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Senator Stabenow wants Michiganders to make the weapons used by US military and sold to foreign governments

November 14, 2018

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office has recently released a new report, Make It American

The report is designed to change the Buy American legislation loopholes, which allows US government agencies to purchase goods manufactured in other countries. Senator Stabenow’s report is designed to get rid of these loopholes and provide greater opportunities for Michigan manufacturers to get those government contracts in the future.

Not surprising the largest area of government agency use of contractors outside of the US is the Department of Defense, using $84 billion of US taxpayer money to have military equipment made by contractors from around the globe.

Senator Stabenow’s pitch in this report is to close these loopholes, so that Americans, and especially those living in Michigan, get the jobs in the manufacturing industry. Sounds about right. Every politician runs on the idea that they will create jobs. Jobs, like crime and education, are main pillars in any campaign strategy. However, to emphasize the importance of the report, Senator Stabenow’s homepage (as of this writing), has a picture of her with the CEO of R.A. Miller Industries (RAMI), a Grand Haven-based manufacturer of high-tech products for our military. 

There are some major issues that the report misses, issues that virtually all politicians don’t want to talk about, so let’s unpack the contradictions of capitalism and militarism that are at the heart of this new report from Senator Stabenow.

Americans should build the weapons and other tools used by the US military. It is fairly well known that the US economy was at its peak during WWII, since everything from the steel industry, transportation and technology industries were geared towards making items used by the US military. This was really the birth of the US Military Industrial Complex, that Eisenhower warned the people about just as he was leaving office.

However, since the Military Industrial Complex is part of the system of capitalism, weapons manufacturers and other industrialists, their allegiance is determined more by profits than patriotism. With the US government and specifically the Department of Defense, they too operate within a capitalist framework, thus they will seek out manufacturing contracts that are lower, thus their allegiance often is swayed by capitalism and not by patriotism.

Americans pay for the US Military Industrial Complex. No where in Senator Stabenow’s report is there any discussion of how US taxpayers fundamentally subsidizes the US Military Industrial Complex, as is well documented by the National Priorities Project. US taxpayer pay for war and militarism, regardless of who actually makes the weapons.

Even if Americans make the weapons, a large percent of the weapons are being sold to foreign government. US weapons sales and military aid has always been astronomical. In fact, the US has been the largest global weapons trafficker for decades and the amount of military that the US provides is greater than the combined total of most countries that provide military aid abroad, as can be seen in the chart below. In addition, US weapons sales are being used by foreign governments to engage in warfare and oppression, with Israel and Saudi Arabia as just two examples.

Capitalists don’t like to be regulated. Capitalist, especially global capitalists don’t like to be regulated. However, in the case of the Defense Industry, they are happy to get government contracts, which are essentially a subsidy from taxpayers and sometimes referred to as a form of State Capitalism. Senator Stabenow will have a nearly impossible time trying to get the loopholes closed with the current Buy American legislation. However, I suspect that this was not really her goal. The Senator’s goal was really about demonstrating to the public and military contractors (mostly military contractors) that she cares about Michigan’s economy, since the report was released just weeks before the November election.

Lastly, it is worth noting that like all US politicians at the federal level, Senator Stabenow has a commitment to neoliberal capitalism and US Imperialism. More profits for weapons profiteers and more weapons for the larger global US imperial project.

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