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Does Romney Think the Pentagon Needs More Marching Bands, NASCAR Sponsorships?

8:59 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-authored by John Amick

Recent commentators have rightly called out Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s obvious hypocrisy on cuts to Pentagon spending. This strikes us as a good time to step back and take a broader look at Pentagon spending, and deconstruct the spin coming from the Washington elites.

Historically, the United States has made cuts to the Pentagon budget once its major wars come to an end. It happened after the Korean War, Vietnam and the Cold War. And after a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now is the time to seriously consider significant cuts to a bloated, wasteful Pentagon spending machine. Yet those within the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex have been working hard to convince the American public that their perceived right to profit off of Pentagon spending is sacrosanct.

To fight the war profiteers, Brave New Foundation’s War Costs campaign is producing several investigative films that will expose the financial and human costs of an ongoing war mentality in the U.S. Currently, we are pleased to release a series of short videos that examine key players in the lobbying effort to keep Pentagon spending high. Our first two videos include Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

The rhetoric about cuts to the Pentagon’s budget — which is five times larger than the next biggest defense spender, China, and about $100 billion more than then next ten nations combined — has been excessive and hardly anything but fearmongering. Panetta, defense industry darling Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and others call it “doomsday,” “catastrophic,” a hollowing of the force, akin to a “brigade without bullets.” Mitt Romney said these level of cuts “is like putting a gun to our head.”

What about fiscal responsibility, Mr. Romney? What about all the waste, like marching bands or NASCAR sponsorships or the $50 billion in cancelled weapons programs – caused by industry business practices – that contractors get to keep? The Romney-Ryan proposed budget adds more money to an already-massive Pentagon reserve. Worries of more recessionary pressure on the American economy are mounting — Pew now reports one in five Americans go without enough food in a time of record food stamp enrollment. Yet, the Romney ticket pledged this week to “retroactively” reverse any sequestration cuts to the Pentagon –- and push for the House budget that slashed funding for social programs, like food stamps -– all in an effort to protect profits for their war-profiteering friends.

And is sequestration a doomsday mechanism, as Panetta has claimed? Hardly.

In reality, sequestration cuts — $55 billion reduction in defense spending in FY 2013 — would return defense spending to 2006 levels, by all measures a healthy time for the Pentagon budget. This reduction in spending would mean the U.S. would still outspend the next ten top defense-spending nations combined by $45 billion.

Now is the time to urge your member of Congress, your friends, family and neighbors to call for substantial cuts to the Pentagon budget. The profiteering and waste must stop. Cuts have widespead support, regardless of party politics. It’s our money, and we have the power to demand accountability in how it’s used. These videos are the first in a series to explore these hysterical statements made by officials that want to keep the status quo. It’s time to expose the unnecessary items the Pentagon acquires that hardly make us safer or go to servicemembers. It’s wasteful, it’s harmful, and we must speak up.

Let us know what you want to see War Costs examine in our effort to stop out-of-control war spending. Go to WarCosts.com or visit us on Facebook for more.

With needed defense cuts on the horizon, industry forces rev up the propaganda machine

7:00 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-authored by John Amick

You know it’s a big moment for defenders of the United States’ bloated military budget when some of the all-time superstars of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex descend on Capitol Hill to fight for their perceived right to profit.

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to address the 2013 Defense Appropriations bill beginning Wednesday, which will go a long way in framing the later debate on automatic cuts to defense set to happen on January 2, 2013. The “sequester” was set into law — via the Budget Control Act — last year in an effort to compel Congress to reach a deficit-reduction plan. The automatic cuts would take the Pentagon’s requested FY 2013 budget of $526 billion to $469 billion, reducing Department of Defense spending by around $1 trillion over the next decade. The Congressional Budget Office says that amount is “larger than it was in 2006 (in 2013 dollars) and larger than the average base budget during the 1980s.” If you recall, 2006 wasn’t such a bad year to be a defense contractor.

Ahead of that floor debate, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) — the top benefactor of defense-industry contributions in Washington as Brave New Foundation’s War Costs campaign has pointed out before — will allow the likes of Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens yet another platform — after weeks crying foul over potential jobs cuts a reduced defense budget would mean — to inject further panic and hype in front of a committee hearing Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill.

Stevens has called the planned cuts “blunt force trauma” to the defense industry’s economic well-being. Lockheed has also threatened to send layoff notices to employees ahead of Election Day, a craven attempt to scare workers and members of Congress with industry jobs in their districts. This is not to mention the$25.4 million Stevens made in 2011, the second consecutive year of record revenue and profit for the defense industry. Maybe Stevens could find money for his employees by cutting lobby expenditures? Lockheed spent $15 million on lobbying in 2011, up 19 percent from 2010. Lobbying by all defense contractors went up 11.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012, to $15.9 million. The idea that the likes of Lockheed Martin taking a cataclysmic tumble following the needed cuts to defense is about as unbelievable as how much taxpayer money that went to defense contractors in 2011, $373 billion, the second-highest yearly total ever. Here, Stevens and his ilk are at it again, pushing for more profits at the risk of further death and destruction, as War Costs has examined in the past.

By the way, this is an industry that, from 2008 to 2010, paid an average annual tax rate of 17.5 percent, making it among the least-taxed sectors in the country. Boeing itself paid a rate of -1.8 percent, according to the Citizens for Tax Justice.

On Tuesday, the Aerospace Industries Association unveiled an update to their 2011 study on the economic impact of such cuts. True to an industry attempting to protect their bottom line, the studies predict excessive job loss next year, around 1.09 million, if the cuts occur. Economists and academics have had a field day debunking this study, partly because, according to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, defense spending creates fewer jobs compared to other forms of government spending — on sectors like health care and education — and even some tax cuts. (See more on these numbers at WarCosts.com.)

Industry shilling is only part of the onslaught. Also on Tuesday, former Vice President Dick Cheney — a scion of wasteful defense spending, profiteering and all that is the revolving door between government and industry in Washington — was on Capitol Hill rallying Republicans to the cause. According to Politico, Senate Republicans described the meeting with Cheney as short on policy replacements for cuts and big on stressing the investments in place amid the defense industry. What a surprise.

The defense industry has seen record profits this past decade marked by consistent warfare and little accountability, as a final report on the amount lost during the $51.4 billion Iraq war reconstruction program concludes. Enough of the propaganda. More defense money does not make the United States safer, as we’ve been told, and cutting a fraction of that money does not mean “doomsday” for the country as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has claimed. It’s simply common sense that folks across the political spectrum agree on, even those in areas heavy on defense manufacturing, according to a new comprehensive study.

Tell your members of Congress to support amendments in the bill that aim to reduce the defense budget, halt the war in Afghanistan and remove troops permanently stationed in Europe.

It’s time elected officials hear our voice. Stop the spending that bankrupts us at home and encourages violence and war abroad.

Visit Brave New Foundation’s WarCosts.com for more as the defense industry’s cynical efforts unfold in the coming months.

War Industry’s Accountants Can’t Count

2:06 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

The war profiteers’ shady lobbying campaign took another hit to its credibility today, as an accounting firm on which they relied to support their bogus “military spending = jobs” argument was cited for severe audit deficiencies.

As our new War Costs short video shows, the war industry’s Second To None lobbying effort specifically cited numbers from Deloitte & Touche to claim an inflated importance of the military industrial sector to the U.S. economy. This claim was part of their larger effort, thoroughly debunked by our prior work, to try to convince Congress to protect their gravy train from budget cuts by tying war spending to job creation. Their entire narrative is false–military spending actually costs jobs compared to other ways of spending the money.

Why war profiteers would even bother to cite Deloitte is frankly beyond us. According to Reuters: Read the rest of this entry →

After the Deficit Committee, A New Propaganda Push from the War Profiteers

3:37 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Since the deficit committee officially failed to produce a plan as of last week, expect the war profiteer spin to hit the fan. Here’s an early warning of what to expect, courtesy of Reuters last week:

Failure of a special congressional committee to strike a deficit-reduction deal is expected to unleash desperate lobbying by U.S. arms makers to get lawmakers to block $600 billion in automatic cuts.

Their weapon of choice: jobs.

Unfortunately for them, War Costs’ new video exposes the truth about massive military budgets and employment: military spending is a job killer.

But, don’t expect the truth to get in the way of a good propaganda campaign.

Read the rest of this entry →

Top 5 Taxpayer Turkeys Fattening War Industry CEOs

6:46 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Congress departs for the Thanksgiving holiday having left us a gift. With the deficit committee failing to produce a plan to cut the deficit and with across-the-board cuts now the default, there remains a real chance for us to untie the Congressional straightjacket and refocus the national conversation on sustainable and constructive job creation.

The war industry knows this, and its allies in Congress are already moving to stop cuts to their piece of the federal budget, a total of $500 billion over 10 years. We’re certain the war industry’s Congressional allies are one among many things contractor CEOs are thankful for.

But as Americans take stock this Thanksgiving holiday, we thought it appropriate we expose some other turkeys that the war industry is celebrating this holiday season.

1. The V-22 Osprey

Not even then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney could spike the V-22 Osprey. Each $70 million unit takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane, and despite being responsible for the deaths of 30 test pilots, the $54 billion program is still business as usual for Congress. Free flight demonstrations for politicians and influential columnists (flights that manage to not spontaneously combust mid-air), as well as the Marine Corps insistence to institutionalize the aircraft have sustained the Osprey contract into one of the biggest black holes of taxpayer money.

There remains $18 billion left unspent in the fund behind the Osprey, one of two pools of war contractor projects the Project on Government Oversight identified as “cuts that could save taxpayers billions without putting American lives at risk.” But the House committee chairman who oversees the project also represents a rural Texas district where the aircraft is assembled.

War contractors are toasting their lawyers and lobbyists who made this legal.

2. Rep. Buck McKeon

Rep. Buck McKeon is another Congressman who enables war industry CEOs and corporations to both enjoy record paydays and low tax rates. As the Chair of House Armed Services Committee, McKeon is the most powerful link between the war contractors and the power of the purse in the House of Representatives.

Earlier this month, McKeon defended the war contractors’ bloated budget and broke into tears during a hearing about soldiers in Afghanistan. His tears were misplaced: war contractors enjoy a much larger slice of the pie than the troops. Almost on the same day, a Stimson Center study (.pdf) demonstrated how the U.S. military had used money, pegged for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, on $1 trillion on tanks, ships and jets since Sept. 11, 2001.

Twenty-two percent of that $1 trillion came from “supplemental” war spending bills. In other words, $232.8 billion of taxpayer money that would’ve provided soldiers with better body armor, for example, was spent on Abrams tanks and jet fighters, both projects enrich war contractors while doing nothing to bolster the safety of our troops or our nation’s safety at home.

It’s no surprise then that Lockheed Martin’s biggest political benefactor is Rep. Buck McKeon, who made this all possible. For that, he’s a gravytrain-enabler who lets war contractors parade around in America’s wealthiest 0.01%.

3. F-35 Jet Fighter

The Osprey is a Cornish game hen compared to the 49,500-pound mashed potato keg that is the largest war contract in the history of the Pentagon.

The F-35 Airplane Joint Strike Fighter has never seen one day of combat. It’s, at best, questionably safe for human testing. The Aero News Network reported it was the latest in a long history of FUBAR cranberry sauce.

As those who have followed the program know, the JSF program has been plagued by cost overruns and delays. The test fleet was recently grounded due to a power supply problem, and had only just been returned to operational status. Back in January, then-defense-secretary Robert Gates had put the program on notice by imposing a two-year probation after discovering other structural flaws. Budget hawks have long viewed the program, often described as the most costly defense acquisition in history, as a tempting target. A major program review is also reportedly planned as pressure grows on Congress and the President to cut spending.

The first real flight was pegged for 2016, with a program cost of $40 billion to $50 billion. An independent government report found $28 billion of F-35 spending has been a waste. The aircraft’s makers, Lockheed Martin, like to point out the myriad of ways their profits could be lowered on the project, and we’ve demonstrated how money earmarked for Lockheed Martin executives would create more jobs were it spent on education or infrastructure.

Dear F-35, you make the war profiteers’ belly warmer than a poor man’s glass of whiskey. And for that, Lockheed Martin loves you.

4. Sen. Jon Kyl

There’s failing to lead and leading to failure, and the Senate’s No. 2 Republican is an expert at both.

You might remember Kyl’s knack for making disparaging remarks on the Senate floor that were not intended to be a “factual statement.” But what really makes Kyl the stuffing at the Boeing holiday party is his insistence that millionaire war contractors be spared the same economic pain as middle class families.

Despite adhering to an ideology that equates corporations with living human beings, Kyl sees every reason to exempt war contractors from the belt tightening that’s being forced upon families across the U.S. While favoring austerity elsewhere, Kyl is doing all he can to stop a 15 percent cut to the war budget.

Even with a 15 percent cut factored in, that would be about half the cuts of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon and less than cuts made by George H. W. Bush, according to Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. Moreover, a 15 percent cut is a child’s plate of peas when the war budget has increased by 50 percent since 2001 and will still be $37 billion more in 2021 than it is in 2011.

5. You and me

We enable the war profiteers. We pay for war contractor pensions, their vast network of lobbyists, and the salaries for top executives.

Technically, it’s our elected officials who transform our tax dollars into self-perpetuating riches for Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens ($21.89 million salary last year), Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush ($22.84 million) and Boeing CEO James McNerney ($19.4 million).

These companies use our tax dollars to further spin the system toward their corporate advantage. In many cases, the war contractors are bigger villains than CEOs at Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase.

Does that make us the war contractors’ juiciest turkey?

It makes me mad and that’s why I’ve stopped whispering and started shouting.

Meet the 0.01 Percent: War Profiteers

1:08 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

There’s the top 1% of wealthy Americans (bankers, oil tycoons, hedge fund managers) and there’s the top 0.01% of wealthy Americans: the military contractor CEOs.

If you’ve been following the War Costs campaign, you already know that these corporations are bad bosses, bad job creators and bad stewards of taxpayer dollars. What you may not know is that the huge amount of money these companies’ CEOs make off of war and your tax dollars places them squarely at the top of the gang of corrupt superrich choking our democracy. These CEOs want you to believe the massive war budget is about security — it’s not. The lobbying they’re doing to keep the war budget intact at the expense of the social safety net is purely about their greed.

In many areas, including yearly CEO salary and in dollars spent corrupting Congress, these companies are far greater offenders than even the big banks like JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America.

Egregious Military Contractor CEO pay

The top 0.01% of earners make at least $9.14 million per year, a rarefied strata of income that includes defense company CEOs and Wall Street bank chieftains alike. But a deeper dive demonstrates how defense companies outpace the big banks’ knack for enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else. Read the rest of this entry →

Bursting Leon Panetta’s Spending Spin Bubble (VIDEO)

8:05 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

By Robert Greenwald and Max Stanley

Leon Panetta becomes Defense Secretary and suddenly he forgets his experience as a professor and environmentalist: military spending costs jobs compared to other ways of spending the money. Still, Panetta pressures Congress to slash other spending that actually creates jobs rather than trimming a bloated war budget that’s strangling our economy.

Yesterday, Panetta defended the Pentagon from the Congressional deficit committee tasked with identifying at least $1.5 trillion in cuts before Christmas. As we’ve detailed, members of this committee are already on the war profiteers’ take, with Sens. Patty Murray and Rob Portman being favorites of military giants like Boeing and Northrop Gruman, for instance.

As Panetta lectures the chorus, and we’re seizing the mantle of responsibility and nuance with our latest video. If Panetta won’t be honest with Congress, we will.

The disconnect is typical of the way Washington does business: scare tactics, deceptive accounting and ultimately an redistribution of wealth upward toward deep pocketed special interests and away from those hardest hit by the jobs crisis.

It’s part and parcel of the military spending bubble, where defense contractors bundle money and talking points for politicians and bureaucrats who, in exchange, protect the blank check for their patron defense contractors. They cook up scary sounding statics around vague (and focus group approved) memes, when in actuality “military preparedness” is not something that can ever be bought and “averting a hollowed-out force” is Pentagon jargon for the classic college student cry of “Mom- need money please.”

This racket pays a nice dividend for multimillionaire CEOs of Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, but it’s killing chances for the unemployed and underemployed among us to find quality jobs in constructive and productive industries.

These politicians and lobbyists can’t grease the machine much longer. Anti-war protesters enhanced and amplified the war costs message during protests this week. And every day Panetta defends nation building abroad, the Occupy Wall Street movement and the demand for nation building here at home swells in numbers across the nation.

According to the Political Economy Research Institute’s (PERI) 2009 study, when you compare Pentagon spending to alternative or domestic programs like education, infrastructure–you name it almost– every $1 billion spent for military purposes costs us 3,222 jobs at minimum.

It’s not a matter of isolationism either like Panetta and his defense contractors like to say when they question America’s strength abroad. They belie the honest truth that ideology has no place in the conversation. Responsibility is about prioritizing and, in this case, whether veterans are entitled to a decent salary and standard of living after their service, or whether we’re going to continue to fatten the top 1% in the mahogany board rooms of cash-flush military contractors.

It’s about making choices that put people back to work.

That means telling the Pentagon they can’t fly troops around like Wonder Woman and telling teenagers there will be Pell Grants available for their college education.

That’s the tip of the iceberg. Every day, we’re exposing more of Panetta’s and the Pentagon’s spin. With your help, we’re building WarCosts.com into the repository and hub of activism, insight and analysis.

Or as Gen. George Marshall of the famed post World War II Marshal Plan said: “Military power wins battles, but spiritual power wins wars.” Americans hit hardest by the jobs crisis are fighting their own battles here at home, and we’re standing with them.

It’s time Washington D.C. get on the right side of the line in the sand.

Lockheed Martin’s CEO Wants Your Social Security Check

7:27 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

The law that created the deficit committee also created a zero-sum game: Any expensive program that escapes the budget knife does so at the expense of cuts to other programs. If the military contractors succeed in keeping the war budget intact, they’ll likely do so at the expense of Social Security and Medicare.

That means money that would go to your Social Security or Medicare benefits will instead go into the hands of people like Lockheed Martin CEO Robert J. Stephens, who last year made $21.9 million, almost totally from taxpayer-funded military contracts. Read the rest of this entry →

The War Industry: Bad Job Creators, Bad Bosses, Bad Stewards of Tax Dollars

12:04 am in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe

On Tuesday, the military contractors behind the “Second To None” campaign pleaded “no comment” to our War Costs campaign’s full-page Politico ad exposing the economic damage caused by massive war budgets. The same day, they announced a press conference and the upcoming launch of a national campaign to scare people about job losses if we cut the war budget. It seems like they had a comment or two after all. But as these companies gather at the National Press Club on Wednesday morning to frighten you into funding their trust funds, remember: military spending costs us jobs compared to other ways of spending the money.

These contractors will undoubtedly try to obscure the fact that every $1 billion of military spending costs anywhere between 3,200 and 11,700 jobs or more when compared to other ways of spending the money. They’ll probably also try to obscure the fact that because the deficit committee has to find spending reductions equaling a certain dollar amount, this is a zero sum game, pitting military spending against the exact kinds of spending that would create more jobs. If the industry is right, and we should be coming at the question of where to cut spending from the perspective of job creation, then we have to cut war spending because other cuts would cost even more jobs.

Reporters should also keep in mind that these folks have a history of fudging jobs numbers when they feel it’s expedient for their profit margins. For example, back when Second-To-None-backer Lockheed Martin was trying to secure additional taxpayer dollars for its F-22 fighter jet in 2009, the contractor grossly inflated the number of jobs sustained by the program. The actual job numbers should have been less than 40 percent of those claimed by Lockheed. When this industry comes at you with jobs numbers, caveat emptor. Read the rest of this entry →

Corrupt Contractors Make Their Move on the Deficit Committee

2:46 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

The new deficit commission is holding its first substantive meeting on Tuesday, and the military contractors are out in force to protect their profits. They’ll be working to cash in on hundreds millions of dollars in campaign donations and lobbying spending, and they’ll deploy their favorite (and bogus) “jobs” spin. But members of the committee should not be fooled. The war industry is interested in one thing: continuing profits at our expense.

Join the War Costs campaign to help us fight back.

On Tuesday, a campaign called “Second To None,” backed by the largest names in the military contracting industry, is staging a “march to the Hill.” These contractors will be armed with fresh talking points and backed by 843 lobbyists (many of whom are former staffers of deficit committee members), along with deep campaign donation histories with the members. Every bit of this influence will be used to prevail upon the committee not to call for cuts to military spending in its final report to Congress. Read the rest of this entry →