Thursday, February 17

Maybe If The Adults Weren't Such Liars The Juveniles Wouldn't Know They Can Get Away With It

THIS, from an editorial from The Newspaper of Record on how irresponsible the House Republicans are. (Yeah, there's a shocker):
If the Republicans got their way, it would wreak havoc on Americans’ lives and national security. This blood sport also has nothing to do with the programs that are driving up the long-term deficit: Medicare, Medicaid and, to a lesser extent, Social Security.

On second thought, okay, assuming by "to a lesser extent" you mean "not at all".

Social Security is a trust, not part of the Federal budget. Social Security is solvent. If John Boehner finds the Magic Elixir of Stupid tomorrow, and eliminates Social Security in its entirety, the Horrible Federal Deficit will not be altered one iota.

Actually, that's not true: what would happen is that the HFD would increase, because thanks to the Joint Financial Trickery of the Johnson and Reagan years, the Social Security surplus now camouflages the Federal Deficit for purposes of fooling the Rubes as to what Reagan was really up to public reporting. Eliminating it would also deprive the Congress and the Executive branch of something to borrow from surreptitiously.

This, by the way--as if you aren't ahead of me--is the actual crux of the actual issue of "fixing" Social Security. And the argument is now forty years old. If the fucking New York Times can't get this right--and Jesus Christ, Wikipedia does--what possible hope is there that The Crazy Party will be detoured by "facts"?

Of course it's actually worse than that: the Timesmen can't avoid adopting the Right's Inhuman Resources Program as fact: Medicare and Medicaid bust the budget, but the 55% (conservative, but not "conservative" estimate) of the Federal budget which goes to military operations is as invisible as we pretend a Stealth bomber is.

Y'know, at every goddam turn there's another excuse for our incontinent militarization, for continuing to spend at WWII levels, whether the threat is the Soviets being sorta close to us in megatonnage (see Missile Gap, The) or some guy lighting his underwear on fire in Canada. We're the fucking Windows™ of hard power: we insist on never actually obsoleting the junk we sold the Rubes two generations ago, like they might remember, so we're continually defending the Fulda Gap, preparing to storm Quemoy and Matsu, weaponizing Space, touching up Mutually Assured Destruction, preparing to best the Kaiser at Jutland, and shopping for video-game weapons systems, all at once, and all with no sense of fitting anything together. And meanwhile, in case no one happened to notice, getting bogged down for decades inside countries which didn't even have armies when we invaded.

Hairlessingaza was good enough to send me a link to this report just released by the Straus Military Reform Project. Let's pull up two tiny points:
[R]eal air-to-air combat is separated by a chasm from the technologist’s dangerously beguiling dream of beyond-visual-range (BVR) combat: push a button, launch a missile at a blip on the scope at 25 miles, then watch the blip disappear without ever having laid eyes on the target. That concept of combat, oblivious to the inconvenient details of real air-to-air fights8, leads to huge, cumbersome fighters loaded down with tons and tons of heavy stealth skins, massive radars and missiles, and failure-ridden electronics of unmanageable complexity. The most recent fighter built in pursuit of the BVR combat delusion, the F-22, has a $355 million sticker price and costs $47,000 per hour to fly, making it impossible to fly the hours necessary to train pilots adequately (people first!) and impossible to buy enough fighters to influence any seriously contested air war.

[I]n its carrier reincarnation, the battleship is still soaking up the lion’s share of the U.S. Navy budget to this day. The preoccupation with $14 billion carriers escorted by $1 to $3 billion destroyers has led to virtually complete Navy neglect of strategically essential coast control capabilities like $175 million minesweepers, $60 million coastal patrol ships, $35 million fast missile-torpedo boats and $4 million riverine-estuarine warfare boats. In the 1991 Gulf War, the Navy’s perennially inadequate minesweeping forces made it too dangerous to launch a 17,000 Marine amphibious assault that General Schwarzkopf had planned.6 Recently, in the Indian Ocean, the U.S. Navy’s utter lack of coastal patrol and fast attack boats left our merchant ships mostly unprotected against pirates in rubber skiffs. As a result, we witnessed the ludicrous scene of using a $1 billion destroyer to subdue four rifle-armed pirates in a 25-foot inflatable.

Of course, there is no seriously contested air war in our future; maybe a couple of anxious hours if we decide for some reason to declare war on Israel. Similarly, we're building a twelve-carrier fleet, an extension of the Spend-Incontinently-on-Everything-but-Manpower doctrine of the Reagan years, which has served us so well; when the Navy requested a temporary reduction in the number of carriers in 2008, to adjust for decommissioning and major overhaul schedules, the Heritage Foundation screamed bloody murder. Fourteen Essex-class carriers saw action in WWII--this a time when they were in danger of being sunk by an enemy--and half of those were commissioned in 1944. We had plans to build twenty-two. Why we need twelve now is anyone's guess. There are eleven other carriers in service in the rest of the world's navies combined. Italy, Spain, and the UK have two each. Russia has one. In an actual conventional naval combat situation a carrier would have to drop 100% of its offensive capabilities and spend all its energies defending itself. We would, however, compensate for this by going ballistic the moment any other country on the planet decided to build some, and, if nothing else, start building more.

The only military mission of today's supercarrier is the intimidation of countries with no air force. If we wind up in six such situations simultaneously you may well ask yourself where we're finding the ground forces to go in and finish the job.

Look, President Daniels may talk about "Defense" spending being on the table, but that means little beyond the drop-in-the-bucket cancellation of one or two showy development programs whose selection will mostly be left up to the same bureaucrats who approved the thing in the first place. No one even mentions a sensible military program for the 21st century guiding a massive, and perfectly reasonable reduction in Defense spending. Nobody dares to. And the New York Times ain't gonna make 'em, apparently.


Bill in OH said...

This is great stuff, Mr. Riley. It often shocks me how we almost never have the right conversations anymore in this country (maybe we never did). This is what depresses me most about modern American politics. As I look at an issue like Global Climate Change or the deficit, I can't help but realize that the problem will not be solved, indeed cannot be solved, because the most likely or promising solution will not even be part of the discussion

satch said...

It's sad but true: defense spending is actually the biggest jobs program we have. It's kind of fun to imagine what that degree of spending could produce in the way of health care, education, and infrastructure if it weren't being sunk into bullets, bombs, and unwanted jet engines, though I suppose the modest salaries for the cannon fodder aren't totally wasted.

M. Krebs said...

Hey, what good is decent food, medicine, and a place to live in your old age if America doesn't spend more on its military than the rest of the world combined? Huh?

-dg said...

Thank you for this.

grouchomarxist said...

The US military is the ultimate example of how our rulers socialize the costs and privatize the profits.

But I think we're reaching the logical end of the game, as the fiscal contortions needed to keep feeding this monster at ever-increasing levels while cutting taxes on the One Percenters are causing real pain to more and more citizens. It simply cannot go on forever -- but I'm not too optimistic about how long that's going to take, or what will be left of our country when that point arrives.

Hairless in Gaza said...

See also Arthur C. Clarke's short story "Superiority." I read this as a ninth grader when the Vietnam War was still a going concern. Talk about prescient.

Hairless in Gaza said...

Oh, yes, see also: post-WW2 German commentary regarding the amphibious landing craft (one went so far as to remark that they "won the war" for us); the role of PT boats, same conflict; and the stories of capital ships during the Falklands War (e.g. the fates of the HMS Sheffield and the Argentine flagship General Belgrano, inter alia), some of it captured on film.