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POLITICS

The worst argument against defense cuts

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

If we cut defense spending, then Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors might have to downsize.

This is probably true, and it is also just about the worst argument I've ever heard anyone make for greater military spending. But it's the very argument laid out in this Washington Free Beacon article:

A series of major cuts in military spending is gutting the defense industry, imperiling the country’s economy and weakening military preparedness for many years to come, defense contractors and military experts say.

The nearly $1 trillion in mandated defense cuts have already led some major Department of Defense (DOD) contracts to stall, prompting unprecedented worry from an industry that generates $324 billion in revenue and accounts for 2.23 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

The Free Beacon has been excellent at calling out the rank corporatism and potential cronyism in President Obama's agenda. But here, when the cause is a bigger military rather than a bigger solar portfolio, the Beacon's Adam Kredo resorts to Obamanomics.

Just as Obama can create jobs in the solar industry by subsidizing solar panels, Obama could kill jobs in the defense-contractor industry by cutting defense spending. But the costs of solar subsidies and defense spending are large, too -- the spending is a breeding ground for corruption, and it's often wasteful. These sorts of government-directed spending binges take money away from other parts of the economy that the market would favor if not for the government support.

I think building solar panels is typically a waste of resources, but at least we get some electricity out of it. Unneeded defense spending creates no ultimate value. Yes it has peripheral effects that help some people -- like Lockheed, and the deli owners who sell lunch to the Lockheed employees, and so on, throughout Northern Virginia -- but I think most people would agree that defense spending is something you do because you have to, for the sake of survival. If you're arguing that it provides Keynesian stimulus, then you have very thin grounds for opposing Obama's spending sprees.

In brief: the only good argument for defense spending is that we need to spend more in order to stay safe. I'm not convinced that, at our current levels, this is true.

This article is worrisome, too, because it does something conservatives should be done with by now: quoting government-dependent industry lobbyists uncritically. Here's the worst quote:

Cutbacks mean that the government is “robbing Peter to pay Paul and even Robert will be broke, too,” said Bionda.

Got that? Reducing the transfer of money from taxpayers to Peter constitutes "robbing Peter." That's the way liberals talk, and it conveys a belief that all property originally belongs to the state and its preferred clientele.

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