Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

Trying to ascertain how much of America’s economy is dependent on military spending, or how much of our tax dollar actually goes towards our defense, comparing apples to apples, is not the easiest of tasks. Like any Google search, information is here and there and nowhere depending on what chance query wording is employed.

Perhaps such difficulty is nefariously imposed by gatekeepers up in the all knowing “Cloud,” based on judgment of one’s previous search history. Perhaps it is just the nature of mindless search engines thinking they know us better than ourselves. Someone apolitical, e-searching “Egypt,” is directed to archaeological travel interests. Someone overtly political gets a Muslim Brotherhood update. In the virtual world, we are the sum of our past on-line presence, a history we can never confidently escape. Such is e-life. How very especial we all are.

And, that would be OK if we were in charge of our e-existence and need not consider if indeed our own national security civil servants serve against our individual freedom in serving Americans collectively. Despite revelation after revelation, we try to ignore such thoughts and forget the heroism of a supposed traitor who blew the whistle on President Obama and now lives large over in Putin-land.

Whatever the reason, how much of America’s wealth is consumed by Defense spending is clearly eobfuscated from ready transparency. Why is that?

Maine is significantly reliant on Defense expenditures. Since 2000, perhaps 4 to 9 percent of our bottom line came from military contracts. 2013’s contracts brought over 2 billion in payment for everything from sneakers to ships.

Defense dollar sustenance is important to every state’s economy, even more so here in Maine where our economic base is so limited. Importantly, defense jobs set the bar for many non-defense paychecks, lifting all boats. That is another attraction of what has become a national addiction, and why so much defense work is subcontracted as widely as possible, state to state, broadening needed political consensus. The more states dependent, the more likely federal expenditure will continue. Defense contracting end runs the difficulty of pure capitalism to be a good and just provider.

Tea Party driven or not, defense spending is now under the gun. Left or Right, politicians are finally putting our nation’s defense on a new budget, while they continue to fight each other for whatever might remain for their own states. Defense related job retention is of course a priority for any member of Congress, but those who would serve their constituents best will embrace a more progressive conservatism regarding economic security. As defense spending is drawn down, skills channeled towards military support need be redirected to civilian work that can sustain similar economic reward.

That is the coming challenge if we are to wean America’s economy from a never ending war footing. Tea Party aside, what will ever happen, economically, if a truly sustained peace breaks out? This is a challenge ignored at many a state’s peril. Politicians worth their salt should look beyond gambling everything on victoriously bringing home the bacon from a smaller and even more competitively sought after pork barrel.

Diversification is what should be advocated. Supporting development of a Plan B regarding defense work dependency should be part of any politician’s Plan A. A truly sustainable economy shouldn’t be so dependent on just one egg-filled basket. Defense spending’s purpose is to protect America’s economy from external disruption, though that remains a repeatedly poor priority in our world engagement. Sadder still, such spending was never supposed to become an indispensable part of what drives the economy itself.

Something is definitely wrong when those running for political office refuse to even come near a discussion of non-defense alternatives. Their apparent fear is to be perceived as anti-defense, antiunion, or anti-jobs. More fundamentally, there’s the fear that to even imagine the possibility of defense cuts will bring them about. That superstition continues to prevent serious address of what is a seriously possible threat. The impact of that threat’s realization will be all the worse if compounded by being economically blindsided. Think base closures. Any Boy Scout knows better than to never prepare for inclement weather.

Political protection of current defense related employment shouldn’t preclude preparation for possible redirection of that skillset. The definition of leadership isn’t to blindly follow what has previously worked, but to envision what will provide even more abundant employment.

A skilled defense-oriented workforce, here in Maine or elsewhere, shouldn’t be competing against itself for a diminishing bottom line. It should be economically brokered to the highest bidder. If defense contracts remain highest, fine. But, if that high reward becomes non-existent, what do those who have invested their work lives towards our defense fall back on? Can’t we ever arrive at becoming economically free from dependency on a tax dollar transfusion to capitalism?

Diversification should be a nobrainer, but will patriotism be willing to reach as deeply into its leaner and leaner pockets to support other collective economic alternatives, freeing us from a continual national defense of a militaryindustrial closed circuit?


Gary Anderson lives in Bath.

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