This might turn into a more polished piece in the future, but in the meantime, the general idea can be shared!
By Andy Heaslet – PEP Director
On Monday, Feb 1, President Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates released their 2011 Defense Budget request, more than $700 Billion and more than half of the federal discretionary budget. By Wednesday, the Post-Dispatch posted a video showing Senator Clair McCaskill spouting Boeing talking points, trying to convince Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, that we need more C-17s and to spend even more on an already bloated military budget: “The plane, McCaskill said, is proving its mettle in Haiti, where the military is using the C-17 to transport food and supplies into the disaster zone.”
Senator Kit Bond was also quoted in local media shortly thereafter, boasting about the company’s ability to perform “on-time, on budget,” as if we would accept anything less from any industry other than defense.
This time last year, when Secretary Gates announced the 2010 budget, he asked that legislators set aside parochial interests to make the budget and changes he called for (turning off the “spigot of defense funding opened by 9/11”) a reality. Clearly Missouri’s Senators missed that memo.
Their words, McCaskill’s in particular, especially coming so rapidly after this announcement show three things:
-1- The power of Boeing lobbyists.
This company spent $16.85 Million on lobbying in 2009 , and is the 13th largest lobbying client tracked by Opensecrets.org, a nonpartisan website documenting “money’s influence on US elections and public policy.”
In Bond’s 20 year profile documented on the website, Boeing has given more than $135,000 to the senator and he has received more than half a million dollars from the defense sector over the same time.
Additionally, the senators obviously read the Post-Dispatch this past summer, when Boeing took out full page color ads to sell us these planes under the slogan of “On Cost, On Schedule,” nearly Bond’s exact words! Boeing’s money and power has clearly had an effect on our senators.
-2- The misguided priorities of our senators.
I recognize that our senators are trying to protect the ~1000 local jobs associated with this plane, but for how many years are they willing to continue being shills for this company? Most of the profits go to Chicago (Boo, Go Blues!) and it is becoming more and more difficult to justify more of these planes. The American Forces Press described Obama’s concern over the plane as he unveiled the defense budget request, “The department reached its goal of 180 aircraft four years ago… Yet, he noted, Congress has provided unrequested funding for more C-17s in each subsequent fiscal year.“ Furthermore, we are approaching the highest water mark for requests made for this plane, or somewhere just over 200 planes total.
If four years ago, our senators had called for a regional jobs program for these and other workers, these constituents could all be steadily employed now, not wondering how long the production line for this plane will remain open! Every minute Bond and McCaskill speak on C-17 and Boeing’s behalf is a minute they aren’t fighting for the majority of Missourians’ needs – and a minute we all are less prepared for the reality that lies ahead.
-3- A misunderstanding of the role America’s military is to play in the world.
While it’s commendable that our armed servicemen and women are delivering resources to Haitians as well as inoculating children throughout the world, and trying to build infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, that is not why we have a standing army. “The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country.” While tragic and occasionally violent, Haiti represents no security risk for the US and is certainly not a military threat.
Should the US government help Haiti? Absolutely. Should the US military be the purveyors of that aid? Absolutely not.
A little more than a year ago Admiral Mullen spoke to the role the military plays in foreign policy and American national security, both of which require “a whole-of-government approach to solving modern problems… we need to reallocate roles and resources in a way that places our military as an equal among many in government — as an enabler, a true partner.” Dollars for more C-17s in today’s context make this gap between military and the rest government wider, pushing us away from equality and partnership.
Senators Bond and McCaskill, I appreciate your efforts to keep our regional economic engines running, but using the crisis in Haiti to justify purchasing something that we already have more than enough of is the wrong fuel to put in the tank. You should give the dollars that Boeing lobbyists and PACs put in your coffers to those suffering in Haiti and/or at home, and you should take the time you spend with Boeing lobbyists not memorizing their talking points, but asking them where these 1,000 local employees will be working once the C-17 line closes, which will be sooner, rather than later.