December 17, 2012

Letters to the editor: Debt cutters should target Pentagon

As a veteran of both the armed services and the defense industry, I think I have a useful perspective on the military budget. And my experience tells me that in our search for ways to reduce our federal deficits, we shouldn't start with hospital and nursing-home care provided by Medicare and Medicaid, but rather with wasteful spending at the Pentagon.

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The Defense Department budget “now has economic and political purposes that often supersede the goal of keeping us safe at reasonable cost,” a reader says.

2008 File Photo/The Associated Press

In my combat tour with the United States Army in Vietnam in 1966-'67, I experienced the waste of resources and weapons that didn't work. Later, in my contracting career, I observed needless cost overruns, padded grants and foolish projects.

The problem is that our military budget has taken on a life of its own -- it's no longer there simply to fund our legitimate defense needs. It now has economic and political purposes that often supersede the goal of keeping us safe at reasonable cost.

That's why closing redundant military bases is so traumatic and Congress continues to vote funds for weapons the top military brass doesn't want or need.

This is evidence of the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell address more than 50 years ago. It can now be consider the military-industrial congressional complex.

While continuing to maintain a strong defense against legitimate threats, it's time we dismantled this dangerous complex in the interest of a sounder federal balance sheet, a more stable economy and a healthier society.

We spend more on defense than the next 17 countries combined and account for 40 percent of all the military spending in the world. Politicians and experts from across the political spectrum have called for judicious cuts in our bloated defense budget.

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins can be leaders in making defense cuts a central component of the final "fiscal cliff" deficit-reduction deal. I urge them to exercise that leadership.

Alex Mendelsohn

Kennebunk

GOP has long since stopped aiding fight for civil rights

In his letter to the editor titled "Democrats, not GOP, practice racism" (Nov. 30), Jones Gallagher of North Berwick states a number of examples of Democratic racism from the 19th century through the 1960s.

What Mr. Gallagher fails to understand is that our political parties were not as ideologically polarized as they are today and that it was liberals in each party who fought for civil rights while being opposed by conservatives at every turn.

Today, we take for granted that the Republican Party is the conservative party while the Democrats are (somewhat) liberal and progressive. That was simply not the case during most of the last 150 years since the founding of the Republican Party.

It was the signing of the Civil Rights Act that polarized the positions of our current political parties. When President Lyndon Johnson signed the act into law, he stated that he had "just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come."

President Johnson was absolutely correct, as the Republican Party and President Richard Nixon wasted no time in implementing their "Southern strategy" of winning elections in the Deep South by appealing to racism against African-Americans. In the half-century since the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party has carried the mantle of racism with barely any shame.

There is a continuous thread from the Dixiecrats leaving the Democratic Party for the Republican Party right through this past election and Charlie Webster's very revealing post-election comments. Anyone who lives outside the conservative media bubble can see the plain truth.

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