John McCain Ignores Infrastructure in Favor of War Investments: Insights from Dodd and Biden


biden dodd the washington note.jpg
The New York Times has a good piece today asking eight of the candidates who dropped out of the presidential race what they’d be talking about if they were still in the game. I liked two of them — the one by Joe Biden on Afghanistan and Pakistan and another by Chris Dodd on the need for national infrastructure investment.

Dodd writes:

On Aug. 1, the bridge carrying Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River buckled and broke. Thirteen people were killed. More than 100 were injured.
Afterward, we learned the frightening facts: 160,570 of our bridges are in just as dangerous a shape; a third of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition; some of our biggest cities depend on water and sewage systems over a century old.
With every bursting pipe, potholed road and derailed train, the conclusion became inescapable: America’s backbone is decaying.
It wasn’t always this way. Year by year and ton by ton — from the great railroads to tens of thousands of miles of Interstate — great American engineers built the foundations of our prosperity.

It is interesting that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are co-sponsors of the Hagel/Dodd bill establishing a National Infrastructure Bankbut John McCain isn’t.
There are a lot of reasons Rome fell, but one of the biggies is that Rome overspent on its military and the maintenance of empire and underinvested in its core, which slowly rotted.
John McCain’s embrace of empire and his oft-expressed decision about the inevitability of “more wars” for the United States furthers the build-up of America’s military machine while the home front further deteriorates.
— Steve Clemons


19 comments on “John McCain Ignores Infrastructure in Favor of War Investments: Insights from Dodd and Biden

  1. john says:

    so much diarrea of the mouth, so few brain cells. KEEP UP THE LUNACY. THAT WILL GET YOU FER FAR.


  2. Linda says:

    Note that Susan Eisenhower, Ike’s granddaughter who is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a historian, has supported Obama.
    I’ve posted these links many times before because both Ike’s 1961 Farewell Address (military-industrial-complex warning) and his 1953 Chance for Peace Speech are so contemporary today.
    / Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the Nation
    1953 Chance for Peace Speech to American Society of Newspaper Editors – Eisenhower’s Speeches – Eisenhower Memorial Commission


  3. rich says:

    I dunno, Dwight Eisenhower sounded like many a pissed-off American when he gave his “Military-Industrial Speech” in 1961. Quote below. (Stunning that we made it to 2003 without Ike’s famous words being common knowledge among columnists such as Nick Kristof (who replied, ‘ he said what?’). Ah, newsmen.)
    “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 militaryindustrial 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.”
    “Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them . . . there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense . . ”
    “But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs — balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage — balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.”
    Love to see Sen. Obama quote the last piece above while debating McCain–and the first piece in his first SOTU speech.


  4. badger says:

    Vote for McInsane if you want another 100 years of this.
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Iraq war has contributed to the U.S. economic slowdown and is impeding an economic recovery, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says.
    Meanwhile, the U.S. government is severely underestimating the cost of the war, Stiglitz and co-author Linda Bilmes write in their book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War” (W.W. Norton), due to be published on Monday.
    The nearly 5-year-old war, once billed as virtually paying for itself through increased Iraqi oil exports, has cost the U.S. Treasury $845 billion directly.
    “It used to be thought that wars are good for the economy. No economist really believes that anymore,” Stiglitz said in an interview.
    Stiglitz and Bilmes argue the true costs are at least $3 trillion under what they call an ultraconservative estimate, and could surpass the cost of World War Two, which they put at $5 trillion after adjusting for inflation.
    The direct costs exclude interest on the debt raised to fund the war, health care costs for veterans coming home, and replacing the destroyed hardware and degraded operational capacity caused by the war.
    In addition, there are costs not accounted for in the budget such as rising oil prices and social and macroeconomic costs, which the book details.
    To illustrate how the money could be spent elsewhere, Bilmes cited the annual U.S. budget for autism research — $108 million — which is spent every four hours in Iraq. A trillion dollars could have hired 15 million additional public school teachers for a year or provided 43 million students with four-year scholarships to public universities, the book says.
    Stiglitz and Bilmes say they were excessively conservative in calculating the $3 trillion figure, overcompensating for their bias in having opposed the war.
    Asked if the war has contributed to the U.S. slowdown, Stiglitz said, “Very much so.”
    “To offset that depressing effect, the Fed has flooded the economy with liquidity and the regulators looked the other way when very imprudent lending was going up,” Stiglitz said. “We were living on borrowed money and borrowed time and eventually a day of reckoning had to come, and it has now come.”
    The war has also altered how the United States has reacted to its current economic troubles, he said.
    “When America’s financial institutions had a problem, they had to turn to the sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East for recapitalization, for the bailout,” he said.
    “The reason was obvious. The war had led to high oil prices. The war had meant that America had to borrow more money. There weren’t sources of liquid funds in the United States. The sources of the liquid funds were in the Middle East,” he said.
    Bilmes, a former assistant secretary and chief financial officer of the U.S. Customs Department, said the war also limited options for the $168 billion stimulus package signed into law by President George W. Bush on February 13.
    “We really had very little wiggle room in order to pass this because of the fact that we’re spending $16 billion a month on Iraq and Afghanistan,” Bilmes said. “Actually the country could have used a larger fiscal stimulus but there is (no) cash to accommodate it.”
    The authors said they were surprised by the hidden costs their research found, citing, for example, what they called the underreporting of casualty figures by the Pentagon.
    The official Pentagon figure of nearly 30,000 wounded in action fails to account for an addition 40,000 service members who have required medical attention for non-combat injuries or illness, Bilmes said. She based her conclusion on official Defense Department data from a restricted Web site.
    (Editing by Philip Barbara)


  5. TonyForesta says:

    America is five trillion dollars in debt most of it held by China, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. Future American governments will tragically, by necessity be “bloated”.
    Intelligent leadership (which precludes any involvement by the fascists in the Bush government or the republican reich) will be forced to manage both the obese bloatedness and the crushing debt. This endeavor will be niether quick, easy, nor painless work.
    The current panjandrum diabolically constructed and ruthlessly engorged what is now the largest most bloated, indebted, deficit burdened, cronycapitalist, supremist, fiscally irresponsible, pork barrel infected, least liked government in the history of America.
    Imagining that democrats could somehow worsen the current catastrophic fiscal horrorshow and pending calamity is laughable, – because it is impossible.
    “Robber barons on steroids, the GOP.” True that Mr. Murder.
    A vote for McCain is a vote for the fascists, and an anabated perpetuation of the tyrannical and odious policies and machinations of fascists in the Bush government.
    Democrats are imperfect, – but history proves that a larger, far more diverse population of Americans benefit under democratic leadership and fiscal policies.
    History also reveals the grim fact, that under republican leadership and fiscal policy, select cronies, cabals, coteries, klans, and oligarchs benefit singularly, exclusively, and wantonly, – and a much larger, far more diverse population of Americans are disatvantaged.
    American politics is kabuki theater. We are sold and vote for packaged images, fictional charactors, and partisan banners. Americans are left with the sad choice of the lesseroftwoevils.
    More accurately and regarding this epic election, Americans are forced to choose between an extreme evil incarnate, and something that is not good, – but lessthanevil.
    A vote for McCain is a vote for the fascists.
    Democratic leadership is America’s only hope.
    “Deliver us from evil!”


  6. ... says:

    tokyotom scary thought, but i think you are right… they will just keep on spending, no matter what..
    ajaz to all casual observers i think the dem race looks like a very close race to date… i know that is not how the media has painted it.. this has mostly been a coronation for barack.. i think it is premature to count hillary out, something the obama crew have been wont to do for quite some time.. your comments remain true to this..


  7. Ajaz says:

    Will Hillary Clinton continue if she wins either Texas or Ohio?
    While Barack Obama is now leading in opinion polls in Texas, he is still behind in Ohio & Rhode Island. If the last 11 contests are anything to go by, Barack tends to close the gap and go past Hillary in the last few days before the primary.
    There is a possibility however that Hillary Clinton could win Ohio. The question arises, does she then fold her tent and go home or does she take this as a signal to keep going. The Clintons are known to be fighters, so chances are she will want to continue thus causing ripples in the Democratic party.
    It will then be time for Senators, Members of Congress, Al Gore and other Democratic party elders to step forward and endorse Barack Obama to bring this race to an end. The longer this race goes on the more nasty it will get and that can only help McCain in the general election.
    However, if Hillary Clinton wins both Texas and Ohio (which is unlikely) then she will have a case to continue.


  8. Mr.Murder says:

    Bush’s billionaire tax cuts have already made many states go broke. They are taking up the obligation he’s ponied out, or they’ve seen prices increase off privatization.
    One of the first assets states usually sell(after electric co-ops) is their water rights.
    Kicking reesponsibilities down to states. And if the states can’t track items outside of state(Commerce Clause) what’s to keep additional entitlement spending in check?
    Robber barons on steroids, the GOP.


  9. TokyoTom says:

    Steve, the rest of the bunch are hardly better than McCain – who’s simply running on what he thinks will get him the most votes. Except for Ron Paul, all are saying that the best cure for a federal government that has run off the rails – as a result of spending that benefits elites and those who feed them – is … more spending.
    Yes, of course we would have been much better off not dumping a trillion dollars down a hole, but we should not simply assume that we need a bloated federal government to further ride to our rescue. Kicking more responsibilities back to the states may be a good idea.
    I suspect we will see infrastructure spending after the election, but with Dems in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House, we are more likely to see a repeat of budget-busting, pork-barrel earmarks, unrestrained by partisan checks.


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I, for one, am mighty glad Eisenhower wasn’t a “pissed off” American”
    I know there must be a point in there somewhere, but if so, I sure as heck can’t find it.


  11. erichwwk says:

    “”Eisenhower wasn’t a “pissed off” American.””
    That is arguable. If not “pissed off”, he was clearly apprehensive about the ability to keep the military-industrial-congressional in check, and not morph into the kind of empire that Steve describes appears in falling empires, whether Roman, German, or Soviet. The Brits had the sense to let go of what could not be maintained.
    I, for one, have grave doubts as to whether we do, seeing more and more evidence of delusion and inability to recognize the flight from reality.
    Trading in commodities, I recently had occasion to check on other perspectives in commodity blogs. I was quite shocked at the extent to which folks there were analyzing “when and how” the US would break up, rather than “if”.
    While not as pessimistic as a growing minority in investment blogs, I confess to having little in common with folks that would elect a Sen. Kyle of AZ or a Sen. Session of Alabama to represent them, after hearing them express pride in being able to have one’s army put their boots on others faces while on the ground.


  12. Mr.Murder says:

    Saudi Arabia is asking nationals to leave Lebanon.
    Perhaps people talking of four dollar a gallon gas know something we don’t.


  13. Mr.Murder says:

    Joe “MBNA” Biden pontificates about fiscal matters?
    Through the looking glass.


  14. judyo says:

    I, for one, am mighty glad Eisenhower wasn’t a “pissed off” American.


  15. judyo says:

    I for one am mighty glad Eisenhower wasn’t a “pissed off” and American.


  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Interesting. Particularly in light of the fact that Dodd is particularly favored by the arms industry, almost as much as Hillary or McCain.
    If we combine the words politic and hypocrite, can we start calling these jackasses “politicrits”?
    Perhaps, instead of drawing conclusions based on their carefully timed and scripted rhetoric, we should draw conclusions based on their history.
    What have Biden or Dodd done lately to actually improve the state of our infrastructure, and divert funds from “defense” to apply to infrastructure? Have they supported the huge money drain to Israel? How did they vote in regards to Iraq war funding? Have they raised a stink about the coupla trillion that this jackass Zakhiem “misplaced”?
    Or, are they just posturing, defending earmarks that rarely improve their constituency’s quality of life, yet USUALLY benefit some fat cat contractor or land investor.


  17. Bobalaska says:

    I agree completely with the need for massive investments in national infrastructure. Hopefully this will be a priority for the new President and Congress, especially as the war- and funding for it- winds down.
    However, unless you believe that the White House should be the sole determinant of what the project priorities are in every state, infrastructure investment means earmarks. The Hagel/Dodd bill explicitly includes earmarks as a means to properly fund projects. Even the President’s budget contained thousands of earmarks while simultaneously Bush was decrying the use of them. What he was really saying was he is “the decider,” not Congress.
    The question on earmarks for me, whether on a national or state level, is simply this: Do you want members of the legislative body to have some say in local infrastructure project funding, or do you want such decisions to be made only by the executive branch?
    I favor the former, and I am pleased that respected Senators from both a Western and an Eastern state agree that earmarks have a place when we are investing in infrastructure.


  18. Jason says:

    We haven’t had a “guns or butter” election in a while, but I think this one may be it. With the economy in bad shape, the economic cost of the war will take new prominence and increase pressure to pull out of Iraq.
    Steve, there’s a big question I don’t think you’ve answered yet. What do you think we should do in Iraq? All we are getting from Democrats and Republicans are over-simplified arguments without the reasoning to justify them. I have yet to hear a convincing case by anyone on why we should pull out, or why we should stay in the country.
    Do you know enough about Iraq to make a strong argument for the right course of action over the next year? I’d love to hear it if you do. A few questions I have:
    * What are the obstacles hindering political progress? On balance, is our presence there helping or hindering political progress? If we withdraw, are the ramifications likely to me minor or major?


  19. Linda says:

    McCain also has pledged to keep the Bush tax cuts on the top 10% and “no new taxes.” The Bush Administration and the Republicans have a policy of don’t tax and spend into deficit on war abroad that favors only the oil industry and military-industrial-complex.


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *