Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why Is All Our Money Spent on Defense?

This easiest, simplest, and most honest answer would be to say "corporate profits". But for the sake of those who might think I'm just "anti-war", I'll make my case, because I'm not anti-military at all.

UPDATE: May 1st, 2011 - "Congressional Republicans and Democrats are desperately working on ways to cut federal spending. But they now admit that they can't fix the problem without putting the biggest items on the chopping block: Social Security benefits, Medicare benefits and more. No mention is made of ending the wars and occupations in the Mideast and Central Asia, or closing down most of the 800 military bases the U.S. maintains all around the world. It seems that the costs of American empire cannot be touched. Too many U.S. corporations depend on the profits thereby generated. Eisenhower was right when he warned us of the possibility that the military industrial complex could become economically preeminent."

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." ~ President Dwight Eisenhower,  January 17, 1961
I was born in a U.S. Army hospital and I grew up on military installations. Our people in the Armed Forces are the best you'd ever want to meet; and for the great work they do (and until the economy crashed in 2008), they were vastly under-paid compared to the private sector. 
I'm very proud of the service my father gave to this country, serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, and at the nuclear missile silos in Wyoming before he eventually retired with a slew of service medals and the highest rank possible for an NCO. They called him "Chief". Years later, after spending nearly 30 years in service to this country, my dad passed away in a Veteran's hospital not too far away from the farm he was raised on as a kid during the Great Depression.

But it was a different time back in his era of military service; then we were engaged in a "cold war" with Russia using a MAD war philosophy. But who is our enemy in the 21st century and should our war chest still consume half of our national budget year after year after year - - - and especially now with our ballooning national debt and poor economy while our state budgets suffer?
The money we spent over the  last 20 years just on "defense" alone equals our entire total national debt, or our annual Gross Domestic Product (GNP). Last year was China's 20th straight double-digit percentage increase in defense spending during the same past two decades, but it's still a lot smaller in comparison to the U.S. - - - and it's also a much smaller portion of their GNP compared to the U.S.  
The U.S. spends a greater percentage of its GNP on military spending than any other country in the world, while 7 million (and growing) of its unemployed have NO income at all. This number is expected to be near 10 million people by the end of 2011 when the last 13 months of UI funding is cut off for the remainder of the long-term jobless; and all while many states are cutting their initial benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks as people are STILL being laid off.

The U.S. seems to be on a quest to have an annual defense budget to exceed that of the rest of the world's combined, selling American-made arms by American-based multi-national corporations to our allies (and sometimes our own enemies). And this doesn't include the cost of three wars. Is this more for a "national defense", or is it mostly profit driven? Do our politicians and diplomatic "behind-the-scenes" contacts deliberately make Americans fear ghost-like "enemies" just to funnel such a vast amount of our resources and national wealth into our military industrial complex? How does a $1.5 billion "Boomer" submarine protect us from suicide bombers on a commercial jet airliner? Russia has actually dismantled a large part of their offensive weapons because our government had out-spent them in the last two decades.

So why is corporate America (by outsourcing millions of American jobs) now funding China's ever-growing military budget? And at the expense of our federal and state budgets; and for the lack of any additional corporate income taxes paid into our own treasury?

Recently House Speaker John Boehner said that the Republicans would take on entitlement spending (by using Paul Ryan's bill) and said Democrats are missing the big picture when they complain about spending cuts. "We’re broke!" Boehner had complained. But when the spending cuts occur in HIS back yard, it's an entirely different story.

1,000 workers may be laid off from the Ohio factory that builds the 65-ton giant M1A2 Abrams tanks due to a three-year pause in production. The Army wants to shut down the tank plant for several years because they don't need more tanks. "We look at limited resources and the many priorities we have," says Col. Lee Quintas at the Pentagon.

A statement released by Boehner's congressional office intends to ask Defense Secretary McHugh to review the Army's current plan to cut tank production. Quintas, who is in charge of equipping the Army, sticks to his guns on the plan to halt production between 2013 and 2016. But he sidesteps a question on whether he feels political pressure from Boehner and others.

Trimming a little off the top from a $700 billion-a-year defense budget may mean laying off  more "government workers", because while although it's a privately owned plant, it's really taxpayers who have been paying their salaries. John Boehner might not mind the layoffs of teachers in Wisconsin but, "not in my back yard!"

William Rivers Pitt at Truthout wrote an article "Making the Case From a Different Place". In it he notes, "We worship at the altar of the armed forces, and for two basic reasons:
  1. Average people pay respect to those in the military because that service to our country is worthy of praise; and, 
  2. A few very influential people - in the defense industry, the oil industry, and the media - make vast fortunes off the defense budget and the wide coverage of any military engagement that is given. 
China, with a population of over 1.3 billion people and an unemployment rate of just slightly over 4% - as compared to the U.S. with a population of 308 million people with a REAL unemployment rate near 14% - and China with its newest defense budget of "maybe" $122 billion while the U.S. is pushing over $700 billion, seems to be way out of balance just for "national defense". (Click photo below to enlarge and see what the rest of the world spends on defense.)
About the paper published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (that was written by two current active members of the armed services, Captain Wayne Porter of the U.S. Navy, and Colonel Mark Mykle of the U.S. Marine Corps.) William Rivers Pitt says, "What makes the document remarkable is the fact that both men are top-ranking members of Admiral Mike Mullen's team. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, surely was aware of this paper before it was published, and allowed it to go to print, giving this document at least a seeming stamp of approval from the Pentagon."

If this were so, it would appear that  despite what our military generals think our country needs for defense, House Speaker John Boehner intends to ask the Defense Secretary to "reconsider" closing the tank plant in Ohio for 3 years.

The biggest elephant in the room has always been defense spending. (Why call it defense, when we always use it for offense?) If you include all the hidden costs, according to economist Robert Higgs, the government is currently spending at a rate well in excess of  $1 trillion per year for all defense-related purposes, such as our nukes, which are budgeted under the Department of Energy. Yet corporate whores like Paul Ryan and corporate shills like John Boehner never mentions any real cuts here...just cuts for the working-poor and the absolutely poor - they are the ones who must make all the "sacrifices" while the wealthy lobby for more tax breaks. Republicans such as Paul Ryan and John Boehner would rather push more subsidies for the tobacco and oil companies rather than to end no-bid multi-billion dollar government contracts to union busters and corporate tax cheats like Boeing Corp who just got another HUGE military contact.

William Rivers Pitt also makes the point: "We have a trio of ongoing and savagely expensive wars. A catastrophically expensive health care "system." A national infrastructure collapsing into rack and ruin even as millions go without jobs. Hundreds of tornadoes tearing the country apart from Oklahoma to Birmingham to Richmond to Washington DC, yet another blow to an already fragile economy that seems to be heading inexorably toward a double-dip recession. A brazen, headlong conservative plunge towards the annihilation of the social contract. A game of political chicken over the debt ceiling that could blast the country apart."

House Speaker John Boehner was once in the military too. He joined the U.S. Navy at the height of the Vietnam War in 1968 after graduating from high school, but after only eight weeks of training, he was discharged ("honorably") because of a "bad back" (although he was fit enough to be a linebacker on his high school's football team). My dad had a bad back all his life too, and so did I, from very labor-intensive work all our lives (my dad was raised on a farm and I worked in factories when I was younger).

Eleven years later (after bartending in the family business) John Boehner graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati with only a bachelor's degree in business.

Now as a big shot congressman and Speaker of the House earning more than $223,500 a year, Boehner wants to raise the age of Social Security to 70 (so everyone else can break their backs longer), saying, "We need to look at the American people and explain to them that we're broke. We just need to be honest with people." But he never mentioned that his GOP buddy Paul Ryan had collected Social Security benefits to put himself through college even though HIS family was wealthy.

Only by way of politics could scoundrels such as Paul Ryan or John Boehner achieve such great success and hold lofty high-paying positions in our government. They don't feel empathy for the sacrifices our men and women in uniform endure. And  John Boehner could give a damn about 1,000 jobs lost in Ohio (because they weren't outsourced to China). It's only because his corporate masters and political campaign donors might make less profits from taxpayer-paid government contracts. Boehner and Ryan never sat in a foxhole with bullets flying over their head, but only received money from those who made the bullets.

From David Glenn Cox's excellent piece The Kingdoms of Greed - "Who would have thought that a nation which claims to love peace would be at perpetual war? And even more so, unable to win even a single campaign, where the head of the defense department becomes the head of the CIA and vice versa. That is a stunning policy that reverberates with totalitarian resonance. A nation at war with the world and at war with its own people."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, while speaking at the Eisenhower Library last year, talked about America's insatiable appetite for more and more weapons: "Does the number of warships we have, and are building, really put America at risk, when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined — 11 of which are our partners and allies? Is it a dire threat that by 2020, the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China? These are the kinds of questions Eisenhower asked as commander-in-chief. They are the kinds of questions I believe he would ask today."

But Paul Ryan and John Boehner will always dance a jig to keep their wealthy corporate CEO golf buddies happy, and maybe that's another reason why the Doomsday Clock now stands at only 6 minutes to midnight; but not because of the threat of nuclear war, but because of the possibility of an all-out revolt. Make sure our soldiers get paid Senator Boehner...and build more tanks! Because where you and your Republican's are taking this country, you'll need them here at home.

Before being our 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five-star general in the United States Army. In his final speech from the White House, he warned that an arms race would take resources from other areas - such as building schools and hospitals. Just like Ryan and Boehner, Eisenhower was also a Republican, but the biggest difference was, "Ike" had honor.

As an Aside: The United States has military installations all over the world. Every time a G.I. leaves the base to buy a shirt, eat dinner, or go sight-seeing, they're supporting the local economies of foreign countries...billions of dollars leave our shores in retail business alone (unless they purchase something from an American-based multi-national corporation, in which case, their corporate taxes would be going to foreign treasuries, not ours.)

(* I re-posted Making the Case From a Different Place by William Rivers Pitt)

1 comment:

  1. We support all the wars or conflicts and our economy is suffering because of it. Even if the Libya rebels pay us back it will only put back the money already spent by the US taxpayers. Yes it will put money in the defense industry but it will be a zero sum game with economic growth.