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Posts Tagged ‘defense’

Rand Paul wants us to build missile shields around DC and other cities!

One reportr asked whether he favored continued funds for the Iron Dome missile defense system. “Exactly how it’s funded, or how the money changes hands, I’d have to look into how we do it,” he said. “But absolutely I’m in favor of it. Think about on 9/11. There’s no reason our White House, our Capitol, and our major cities shouldn’t have a missile defense… I argue that there will be irrational actors on the stage. There’s no way to stop irrationality from eventually getting weapons into the hands of people who might attack us.”

Really? No reason? None at all?

Keep this in mind next time Rand Paul is bitching about “wasteful” or “out of control” spending.

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In the morning, I will be voting for Barack Obama.

I won’t go over all the specific policies and reasons why, if you read this blog you already know them.

But there are two things I’d like to bring up. This won’t be a particularly well written piece because its late and I’m tired, but I want to toss it out there before the polls open.

First, the issue of foreign policy and civil liberties. This is where I think the strongest case against Obama can be made, and so I’d like to take a brief second to refute it somewhat. Obama’s record in this area has been dismal, but I do not think this is a reason to vote against him. Mitt Romney would be far, far worse.

Obama’s policy towards Iran has been about as measured and calm as can be expected. Were Mitt Romney president right now, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we would be in a full scale war with Iran.

While he has not held anyone accountable for the US torture regime, Barack Obama has ended it. Mitt Romney would not only re-instate it, but expand it! When asked if he considered water boarding torture, he indicated that he did not, and that he would seek to increase the list of techniques used by interrogators. Barack Obama attempted to close Guantanamo Bay and hold actual trials for detainees, but was stymied by congress. Mitt Romney wants to double Guantanamo. You may not like Obama’s record on these issues, but Mitt Romney would be so much worse. If you truly think there is no difference between them on these issues, you’re fooling yourself.

Secondly, and more importantly, I will be voting for Barack Obama because we absolutely must take a stand against the GOP of the past four years. If they win, it will be an affirmation of their tactics. It will show that the public is accepting of putting party before country. It will vindicate the strategy of rank, baseless obstructionism. The GOP has not been even remotely interested in actual governing, except where they see an opportunity to score partisan points. From day one, their primary goal has been to make Barack Obama a one term president. If Mitt Romney wins, they will have been proven right. We will be telling them that their irresponsible, reprehensible strategy was correct, effective, and acceptable.

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Kevin Drum highlights this little snippets of conversation that occurred between Obama and Gen. Petraeus back in 2009:

Inside the Oval Office, Obama asked Petraeus, “David, tell me now. I want you to be honest with me. You can do this in 18 months?” “Sir, I’m confident we can train and hand over to the ANA [Afghan National Army] in that time frame,” Petraeus replied. “Good. No problem,” the president said. “If you can’t do the things you say you can in 18 months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?” “Yes, sir, in agreement,” Petraeus said.

So there you go. I don’t really have anything to add, just wanted to point it out. It’s been much longer than 18 months, and we continue to face attacks from members of the ANA. We’ve already killed bin Laden, which was our excuse for going in in the first place. Not that the Afghanistan war had much of anything to do with that, but its always been used as a reason to stay. Can anyone articulate a good reason for us to continue fighting this war? Anyone? Bueller?

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If the debt is what concerns you, you should hope for Obama’s re-election. All he has to do is nothing and we are well on our way to debt reduction.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, would like to further cut taxes and increase defense spending.

If debt is your biggest concern (and I think it shouldn’t be) then Obama is your best bet here.

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I’ve been reading through the republican platform, and its become clear that this is not a document based in the real world. This isn’t exactly surprising, but here are some of the things that jumped out at me.

First of all, Republicans propose to “simplify the tax code” which typically means eliminating deductions. They propose an across the board 20% reduction in rates, on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts! They claim to be able to do this in a revenue neutral manner, but such a massive reduction in revenue would mean tremendous cuts in spending, which just aint gonna happen. We’ve been over this before. 

Then, we get this:

Because of the vital role of religious organizations, charities, and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering benevolence and patriotism, they should not be subject to taxation, and donations to them should continue to be tax deductible.

I actually agree with that, I just would like to point out that there, right off the bat, is a deduction that can’t be eliminated. And so the quest for revenue neutrality gets a bit harder. 

Up next:

In any restructuring of federal taxation, to guard against hypertaxation of the American people, any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax.

Hypertaxation! Wow, that’s one hell of a word! Its terrifying! Never mind, of course, the fact that tax rates are currently at their lowest point in 60 years. Also, good luck making the elimination of income tax revenue neutral.

Naturally, now that we’ve covered the part where we eliminate federal revenue, we get to the Very Serious part about the debt:

Over the last three and a half years, while cutting the defense budget, the current Administration has added an additional $5.3 trillion to the national debt—now approximately $16 trillion, the largest amount in U.S. history.

First off, the defense budget. It should be cut! But the Republicans certainly won’t do that. Keep that in mind, for later. The important part here, though, is the con they’re trying to pull. Notice the part I bolded. It’s important to only consider that time frame, because if you extend it back to, lets say around January 2001, then you’ll see where the real debt came from.Tax cuts and two unfunded wars! So remember kids, debt is bad, mmkay? Unless it’s Republican debt, in which case its freedom, markets, and responsibility. So what would the Republicans propose to do about debt? This:

We can preempt the debt explosion. Backed by a Republican Senate and House, our next President will propose immediate reductions in federal spending, as a down payment on the much larger task of long-range fiscal control. We suggest a tripartite test for every federal activity. First, is it within the constitutional scope of the federal government? Second, is it effective and absolutely necessary? And third, is it sufficiently important to justify borrowing, especially foreign borrowing, to fund it?

OK, that all sounds perfectly reasonable. So reasonable, in fact, that I submit to you that we already do this. First, we have an independent judiciary with the power to strike down laws that violate this part of the test. Second, we have the “necessary and proper” clause of the Constitution. See part one. Third, we have a democratically elected congress that answers this question by voting on things. 

Against those standards we will measure programs from international population control to California’s federally subsidized high-speed train to nowhere, and terminate programs that don’t measure up.

Wait what? What the hell is “international population control”? Are we doing it? Are we debt financing it? Just… huh? OK, moving right along, the federal budget process:

Republican Members of Congress have repeatedly tried to reform the budget process to make it more transparent and accountable, in particular by voting for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, following the lead of 33 States which have put that restraint into their own constitutions. We call for a Constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, with exceptions for only war and national emergencies, and imposing a cap limiting spending to the historical average percentage of GDP so that future Congresses cannot balance the budget by raising taxes.

Two things. First, the super majority to raise taxes idea has been tried, in California, and it has had disastrous consequences on the state’s fiscal health. Secondly, limiting spending to the historical average percentage of GDP is monumentally stupid, not to mention completely arbitrary. Times and situations change, and limiting our spending based on (in part) how much George Washington spent needlessly hobbles our ability to react to those changes. Although, it would probably wind up being meaningless anyway. If congress decides it wants to spend eleventy bajillion dollars to clone velociraptors to patrol the Arizona border, they would just say the spending is in response to the national emergency of a lack of Jurassic border patrol agents. All that being said, I can get behind the idea that if we’re going to fight wars, we should raise taxes to pay for them. Then we would do it less. I’m not saying that idea should be constitutionally enshrined, just that its a practice we should be following. 

Up next, Ron Paul gets his plank. Audit the Fed! I could be OK with this, provided the point of the audit would actually be increasing transparency and not just a partisan fishing expedition looking to dig up dirt. Given the actions of this party in the recent past, I find that condition unlikely to be met. 

At the beginning of this post, I said that this was a document not based in the real world. Well, now we’ve arrived at the paragraph from which I drew that conclusion:

Determined to crush the double-digit inflation that was part of the Carter Administration’s economic legacy, President Reagan, shortly after his inauguration, established a commission to consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for U.S. currency. The commission advised against such a move. Now, three decades later, as we face the task of cleaning up the wreckage of the current Administration’s policies, we propose a similar commission to investigate possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar.

OK, so when His Majesty arrived on the scene, we had double digit inflation. This fact necessitated a commission to study a return to the gold standard. They thought it was a bad idea. But now, seeing as how we’re back to double digit inflation, we need to pick this back up!  But wait! We aren’t experiencing double digit inflation. We are experiencing 2% inflation. I suppose, if you really want to see two digits, I could type that as 2.0% inflation. Look, this is simple. Despite all the running around screaming with our hair on fire silliness we’ve been hearing for years about the horror of inflation which will be unleashed on us at any moment, it simply has not happened. Inflation is low, and it is stable.

The next section is on infrastructure, but I’m not going to bother excerpting it because the massive tax cuts and ramped up defense spending mean there won’t be any money there. Also on the “not going to bother” list: China. Simply put, Republicans suggest we call them names, and fart in their general direction. We should also engage in more union busting.

This concludes part 1. Next up in part 2, the constitution.

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There’s a lot of talk about the defense budget and upcoming sequester cuts right now. The Republicans want to cancel the defense half of the cuts entirely and make up for them by doubling the non-defense half.

Defense currently makes up about 20% of the federal budget. It was about 15% before we spent the last decade blowing up the middle east.

So my question is this: When can we cut defense spending? Ever? We raised it by 84% (!) over the past decade to fight two wars, but now that were almost done with those why can’t it go back down? If we keep it flat, then next time we fight a war it goes up again, and we get a ratcheting effect where it increases but never drops and pretty soon that’s the whole budget.

It’s natural to ramp up defense spending to mobilize for wars. It used to be natural to ramp it down afterwards.

Also keep in mind that, despite all the crying from the usual suspects, the pentagon will be just fine. Even with the full sequester, defense spending in 2013 will be higher in real terms than in 2006, the height of the war in Iraq.

Also, too, note that the Republicans will tell you government spending can’t create jobs. Until that government spending is on aircraft carriers, at which point their inner Keynesians come out, and we hear that even tiny cuts will lead to laying off half the defense industry, somehow.

Some sanity on this subject is sorely needed.

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I don’t understand Rand Paul. Or more specifically, I don’t understand why libertarians like Rand Paul. Actually I don’t understand why anyone likes Rand Paul. Here’s why:

Speaking in Iowa last week, Rand Paul had this to say on Obama’s marriage equality “evolution”:

“Call me cynical, but I didn’t think his views on marriage could get any gayer”

Now I’m not a libertarian, but it seems to me that the appropriate, libertarian response to the President’s support of marriage equality would be something along the lines of “I believe that, personal feeling aside, everyone should have equal marriage rights, because the constitution guarantees Americans equal protection under the law. I’m glad to see that President Obama has finally figured that out”. See, I even threw a bit of backhandedness in there to make it a bit more palatable to the base.

But that’s not what Rand Paul said. No, instead he went with “that’s gay”, which is a level of discourse that could be expected from a middle school boy, not a prominent national figure. I won’t call him cynical, but I will call him a jackass. The quote above was what made news of course, but here’s the rest of it:

“Now it did kind of bother me, though, that he used the justification for it in a biblical reference. He said the biblical Golden Rule caused him to be for gay marriage. And I’m like: What version of the Bible is he reading? It’s not the King James version. It’s not the New American Standard. It’s not the New Revised version. I don’t know what version he is getting it from. Now that doesn’t mean we have to be harsh and mean and hate people, we understand sin and if we believe it’s sin we still understand that people sin. And we understand that we are not out there preaching some sort of hateful dogma against people. But that doesn’t mean that we have to go ahead and give up our traditions. We’ve got 6,000 years of tradition. There’s a lot of stability, even beyond religion, there’s stability in the family unit. Just from an anthropological point of view, the family is really important thing. We shouldn’t just give up on it.”

Has it not fucking occured to Rand Paul that marriage equality is a pro-family position? How is telling someone they are not allowed to have a family going to promote families? Of course he may also note that there are plenty of instances throughout the history of marriage where it has changed, so saying it can’t change because it never has is just completely wrong. What Rand Paul is saying here is that family is important, provided it fits his personal idea of what a family should look like. That doesn’t sound like a very libertarian position to me.

Neither does this, from last year (emphasis in original):

I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.

Yep, that’s right folks, if you’ve been traveling to places with funny sounding names, and heard someone say something nasty about the government, then you might be a terrorist, and should be deported or jailed. The constitution be damned.

Oh, and then there’s this (emphasis mine):

Leading United States Senate candidate Rand Paul today criticized the Obama administration’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and try terrorism suspects in United States Civil Courts.

“Foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution,” said Dr. Paul. “These thugs should stand before military tribunals and be kept off American soil. I will always fight to keep Kentucky safe and that starts with cracking down on our enemies.”

Dr. Paul believes in strong national defense and thinks military spending should be our country’s top budget priority. He has also called for a Constitutional declaration of war with Afghanistan.

Rand Paul: More War! More Military Spending! Less Due Process!

Am I just really confused on what libertarians think? Because this guy sure doesn’t sound like one to me. But the Ron Paul crowd seems to love the guy! It’s been suggested Ron Paul’s delegate strategy’s end game is to secure the VP slot for Rand Paul, or that the ultimate goal is to build a base for a Rand Paul for President bid in 2016.

I honestly don’t get it.

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