What war economy would do for San Diego

112,000 troops stationed here in 2009

What will happen to San Diego when the local defense spending decreases?
  • What will happen to San Diego when the local defense spending decreases?

Once again, Americans are beginning to talk about guns versus butter. Do we want to remain a military superpower, or do we want our social safety net and our corporate welfare programs?

In San Diego, guns are butter. Directly and indirectly, military spending accounts for more than 20 percent of the local economy and one-fourth of the jobs.

Therefore, it is prudent for San Diego to plot a course in case the nation’s voters express a desire to turn swords into plowshares — to convert, at least partially, military weapons, technologies, and personnel to peaceful uses. The concept goes by several names, including arms conversion and economic conversion, and in the past, it has generated far more talk than action.

Nonetheless, San Diego is considering the question. Leadership of the San Diego Association of Governments is discussing the matter and may appoint a committee to study the ramifications of possible arms conversion, says Marney Cox, chief economist for the organization. The entire establishment — elected officials, universities, etc. — is “very supportive of more, not less, military” but may have to bow to the national will. There are small groups in the county devoted to economic conversion, but their influence is anemic.

Now, United States military spending is burgeoning. Officially, it is around 20 percent of the federal budget. But critics say that’s vastly understated. If you take into account supplemental defense budgets, veterans’ benefits, military retirement, State Department defense spending, military-related foreign aid, Homeland Security, the Department of Energy nuclear arsenal, and the interest on the debt related to defense spending, the military takes up about half of the budget, say peace movement leaders.

Whether that’s true or not, the national discourse is getting more dovish. Polls show that United States intervention in certain Greater Middle East countries is not popular. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has always opposed military buildups, and now two of his brethren — Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman — are expressing reservations, and dropout Haley Barbour considered taking a bold antiwar stance.

However, there aren’t many antiwar protests these days, and nonmainstream peace proposals get nowhere. The “Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act” was introduced every congressional session between 1994 and 2009 and never got near first base; this year it has been reintroduced in somewhat different form. It’s not expected to fly.

But, increasingly, people are quoting moderate voices, often from the past, telling how military spending is a critical — often deleterious — part of the American economy. You can read today that the late, great American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan said during the cold war that “Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented.” Many consider that prescient, indeed.

Once again, publications are quoting former president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex, along with his lesser-recited statement, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed.” Eisenhower, a retired general, was a moderate Republican.

Republican Robert Gates, who just retired as defense secretary, said this year, “Given America’s difficult economic circumstances and parlous fiscal condition, military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer and harsher scrutiny.”

Gates, a longtime cold warrior, laments the state of affairs. He wants America to throw its weight around — one reason he may have departed. But, says Cox, “Gates is saying that in the old days we were able to support a lot more military activity because the economy could afford it. That is changing. With our eroding economic base, we can no longer support these defense expenditures.”

A study published this spring by the San Diego Military Advisory Council indicates that with the ripple effect (events in one industry spreading out to other industries), military spending in San Diego in 2009 generated $30.5 billion of economic impact and generated 354,627 jobs, or 26 percent of regional employment. This year, the economic impact should be $34.7 billion, while military-generated jobs grow to 385,391.

Direct spending grew by 10.1 percent in 2007, 14.1 percent in 2008, and 12.3 percent in 2009, according to the report. That was impressive growth in some bad years. Growth for 2010 and 2011 is projected at 5 and 3.5 percent, respectively. Kelly Cunningham, economist for the National University System Institute for Policy Research, notes that San Diego County personal income dropped 1.1 percent in recessionary 2008 and 2009, compared with a national decline of 1.8 percent. San Diego’s smaller drop resulted from a $1.9 billion jump in federal payrolls, $1.5 billion of which was military.

Had federal and military pay remained constant, along with other transfer payments (Social Security, unemployment compensation, welfare, etc.), San Diego’s personal income would have plunged 3.1 percent; that would have been one of the worst performances in the nation.

A big rise in military pay has helped. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the number of active duty troops in San Diego only rose from 109,800 in 2001 to 112,000 in 2009. However, compensation leaped 97 percent during the period, 53 percent adjusted for inflation, says Cunningham.

According to the San Diego Military Advisory Council, 58.4 percent of direct military spending in San Diego comes from procurement, such as manufacture of equipment. Active duty salaries are 26.8 percent, retirement and veterans’ benefits 8.9 percent, and civilian salaries 5.4 percent.

Just as with pro sports, the arts, and redevelopment promoters begging for government handouts, the ripple effect can be exaggerated, consciously or unconsciously. Still, says Cunningham, “When you are dependent on one customer, you are dependent on their whims or decisions. It’s better to have more diversification.”

Of course, arms conversion, if there is any, doesn’t have to hurt San Diego. “It’s possible we could benefit,” says Cox. “The military is moving from the East Coast to the West Coast. Secondly, we have a heavy concentration of Marines, and they tend to be disproportionately less impacted by cutbacks.”

Any conversion process will likely be slow, giving metro areas such as San Diego time to adjust. And there will be plenty of political haggling that could considerably water down any efforts. Still, San Diego is doing the right thing by preparing for any eventuality. The problem is that nobody knows quite what form conversion might take, and the decisions will be made elsewhere.

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There, in addition to all of the other "income-generators" that lack substance in terms of basic survival (aka the "service" economy), is your next big bubble-popper (after the last hanging mortgage defaults hit--soon).

Ponzi was wondering where u were

here u r Don ;-S

so he's fine but not replying eh Pupster???

The historian Niall Ferguson notes that the collapse of empires typically are preceded by an debt crisis, resulting in an inability to afford the military that props up the empire, leading to a downward spiral.

Ferguson also talks about "Chimerica", the symbiotic relationship between China and the US, where China lends America the money it spends buying Chinese products...resulting in current massive imbalances.

China's ambition to displace the dollar's privilaged, and very lucrative, status as the world's currency is well-known and seemingly inevitable in the long run, and maybe the medium too.

So China seems likely to be the most serious existential threat to the US going forward.

San Diego's geography may be its saviour, when it comes to military expenditure. The biggest "losers" will probably be NATO (increasingly irrelevant) and east coast military installations.

(While I've name-checked Ferguson, these are my opinions and conclusions.)



The collapse of any system or population--bugs and bacteria, humans and lizards, almost always follows steepened growth curves, and recovery (if extinction is not the price ultimately paid) is necessarily slow, as the resources for regrowth are then in extremely short supply.

The human solution was the development of culture/competition which has consistently enabled the exaggeration of the species' image leading to a leading of the cocksure chumps off the cliff.

I have no argument with Williams' take on this issue, as usual. I think I'm saying the same thing in yet more ancient, hence immutable, terms.

Nonetheless, I remain interested in any sensible logic to the contrary.

Other historians claim that a surplus of gold can raise prices in Imperial centers, destroying manufacturing and exports. Certainly this happened in Spain and Britain.

Modern democracies tend to reject imperialism because the cost of the colonies exceed the benefit, So the US abandoned the Philippines, and the Europeans, Africa. Free trade has made empires obsolete. Why plunder what is cheaper to buy?

I haven't read Ferguson, but writing history to prove a thesis is the fool's errand. If American Empire collapses, perhaps we will enjoy the explosion of prosperity the Europeans have since they abandoned their foolish dream of world domination.

Defense cuts were central to the Clinton prosperity, increased defense spending central to the Bush failure.

Long term, San Diego should plan for big defense cuts.

Gotta agree with Fredo.... With San Diego's geography covering the very S/W corner of the U.S.A. there will always be a substantial military presence here. We may have seen it's peak considering the nation's debt issues, but it will always be here. One of the indicators supporting this conclusion is the extensive and continued building projects on, and upgrades to, USMCAS Miramar and Camp Pendleton. Not to mention the stationing of some of the Navy's newest and most advanced ships.

Closing NTC was, IMO, one of the biggest blows ever to San Diego.

It really was such a BIG part of the city, our culture and identity......

Just part of that Giant Blowing Sound. Or Sucking--take your choice. Get used to it.

Our geography means we can grow our own food year round. Every backyard in San Diego should be growing food and fowl. We have the resources to be a self-sufficient empire if we only had the leadership.

Replacing lawns with vegetable patches should be encouraged.

When one thinks of all the imported water wasted, chemicals deployed, and labor expended to grow faux mini-golf patches in front of houses in dry San Diego...it boggles the mind. What will future generations think of us?

More on the economics of imperialism:


"The security and prosperity allegedly offered by empire is an illusion, and those societies that pursue it—even with the best of intentions—will ultimately receive neither. It’s a lesson that could serve Americans well."

Since I have for many decades left my "yard" fallow, unirrigated, the Great Water Police Computer will penalize me as I expand my vegetable-garden patch.

Anyone have any good gopher and ground squirrel recipes? Any suggestions about avoiding the black plague from the fleas abandoning their carcasses?

To avoid the imperialists, hide out! Get small! Don't buy, barter. Above all, DON'T SHOP!!!

Proper dressing of the meat is the key. Slit the belly of the rodent and scoop out the viscera.Chop off the head and feet, and peel off the skin. Rinse, then soak carcass in salted water in fridge for about an hour or overnight if you have the time.

Chop onion, garlic,fresh thyme and sage, saute herbs in olive oil sprinkle with course black pepper and salt.Sweat the herbs until wilted. remove from heat. Place rodent carcass in oiled roasting pan. Pour herbs over rodent. Add whole potatoes, squash or other root vegetable of choice.

Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes or until the rodent is sizzlin and crispy.

u r one wacky chef DG....u'd b so much fun 2 know in person...lololol ;-D

All part of my "End of the World Cook Book." Thanks, I'm pretty much the same in person. Maybe a little less filtered, yeah that is possible. It's called poor impulse control.

er..um...did anyone mention LACKS IMPULSE CONTROL

~~she slyly looks to the right and left of her hoping she hasn't been found out~~


let me know when u put that cookbook on sale

Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes or until the rodent is sizzlin and crispy.

=============== LOL!

The herb called pennyroyal was used during the Dark Ages as a flea repellant and paralytic. I used it decades ago and it is effective.

If pennyroyal will paralyze those fleas, I will plant it all over the yard.

Thanks for the recipe; I might modify it by using local Cleveland sage and a coating of local chia or white sage seeds, soaked for an hour or so in a little warm water, taking care not to burn the gopher in the cooking. Maybe yams would be good, too. You are quite right about proper treatment of the meat; especially the killing and bleeding out. Do you believe that the salt water soak is an adequate substitute for this?

A lot of trouble can be saved by patroling, two or three times a week, a stretch of highway frequented by big trucks and various scooties and runnies.

I have an old recipe for planked carp, should anyone care to sample aquatic varmits.

Especially with small game animals the salt water soak helps tenderize the flesh and allows the herbs to penetrate the meat. There is not a lot of fat on these small rodents so be liberal with the olive oil.

Yams would be good. Feel free to tweak to taste.

We were in Texas recently. Armadillo seems to be a big thing there. I tried an armadillo burger that was quite good. I'm not sure where they got their meat, though.Road kill perhaps. There's a dead armadillo by the side of the road.

i have ground squirrels in my yard

SHADDUP U 2!!!!! /:((

As Jim Hightower says, "There ain't nuthin' in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillo's." Were your "farm-raised?"

What a great comment thread...starts off with Don's article about defence spending cuts impact on San Diego, evolves into a discussion of imperialism and quickly absconds into rodent recipe territory...

Rodents...the other, OTHER, white meat.

Sometimes participating in Reader online discussions is more rewarding than one could ever imagine.

Thank you, everyone.


(What about all the bones? While the large rat I baked according to the instructions came out just as crispy and tasty as you promised, I found I had to really be careful to avoid swallowing one of those sharp little bones. Any advice? What about mincing the rodent, bones and all, and then using it as a hamburger substitute? Have any of you tried that yet?)

(What about all the bones? While the large rat I baked according to the instructions came out just as crispy and tasty as you promised, I found I had to really be careful to avoid swallowing one of those sharp little bones. Any advice? What about mincing the rodent, bones and all, and then using it as a hamburger substitute? Have any of you tried that yet?)

========================== If you ever watch the TV show "Survivorman" on Discovery channel he eats everything you could imgaine-as long as it is cooked well, well done.

. http://lesstroud.ca/survivorman/home.php .

As my Swedish step-grandfather used to say about little bones (as in carp), "Jus' shop 'em up fine an' fry 'em real crispy an' eat 'em bones an' all."

Despite the circuitous path, we are coming full circle from gophers to armadillos to Jim Hightower's website, to the Final Solution for all the rats in the world. Armygettin' is a-comin'; it's either them or us!

PS: "Survivorman" has fulminated from some things of real survivor value, to an overproduced bore--that's what slick-tailed "producers" do to a good idea. "SEN-SAY-SHUN-ALL!" Now WHAT did I do with that gaw-dang pufferfish?

Bones,let me tell ya how to deal with them bones. Pressure cooker boyz. If you got a whole mess of rodent meat, say for the next July 4th cookout in 2012, dress em then pressure cook them things for about 40 minutes. Remove from the cooker and then slather on liberal amounts of barbecue sauce and crisp on the grill. Each tender morsel will be crispy and chewy because the pressure cooker turns the bones into fleshlike goodness.

First, you catch the rodent.

Then you dig a hole and set a fire in it with stones. Let 12 hours pass, adding wood as necessary. Then put the rodent(s) into the hole, but not touching the stones or the sides or bottom, insulating them with dirt. Fill the hole with dirt and wait another 12 hours. Dig them up and eat the meat. You can wrap the meat in cloth, leaves, or paper to keep the dirt out. You can do the same with wolly mammoth, just dig a bigger hole, in which you can trap them if you like--if you can find any.

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