How to End Recession: A Good Old-Fashioned War Will Do It

What to do about getting us out of this terrible recession? President Obama last week announced that he is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and bringing them home, not only because he thinks the war is in hand, but also because he wants to spend the $73 billion it costs us every year at home.

I can’t agree with him more, but not because we are wasting money fighting this war. I agree with him because Afghanistan is just a piddly little country and simply isn’t big enough for the money it costs to fight to bring us out of this recession. What we need to do is find a much bigger country to go to war with. One where the costs might be $10 trillion a year. Now that would be a proper jolt for this economy. [expand]

It amazes me how we have simply failed to pay any attention to how we got out of the Great Depression. We were in the Depression for nine years, and then, in 1939, we came flying out of it by dropping everything we were doing, which wasn’t much, to start building tanks, guns, ships, ammunition, bombs and airplanes for the Second World War.

At that time, 100 million people lived in America. Between Japan and Germany, there were 120 million people to fight against, some off our West Coast and some off our East. Those were desperate times and these were formidable enemies. Our very way of life was at stake, and what we did back then was convert our automobile manufacturing plants to tank manufacturing plants. By 1941, we had sold our last new car. For the next four years, all the auto plants did was produce tanks, troop carriers and Jeeps for the war effort. We also ended the commercial aviation business and began building warplanes. We opened new warplane manufacturing facilities. We built ammunition manufacturing plants. We built entire seaports and began building submarines and battle cruisers and aircraft carriers.

Before the alarms were sounded about the dangers to our society in 1939, unemployment in the Great Depression, even nine years after the Crash of 1929, was above 20%. After the alarms were sounded, within six months, about 20 million people who had been selling apples on street corners, living in cardboard homes in parks and wandering the countryside in old Model T Fords went off to build war materials to fight the menace. Unemployment dropped to 5%, even before the end of 1939. There were jobs for everybody. It was an instant success.

We built the biggest and best Army, Navy and Air Force in the world between 1939 and 1941. And what did we do with all the bullets and bombs we made? We gave them away. We gave them away to the English and the Russians, to the Australians and the South Africans, to the Indians and the Greeks.

Today, the American economy is stagnating at about $20 trillion a year. All sorts of people are out of work. In today’s money, what we did back then amounted to about an additional $5 trillion. We were back at work. We were making things. We were the Arsenal of Democracy. And then we went to war and we beat the hell out of these two dictatorships that wanted to overrun the world.

Going to war against a very big and dangerous opponent is in my view the only way to lift us up out of this three-and-a-half-year-long recession.

Afghanistan, with its 30 million people, won’t do. Iraq and Iran aren’t big enough. Certainly Venezuela is not big enough. As for the Taliban, they’re ridiculous. I’m thinking we declare war on something at least the size of Brazil. Maybe Brazil itself. Or maybe Pakistan.

Actually, Pakistan might make a formidable enemy. There are 170 million people living in Pakistan. When you consider there are 300 million Americans, it seems almost fair. Of course, Pakistan’s military could be pretty easily overrun in a few weeks. But they do have the bomb.

Perhaps we could declare war on Pakistan—we have fair reason to do so since they have been conniving with the Taliban and otherwise behaving very badly—and one other country. Indonesia comes to mind. There’s 230 million people there. They too have a pretty primitive war machine, but maybe if they work together with the Pakistanis, and particularly if we can get the two of them all stirred up to get a real threat going, it would be enough. From the experience of 1939 to 1941, it’s fair to say we need at least two years of vigorous war material-making here in this country to snap us out of it. And then we could give it away.

To who? Well, that’s obvious. NATO is doing a terrible job in Libya. They bomb the rebels. They send helicopters in to blow up civilians. It started out fine when we had all the top-quality American weapons in play to show them what to do. But when we left, it all sort of went downhill, and last I looked, Gaddafi was still there.

In just two years, we could knock the crap out of the Pakistan-Indonesian Axis, declare the war won, and bring everybody back home. Then, with full employment and all the money that went into circulation jingling in our pockets, we could beat our swords into plowshares, reopen our auto plants (the first Buick came off the line after the war in 1946), turn our shipbuilding yards into making ocean liners and get back to the business of leading the world down the road toward Century Number Twenty Two.

The hell with the Chinese. [/expand]

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