Militarization of Consumer Companies
May 19, 2008 8:29 PM   Subscribe

An unnerving trend: conventional consumer-goods companies are becoming increasing dependent on making their profits through serving the needs of the military war machine. More dependent on your tax dollar, that is.

Double-dipping, gotta love it.

It reminds me of a love triangle, too. With both consumers and the military competing for consumer-goods companies' attention, I should think that, as with any good love triangle, someone's going to get hurt in the end. Consumer, Producers, and Military... what could go wrong there?
posted by five fresh fish (16 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: You kinda veered off into Yourownblogsville here. -- cortex

editorialize much?
posted by dawson at 8:37 PM on May 19, 2008

How do you REALLY feel about this?
posted by Krrrlson at 8:39 PM on May 19, 2008

Oh please. When the US public actually PAYS for what they spend via the government, then get pissy about where your 'tax dollars' are going. While you're still borrowing it all from Chinese peasants, maybe leave that bit out.
posted by pompomtom at 8:41 PM on May 19, 2008

Here's to the 70s being all we hope they'll be.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:56 PM on May 19, 2008

Anyone who thinks Wars Will End because soldiers can't get a Nacho Bellgrande from a taco truck at Camp Balad is a bit of an idiot.
posted by Cyrano at 9:01 PM on May 19, 2008

pompomtom, do you think maybe, just maybe, if we were less profligate in our military spending we might not be borrowing so much from these Chinese peasants? (And the Japanese? And ourselves?)

Chances are, we gots to pay it back someday. And with fuckers like Bush borrowing like there's no tomorrow and funneling it into his the pockets of his cronies my bill keeps going up. I don't like that. At least if I borrow from China on my credit card, I made the decision and I reap the reward (or lack thereof).

Also, since it's apparently going to all sectors of the private business establishment, it's probably standing in the way of the reforms we need to fix up our incredibly broken economy. After all, when you can take $300,000,000 from the government and ship $300,000,000 worth of jobs overseas, you don't actually need to fix your company. You can just keep running it into the ground (and fucking your country by shipping productive work overseas where it's useless to fixing our own problems) while plugging your ears pretending the titanic isn't sinking.

Not that I think that Argentinians and Indians don't deserve work, but their having work isn't going to result in increased spending over here or help our problems be resolved. American business has basically turned into an engine for consolidating wealth at the top while forgetting the "trickle down" part of Reagan's idiotic economic policy that we forgot to rescind after he left office.

Funny thing is that we're beginning to look like a third world country in income distribution, only with lots of cool stuff we built over the last 50 years beginning to turn to dust, and with a proportionately higher income at the top and bottom. Our rich are richer, and so are our poor, so thus far most of us aren't starving in the streets. Of course, the not starving part may just be due to the willingness of banks to lend us money, which they, of course, won't do for Nigerians or whomever else is actually starving this week.

The other funny thing about that is that seems to have been the goal of the IMF and World Bank over the last 30 or 40 years. Turning societies with a relatively reasonable distribution of wealth into societies with an inequitable distribution of wealth. Apparently they liked how it shoved other countries to heel so well, they forgot that it wasn't being done for the benefit of the nations needing the help and got the idea that perhaps they ought to turn their imbecilic economic policies to bear on this country. Of course, it'll probably work even better here since we have this mythos of the American Dream and a big ass military that could crush any kind of uprising, along with a media that either ignores or makes fun of anybody who doesn't buy into the way things are going.

Sure, there can be dissent on the issues that are brought up merely to rile the masses up (immigration comes to mind), but elsewhere, you're guilty of tinfoil hattery if you don't toe the line.

Sorry to ramble, but there's a lot wrong with my country, and the subject of this post is merely a symptom of a greater cancer destroying it from within. The lack of a healthy political dialogue sure isn't helping. We're too caught up with what some presidential candidate's pastor said to talk about the real issues.
posted by wierdo at 9:07 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

In 2006...PepsiCo and IBM ranked among the Pentagon's top 100 contractors, taking in $286,696,943 and $291,825,309, respectively...and the Pentagon's list of its top 100 suppliers also included such well-known civilian firms as Tyson Foods ($335,239,095), Goodrich Corp. ($344,091,017), Procter & Gamble ($362,461,808), Kraft Foods ($500,799,104), Dell ($636,343,593), ExxonMobil ($1,176,354,936), FedEx ($1,303,032,027) and General Electric ($2,327,705,161).

I'm amazed the current yearly military budget for gas was less than for delivery services, i.e. that we paid FedEx more than ExxonMobil?
posted by ornate insect at 9:08 PM on May 19, 2008

Look, we had to beat the communists! So what if we had to sacrifice tiny unimportant non-issues like free markets!?
posted by delmoi at 9:15 PM on May 19, 2008

Y'know, I just realized: some of those fascist thug police officers drink Pepsi, too. So if you drink Pepsi, you might as well have beaten Rodney King with your nightstick. And they drive Ford Crown Vics. So if you buy a Ford, you're pretty much a totalitarian.

Thanks, FFF, for a link to a hysterical screed that uncritically makes the military=bad equation and then links it to a feeble guilt-by-association link. Turse cites the Eisenhower speech, but he demonstrates that he hasn't read or understood it. Neither, clearly, have you.

Give it a read. It's got a bit of nuance that Turse could learn from.
posted by vitia at 9:26 PM on May 19, 2008

$636 million for Dell? Wow. Consider that in 2007 Google recorded a $1B increase in IT assets in its 10-K report. The US military probably bought more computing power in 2006 than any one private firm. WTF are they doing with all the stuff?

And to think people think universal healthcare would be expensive.
posted by GuyZero at 9:26 PM on May 19, 2008

> that we paid FedEx more than ExxonMobil?

You really shouldn't be; that's how the military operates these days. They're outsourcing as much of the supply chain as they practically can. Since FedEx offers a service instead of just a good, it makes sense they're getting a bigger chunk of the pie.

FedEx operates the largest fleet of civilian cargo aircraft in the world. Rather than having the military duplicate that (and buy fuel, etc., to keep it going), they just pay FedEx to transport stuff when the need arises.*

Rather than buying fuel, they buy transport; rather than buying food, they enter into facilities-operation contracts. This transformation isn't complete and probably never will be -- there's still a huge part of the U.S. military dedicated to logistics and supply, and a lot of it is never going to disappear because the military has such special requirements -- but it's the direction things are moving.

In theory, it's a pretty good plan: it allows the military to dedicate as much of itself to doing things that only the military can and ought to do -- being the pointy end of the stick, in other words -- while leveraging the civilian economy to do things that the civilian economy has traditionally done better and with less waste than the military anyway. Also, it doesn't create a huge amount of spare capacity that gets wasted by the military when it's not needed.

In practice, there are some non-trivial downsides both to the civilian economy and the military, but considering the pressures the military has been put under it's not a totally unreasonable solution for them to have come to.

* In actuality, they pay FedEx even when the need doesn't arise, just for having the planes around, but that's a separate issue.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:30 PM on May 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

vitia--the article is not a screed; it's just drawing attention to how much of our taxpayer scratch (not already siphoned off by war profiteers to Blackwater and Halliburton and Custer Battles and Lockheed and Northrup and Raytheon) is going to corporations who make soft drinks, suntan lotion, and what have you. But keep huffing and puffing and maybe your strawmen will all catch on fire.
posted by ornate insect at 9:34 PM on May 19, 2008

Ornate Insect: please check your definition of "screed." The article states the obvious, at length. Yes, the military buys products from companies. Gosh -- who knew?

FFF's post practices a particularly noxious form of faux-naïveté that holds its hands to its wonderfully cute little pudgy cheeks and says, smugly gasping, "Oh no! Not the Army, too! Why, this just goes to show even more how wrong the Bush war in Iraq was!"

(Yeah, I think the war is crap, too. That doesn't mean I condone stupid and insincere argumentation.)

Is it really a surprise to you that part of the defense budget goes to private contractors? (In other words: that the Army buys stuff?) Let's see: military base security, stateside, low-risk bases. Do you pay hourly wages to private security gate guards or base housing and health benefits to MPs and their families? One costs about a fifth of the other out of the taxpayer's pocket.

Personally, I'd rather have the MPs. I trust them more. But that's just me.
posted by vitia at 10:18 PM on May 19, 2008

vitia--does everything have to be a surprise to be useful information? Given that it's our money, and I already know that a) a lot of it has been looted other ways, and b) the Pentagon is a giant taxpayer welfare dump with accounting practices to make Enron blush, this is one piece of the puzzle I'm glad to have. Knowing FedEx appears to have made well over five billion dollars off the Iraq War makes me better appreciate who butters who's bread. That's all.
posted by ornate insect at 10:26 PM on May 19, 2008

Really? I thought the military produced everything it used from scratch, using its own factories and labor, and using raw materials obtained from its own land.

What? That doesn't make a fuck bit of sense? Oh.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:28 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older Fusing the electric boogaloo with the (samoan)...   |   3 to 10 classroom hours Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments