In the waning days of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, Ike issued a very prophetic warning, which we as a nation, failed to heed. Ike, as he became known, was, of course, the Supreme Commander of allied forces in Europe that successfully prosecuted the war effort against the Nazi empire. He returned home as a conquering hero and subsequently joined the Republican party, and then ran for President in 1952. He defeated a hapless Adlai Stevenson by landslide margins in both 1952, and then again, in 1956. Stevenson had been Governor of Illinois and was a man of outstanding honor and integrity, but he had no chance against Ike’s popularity and friendly smile. Although Ike seemed to prefer spending most of his days out on the golf course, there were 2 significant accomplishments during the Eisenhower administration. One was the start of constructing the interstate highway system that auto travelers enjoy the benefits of to this day. The second was taking action to integrate the highly segregated public school systems that existed at that time throughout the South. In 1957 the courts had decreed that high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas must admit the first black students to an all-white high school which had been segregated since Civil War days. The Governor of Arkansas, a rigid segregationist, had sent the police to block the entrance of a school where 9 black students were to be admitted. Ike, thereupon, called out the national guard to personally escort the black students into school, and the first de-segregation of all- white schools in the South had commenced. Eisenhower took these actions reluctantly, as he was no great civil rights champion. But, nevertheless, he did achieve a landmark civil rights accomplishment.
In the last days of his presidency, Ike issued a proclamation warning us about the undue growing influence of the “military-industrial complex.” He meant that our growing military might, coupled the the growing power of the military weapons industry, was beginning to exert undue power, and if left unchecked, would exert continuing undue influence to assure their increasing domination over national affairs. Coming from a former 5-star general, this was certainly a warning to be taken seriously. So being a nation of exceptional wisdom, rationality and sanity, the U.S. immediately began slashing its military budget, began withdrawing troops from far reaching corners of the globe, and took actions to lessen the influence of the weapons manufacturers-NOT. Perhaps such actions might have been taken in a parallel universe, but in this time and space, Eisenhower’s admonitions went totally unheeded. Instead, the military budget has been sharply increased, and the growing influence of weapons manufacturers and other Defense contractors in our national affairs is huge.
The power and influence of the military-industrial complex led directly to the fiasco known as the Viet-Nam war. There was a belief in the early 1960s that the U.S. was militarily invincible, a belief fed to us by the military-industrial complex, which led us to confront the Viet-Cong in the hellhole jungles of Southeast Asia in the belief that we would score an easy victory over a ragtag collection of jungle insurgents. The rest, as they say, is history. That ragtag Viet-Cong army not only defeated us, but about 58,500 American lives were lost, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of American lives that were ruined because of severe war injury, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives that were lost and the gazillion dollars that were wasted. The scars from the Viet-Nam war remain fresh in the American psyche to this day. Which brings us to the Republican math problem and the future that a Romney presidency would bring to our country.
In the current election, large segments of the electorate have expressed a desire for sharply reduced expenditures leading to a balanced budget, while maintaing a strong military. So naturally, His Mittness has promised both. Except that the math doesn’t fit. Most people aren’t aware that that about 83% of our annual budget (for which we have to borrow 40 cents out of every dollar we spend) is comprised of 4 items, i.e., interest on the debt, Social Security, Medicare, and Defense spending. We can’t tamper with interest on the debt; if we did, we could never borrow again. Self-absorbed seniors like myself won’t stand for any meaningful cuts in Social Security or Medicare; thats like the third rail of politics that no politician is willing to touch. So that leaves Defense spending which comes in at over $700 billion a year as the one significant area where discretionary budget cuts could be made. But here’s where the Republican math goes bonkers. Instead of cutting Defense, His Mittness has promised to increase military spending by about $100-$200 billion a year. Chalk it up to the influence of the military-industrial complex which is especially powerful in swing states such as Virginia. Oh yes, Romney is also promising a 20% tax cut across the board. But somehow he will balance the budget, in defiance of all mathematical sanity. So far he stated he will do this by eliminating funding for PBS and Planned Parenthood, which, as I said last time, is like trying to empty the Pacific Ocean with an eyedropper.
His Mittness is just trying to emulate the playbook that worked so well for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Reagan also promised to cut taxes, sharply increase Defense spending, and yet somehow, magically, balance the budget. Except that Reagan’s actions of cutting taxes and boosting military expenditures led to a 300% increase in the public deficit. But it did get him elected, twice. It’s amazing though, how mathematical computations always seem to trump political promises. In any event, Romney’s positions are on the threshold of getting him elected as our next President, no matter how mathematically impossible they are. Mitt Romney is our do anything, say anything it takes to get elected candidate. I’m firmly convinced he would be hesitant to criticize a group of Nazi skinheads with swastikas carved in their foreheads if he thought it might cost him a few votes.