Sometimes it's the (kind of) little things. The Hotel Palomar is open at CityScape. It's a boutique hotel run by Kimpton, which manages some wonderful places around the country, such as the Monoco in Denver, the Triton in San Francisco and the Alexis right down the street from me in Seattle. Many of the others, where I've had the pleasure of staying, are in restored historic buildings. The Palomar looks like a jail or the spawn of the ugly new county courts building. Meanwhile, the art deco headquarters of the old Valley National Bank sits vacant — it's even closer to the convention center — and the treasure of the Westward Ho is low-income housing. Across the street from CityScape? The historic Luhrs buildings look empty. The question just keeps coming back: Why can't Phoenix get its act together?
Check your defensiveness at the door, because I'm just winding up.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has assumed a leadership role in an effort by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to blunt or stop defense spending cuts. He apparently traveled to Washington, meeting with wealthy Republican John Sidney McCain III, nominally a U.S. senator representing Arizona, to discuss this issue. McCain did nothing to help secure funding for light rail (WBIYB), commuter rail, Amtrak, research, education or anything else that congressional members do for their states in such socialist havens as, say, Texas. But war? No problem, Greg. Come right in. This is a big thing.
The Republic reports, "Stanton has taken an interest in the issue because Arizona has the fifth-largest number of defense contracts in the country." I'm not sure where that number comes from — I can think of a bunch of states that would rank higher — but we'll let that be. Stanton is concerned about losing the high-paid jobs at the likes of Honeywell, Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon. The jobs are high-paid. But they are all connected to legacy industries, many of whom have been reducing Arizona unemployment for years. Most are not in the city of Phoenix, which desperately needs economic development strategies aimed at attracting new high-quality industries and jobs.
All are connected to the Military Keynesianism that the government has carried out — but dares not speak its name. Arizona wants to live the dream of individualism, private enterprise, the heroic Ayn Rand figure, "economic freedom," "I got mine" and "we don't need no gub'ment." Except when we do, to prop up our little piece of the war machine. Hence places such as Mississippi and Texas have aggressive delegations to keep and expand their defense contracts. In the past, when war ended, the nation adapted. No one suggested we keep pumping out thousands of B-17s after Germany surrendered in 1945. Industry adapted and moved on to peacetime. No more.
To be fair, Stanton says he is advocating "judicious" cuts. But the United States spends far more on than other countries on defense, more than the next 14, or 19 depending on your source and methods, largest militaries. We do it on money borrowed from the Red Chinese. The Obama administration has asked for modest cuts. The Republicans promise that defense spending will be off limits to austerity. Not so for social programs, research, education, transportation (especially passenger rail and transit), etc., much less addressing climate change. There will be no effort at "judicious" cuts to Social Security and Medicare. As for federal aid for struggling urban areas? Forget about it. If you want a library, start your own! We're living beyond our means! But never in a uniform. Better to use that money for the cash suck of, say, the F-35 fighter ($304 million each), which isn't even safe for pilots.
The tragedy is the the trillions blown away in wars and defense programs we don't need would be so much more productively used in building America into an advanced nation for this century, rather than living off the fumes of the nation-builders who went before us. Maybe it wouldn't work for Phoenix, which can't even leverage the promise of the downtown biosciences campus (hey, let's build one in Desert Ridge!). As things stand, it won't happen for any of us. We'll end up a very well-armed Third World nation.