Wall St. bailout passes, military budget bulge is next

The House of Representatives passed the Wall Street bailout bill this afternoon. So since the Senate passed it earlier, it will now shortly become enacted into law. (Update: The President signed it and it is now law.)
A $700 billion bailout for Wall Street. Wow. I still don’t know the details of the changes made in the text since Monday, when the House voted against it.
I think $700 billion is ways too much federal funding to be appropriating in such a hurry. It happened because of the fear and pressure inculcated by the blackmail note that Paulson and Bernanke delivered two weeks ago. I have seen proposals that involved smaller amounts being pumped into the financial-sector bailout right now, allowing time for a much deeper reform of the regulatory system and a more far-reaching and better considered plan to support distressed citizens to be crafted over the next few months… I thought those plans looked considerably preferable. But too many congressional leaders are hand-in-glove with the bankers for the community-services people to get much of a look-in.
$700 billion is $2,333 for each woman, man, and child in the country. Add that amount onto our now-over-TEN-TRILLION national debt.
But we should remember that each year, in recent years, Congress has been appropriating just under that same amount of money, in order to keep our bloated military fed, deployed, and fighting.
Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reported yesterday that,

    The U.S. military wants an increase of $57 billion in fiscal 2010, about 13.5 percent more than this year’s budget of $514.3 billion, according to the Pentagon’s outgoing comptroller.
    The White House hasn’t approved the request and Pentagon officials will make a strong case for it, Tina Jonas said.
    Some of the increase reflects a determination to include in the base budget some costs that have been funded through emergency legislation, Jonas said in an interview.
    The expense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been funded this way, even as many lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, complained these requests include other spending, mask the military’s true cost and complicate their budgeting process.

(HT: Noah Schachtman.)
So that will be a DOD budget request of $571.3 billion for FY2010.
Capaccio writes,

    Defense spending, adjusted for inflation and not counting the cost of the wars, has increased about 43 percent since fiscal 2000. The proposed 2010 increase reverses a plan released in February that projected base budgets to be flat or slightly down.
    “There is an effort under way to see if we can move away from” supplemental spending measures and rely “increasingly on base budgets to fund these conflicts,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.
    “We are going to be involved in persistent conflict for some time to come; that’s the reality of the world we live in and we need to budget for that,” he said during a press conference Sept. 24.
    The basic defense budget Congress approved for fiscal 2009, which started yesterday, is about $514.3 billion.

This is all crazy. What “persistent conflict” is Morrell talking about? Iraq? Afghanistan? God forbid, Iran?
In Iraq, we need to get all our troops out as fast as it can be done “responsibly”– that is without having them shot at as they leave. There are various plans for how that can be done in a time period of anything between about four months and a year. Obama is still nowhere near calling for total withdrawal. But if, as I hope, one of his first acts is to take the whole question of Iraq back to the Security Council in a very open-ended way, then the multi-party negotiations that ensue there may well result in a plan for a US troop withdrawal that is total and relatively speedy– and more important still, for the establishment of an intra-Iraqi and regional political context within which that can occur in the best way possible.
Regarding Afghanistan, the knowledgeable British Ambassador there has now reportedly told his French counterpart that the war is unwinnable using military means, and support for the US-led military effort continues to dwindle among many NATO “allies”. (E.g. Canada and Australia.)
Regarding Iran: No! No! No! Attacking that country would truly be catastrophic.
The budgetary facts of life– as well as all the other facts of international life today– surely tell us as Americans that it’s time to radically reduce the military footprint we are now carving onto the world.
The Wall Street bailout has, in more than one sense, now “passed.” These mammoth(and oh so destructive) military budgets will come back and bite us again and again each year until our leaders figure out there’s a better way for our country to interact with the rest of the world, and meet the security needs of everyone concerned, including ourselves, if we place serious reliance on means other than military means to do so.
“Persistent conflict” will bring us only “persistent insecurity” and further hemorrhaging of our nation’s wealth.

9 thoughts on “Wall St. bailout passes, military budget bulge is next”

  1. “The budgetary facts of life . . time to radically reduce the military . . .until our leaders figure out there’s a better way for our country to interact with the rest of the world”
    1) I bristle every time someone refers to the people who are elected to represent us and our interests as “leaders”. First, I for one don’t need a leader and for that matter Helena Cobban, more capable than I, is certainly not in need of a leader either. These clowns in Washington are supposed to be our servants, not our masters. Hoping that they will change is not the answer. We’ve got to change from sheep to shepherds.
    2) The history of America has been one of exerting its leadership (here we go again, this time on a world scale) for financial benefit. Not much has changed for at least a hundred years, since the time of Smedley Butler: “I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
    3) Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution states that Congress has power “To raise and support Armies [and] To provide and maintain a Navy” Now the top concern for most legislators is taking care of their constituents. This particularly includes their corporate sponsors and the people who have jobs, or who will get jobs, in the various defense industries and military bases that are carefully distributed throughout the various congressional districts. More lathe operators, pipefitters, bomb makers and companies profiting from cost-plus contracts — that’s the ticket.
    Unfortunately, the US is a war addict and it can’t “just say no”.

  2. Amen to Don & Helena! “Defense” spending accounts for most of the federal government’s operating deficit. Together with Homeland “Security,” “defense” spending has grown enormously in the past decade, while other federal operating expenditures have actually declined in real terms.
    When politicians say, “when need to shrink federal government spending,” the only logical answer is, “absolutely, which wasteful defense program would you like to start with?”

  3. What’s with this “us Europeans”, kimosabe? Aren’t the Irish the Black Sheep of Europe for defeating the EU treaty? news report: “Irish voters have left Brussels’ plans for EU integration in tatters by rejecting the Lisbon Treaty.” Aren’t the Brits only somewhat less so? Are the beloved Brits now considered to be the defenders of the Emerald Isle? And with the An tSeirbhís Chabhlaigh eight-ship flotilla who needs the Brits anyhow?

  4. Fasr from beinmg the black sheep, the Irish are the toast of Europe for defeating the EU treaty. They have an hereditary understanding of liberal Political Economy, I suspect that that, and an unexampled experience of Empire, contributed to what seems to have been almost a reflex.

  5. bevin,
    I know, I’ve kissed the Blarney stone so I’m part Irish, and so I’m pulling Frank’s Irish tail a bit for reflexing the other way.

  6. Bevin
    There is a great deal of suspicion that the Irish vote on the treaty was sabotaged by the interference of US interests who didn’t want some of the political and military functions defined in the treaty to usurp the role of the anachronistic Nato.
    I suspect Nato is now seen by the US as a source of cannon fodder for their wars of choice.
    I think I believe more in the benefits of an integrated Europe and its benefits for a small resource poor country like Ireland, and probaly look more towards Germany, for a worldview, though I share the French ambition to include the Southern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean in the Union in some way.
    In particular the concept of European integration makes the problem in Northern Ireland that traces its roots back to the time of the 30 Years War irrelevant.
    This is illustated by the amendment of the constitution to deemphasise the concept of Nationality. We can choose whether we want to be British or Irish depending on how we feel about it.
    The young men I once knew who used to talk rapturously about “Ulster” only emphasised the emptiness of the concepts of History they had been taught.
    I had a breakthrough in understanding when I visited Ulster Tower at Thiepval on the Somme. It is a memorial to the 36th Ulster Division and their 5000 casulties on 1 July 1916, many caused by being shelled by their own artillery.
    These losses were similar to the waste of life among the Dublin and Munster Fusiliers at Gallipoli and it is hard not to conclude that allowing your children to be used as cannon fodder by the empire in ill advised wars is a poor idea whether you are loyalist or otherwise.
    I view with some suspicion the moves to bring back the teaching of history in UK schools as dates and kings and empire.
    As the US influence delines we will see where the EU fits in and how the tricky subject of the arrangements for its defence are handled.

  7. The Poles get mocked for having had at one time a parliament that required a unanimous vote to pass any measure. Agents of foreign powers could be incentivised to block legislation that was counter to the foreign power’s interest.
    It is curious that the EU has chosen a similar system.

  8. There was a lot of good Irish blood needlessly shed on the home turf, too. I think Europe (and the USA, if it would) can learn from Ireland for the reasons bevin and Frank stated, as well as others.

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