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Hullabaloo


Monday, May 05, 2014

 
War is the only government jobs program both sides can agree to keep

by David Atkins

Just another depressing reminder that there's only one government jobs program that's seemingly untouchable:

The message of congressional defense advocates used to boil down to a simple question: “Where’s mine?”
Now, the shorthand pitch has become an equally simple declaration: “Not it.”

The Defense Department wants to close a base? Not the one in my district. The Air Force wants to decommission a squadron? Not my guys. The Navy wants to get rid of some warships? Not ones built by the folks who vote for me.
It’s a new twist on an old story. Bone-deep partisan divisions over taxes and spending mean Congress cannot act collectively to reverse the trend of a flat or falling defense budget. That means lawmakers can’t increase the size of the pie and serve each other a bigger slice, the way they did for many years after 2001. Instead, unable to stop the shrinking, each member wants somebody else to be the one who gets less.

This is happening everywhere. In my own Ventura County we have a top-tier contested Congressional race in CA26. Julia Brownley is a 2012 freshman, and the first Democrat to represent the district in over 70 years. The district contains a naval base that isn't in serious danger of closing, since it's on the Pacific Ocean and the majority of naval force projection is being reoriented to aim at China and Russia. Republican Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon admits as much. But her opponent this year is Republican Assemblymember Jeff Gorell, a veteran who has been frantically waving his arms in the air to anyone who will listen screeching that the naval base will be in imminent danger of closure at a 2017 BRAC hearing unless the voters elect him instead. How exactly he thinks he'll be likelier to do that than Congresswoman Brownley, who sits on the Committee on Veteran's Affairs, is something of a mystery.

It's all politics, of course. Gorell wants to highlight his military background and make up a fake jobs/military combo issue to use against Brownley. Few outside of the shrinking GOP base are fooled.

But isn't it curious? Gorell is just one of dozens of Republicans who are absolutely allergic to any sort of government job that isn't their own or the projection of violent force against other nations.

The world is certainly still a dangerous place, and military jobs are important. But so are the jobs that educate our children, repair our roads, serve the disadvantaged, reduce greenhouse emissions, and otherwise benefit the common good. Poverty, rampant inequality and climate change are all clearer and more present dangers than any non-nuclear military threat from China or Russia. Anyone who claims otherwise is an ignoramus or a con artist. Why is it OK for a Republican to vigorously defend every Keynesian taxpayer-funded military job, while trying to slash the jobs of teachers and railway workers so billionaires like Donald Sterling can pay less in taxes?


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