April 15th is the deadline for your federal tax return. As you mull over the taxes you paid to the federal government this year, check out this graphic from the National Priorities Project showing where your taxes went in 2012. As you can see, the military got the lion’s share of funding, getting 26 times as much as scientific research and seven times as much as education:
News Archives: Tagged defense budget
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) just announced that he will hold up President Obama’s nominees to head the Pentagon and CIA until he gets more information about the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
Graham’s justification is puzzling because Obama’s nominees have nothing to do with this issue. But what if the Senator is holding up the nominees — specifically, Chuck Hagel — for another reason?
As we’ve noted before, Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel is a critic of the Pentagon’s spending, calling it “bloated” and demanding that it must be “pared down.” Graham has been a critic of Pentagon cuts, categorically opposing them in a speech this past December.
The Senator is widely considered to be vulnerable to a primary challenge from the right, so he has needed to amass a sizable campaign warchest. To do this, he’s been courting defense industry donors. In this cycle, Boeing is his seventh-largest donor, and Lockheed Martin is his eleventh (together they’ve given $45,100).
Additionally, his second-largest donor is Nelson, Mullins et al, a lobbying firm, giving him $74,084 between its political action committee and employees. The firm has a number of corporate clients, but one of its major ones in 2012 was defense contractor General Dynamics, which paid it $120,000.
Its certainly possible that Graham has ideological objections to Hagel or any of the other Obama nominees he has opposed. But his influx of defense contractor cash creates another possibility.
In upcoming budget negotiations, both progressive and conservative lawmakers have vowed to look at waste and unneeded spending in the Department of Defense (DOD). A new report from the Inspector General of the DOD finds one possible case of startling waste.
The report finds that the Defense Department may have paid up to $100,000 to six different defense contractors who then proceeded to use the funds to lobby for earmarks. That means that the government was essentially paying corporations to lobby for more government money.
The Inspector General does not suspect that these payments were intentional, and recommends Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy issue new guidelines to avoid this improper spending in the future.
However this case illustrates the need for tighter oversight over the massive military budget, which makes up the largest share of the discretionary spending of the federal government.
This morning, President Obama announced that he will be picking former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Secretary of Defense.
There are many different issues that Hagel will face during his confirmation hearings, and progressives can be expected to question him on his past conservative opposition to gay rights.
Here’s one area where he’s more progressive. In a 2011 interview with the Financial Times, he said that the budget is “in many ways bloated” and said that it must be “pared down.”
“War costs money and Hagel understands that. Many believe Hagel wants to dramatically reduce the Department of Defense budget,” writes defense analyst and veteran Kerry Patton. “How many critics realize how much fraud, waste, and abuse rests within the DOD? Any level-headed individual can go into any government office and find wasteful spending. There is no better time than now to take a close look at wasteful spending and start making cuts.”
This would put Hagel to the left of the current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who resisted major defense cuts.
Today, Mitt Romney announced a “Military Advisory Council” of retired military officers who support his campaign. “I am deeply honored to have the support of so many of our most accomplished military leaders,” said Romney during the announcement.
While many of those on the Council are clearly decorated veterans, one curious aspect of the list is how many of these military figures left the government only to become highly paid consultants and board members to major weapons makers. Given that Romney wants to increase the military budget by $2 trillion, these military officials who later became part of the defense industry have a monetary incentive to back Romney that has nothing to do with whether they approve of his wider foreign policy philosophy or not.
Here’s a list of some members of the Military Advisory Council who are also profiting from the defense industry:
- Retired General James Conway: Conway is a retired four-star general. Last year, he was named to the Board of Directors of Textron, which manufactures helicopters and other aircraft and products for the military.
- Retired Navy Admiral James B. Busey: Busey served in the Navy until 1989. After leaving the federal government in 1992, he joined the Board of Directors of defense contractor Curtiss-Wright and left in 2008.
- Retired former commander of United States Strategic Command James O. Ellis: After serving his country, Ellis decided to make a fortune by working for the defense industry. He serves in the leadership of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations and also has a board position at Lockheed Martin.
- Retired Air Force General Ronald Fogleman: Fogleman serves on the boards of Alliant Techsystems, AAR Corporation, Mesa Air Group, Inc., and World Air Holdings.
- Retired General Tommy Franks: Franks, who led the disastrous invasion of Iraq, has his own consultancy called Franks & Associates LLC that specializes in “disaster recovery.” He also works for a private firm that pitches itself as able to respond to a viral pandemic.
- Retired Air Force Commander William R. Looney III: Looney actually campaigns on behalf of for-profit colleges that are under fire for abusing military veterans. Those colleges actually are a huge beneficiary of dollars from the Veterans Administration, and thus represent an often under-looked form of defense contractor welfare.
- Retired Navy Admiral Henry Mauz: Mauz is on the Advisory Council of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.
- Retired Navy Vice Admiral Mike Bucchi: Bucchi was named president of homeland security contractor Ocean Systems Engineering Corporation in 2005.
We only looked at a small sampling of the list Romney’s campaign provided — those officers with the highest ranks — and found numerous conflicts of interest. It appears that Romney assembled a list of former military officials largely composed of those who are now profiting off of the defense industry, and they are excited to see the candidate offer them more money in the form of a $2 trillion spending splurge that the Pentagon hasn’t even asked for.
At Their 1972 Convention, Republicans Boasted Of Cutting Defense Spending To Lowest Point In 20 Years
Last week, we showed you how far to the right the Republican Party has drifted by noting that in its 1956 platform, the party called for expanding unions rights, gender equality, investing in science, and other now-banished ideas among right wing thinkers.
Here’s another area where the party has in several decades drifted dangerously to the right.
NIXON: Let’s look at the record on defense expenditures. We have cut spending in our Administration. It now takes the lowest percentage of our national product in 20 years. We should not spend more on defense than we need. But we must never spend less than we need.
Watch Nixon boast of reducing defense expenditures (the relevant section is at 33:06):
Among Beltway media, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s budget plan — which privatizes Medicare, slashes Medicaid, and guts the safety net — was viewed as “courageous.” Ryan himself has been praised as being “well-known for his fiscal conservatism” and as a “budget hawk.”
But all of this presupposes that Paul Ryan and the national Republican Party he has come to represent is most concerned with reining in the budget deficit. A closer look at Ryan’s budget proposal finds that while attacking Medicare and other social insurance programs, it actually preserves spending and other deficit-busting measures for some of Ryan and the GOP’s biggest corporate donors. Here’s are some examples:
- Big Insurers: Privatizing Medicare means handing it over to the insurance industry, which would create a windfall of billions of dollars previously used to finance an American-owned public program to instead line the pockets of executives at companies like Aetna and UnitedHealth Group. The insurance industry is Ryan’s second-largest career donor, having given him $815,328, slightly edging out the banking industry. Positioning themselves against health reform, health insurers like Blue Cross/Blue Shield have funneled a larger portion of their dollars to Republicans over the past two cycles.
- The Drug Industry: One very easy way to quickly cut the deficit without spending a dime would actually be to cut government — that is, a massive government embargo on cheap Canadian drugs. The U.S. government, at the behest of American pharmaceutical companies, currently bars Americans from freely purchasing re-imported Canadian drugs. These drugs range from 20-80 percent cheaper. Re-importing drugs would save Americans money, and it would save the government — which purchases drugs through the Medicare program — money, too, up to $20 billion over ten years. In opposition to free-market conservatives like the Cato Institute and certain Republican senators like Louisiana’s David Vitter, the Ryan budget does nothing to remove this ban on Canadian drugs. It also does not authorize Medicare to negotiate for better rates from the industry, which could shave up to $14 billion every year from the deficit. Big Pharma and the health products industry are Ryan’s 8th-largest career donors, giving $323,892. The industry has worked hard to keep a section of Republicans and influential right-wingers in its pocket. A few months ago I confronted right-wing lobbyist Grover Norquist over his organization’s support for the ban on Canadian drugs. He took $140,000 from the industry between 2009 and 2010.
- The Arms Dealers: If there’s one group that ripe for budget-cutting, it’s the defense contractors. The military budget in the U.S. eats up the largest share of discretionary spending, and bipartisan commissions estimate that we could cut up to $100 billion from this amount every year without threatening national security or foreign policy priorities. Ryan leaves the Pentagon untouched and his running mate Mitt Romney actually wants to increase defense spending. In the 2011-2012 cycle, Lockheed Martin’s PAC gave $5,000 to Ryan, and Boeing donated $6,000. Following the takeover of the House of Representatives by the Republicans, both Boeing and Lockheed’s political spending began trending towards Republicans over Democrats. Ryan and Romney apparently aim to keep that spigot of dollars flowing.
Paul Ryan and the Republicans are no doubt loving their media portrayal as serious deficit hawks. But what their budget plan really does is attack programs and investments in America’s great middle class while protecting wasteful spending on their corporate donors. It’s another giveaway to Corporate America, courtesy of the GOP.