The Wake-Up

Let’s get something straight: when the Wall fell, it was a triumph of freedom over statist oppression.

The short-sighted attempt to reduce the Cold War to a battle between free markets and breadlines is the work of corporatists who still believe that the primary task of government is to serve the interests of the industrial corporation.

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Pork the Navy Doesn’t Want

The $230 billion for operations and maintenance is $2.43 billion above the Pentagon request. The summary boasts of adding $550 million specifically for the services to “improve military readiness, including increased training, depot maintenance, and base operations support.” Whereas Congress added $12.9 billion above the figure requested by the Pentagon to purchase ships and aircraft. That is a 19 percent increase the Pentagon didn’t ask for to buy new equipment, compared to a mere 1 percent increase to solve the supposed “readiness crisis.”

Source: Military Readiness Sidelined For Ships the Navy Doesn’t Want | The American Conservative by Dan Grazier

I give the Pentagon a hard time for its role in procuring gold-plated weapons systems that don’t work and deliver low returns on our investment in national defense. (Cough F-35 cough LCS cough Humvee.) They deserve it: too many careers are built on weapons systems that wind up costing us dearly in American blood and treasure, and in the meantime throttle potential avenues of savings and innovation.

But the Pentagon is not the only culprit here, and Dan Grazier’s article points to the pork-barrel caucus in Congress as a huge part of the problem in the misallocation of our defense funds. In this case, the culprits are ranking Appropriations committee members Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. And lest we feel that these distinguished Solons are simply doing their part to preserve America’s ability to build its own weapons:

Industrial base concerns are important, but when they’re the only remaining justification for a program, they amount to an admission that the product was never worth the investment. They also demonstrate that the keening about a “readiness crisis” is often just a subterfuge for more pork-barrel spending.

Keep in mind that Grazier is not coming at this from the armchair: he is a retired captain in the US Marine Corps and a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

So as we hold the Pentagon accountable, so must we hold Congress – and specific members of that body – accountable for their excesses. Do not let these people hide their corruption behind the flag or the Capitol Building.

 

 

Move, Delta

If I was a Delta shareholder looking at this map, I would be petitioning the company to begin relocating its headquarters operations out of the State of Georgia and into its hubs at Cincinatti, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Salt Lake City, and Seattle.

Atlanta’s strengths notwithstanding, it is hard to make a case for basing a company in a state (or country) where the local government is prepared to punish a corporation for its failure to support a politically powerful special interest.

 

Dances with Soviets

The president was boasting of the “great intel” he receives when he discussed intelligence provided by a U.S. partner.

Source: Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador – The Washington Post

I cannot help but think about the Gipper at moments like this.

Ronald Reagan is spinning in his grave with such speed that we can almost hear it in Oxnard.

This is No Longer about Trump, or Congress

I believe that many of them are deeply conflicted. That in the leather chairs of Capitol Hill at the end of each of these long Spring days, there is no shortage of Republican legislators sitting alone in their offices or committee rooms, drinking scotch, and cogitating on their futures.

I suspect that there may be a few who have taken campaign coin from Trump or his supporters who are wondering exactly how long they need to “stay bought” before they can begin responding to the popular cry.

And, in the end, I think most will need irrefutable, impeachment-quality evidence to shift their support.

No, Mr. Frum. This is no longer about the President, or even Congress. It is now about the facts.

The future of President Donald Trump, of the Republican Party, and possibly the nation, now lies in the hands of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and relies upon the moral fortitude of a small handful of men and women at the Department of Justice, and their ability to ascertain the facts in the face of a President who seems determined to hide them.

WaPo: Sanders’ Trade Policy is Deeply Flawed

“Blaming freer trade for the loss of manufacturing jobs fails to tell the much bigger story of economic transformation that has swept the world over the past several decades. Technological change, automation, productivity improvements and other factors have eliminated old-school manufacturing jobs all over the world. Mr. Sanders cannot bring back the U.S. economy of the 1960s, and it would be harmful to try.”

Source: Mr. Sanders peddles fiction on free trade – The Washington Post

I have in this space been an unsparing critic of the policies that Bernie Sanders is promising to implement if elected President. I have been particularly dismissive, admittedly without citing support, of Mr. Sanders’ efforts to articulate a coherent foreign policy.

In this first of several post that will critique aspects of Mr. Sanders’ foreign policy platform or introduce the criticism of others, I will actually step between Mr. Sanders and his critics.

In the above linked article, the editors of the Washington Post offer their rebuttal to the underlying logic of Senator Sanders’ proposed foreign trade policy. It is an eloquent and poignant critique of the protectionism that oozes from Mr. Sanders’ foreign policy.

And yet I find myself siding against the Post on this item.

The Ebb of Globalism

For most of my life I have been a trade globalist, endorsing the idea that freer trade is broadly beneficial. Yet even as a callow young B-school student I understood that there are limits to the macroeconomic assumptions that support free trade. History has proven that international trade systems are only as good as their most abusive participant. As long as everyone agrees that the system is more important than the needs of any individual nation, the system will thrive. But when enough participants – or one participant of sufficient scale – begin to game the system, the game becomes beggar-thy-neighbor again.

While the Bretton Woods free trade system managed to address a constant patter of abuses, it appears increasingly unable to contain the challenge posed by China – a single, giant global player determined to game the system, and large enough so that in doing so it gives lie to the system itself.

We thus appear on the verge of an era where global free trade is replaced by a resurgence in protectionism and the replacement of the WTO with a series of bilateral accords and multilateral trade arrangements.

Against that background, the Washington Post’s protest that protectionism will not bring back manufacturing jobs is correct. Unfortunately, the Post doesn’t address the larger question: is trade free enough? Or is it too free already?

Regardless of your reaction, the answer is that the time has come for us to have this debate in America. The effects of trade policy are felt by all – it is no longer sufficient to allow the matter to be handled by elites. If the case for trade is compelling for America, let’s make it. Let’s demonstrate that the benefits will redound to the least prosperous among us as well as the affluent.

 

Breaking the Pelican State

The Louisiana-is-good-for-business story of the past eight years appears to have been largely built on the state paying corporations to do business here. That “look forward, don’t blame” strategy is exactly what the national GOP wants us all to do regarding the Bush years, because it’s what they’ve been doing.

Source: What Jindal Did To Louisiana | The American Conservative

Louisiana was broken by corporate welfare and tax give-backs. It will not be the last state to suffer such fates.

It is equally interesting to note that this story comes from The American Conservative. The GOP had best take note: conservative ideology is in headlong retreat from its support of tax breaks and corporate welfare. Supporting such policies is increasingly risky, if not downright foolhardy.

I did not support the dismantling of a social hammock only to have those funds turn into an easy chair for a select group of US corporations. Yet that is exactly what happened.

Enough already.