Friday, January 30, 2009

Why all those lobbyists matter

So we've got Deputy SecDef and Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn in charge of the Pentagon, right?

It's probably just coincidence that the defense industry waited until the week after his confirmation as an exception to the Obama administration's no-lobbyists-but-the-ones-who-we-decide-are-OK-and-not-exceptions-to-our-no-lobbyist-rule policy, to launch--guess what?--a lobbying campaign for more defense spending as a jobs program:

From AP:

Faced with a national economic crisis and a new president, the defense industry is itself playing defense. Its latest lobbying message: Weapons systems aren't just instruments of national security, they're vital jobs programs.

One big new ad features a boldly soaring bald eagle and declares, "Of course America's economy can take off again. It already has a strong pair of wings."

The ad, recently run in Washington-area newspapers and journals, is sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association, whose members include the country's top makers of aircraft and their components. And its message is one that many lobbyists and other defense-industry representatives are now emphasizing: Don't even think of cutting our programs — and workers' jobs.

With Barack Obama intent on winding down the Iraq war and eventually rolling back federal deficits, the industry is worried about bearing the brunt of budget cuts. Just Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that the Pentagon won't be able to "do everything, buy everything" in more austere times. And the White House Web site warns the administration plans a review of major defense programs "in light of current needs."

"There's so much uncertainty in the defense industry with what will happen with the new administration," said Pete Steffes, vice president for government policy with the National Defense Industrial Association, which represents large and small defense firms....

And aside from picking up a key lobbyist in the administration, the effort has also picked up substantial bipartisan support in Congress:

Among those relying heavily on the jobs argument are defenders of Lockheed-Martin Corp.'s F-22, who want to influence an imminent Obama administration decision on whether to buy more of the stealth fighter jets.

In recent days, 44 senators and 191 House members signed letters to Obama urging him to continue F-22 production. While both letters cited the aircraft's importance to national security, they also said more than 25,000 people work for the program's suppliers in 44 states.

"As we face one of the most trying economic times in recent history, it is critical to preserve existing high-paying, specialized jobs that are critical to our nation's defense," the Senate letter said.

To buttress that message, an ad sponsored by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and Lockheed-Martin has run on Washington-area radio, arguing, "Keeping the F-22 running strong supports economic stability and national security."

In a similar effort, members of Congress wrote Obama last month asking him to start adding 12 Navy ships a year, double the recent rate. Though the letters discussed national security, they also said the U.S. shipbuilding industry employs more than 400,000 people in 47 states and added, "Thousands of jobs would be created in the United States with a renewed commitment to shipbuilding."

Jobs. Defense. Wars. Afghanistan. Iraq. Arms sales abroad. Lobbyists.

Business as usual.

If you doubt, recall that economic guru Paul Krugman considers World War Two primarily being important as a jobs program that dwarfed everything that preceded it in the New Deal:

The fiscal stimulus provided by the WPA and all that was relatively small — and pulled back in 1937, with disastrous results. But when Dr. New Deal turned into Dr. Win the War, the economy got some serious stimulus.

Krugman also sees the first couple of decades of the Cold War in the same light:

Government spending: the big thing here was the Cold War, which meant that the United States persistently spent 8-10% of GDP on defense. It paid for this with taxes, but old-fashioned Keynesianism tells us that there's a "balanced budget multiplier" because some of taxes comes out of saving, not spending. Bob Reich, if I understand him, is saying that to sustain demand we need the moral -- or at least fiscal -- equivalent of a new Cold War.

So gee whiz, Dr. Libertarian, there really isn't any reason for the Obama administration to cut defense spending, the world-wide empire of American military bases, the massive industry exporting weapons to fuel the rest of the world's wars, or to get out of either Iraq or Afghanistan any time soon, is there?

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