Excellent article by Paul London on the Huffington Post.
If Pearl Harbor Were Attacked Today Could We Afford to Defend Ourselves?
If Pearl Harbor were attacked today as it was on Dec. 7, 1941, would the government have the money to defend the country? This question was answered 70 years ago. In 1939 opponents of Roosevelt and the New Deal were wringing their hands about budget deficits in exactly the words they use today. They argued that FDR was bankrupting the country and that the Federal deficit had to be reduced. Then suddenly money stopped being a problem: we had plenty of it.
Hitler struck Poland in September 1939 and two years later the U.S. was at war. The American government found billions to pour into war-related industries and the U.S. economy became the "arsenal of democracy." The conventional wisdom had said that the country did not have even a few billion dollars to end unemployment and fight the Depression, and it was completely wrong. In fact the government had access to all the money it needed to put idle resources to work to fight a world war and support a civilian recovery that raised living standards enormously. Government spending, far from being the economic disaster conservatives predicted, made the economy boom and was completely manageable.
How robust was the U.S. economy during World War II? It grew over 17 percent a year in 1941, 1942, and 1943, and 8 percent in 1944. Unemployment disappeared. Millions of men and women, said by conservatives to be unemployable during the Depression (remember The Grapes of Wrath), were pulled into the workforce and the armed services. The country built hundreds of thousands of fighters, bombers, and military vehicles and launched millions of tons of shipping. It supported 16 million people in the armed forces, the equivalent of 36 million today. It built new plants to produce aluminum, dams to power the new factories and much more. It paid for this with what, in effect, was printed money that the anti-New Dealers had said would be catastrophic. Talk about being wrong.
This history is 100 percent relevant in 2009. Almost 15 million Americans are out work and millions more are working part time involuntarily. Our factories and offices are on short hours, states are laying off teachers. Consumers and businesses are saving, not spending. Our dependence on foreign oil is dangerous and has been for 60 years, and our public works are in shambles. Republicans, having learned absolutely nothing from history, say more government spending to address these problems would break the bank. They ignore the experience of World War II when the government found the money to finance a huge war when Republicans had argued that it was broke.
Are Republicans just ignorant? I doubt it. Many of them know this "deficits will kill us" stuff is bull. Former Vice-President Cheney famously told then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." His wife, Lynne Cheney has written at least six books aimed at teaching history to American children, a goal which I share. But the Republicans dismiss history when it serves them, and the economic history of World War II is clearly history they want to dismiss.
The truth is that Republicans spread fear about the deficit because they do not want Democrats and the government to get credit for dealing with unemployment, health care, the need to "green" our economy, and to modernize our educational systems and public infrastructure. When they had a congressional majority they did not wait a year to blow the Clinton budget surpluses to smithereens by giving tax reductions to the wealthiest Americans. Unfazed by deficits, they never had the political guts to propose taxes to fight the unpopular Iraq War, or to pay for earmarks that served their political purposes. The feckless George W. Bush and the Republican Congress doubled the national debt on their watch and refused to take responsibility -- that is ask voters to pay for -- their actions. Republicans don't care about deficits. They talk about deficits now because it fools people, and they see that as good politics.
The country can afford to spend money to put Americans back to work, modernize our infrastructure, green our economy, and improve our educational systems just as surely as it could afford to spend money to fight World War II. To do otherwise is to ignore American history. Write a book about this Ms. Cheney.
He just gets a little off track on the, "doubling the national debt" stuff.