If ever you wondered how bored political reporters can get, look no further than every political headline just about everywhere this morning, all focused on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, and very little else.
I sit here desperately determined not to write about Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s bid for our highest Executive office, but as I scour the landscape of our great river state’s finest digitized ink-sheets, I find little else.
Down in Cincy, a lot more Kasich, and John Boehner’s a granddaddy. In Akron, a mayoral race. In Youngstown, a little bit of Kasich in my life, a little bit of Hillary on the side (that was a Lou Bega reference. Remember Lou Bega? Sure ya do, if you’re a fan of pop music circa 1999).
Selah. Is 11 a.m. too early to drink?
But wait! Hold on a moment, what’s this, hiding on Cleveland.com’s editorial page? A column by Thomas Suddes, and it seems to be… no it definitely is touching on the fact of 70 years of American Empire! Glory days are here again.
Natch, Suddes can’t bring himself to use the word “empire” anywhere in the column. He’s zeroed in on the job-creating aspects of the military-industrial complex.
As several readers pointed out after last week’s column about Ohio’s economic decline, Europe and Asia got rebuilt after World War II with American-made goods. That stoked Ohio’s manufacturing boom of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. But when Europe and Asia recovered, they started producing (and exporting) what they’d once bought from Ohio. That’s part of the reason — just part — why wages stagnate and living standards fall.
Meanwhile, even as investors dumped the industrial Midwest like a first spouse dropped for a trophy, permanent war — 70-plus years and counting — has spurred an endless, two-party economic stimulus program for “defense” contractors, many in the Sun Belt (for better test-flight weather), who peddle warplanes, missiles and guns to the Pentagon.
I’ve been reading recently Christopher Hitchens’ “Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies,” which traces the passing of the torch from the British Empire to the American Empire, and written in 1990 when Hitchens could still claim to have some cred fighting against sweeping military adventurism instead of for it.
I’ve also been studying the Democratic Party National Convention of 1944, during which the conservative James F. Byrnes and the rest of the Old Party Machine stole a return as vice president from the populist progressive Henry A. Wallace and gave it to their unknown lackey Harry S. Truman.
Wallace had been agriculture secretary under Roosevelt, spearheading many of the efforts of the New Deal, before being selected as FDR’s vice-president, to the chagrin of many conservative machine Democrats.
Truman grew up undersized and bookish with poor eyesight and coke-bottle glasses. So after having been beat up through most of his formative years, he embarked on a life-long mission to finally impress his “man’s man” of a father. Yeah, that old story.
So as the British were passing the torch of Empire over to America under Roosevelt’s leadership, after Franklin’s death, it fell into the hands little Harry, down the arm from the chip on his shoulder. We know what happens next, the “big ones,” the antagonism of the Soviets, the establishment of the military-industrial complex, and the Korean War.
The militarized American Empire was off and running, and it hasn’t stopped or slowed down since.
More from Suddes:
According to a 2014 report by the Project on Government Oversight, the cheapest basic F-35 will cost $159 million. And given the F-35’s problems, the price is likely to end up much higher.
In fairness, Lockheed Martin’s website claims that the F-35 project provides 2,623 “direct and indirect” Ohio jobs. It also claims to provide 39,675 such jobs in Texas — and 26,135 in California (and surely a legion of lobbyists at the U.S. Capitol). But if taxpayers, instead of spending $159 million on one warplane, spent that amount on other things, consider the possibilities.
One, which Ohio homeowners might prefer to paying rising property taxes on houses and yards, could be to build one fewer F-35 warplane and spend that $159 million on, say, Ohio’s schools.
What could $159 million cover? According to Ohio Department of Education tallies of school district spending, $159 million could pay for all but maybe $12 million of Westerville schools’ annual spending. Or, for two years, most of what Greater Cleveland’s Elyria schools annually spend. Or, also for two years, roughly what the Dayton area’s Beavercreek schools annually spend.
Politics is about choices. Maybe voters (and the people they send to Columbus and Washington) need to consider making some different ones.
Every other week or so, I appear on a community access television program to talk American history with Ohio University Emeritus Professor Robert Whealey, a deeply knowledgable 84-year-old gentleman. (Incidentally, Suddes is also a professor at Ohio University).
After studying the 1944 Democratic National Convention, where Henry Wallace got maneuvered out of the Vice-Presidency despite having initial 65 percent support to Truman’s 2 percent, according to Gallup, it got me to wondering.
“Would our world and the course of American history have been drastically different if Wallace managed to stay on as Vice President?” I asked the history professor.
He told me that historians don’t like to deal in hypotheticals, but rather, just what actually happened.
After Truman set us on the path of militarized empire, Roosevelt’s New Deal continued to reverberate for a time, and Johnson added some key components with his Great Society. But by the late 70s and early 80s, the tides began to turn. Of course, the Empire was killing the Republic, but it wasn’t dead yet.
Then Saint Reagan brought into the popular mind the Friedman school of “trickle-down” and “supply-side.” He came to throw the bums off of the public teat. What’s happened since is 35 years of wage stagnation and exploding wealth and income inequality. Then came Citizens United, political bribery was legalized outright, and the Republic fell at last to oligarchy.
Suddes is right, politics is about choices. Which ones shall we make now?
David DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.