The Error of Trump’s Weapons-Chasing Ways

Trump arms race military spending

Wassup with President-elect Donald Trump’s fixation with the 80s and ramping up military spending?

Even if you cast aside the confusing media cycle of Trump tweeting about how the US needs new nukes (as an aside, President Obama proposed spending $1 trillion to upgrade America’s nuclear arsenal), doubling down with a declaration to MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and then dispatching aides to clean up the firestorm on other news shows, he has repeatedly stated during campaign speeches that he plans to rebuild the greatest military on Earth.

As if the US military isn’t already the most powerful …

Plus his newly-appointed and abysmally underqualified Director of National Intelligence — Carly Fiorina — talked about pursuing a military rebuilding exercise during the time she was Trump’s “ugly” primary foe. Her presentation may have dazzled audiences but a rudimentary analysis would show that the former corporate CEO sounded militarily ignorant and ironically Hooked on Math.

In any case — assuming we’re supposed to extract full meaning from what Trump says in 140 characters — we have confirmation that a weapons buying spree is in the queue.

And this kind of spending is another reason why I keep saying that Trump is being set up for failure.

Most economic research shows that high military spending delivers a short-term economic stimulus, but makes matters turn for the worse later. Check out thisthisthisthis and this for five of many examples.

You can’t eat a tank, or use jet fighters to create value for consumers or other businesses.

The non-consumable nature of military weapons means their production creates a drain on national economies.

High military spending also creates a significant opportunity cost when you consider how the same money could have been be used to fund innovative research, improve educational outcomes, pull the long-term unemployed off the sidelines or provide tax cuts to create new industries — all of which create higher returns on investment.

(Laughing) and some of you still think Ronald Reagan was Joshua back in the 80s and 90s. The Berlin Wall didn’t fall simply because Reagan willed it so or stared down the evil Soviet Empire.

The Soviet Union — which was engaged in an arms race with the US for decades — collapsed because their level of Cold War military spending became unsustainable, and they eventually faced hard choices between missiles, food, empire maintenance, wages and housing.

High defense spending doesn’t even work for Communist countries.

Two factors saved the US economy from collapse during the same period — [1] the Soviet Union collapsed first; [2] the US was able to print money. The latter strategy would have only prolonged an inevitable and gruesome zero-growth event.

So, is Trump living in an 80s kind of world? What does he think is his Jericho wall?

Check this statement he provided to MSNBC:

Let it be an arms race … We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.

Hmm. Outlast them all.

Since Trump won’t hang out with the press to have an extensive discussion, the only thing I can conclude at the moment is that Trump plans to remix Reagan’s Rope-a-Dope arms race strategy.

Russia, having learned from the Soviet Union’s failures, will likely not fall for that trick. Russia President Vladimir Putin said as much during a recent press conference. 

Putin also understands that a nation doesn’t have to be the most powerful to win wars.
Russia’s strategy will be to avoid a direct war with the US whenever possible, possess sufficient destructive capabilities to make the US worried, and watch the American economy fall under its own spending weight.

While the jury’s still out with respect to China, I doubt that Iran will get sacked into an arms race with the US.

But my point remains — any iteration of archaic arms race paradigms, especially given America’s fragile economic fundamentals, will make the next four years problematic …

song currently stuck in my head: “still in my head” – hannah williams and the affirmations

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