Monday, February 25, 2013

Sequester: Do We Really Need Government, Anyway?

Driving over the fiscal cliff would stall government programs, but for the Republican Tea Party, this will come as welcome news. 
It is not clear to Mad Dog  how many of the listed losses would be permanent and how many temporary, but here is a partial list of what New Hampshire would lose:
1. Teachers and schools: >$1 million for education aides
2. Clean Air Clean Water: $1.5 million for hazardous waste and pesticide contamination programs
3. Defense: 1,000 civilian employees furloughed--presumably the shipyard or is that only in Maine?
4. Army base funding $1 million
5. Law enforcement: courts, prosecution, police 
6. Public Health: $126,000 upgrading state programs in infectious diseases and natural disasters
7. Stop Violence Against Women program: $28,000.

Comments from citizens suggest there are at least some vocal citizens who say, "Good Riddance" to these programs and expenditures.

From Mad Dog's point of view, the impact on "civilian employees," of the military in this state-- if we are talking about ship yard workers who are hard working, well trained people who re furbish submarines--is the most worrisome. But, truth be told, at some point, America has to shift from a wartime nation to a nation which concentrates on defending against terrorism. Nuclear submarines would not appear to offer much protection against the next Al Qaeda attack. Our shipyard, like so many other defense installations around the country is part of our eternal war machine.  Newport, Rhode Island lost the Navy base there  in the 1970's, and there was a painful transition from military to civilian economy, but it happened,  and ultimately, it was tough love and it worked out better for Rhode Island in the long run. 

Where would all those New Hampshire shipyard workers find work? We ought to be figuring that out right now, before the hammer comes down on that shipyard, as it inevitably will. Working on nuclear submarines must be a specialized career, but maybe some of these men and women could take skills used in boats and sell them elsewhere. It would be wrenching and an upheaval, but if we are ever to shift to a real peacetime economy, it will happen eventually.

Our defense spending, Mad Dog suspects, is not about defense or about making America stronger or safer. It is a substantial government welfare program for the defense workers at the plants and shipyards, and a boondoggle for the corporations who profit from it. Not that we ought to bring home all the submarines and aircraft carriers next week, but we ought to bring them home over a well defined timespan. 

Most of the other  things on this list sound  like programs which may be worthwhile, but, truth be told, they sound less than essential. You know how when there is a really big snowstorm and there is an announcement on the radio that only essential government workers have to report for duty. Well, none of these sound like essential government workers. 
We may love the educational aides who help with disabled children at the public elementary school, but are they essential? Just ask Rush Limbaugh. 

The state and the towns fund education and clean air and water and police and the courts. So why do we need these federal funds?

If air traffic controllers cannot go to work, if we cannot fly out of New Hampshire, that hits home.  

Really, the Democrats have to state clearly exactly what would be lost which is convincing to the average New Hampshire voter on this point: If the federal government shuts down, even partially, you will lose things you really like. What are these things?

If Medicare, Social Security or the Center for Disease Control start shutting down, that's a problem. But we are told these will not be falling off the fiscal cliff.

 If the University of New Hampshire has to cut teachers, if Route 95 and Route 93 cannot be plowed, if national parks close, if security lines at Manchester Airport and Logan slow to a crawl, then we got trouble in New Hampshire.  If Obamacare falters in New Hampshire so people here cannot get medical insurance coverage because of the fiscal cliff, that is a problem.

Of course, in the long run, if we go back into recession and all those little factories in the Granite State have no customers, that will hurt. 

But the Republican Tea Party makes one simply argument: We do not need the federal government. The Democrats have to say why we do need the government.

Mad dog awaits the answer eagerly. He knows it's out there. He just hasn't got it yet.


  1. Mad Dog,
    Guess we'll see soon enough how damaging the cuts will be to NH and the rest of the country. Many people, including the President, seem most concerned with the cuts to defense. Today, at a shipyard in Virginia, he spoke about how detrimental the cuts would be-but is it the loss of the ships that would be detrimental or the loss of the jobs- I would agree with you it's probably the latter.
    I read the article you suggested in the New Yorker by Jill Lepore on the military-it certainly was illustrative of the fact that just because we build tanks, planes, ships and nuclear submarines doesn't mean we actually need them. It was interesting that Eisenhower, certainly no stranger to war or the military, was opposed to endless military build up and viewed it as a "theft" from our more needy citizens. He obviously believed you could reduce defense spending without destroying national security or combat readiness. It's to bad, sixty years later, conventional wisdom is still wedded to the "fact" that an enormous military is essential to our survival and even suggesting otherwise is unpatriotic and disloyal to the troops. The neocons and defense contractors have really scored on that front.

    Your post on the Chai boys in Afghanistan was terribly sad and one more reason we should be out of there. It's depressing to think that's what winning looks like...

  2. Maud,

    This may be a "structural flaw" with our version of democracy: Congressmen from districts with a shipyard or a military base have the job of keeping those facilities open. The people whose jobs are there vote to keep their jobs going. You cannot expect people with jobs to feel any other way. But somebody has to say "No" at some point, or we are never going to be able to shift from war to peace, and we'll find new wars to fight.
    Personally, I would rather see the money that goes to defense redirected to health care. Problem is: defense spending is likely dwarfed by health care spending, and the people who can refurbish a submarine cannot simply get a job at the hospital next week. The hospital doesn't have missile silos.
    I'm trying to find on line the pie chart for our budget. I seem to recall the slice for farm subsidies is the only slice which approaches Medicare and Social Security in size.
    We really do need this information, but somehow I cannot find it anywhere.

    Mad Dog