Glenn Greenwald took a chunk out of Evan Bayh’s hide, characterizing him as “the face of rotted Washington.” The specific trigger for this column was Bayh’s pretense of being a “deficit hawk” while supporting foreign military adventures but opposing taxes to pay for them.
Escalation of force in Afghanistan to the tune of 30,000 soldiers will cost an additional $30 billion per year. But, according to Sen. Bayh, there should be no taxes to pay for this because it’s “national defense.” Instead, Sen. Bayh wants to cut spending “in other parts of the budget.”
Bayh wants to send other people into every proposed war he can find and keep them there forever ever without ever bearing any of the costs himself — not in military service for him or his family nor even in higher taxes to pay for his glorious wars. Sacrifice is for everyone other than Evan Bayh and his friends. He runs around praising himself as a “deficit hawk” while recklessly supporting wars and indefinite occupations that the country can’t afford and which drive us further into debt. He feigns concern over the “deficit” only when it comes time to deny ordinary Americans benefits which he and his family already possess in abundance.
He then bashes Sen. Bayh about a little bit for his nepotism-fueled rise to political ascendancy and his wife’s cozy relationship with the insurance and health care industries.
I share Greenwald’s concern about why, somehow, military spending never seems to count to those who claim to be “fiscal conservatives.” For 2009, we’re spending on the order of $1 trillion on “defense.” (I put “defense” in quotes because some activities, such as the War in Iraq, may advance certain policies, but strike me as having precious little to do with “defending” the United States.) I’m not a knee-jerk peacenik, but I don’t see where we are getting all that much return on our tax dollars in this area. If we’re unsafe in the world, it’s certainly not for lack of spending. Our military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world’s combined. About 24% of our tax revenues can be attributed to defense spending.
The numbers are just so huge, that I don’t find it credible to try to advance one’s self as a “deficit hawk” while turning a blind eye to defense spending. Such lawmakers are apparently willing to send billion after billion in pursuit of some marginal, yet unmeasurable, increase in security before spending even lesser amounts domestically regardless of whether the expenditures will actually do some measurable good.
Update I hadn’t seen this opinion column by Nicholas Kristof published earlier this month.
President Obama and Congress will soon make defining choices about health care and troops for Afghanistan.
These two choices have something in common — each has a bill of around $100 billion per year. So one question is whether we’re better off spending that money blowing up things in Helmand Province or building up things in America.
. . .
Granted, the health care costs will continue indefinitely, while the United States cannot sustain 100,000 troops in Afghanistan for many years. On the other hand, the health care legislation pays for itself, according to the Congressional Budget Office, while the deployment in Afghanistan is unfinanced and will raise our budget deficits and undermine our long-term economic security.
So doesn’t it seem odd to hear hawks say that health reform is fiscally irresponsible, while in the next breath they cheer a larger deployment of troops in Afghanistan?
Update 3 Great quote from Steven Walt that I thought applied to this post:
Americans have come to believe that spending government revenues on U.S. citizens here at home is usually a bad thing and should be viewed wth suspicion, but spending billions on vast social engineering projects overseas is the hallmark of patriotism and should never be questioned. This position makes no sense, but it is hard to think of a prominent U.S. leader who is making an explicit case for doing somewhat less abroad so that we can afford to build a better future here at home.