Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's A Myth That War Is Good For The Economy

     While it's true that the stimulus of World War II played a role in ending the Depression of the 1930s, it's not true that military spending is economically healthy.
     As Bob Herbert pointed out today in the NYTimes, ongoing military spending in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere creates economic stress that the national budget can ill afford. While Obama has provided a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, no end is in sight for Afghanistan.
     But Herbert overlooks other states where military spending remains high, namely the 50 United States. Canny military contractors and Congress have distributed manufacturing of military items throughout every congressional district in the nation, so addiction to these counter-productive jobs is widespread, despite then-President Eisenhower's prescient farewell warning about the military-industrial conspiracy. And of course these jobs are now even more difficult to forswear due to the unraveling of the worldwide economic system.
     Military spending is bad for the economy because it only produces things which are destructive, such as huge amounts of greenhouse gases. Moreover, the concept of the economy which was used during World War II excluded many necessary and important kinds of work, such as women's work, because it was unpaid and they needed to focus on paid work they could tax for the war effort. But this very incomplete picture of the economy has persisted since then, resulting in a highly lopsided and skewed notion of what's good for us economically. When crooks do this, it's called the protection racket.
     And as everyone knows, the protection racket doesn't care about actually taking care of women and children. If we really cared about children, none would be living in poverty rather than almost half now. If we really cared about children, bringing up children would be a respected and well-compensated profession. And if we really cared about our retirement security, we would be investing properly in the health, welfare, and education of all the children who will be taking care of us when we are too old to work. Bombs are not edible, and tanks do not empty bedpans.
     Now I realize it is comforting, especially to men, to unconsciously believe that mom loves you enough to take care of you for free. But there ain't no free lunch. Women need support as much as soldiers do. And they deserve it too.
     In classical times, men faced death in battle and women faced death in childbirth. But without the latter, the former is meaningless.

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