Over 1,400,000 Americans are now on active duty; another 833,000 are in the reserves, many full time. Another 1,600,000 Americans work in companies that supply the military with everything from weapons to utensils. (I’m not even including all the foreign contractors employing non-US citizens.)If we didn’t have this giant military jobs program, the U.S. unemployment rate would be over 11.5 percent today instead of 9.5 percent.
Historically some of America’s biggest jobs programs that were critical to the nation’s future have been justified by national defense, although they’ve borne almost no relation to it. The National Defense Education Act of the late 1950s trained a generation of math and science teachers. The National Defense Highway Act created millions of construction jobs turning the nation’s two-lane highways into four- and six-lane Interstates.Maybe this is the way to convince Republicans and blue-dog Democrats to spend more federal dollars putting Americans back, and working on things we genuinely need: Call it the National Defense Full Employment Act.