Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Lessons We Never Learned: How America Today Compares to a Dying Soviet Russia

Hello out there readers. Sorry that I haven't posted in the past two months, but I've been working on behalf of the President, so I've been busy (gotta love Organizing for America!). But something occurred to me in the middle of the night (the hottest night of the summer of course) and I couldn't go on with my day unless I shared it. So here goes, for the past decade we have been making the same mistakes that led Soviet Russia to it's downfall.

Let me explain.

While it is undoubtedly true that the end of the Cold War and the fall of the USSR was complicated, I think that in broad strokes it can be loosely simplified to this: We, the United States, pushed them, the USSR, to match us in military might and spending knowing that their economy was weaker and that they could not afford to continue to pour money into their military forever. A great example of this is Star Wars (not the movie). We poured billions of dollars down the drain on a technology that was nowhere in sight, but it had the desired effect. The Russians truly believed we were close to figuring out how to stop their nuclear missiles. They had to try and waste that same money but their economy couldn't afford that kind of waste. Eventually it had to go to hell.

Now let's fast forward to the 2000's. A group of small but dedicated terrorists launch a horrible attack in order to start a war. They wanted us to come in after them. They knew that from their caves, they didn't have to match our military might. And they also knew that we wouldn't be smart enough to adapt, and would instead do the exact same thing as the USSR. And we did. We spent money we did not have on a war we could not afford. AS our economy continued to decline throughout the decade this was more and more clear. And now here we are, $1.2 trillion later. And of all the military spending IN THE WORLD, we are responsible for 48%. When the USSR fell, there was no one left who we needed to match militarily, but we never really stopped. The military-industrial complex that had been built up refused to go away. They didn't care that the enemy was gone.

Flash forward again to our budget conversations today. We are in the middle of the Great Recession. Our economy is still barely on the mend. And we are talking about deficit negotiations that involve massive amounts of either spending cuts or tax increases, both of which will inevitably slow the economy down in the short term. And as we talk about trillions of dollars, I start to think, "What if we just had that 1.2 trillion back?" Don't get me wrong. Our deficit would not be solved. Our economy would still be broken. But it takes a perfect storm to end a world superpower. And if anything is to be learned from the downfall of the USSR, its that when a struggling economy is burdened with an unending military budget, eventually something has to give.