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Defense Stimulus

3:57 PM, Jan 15, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Republican Whip Eric Cantor and the Economic Recovery Working Group held a hearing today featuring Mitt Romney and Meg Whitman. You can watch video of the event here, but one of the things to focus on is the support for a "defense stimulus," the outline for which was laid out by Tom Donnelly here. From Romney's prepared remarks:

I would like to see a significant portion of new spending to be devoted to the maintenance, repair, replacement and modernization of our military equipment and armament. Since the 1990's dismantling of our military, we have tended to live off the assets that had been purchased in the past. These have been extensively employed in two Gulf wars and in Afghanistan. Bringing forward needed replacement and repair will boost the economy, enhance our national security, and importantly aid our men and women in uniform.

This idea is just starting to gain steam, but as yet there's been no real argument made against such a program. Defense spending, as Donnelly explains, "not only make economic good sense, but would help close the large and long-standing gap between U.S. strategy and military resources...[and] would also satisfy the stimulus principles advanced by President-elect Obama: Military service and employment in the defense industry are jobs 'that pay well and can't be outsourced.'"

Adding a defense stimulus to the package would seem to have obvious political benefits for Obama as well. The people who would support such a program are among the most suspicious of an Obama presidency -- here would be a chance to allay their concerns, and perhaps co-opt their support, from practically the first day of his administration. Likewise, those who would oppose a defense stimulus are precisely the voters who are least inclined to grumble about Obama administration policies in the early going, and also the people whom Obama has the most to gain from antagonizing.