Sunday, March 3. 2013
In case you're wondering what it's like to live in a Republican Paradise, look to Kansas where Republicans -- and none of those wussy RINOs anymore; we're talking the real thing here -- control every facet of government. The Wichita Eagle chose to dedicate its lead article today to celebrate "Kansas legislators' decisions so far in the session." So for all you blue-staters out there, see what you're missing, read and weep:
The article notes that more bills are pending: on further tax cuts (or increases, if you're poor enough); abortion (banning if done to select the sex of the child -- either will do); alcohol (allow more stores to sell); judicial appointments (let Brownback pick 'em); labor (no payroll deductions for unions); immigration (they probably mean Kris Kobach's nonsense, but the Chamber of Commerce is all for undocumented workers); and "more" (under the circumstances, the most ominous word in the English language -- the west Kansas feedlot and packing industries depend on them).
Only good news coming out of Topeka these days is that they make Richard Crowson's life easier. Here's his cartoon today (the subject is evidently part of that "more"):
The big item above is the education amendment, as this generation of Kansas Republicans renege on the commitment of a previous generation to provide all Kansans with a quality education. I suspect this has much less to do with education per sé than with the prerogatives of power. The courts have repeatedly ruled against the legislature's failure to appropriate adequate funds, and the lege can't stand the notion that they have to operate within a framework of law -- they were, after all, elected to make law, and they'll damn well make any kind of law they like, even if (as is increasingly often the case) what they want to do is contrary to the US constitution.
It's not hard to see where they got this attitude: from owning and running businesses, where they feel entitled to dictate every moment, and throw a fit at the slightest inconvenience -- laws, workers, even customers (although they still try to put on a better face there). Michael Kinsley has a critique of American politics as a collection of "big babies," but the biggest babies of all are those who feel entitled to make (and break) the rules. The Republicans are still inconvenienced by shreds of democracy in the political sphere, but in their businesses they've made major steps toward dictatorship. If they can force drug tests on their workers, why not require the same of the wards of the state? The object, after all, isn't drug control but humiliation. The old saw about "absolute power corrupting absolutely" is evident once again.
On the Eagle's editorial page, consider this Opinion Line item:
Beechcraft's failed bid was for small prop planes for the Afghan Air Force, a pretty large contract ($450 million, if memory serves). They lost the bid more than a year ago, pulled some strings to get it rebid, and lost it again. The tankers are an old subject in these pages. Boeing eventually prevailed in convincing the Air Force to waste $35 billion for a fleet of obsolete airliners -- at least, unlike the state-of-the-art 787, they're likely to fly -- dressed up as portable filling stations. Then, having won the bid, they shut down their Wichita plant, which had been promised the work -- a "no brainer" considering that Wichita had done the work on the "obsolete" tanker fleet, primarily based at McConnell AFB, also here in Wichita. Having used all their political assets in Kansas (which unlike the workers are still on the payroll), Boeing then decided to move the work elsewhere -- to whichever state will pay them the most (preferably one with fewer or no union workers).
This whole scam has been unfolding for more than a decade, and one thing you could count on is an editorial (and often a guest column) in the Eagle every month or so extolling the virtues of Boeing as the best company to build those desperately needed tankers. Back in January, I wrote two letters to the Eagle -- a longer "rough draft" and a proper letter paired down to their size requirements. They ran neither, nor anything remotely like it. The occasion was a series of articles on the Air Force's process for deciding where to base the new tankers. The longer letter follows:
McConnell AFB, which is to say the dreaded federal government, which is to say "your tax dollars," injects about $500 million into the Wichita economy each year. It was built not because the Air Force had an urgent need to station its aircraft as far as possible away from the nation's borders, but because it was just across the street from a very large Boeing plant -- one, by the way, built by the US government during WWII and used to build the majority of B-17 and B-29 bombers used during the war, and B-47 and B-52 bombers built during the heyday of the Strategic Air Command. It was also where Boeing turned its 707 airlines into KC-135 tankers. Those new planes stopped production around 1960, but Boeing continued to provide mods to update the B-52s and KC-135s still used by the Air Force. Again, without Boeing it's hard to see any reason for McConnell. The AFB's survival will depend on nothing more than political favor and inertia, neither of which are likely to save it from future rounds of defense spending cuts.
Personally, it wouldn't bother me if McConnell closed. No doubt it would hurt the local economy, but the facilities would be recycled and new business would emerge. Plus you'd get rid of those dreadful planes flying over east Wichita every few minutes. (I didn't even consider buying a house in the area because of the noise factor, not to mention memory of what happens when one of those loaded tankers drops from the sky and razes a neighborhood.) But we need the new tankers even less than the AFB, and the cost there is pure waste and corruption. Their role is to help move and project massive US firepower anywhere in the world, and the more difficult that task becomes, the better for the world (and for that matter for us).
This is a good time to talk about cutting back from the insane defense spending levels of recent years. Sequestration is probably the dumbest way to implement cuts, except to a military budget which produces much harm and virtually no tangible good. The only way you would ever notice even far greater cuts than the ones in effect would be if you yourself were on the dole. And while the loss of spending destimulates the economy, the multipliers for military expense are exceptionally low -- especially where spent abroad, or simply blown up.
On the other hand, if/when the tanker is cut from the defense budget, it will probably be in recognition of its obsolescence. The military is moving more and more to drones, which are vastly more fuel-efficient than fighters or bombers. So like everything with the military, there's not much point because what passes for thought in those circles is so far removed from real life -- except, of course, when it kills.
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