A recent column dealing with federal budgets and spending brought to mind a speech by one of the heroes of our country some sixty years ago. Former general and exiting president of this country, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was turning the White House keys over to John F. Kennedy. ‘Ike,” as he was often called, included a phrase he had coined specifically for the occasion. He said that we should beware of the “Military-Industrial Complex.”
If he could have looked into the future he would have named it the “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.”
When he took office in 1953 from Harry Truman our country was still in debt from the spending needed to win WWII — followed by the military action in Korea. Nevertheless, America was still a nation of people who believed in “paying our own way” and, no matter what the excuse was for increased spending, a balanced federal budget was not something to be snickered about or ignored.
That, now, seems to be an historic viewpoint. When did that attitude end? I don’t think we can name a specific date but it was likely when manufacturers — especially those who provided military goodies — realized that if they contributed enough money to a re-election campaign, the action, by a strange coincidence, would result in legislation benefiting the sales of their products. It’s not a terribly difficult situation to imagine, is it?
Later, President Kennedy called Russia’s bluff in Cuba. There was no other nation capable of attacking the United States at that time, so money spent on munitions could have been transferred to civilian needs: perhaps helping to recruit and train more doctors and/or teachers. Would the thought of that have produced a magical bullet — fired from an old mail-order rifle — bouncing around in an open car before killing him?
By that time a disturbance had been detected in a remote country named Vietnam. France had already given up trying to stop the insurgents from the north attempting to spread communism and reclaim their country from what they called its empirical bonds. It wasn’t very long, though, before The United States followed the lead of the cartoon character who sang, “Here I come to save the day.”
American military involvement there was already in evidence when President Johnson assumed the Presidency and he dropped hints of his intention to pull out of it. What, or who, changed his mind, assuring many more years of military procurement?
Meanwhile Republicans continued to label Democrats as the “Tax and Spend” political party until they regained the majority in the U.S. Senate. It was then that the practice, if not the motto — became “Borrow and Spend.” Is it too far-fetched to think that President Eisenhower’s warning was ignored, buried and forgotten in the pursuit of personal financial gain?
Enough doom and gloom. Not too long ago my alter-ego Crotchetyman expounded in a lament that you can’t find any old fashioned donuts anymore, the kind that were deep fried in oil and weren’t covered in layers of sugar. Twister Donuts has opened for business at 604 West Main Street in Centralia with those treats, but they have to be ordered a day in advance since the baking is done in Olympia. Business must be great! I’ve driven past the store more than once lately in the early afternoon and have seen a sign on the door saying, “Sorry, we’re sold out.”
Speaking of deep frying, while nutritionists and health inspectors have had a big impact in suppressing that process, I can still remember how delicious rabbit meat tasted cooked that way when we raised them on our small Curtis Hill farm back in the sixties.
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at email@example.com.