Ensconced here in my coastal elitist, affluent liberal bubble, upon occasion I try to expose myself to alternative points of view. It seems important to escape the silo. To that end, sometimes I browse the Washington Examiner on health care (!). Sometimes even (vapors!), I browse to Fox News—although I always close that tab when done, out of a vague fear of contamination, were it to be left open on my machine.
In this vein, Hugh Hewitt came to my attention: a conservative radio commentator posting a column on occasion at the Washington Post—although, it should be said, termed a “Republican propagandist” by one of my go-to liberal bloggers. Hey, you have to sup with the devil from time to time, if you want to know where to draw the bright line, on what you can eat, and what has to be spat out. I read Peggy Noonan in the Saturday Wall Street Journal in the same spirit.
In one of Mr. Hewitt’s recent columns, he made a forthright pitch to President Trump for the imperative to build a 350 ship US Navy. Its necessity, he argued, was of the same order as appointing conservative justices like Neil Gorsuch. Trump was elected to do no other, Mr. Hewitt implored.
As a patriot, and as a Dad wanting to keep my family safe, I found his pitch for that Navy expansion to be appealing—in the abstract. I had occasion to explain once, to some visitors from the Third World, colleagues of my spouse, who stayed in our home, that living in America was like living in a fine mansion, located unfortunately in the very worst part of town. That mansion would not remain intact, nor the family safe within it, without robust security measures. What would you do, I asked, if your fate had been to dwell in such a mansion? Would you act to protect it, and the loved ones who lived there with you? My visitors nodded in understanding, I think.
Is it just, fair, right, that we Americans, with 6% of the world’s population, consume 25% of the world’s resources? Probably not. But if that changed—if that ratio corrected, in some instantaneous cataclysm—what would happen to my children? They would suffer, I believe; and again as a Dad, I do not wish that to occur. I did not make this world, but neither can I and my family escape it into a separate peace.
So I can easily credit how a more powerful Navy might protect that fine mansion within which I and my fellow Americans dwell.
There’s one problem: those dozens of fine new Navy ships will cost tens of billions of dollars—maybe hundreds of billions. Who should pay?
Ah, and there’s the rub. I am receptive to the 350 ship Navy in the abstract; but there’s nothing abstract about a billion dollar price tag.
Yes, yes, freedom doesn’t come free, I do understand that, Mr. Hewitt, and Mr. Kagan, and all you other hawkish pundits. So who will pay?
And it is just here that my support for a 350 ship Navy drops off. Someone must pay; but who? It is the deafening silence in response to this question, on the part of Mr. Hewitt, neo-cons generally, and all manner of hawkish pundits, that gives even this protective Dad pause.
I can see four candidates who could pay for the 350 ship Navy:
- We could borrow it all, and put the burden on our children and grandchildren. After all, without that Navy, they may perish—or never be born.
- We could raise taxes across the board to pay for it. Every American benefits from the increased security the 350 ship Navy would provide. Why not a surcharge on all other taxes—income, sales, property, excise—dedicated to ship-building?
- We could cut expenditures elsewhere to pay for the Navy. Given the magnitude of the cost, the only eligible expenditure cuts would appear to be: a) spend less on the old; b) spend less on the poor; or c) spend less on the sick. Without the security provided by the expanded Navy, the old, poor, and sick might perish; so again, why should they not contribute?
- We could raise income tax rates; which means to raise taxes on high income people, because high income earners pay a disproportionate share of income taxes. The wealth of the fortunate is forfeit, should the Pax Americana fail; why should they not pay for the Navy that underwrites their wellbeing?
By now the reader over 50 is chortling, or exclaiming Hah! We can be certain that Mr. Hewitt, and all his neo-con and hawkish fellows, does not support a single one of the options named above. He wants that Navy conjured by a magic wand.
Oh wait—actually, Mr. Hewitt et al. might support option #2. But they would never, ever, dare to declare the same at a public forum attended primarily by the old, sick and the poor. Voters, one and all.
I consider that evasion, that temporizing, to be prima facie evidence of bad faith. I will begin to listen to calls for increased Defense spending when next I hear a forthright declaration of who should pay for this enhanced security. Not before.
I’m not unreceptive to some such calls to contribute; but tell me again, who should pay?
Someone must pay!
No answer? Then, no credibility in my eyes.