Recently (November 10th 2006), the Washington Post carried an article suggesting that it was not possible for the Democrats to pursue their full agenda "Unless they are prepared to cancel plans for new fighter planes and naval vessels, wipe out whole categories of farm subsidies, and reduce Medicare reimbursements rates to doctors and hospitals — which they're not — the only way to pay for (their initiatives) is to raise tax rates. This would guarantee a rather short, two-year stint in power."
Let's leave aside Medicare for a moment. It would be worth seeing the Democrats in power for only two years just to see them do a true public service that no previous Congress has dared do.
With the greatest firepower and technology ever seen, the US forces have been made to look ridiculous by a bunch of guys with lead pipes and a bit of TNT. What ARE we thinking of? Rumsfeld may have been an incompetent war leader, but he was right about reforming the military. It needs to be fast, manoeuvrable, ruthless and on the ground, not in cosy bases with well-stocked PXs.
Military spending has a life of its own, growing every year, justifiably or no. Nobody has dared tell the Emperor he has no clothes and that we have a military with the wrong muscles in the wrong places. That is to say, the technology is clever and ubiquitous - - and ineffective in the warfare that has to be fought. The Pentagon has put bases and contractors in every State to ensure a quiescent Congress, anxious to bring back the pork. Even allowing for a re-emergent, militaristic Russia and possible, but far from probable, difficulties with China over Taiwan, multimillion dollar planes and ships are outdated and relics of the cold war. There are no great conventional threats on the horizon, and fighter jets can do nothing against terrorists with a nuclear device.
We need a few planes for specialized uses and a modest number of ships, including aircraft carriers, to support the troops- - but only a judicious, limited number. Plans to build more ships and planes are all about pork, subsidies, ambition and careerism among the officers, and handouts to the military-industrial complex, with all its incestuous and suspected corrupt relationships. The Democrats have to stand up to the powerful "defense" lobbyists, the arms salesmen and right-wing "thinkers", who get us into unwinnable wars with an unsuitably trained military who believe that hi-tech is always the solution. Stand up to them! Reduce the size of the military and increase its effectiveness.
Secondly, nobody dare say this in public, but the fact is that this time, in comparison to Vietnam, it is not the public, the liberals or the draftees who have let us down in Iraq. And it is not only the Republican civilians, although they are bad enough. The top military brass themselves have suffered from wishful thinking and have not proved effective. To say this in public is almost a heresy, but the record needs careful examination. The perception is that, for instance, they descend upon a town (e.g Fallujah), "clear" it of terrorists and then find that the terrorists have moved back in days later. No greater number of troops will make up for flawed tactics. For reasons best known to themselves, the top military have concurred with the flawed civilian strategy so far, without speaking up (as far as we know), or resigning. Other, more independent-minded senior officers have left the Pentagon, voluntarily or otherwise. The current senior command should be made to take responsibility. We should sack them and get some new military thinking in the Pentagon!
These go almost exclusively to giant combines, not to small family farms, most of which have disappeared. The system subsidizes crops, such as sugar and rice, best bought from poorer countries. It encourages over-production, artificially lowering world prices of, for instance, sugar and rice, and further impoverishing those parts of the world best suited to growing the crops in question. Corn is a good example of bad policy. So much corn is produced that it has to be used selling corn syrup, implicated in obesity and serious bad health issues. We are thus paying handsomely in taxes to promote our own bad health. If you are subsidized to grow corn you will not grow cabbages, and thus huge areas of the corn belt are just that - - a corn belt. Add to that, the farm combines combines use only a very small number of seed varieties that suit their production and harvesting, and this tends towards monoculture. Were these varieties to be seriously attacked by disease and the harvest fail, there would be no alternative species of corn capable of taking its place for years, if ever.
Yes, the French are just as bad, maybe worse, but damning the French is yet another example of American hypocrisy, as far as the world is concerned. Let people pay market rates for the oceans of corn syrup, and while we are about it, give a real boost to sugar and rice producers and others in developing countries by stopping subsidies to private agricultural combines.