US President Donald Trump recently announced the lifting of export restrictions on “lethal” military drones — to much consternation from the #Resistance media. The wailing and gnashing of Liberal teeth sought to portray the move as a flagrant expansion of an already out of control global arms market, while “competitors” like Israel worried that this new Buy American program would hurt their own drone sales.
The Trump administration is nearing completion of new Buy American rules to make it easier to sell U.S.-made military drones overseas and compete against fast-growing Chinese and Israeli rivals, senior U.S. officials said.
It’s What We’re Good At
The move makes sense, if what you want is to create “good-paying” American jobs. The US is already the undisputed world leader in arms exports. Loosening the restrictions on drones is just a good way to boost American manufacturing and create “high tech” jobs that pay well.
Indeed, the Trump Administration’s move will help Defense Contractors such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Lockheed Martin, whose shares all rose on the news.
The Business of America …
In Part One of this series, I laid out the Ten Tenets of Neoliberalism, which declare that the Market is the Mother of All things. However, the arms manufacturing industry and its main customers in the defense, intelligence and security industries seem to be the one area of the US economy for which these laws do not apply.
Indeed, neoliberalism is defined not just by its slavish devotion to the dictates of the Market, but also by areas, sectors and industries that it singles out for exemption from those Market forces.
“The most indestructible weapons system known to man is one that is manufactured in all 50 States.”
The Defense industry is one that is virtually devoid of competition. Defense contractors charge whatever they can get away with, and their pricing and profits are rarely if ever questioned. Yes, we have heard about the famous $600 hammer and the $1000 toilet seat, but those are merely anecdotal punchlines to a cruel joke. The fact is that Defense contractors have little to no oversight, and despite the scathing and damning reports issued by the various Inspectors General for the armed services receive no attention and are rarely acted upon.
A US Army private who drives a truck makes a mere fraction of what a truck driver working for a Defense contractor makes. This article in the Washington Examiner describes the various ways in which Defense contractors make three times private sector wages:
… defense contractors earn three times as much as their private sector counterparts, according to a 2012 report by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.
Raytheon charges the government $90 per hour for “administrative support/clerical” work for individuals with a minimum of a high school diploma and two years of experience, and slightly more than $100 per hour for first-tier management consulting.
Rates for labor are offered as a price to the government, with no information available as to how much is used for overhead, profit or actually distributed to workers in the form of pay. Moreover, the government does not collect data on the number of contractors it hires.
Spending on federal contracts has increased 45 percent in the past decade, which may help explain why we are now spending 40% more on Defense overall than we were in 2004–2005 -at the height of the Iran and Iraq Wars.
So where are those Market forces?
The short answer is that Market forces play no role under neoliberal regimes when it comes to military spending or spending on other areas that are of personal or class-based importance to the ruling oligarchy.
This is why, as I explained in Part Three of this series, military service has become the last resort for so many American youth. In the absence of access to affordable education or decent-paying jobs in the private sector, our young people are forced to risk their lives — and possibly take the lives of others — in order to get by. Uncle Sam is always hiring, and can always afford to hire.
The Big Secret of Neoliberalism: Deficits don’t matter
“Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter,” Vice President Dick Cheney said when the Bush administration sought a second round of tax cuts in 2003. Yes, the great neoliberal icon, Ronald Reagan, who claimed we could simply not afford social programs, who claimed the government was too big and spent too much, didn’t mind going into the red when it came to stoking up the arms race or handing big tax cuts to his wealthy donors and friends. And many of them were in the “arms industry”.
In the 2018 US Budget, defense and military spending was increased by $80 Billion a year. No debate. No discussion. No filibustering. 60% of Democrats joined with Republicans to approve this massive increase in military spending, which, quantitatively speaking, was much more than the cost of providing tuition-free college to every American student.
But no one asked “how are you going to pay for that?”
Trade Agreements are Now Arms Agreements — and Vice Versa
Many on the Left wondered why Obama and the Democrats were so fervently pushing the TPP. While some realized that Obama’s “pivot to Asia” was not just on defense, but also on trade, fewer still realized that defense and trade were now one and the same interest.
The TPP will usher in a new era of massive arms sales to Pacific countries. In 2016, in preparation for what they believed would be a passing of the TPP, the Obama Administration lifted a long-standing ban on arms sales to Communist Vietnam. Why? Because we do not want them to be buying their drones from China.
Likewise, the enormous arms deals that we have signed with Saudi Arabia and Israel are not just for strategic purposes. Our support for the war in Yemen is not ideologically based — it is economically based. The US is one of the sole producers of such weapons as cluster munitions, white phosphorous and depleted uranium tipped shells — all of which are either banned or have been condemned by the international community. It is getting harder and harder to find buyers for these goods. The Saudis and Israelis are happy to provide a market for them.
Recently, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer spilled the beans about what our relationship with these countries means. In a contentious interview with Senator Rand Paul, Blitzer challenged the Senator’s opposition to the US aiding Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen, claiming that stopping the Saudi support for the Yemeni genocide would result in lost jobs here at home:
“So for you this is a moral issue,” he told Paul during the Kentucky Republican’s appearance on CNN. “Because you know, there’s a lot of jobs at stake. Certainly if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling war planes, other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia, there’s going to be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States. That’s secondary from your standpoint?”
See the video here:
The Death Economy
The above clip from CNN really says everything that needs to be said about the imperial manifestation of US neoliberal economic policies. We cannot stop making war because our economy runs on death. The tentacles of the Military Industrial Complex are sunk deep into every Congressional District, and the manufacture and sale of weapons has now become the dominant US industry in terms of providing “good manufacturing jobs.” All other such jobs have been outsourced and off-shored under a succession of neoliberal trade agreements.
The US Military Industrial Complex has been given immunity from the neoliberal “Market forces” that have ravaged all other sectors of the American manufacturing base. This was done on a bipartisan basis over decades. And now we must accept the fact that the US economy literally runs on spreading death and misery around the world.
The solution? Reject neoliberalism.
Previous posts in this series:
EuroYankee is a dual citizen, US-EU. He travels around Europe, writing on politics, culture and such. He pays his US taxes so he gets to weigh in on what is happening in the States.