FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Ripe for Reduction

by MIRIAM PEMBERTON

Here we are on brink of a major historical moment. We’re beginning to wind down the longest period of war in our history. And we’re about to turn around a 13-year-long surge in Pentagon spending.

It’s not just longtime advocates for such changes like me who think so. William Lynn, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense who has lobbied for the military contractor Raytheon, likens this moment to the years right after World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. In a recent speech at the U.S. Naval Institute, he suggested that big cuts to the military budget are in the cards.

But this isn’t the precipice that’s consuming Washington right now. Instead, the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the package of tax increases and spending cuts that will begin in January unless Congress agrees on a way to stop them, is the big buzzword.

Pentagon cuts are actually part of the “cliff” plan. You’d hardly know it — most of the talk is about “reforming” taxes (including tax cuts for the rich and corporations) and “reforming entitlements” (a euphemism for weakening the safety net). But without a new deal, we’ll be spending about $50 billion less on the military each year.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has referred to these cuts as “doomsday.” Really? Over 10 years these cuts, adjusted for inflation, would take our Pentagon budget back to where it was in 2006. As high, in other words, as it was at any time since World War II.

The “cliff” would cut the military budget to about 8 percent below where it is now. All those other wars (World War II, Vietnam, and so on) were followed by Pentagon budget downsizings many times higher. At that same Naval Institute forum where Lynn spoke, a former official overseeing the military budget at the Office of Management and Budget foresaw a 30 percent contraction in this budget during the decade before us.

The military cuts that would occur without a new budget-balancing deal are admittedly a bad way to run a government. For one thing, they come tied to equivalent cuts in nearly every other federal program — food safety inspections, job training, air traffic control, health care research, the whole gamut.

And for another, this “fiscal cliff” business is all about narrowing the deficit. But a majority of citizens made clear in that election we just had that they think creating jobs is more important right now than the budget deficit.

Cuts alone aren’t going to create those jobs. We must also redirect our tax dollars from things we don’t need — like Pentagon waste — into things we do — like clean energy and transportation.

And we can afford to do that because, we’re not broke. Our budget priorities just need fixing. In a recent report, my Institute for Policy Studies colleagues and I propose a framework for doing so. Our proposal includes $198 billion in yearly military cuts — from spending on things like wars we shouldn’t fight and weapon systems and overseas bases we don’t need.

These steps would get us that 30 percent contraction, which would bring this new century’s defense downsizing in line with the ones of the previous century. It’s an essential step toward building the sustainable jobs base we need.

Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, writing and speaking on demilitarization issues for its Foreign Policy In Focus project. She has recently published a report, “Military vs. Climate Security: Mapping the Shift from the Bush Years to the Obama Era.”

This column is distributed by OtherWords.

Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, writing and speaking on demilitarization issues for its Foreign Policy In Focus project. She has recently published a report, “Military vs. Climate Security: Mapping the Shift from the Bush Years to the Obama Era.”

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
Uri Avnery
Palestine’s Nelson Mandela
Fred Nagel
It’s “Deep State” Time Again
John Feffer
The Hunger President
Stephen Cooper
Nothing is Fair About Alabama’s “Fair Justice Act”
Jack Swallow
Why Science Should Be Political
Chuck Collins
Congrats, Graduates! Here’s Your Diploma and Debt
Aidan O'Brien
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea 
Patrick Hiller
Get Real About Preventing War
David Rosen
Fiction, Fake News and Trump’s Sexual Politics
Evan Jones
Macron of France: Chauncey Gardiner for President!
David Macaray
Adventures in Labor Contract Language
Ron Jacobs
The Music Never Stopped
Kim Scipes
Black Subjugation in America
Sean Stinson
MOAB: More Obama and Bush
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Minute Musings: On Why the United States Should Launch a Tomahawk Strike on Puerto Rico
Tom Clifford
The Return of “Mein Kampf” … in Japan
Todd Larsen
Concerned About Climate Change? Change Where You Bank!
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Brexit: Britain’s Opening to China?
John Hutchison
Everything Old is New Again: a Brief Retrospectus on Korea and the Cold War
Michael Brenner
The Ghost in the Dream Machine
Yves Engler
The Military Occupation of Haiti
Christopher Brauchli
Guardians of Lies
James Preece
How Labour Can Win the Snap Elections
Cesar Chelala
Preventing Disabilities in the Elderly
Sam Gordon
From We Shall Overcome to Where Have all the Flowers Gone?
Charles Thomson
It’s Still Not Too Late to Deserve Your CBE, Chris Ofili
Louis Proyect
Documentaries That Punch
Charles R. Larson
Review: Vivek Shanbhag’s “Ghachar Ghochar”
David Yearsley
Raiding the Tomb of Lubitsch
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail