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December 09, 2016
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America held hostage

Right now, as I type this late on a Wednesday night, my Internet service is down. (Oh horrors!) So I don’t have immediate access to all the websites, quotations and statistics that I might wish to use to construct my argument. All I have in front of me is the latest issue, just arrived today, of the Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal (NPBJ).

Most areas of the country, I believe, have publications like this, aimed at the business community, featuring the latest promotions in the local business world, analysis of economic trends, news about legislation and government policy, op-eds about human resource management—stuff like that. It makes for interesting reading. At the moment, for example, I am looking at an article entitled “Study: Defense cuts would cost more than 1 million jobs”—and I hope I can find some words to convey the combination of outrage, frustration and disgust that this story makes me feel.

The story is printed without a byline, so I am guessing it is in essence a press release from those dear folks at National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) touting their latest study, “Defense Spending Cuts: The Impact in Economic Activity and Jobs.” The headline on the NPBJ’s cover conveys the key idea: “Jobs poised over abyss.” The NAM, it seems, is deathly worried about the possible effects on our economy if automatic budget cuts, scheduled for later this year under the 2011 budget deal (remember all that kerfuffle about the debt ceiling?), should actually come to pass. The deal, you may recall, included a plan for “balanced” budget cuts over the next 10 years—$600 billion from defense, $600 billion from the rest of the “discretionary” budget (you know, all that squishy touchy-feely stuff like education, housing, health care) that would take effect if Congress couldn’t come up with an alternate deficit-reduction plan. (That’s only “balanced,” by the way, if you don’t look at the percentages. $600 billion gets you a lot more teachers, policemen and food safety inspectors than it does aircraft carriers.)

People were surprised that the GOP agreed to even the possibility of defense cuts, but now their overall strategy becomes clear, and is well-exemplified by this NAM “study:” we’ll simply scare the populace into undoing the defense portion of the deal, while keeping the cuts in social spending. To do this, the defense establishment, to put it bluntly, is holding a gun to the head of the American workforce. “Maintain our funding,” say Raytheon and McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed Martin, “or else the workers get it!” At the same time, they and their media mouthpieces terrorize the American people with dire predictions of a weakened America, unable to stem the dark hordes at our borders, or control “our” resources overseas. “Maintain defense funding,” bark the right-wing pundits, “or else our granddaughters will wear burkas!”

Cynical manipulation? Oh yeah. Baldfaced deception? You betcha. Likely to succeed? No doubt—unless enough of us insist that the defense establishment, which has benefited so very handsomely from the deficit spending of the past, must be made to take their fair share of the budget-cutting pain.