Bill Kristol Proposes Military Spending for Stimulus

By January 11, 2009Economy

Bill Kristol, speaking during the Fox News Sunday roundtable on the economic stimulus bill:

What is the general consensus about how the Depression ended? The huge defense build-up of World War II? What part of government is good at spending money? They’re spending all kinds of money already. If you’re buying 2,000 Humvees a month, why not 3,000? If you’re refurbishing two military bases, why not refurbish five?

Another inapt historical analogy, one of too many these days. Yes, the increased industrial production of WWII helped end the Depression, but you cannot talk about it without noting the military’s mass conscription of able-bodied men, including millions of the unemployed. Absent another world war, that’s not going to happen again, thankfully.

Can we also please, please not make the defense budget another element in what has become an “everything is stimulus” debate? Military spending should be driven solely by national security, that is, whether it makes our nation safer. We welcome the industrial production and the jobs, of course, but on their merits.

If you start making defense another entry in the stimulus ledger, you’ll have people saying we need to cut the military in order to put more money into X, Y, or Z. Be forewarned: You can cut the military lot faster than you can add to it. How long did it take to plan, design and build the George H.W. Bush Nimitz-class nuclear carrier dedicated in Norfolk Saturday? It certainly is not the kind of quick investment that stimulates an economy out of recession.

The rest of Kristol’s comments are sensible, although “everybody agrees” doesn’t sound right.

Everybody agrees that the military is stretched too thin. They used up a huge amount in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I think Republicans will push to get some of the money in defense, change the composition of the tax cuts. I think Obama will end up with a stimulus package with bipartisan support.

An .mp3 clip of Kristol’s comments is here.

And congratulations to Northrup Grumman and all who participated in the construction of the USS George H.W. Bush! (News release upon its christening in October 2006.)

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