Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is being a deficit hawk and a supporter of the F-35 hypocritical?

It is always interesting to analyze the angles of attack critics take on the F-35 program.  They’re numerous and, for the most part, predictable.

Of course recently the attack most used has been the “cost” of the F-35 over the next 55 years.  That’s been variously set at a trillion dollars, 1.55 trillion dollars and 1.4 trillion.

Mother Jones (MJ) magazine splits the difference between those final two numbers and settles in at 1.45 trillion.   And as expected, does so with no explanation, no context for the number (total cost of aircraft over 55 years including fuel, parts, pilots, basing – you name it), no explanation that this is the first time that sort of a time frame has ever been used, and certainly no attempt to point out that the alternative (keeping the fighters we have for the next 55 years) is 4 times that 1.45 trillion in total.

Because if all of that were done, MJ has no story.

MJ takes a little different angle of a attack than some critics.  Author Adam Weinstein decides to take politicians who favor the project to task as being hypocrites;

Scott and Carroll aren't the only state-level Republicans to criticize federal spending in general while boasting about the economic benefits of federal defense spending at home. During the Republican rebuttal to Obama's 2012 State of the Union, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ripped the president for trying to "build a middle class out of government jobs paid for with borrowed dollars."

Yet just three months earlier, his deputy, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, blessed a report highlighting the stimulus brought to her state's economy by nearly 40,000 deficit-exploding federal defense jobs. "Even though the national economy has struggled throughout the last decade, the state of Indiana has quietly established itself as an elite environment for defense-related companies to thrive," Skillman boasted, adding that she had "come to appreciate…the importance of the defense industry to Indiana's economy."

The implication?  That spending is spending, i.e. all spending is the same. No differentiation, no priorities, all equal across the board.

If you accept that premise, then, it is hypocritical to be for reducing federal spending but for defense spending.

Never mind the national defense ramifications of committing our pilots to flying technologically aging aircraft that are older than they are, let’s deal with the premise that says spending is spending.

The obvious question to that assertion - is it?  Certainly, all spending is funded by taxpayers.  Weinstein makes that point.  But all spending is not the same.  Weinstein forgets to point out that only some federal spending is Constitutionally mandated.

Defense spending happens to be spending which the Constitution mandates.  It is the job of Congress to pay for our national defense with taxpayer dollars.  It is mandated that Congress do that which is necessary, via the federal purse, to ensure our national security.

So if there’s any hypocrisy at work here, it is that which tries to imply that defense spending is just like all other spending, such as entitlement spending or the like.  The argument could be made, given the fact that it is indeed a Constitutional mandate laid upon Congress, that national defense spending should be priority spending.  I.e. if there is a fiscal shortage, it should be among the first areas to be funded.

Obviously that doesn’t mean you spend wastefully or buy things you don’t need.  However, that’s not how Weinstein is attacking the politicians he identifies here.  He’s claiming, or at least implying, they’re hypocrites for saying they’re for a reduction in federal spending while touting spending on a defense program.

Given the Constitution, I see nothing hypocritical in the least with their position.  One can easily be for both. Certainly federal spending does need to be cut back in areas outside those on which the Constitutional authorizes Congress spend money.  And they can still be for that spending which the Constitution requires (even while demanding that money be spent wisely and frugally).

In reality this is an argument about spending priorities. Just not Constitutional priorities.

How about this?  How about we demand all spending be justified according to the mandates, requirements and constraints imposed by the Constitution before a penny is committed anywhere?

Where would that leave Weinstein’s “hypocrisy” argument then?


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