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The Collective
Tuesday, June 10, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Because, quite frankly, a lot of beer could use some vetoing.

Via CNN: McCain: ‘I will veto every single beer’

“I will use the veto as needed. I will veto every single beer — bill with earmarks,” he said, as rumblings from the crowd could be heard. “And every single bill that we have come across my desk I will make them famous. I will veto them, you will know their names.”

Well, when your wife’s fortune is based on beer, I guess it is frequently on one’s mind.

As I am sure I have said before, if one is talking all the time with cameras around, one is going to get caught making some mistakes, so no big deal, even if it is amusing (the video is here).

Beyond all that, it would be a nice change of pace to have a president who pays attention to egregious spending by the Congress… Still, one does wonder if he would be able to carry out this threat, given the widespread presence of earmarks (and then there’s the argument over what an “earmark’ is). His veto pen would be pretty busy…

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    1. Indeed, his veto pen would be busy, and we’d likely not get a budget passed in 4 years. Maybe that would be good. We couldn’t spend anything. :)

      Coupled with the increased use of the filibuster, I wonder if any bills would become law. I have been more and more concerned in recent years about the expanding use of the filibuster. 4 years, nothing happens, Washington spins its wheels, wails, gnashes teeth, and the rest of us get to live in peace without anything stupid happening.

      Sometimes I feel like the best thing for the government to do is nothing at all.

      Comment by Captain D — Tuesday, June 10, 2024 @ 2:45 pm

    2. Any thoughts on McCain’s desire for a “constitutional line item veto”?

      From what I’ve read, there is no way a line item veto would be constitutional, irregardless of the impossiblely small chance of a democratic congress passing such a bill for a republican president.

      Comment by Joe Mucia — Tuesday, June 10, 2024 @ 7:19 pm

    3. The only way you can get a constitutional line item veto is to amend the constitution.

      I haven’t heard McCain talk about it lately, but will keep an ear out.

      Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, June 10, 2024 @ 8:32 pm

    4. It’s not the first time the idea has been floated. I remember the line-item veto being a debate item when I was in high school, that was going on 20 years ago.

      Probably won’t ever happen, it would be seen as strengthening the executive branch too much, and wouldn’t survive the rigors of the amendment process.

      Comment by Captain D — Tuesday, June 10, 2024 @ 9:03 pm

    5. Professor Taylor, I was half watching McCain’s ‘tax beer’ speech and he mentioned the line item veto a few minutes after that line.

      I’m posting from a phone, so it is not easy to reference a transcript here, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be to difficult to find one if I had access to a fullsize keyboard, browser, and screen.

      Comment by Joe Mucia — Wednesday, June 11, 2024 @ 7:29 am

    6. Dr. Taylor: “Beyond all that, it would be a nice change of pace to have a president who pays attention to egregious spending by the Congress…”

      Perhaps we need a time-line check :) I come from timeline number Reagan-blew-the-budget-Bush-I-Clinton-fixed-it-Bush-II-blew-it-again, where it’s painfully obvious that GOP presidents are associated with fiscal irresponsibility, followed closely, by GOP Congresses.

      Which timeline do you come from?

      Comment by Barry — Wednesday, June 11, 2024 @ 1:57 pm

    7. I wasn’t referring to a specific timeline or to a specific president, aside from making comparisons to the current one who has been utterly uninterested in the question.

      Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Wednesday, June 11, 2024 @ 4:04 pm

    8. I think it’s a bit simplistic to say that Bush 1 and Clinton “fixed” the budget, or that Reagan and Bush 2 “blew” it. The national budget involves so many players - the President can set a tone for its development but certainly doesn’t have the ability to dictate it item by item. There is a complex interplay between members of congress, the president, and an army of lobbyists, consultants, and cabinet-level officials.

      The budget is also influenced heavily by world events, which may or may not be something the president can do anything about. Natural disasters, wars, and the behavior of international organizations like OPEC can have a huge impact on the budget. Some of these things the president has no control over, others some control, and others total control (for example, going to war with nation X). However, sometimes failing to do something (like go to war with nation X) might have its own repercussions in the near or long-term future.

      Bush 1 and Clinton “fixed” the budget by being in office during a time when The Soviet Empire collapsed, allowing us to immediately and drastically reduce the size and readiness of our military forces. During the Bush 1 and Clinton administrations, the U.S. military shrunk from an active force of 2.2 million to 1.3 million; Army divisions were reduced from 18 to 10; Navy ships cut from 547 to 346; and air force wings from 36 to 19. There was a proportional reduction in military spending.

      Unfortunately, that reduction was unsustainable and unrealistic, as both Bush and Clinton called upon the military to engage in more combat campaigns than any president since the Vietnam era. I was in the Army at the time. We bounced from Somalia to Bosnia to Kosovo to Afghanistan to Iraq with scarcely time to breathe in between each deployment. In fact, the military became more active when it was presumed that it would become less so.

      Whether or not those campaigns were all justifiable or necessary is of course debatable, but one thing that is not debatable is that a small army doing many missions is more expensive than a larger army doing the same set of missions. This is because it is harder to maintain a unit in a combat theater than it is to maintain it at home. If we were able to rotate units through different theaters with long breaks in between, the cost to refit would be much less. This is because it is cheaper to repair a tank in Detroit than it is to repair a tank in Basra. It costs more for the same unit to do back to back deployments than it would cost for two different units to do the same deployments.

      It is my position that the “balanced” budget of the 90’s was unrealistic because the drawdown of the armed forces left us critically unprepared for the military challenges of the early 21st century. We should have left the force at 2 million and re-structured it by creating more special forces units and investing in intelligence infrastructure.

      Instead, we simply fired people. I know officers who were caught in the drawdown and were simply let go, the way a corporation would if it was downsizing. These were people like Lance Missile Battery commanders, who were made obsolete by strategic missile reductions. Many of these soldiers could have been re-trained into jobs that would have served us well in the 21st century, by providing greater intelligence capabilities through long-range recon and espionage. Instead, they were dumped like so much unneeded dirt, and the military remained a reflection of its cold war composition (designed to fight the Russians in the Folga Gap) only smaller.

      Jumping ahead to the 21st century and the September 11 attacks, and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, it strikes me as obscene that anyone was surprised by the outcome of either, and laughable that anyone could think Bush 2 or anyone else could have known what would happen in the aftermath of either campaign. Our information-gathering tools were never re-aligned to deal with the asymetrical threats of the 21st century, and the military assets to deal with the “brush fire” conflicts that came up in the wake of the Soviet collapse were simply not enough for the tasks at hand. We had almost no human intelligence assets in any of the places we went after the Reagan administration; we went into Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq basically blind to the reality of the situation on the ground in those places, and are lucky that of those, only Somalia and Iraq turned out to be total disasters. In terms of military planning and preparedness, they should have all been disasters. The only thing that saved us in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan is the anemic nature of the resistance in those places - they were even more unprepared than we were.

      If we do pretend for a moment that the president has absolute power over the budget, we have to put blame where it is due, spread fairly equally over the last several presidents. Had Bush 2’s predecessors had the forethought to not slash our intelligence and military assets as far as they did in an attempt to balance the budget NOW, we may have avoided some of the costly mistakes that were made by Bush 2. Instead, they wanted credit for balancing the budget, and did so by any means available - even unsustainable means.

      That’s politics. Being able to say “I balanced the budget.” At what cost to the future? No one ever seems to ask that question, and now here we are.

      Comment by Captain D — Wednesday, June 11, 2024 @ 4:24 pm

    9. Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor:

      “I wasn’t referring to a specific timeline or to a specific president, aside from making comparisons to the current one who has been utterly uninterested in the question.”

      Dr. Taylor, it was a joke. It’s the SF equivalent of ‘what color is the sky on your world?’.

      My intent was to point out that we’ve been through what engineers call an A-B-A experiment, where we can turn fiscal irresponsibility up or down, quite substantially, by putting/removing in a supply-side GOP president (with a GOP Congress being a factor, but secondary). Anybody who thinks of Congress as the first cuulprit here is living off of very old GOP propaganda.

      BTW, Bush II is *quite* interested in egregious spending by the Congress, in that he makes them look thrifty - even a GOP Congress.

      Captain D, we’ve heard the ‘many players’ argument before, but it’s pretty clear now after Bush II, where the source of the trouble is. As for the costly mistakes made by him, they were clearly (a) deliberate f*ck-ups, or (b) engaged in due to his character, not due to somehow being betrayed by his predecessors. As to Somalia, Kosovo, etc:

      We’ve watched the guy f*ck things up, reinforce failure with more failure, and produce humongous disaster. We’ve had numerous insiders tell us how bad the decision-making is, as well as numerous reporters, once their editors unleashed them.

      After years of this, the explanation of bad luck has worn out.

      PS - “only Somalia and Iraq turned out to be total disasters”?!?!?!?!?!? Anybody, after Iraq and Reagan’s 1983 Lebanon folly who calls Somalia a ‘total disaster’ has really lost credibility.

      Comment by Barry — Thursday, June 12, 2024 @ 9:02 am

    10. You missed the larger point that I was trying to make, which is that budgets are complex, and what happens in this budget is partly a function of what happened in the last one. History has a way of stringing one event to another, such that it is not fair to look at any budget in a complete vacuum; they must be placed in their proper context, adjacent to the previous year’s budget and all that it implied.

      And yes, there were disasterous operations during the Reagan administration as well. I’m not singing praise for any of the recent administrations in terms of their military success or failure, but I spoke of Somalia and the subsequent theaters because those are places that I was personally involved and played a role in as either an enlisted soldier (in Somalia) or a commissioned officer and commander on the ground (everywhere else). During my career I received three purple hearts, and I was released as a medical retiree after taking too many injuries. If you wish to question my credibility to speak on the issue of military readiness and tactical efficacy I suggest you ante up a similar resume of operational deployments and combat experience; assuming you don’t have it, I will forgive you your laughter.

      Your need to use obscenity in discussing the war in Iraq and the decisions of the Bush administration clearly shows your inability to emotionally separate yourself from the issue and look at it in a rationale manner.

      Sorry I’m too young to have participated in the botched operations in Lebanon. I got to the fight as soon as I could. :)

      Comment by Captain D — Thursday, June 12, 2024 @ 9:59 pm

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