Political Animal


December 22, 2012 9:15 AM Inequality: putting two and two together

By Kathleen Geier

I wanted to follow up and connect the dots between two posts that appeared on this blog earlier this week. On Tuesday, I wrote about a Reuters series about economic inequality in the states (here are parts one, two, and three of that series). My post focused on the role of the federal government, and in particular of the enormous growth in defense spending, in driving economic inequality.

The following day, Sam Knight wrote about the extensive ties between Fix the Debt and defense contractors. Fix the Debt is a pro-austerity advocacy group that supports shredding the social safety net by making steep cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs, but completely rejects any cuts in defense spending.

Connecting the dots between these two posts, I think you can see where I am headed. The defense industry has a very clear agenda. They want to suck up as much of your and my tax dollars as possible, and put it into their own pockets, to make themselves rich. As their front group Fix the Debt makes crystal clear, they also want to decimate social spending, particularly the types of social insurance, such as Social Security and Medicare, that middle class Americans heavily rely on. The Reuters article referred to these reverse-Robin Hood tactics as “Redistributing Up.” Indeed.

Upward redistribution — it’s what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the nation’s capital these days, only they like to call it “deficit reduction” or some other BS euphemism. But don’t let them and their mouthpieces in the wingnutosphere and the mainstream media bamboozle you. It’s class warfare, pure and simple, and it has got to end.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • Patrick Star on December 22, 2012 10:27 AM:

    Amen, Kathleen! Hopefully enough Americans will see through the BS these guys are selling (with the help of their little buddies in the mainstream media) and light a fire under Obama to preserve the Great American Middle Class.

  • c u n d gulag on December 22, 2012 10:51 AM:

    Too had Ike, when he had the chance, didn't try to at least slow down the metastisizing Military Industrial
    Complex (MIC) when he was President, instead of, on the way out saying, "Oh yeah, and about that 800 lb gorilla in the room that I never talked or did anything about? Yeah, well I want to mention it now, so, you'd better watch out for it."

    Thanks, Ike!

    Truman, Ike, and every President since then, but especially the first two, presided over a time when they hydra-headed MIC spread military contracting jobs out to all of the states, and as many Congressional districts as possible, so that any cuts to the military, would affect jobs in as many areas as possible.
    "Oh, so Senators, Congresspeople, YOU want to cut the Defense budget? Ok. Shame about what'll happen to all of those jobs in your area, isn't it?"

    In the early-mid 70's, I worked summers in the machine shop where my Father was the foreman. We made some parts for fighter jets, and then shipped them to, San Diego, if memory serves me right.
    And I'm sure there were machine shops in every state doing the same thing with parts for ICBM's, bombers, tanks, and ships, etc.

    But that wasn't enough for the MIC.

    Making parts here was cutting into the profit margins of the companies, so, what better thing to do with money earmarked for DEFENSE spending, than send it overseas, so that the parts necessary and critical for our nation's DEFENSE, are made as cheaply as possible OVERSEAS? (Many of them in China, may I add).

    And then, we wonder why there are cost over-runs when sh*t made overseas doesn't work?
    Or, when sophisticated fighter jets and bombers plummet out of the skies like skeet's at a firing range?

    You want to rebuild manufacturing here in the US? You want to decrease unemployment here?
    Demand that MIC companies spend every feckin' tax dollar here in the USA!
    Any dollar spent overseas will be taxed at some astronomical amount, until the jobs are brought back here.

    This move would be good for the ecnonomy, AND good for the nation's defense.

    Two problems fixed.
    You're welcome.

  • esau on December 22, 2012 11:02 AM:

    More and more the complicity of corporate-owned media in everything that is wrong with this country is becoming apparent.

    Endless war based on phoney scare tactics? Check.

    A "national dialog" on guns in which lunatics like LaPierre and Nugent are given a seat at the table? Check.

    The worst safety net, the worst income inequality,the worst child poverty rates? Goodness, we must all sacrifice.

    A Republican party completely off the rails? Well, both sides are to blame, don'tcha know.

  • nemisten on December 22, 2012 11:25 AM:

    @ c u: Well said, though would advise that even the word "defense" is a BS euphemism.

    What or who exactly are we defending ourselves against? The Russian Army? The Japanese Imperial Navy? Chinese manufacturers? Islamofacists on horseback? Mexican drug runners? It's not 'defense' -- it's empire: protecting an international corporate kleptocracy disguised as keeping us safe from an endless string of faux bogeymen.

    With no major military threats, the MIC has now invented this 'debt crisis due to entitlements' -- an admittedly brilliant move to keep themselves from budget cuts begun by Clinton/Gore and reversed by Bush/Cheney.

    So stop calling it "defense". We could 'defend' our homeland with 10% (or less) of the current war budget.

  • c u n d gulag on December 22, 2012 12:40 PM:

    You're right.
    Russia and China are no longer the military threats they once were.
    And even if China is building up its Navy with air craft carriers, we shouldn't worry, we should thank them for wasting their money on the largest, most expensive, targets on the high seas - something we still haven't learned. They're useless in a war between major military powers - they're only good for providing support when we're either involved in "peace-keeping" operations, threatening war, or supporting the troops with air power when we're in a war.

    And the fight against terrorists is better fought by police and undecover operations, and people monitoring financial transactions.

    We should go back to calling it The Department of War.

    And this way, if we're not actively in a war, or preparing for an upcoming one, it'll be easier to cut spending than when it's called the more general and amorphous "Defense."

    'Why do we need to spend almost $600 Billion this year, if we're not in a war?"

  • Rick B on December 22, 2012 3:37 PM:

    Let's see. If I were out to get rich, I would look for a market (1) where the customer had pots of money and a strong motive to spend it without much consideration of the cost of what they were buying. (2) Then it's better to sell a small but essential part of the end product, preferably not directly to the government but rather to a prime contractor. (3) Best is to sell a new technology that no one is sure how to cost.

    If you look at the federal budget as a relatively fixed amount of money (the Congress essentially sets that game up) then where are the places a business person can find the most profitable products?

    Social Security does not use or need contractors much. Except for new data processing, the technology is easily costed so the cost/benefit ratio is easily identified and minimized.

    Health care? Not as clear, but as long as the overall system is fragmented then cost control remains impossible. Charge whatever you want and no one knows what the real cost is to provide the benefit. This is the real reason for defeating the Affordable Care Act. Once cost-shifting is eliminated by close to universal health coverage, much of the unearned profit will soon be wrung out of the system. If those economic rent costs could be identified today, they would already be eliminated. A near universal system will identify those costs.

    But then there is Defense. The political need to offer security to the voters makes the costs irrelevant, and the government has tons of money to throw at things that may just look like problems. (See the F-35 program. Who needs it to fight ... who else?) Spending changes every year and everyone is trying to develop a new "killer app" product to help "the boys." And wring out a massive profit, of course. That's why the CIA bought bottled water and got Congressional thief Duke Cunningham to earmark the funds. WalMart water wasn't good enough - because the markup would have been too low. Same water, same bottles, different labels.

    Defense. It's the last great government pot of money for get-rich schemes. They are really fighting to shift money from the efficiently run programs into Defense where the controls are ... shall we say politely "Lax?"

    c u n d gulag, as usual you make very good points.

  • Doug on December 22, 2012 5:04 PM:

    As noted, this "Fix the Debt" has nothing to do with the debt; it's all about what happens AFTER we depart Afghanistan and there's still a Democrat in the WH, the Senate's still controlled by the Democrats (by however slim a margin) and there's a good possibility the House may even be controlled by the Once and Future Speaker Pelosi.
    These people have the money to start their campaign to protect their shares of the spoil early and that's exactly what they're doing. The bright side is that these "patriots" aren't expecting to move back into control with some Republican "wave" in 2014.
    Doesn't mean they won't take advantage of that if we let it happen, though...