Budget Hawks ... Until Something Gets Cut In Their Districts

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com   www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

“Preventing future acts of international terrorism” is the most critical foreign-policy goal for Americans, according to Gallup. Next priorities: proliferation of nuclear weapons, energy supply, favorable trade policies, etc. Fighting off Soviet tanks rumbling towards Frankfurt didn’t make the list. Yet Congress, in its infinite wisdom, is still pushing weapon systems designed to do just that, whether the Pentagon wants them or not.

Based on this laudable principle, the US plowed $689 billion into defense in 2011, more than the next 16 biggest military spenders combined, and 40% of total worldwide military spending. Number two China spent $129 billion, number three Russia a measly $64 billion. Defense industry lobbying in the US greased the wheels with $129 million last year—for what must be enormous returns on investment.

Hence the deafening squealing about the looming automatic spending cuts, especially on the defense side. They would account for about half of the $1.2 trillion in “cuts” spread over a decade. The first $46 billion would get snipped this year. Brutal? The Congressional Budget Office estimated that defense spending would still grow by 2.4% annually over the decade. It would just grow less rapidly.

Congress doesn’t see it that way. “We’ve gone past cutting the meat—we’re into the bone,” griped House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, a California Republican. Congress loves defense spending. It’s just too juicy. And they can wrap it—the money—in patriotism. To illustrate, Bloomberg took a gander at two of our heroes.

There’s Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, an “anti-war Democratic senator from Washington State” who “voted against the Iraq war resolution and subsequent troop surges.” She’s spearheading the Senate’s efforts to bring the budget in line. Until it gets to Boeing.

Now $51 billion are on the table to replace the old aerial tankers with the KC-46, a modified version of the Boeing 767 passenger jet. It will be built in her state and may eventually create 11,000 jobs. The first $4.9 billion were already awarded. Of the 20 years she has been in the Senate, she spent 10 years shepherding the program through a tangle of issues and investigations.

“Champion for the Boeing Co.,” is how Boeing spokesman Doug Kennett endorsed her during her reelection campaign in 2010.

What motivated her? Not national security. Not the fight against terrorism. But the economy in her state, the money that came with it, and her reelection. She admitted it when she said, “Many defense programs, particularly in the aerospace industry, have a tremendous impact on our entire nation’s industrial base.”

That “industrial base” is composed of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and thousands of smaller companies that all feed on the huge corporate welfare trough filled by taxpayers who will have to deal with the resulting mountain of debt—and tax increases.

Then there’s Jim Jordan, an “anti-tax Republican representative from Ohio.” His favorite toy is the M1 Abrams tank, which entered service in 1980 to battle Soviet tanks in Europe. The Army and Marine Corps have about 6,000 of them. The Army wants to shut down production at the plant in Lima, Ohio, where old tanks are rebuilt and updated. Later, it would reopen it to build a redesigned tank. It would save over $2 billion, but 600 workers would lose their jobs.

“The conundrum we have is that we don’t need the tanks,” explained Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno to the House Appropriations Committee last year.

But whether the Army needed them or not didn’t matter to Jordan. General Dynamics operated the plant, made money off it, and contributed to his campaign. So he fought successfully to keep it open. Jordan is a “budget hawk,” said a Republican voter in Lima, “until they want to cut something in his district.”

In addition to procurement, there are other issues spiraling out of control, including the military health-care system and staffing. While the Pentagon is cutting combat forces—trimming the Army by 72,000 over the next four years—the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has ballooned from 1,313 in 2010 to 4,244 in 2012.

“Not every defense dollar is sacrosanct,” said former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “One need only spend 10 minutes walking around the Pentagon or any major military headquarters to see excess and redundancy.”

But it is sacrosanct in Washington. Defense spending is spread across all states, and the industry is so tightly woven into the fabric of Congress, and the amounts are so huge and campaign donations so important that cutting anything at all, even “waste”—another constituent’s income—or even something the Pentagon doesn’t want, may prove too much for our heroes in Congress.

But Americans aren’t blind; Congressional job approval ratings have been in the dumpster for years, hitting new lows of 10% twice in 2012, and hovering at 15% currently. Republicans practically despise Congress, with a mere 6% approving of it in January, a new low, though it has since edged up a bit.

Meanwhile, the Fed is growing deposits far faster than banks can deploy them, or than the economy can use them. It is growing them far faster than anybody wants or needs. And now there are “hundreds of billions of dollars of potential fuel unused,” as Bloomberg pointed out. A potential for big problems. Read.... The Fed Is Blowing A Dangerous Bank Deposit Bubble.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
falak pema's picture

700 billion for the MIC and how many for the YMCA....ymca....village people...

Young man, there's no need to feel down. 
I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground. 
I said, young man, 'cause you're in a new town 
There's no need to be unhappy. 

Young man, there's a place you can go. 
I said, young man, when you're short on your dough. 
You can stay there, and I'm sure you will find 
Many ways to have a good time. 

Ymca...ymca...and still no dough!

Its all gone to those MIC shills and CIA! 

lasvegaspersona's picture

The real reason Obama is going crazy over the sequestration....2 words...Obama's Recession....think about it...we already have one negative quarter Q4 2012...if Q1 2013 GDP is negative those 2 words will be spoken. Since growth will not come to the rescue (because the economy has been dead so long it is stinking and parts are falling off)  it is up to the federal government and the fact that government spending is part of the GDP calculation (yes that is even crazier but that is how they do it). So if he looses even 1/2 of one percent that will be enough to give us a negative number.....so he will fight for every ridiculous program and penny of spending. Republicans would be wise to allow the big SEQ....it won't change much in the real economy but it could be enough to show the truth about the American economy as viewed by the bean counters.

Remember when the economy was sputtering under Bush...no where near recession numbers but not at 3+% growth...the Ds were all saying 'but it FEELS like a recession' (unemploymnet was what ...under 5%?). I say let Obama have what he has earned....his own designer recession.

Monogramed with a big "O".

baldski's picture

But everyone of those 94% of the Republicans who hates Congress, thinks his Congressman is OK and is doing a fine Job! This just goes to show that great American journalist from Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, was right when he said " No politician ever went wrong underestimating the stupidity of the average American voter." 

jballz's picture

This post does nothing but encourage the terrorists.

We can afford everything. We should double spending. We will win this war. Our children will be safe, they must be safe.

They have a long life of indentured servitude and debt obligations to fulfill.

SmittyinLA's picture

If we cut defense spending it doesn't go away, it goes to somebody else. ie our enemies

Harlequin001's picture

How did you arrive at that conclusion?

dolph9's picture

Defense spending will never be significantly cut, because everybody is scared that if we cut it, another 9/11 will happen.  Regardless of whether or not there is actual cause and effect between the two.

Let me say again to all of you "superhero" Amerikans.  You can spend trillions of dollars on whatever you want.  Every last one of you is an organic creature that will die of something or another, just like every last fucking human being on this planet.  Yes, including all of you who hoard guns so that you can spray bullets on the government agents or liberals or niggers who you think will invade your home.

"Survivalism."  Name me one human being in the history of this planet who has survived.  Just one.

You are NOT special.  You are not divinely ordained to be a millionaire, live forever, and bring peace and order to the planet.  You do not live in the "greatest country on earth." (there's no such thing). 

You are, like everybody else, subject to bankruptcy, ruin, decay, and death.

bilejones's picture

"Defense spending will never be significantly cut, because everybody is scared that if we cut it, another 9/11 will happen."


One more whack-job. There is no defense sending, it's all attack spending


The US military, on half a billion dollars a year couldn't defend their own headquarters against $12 worth of boxcutters.


(If you believe the Official Conspiracy Theory, that is.)

robobbob's picture

"...hitting new lows of 10% twice in 2012..."

but yet people keep voting for the incumbents over and over and over, then complain nothing ever changes. so really that approval rating is americas judgement on itself

bigkahuna's picture

It seems like some people are worried about their gravy train.

shovelhead's picture

Too expensive for me....

Frozen lasagna will have to do.

Winston Churchill's picture

Neigh,you don't say.


apberusdisvet's picture

The US Military exists in all its glory, not to protect  US citizens, but to ensure that the bankster global rape will endure without any significant challenge.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

The US Military exists to do two things.  One, defend citizens, who number far less than China's.


But also Two, defend the US GDP, which is far larger than that of other countries.  Defending lives PLUS defending wealth is the concept, and when you have more wealth than others, you likely spend more to defend it.

11b40's picture

Too funny.  We are broke, dude.  What we have is more debt than anyone else.

dexter_morgan's picture



"“Preventing future acts of international terrorism” is the most critical foreign-policy goal for Americans, according to Gallup."

Remember the good old days when the most critical thing was getting rid of Bush and his 'trumped up war on terror'?

Bananamerican's picture

“Preventing future acts of international terrorism” is the most critical foreign-policy goal for Americans, according to Gallup."

Frick. Gallup said it so it must be true...

the only alternative inference is that the amerikan peeps are now the most gullible/brainwashed, pig-ignorant bedwetters on the face of the earth.

"Please don't kill me mr. turban man" is our #1 "goal" with regard to the rest of the world

Kiwi Pete's picture

That's why you need moar tanks!

Ying-Yang's picture

Pentagon should have S.A.M.s to protect itself from airplanes..... (sarc)

Rustysilver's picture

What I would like to know is the exact amount for each DoD services. How much is US Air Force paying for Air Force One, etc.

All of the intel agencies: how much.

Black programs: at least an estimate.

How much are German paying to us. How much is Japan paying.

MrBoompi's picture

But haven't you heard?  If you say you want to cut defense spending instead of entitlement programs, you're a Maoist, a communist, or a socialist.  Who cares if the Fed has to continously create money regardless of how much they cut, spend, or tax?



CrashisOptimistic's picture

Or you can be a Republican and agree to cut both.

nmewn's picture

Fuckin A...at this point I don't care what gets cut...just take a goddamned meat cleaver to it! If they can't stand a miniscule TWO PERCENT CUT in the GROWTH of the non-budget...instead of an ACTUAL cut in take home pay like wage earners just got slammed with, piss on em!

Give the cleaver to me, I'll damned sure do it!

And I know right where to start...with the HIGHEST PAID.

shovelhead's picture

My local rep has a somewhat jaundiced view of the House.

During a casual conversation while his kids were getting a haircut he said: " Picture 435 dogs fighting over a sack of bones and you'll understand how Washington works. The dog who comes home boneless gets shot."

Everybody got their troubles.

thisandthat's picture

Hey, how do you expect them to lose wars, if they don't have the money to start them in the first place?

Whiner's picture

Eisenhower: " Beware of the military-industrial complex." Upon leaving office, his warning to the sheeple as he originally wrote it was "Beware of the military-industrial-banking complex."

Bananamerican's picture

actually it was Congressional/MIC but bankers works too

The Second Rule's picture

This is so final days of Rome it's tragic.  Even as the coffers of Rome went from gold to silver coins, then to silver washed bronze, then to bronze, and finally to base copper, Rome's hegemonistic, imperial warmongering never ceased. I mean right up to the very fucking end they (and the they is now us) were engaged in colonial wars hell bent on conquest.

"Carthago delenda est"
(I declare that) "Carthage Must be Destroyed"

--Cato the Elder's closing line for his public speeches

bjfish's picture

No cuts are possible till the number of old ppl starts declining.  Hey, maybe there is something all of us little ppl can do!


New slogan:  Pop a cap in granny to save SS for the grandkids.

The Heart's picture

"Pop a cap in granny to save SS for the grandkids."

Good luck with that!



The Second Rule's picture

Pentagon idiots still trying to fight the cold war.

Bananamerican's picture

it's about Careers, Contracts and Crony's...it aint about commies and Jihadies...those are/were just wonderfully useful narratives

tony bonn's picture

if americans were really concerned about fighting international terrorism, they would dismantle the cia....

11b40's picture

..along with the department of fatherland security.  Sieg Heil!

busted by the bailout's picture

Yes, this is why we must have term limits.

All they care about now is re-election.

If the country is going to survive, we need representatives willing to make the tough decisions.

Landrew's picture

We have always had term limits! It's called elections! Vote or run for office!

ThirdWorldDude's picture

Ladies and gentlemen, the above statement is the one and only reason why USA lost it's status of a Republic as envisioned by the founding fathers, and along with it the "rest of the west" lost the true meaning of representative democracy.

(One final step that needs to be taken is a changed Constitution, so that in the future only lobbyists and corporations can impeach elected representatives)

Peter Pan's picture

Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.

It's like having a Doberman protecting the contents of your fridge but then having to feed him everything that is in the fridge to maintain the arrangement.

MillionDollarBoner_'s picture

"Preventing future acts of international terrorism". Minority Report, huh?

Gotta get them terrists befo'h they even nose theys terrists.

Maybe that's what all the "collateral damage" really is about?

Kill 'em in the womb and Keep Ahmerca Safe fo' Freedom 'n' Democracy. 

John_Coltrane's picture

We at ZH know that the only international terrorists we should fear are central bankers-those pro-bailout counterfeiters.  Let's focus our efforts on those entities.

Zap Powerz's picture

Dont cut anything. Spend more.  Let the fucker crash then everything gets cut and was can start over.  Or we can start killing each other over the last few cans of spam.

Peter Pan's picture

When the US government is done with conquering the world one has the feeling that all that military hardware will form the basis of a new system back home.

The Second Rule's picture

Better testament to the folly of man... Create a "found art" exhibit like Cadillac Ranch. Only instead of cars, stick thousands of M1-A1 tanks and Bradley Fighting vehicles in the ground with their ass end in the air.



CheapBastard's picture

moar fat ...moar pork....pleeeaaaazzzeee!

Shameful's picture

Example why cuts of spending will never happen, well not until whole system comes down.  The defense industry was wide to spread out the sourcing of their products to as many districts as possible.  So can't cut defense, and can't cut social spending.  Leads us to a pretty hilarious place.

The Second Rule's picture

$1.45 trillion (est*) to to cover the costs of the F-35 "generation 5" strike fighter over its operational lifetime. A weapon system that Jane's Aviation Week says will be marginal to obsolete on delivery! Brilliant!

*Source: Reuters

azengrcat's picture

There should be strong focus on reducing life cycle cost and increasing fuel efficiency of existing platforms.  Also military vehicles operating domestically should run nat gas to reduce fuel cost and develop the US distribution infrastructure to progress it towards civilian use.   

otto skorzeny's picture

I know I'll feel better if the drone that takes out myself and my family runs on a "green fuel"