. Carpenter is a writer and doctoral candidate in American history at the University of Illinois and a columnist for HNN.

Like strung-out drug addicts, the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are in serious need of intervention. They're on an artificial high, gobbling political amphetamines by the handful, hocking the family's jewels for more, and dashing about for the next fix before the entire system crashes from the inevitable results of an overdose. When the history of the Bush II era is finally written, a whole lot of people are going to ask: Why didn't somebody step in? Even a team of Enron executives could have prophesied the fiscal and social Armageddon that resulted, yet most everybody stood by, enabling a self-destructive habit.

11In textbook accordance with such dependency behavior, the White House has not been sated with slamming the budget surplus into high-speed reverse merely to wine and dine an already gluttonous plutocracy. Now it wants to fatten the military out of all proportion to legitimate national security needs. And the administration swaggers forth with the same duplicitous goosestep with which it served up last year's reckless tax cuts. First it said we could easily withstand them because things were humming along swimmingly well. Then it said we needed them because the sky was falling. Of course now we need even more cuts because ... well, it really doesn't make any difference; the White House has rhetorically covered itself either way the economy goes. It has, shall we say, a certain concentration of mind, even while turned on and tuned out.

11Using the same curious tax-cut logic, the administration suddenly but predictably wants to throw more than $2 trillion at the Pentagon in the next 5 years. Never mind the forced non sequitur that that level of spending on fancy mega-weaponry is required to protect Americans from the likes of Osama bin Laden and his handful of unhinged compatriots. Just never mind that. One columnist recently mused,"We non-defense experts are a bit puzzled about why an attack by maniacs armed with box cutters justifies spending $15 billion on 70-ton artillery pieces." They'd say he's a silly naysayer. More likely, though, if the administration were caught for once in a moment of honesty, they'd say he was dozing in college during Ideological Sophistry 101--which appears to be the only course W. stayed awake for at Yale.

11Nevertheless, the reality is that Bush II intends on spending $1,038, 356, 100 of your money each and every day next year on purportedly antiterrorist exigencies such as 3000 sparkling new jet fighters. What those 3000 fighters can do to help prevent another 9/11 that the existing Navy and Air Force armada of F-14s, F-15s, and F-16s cannot do is merely one of those dismissive guessing games that the White House knows it can win every time, especially given the current crop of congressional enablers. As Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota so incisively critiqued the proposed military budget,"We're at war, and when the president asks for additional resources for national defense, he generally gets it [sic]." It's an excellent thing that Congress provided a greater level of oversight in the 1960s; otherwise we might have been sucked into a real mess in Vietnam.

11The hell of it is, the military already has the money. It just doesn't know how to competently spend it. As the pacifist flower-child duo of William Owens, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Stanley Weiss, head of Business Executives for National Security, noted in a New York Times editorial a few days ago,"an astounding 70 percent of the defense budget is spent on overhead and infrastructure.... Only 30 percent directly reaches our combat forces in the field.... No community would tolerate 7 out of 10 police officers sitting at their desks pushing paper. The nation should not tolerate such a ratio in the military."

We shouldn't tolerate it? Pish-posh. We're reveling in it. Or at least Bush II is. Using its"management scorecard" to eliminate waste in government, this administration slashed the Energy Department's fossil fuel R&D program by $43 million, which was also 43 percent. The poor pup just wasn't making the grade. The same scorecard process flunked the Pentagon in every core requirement, but the White House wants to kiss and make up by handing it an additional $38 billion next year, an 11.6 percent increase (and on top of that another $10 billion reserve fund). The administration's budget director, Mitch Daniels, pleaded with a presumably straight face that ideology wasn't a factor."We followed the facts where they led," he said. He didn't add that they"followed-up" where they led.

The much-touted compassion in today's conservatism seems to kick in only for whimpering millionaires and those wearing scrambled eggs on their cap and hash marks on their sleeve. No tough love there. That pop psychology is reserved for ill-housed children and the working poor, the unreasonable buggers.

Thus Social Darwinism marches on, high as a kite. But guess who will inherit the hangover?

© Copyright 2001 P. M. Carpenter

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More Comments:

Stephen Pike - 2/17/2002

Hello Pete

Can you givemea source for Karzai being CIA and Unocal etc. ?


Jean Mitchell - 2/14/2002

I am in total agreement with your article. I just wanted to add that there may be additional components to this.
1) There is a connection with the arms industry and the Bush and other republicans, namely the Carlyle Group. It makes sense that that creates a strong incentive for the current administration to recomment these ridiculous increases.
2) Since Bush's current "popularity" is based upon his handling of this "war on terrorisem", it would make sense that there is another incentive to keep us in a state of war, even if we alienate all our allies around the world. With this plan, how can he fail to get reelected in 04?
3) The deplorable unnecessary tax cuts for the corporations and wealthy are creating an oligarchy in this country. Never mind that the working folks cannot afford medical care and that our baby boomers are about to start retiring and will need the monthly support of a social security check. It appears that they want to starve social security and medicare out of existance. They couldn't get their privatization scheme through so this is the alternative.
I am really disgusted at the direction our country is going. I spent a month in Europe in December and people there are just plain confused as to our policies. When we needed allies we turned to them, but now they are being ignored.
Thank you for this forum.
Jean Mitchell

David - 2/13/2002

I remember reading Paul Kennedy's "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers"

Now if I remember correctly, he argued in this book that at a certain juncture in the height of the great European powers, each country was faced with a turning point whether to spend their fortunes on armament or national infrastructure. Each of the great powers, percieving the world around them as full of threats, chose in favor of massive military buildup. Kennedy argues that this choice was their undoing as their social infrastructure collapsed and the military they invested in didn't meet new strategic realities... and thus the "fall of the great powers".

Pete H. - 2/13/2002

Great article. Sometimes I think I fell into a rabbit hole, thinking "did those fascist clowns say what I think they said? And no one's complaining?" The idea that we're at war is ridiculous...I mean, if we are serious about taking care of states that support terrorism, how about attacking Idaho?

Up is down in Smirkco's worldview. It doesn't matter what you SAY, as long as you get the OIL. I just found out that our "friend" Karzai is a former CIA agent (along with his brothers) and was the "guest" in the U.S. for several years of (of course) Unocal. With a stopover at Enron.

The Bush family is like the proverbial bad penny. Find something suspicious, and if you look, there's a Bush fingerprint every time.

Again, thanks for the article. Instead of shooting dope, these dopes are shooting motor oil.


Pete Hisey