By Ernest A. Canning on 10/22/2011, 5:31pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

That'll teach 'em to mess with the Military-Industrial Complex.

As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, Maryland's "Montgomery County Council resolution asking Congress to spend less on wars and redirect the funds to social programs has drawn the scrutiny of one of the county’s largest employers and other lawmakers."

Despite the non-binding resolution's [PDF] 5 to 4 majority support on the Council, it was withdrawn from consideration after "Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin," a giant manufacturer of sophisticated military weapons, "which employs more than 5,000 workers in Montgomery, urged county officials against the resolution."

The Lockheed lobbyists were joined in their efforts to derail the County Council's resolution --- supported by Democratic members of the council --- by Democratic state and county officials concerned about implications of insulting the weapons contractor giant, while officials in neighboring Virginia "gleefully watch[ed] from afar" as the two states are in frequent competition for billions of Pentagon dollars and the jobs that portend to go with them.

But Pentagon dollars are among the least efficient ways to increase jobs and wealth in any given community, as explained by John Feffer, a co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and Jean Athey, a coordinator of Montgomery County Peace Action, a supporter of the now-withdrawn Montgomery resolution:

Spend a billion dollars on the military, economists Robert Pollin and Hedi Garrett-Peltier estimate, and you get about 11,000 jobs (just a little more than what Lockheed Martin employs in all of Maryland). Spend that same billion dollars on clean energy projects and you generate about 17,000 jobs. The same money invested in education produces nearly 30,000 jobs.

Nonetheless, Lockheed and other longtime members of the Military-Industrial Complex continue to work with public officials in exploiting the "jobs scam" in order to pit state against state, county against county and town against town to bilk tax-payers out of billions under the cynical rubrik of "job creation."

And when that doesn't work, there are other, darker methods that can be used to send the "right" message to those members of the public who might have the temerity to oppose their corporate interests...

Propaganda Blitzkreig

In his book, The Great American Jobs Scam, Greg LeRoy revealed how, over the past sixty years, corporate America extracted billions of dollars from our public coffers in the form of tax breaks, subsidies and outright gifts of land and property from local, state and regional governments, as they are induced to bid against one another for the "privilege" of private-sector employment in their jurisdictions. No new jobs are created in the process. They are simply shifted from one region to another --- at least until they are sent overseas to sweatshops and $2/day wages.

Lockheed Martin is all too happy to bring their considerable tax-payer-supplied resources to bear to shut down even the tiniest perceived threat to their massive, and seemingly-unending tsunami of public dollars, as the Montgomery County Council incident underscores all too clearly.

Lockheed Martin is a giant military contractor, headquartered in Montgomery County's Bethesda, MD. It extracts some $29 billion per year from the U.S. Treasury. It delivers a powerful arsenal of offensive weaponry, under that classic Orwellian label --- "Defense"! Its CEO, Robert J. Stevens, has made sure that your tax dollars are put to good use. In 2008, 22,863,062 of those dollars --- an amount more than 57 times greater than the annual compensation of the President of the United States --- went directly into Stevens' pocket as executive compensation.

In Montgomery County, Lockheed Martin's lobbyists demonstrated that the "jobs scam" provides an efficient means for silencing opposition to the bloated Pentagon budget when the masters of war prevented the Montgomery County Council from considering, let alone adopting, their non-binding Resolution [PDF] that simply called upon the U.S. Congress "to make major reductions in the Pentagon budget."

Lockheed's behind-the-scenes effort to kill the Montgomery County Council Resolution coincided with a coordinated propaganda blitzkreig entitled "Second to None" in which the "jobs scam" was applied by both the weapons industry and helpful "Defense" Secretary Leon Panetta (see video below).

As reported by the Washington Post, Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), President of the Montgomery County Council, working with the Montgomery branch of Peace Action, introduced the non-binding resolution to call upon the U.S. Congress "to make major reductions in the Pentagon budget."

The self-explanatory resolution, by way of direct language and links, set forth reasons that were both compelling and straightforward.

The $7.2 trillion* in public monies that have been poured down the economic black hole, aka the Pentagon budget, during the period 1998 - 2011, has coincided with "huge the federal, state, and local levels of domestic spending." These have occasioned loss of Montgomery County revenues, with adverse impacts on "education, environmental programs, health care, safety net services, public safety, and transportation projects."

The resolution asserts:

The people of Montgomery County will pay or become indebted for approximately $2.5 billion per year of their limited financial resources for Department of Defense spending in fiscal year 2012.

Enter Lockheed Martin and the 'Jobs Scam'

The resolution, supported by five of the Montgomery County Council's nine members, was removed from the Council's agenda even before it could be considered after Lockheed Martin lobbyist, Lawrence Duncan, MD Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), state delegate C. William Frick (D-Montgomery) and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) intervened.

The "jobs scam" underpinnings of the Lockheed lobbying effort jump off the pages of the Washington Post's article, which, after noting that Lockheed Martin employs more than 5,000 workers in Montgomery County, added:

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) had spoken with Lockheed Martin about the resolution. The news of the legislative action made it to other state officials, causing anxiety over a sore issue for Maryland: The state has lost at least two defense contractors to Virginia in recent years.

Last year, Northrop Grumman chose Virginia over Maryland for its new global headquarters after a process that pitted the two neighboring states against each other. The defense firm moved to Falls Church this summer.

As has often been the case over the past sixty years, so-called political "leaders" succumbed to the "jobs scam's" implicit threat. Frick, according to the Washington Post, said the resolution "could have potentially sent the wrong message to an important business sector." Leggett referred to the Resolution as "a dagger pointed directly at the heart of Montgomery County."

Economic and 'spiritual death'

As Jim Hightower observed in Thieves in High Places: "The military budget is a massive wealth transfer program from ordinary taxpayers to major corporations, and it has proven easy over the years to wrap this transfer in the red, white and blue and have a portion of the American people burst out in a rousing chorus of the national anthem and applaud their own mugging."

But the pernicious impact of the patriot-supported taxpayer dollars transferred into the Military-Industrial Complex goes well beyond the relatively much-higher number of jobs that could be created by public monies spent on clean energy infrastructure and on education.

In his 1961 Farewell Address President Eisenhower warned us of the need to guard against a "Military-Industrial Complex" whose "influence --- economic, political, even spiritual --- is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government."

President Eisenhower's perception of the Military-Industrial Complex's "grave implications" to the "very structure of our society" echoed the warnings provided in President George Washington's 1796 Farewell Address about the dangers to liberty posed by "overgrown military establishments" and by sociologist C. Wright Mills' seminal work, The Power Elite (1956), which ominously foretold, "American militarism, in fully developed form, would mean the triumph in all areas of life of the military metaphysics, and hence the subordination to it of all other ways of life."

Military spending not only produces fewer jobs, but serves to deplete productive economic growth --- a form of economic spending that Seymour Melman described in Pentagon Capitalism as "parasitic growth" which not only depletes the money that would otherwise be available to the civilian sector of society but which siphons off the best and brightest minds to military research.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently observed in his 1967 speech, Beyond Vietnam: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Military-Industrial complex strikes back?

Let me ask you one question /
Is your money that good? /
Will it buy you forgiveness? /
Do you think that it could? /
I think you will find /
When your death takes its toll /
All the money you made /
Will never buy back your soul. /

- Bob Dylan, Masters of War

Shortly after Peace Action's involvement in the proposed Montgomery County Council Resolution, on Oct. 13, the Peace Action Montgomery web site was, for the first time in its six year existence, hacked and infected with several computer viruses, the group's coordinator, Athey told The BRAD BLOG.

It is really not possible to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions about who was behind the attack. To date, no one has stepped forward with hard evidence such as the emails which revealed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's links to a plot to use "terror tools" in an effort to discredit journalists (including The BRAD BLOG's Brad Friedman), who had been critical of the Chamber's hard-right agenda.

Still, a growing body of evidence reveals a Military-Industrial Complex which has reacted harshly to citizens who would stand in the way of the ever-expanding, often-parasitic Pentagon budget.

In an email Athey described to us another another coincidence. In 2005-2006, shortly after Peace Action Montgomery engaged in demonstrations outside Lockheed Martin's corporate offices, several of its members were placed on the "terrorist watch list". The incident, unfortunately, is no longer particularly unusual, as revealed by AlterNet in "Inside the Surveillance State: How Peaceful Activists Get Swept Up onto 'Terrorist' Watch Lists".

Back in April, 2002, 20 out of 37 members of Peace Action Milwaukee were detained when their names surfaced on a computerized "No Fly Watch List."

In September of 2010, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Department of Justice admitted that the "FBI improperly investigated some left-leaning U.S. advocacy groups after...Sept. 11." The DoJ cited "cases in which agents put activists on terrorist watch lists even though they were planning nonviolent civil disobedience."

Recently, Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) was compelled to apologize after it was revealed that the PA Department of Homeland Security had entered a contract with an Israeli/U.S. firm, the Institute of Terrorism and Research to "track" activists including those who targeted Lockheed Martin in Valley Forge, PA for "nonviolent direct action campaign protests."

We have failed to heed President Eisenhower's warning as to how the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex would permeate our "economic, political, even spiritual" facets of life. The pernicious impact in the political sphere can be found in the fact that political "leaders" in this country have lost sight of the fundamental principles of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to wit: "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The peaceful exercise of that right can never be considered a "terrorist threat." Yet, what the government did in these instances was to use public monies to target citizens for protesting the squandering of precious public funds on the instruments of war.

On the heels of the continuing "jobs scam" played out with public dollars via lobbyists on the public dole and public officials beholden to them, and with the subtle --- and not so subtle --- methods of intimidation employed against those who would challenge the machine, is it any wonder that citizens, via Occupy Wall Street, have finally begun to stand up against the entire machine by occupying our public squares in defiance of those who have used our own largesse to work against the very citizens they claim to defend, protect and employ?

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Video in which Sec. of "Defense" Leon Panetta parrots the 'jobs scam' of the Military-Industrial complex follows...


*The estimated $7.2 trillion poured down the Pentagon budget black hole between 1998 and 2011 may well be too conservative. As reported by AlterNet's Tom Englehardt, the U.S. is, at present, spending $1.2 trillion/year, much of which flows to private mercenaries. Engelhardt argues that where Washington bailed out major financial institutions, "the Pentagon and the National Security Complex" have "become" Washington. Their "size, influence, and power protects them from the consequences of failure."

* * *

Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).

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