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Military Money and Power

The name of the game in Washington DC is power, and nothing confers power like control of the military budget. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are larger budgets but they are entitlements distributed fairly uniformly among the various states, except for Florida with its huge senior citizen population. During the Cold War, the military budget distribution was the major cause of state by state differences in per capita federal spending. During the Cold War, the military budget per capita state distribution was about four times the variance of all other programs combined. Today it is still the major source of variance among the states, but only slightly more than all other programs combined. This military principle means that presidents, speakers of the house, majority leaders of the senate and appropriations committee chairs, military subcommittee appropriations chairs, and armed services committee chairs are the key power brokers in Washington DC with all else small potatoes. I would add cabinet members and congressional leadership and supreme court members. The high military state percentage of all of these power groups is about 80%. For shorthand, I refer to these power centers as the military presidency or military states, because where these politicians come from, their home states, are key to understanding the power and control they exercise. In terms of congressional leadership, the percentage coming from high military spending states increases when their party is in power and decreases when their party is out of power. In presidential politics, the reason Iowa usually gets it wrong and New Hampshire usually gets it right is because Iowa is a low military spending state and New Hampshire is a high military spending state. The military states are about 20 but with half the US population. Sometimes a better measure of their dominance is to look at the military neighborhood states, that is whether the state and all adjacent states are collectively above or below the military average per capita. For example, Tennessee and Arkansas are technically low military states, but each is surrounded by mostly high military states. Using the neighborhood standard expands the military neighborhood states to 30 making high militarism the norm for the country.

This military money also confers great electoral and economic power, because those who work in the military industries are overpaid about one third more compared to similar jobs in normal private industry. Hence military states have disproportionate economic power and fundraising power compared to other states. Because most military contractors are overwhelmingly dependent on the military dollar for 80% or 90% of their business, their tends to be an equal and opposite political power attached to them, for example, Halliburton and Dick Cheney, Boeing and Senator Scoop Jackson, Lockheed Martin and Senator Sam Nunn or Speaker Newt Gingrich or President Jimmy Carter. Two two term presidents have come from the largest military state, Nixon and Reagan of California. That same state hogged four times the military research money of the second and third states, Maryland and Massachusetts respectively. That state went from third to first in population during the Cold War.

Winning presidential elections requires both sides to win at least some military states. So the presidential candidates of both political parties have a pro military bias. While congressional Democrats outside the South vote about 90% against military money and Republicans everywhere vote about 90% for more military money, Southern Democrats in congress and Democratic Presidencies tend to be fifty fifty.

Most major weapons systems are awarded more on the basis of power than quality of the proposal. For example, Lyndon Johnson had the F-111 contract rebid twice after Boeing won the first two bids, so that his home state production facility located in the Dallas suburb of Fort Worth could finally win the bid on the third try. Sort of like the way the Soviet Union won an Olympic basketball gold medal once. That Forth Worth congressional district went on to propel James Wright into the Speaker of the House position. The historic Bell Helicopter plant in the racist Cobb County Marietta suburb of Atlanta had produced all of America’s airlift capacity (C-130 and C-5a) during the Cold War up through the Jimmy Carter presidency. Former John Birch Society president Norm McDonald represented that district until dying in the 1983 Korean airliner shot down by the Soviets. Then Newt Gingrich took that seat in congress going on to be Speaker after the 1994 election.

Back to the airlift story. Future Nobel Peace laureate Jimmy Carter while in the White House proposed Human Rights for our foreign policy launching a wave of democratic leaders in Latin American countries previously having become dictatorships in the wave after Lyndon Johnson let Torillo take over power in Panama. The only major military initiative launched by the Jimmy Carter presidency involved a need for more airlift capacity to enable the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). This later made the Gulf War of 1991 and the Iraq War of 2003 possible, with obvious benefits to the presidential home state of Georgia. The only major dove like position of Senator Sam Nunn, Armed Services chair from the same state as the president under Jimmy Carter, came when Nunn had presidential ambitions in 1983. He proposed reducing the troops in Germany from 300,000 to 100,000. Amazing how that helps the argument for more airlift to bring those troops back to Germany in a hurry if the Soviets start acting up.

Another good example is the rise of Trent Lott. He started as a congressman from Pascagoula Mississippi. Mississippi was a top five military spending per capita state at the time. But the other four congressional districts from Mississippi were agricultural low military spending districts. So the military spending in Pascagoula was so intense it brought the state into the top five. Later Trent Lott went on to become Senator and then Senate Majority Leader, thanks to the military money power of Pascagoula.

Then there’s Pete Wilson of San Diego, Dick Gephardt of Saint Louis and Tip O’Neill of Boston. Those were the three highest per capita military spending major metropolitan areas in America in the eighties. Tip O’Neill was the Irish Speaker of the House that had the famous personal relationship with president Ronald Reagan. Pete Wilson went from lowly mayor of California’s only third largest city, but home of the Pacific fleet, to later be elected Senator and Governor. Dick Gephardt, Democratic Leader in Congress, ran second to Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts for the nomination for president in 1988. Only problem is, Massachusetts had more military money than Saint Louis. And Dukakis could run on the Massachusetts economic miracle pretending he had something to do with that miracle. Actually that miracle came from Tip O’Neill getting Boston’s share of the Reagan military buildup. But Tip O’Neill retired in 1987, and was unavailable to protect the military money for fiscal year 1988. So low and behold, in August 1988 Dukakis has to return to the governorship duties in a major financial crisis for Massachusetts in the midst of his presidential campaign, as the military chickens come home to roost, so to speak. What launched his campaign in the Winter primaries later doomed his campaign in the Fall. Regional economics in American is 97% correlated to the military money changes as shown in the Reagan buildup study and the end of Cold War study, as the winners are high military states in the buildup and low military state in the builddown.

See pages eight to eleven in the video booklet for the regional economy picture:

In this 1984 analysis of federal spending per capita by state, two term Cold War presidencies (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan) had about twice the average military money for their home state, and one term presidencies (Johnson, Carter, Bush 41) had about the average military money for their home state:

Dr. Peace, Dr. Bob Reuschlein,
best contact
to leave message 608-230-6640
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(Peace Economics 1986 available for $10 ebook)


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