On April 15, commonly referred to as Tax Day, countless “tea parties” will be held across the United States to protest President Barack Obama’s massive spending agenda. These demonstrations, mostly organized by grassroots conservatives, are an angry response to the utter waste of taxpayer dollars and the creation of further debt that promises to saddle future generations with an unfathomable financial burden.
These protesters have my full support, and I plan on joining the Charleston tea party down at the Old Custom House. But in focusing on just Obama’s stimulus, fiscal conservatives are ignoring half the problem.
Last year when Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz published his book on U.S. spending on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, The Three Trillion Dollar War, Bush White House spokesman Tony Fratto responded by saying, “People like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of doing nothing and the cost of failure.”
Similar to the Bush administration, economist Diane Swonk said in support of Obama’s economic stimulus, “The cost of doing nothing is greater than the cost of doing something. That’s the crisis we’re in.”
Bush saw a terror crisis and spent like there was no tomorrow. Obama sees an economic crisis and spends pretty much the same and conservatives are rightfully saying “no” to Obama’s “generational theft.” But debt is debt, and if spending mind-blowing amounts of money to address a domestic crisis is completely unacceptable, why is the same generational theft accepted — and even encouraged — by conservatives when it comes to war spending?
The United States has the largest defense budget on earth. At nearly $1.5 trillion in 2008, America accounts for over 50 percent of global defense spending. All the nations of Europe combined spend $289 billion and account for 20 percent of global defense spending. International “menaces,” or nations Newt Gingrich calls an “evolving planetary threat” like North Korea and Iran, don’t even account for 1 percent, and their annual defense budgets are similar to what the U.S. might spend on the National Endowment for the Arts.
When Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently suggested a relatively modest cut in defense spending, The Wall Street Journal, Gingrich, Sean Hannity, and others accused the Obama administration of “gutting” the military — and yet remained silent about how such spending will hurt future generations.
But, as many conservatives contend, was avoiding the “cost of failure” in what Bush used to call the “Global War on Terror” worth the price? Was failure even avoided?
On Sept. 11, 2001, 3,000 innocent civilians were murdered by Al-Qaeda terrorists. As of April 15, 2009, the U.S. has lost over 4,000 American soldiers, endured thousands upon thousands of civilian casualties, and spent trillions of dollars on the war in Iraq alone.
What have we gained? Al-Qaeda is significantly larger than before the 9/11 attacks, there is more anti-American sentiment in the Arab world than before 9/11, and the U.S. has succeeded in disposing of Iran’s greatest enemy. Add to this, the thousands of U.S. troops stationed in 130 nations around the globe, the trillions of dollars in foreign aid, and a military most experts say is stretched too thin, and the positive results of our current foreign policy are illusive at best.
After nearly a decade of fighting the War on Terror, it is arguable whether or not America is safer. But it is not arguable that in pursuing the most ambitious foreign policy in world history, the U.S. has accumulated a historical debt to match.
For a sliver of what we currently spend, the U.S. could easily have the leanest, meanest fighting machine on earth, while also getting serious about taking care of our veterans and active military — but this can happen only if we give up on the notion of a worldwide American empire.
You want a significant victory against those who attacked the U.S. on 9/11? Let Congress take a $1 billion contract out on Osama Bin Laden. The Al-Qaeda leader would have been captured on 9/12. But “winning” an abstract, nondescript war on terror is simply the best excuse to promote our ongoing foreign policy of global political, economic, and military domination.
Pro-war conservatives who tolerate endless deficits to support a perpetual “warfare state” must give up any pretense of being for small government, or even being conservative; they obviously have no problem with spending the next generation into unthinkable debt. And when they express their outrage on Tax Day at Obama’s bold, new welfare state and his generational thievery, they should recognize that they too, are committing nothing less than generational treason.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.
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