The Military Investment

Jake Tapper of ABC offers a sneak peek at the “path of deficit reduction and government reform” President Obama will follow in his State of the Union speech tonight:

“The president will propose some new spending in certain areas that address the speech’s theme of ‘How We Win the Future’: innovation, education and infrastructure.  But those increases will be proposed as part of an overall budget freeze, which given the annual rate of growth is often seen in Washington, DC, budgeting as a cut.”

Ah, so we’ll be having lots of new spending as part of our budget freeze.  But it won’t really be spending, it will be an “investment.”  That means it doesn’t count.  Government spending is like water – it “freezes” long before it hits absolute zero.  Since the natural progress of the wise and noble State is endless expansion, small increases are a freeze, and a freeze is a cut.

When a liberal speaks of “investment,” he means social programs favored by his constituencies – especially the most powerful one, the teacher’s union.  “Education” is the perennial liberal investment, which none dare criticize, for it transforms dollar bills into hope for our children.  You’re not supposed to ask where all the money goes, or note that titanic spending on education has been accompanied by the disgraceful collapse of student performance.  The rhetoric is that more spending on education is the most virtuous possible use for taxpayer funds.  In reality, you couldn’t come up with a better example of a black hole that devours public money, while producing mediocre results.

There’s one “investment” the Left never talks about making, but it actually does produce the kind of returns they claim to desire: the military.

The American military builds things with a speed and efficiency that union-encrusted public works boondoggles can only dream of.  It has mastered the art of innovation under intense pressure, in environments where bad ideas are followed by funerals.  And we know for a fact the military has much higher educational standards than Jimmy Carter’s education bureaucracy, because we keep reading stories about how public-school graduates don’t qualify for recruitment. 

Just last December, we learned that 23% of high-school graduates can’t pass the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery tests.  That means a quarter of those high-school diplomas aren’t even worth the price of admission to basic training. 

In The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek celebrated “virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people,” which he felt were valuable cultural resources for the maintenance of a healthy democracy.  These virtues included “independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, non-interference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.” 

The military cultivates all of these virtues in abundance.  In fact, it was recently certified in “tolerance for the different and queer.”  No one values “non-interference with one’s neighbor” more than American soldiers, who understand the true nature of war.

Instead of treating the military as a smart investment that produces all the things they claim to value, liberals see it as the only government “spending” they’re willing to cut.  If the President was serious about his stated policy goals, he’d be asking the Pentagon how much teacher union money they need to whip the public schools into shape, and let the military commanders who engineered the Iraq surge talk about “infrastructure.”


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