Thursday, February 14, 2013

What Interests??

Something that has been rolling around in my thinking lately has been the phrase, "In the national interest..."

When I hear that now days I wonder what interests those would be in the case of wars we start (or just get into) or where we have Americans (not necessarily military personnel).  Increasingly I hear this "National Interest," thing when we have people threatened in some far away place.  What ARE our collective interests?

Often, I hear this when there is an oil supply line that is threatened.  We send war ships and personnel into harms way to secure a seaway or perhaps an airport overseas.  We are protecting a corporate interest... a profit source, or a "vital" resource needed to manufacture things.  Some of the things manufactured are for civilian use but often enough they would be to further the military use.  Rare metals are a national interest we have... no matter where they are found.  Food sources or medicinal crops are further national interest items.  We often mask this by talking about the creation of democracy and/or freedom elsewhere on the globe.

In any case, the translation for what a national interest is seems to come down to protecting something that may not necessarily be "ours" but, rather, something we want.  Or, think we need. 

What makes this important is that when something is deemed to be in the national interest we are then justified in spending a lot of money to secure that item, product or whatever, disproportionately to its "real" value.  That is, we don't have a final product cost (price) that reflects the resources to used to procure the item.  That is a tax dollar asset that is spent to secure a corporate need.  Then we allow the corporation, through tax loopholes as often as not, to pay less tax than individuals.  The argument that money is taxed twice if we charge the corporation for the monies made is often heard in this connection.  All money is taxed multiple times as moves through the economy but that has never stopped some folks from yammering away on this so-called point.  If we had to pay for the cost of protecting the national interest at the counter where we purchase the end product what would the price actually be??  How much tax would individuals actually need to pay for an item that included the cost of protecting the seaway and covering the pass through for taxes that corporations inevitably charge us?

Lately I have heard this, "national interest," stuff from Republicans when they feel any threat to the military budget.  Never mind that we spend more than any country (and many combinations of countries) on our military.  It is one of the primary purposes of the Federal government, under the Constitution, to keep us safe. 

It has been said that we are building things for the military that they haven't asked for and probably don't even need.  That large budget item is not reviewable either.  I have heard more than once that there is no way to get one's arms around the entire military budget because it has so many moving parts.  So much for civilian oversight.  Military entities are not generally designed to be efficient.  It is built into their nature to throw lots of resources into and expect big corresponding result.  We rarely get that sort of result.  We do, however, spend a lot of money for mediocre results.  Is it in the national interest to continue doing this?

Has this path helped in the pursuit of happiness?  Really?

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