Posts Tagged ‘military’

I don’t need a Big Brother

April 21, 2017

There is something about the perceived dichotomy on the right between Big Brother and social welfare programs. We’re seeing the budget for the military likely expanded again. In the past fifteen years I’ve witnessed the rapid growth of the Department of Homeland Security and the acceptance of the government essentially having carte blanche to surveil its citizens and to use the information gleaned from that for whatever purpose they want. I’ve seen off-shore prison sites used by my government when they want to get around things like due process. And I’ve seen the FBI throw itself into the middle of a presidential election to influence the process. All of this represents a growth of government. And it seems the majority of those who make up the right wing of American politics is fine with it.

What they are not fine with is socialized medicine. Food stamps. Public housing. Even public lands, really, unless someone gets to pollute and destroy it first to try to pull a privatized buck out of it. I will unapologetically say that these things represent a growth of government, too, except it’s not a growth bent on killing or imprisoning people.

I will also admit to not knowing why the right supports the former but not the latter. I know there are all sorts of possibilities thrown about from a misguided belief that we live in overly violent times (we don’t) to just a pure one-sided “If it’s my team, I don’t care, as long as we win” mentality.  Maybe it just boils down to the idea that one is for our safety while the other is for freeloaders, though I think it takes a remarkable level of pessimism and disconnect with humanity in general to believe there is just this sea of freeloading ne’er-do-wells looking to take advantage of our kindnesses, and that this sea doesn’t include any of ourselves or the people we know and love. It’s all those other people.

A lot of this post stems back to Trump’s proposed budget that essentially slashed all discretionary spending to things like NPR, NEA, science funding, etc. to throw another half billion at the military. It’s also a reaction to the whole idea that you’re un-American if you ever don’t support spending more on the military.

I do not support spending more on the military. Pay the troops more, sure, but lets make fewer air craft carriers then, since they’re now being said to possibly be ineffective.  Our most effective strategy against ISIS has been making sure the locals are trained better paired up with smaller special ops units and targeted drone strikes.

Before I wrap this up I want to also say that I don’t support things like single payer health care and stronger social safety nets and free university education because I want or need the government to look out for me. I support it because I want to look out for my friends and neighbors and it’s my tax money, too. Knowing that the family down the road wouldn’t have to worry about their finances crumbling if their kid gets leukemia means something to me. I care about that, even if I don’t know them. Knowing that all of our kids could go to university or to a vocational school and not put themselves into thousands of dollars of debt to learn a skill to live better lives (and, in turn, to likely enrich the lives of many others) means something to me. This isn’t wanting my hand to be held. This isn’t being a snowflake or some other stupid disparaging crap.

This is how I define being human.  Caring about each other, supporting each other. Life is inherently unfair, and will always be unfair to some degree. But we have the ability to mitigate that unfairness, to level the playing field a bit to at least provide a minimum degree of safety and assurance. We have the ability to give a damn.

It’s About The Choices We Make

December 29, 2016

Got into a very minor talk around the dinner table with the in-laws and, for me anyway, it came down to the choices we decide to make. It mainly concerned what we choose to want our government to spend our tax money on. We (I’m referring to the US, being an American myself) choose to spend on some things and not others, and I think it reflects what we prioritize. I’m going to use this article from 2015, that talks about military budgets in 2014, largely because it was the easiest to grab off of Google, and I don’t think anything has drastically changed – the US hasn’t drastically slashed spending on its military, in other words.

And this isn’t to only single out the military, it’s really just the easiest thing to pull out of our budget and say,hey, we spend a LOT of money on this. In pure dollars, we spent more than anyone else in the world by a pretty godly sum in 2014 ($571 billion vs #2 China’s $129 billion). While we didn’t have the highest percentage of spending to GDP, we were still fourth blowing 3.5% on our military budget. And I’m not sure this includes things like the NSA and whatever things are kept off the publicly available books for security reasons. In short, it’s a ton of money.

So, I look at this and say, well, why can’t we knock that down to around 2% and re-invest that money into our social safety nets. Into our infrastructure. Into job creation programs (however you want to define it). How many business startups could be funded with some very low interest government loans with that extra cash?

My only real takeaway is that we must not care. Or if we do care, we don’t care enough to push something like this forward. Do we really need to blow that much more money on our military (which, in itself, is also a job creator, to be fair)(do we support our military to such a degree at least in part to boost the economy?)(maybe) or would that money do more our country if it was spent more at home than on military contractors and blowing up chunks of other countries?

I know a lot of this delves into the feeling of security and safety. The world is shown as some big,scary place full of people who want to hurt us. This fear doesn’t just show up in military spending but in what we are unwilling to do. Syria has been an unmitigated hell hole for a long time. Refugees have been wallowing in camps, scraping by, trying to just have an opportunity at a new life. Where were we? It’s not like the US is overcrowded.

But we refused to step up in any seriously meaningful way. There were excuses such as being unable to afford it. We could, especially since if we looked past our noses to the long term we would see that bringing in a bunch of young people would drastically strengthen to tax base for decades to come. The first five years would be tough, as we foot the bill to get them on their feet and moving, but the majority of them would do what we all do. Work hard, pay bills, and try to lead a better life. Or excuses that terrorists are hiding in these camps, waiting to be unleashed in some unexpecting country that takes them in.

Except why aren’t they terrorizing the countries they are currently interred at? Are they really that patient? Or do they just not exist?

In the end, we make our choices. We are choosing to live guided by fears, ignorance, and hate to varying degrees. It makes us less of a people, less of a nation. We can be better. If we choose to.