Chris Rickert: Military spending OK, as long as it's here

2012-08-28T06:00:00Z Chris Rickert: Military spending OK, as long as it's hereCHRIS RICKERT | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6198

Kicking the tires and taking a few test drives might be fine for choosing the family minivan. But the vetting process gets more complicated — and a lot more expensive — when the U.S. military is in the market for a new ride.

Three companies, including Oshkosh-based Oshkosh Corp., are getting between $56 million and $66 million to build prototype "joint light tactical vehicles" — basically, the next-generation Humvee — as part of the competition for a $14 billion contract to provide 55,000 of the vehicles to the U.S. Army and Marines.

That would be one big chunk of military-industrial-complex-style economic development, and hard to dis for any politician seeking to represent Oshkosh — even for politicians who have supported the military-trimming debt-reduction plan known as Bowles-Simpson or object to this country's massive military spending.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, who represents the Oshkosh-area 6th District, backed Bowles-Simpson, and on Monday, his spokesman walked a fine line between supporting contracts for the home district and fiscal restraint.

Petri "absolutely supports contracts to businesses in the 6th District," said Niel Wright. Spending cuts "should be handled fairly," he said, but if in the end that means less taxpayer money for the district, "then so be it."

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is running for U.S. Senate, notes on her House website that America's military budget is "nearly as large as the defense budgets of every other country in the world combined" and many items "consume massive budgetary resources but provide little return in terms of security."

Campaign spokesman John Kraus said Baldwin believes it's time to end the war in Afghanistan and "redirect the roughly $2 billion we spend there each week to balance our budget and strengthen our economy here at home."

Which apparently means there's still room for $14 billion for Oshkosh.

Baldwin "has worked hard to make sure that the federal government contracts work with American companies, like in this case with a great Wisconsin business, Oshkosh Corporation," Kraus said.

More definitive was Baldwin's Republican opponent, former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Thompson "applauds Oshkosh Corp.'s success," said spokesman Brian Nemoir. "While we have pressing national fiscal challenges, such challenges should not be financed at a cost to the safety of those men and women who serve our country."

I found Joe Kallas, the underdog Democrat running against Petri, the most conflicted about home-district military spending.

For a guy who thinks "we spend way too much on the military," military spending that pays the salaries of your constituents is the "ultimate Catch-22," he said.

Eventually he told me if the money's going to be spent anyway, it might as well be spent in Oshkosh.

That kind of willingness to struggle openly with tough problems that have no perfect solutions was refreshing.

Too bad it doesn't make a politician very electable.

Contact Chris Rickert at 608-252-6198 or, as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisRickertWSJ). His column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. WI_Retiree
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    WI_Retiree - September 02, 2012 7:36 am
    Tricolor Dog, you are so wrong!
  2. scorp
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    scorp - August 28, 2012 9:24 pm
    The usual lefty attempt at sleigh -of-hand ! The 47% pay NO federal income tax and many often obtain a "refund credit" from moneys paid by the 53%. The tax code is becoming a welfare source for the losers. Payroll tax is paid at the same percentage ,but the losers never reach the exemption level.Most people understand that the 47% refers to fed income tax not sales tax, state tax,cigarette tax, liquor tax,etc.
  3. dmark
    Report Abuse
    dmark - August 28, 2012 3:09 pm
    They do pay taxes including a much higher percentage of the income into payroll tax than do the well off. This is a bogus argument.
  4. scorp
    Report Abuse
    scorp - August 28, 2012 2:30 pm
    Now that is a tax hike I could go for ,make the 47% losers pay SOME taxes to offset the tax moneys they receive. Since dems are clamoring for a tax hike, the repubs should compromise and pass the above type. Isn't pres clueless talking about compromise in his NEXT term? Just do it!
  5. AbrahamLinksys
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    AbrahamLinksys - August 28, 2012 11:56 am
    Also, Danee, just to clarify, and 120 trillion in liabilities extends to well beyond this year's deficit.

    I agree it's shameful and stupid to have that much debt.

    But how do you fix it? More spending via tax cuts? That clearly will not help. I'm glad Oshkosh will get this contract though, since walker's gonna spend all his time helping the national GOP/TP movement(s) instead of focusing on job creation in his own state, which is still last in the nation.

    But do you think it's helping the deficit? Maybe we can pay for it by bringing home my brother and everyone else overseas since the fatality rates in the wars have spiked in the last few years, and too many are killed by the people they're training to be security. Terrible state of affairs that no one is talking about because there aren't any political points in it. The odd thing is it's probably the issue where there is the most common ground.

    Oh well. We'll see what happens in November.
  6. AbrahamLinksys
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    AbrahamLinksys - August 28, 2012 11:44 am
    Billie-- we can't make the 47% pay-- that would be a tax increase and mr Norquist would be very unhappy.

    By the way, did you know that tax cuts ARE tax spending and that a huge portion of our current debt is from the bush tax cuts? In fact, these cuts have cost us more than Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

    If we let those cuts expire we would be reducing spending (remember, tax cuts = spending) and stabilize our debt-to-GDP ratio for the next decade.

    Also, I'm not talking about top earners, I'm talking about ALL the cuts, a big portion of which go to middle-class families. Bush had a good reason to implement these, I really do think the state of the economy would have been worse without these cuts and the stupid bailout that we all hate, but the cuts themselves should be allowed to expire as was intended. All of them.
  7. toolegittofit
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    toolegittofit - August 28, 2012 11:26 am
    "There's no money"?! The article says there's a lot of money in that military budget! (And a lot of that is financial aid for citizens of other countries who don't care about our nation's well-being or just plain want to kill us ) It's our tax dollars, let's spend it on ourselves like good capitalists....
  8. Danee76
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    Danee76 - August 28, 2012 9:19 am
    Gotta love liberals... they don't realize that you could confiscate every dime that anyone makes over $75k this year... and it wouldn't pay this years deficit! They apparently have no concept of what $120 trillion in unfunded liabilities means. No one, including Ryan, wants to put social security and medicare at risk... but by not doing anything they are simply doing that! What part of "There's no money" do they not understand? Do you really think that we can just keep borrowing money from China and the Federal Reserve endlessly? (We do have to pay interest on the debt that we borrow from ourselves since the Federal Reserve is a private entity and not govt owned) A good lesson in fiscal economics is a short clip entitled "Money as Debt".
  9. Billie
    Report Abuse
    Billie - August 28, 2012 8:08 am
    Yo Dog, Take all of the money that millionares and billionares make and it won't balance next years budget, nor save Medicare or Social Security. But you knew that, didn't you? Maybe the 47% of those who pay no federal income tax shouold pay something?
  10. Tricolor Dog
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    Tricolor Dog - August 28, 2012 6:22 am
    It's much easier to cut Medicare by making it a voucher system and then stealing the Social Security Trust Fund. Ask Paul Ryan - that's his plan....oh and we need more tax cuts for billionaires...yeah, that's it.....actually, no taxes for billionaires.

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