Why is Obama Pushing Towards a 'Permanent War Economy'?

The name of Obama's recent Executive Order sounds bland enough: "National Defense Resources Preparedness." Who doesn't want to be prepared? But its implications are anything but. This astonishing Order, passed under the radar on Friday, gives the President and his cabinet officials authority to basically commandeer the national economy during emergencies -- and also in peacetime.

That's right. Drawing its argument from a statute that goes back to the Korean War, the Order emphasizes cooperation between the defense and commercial sectors. It gives cabinet officials the right to "prioritize and allocate resources" just to keep us all safe and sound both during "emergency and non-emergency conditions." We're talking about energy, food, transportation, health, and every kind of commerce. As Matthew Rothschild pointed out in the Progressive, "this amounts to putting the economy on permanent war footing, even when there isn’t an emergency."

It also amounts to a supersized boost in presidential authority and gives cabinet heads tremendous power. And it strips the powers of ordinary citizens, allowing civilians to be drafted if your skills are needed, without compensation. If you're a scientist, how would you like to be forced to produce nerve gas? Rothschild notes that the order "grants to the Secretary of Defense the authority to force a private person to assist in making chemical and biological weapons" in a section entitled “Chemical and Biological Warfare."

So what, exactly, is going on? Some argue that this is Obama's way of quietly getting us on track for war with Iran. Others say, well, presidents have really always had this kind of authority, so it's nothing new. The Defense Production Act, they note, has been around since the Truman, and authorizes the President to direct private business to allocate resources to national defense as needed in a time of national emergency. But what about the, uh, non-emergency part?

Read theentire Order, and see if you feel reassured.


AlterNet / By Lynn Stuart Parramore

Posted at March 26, 2012, 10:25am

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