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article imageOp-Ed: Policies imitate life — US spending maps out senile gravy trains

By Paul Wallis     Aug 28, 2012 in World
Sydney - It won’t be easy to top the latest figures from the US economy for the sheer number of “drab” factors. According to these numbers, the US is well and truly glued to a model which has more to do with political fantasies than reality.
The arms trade is one of the ancient hacks of US policy and industry. It's a good example of how things work. Recently it was announced that US arms sales hit $66B this year. That $66B is about 78% of all global arms sales, currently at a reassuring $85B. The sales information breaks down directly to policy, including sales of Patriot missiles to Taiwan and the venerable if reliable F15 fighters to Saudi Arabia. Global policies are sticking out all over the place in the figures.
These are the traditional areas of defence sales. They’re core business for the big arms manufacturers. This is “heavy industry” as it was in the 1980s. It looks like the arms industry is in lock step with Washington in the most literal sense.
Whether it’s good policy is debatable. Putting Patriots on Taiwan will annoy the Chinese. It will also make Patriot technology available to the PRC thanks to the unofficial associations between the PRC and Taiwan, but who’s worrying about that? The Chinese will have an anti-missile system in about three years, but gosh, we sold $2B to someone! Saudi Arabia is seen as the local answer to Iran in the Gulf, rightly or wrongly. The Saudis have an inside track to a lot of hardware and software as a result.
Sydney Morning Herald/Reuters have a comparison in figures for domestic spending compared to US defence spending, currently at a bonny bouncing $766 billion and the $66B figure to these other areas of spending. Figures are apparently from Bloomberg:
The global health initiative, which focuses on the health of women and families and on innovation ($8.17 billion).
Government's global climate change initiative ($160 million).
Sustainable landscapes ($137 million).
Housing and urban development ($49 billion),
Homeland Security ($47 billion),
Energy ($43 billion)
Justice ($33 billion).
Education ($71 billion).
Impressive, isn’t it? There’s another set of relative figures left out of the equation, in terms of policy and any resemblance to reality:
Homeland Security is apparently now fully institutionalized. It is now officially a gravy train.
Energy, including America’s pampered "libertarian" oil companies, get almost as much as housing.
Justice is an equal partner in spending.
See any vague resemblance to the usual issues of Congressional non-achievement?
The other horror isn’t as obvious. It’s about what’s left out of the spending profiles. The general appearance is that Old School economics in government policies haven’t budged since 1950.
Policies are imitating life, but it’s obviously not much of a life. These figures are a mug shot of a convicted mindset, and it’s an obsessive mindset. These are the policies which have been going nowhere worth going. Both sides of US politics are responsible.
Perhaps even more sickeningly, these numbers also reflect the “ Party Donor Trail”. (No, not the Donner Party trail- pure coincidence they sound so much the same and look so much the same.) These figures are the clear indicators of how much money goes straight to the lobbies. If you showed someone who knew nothing about American politics these numbers, they’d already know everything they needed to know.
Options? There are options, now? Yes, Cinders, there are options
One of the biggest indicators of America's departure from the things that made it great is unmistakable. America now consistently and routinely undervalues its real money spinners and emerging capabilities. There was a time when it didn’t. Back then, new ways of making money and government revenue were considered interesting. Now they're pariahs. Money is spent, but it’s not spent well or productively in terms of the macro economy. The joke is that the Fortune 500 guys apparently don’t see the values of moving away from this model, either. They’re looking at a dinosaur and seeing a new car.
American tech companies dwarf those figures in terms of turnover and market reach. If you add intellectual property, they get even bigger. This is a gigantic cash sector, not apparently on the radar or anywhere else as a major US advantage. This is the policy trump card the US has been holding for so many decades and rarely plays effectively. US tech, in fact, is hardwired into endless opportunities for major revenue achievements, and is it even listed as a priority?
Clean energy is huge business everywhere but the US. In Germany and China, it’s worth billions. New tech, the entire production and distribution cycle of which was invented in the US, is getting less traction than 40 year old fighters and whizzbang missile systems with built in diplomatic and technological bear traps. “Justice”, that increasingly vague and inappropriate term, is now getting four times more money than health.
This is a recipe for obsolescence. It represents and advanced stage of policy senility. There’s more recognition of geriatric political knee jerks than new ideas and new realities. The ancient hermetically sealed views don’t use windows. They use theories from 100 and more years ago and a world view which makes Groundhog Day look positively avant garde.
If these policies are true imitations of life, get another life. You will need one.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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