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Re: Election 2012

Postby Fridmarr » Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:56 am

Koatanga wrote:You know, there's a massive elephant wading right through these debates, but he's got some sort of cloak of invisibility happening so that nobody really sees him. His name is "defense spending". If the US could manage to disentangle itself from its various conflicts and settle down to a peacetime level of spending, there would be more than enough money to cover welfare, Obamacare, and trickle-down ecoRomnics with plenty left over for additional government bailouts and subsidies.

But as long as he's draped in the robes of patriotism, the elephant blends right into the backdrop of election banter.

I reckon if the US backs out of its conflicts and channels the residual manpower and engineering capacity formerly geared toward defense into public works, the country as a whole would be a lot better off. Hell, they might even develop a renewable energy source, or retro-fit major traffic areas for auto-piloted vehicles, or bring fibre to every door - something Americans could benefit from more directly than the security of Afghanistan.

In fact, developing a replacement for crude oil would do more to end the Iraq conflict than anything else the military could possibly do. Devalue the resource, and people will stop fighting over it.

The oil argument around iraq is fairly weak to be honest. But that aside, while there is plenty of room to make hay with defense spending, even if it was zero, we still wouldn't have a balanced budget, much less more than enough money left over. In 2010 defense spending was around 700billion and our deficit was around 1.2 trillion (and that doesn't even count agency debt), we'd still have 500 billion to make up. There are projections which balance out those numbers a bit better down the road, but you're still not going to cover the deficit completely on an annual basis.

Although not as directly efficient as the public works model of Keynesianism, it isn't all that different either, so if you were to cut that off you would have to manage that impact on top of everything else.

Still, I'm more than happy to scale our military spending back considerably. It's just that that alone isn't going to get it done.
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Cogglamp » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:21 am

Dear striking Chicago teachers,

While I'm deeply supportive of teachers and the work that you do, I congratulate you on having completely lost touch with reality in that a guaranteed COLA of 4.0% each year for 4 years isn't enough. Comparing that to income growth for the rest of the nation, your increase is twice as much as the income growth for the median worker in the US (1.9%)and more than three times more than the median worker in the US when excluding management and professional services (1.2%).

Please be advised that your median income of ~$74,000 is 1.5 times higher than the median household income of Chicago and you are one of the highest paid groups of teachers according to National Council on Teacher Quality. Let me remind you that your school system is facing $1 billion deficit this upcoming year. In a time where tax revenues are significantly down due to a struggling economy, your ability to not grasp the macro level economics of not only your city and state, but the rest of the nation is stunning.

Your clamoring for pay raises, reduction of class size, improvement of facilities, job security, and freezes on health benefit contributions strikes me as gluttonous. Pick your poison. Do you want the money to be spent on additional teachers and improvement of facilities or is this grandstanding for a cash grab?

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Re: Election 2012

Postby Fridmarr » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:27 am

But it's for the children...
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Cogglamp » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:46 am

Fridmarr wrote:But it's for the children...


Haha! Good one. I can see their interest is definitely centered around the children as they decided to walk out within the first couple of days/weeks of school being back in session.
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Re: Election 2012

Postby KysenMurrin » Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:49 am

While I'm deeply supportive of teachers and the work that you do, I congratulate you on having completely lost touch with reality in that a guaranteed COLA of 4.0% each year for 4 years isn't enough. Comparing that to income growth for the rest of the nation, your increase is twice as much as the income growth for the median worker in the US (1.9%)and more than three times more than the median worker in the US when excluding management and professional services (1.2%).

My (company-wide) payrise this year has been delayed 6 months (again) because the union was fighting for 6% when the company offered 4% (they lost the fight and took the 4%). This in a climate where the majority of people in related industries are getting pay freezes or cuts (there've been picket lines in the factory next door about that very thing). Some people don't have any perspective.
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Shoju » Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:32 am

KysenMurrin wrote:
While I'm deeply supportive of teachers and the work that you do, I congratulate you on having completely lost touch with reality in that a guaranteed COLA of 4.0% each year for 4 years isn't enough. Comparing that to income growth for the rest of the nation, your increase is twice as much as the income growth for the median worker in the US (1.9%)and more than three times more than the median worker in the US when excluding management and professional services (1.2%).

My (company-wide) payrise this year has been delayed 6 months (again) because the union was fighting for 6% when the company offered 4% (they lost the fight and took the 4%). This in a climate where the majority of people in related industries are getting pay freezes or cuts (there've been picket lines in the factory next door about that very thing). Some people don't have any perspective.


Raise? Cost of Living Increase? I... have no idea what these things would be like. I've been making the same amount since I started here.
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Passionario » Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:38 am

KysenMurrin wrote:
While I'm deeply supportive of teachers and the work that you do, I congratulate you on having completely lost touch with reality in that a guaranteed COLA of 4.0% each year for 4 years isn't enough. Comparing that to income growth for the rest of the nation, your increase is twice as much as the income growth for the median worker in the US (1.9%)and more than three times more than the median worker in the US when excluding management and professional services (1.2%).

My (company-wide) payrise this year has been delayed 6 months (again) because the union was fighting for 6% when the company offered 4% (they lost the fight and took the 4%). This in a climate where the majority of people in related industries are getting pay freezes or cuts (there've been picket lines in the factory next door about that very thing). Some people don't have any perspective.

Pssst... Wanna trade countries?

Our oil-based economy bubble hasn't burst yet, so jobs are plentiful, salaries are steadily rising and national debt is negligible.

(Shame about political and social freedoms, though)
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Nooska » Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:14 pm

^Passionaro - norwegian?
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Brekkie » Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:23 pm

Skye1013 wrote:And then suddenly, all of us that don't fall under special ops are jobless, fighting for work with the rest of the people that have been job hunting for years in fields that we may or may not have any experience in (not all military jobs translate to the civilian world.)


Additionally, Special Operations forces cannot exist in isolation.
They are the elite best of the best out of the regular forces, and entrance to JSOC units is difficult, with extremely high standards, and extremely high attrition. For example, BUDS, the initial entry-level school for Navy SEALs, typically has a 80% or higher attrition rate, most of it in the first two weeks. Some classes graduate zero sailors. And not just anybody is allowed to go to BUDS in the first place; the selection process only allows the most qualified applicants to even attempt the course, and a demanding pre-BUDS work-up training program allows through only those in the absolute peak of physical condition.
It would be very, very difficult to maintain the high standards of our elite units without regular forces to feed into them streams of experienced, motivated, physically perfect, well-rounded candidates. To return to the SEALs, most successful BUDS students (note: completion of BUDS alone isn't enough to qualify you as a SEAL. They must attend a follow-on 28 week class called SAL Qualification Training which results in additional attrition before they finally receive their trident.) are currently serving active duty sailors, not newly joined recruits off the street.

Koatanga wrote:You know, there's a massive elephant wading right through these debates, but he's got some sort of cloak of invisibility happening so that nobody really sees him. His name is "defense spending". If the US could manage to disentangle itself from its various conflicts and settle down to a peacetime level of spending, there would be more than enough money to cover welfare, Obamacare, and trickle-down ecoRomnics with plenty left over for additional government bailouts and subsidies.

But as long as he's draped in the robes of patriotism, the elephant blends right into the backdrop of election banter.

I reckon if the US backs out of its conflicts and channels the residual manpower and engineering capacity formerly geared toward defense into public works, the country as a whole would be a lot better off. Hell, they might even develop a renewable energy source, or retro-fit major traffic areas for auto-piloted vehicles, or bring fibre to every door - something Americans could benefit from more directly than the security of Afghanistan.

In fact, developing a replacement for crude oil would do more to end the Iraq conflict than anything else the military could possibly do. Devalue the resource, and people will stop fighting over it.


As Fridmarr pointed out, Defense cuts alone could not solve the problem. However it is similarly impossible to balance the budget without Defense cuts, a fact that many politicians like to conveniently ignore or hand-wave away.

Ending the war in Afghanistan will be a big part of it, likely saving between $100-200 billion per year.
Though it is pretty hard to tell for certain how much we are spending. Under Bush, the actual cost of the wars were hidden by not including them in the defense budget or in any kind of itemized budget records keeping at all, and just periodically requesting huge blocks of money from Congress with little accounting or oversight. With the Obama administration, transparency has gotten better. "Overseas Contingency Operations" have been bundled with the Defense budget and included in budgetary requests to Congress. This is actually the reason why many opponents of the current administration claim he increased government spending (not including one-offs like the stimulus), when in reality all that happened was we started acknowledging the money we were already spending with proper book-keeping.

Beyond that, though, there is a great deal of waste in the DoD, and a great deal of room for drastic further cuts, to different extents with each branch. The Army seems to be the most wasteful overall, both anecdotally and from the overall data. By comparison to the most analogous other branch, the Marine Corps, the Army managed to spend almost 8.5 times as much money ($244.9 billion vrs. $29.0 billion in 2010) for only a little over double as many soldiers (561,979 vrs 202,612 in 2010). And the Marine Corps maintains its own air wing of transport aircraft and fighter jets, along with helicopters within it's tiny budget, whereas apart from a few attack helicopters the Army is entirely dependent on the Air Force.

But I don't want to pick on the Army, the inefficiency is pervasive. Non-contracted ROTC cadets get school seats at airborne school. Civilian contractors (hired at great expense because it allows the services to hide the number of people working for them under "contingency operations funding", rather than personnel numbers) have exploded such levels that 39% of the people employed by the military are civilian contractors (total cost in 2010; $316 billion). These people, many of them former military who got out of the service because they could see the fat payoffs they could get as civilians for doing the same job, often make a Colonel's pay for doing a Private's work, but with less accountability and less oversight. The worst you could do to a contractor was not renew their contract.

Military bases are enough issue. People don't realize truly how many bases, and how much redundancy, we have throughout the world. In Germany ALONE, the US Military maintains 54 full bases, many of them located in the exact same city (for example, iirc we have 6 individual bases, all in the city of Frankfurt). Each with their own independent infrastructure; their own commissary, DoD school, air strip, gym, recreation center, etc. Many of these bases serve little strategic purpose in the modern world, unless you seriously expect the Soviets to come charging into West Germany without warning. In 2013, the DoD plans to spend $525.4 billion on military bases, a $5 billion reduction from last year.
One of the problems with these bases and our presence in them is that it effectively subsidizes the budgets of our allied countries, allowing them to skimp on their own defense and use the savings on generous social programs and technological development.

A big part of the problem with Defense cuts is that most lawmakers see Defense spending as a form of "safe" pork. Since the passage of the Budget Control Act, requiring the DoD to come up with a little under $500 billion in budget reductions, the Secretary of Defense and service chiefs have gone to Congress over and over and over with plans on how they want to do it, only for lawmakers to see items which would affect pork for their constituency and veto the plan, forcing the service chiefs back to the drawing board. Defense contractor technology companies have been very smart in this regard; Boeing, for example has distributed the parts manufacturing and supply chain for a single bomber it makes throughout the country so that every single state in the union has a direct stake in that ancient bomber's continued production.

It says something about how much potential for cuts in Defense there are that the services have largely been able to figure out how to cut the half a trillion dollars while keeping every single one of their sacred cow procurement items intact (Army: a new light armored vehicle, Navy: a number of new, largely robotic Cruisers and Destroyers, Air Force: a new long-range bomber, Marine Corps: the short-take-off/vertical-landing Joint Strike Fighter variant, respectively).
Most of the half-trillion was cut through personnel administrative re-shuffling, such as declaring that 65,000 troops are now "temporary", rather than part of permanent forces, and thus shifting their costs from the DoD budget and into the Afghanistan War budget. And even the elimination of all these troops will still leave us with a larger military than we had pre-9/11.

From the perspective of the military, part of me really hopes that sequestration happens, because it is the only way for real cuts and increased efficiency to occur, because the service chiefs will have the clout to overriding the whining of Congressmen by presenting the fact that they have little option but to cut their strategically-unnecessary pork if they have any hope of meeting the mandated reductions. Sequestration would be devastating for the economy, but it would be good for the US military.


The last piece of context to keep in mind when it comes to the military budget is that our equipment is aging and seen a lot of wear over the past 10 years. The timing of 9/11 was unfortunate in the sense that the DoD was about to launch into one of it's periodic equipment modernization phases, replacing all the gear which we'd been using for decades, some of it since Vietnam, with updated technology. With the two wars, that didn't happen.
As an example of what this means, the aircraft the Joint Strike Fighter is supposed to replace was first introduced in 1969. Most of our pilots fly aircraft that are older than they are. Some fly aircraft their own fathers flew in a full generation before.
Similarly, our Amphibious Assault Vehicle was first bought in 1972. They keep sinking during training operations, drowning the occupants, because they are so old and decrepit they might as well be held together with duct tape.
Additionally, what we HAVE spent our money on often has limited utility for environments other than Iraq. The Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle (MRAP) is designed to resist road-side IEDs in Iraq. But it has almost no relevance or usefulness in any other battle space, including Afghanistan, where they keep getting stuck in the rocky terrain and therefore ironically making patrols MORE susceptible to ambush.
In 2004-2005, the Army switched over to a camoflage pattern that came in dead last in a field test of camoflage pattern effectiveness, and widely derided because it blended in with nothing. (Well, almost nothing...) They replaced all their utility uniforms with it, and plastered it all over every piece of gear. All at great expense. And now, it has proven to be so bad that soldiers actually have to be issued with something else for deployments.


Conclusion: While the deficit cannot be made up solely with Defense cuts, there is plenty of room for a thorough audit and a readjustment of priorities. Any serious proposal to address the deficit must include further reductions on military spending.

Just as a final note to leave you with some food for thought:
In 1949, Costa Rica completely abolished its military, and used the former defense budget for education and development. Since then, almost uniquely among countries in its region, Costa Rica has not experienced a civil war, and has never been invaded. It is one of the most thriving countries in Latin America.
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Brekkie » Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:24 pm

Nooska wrote:^Passionaro - norwegian?


He's Russian.
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Melathys » Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:27 pm

Fivelives wrote:Military jobs might not translate to the civilian world, but military values definitely do.

Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Sacrifice, Honor, Integrity and Pride.


Especially if you work with classified information and technology. Like in my case. I had intended to leave the Army and do the same/similar work as a civilian contractor. Problem was, that while I was in the Army, the work I did was Secret. A couple of months after I left (and still trying to get the job) the stuff went to Top Secret. Leaving me looking for work in a Top Secret field with just a Secret clearance. So, yea, I'm doing something else now, lol.

*edit

I saw this somewhere and thought it amusing. Speaking of budget cuts, or alternate ways of spending...

"Here is some food for thought...We should place the elderly in prisons. They will get a shower a day, video surveillance in case of problems, three meals a day, access to a library, computer, TV, gym, doctors on-site, free medication if needed.
Put criminals in nursing homes. They have cold meals, lights off at 7pm, two showers a week, live in a smaller room and pay rent at $4,000 a month!!! It's pretty sad that we treat prisoners better than the elderly...."

Though this hits a bit close to home for me. My grandfather died a few weeks ago, leaving my grandmother with advanced Alzheimers. She will have to be in a home as she requires 24/7 care, and even at the lower end of the cost spectrum, its going to cost 5-7k a month.
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Skye1013 » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:09 pm

Having a high level clearance is a boost to your resume, if it hasn't expired, because it saves the company a couple hundred grand in starting a clearance from scratch.

And yes, Fivelives, those do translate, but will only get you so far. It might allow me to be the manager at McDs instead of just a burger flipper...
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Re: Election 2012

Postby tinalt » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:54 pm

While I definately agree with brekkie that the military can be and is grossly inefficient even on the best days, I don't see broad budget cuts as fixing that. If you don't specify where the cuts are going to be then the brass aren't going to cancel their projects, they're going to cut people.

The military is already drawing down, and has been for years. If we cut more people, then the job performence of those that remain is going to suffer. I don't know about you, but I'm already doing my main job, 5 additional duties that used to be fulltime jobs, while also fitting in time for PT, education (which is pretty much mandatory), volunteering (also mandatory), and taking care of my troops. I can't fit much more on my plate without something getting dropped. People are already "doing more with less" and many units are trying to keep running even though they're already undermanned.

What we need to do is decide which projects to cut. Did the navy really need the new DDG 1000? Do each of the branches really need their own variant of the JSF? Did the AF really need the F-22, even though it hasn't seen any action yet?

I agree that the budget as a whole needs to come down, but we need to specify where it comes from, and the problem lies (like you said) with congress' use of the defense budget to fund projects, plants, and jobs in their districts. None of them want to see an end to the expensive projects that are pouring money into their local economies. So they just say "cut defense spending" and that translates to cut force levels.
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Skye1013 » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:09 pm

Or, if not force levels, member benefits. Thankfully we have groups like AFSA and the VA to fight against that, but it is an ever increasing concern. Especially if the groups fall under their minimum participation threshold and are no longer able to do the fighting.

As for excess bases, weren't they working on reducing the number of bases in Europe? Or was that just another one of those constantly spread rumors? Honestly, if they could combine the forces that are currently sitting at multiple bases, I think it would do a lot to help with manning, at least in some career fields, like say, security forces. Not that they're particularly undermanned, but security has always been a concern and I can't see having more per base being a bad thing.

The downside to base closures being that the economies built around them would likely dry up. Take, for example, Osan: if a business gets blacklisted by the military, it usually doesn't take long for them to close up shop. Also, iirc, in Okinawa they had a lockdown preventing people from leaving the base for one reason or another, and the local economy was dying to the point that they were begging for the restrictions to be lifted.

That being said, and this may seem a bit heartless, but I don't think it's the US government's responsibility to keep those economies alive.
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Re: Election 2012

Postby Brekkie » Tue Sep 11, 2012 8:31 pm

Skye1013 wrote:Or, if not force levels, member benefits. Thankfully we have groups like AFSA and the VA to fight against that, but it is an ever increasing concern. Especially if the groups fall under their minimum participation threshold and are no longer able to do the fighting.


They were talking about doing away with military retirement pensions for a few terrifying months last year, just straight cold turkey with no grandfathering in the service members who were already joined on the understanding of being able to work towards a 20 year pension. I know a lot of people who were shitting bricks because they were a mere handful of years from rating their retirement, and it looked like it might just evaporate in a cloud of "Oh, you've been working towards this for the past 17 year of your life? Oh well fuck you. Should have been donating to the Thrift Savings Plan scam of a 401k that we make zero matching contributions to."


Skye1013 wrote:As for excess bases, weren't they working on reducing the number of bases in Europe? Or was that just another one of those constantly spread rumors?

Lots of talk, but I'll believe it when I see it. Out of my example above of 52 bases in Germany, 16 are "scheduled to close in 2015". But you know how that goes. A new congress or a new President and that plan won't be worth the breath it took to say it.

Skye1013 wrote:Also, iirc, in Okinawa they had a lockdown preventing people from leaving the base for one reason or another, and the local economy was dying to the point that they were begging for the restrictions to be lifted.


LOL. The Marines on Okinawa are on lock-down with no liberty more often than they AREN'T. Okinawa is infamous for group punishment, especially towards the lower enlisted. Every time some E-8 gets a DUI, all the E-5s and below suddenly lose their liberty. Oki is a pretty miserable place to be stationed if you are an unmarried Sergeant or below.

Skye1013 wrote:That being said, and this may seem a bit heartless, but I don't think it's the US government's responsibility to keep those economies alive.

I 100% agree. Defense spending should be based on one thing and one thing only; strategic requirements. That's it.
If you need economic stimulus, spend money on economic stimulus. Don't wrap it up in a facade of defense spending when it has no actual legitimate defense purpose at all.

Eye-opening is how the Romney campaign is saying we need to spend more on Defense than the service chiefs even WANT or need. It's like they realized that government spending as stimulus is effective, but since their political position is that economic stimulus via government spending is BAD, they have to disguise it as increased Defense outlay instead.
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