Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another WTF story from NPR, Part Deux

National People's Radio is actually in the pocket of the defense industry.

The only thing worse than Fox News is NPR, and that is because NPR claims to be serious journalism, whereas Fox sells itself nothing more as entertainment - the Weekly World News of television.

Today on NPR was a disturbing piece on the defense budget.  The reporter (Rachael Martin) starts off the piece very unprofessionally, by saying a buoyant "Hi!" to the interviewee, Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.  You would think this was a fluff piece where they are going to exchange cake recipes, from the tone of her voice.  Where does NPR get these airheads? 

But right off the bat, there is a problem.  Who are the folks in this "think tank" and what is their agenda?  Rachel exhibits a distinct lack of curiosity on this point.  If you follow the piece all the way through, it becomes increasingly clear that the "Center" is a mouthpiece for military arms manufacturers.

The argument Mr. Harrison makes is that you can't cut the defense budget at all - except for soldier's salaries and benefits.  Gee, how kind of you, Mr. Harrison!
The main reason for the increase isn't the number of active duty officers — which remained about the same over the past decade — but skyrocketing personnel costs, mainly incentives to keep service members from quitting during wartime. Congress added pay raises for troops every year and the Pentagon keeps paying more for health care and pensions.

"So as a result, the cost per person in the military increased by 46 percent in real terms over the past decade," Harrison says.
So, if all the savings can't come from ending the wars or cutting weapons purchases, where are the savings? Harrison points to the issue that inflated the defense budget in the first place: personnel.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said military health care premiums could go up and salaries may get scaled back.
Those pesky soldiers!  First they bleed all over the place and get their limbs blown off, and now they are sucking all the money out of our defense budget!  Thank God that the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has identified the major threat to our Country - our soldiers!

He makes the same tired argument that if you cut any weapons systems at all, the manufacturing base to build weapons systems will wither and die and we will be caught defenseless.  It is a swell argument to keep useless weapons in production, or weapons systems that have shown to be bloated in cost, ineffective, and in fact, an utter waste of money.  But hey, we have to keep the industry alive!

I guess the same case could be made for General Motors.  Hmm.... perhaps it was.  "Too Big to Fail" applies to Defense Contractors (disclaimer, I am was a defense contractor, too).

What is really galling is that Mr. Harrison says that ending the wars in Iran and Afghanistan will result in no real savings.  The argument goes that you have to look at the "baseline" spending, and with that in view there is no real savings in ending these wars.  So I guess you might as well continue them, right?

"War funding is projected to drop to $118 billion in [fiscal year 2012] and it will continue dropping in [fiscal year 2013] and beyond," Harrison says. "So in reality, we're not going to spend $1.6 trillion on the wars over the next decade. We're more likely to spend $300 billion or $400 billion."
When people say war funding is an area in which savings can be expected, Harrison says, laughing, it's "a gimmick because it's not real savings."

Huh?  You spend less money, and yet there is no savings?  What is the logic behind that?

And the really sad thing is, that the reporter doesn't challenge any of it.   She does not dig into who this fellow is, who funds this think tank, and why cutting soldier's salaries is the the only answer Mr. Harrison has to cutting defense.

I would expect that sort of reporting from Fox News - after all, they more closely represent the GOP and the defense industry.  But from NPR - the so-called champion of the left and the "little guy?"

But that is the deal right there.  There are just as many war hawks on the Democratic side of the aisle and just as many Democratic Congressmen and Senators accepting campaign contributions from weapons-makers as there are Republicans.  Hillary Clinton never saw a weapon system she didn't like, and even proposed weapons systems that the Pentagon didn't want!

A lot of people on the Left like to listen to NPR while they commute to work in their Subarus and Volvos.  And they think that it is some kind of leftist radio that has their best interests at heart.  But as this radio "interview" illustrates, NPR is advancing an agenda that is not really aligned with the interests of most Americans.  Cutting defense spending is a given.  Doing so on the backs of the soldiers, to protect the interests of the weapons-makers is scandalous.  And NPR reports this story without any sort of critical analysis or counterpoint.

How Sad.