Priorities and Character

Author: Gary Hart

Priorities and Character
It is impossible to form national priorities in a climate where one out of five Americans hates the government that manages our public interests. If your attitude is that we’re all on our own and that collective action concerning our shared interests is to be resisted, then governing becomes virtually impossible.
Our representatives have cobbled together a budget resolution that almost certainly will not work, either to reduce deficits or to stimulate economic growth. What reason do we have to believe that those appointed to the so-called “super committee” will not simply reflect the factions in the Congress? Every ideology and interest group will demand representation on the super committee and it will become a microcosm of the wider Congressional deadlock.
The formula Congress adopted requires reduction in defense spending. And that spending must be on the table. But if the super committee recommends across the board percentage reductions, it will be a mistake. Defense contractors with enormous political influence will resist procurement reductions or weapons systems cancellations on both jobs and security grounds. The cuts will then come out of the personnel and operational accounts, and the people who defend our country will bear most of the burden.
If the Obama administration, and especially the new Secretary of Defense, use this turning point to reshape and reconfigure our forces and the equipment they use for the conflicts of the 21st, rather than the 20th, century, we can reduce the defense budget while making our security stronger. The biggest challenge facing our defense establishment now is not how to spend more money. It is how to anticipate future threats and reduce them in size. Security in this century will be much more about intelligence and less about absolute military power.
And finally, a small number of Americans benefit the most from a secure nation. They have the greatest stake in property and wealth. It is only fair that they pay a greater share than they presently do to defend their own interests as well as those of the nation.

9 Responses to “Priorities and Character”

  1. Kathy Teti Says:

    Gary Hart has been preaching the reconfiguration of our military for years. Will someone please listen to him. And, yes, the wealthy should carry a larger share of the burden to stop the growing divided between the rich and the poor. If for no other reason, they should do it to protect their interests; but really they should do it because it’s the right thing to do.

  2. Robert Crump Says:

    A general distrust of the federal government is inherent in the American character but seems to have accelerated in the wake of the Goldwater/Reagan era. With that said, at what point do we begin to have a national conversation on the empire we have constructed and the costs of perpetuating what is rapidly becoming a sick old man? Sec. Def. Panetta is already on record as opposing the automatic trigger, which means the coming fight will be fought over affordable education and health care (i.e entitlements) or the continuation of our misbegotten foreign adventures and the hardware they require.

    If we are longer capable of dealing with pressing national issues, as noted thru the actions of our recent credit downgrade, where does that leave us?

  3. Nancy Lee Says:

    Your ideas are correct, but, I fear, nobody is listening.

  4. Brian C. McCarthy Says:

    Senator – how should rational senators and representatives deal with a situation such as we have now, and such as you describe? It seems like thoughtful and reasoned debate on the merits of issues have no place in the current world of ideologically-driven diatribes. You served through the 1980 elections that replaced several members of Congress of intellect and thought with ideological knee-jerks. How would you, yourself, deal with Tea Party extremists if you were in the US Senate today? Do you think the majority of the American public still has the attention span necessary to distinguish between ranting and thinking?

    To Nancy Lee who fears that nobody is listening – I am listening, so are you, and so are many others who think there is more to American politics than what we see on the news and on the internet.

  5. MinerSam Says:

    What you descibe in your first paragraph is what the Republicans believe.
    Wonder where you got the 1 in 5 number. Seems much larger. Paul Ryan is
    an Ayan Randian as are many other republicans who seem to have forgotten
    to leave her behind in High School.

    And let’s not forget that all the Republicans in the House recently voted
    for Paul Ryan’s Medicare Privatization. And that his full plan involved
    doing the same to Social Security.

    When Mr. Bush tried to do it it was reported that allowing younger people
    to pay into private accounts (The children of those who;ve been paying into it all their lives) would mean borrowing $5Trillion to pay current
    recipients. And just the other day another Tea Party Republican leader Eric Cantor told Bloomberg that People have to accept that they will not get the entitlements they anticipated.

    Meanwhile, When the Republicans recently controlled the White House, House and Senate they collected $1.5Trillion in Social Security SURPLUS which is just about how much they were giving the Rich in Tax Cuts at the time.

    While the Republicans would have you believe that the 745B Stimulous did not work (just during a time when confidence is so critical) The Market has not shared this view. In March of 2009 passed is when the Market ended its decline and climbed from 6300 to 12600. Now that osterity measures are being put into place the Market is Declining because it guarantees no growth.

    One of the Twisted Lies of the Republican have been brainwashing their ill informed voters with that’s an insult to ones intelliegence is that quote: “When Government spends it crowds out the Private Sector.” How absurd.

    Since every day the Republicans are fighting for Predatory standards for corporations one would imagine that, while the American Middle Class is the largest customer of the capitalist, what they Republicans are doing is to create low wage workers.

    One issue with defence is that it exists in every one of our 50 states.
    Eric Cantor said, about 3 months ago that: “Our future and prosperity lies
    in the Millitary”

    And one many ways of telling that this has nothing to do with deficits but the 30 year effort by the republicans to Privatize our Government was a speech by Romney. In which he CASIGATED an aid as being anti Bussiness
    for not wanting to privatize some Goverment Services “Because we can do it much more cheaply.” The republicans in the audiance clapped profusely!

  6. Forest Book Says:

    The danger of our national Priorities & Character could not be more easily grasp, but by this entry from Mr. Thoreau’s journal (1850): “Where there is a lull in truth an institution springs up.” Immediately this contrast of our nation’s character shaping came to mind: Office of Homeland Security vs. the conservative extremists push to close the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency; and undoubtedly any agency or service funded by the majority that those whose fortunes are linked to the military industrial complex deem as a barrier to their enrichment. In his essay, “On Post Fascism”, G. M. Tamas writes with clarity: “Cutting the civic and human community in two: this is fascism.”

  7. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Senator Hart,

    I find it interesting that you say “one out of five Americans hates the government that manages our public interests”. Late last week various media sources were reporting polling results that stated that more than 80% of Americans were dissatisfied with the way that Congress handled the whole budget issue during the recent fiasco in Washington. It also appears that Wall Street was not happy about it with Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the US credit rating from AAA to AA and the New York Stock Exchange Dow Jones Average down over 5% in value in one day. Additionally, China, which holds the largest foreign portion of the US debt, demanded that the US get its economic house in order. It would appear that our government does not have any idea how, nor the capability to manage our economy any longer.

    The Republicans want all money spent by the government to go to corporations “because they can handle it better” which translates into “we want our cut up front” and the Democrats wanting the money to go to entitlement programs where it can be absorbed by an obsolete, dysfunctional, corrupt bureaucracy with little of the funding reaching those who are in need and are the intended recipients.

    The wealthy are not and will not pay for the services that they expect and receive. The poor cannot pay for the services that they deserve. The middle class is rapidly losing the capacity to pay for the dwindling services that they receive. I am afraid that we have seen our allotted two hundred years in the sun and are bearing witness to the beginning of the decline and demise of this great republican democratic experiment.

  8. Gary Hart Says:

    To clarify my generalization about “one out of five”, most polls show about 20% of Americans are in sympathy with the Tea Party, so I used that figure. Hate may be too strong a word, but they certainly don’t like or trust the government that, by majority approval, provides the public services, including our security, we depend on. In this connection, it has always seemed curious to me that the far right does not consider the Defense Department part of “the government”. For them, “the government” is all those agencies they don’t like–mostly that provide support for the poor and unemployed. There is still this stubborn unwillingness to identify the two wars, tax cuts, and financial deregulation as principal causes of our economic woes.

  9. Andy Says:

    Senator Hart, can you do a piece on leadership, because I think this is sorely what the country is looking for. Obama has made a number of accomplishments but somehow we, as a country do not feel like we are being led. I think one of the big problems of America at the moment is that we want a leader that will instantly solve our problems – or that half the country wants government to solve our problems and the other half wants the government to go away so we can solve our problems. In the former case, we aren’t patient enough or want to take responsibility for helping the country do better. In the latter case, I don’t truly believe they have the answer to making the country better because if we want to make America great, we have to think and make policies about how we make America great, not an Ayn Rand-esque free for all. What kind of leader needs to move the country in the right direction — and more importantly what kind of leader can be successful with an impatient, demanding, oftentimes irrational and frankly, mostly spoiled electorate?

Leave a Reply

All comments are reviewed by a moderator prior to approval and are subject to the UCD blog use policy.