There’s really nothing less convincing than the argument that some rich dudes should give money to people who share your interests, but Brad Plumer’s post over here opens the door. He notes that Ike Skelton, slated to take over the House Armed Services Committee, “will be just as addicted to feeding the already-overfed defense budget and spending billions on utterly worthless projects like the B-2 bomber as his predecessor was.” As Ken Silverstein writes “Skelton’s entire political career has been funded by the same assortment of defense contractors that footed the bill for outgoing chairman Duncan Hunter.” Much the same could be said of John Murtha who’ll be running the defense subcommittee of House Appropriations.
The problem, however, scatters much more broadly than committee chairs. If you want to know why US foreign policy is the way it is, a big part of the reason is that the overwhelming majority of the financial support for people doing policy-and-politics relevant stuff is defense contractors. Then there’s some money to be raised from people with right-wing views about Israel. Beyond that . . . almost nothing.
Obviously, it’s hard out there for everyone in the progressive coalition, and large business enterprises and the people who own and manage them are always going to have the preponderance of funds. Nevertheless, the extent of civil society pushback on defense issues is tiny compared to what you see on, say, education, the environment, gay rights, reproductive freedom, etc. and there’s nothing comparable to the labor unions who provide some kind of permanent infrastructure for populist economics. Thanks to the war, you have seen some uptick in rich-dude and foundation interest in national security issues but it’s all very embryonic at this point. In their new book, Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security Michael O’Hanlon and Kurt Campbell write “there is no case for cuts to the defense budget” indeed “added capabilities are needed . . . which will probably require slight increases in the inflation-adjusted defense budget.” There’s something a bit off with a world in which this represents the left-most bounds of respectable opinion.