Is the Military just a jobs program?

There are reasons to think it’s a huge make work program, aimed at being acceptable to conservatives.

But there hasn’t been much talk about this idea in the mainstream. You’ll hear military spending is wasteful, that we need a smaller military – but you won’t hear many people call it workfare.

That’s why this little back and forth with Grover Norquist is unusual, and even the article by Talking Points Memo’s Ben Amburster:

NORQUIST: We also need to combat the idea that the Defense Department is a jobs program. Some people who call themselves conservatives who are actually Keynesian, make work, FDR guys. They laugh at that when we see an $800 billion stimulus package. We know that’s garbage. We know that money is wasted. We know those aren’t real jobs. You haven’t created jobs. It’s just government spending that makes this country weaker. The same is true for any dollar wasted in the name of national defense. It doesn’t create jobs. It takes money out of the real economy and puts it into the government sector


Mr. Norquist bringing up this critique of the military without prompting is a good sign. TPM picking it up and highlighting it is even better.

Thinking about the military as a gigantic make work program – an ELR of sorts – puts the entire military into an entirely different perspective.

(P.S. Yeah – I’ve been really busy – and it’s August! I took some time off)



Expert in business development, product development, and direct marketing. Developed strategic sales plans, product innovations, and business plans for multiple companies. Conceived the patent pending Spot Equivalent Futures (SEF) mechanism, which allows true replication of spot and swap like products in the futures space.

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11 Comments on "Is the Military just a jobs program?"

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Erik V
4 years 11 months ago

No doubt the military wastes alot of money (mostly from massive cost overruns on the big ticket items), but it also does alot of good. Creating alot of jobs while accomplishing one of any governments most basic tasks (national security) is a good thing. The Army does actually build alot of infrastructure projects, unfortunately, they are mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of here at home.

I think a big overlooked thing when it comes to the military is the very positive social aspect. A lot of the kids who join the military come from lower income backgrounds, had a lack of good parenting etc. I know remember being shocked when some of the screw-up crowd kids from high school ended up joining the military and within a few years were some of the most mature kids around. It’s nice to have an institution where kids in need can get discipline, respect, training and a free college education.

Tom Hickey
4 years 11 months ago

As a vet, I agree with this in principle, but in practice, there is lot more to be said about the situation that exists, which is abysmal and it is ruining the US in many ways. I could write volumes about the good, the bad and the ugly, but I just want to say here than there are two sides of this and both are correct as far as they go. We need to see it in a comprehensive way that advocates increasing the good, reducing the bad, and eliminating the ugly.

4 years 11 months ago

One thing the US military does extremely well is waste money on bombs that are then destroyed in the process of destroying human beings. Talk about the ultimate wasteful spending.