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2009-02-14 05:51

My one effort to set in motion, and leap on, a bandwagon for what I thought would be an obviously infectious political phrase failed miserably. After many months, the wagon is yet to be hitched, the horses still out to pasture, and the phrase “message-force multiplier” remains essentially recondite, except to a few political junkies fortunate enough to have had their eyes open at a certain moment last April when one of the most important pieces of investigative journalism of the new century flashed past the public eye in the space of a few milliseconds.

Undaunted, though, I’m now gonna make a plea for another lovely, newsworthy, and political useful phrase: “weaponized Keynesianism.” If this one doesn’t have legs, then I’m just an aging fatso blogging on a couch . . . .

Oh, wait . . . .

“Weaponized Keynesianism” is Barney Frank’s phrase, used in a recent piece in the Nation, for the appalling hypocrisy of Republicans who fight with every fiber of their being to limit government spending bills . . . except when the bills concern military spending, in which case the sky’s the limit. Conservatives dragging the budget surplus into a deficit? No problem . . . as long as it’s only to benefit gigantic defense contractors that make generous campaign contributions support our courageous fighting men and women! Plus military spending creates jobs . . . at those contractors!

The whole piece, ‘Cut the Military Budget—II,’ is very much worth reading. A sample passage:

It is possible to debate how strong America should be militarily in relation to the rest of the world. But that is not a debate that needs to be entered into to reduce the military budget by a large amount. If, beginning one year from now, we were to cut military spending by 25 percent from its projected levels, we would still be immeasurably stronger than any combination of nations with whom we might be engaged.

Implicitly, some advocates of continued largesse for the Pentagon concede that the case cannot be made fully in terms of our need to be safe from physical attack. Ironically—even hypocritically, since many of those who make the case are in other contexts anti-government spending conservatives—they argue for a kind of weaponized Keynesianism that says military spending is important because it provides jobs and boosts the economy. Spending on military hardware does produce some jobs, but it is one of the most inefficient ways to deploy public funds to stimulate the economy. When I asked him years ago what he thought about military spending as stimulus, Alan Greenspan, to his credit, noted that from an economic standpoint military spending was like insurance: if necessary to meet its primary need, it had to be done, but it was not good for the economy; and to the extent that it could be reduced, the economy would benefit.

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