Maybe forever the Republican Party has billed itself as the party of conservative fiscal policy. They always claim to opposed to government’s size and what government spends. Less government, less taxes is their age-old mantra.
At least in recent decades they have had a hard time keeping true with these basics. The Reagan administration tried to outspend the Soviet Union and ran up a huge deficit. George W. Bush spent money like an undisciplined teenager with his own credit card. And Donald Trump may think he behaving in a conservative fashion but the reality is much different.
I’ve said this many times and it’s true, you can’t cut taxes and spend lots of money and end up not deeper in debt. George W. Bush couldn’t have a major tax cut for the wealthiest and then create Part D of Medicare, deal with the nation’s needs during both 9/11 and Katrina, go to war in Afghanistan followed by Iraq. and deal with the collapse of the housing, banking, and automobile industries and avoid adding a ton of borrowed money to the national debt.
The reigning Commander in Chief just ordered his first military action in which a highly trained Navy Seal was killed along with possibly 20 Yemeni children, one a US citizen. The Trump administration, denying what many military people are saying, is claiming the missions goals were entirely reached and the effort a total success.
For the moment I’ll let people who know better than me to sort it all out. One thing that did catch my attention, however, was the cost of the V-22 Osprey that was lost. Years ago I took my history students to the Air Force Museum in Dayton and noticed that each example of military plane carried a notation about what the government paid for each of those planes. The Wright Flyer was the first and it may have cost $1.98 each. The last plane I recall was the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter which the government paid over $400 million each for the first ones it purchased. Walking through this history of escalating cost provided a number of lessons for my students.
WE LOVE TO BOMB: Researchers have estimated, probably on the light side, that during the last year of Barack Obama’s administration the US military dropped 26,171 bombs on seven different nations. Continues to leave open the question of the worth of Curtis LeMay’s aerial bombardment as a workable strategy.
I was listening to a TV discussion this afternoon and one of the subjects talked about was how we are having to deal with things that most of us thought were long gone into the pages of history. As a history major in college I was required to take a class in historiography, which includes theories of why things change. One idea that most are familiar with is that history repeats itself.
There are other theories but what we’re seeing unfold today has elements that were common in the decades between the two world wars. Throughout much of the world there was a huge increase in militarists and nationalists groups. In Japan the military came to power and pushed for military solutions to Japan’s problems. In Italy and Germany people turned to dictatorial leadership and its promise of resolving the effects of the First World War and the Great Depression.
I grew up and became educated after these things had occurred. In my time most of us came to believe we’d seen the last of fascism, Nazis, genocide, and religious and ethnic wars. My generation grew up in the post war prosperity of the 1950s, got an education, a decent job, and went on to out do our parents. I suppose we thought it would always be that way, if not get even better.
Well, it wasn’t to be. Changes in business practices and rapidly changing technology turned against the middle-class prosperity I had witnessed. Millions of jobs went where labor was cheaper, became obsolete, or are now performed by robots. The good “people” jobs remaining in America now go to those who have a high degree of technical skill. What’s left are low paid, low skilled, and too few.
So here we are, back to those days when jobs are few, education expensive, young adults are still living at home, and whole parts of America is in ruins. The same feelings of despair that turned Germans to fascism in the 1930s have given rise to right-wing extremists in 2016’s America. Both Hitler and Trump are the products of people feeling desperate.
Next time you’re wondering what causes our story to change, add desperation and despair to the list. But keep in mind that history repeats itself so the good times may someday return. I just hope we don’t have to endure what the world witnessed that last time so many became desperate.
FOOTNOTE: Since I wrote this piece both Putin and Trump have began talking about increasing each nation’s nuclear arsenal. From out of nowhere the world is suddenly knocking on the door of another nuclear arms race and the weapons makers are seeing their stock values hit the roof. It’s good to be a war monger!
In an attempt to end on a happier note reading this article I’m reminded of the bit they did on Hee Haw about, Gloom, Despair and Agony On Me!
If you read either of the stories I republished yesterday about Greenfield’s USS Arizona survivor, Jim Wise, you’ll understand the significance of this story from Stars and Stripes. It’s the story of two brothers who served on board the Arizona and on December 7, 1941, one lived and the other lost his life.
On its own the story is plenty interesting. But add in one of the brothers mentioning having saved the life of a man from Greenfield, Ohio, it takes on a whole deeper dimension. I don’t know if Jim Wise or his family ever knew who pulled him out of the Arizona but now, 75 years later, they do.
FOOTNOTE: Jim Wise is not mentioned by name but he was our only person on the Arizona so it has to be him. Also, as of yesterday there were only five remaining survivors of the attack on the USS Arizona.
Originally published on December 7, 2011. Republished here in honor of the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
70 years ago today a young man from Greenfield, OH survived and suffered from a tragedy that would forever mark his life and end the lives of so many of his friends ans shipmates. James Louis Wise, Seaman First Class, of Greenfield, was serving aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii when the air forces of the Japanese Empire began their early Sunday morning bomb runs on the just arising soldiers and sailors of America’s military establishment in the Pacific. It would mark the beginning of America’s entry into the Second World War and a personal war Wise would deal with the rest of his life.
No one of my generation doesn’t know the significance of December 7, 1941. I hope such is true of today’s generation. Have a discussion with your kids today.
Originally published on December 9, 2011. Republished here in honor of the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
I saw your article on the USS Arizona and seaman James Wise and thought you might like some additional information from what was handed down to me. I’m his son, James L. Wise Jr., and grew up in Greenfield.
I always stop and reflect on December 7th about what all the men and women went through that horrible day. He was 19-years old and thought the US Navy was invincible, as they all did.
Usually at 12:55 pm our time, 7:55 am Hawaiian time, I try to stop what I’m doing and remember that solemn hour the attack started. By 1:10 pm our time, 8:10 am their time, it was all over for the USS Arizona. The battle only lasted 15-minutes for them.
Not that there is any less but, back in the early days of the Obama administration there was lots of controversy regarding America’s health care system. In trying to sort through all the claims and myths about how other nations approached it I read a book by a researcher who had been hired by some institution to visit certain countries and evaluate their systems.
I don’t recall many details but I do remember that Canada and Taiwan were near the top of the best ten list. Some of the other countries he investigated were Germany, England, France, and the US. At no surprise the US ranked at the bottom of the list. Not because of poor health services and facilities but because it was too expensive for too many Americans.
WARTHOG: The one sensible piece of military news I seen lately is the Pentagon’s decision to keep the close support attack plane, the A-10, in its inventory for years to come. Ask any grunt who they’d want covering them from above.
COST OVERRUN: The Navy’s new Zumwalt destroyer cost $4.4 billion per ship. The ship’s gun, a long-range attack projectile was supposed to cost $50,000 per shell. For unexplained reasons the final coas rose to $800,000 per shell making them too expensive to fire. Oops!
Donald Trump was interviewed recently about America’s involvement in the Middle East. He said that he always believed we should have pumped all the oil out of Iraq and brought it home before we left that nation. His claim is that not doing so helped lead to the rise of ISIS.
There is absolutely nothing about this statement that doesn’t disturb me. For over one hundred years the US has not followed a to the victor goes the spoils policy. We have instead tried to see that first, wars are prevented and secondly, they conclude in such a way that vengeance isn’t necessary. The Marshall Plan following WWII is but one example of an attempt to prevent the kind of hatred that ended WWI and fed directly into causing WWII. Just imagine the need for vengeance in the Arab world if America had raped Iraq of its wealth.
Donald Trump has said any number of things that make him a war monger. He has said he wouldn’t rule out nuclear weapons, he has advocated for the spread of nuclear weapons, he has many times advocated for a policy that places American interest before those of other nations. He has given tacit approval for American boots on the ground in Syria. And he recently called for and unfunded $15 billion overhaul of the US military. He has even stated that he favors war if it results in an American victory.
As the day wore on yesterday I became increasingly pissed about Trump’s being given a veteran’s Purple Heart and his making such a cavalier remark about having always wanted one and it was “so easy” getting it. My piss heated up even more on seeing a photo of forever wounded warrior, Tammy Duckworth, laying in a hospital bed, missing both legs, with her Purple Heart pinned to her hospital gown. I think she was quoted as saying to Trump yesterday, that getting a Purple Heart isn’t easy (nor is it meant to be).
FACTOID: Fitting factoid for this Veteran’s Day. The US Navy is completing construction on an experimental 140 ton ship that will be an autonomous drone submarine hunter. It will roam the high seas, totally unmanned, keeping track of both conventional and nuclear submarines. It foretells the future of the world’s navies and will operate at a fraction of a traditional warship. It’s estimate that this ship will cost between $15 and 20 thousand a day to operate versus the $700 thousand a day for manned ships.
On June 8, 2004 a group of five Greenfield veterans of World War II met at the Greenfield Library to mark and tell of their experiences during the war. Most, if not all, have passed on but on this Veteran’s Day I’d like to reprise a story told by one, James Mossbarger.
“As part of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Jim Mossbarger spoke to an assembled group of interested people at the Greenfield Library. Here’s a little of what he had to say.
Following graduation from McClain High School, Jim Mossbarger entered the Army Air Corp and was trained as a waist gunner on a B-24 bomber. He left the US, headed for England, in early 1944, prior to D-Day.
For reasons he didn’t divulge, the trip took almost 2 weeks and took his group into the Caribbean, Brazil, the Azores Islands, the Western Sahara desert of North Africa and finally to England; very much the long way around.
As a member of the 8th Air Force, Jim, and his crewmates, flew 35 missions into occupied Europe. Most missions were against targets in Germany and France with side trips into Belgium, Holland, Norway and Denmark.
By the time his unit arrived in the European Theatre, American bombers were receiving long-range fighter support from planes such as the P-38 and the P-51. This meant he and his buddies rarely had to face the threat of German fighters but did have to contend with enemy anti-aircraft flak wherever they flew. Jim offered that except for testing his guns, he never had occasion to fire his waist gun in combat.
He also mentioned that Bill Collins, another of Greenfield’s WWII veterans, was serving with a fighter group in England that was involved in flying cover for the 8th Air Force. After D-Day, Collins’ group was detailed to providing air support for American ground forces trying to establish a foothold in France.
Jim and Bill had an occasion before D-Day to meet in London and spend an evening in an English dance hall. They inferred that the ladies were friendly and all had a good time. Also, as they wiled away the evening and without their knowledge, the city was under a major bombing from the Nazi’s.
Mossbarger related a story in which his B-24 was part of a much larger force flying a mission to Munich, Germany. The tail gunner of his plane, observing bombs falling out of their bomb bay doors, announced over the radio, “bombs away.” This was the signal for the other planes in the group to begin dropping their payloads. Turned out they had released their bombs 12 miles short of the intended target. An electrical malfunction had caused the initial bombs to be dropped prematurely.
Another episode “Mossy” told about was an experience where his plane had taken off from a small English airfield headed for a mission in France. At 11,000 feet and still over English soil, the tail gunner reported that he was witnessing hot metal flying past his gun position. The pilot immediately reported that one of the left engines was on fire and someone, probably the co-pilot, prematurely sounded the abandon plane alarm. Jim and the other waist gunner hiked up their courage and exited the plane via the escape hatch.
Meanwhile, the pilot, maintaining his cool, sent the turret gunner to shut off the fuel to the burning engine, thus extinguishing the blaze. So, as the B-24 shakily turned about and returned to base, Mossy and his crewmate found themselves quietly floating downwards into a small English community named Florida.
The town’s folks took them in and tended to their needs while they waited for the Air Corp to pick them up. Jim said that one of the ladies asked him if he needed something to settle his nerves. He replied that he was okay but could stand a cup of coffee. Not having coffee, the lady offered him a cup of hot tea served on a saucer. When he reached for the saucer the cup went flying in to the air spilling its contents. It was then that he realized just how, “shook up,” he was.
He offered an accounting of the losses his group experienced and, though they were bad, they were not near as bad as those suffered by earlier fliers who ventured into Nazi held Europe before the advent of fighter support and a weakened German air force.”