Friday, November 26, 2010

The most sacred of conservative sacred cows

Check out this video from the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute...

I have always been a supporter of the U.S. military and the men and women who serve in uniform. On more than one occasion I came within a step or two of going to officer candidate school. While I think it is inappropriate for Christians to serve in the military and I think the role of the U.S. military needs to be curtailed, I still have a patriotic spot in my heart for the young men who serve in the military.

Having said that, I am finding it increasingly odd that small government conservatives who distrust the federal government (rightly so) and seek to shrink the size and scope of said government (also rightly so) seek to have a huge standing military, something that I think would have been unthinkable to the founding fathers. I can't imagine what the Founders would have said about an army of 1.5 million active soldiers, in times of war and peace. I do think it would have scared the heck out of them as concerned as they were about the tyranny of an overly large central government. In the event of real tyranny from the Federal government, who do you think will enforce that tyranny? Nancy Pelosi with a rifle? A bunch of Department of Agriculture bureaucrats? TSA agents getting handsy with you in the security line? Nope, it would be the very same military that is funded to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and is the home of some of the most wasteful spending anywhere in the Federal government. Any suggestion of cutting the enormous Pentagon budget is screamed down as tantamount to unilateral disarmament even though we could save hundreds of billions of dollars by making some common sense cuts as suggested by the video and not noticeably impact the military strength of the United States.

In the face of enormous deficits and a government that grew out of control decades ago and shows no sign of slowing, everything needs to be on the table. Everything. Conservatives will howl but military spending is going to have to be on the negotiating table. Instead of X number of new destroyers or jets, we might need to lower it by a third and Europe might need to start spending some money on their own armed forces instead of letting us shoulder all the danger and expense. We have 11 aircraft carriers that are far superior to anything else on the ocean and which allows the U.S. to project power anywhere in the world. The Russian Navy has all of 1 aircraft carrier and even back in the Soviet days never had more than 5-6. The Chinese don’t have a single carrier. India has 1. The British have 1 active aircraft carrier that is thirty years old and two new ones that are not going to be ready for a long time. The French have 1 carrier. The Germans have none. The Japanese have a couple of helicopter carriers which obviously are not a threat to one of our carriers, same with the Australians. So unless some country I am not thinking of has a carrier, we have 11 aircraft carriers and the rest of the world has 4 and half of those are run by our allies. I am going to go on a limb and say that none of the existing aircraft carriers in the world could take on one of ours. So we have an enormous advantage over the rest of the world in terms of numbers of ships (especially carriers which are the most important) and quality of ships. The story is the same in the other branches of the Armed Forces. Maybe we only need 9 aircraft carriers? Maybe we need to tell our democratic allies like the U.K. and Japan that we cannot afford to be the only functional military in the world and that they need to spend some of their own coin. We have over 20,000 soldiers stationed in South Korea that have been there for half a century, not to mention our bases in Europe and the Pacific. If the rest of the world won't support their own military, we need to start sending them invoices to offset the enormous cost the U.S. expends every year to keep them safe.

In many ways, Republicans are just as bad as Democrats. Both parties want to spend money because that is how they get control and power. The big difference is that Republicans hide their spending behind the waving flag and saluting young soldier. The motivation (power) and the cynical manipulation are the same. Any suggestion that we back down military spending is tantamount to treason and cowardice in many quarters. Granted, military spending is one of the few Constitutionally defensible spending areas in the Federal budget but when you have a budget well north of half a trillion dollars annually, it certainly seems that there is room to cut back. It isn't like there is a single nation on earth that threatens our safety and security and terrorists aren't much dissuaded by $4,500,000,000 aircraft carriers. If we are serious about reducing the size and scope of the Federal government, not just shuffling spending from one place to another, military spending has to be on the table.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Campaign 2012 starts…right now!

I was up until midnight last night and finally had to go to bed. When I finished watching, the House was well in hand and as of this morning the number is looking like mid-60’s. A number of Democrats retained their seats because of poor candidates running against them in places like Nevada, Connecticut and Delaware that should have fallen and in spite of good candidates, the deeply liberal states of California and Oregon stayed blue but otherwise it was ugly for Democrats all around. It didn’t get as much attention but a lot of governors mansions are changing hands as well including a crushing defeat of Virg Bernero by Rick Snyder in Michigan as well as some state legislatures switching hands. That will have an enormous impact on 2012 as a lot of these states lost or gained seats and the GOP will control redistricting.

The situation we are left with is not one that is going to get a lot done. A fractious wave of new Republicans backed by the Tea Party in the House, an impotent Senate and a very unpopular President equals a crazy two years between now and Tuesday, November 6th, 2012. The campaign for 2012 starts this afternoon when President Obama addresses the nation. It will be very interesting to see what he has to say. I wonder how he likes the taste of humble pie?

I would imagine that we are going to see the jockeying for position start immediately among national GOP leaders. I have to think that lots of talk is going to center around Senator-elect Marco Rubio. He is my age but boy would he make a great VP candidate in 2012, what a contrast to “Bumbling Joe” Biden he would provide. He is a nightmare for Democrats, a young, eloquent conservative who is Hispanic. If the Dems lose a sizeable chunk of the Hispanic vote, they are sunk. There is already muttering about Sarah Palin and I sincerely hope the party coalesces around someone other than her. She is great at speech making and rallying the troops but at least now is not Presidential material. I am thinking maybe a GOP governor, like Tim Pawlenty, paired up with Marco Rubio perhaps? I expect to see Mitt Romney’s name start to crop up more and more as the serious, adult candidate and of course Ron Paul who has gone from fringe kook to mainstream but in the next eighteen months a lot can happen. 2012 seems a long way off but when you think about it, there isn’t much time between now and the start of the primary season, just a little over a year.

I would also expect to see Speaker Boehner start introducing lots of legislation to cut the size of government that will be neutered in the Senate and eventually vetoed. I can’t see President Obama compromising on the things he thinks are successes like Obamacare. Why would he compromise on something that he invested all of his political capital to push through even though voters soundly rejected it?

Another interesting dynamic is that there are a lot of uneasy bedfellows in the Republican Party this morning. I don’t think that the party old guard is nearly as excited as the rank-and-file. Career politicians like things to be predictable, it makes it easier to gather and keep power and as the last few election cycles have demonstrated, things are anything but predictable in politics these days. Senator Jim DeMint wrote this morning to warn Tea Party backed winners that Washington will try to corrupt them immediately:

Congratulations to all the tea party-backed candidates who overcame a determined, partisan opposition to win their elections. The next campaign begins today. Because you must now overcome determined party insiders if this nation is going to be spared from fiscal disaster.

Many of the people who will be welcoming the new class of Senate conservatives to Washington never wanted you here in the first place. The establishment is much more likely to try to buy off your votes than to buy into your limited-government philosophy. Consider what former GOP senator-turned-lobbyist Trent Lott told the Washington Post earlier this year: "As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them."

Don't let them. Co-option is coercion. Washington operates on a favor-based economy and for every earmark, committee assignment or fancy title that's given, payback is expected in return. The chits come due when the roll call votes begin. This is how big-spending bills that everyone always decries in public always manage to pass with just enough votes.

Very true. The party insiders are certainly happy to be back in charge in the House but they don’t like how they got there. It is like having an annoying guy with great tickets to the ball game. You want to go to the game and the seats are awesome but now you have to sit next to this guy you don’t really like for the next 3 hours.

The big question mark is President Obama. Can he shift gears like Bill Clinton in 1994? Will he admit that the American people have rejected his agenda? Or will he misread the message again and assume that his agenda is what people want and the only failure was one of communication? I am skeptical that he will read this election correctly. Even up to election night, the message was still that “the people” supported his agenda but were too scared about their jobs to think rationally.

Anyway, buckle up! We will have a few weeks free from political ads and with talk of working together but know that behind the scenes Campaign 2012 is already in full force.