By Patricia H Kushlis
Now that the “non-essential” parts of the government have
returned to work can we please move on to repair the untold financial damage –estimated
as much or more than $24 billion – and personal hardships (a recent poll
showed 44% of American families said they were adversely affected by the
shutdown: the rest of us on the
sidelines were just appalled) caused by the 2013 reenactment of the rebel South
rises again only to get squashed (again)?
And can we please forgo another embarrassing
round of two year old temper tantrums staged in front of the world media in less
than four months’ time by publicity seeking hounds in the Senate and House? Obama
1 – Cruz – 0 by the way.
Meanwhile, would the scions of the Grand Old Party (GOP) please
figure out how to compete in elections without caving in to an outlier hard
right movement that strategically burst onto the scene prior to the 2010
elections garbed in 18th century dress especially designed for Fox
News prime time?
Here’s one – among many – fundamental dilemmas the GOP needs
to address: Corporate interests and its Republican populist rural America
supporters do not make a healthy or even a sensible mix. Corporations are established to make money
for their owners and stock holders.
Populist America does not have the spare change to invest in
corporations and hence to partake of the corporate bounty.
So where’s the convergence of interests?
I’ve seen numerous charts and correlations depicting the
strengths of the Tea Party in the US.
Its core is in the Confederate South, mostly in rural areas, and it is
far more attractive to aging white male marginally educated voters who dominate
those and other largely rural regions of the country. But I think that there is at least one other
related yet important factor.
The Missing Stats
What I’m missing is a correlation between Tea Party
supporters, military veterans and our outsized defense budget but I’ll bet that relationship exists. Look, for example, outside the South at
the Tea Party’s inordinate strength in Colorado Springs – the home of the Air
Force Academy and, by the way, the Evangelical Christians who surround and
infiltrate the academy at the nation’s expense.
It’s rather like looking at the statistics that demonstrate the strong correlation between high cancer rates and the preponderance of oil and
gas refineries in certain areas – think northern New Jersey and Houston, Texas
as for instances.
Since the US abolished the draft in 1973, it has relied upon
inducements to recruit enlistees into the military. Many noncoms come from poor, rural districts.
The perks include multiple death-do-us part veterans’ benefits which are
particularly attractive to America’s have-nots.
Health care, travel, technical and other training not to mention
special, advantageous buying privileges at well stocked military PXs and
Commissaries at home and abroad come as part of this package. A “lifer” can also receive a pension after 20
years of service – an age young enough to begin a second career and many, to
their credit, do.
The untold secret is that someone who serves or has
successfully served in the US military does not need the Affordable Care Act
because he, or she, already receives health care through US government funded
Veterans Hospitals. The problem is – not
every American has done so or is capable of doing so, and hence is ineligible
for the equivalent of the US military’s brand of socialized medicine.
The fact that the uniformed US military was exempt from the
recent government shutdown is just another case in point. Their supporters have tremendous clout in
Congress. Congress kept the Pentagon’s doors open and the uniformed military on
the job. This exemption to the shutdown was cloaked in great patriotic fervor
and love of country but, seems to me that it rested primarily on personal
self-interest. Support for an engorged
military is where populist America and parts of corporate America –the
military-industrial complex to be specific – have interests which intersect in what
has become a counter-productive and expensive brew for the country to shoulder.
But does the US still need such a large and costly Cold War
strength military to protect its national security interests? Do we need to
have an expensive overly militarized border with Mexico? Does the border on the American side between Arizona and Chihuahua need to look like the Fulda Gap pre-1991?
Shouldn’t, in short, America be dealing with a
good portion of its public debt burden by revamping the way it conducts its business
abroad? About 20 per cent of the US
budget goes to military spending after all.
At the very least, shouldn’t
universal health care that results in a healthier and hence more productive
population also be seen as part and parcel of this nation’s fundamental national
A new national security strategy might be a good idea
Moreover, shouldn’t we be upgrading and revamping our
diplomatic tools and coming together to develop a coherent and affordable national
security strategy for the post 9/11 era? There’s a terrific article in the most recent Foreign
Service Journal by Ambassador Ted
McNamara which provides the rationale and points to a roadmap for the development of such
a strategy. It’s entitled “Rebalancing
National Security Policy After Afghanistan and Iraq”, October 2013, pp. 33-35.
It should be required reading for every member of Congress and the NSC.
Diplomacy is, after all, the usual way nations conduct
business with each other. Sending in today’s
equivalent of the cavalry is not.
Besides, military invasions in particular (see my Oct 16 post on black swans’ unforeseen
effects on history) too often result in unforeseen repercussions that set off dangerous chain
reactions we can neither predict nor contain and that make indelible imprints on
the course of history.