War is just one more big government program

Posted on July 7, 2014 at 2.16 pm

My latest at Rare makes a fiscal case for cutting back the warfare state:

Consider the following:

  • What if I told you there’s a government program which will cost taxpayers more than Obamacare will over the next ten years?
  • What if that program was just one function of a sprawling government agency which has not been audited in two decades?
  • What if that agency was the third-largest contributor to our $17 trillion national debt, which breaks down to $55,000 per citizen?

What if the same agency wasted tens of billions of dollars annually on projects and goods unrelated to its mission? (Like a study on “whether men holding pistols are viewed as taller, stronger and more masculine than those wielding objects such as saws, paint brushes and caulking guns.” Or “a conference that included a session titled ‘Did Jesus Die for Klingons too?’” Or “research on what the behavior of fish can teach us about democracy.”)

  • What if it also regularly paid hundreds of times the market value for commonplace items?
  • And squandered billions more on outdated equipment which just doesn’t work?
  • And prioritized cuts in vital programs rather than big-budget flops?
  • And lost hundreds of millions to waste and corruption in foreign programs?
  • And destroyed valuable equipment rather than repurposing it?
  • And blew big bucks on cross-promotions with superhero movies?
  • And gave high-dollar contracts to companies known to engage in fraud—contracts totaling more than $1 trillion in the last ten years?
  • And built buildings which will never be occupied?
  • And reported to Congress that it simply couldn’t account for $1 trillion (yes, trillion) it had spent?
  • And yet it still plans to spend the equivalent of the entire GDP of Sweden on a single purchase over the course of the next fifteen years?

What if this agency regularly and intentionally doctored the books to hide these wasteful practices from taxpayers?

For any fiscal conservative, the conclusion must be that this incredibly wasteful, deceptive, and nonproductive government agency is seriously overdue for audits, possibly criminal charges, and huge—massive—ginormous spending cuts. Right?

Right.

That program was the War in Iraq. That agency is the Department of Defense. That spending is war spending. And the DoD does indeed waste absurd amounts of money on unrelated projectsgaloreincredibly overpriced purchasesobsolete weaponrypoor prioritizationnation-building projectsdestroying equipmentpromoting the recent Superman flickfraudulent contractorsempty buildingsunaccountable spending, and planes that cost as much as Sweden’s GDP. The DoD has been caught doctoring the books on a grand scale.

Yes, war really is just one more big government program: It’s costly. It’s wasteful. It’s poorly managed and rife with incompetence and fraud.

Read the whole thing here.

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My first article for The American Conservative went live this morning! Check it out:

Darrin Manning’s unprovoked “stop and frisk” encounter with the Philadelphia police left him hospitalized with a ruptured testicle. Neykeyia Parker was violently dragged out of her car and aggressively arrested in front of her young child for “trespassing” at her own apartment complex in Houston. A Georgia toddler was burned when police threw a flash grenade into his playpen during a raid, and the manager of a Chicago tanning salon was confronted by a raiding police officer bellowing that he would kill her and her family, captured on the salon’ssurveillance. An elderly man in Ohio was left in need of facial reconstructive surgery after police entered his home without a warrant to sort out a dispute about a trailer.

These stories are a small selection of recent police brutality reports, as police misconduct has become a fixture of the news cycle.

But the plural of anecdote is not data, and the media is inevitably drawn toward tales of conflict. Despite the increasing frequency with which we hear of misbehaving cops, many Americans maintain a default respect for the man in uniform. As an NYPD assistant chief put it, “We don’t want a few bad apples or a few rogue cops damaging” the police’s good name.

This is an attractive proposal, certainly, but unfortunately it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Here are seven reasons why police misconduct is a systemic problem, not “a few bad apples”:

1. Many departments don’t provide adequate training in nonviolent solutions.

This is particularly obvious when it comes to dealing with family pets. “Police kill family dog” is practically its own subgenre of police brutality reports, and most of these cases—like the story of the Minnesota children who were made to sit, handcuffed, next to their dead and bleeding pet—are all too preventable. Some police departments have begun to train their officers to deal more appropriately with pets, but Thomas Aveni of the Police Policy Studies Council, a police consulting firm, says it’s still extremely rare. In the absence of this training, police are less likely to view violence as a last resort.

2. Standards for what constitutes brutality vary widely.

“Excess is in the eyes of the beholder,” explains William Terrill, a former police officer and professor of criminal justice at Michigan State. “To one officer ‘objectively reasonable’ means that if you don’t give me your license, I get to use soft hands, and in another town the same resistance means I can pull you through the car window, [or] I can tase you.” The special deference police are widely given in American culture feeds this inconsistency of standards, producing something of a legal Wild West. While national legislation would likely only complicate matters further, local or state-wide ballot propositions should allow the public—not the police—to define reasonable use of force.

Read the whole thing here.

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So apparently I should have written about Hobby Lobby to be in tune with the news cycle this week, but I didn’t. I guess if you’re sick of that already, this is the article for you, haha.

When I was college shopping back in 2004, the idea of “tuition inflation” wasn’t on my—or most people’s—radar. We knew that college was expensive, of course, but I don’t remember my classmates or our parents thinking there was anything to be done about it other than working hard and, in most cases, taking out massive loans.

For me, however, loans were always off the table. My main criteria when looking at schools was that I’d be able to graduate debt-free. Given that my family isn’t named Rockefeller, that wasn’t an easy task.

So I went to the less prestigious choice of schools, which gave me a full ride scholarship. I worked long hours over the summers and took extra classes so I could finish a year early.

When I graduated, I didn’t owe a single dime. It was all worth it.

Most of my generation is not so fortunate.

As proud as I am about what I accomplished, my path simply isn’t available to most people. The scholarship I recieved, for instance, was only given to ten students each year, about 0.3% of my graduating class.

And my alma mater? Its tuition now runs more than $30,000 annually, which is a 50% increase in the last six years alone.

And don’t even think about paying that kind of bill with a summer job. Fewer and fewer college students are working their way through school now because it’s just not possible to make tuition payments with low wage jobs anymore.

In 1979, it took only one 8-hour day of minimum wage work to pay for a single credit hour of in-state tuition at a public university. Now, it takes 60 hours—a week and a half if you’re working full time, which is unrealistic for many students.

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And if you want to attend a private institution? Tough luck, kid. Expect 120 to 180 hours of work to pay for a single credit hour.

But don’t forget, you need 15 of those credit hours every single semester to graduate on time. Even at public university rates, that’s 22.5 weeks of full-time work to cover a semester’s tuition, even though semesters are only about 15 weeks long.

And that’s not even scratching the surface of costs for room and board, books, and spending money.

With these numbers, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps can’t work. College is just too expensive.

Read the whole thing here.

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