Melanie Sojourner: 2011 Winner — The 45 Most Admired Republican Women Under 45

Melanie Sojourner

State Senator Melanie Sojourner, 43, of Natchez, Mississippi defeated incumbent Bob Dearing (D) by 414 votes (51% to 49%). He held the seat for two decades and previously spent 10 years in the House. When he was elected 30 years ago, Republicans were a distinct minority in the legislature.
Senator Dearing, 76, was Chairman of the powerful Oil and Gas Committee, and outspent Sojourner by a 5 to 1 margin. Even though the candidates were in agreement on both issues, Dearing had endorsements from the NRA and Mississippi Right to Life. He refused to discuss Barack Obama, but could not overcome the White House albatross.
Sojourner repeatedly said the incumbent had voted for “billions in higher taxes and fees,” and had done little to reduce the size of government. The pork barrel spending he bragged about in the past was used against him this year by the Republican.
She said “When I began this race many people told me it was impossible to oust an entrenched incumbent. I knew it was going to be a long road, but a lot of people helped me.”
In addition to taxes, a major issue was education spending. The incumbent wanted to increase spending but Sojouner noted that 62% of the budget was already devoted to education, and the focus should instead be on “accountability and results to match the funding. . . We need good paying jobs so our children will want to stay in Mississippi. We can recruit new businesses if we abolish many of these of burdensome regulations and keep taxes low. We have to be aggressive in turning things around. It’s going to take a lot of energy, passion and a common-sense approach.”
Sojourner is a graduate of Louisiana State University and the mother of two children. She has served as an official of both the Farm Bureau and the Cattlemen’s Association. Her family has run the same farm since 1814.
You can read more about the contest rules and background at: The 45 Most Admired Republican Women Under 45

A Disappointing Iowa Start for Haley Barbour


Governors Terry Branstad (R-IA) and Haley Barbour (R-MS) in Des Moines. 

Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) has returned to Iowa and says he expects to make a decision by April regarding a presidential campaign. He is giving every indication he will be a candidate, and says the first-in-the-nation Iowa presidential precinct caucuses will be his top priority.
Today Barbour tried to differentiate himself from former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and former House Speaker Next Gingrich (R-GA) by calling for significant cuts in the defense budget. He said “If the GOP can’t find cuts to make in the Pentagon, we won’t have credibility anywhere else.” This is exactly what Democrats want to hear and fully half of their reduction proposals target the Pentagon.

Barbour’s comments were even worse on Afghanistan where he is for troop reduction and it is not to say money:

I think we need to look at that. What is our mission? How many Al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. … Is that a 100,000-man Army mission? I don’t think our mission should be to think we’re going to make Afghanistan an Ireland. Italy or Western-style democracy.

What Barbour does not say is that there are an estimated 25,000 Taliban in Afghanistan. The Governor says he believes in a strong national defense, but is looking at the military as an outlet ripe for spending cuts. He is advocating this even though the nation is now fighting two wars and contemplating a no-fly zone in Libya.
The Republican Party’s “Pledge to America” promises to hold the line on defense spending. The GOP is committed to rolling back spending to pre-bailout levels, but they made two major exceptions – the Department of Defense and Homeland Security.
What Barbour does not recognize is that major reductions have already occurred, and there is a dire need to modernize aging weapon systems. Practically all of our weapons are getting older, shoddier and less reliable. There are far fewer of them then just two decades ago, and they’re being used twice as hard.

A $330 Billion Savings

In both Afghanistan and Iraq the military is relying on F-15s and F-16s from the 1970’s, but because of their age they are very expensive to maintain. Barbour did not acknowledge that 31 major Pentagon programs have already been cut, which represents a cost saving of $330 billion.
In addition, two more major programs have been added to the cut list: future production of the C-17 cargo plane will be stopped, and there will be no new engine for the F-35 fighter jet. The number of military commands around the world are also being cut, and the U.S. Joint Forces Command was the first to go. Furthermore, the number of slots for senior officers are being reduced. The expected cost savings of Defense Secretary Gates’ recent reforms is expected to be $100 billion over the next five years, and all of that money is needed for modernization programs.

Military Modernization Programs Have Come to a Halt

The Pentagon budget has increased over the past decade, but these funds have not gone for weapons or equipment.  The money has gone to the 46% increase in personnel costs, and that does not include their health care or retirement pay. 54% of the budget is spent on salaries and benefits for service members. If you want to really cut the budget the easy way is to get rid of the all volunteer military and bring back the draft.
An excellent example of the major reductions which have already been made at the Pentagon is the production halt of the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.  This supersonic plane is the most sophisticated fighter in the world, and it was designed for combating a high tech enemy. The Air Force wanted 648 of them when the Cold War was on, and this request was reduced to 347 places a decade later. Now the Air Force has to settle for 187 planes.

Examples of other reductions include:

  • The Air Force has already been cut from 4,200 fighters and attack aircraft in 1991 to 1,498 today. The next generation bomber has also been cut back.
  • The number of Navy ships have been cut in half since the Reagan modernization program.  The Navy’s DDG-1000 destroyer has been canceled.
  • The new Army combat vehicle is gone along with whole sections of their multiplatform Future Combat Systems. This was the Army’s top modernization program. The Crusader artillery gun and the Comanche helicopter have also been cut.
  • The Pentagon has already purchased 288 V-22 Osprey helicopters and now the program will be ended at two-thirds of the planned buy.
  • Last year Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Patraeus asked for 40,000 troops for an Afghan surge, but they got 30,000 instead.

The Pentagon Budget For The Next Decade is Already Flat.

The FY 2010 Pentagon budget represents 3.65% of GDP ($534 billion). The 2011 defense budget is $548.9 billion, but this does not include war spending. Pentagon budgets over the next five years will only have 1% increases over inflation. This 1% real growth is still  a net reduction for modernization efforts.

Once again, over half of the Pentagon budget is consumed by personnel costs which have risen significantly since the draft was ended and the nation now relies on an all-volunteer military. The budget deficit is really due to the rapid growth of entitlement programs, which are over $2 trillion/year. Domestic and social welfare spending consumes 80% of GDP and is on track to surpass 100%.

There is no serious attempt to address entitlements which represent 50 percent of all spending. In the current budget the Pentagon accounts for 14.44% of total outlays of $3.591 trillion, and it ranks fourth in government spending programs. Welfare spending is $888 billion, social security is $696 billion, and healthcare is $542 billion. That will increase significantly with the new “comprehensive national healthcare reform.”

Why Do We Have to Spent So Much Money on Defense?

The United States does spend a lot of money on defense and that is one reason America has allies. If we are not able or willing to help in a crisis there is no reason remain our allies and the system of collective security would break down. When America’s foreign policy shifts to isolationism, big wars happen, such as WW I and WW II. As Romney says: “With today’s global threats and allies’ diminishing military capabilities, freedom will increasingly depend on American strength.”

Wise Words From Defense Secretary Robert Gates:

Four times in the last century the United States has come to the end of a war, concluded that the nature of man and the world had changed for the better, and turned inward, unilaterally disarming and dismantling institutions important to our national security – in the process, giving ourselves a ‘peace’ dividend. Four times we chose to forget history. Four times we have had to rebuild and rearm, at huge cost in blood and treasure.

After September 11th, the United States re-armed and again strengthened our intelligence capabilities. It will be critically important to sustain those capabilities in the future – it will be critically important not to make the same mistake a fifth time. . . .

In economic tough times people see the defense budget as the place to solve the nation’s deficit problems, to find money for other parts of the government. My greatest worry is that we will do to the defense budget what we have done four times before. And that is, slash it in an effort to find some kind of a dividend to put the money someplace else. I think that would be disastrous in the world environment we see today and what we’re likely to see in the years to come.

BOOK REVIEW: "The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968" by Kari Frederickson, 336 pages, UNC Press

Reviewed by Gregg Hilton
This is an important and thought provoking book. The author is a professor of history at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and her effort resulted in the Harry Truman Book Award from the Truman Presidential Library. She is a liberal but there is no bias in her account of this period.
The Dixiecrats (or southern Democrats) were predominantly conservative, but the movement also included many racists. She accurately quotes them and that was enough to prove her point. Her account begins with Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932, but as she readily acknowledges, the Democratic Party’s Solid South really began with the end of Reconstruction in 1877. Continue reading