WAR PIGS: GOP Votes To Literally Take Food Out Of The Mouths Of The Hungry To Build More Bombs

BLOOMBERG NEWS: The U.S. House voted to cut food stamps, federal workers’ benefits and other domestic programs to avoid scheduled reductions in defense spending. The chamber today passed, 218-199, a plan to cut about $310 billion in spending to replace automatic defense-spending reductions that lawmakers in both parties agree shouldn’t be allowed to take effect in January. “This plan ensures that we maintain our fiscal discipline and commitment to reducing out-of-control government spending, while making sure our top priority is national security,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican. Democrats lined up against the measure, H.R. 5652, saying it would put too much of the deficit burden on the needy. The proposal goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it is doomed to failure. The Republican plan is one that “asks nothing of Mr. Exxon, that asks nothing more of hedge fund managers, but asks those who are most vulnerable in our society to share more pain,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat. No Democrats supported the plan; 16 Republicans opposed it. The automatic spending reductions set to begin in January are triggered by the so-called supercommittee’s failure last year to come up with a plan to reduce the $1.2 trillion federal budget deficit. About $55 billion would be subtracted next year from the Pentagon budget, with an equal amount coming from non- defense programs. MORE

RELATED: It’s no secret more Americans are relying on food stamps, but host Michel Martin looks at why those applying for government aid with master’s and Ph.D degrees have more than doubled in recent years.

RELATED: The U.S. is the world’s largest aerospace and defense market, and also home to the world’s largest military budget. The growth of the Aerospace and Defense industry depends largely on the spending outlook of government departments, with the U.S. defense budget being the primary driver. The industry largely depends on U.S. government contracts. Given the uncertain macroeconomic environment, not just in the U.S. but also globally, the industry faces the risk of fewer new orders as customers are more likely to postpone or cancel contractual orders and/or payments.Defense spending is the major source of revenue for the top nine global aerospace and defense companies, with the US accounting for more than 40% of total global defense spending. MORE

RELATED: In most opinion polls, Americans appear reluctant to cut defence spending. Of course, in most opinion polls Americans appear reluctant to cut everything apart from foreign aid. Despite all of the hand-wringing over the federal budget, the truth is most people don’t have a firm grasp of how their money is spent. […] Most participants were surprised by the level of America’s defence spending when it was held up against the rest of the discretionary budget, historical levels of spending, and the defence spending of other nations. A previous poll showed similar results—support for defence cuts—when participants were informed about the comparable size of the 31 largest categories in the federal discretionary budget. The potential cuts to the Pentagon contained in last year’s budget deal are actually less than those proposed by the PPC study group on average. So it may seem odd that America’s politicians are now scrambling to avoid those reductions. Instead, Republicans have proposed cuts to food stamps, Medicaid, social services and other programmes for poor Americans, while Democrats have proposed raising taxes on the rich. Few have pushed back against the military spendthrifts, who argue that America would swiftly decline were it to return to the level of funding George Bush laboured under at the end of his peaceable presidency. MORE

RELATED: If Congress doesn’t stop $1 trillion in automatic budget reductions set to begin unrolling in January, Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia will see such dramatic cutbacks that a statewide recession is likely, a public policy expert warned Monday night. Professor Stephen Fuller of George Mason University told more than 500 people at a congressional listening session that the deep cuts, including about $500 billion in defense cuts, would be “devastating,” given that 10 cents of every defense dollar is spent in the commonwealth. “These would be enough to drive the economy into a recession in 2013,” Fuller said, noting that 20 percent of all the jobs in Virginia are dependent on military spending. MORE

RELATED: Even in today’s straitened fiscal climate, with all the talk of government austerity, Congress feels obliged to trump an already generous president by adding yet more money for military appropriations. Ever since the attacks of 9/11, surging defense budgets, forever war, and fear-mongering have become omnipresent features of our national landscape, together with pro-military celebrations that elevate our warriors and warfighters to hero status. In fact, the uneasier Americans grow when it comes to the economy and signs of national decline, the more breathlessly we praise our military and its image of overwhelming power. Neither Obama nor Romney show any sign of challenging this celebratory global “lock and load” mentality. MORE

RELATED: In so many ways, Romney is a blank-slate candidate: He has no strong ideological filter; his issue priorities are determined more or less by poll testing; his policy plans are frequently vague or incomplete, intentionally designed to leave him flexibility to adjust his position down the road. But there’s at least one issue on which he’s made a very clear commitment: defense spending. And he wants it to go up. Way up. The defense budget is already scheduled to increase from current spending levels. Yet Romney wants it to rise higher, faster. In fact, he wants to set a floor for defense spending relative to the size of the economy: Romney says the defense spending should consume at least 4 percent of America’s total GDP. MORE

RELATED: The twenty-first century hasn’t exactly been America’s greatest moment. Still, there remain winners, along with all the losers you might care to mention. If, in fact, you were to sum up the first decade-plus of the next “American Century” in manufacturing terms, you might say that — Steve Jobs aside — this country has mainly been successful at making things that go boom in the night. Start with Hollywood. Its action and superhero films — the very definition of what goes boom in the night — continue to capture eyeballs and dominate global markets in ways that should impress and that have left national movie industries elsewhere in the proverbial dust. And then, of course, there’s that other group of winners, the arms-makers of the military-industrial-homeland-security complex. They’ve had the time of their lives these last boom years (so to speak), with national security budgets soaring annually beyond all imagination.Even now, in the toughest of tough times and despite the headlines about gigantic Defense Department spending cuts, President Obama recently reassured arms-makers (and the rest of us) that the Pentagon budget would, in his words, “still grow, because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership. In fact, the defense budget will still be larger than it was toward the end of the Bush administration.” In response, his Republican opponents lambasted him as weak on defense for promising so little. Which tells you just who the winners of the last decade were and who the winners of the next one are likely to be. MORE

RELATED: Here’s the essence of it: you can trust America’s crème de la crème, the most elevated, responsible people, no matter what weapons, what powers, you put in their hands. No need to constantly look over their shoulders.Placed in the hands of evildoers, those weapons and powers could create a living nightmare; controlled by the best of people, they lead to measured, thoughtful, precise decisions in which bad things are (with rare and understandable exceptions) done only to truly terrible types. In the process, you simply couldn’t be better protected. And in case you were wondering, there is no question who among us are the best, most lawful, moral, ethical, considerate, and judicious people: the officials of our national security state. Trust them implicitly. They will never give you a bum steer. You may be paying a fortune to maintain their world—the 30,000 people hired to listen in on conversations and other communications in this country, the 230,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security, the 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, the 4.2 million with security clearances of one sort or another, the $2 billion, one-million-square-foot data center that the National Security Agency is constructing in Utah, the gigantic $1.8 billion headquarters the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency recently built for its 16,000 employees in the Washington area—but there’s a good reason. That’s what’s needed to make truly elevated, surgically precise decisions about life and death in the service of protecting American interests on this dangerous globe of ours. MORE

GEN. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: “Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of ploughshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. […] This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. MORE

RELATED: U.S. Military Spending, 1946–2009