Two imbalances lie at the heart of our national economy. One is defense spending, the other is the inordinate tax break enjoyed by ultrawealthy Americans.
House Republicans are reportedly startled at the meaning of the deficit-reduction package that will require a serious cut in Defense spending. Two voices from the Republican past could prepare them for that task. One is President Dwight Eisenhower; the other is Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield.
Few congressional Republicans would accept the values of the late Sen. Hatfield. But he spoke the truth 22 years ago in a Senate floor speech, Peace Through Strength is a Fallacy.
The Portland newspaper Street Roots published the speech coincidentally just days prior to Hatfields Aug. 7 death.
Said Hatfield: We seem to have lost sight of the fact that every dollar we spend on bombs and bullets means that we are underfunding programs to meet the nations desperate human needs: health care, education, our war on drugs, low-income housing, prison construction, AIDS research all of these things are part of our national defense.
Hatfields speech echoed the prescience of President Eisenhowers Farewell Address (January 1961), in which he identified the military-industrial complex. Warned Eisenhower, Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
It is fashionable in Republican circles to deride domestic spending. The public schools that educated most of us are derisively called government schools. But our foreign military involvement and adventures in nation building of the past decade are OK, even though they are enormously expensive and are done on credit.
The imbalance in our national priorities was expressed succinctly by former Congressman Brian Baird when he spoke some five years ago to a group of Pacific County residents who want to restore the Chinook School. Said Baird: If you were in Afghanistan, I could get you money.
The value of Hatfields speech is that it spoke a basic truth: that there will never be enough money for security. He said: Could somebody tell me if there is some secret strategy, some finite figure that we will one day reach and then suddenly be secure? Will we ever have enough?
Of course, the answer to that is no. The military-industrial complex will always want more, and their friends in Congress will oblige at the expense of domestic needs.
But a moment of reckoning approaches.