FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War Addiction Default

by DAVE LINDORFF

I was asked earlier this week by an reporter for PressTV, the state television network in Iran, if I could explain why the US political system seemed to be so dysfunctional, with Congress and the President having created an artificial budget crisis 17 months ago, not “solving” it until the last hour before a Congressional deadline would have created financial chaos, and even then not solving the problem and instead just pushing it off for two months until the next crisis moment.

I thought for a moment, trying to come up with a simple way to explain the peculiar politics of a fake democracy where two equally pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist parties vie with genuine bitterness for patronage spoils and legal bribes, all the while ignoring the real wishes and needs of the public, and then it hit me: it is really all about US militarism and the unwillingness of the either of the two political parties to admit honestly to to American people how much they are being gouged to allow the US government and its corporate owners to continue in their attempt to control the world.

It really is that simple.

The US currently spends almost as much on its military and on paying for current and past wars in terms of interest on war debt and care for wounded and aging soldiers as the entire rest of the world spends on arms and war. Approximately $1.3 trillion gets spent each year in taxpayer’s dollars and in more borrowed funds (50 cents of every federal tax dollar goes to pay for the US military, the intelligence apparatus, veterans’ benefits and other related military costs). It is simply ludicrous, given this situation, to imagine that the US can significantly reduce its budget deficit either by raising taxes or by cutting social spending.

Think of it this way. The US is currently running a $1.3 trillion deficit (that is federal spending less tax revenue). That deficit, significantly one must note, almost exactly matches the amount that is being spent annually on the US military, and on military/intelligence-related activities.

In contrast, the federal government budget in 2012 allocated $870 billion for Medicare, Medicaid and all other programs under the aegis of Department of Health and Human Services. The total Department of State budget is $56 billion, and a portion of that is actually for military activities, such as intelligence operations and protection of embassies and consulates. The Department of Agriculture got $150 billion, and that includes the Food Stamp program. Federal spending on education was just $100 billion a year. Social Security is not part of the tax take or the federal budget, as it is all paid from the Social Security Trust Fund, which in turn has been financed by the dedicated payroll tax paid by working people and employers.

None of these non-military budget spending categories could possibly be cut sufficiently to make any real dent in the nation’s massive deficit, which is running at $1.3 trillion a year and which now totals $16.3 trillion. Certainly cuts of 50% could theoretically be made in health and welfare spending, in education, and in other parts of the budget, but cuts of that scale would cause such mass suffering and chaos that the nation would erupt in open rebellion.

The military budget, on the other hand, could be slashed by 50% and nobody would know the difference! The public in the US barely knows there is are wars going on. We read about an occasional soldier killed or plane downed, but there is no day-to-day evidence that the US is a nation perpetually in a state of war. If the military were to end those wars, which are costing over $160 billion a year, pull out of all its far-flung bases, which are costing $250 billion a year, slash its huge Special Operations Command, which now number nearly 70,000 people at a cost of over $10 billion, eliminate or massively reduce its strategic nuclear forces, which costs $60 billion a year, and decommission its fleet of aircraft carrier battle groups, which counting construction and operation costs, plus the cost of the planes and missiles they carry, probably cost in the range of $100 billion a year, the US would be no less safe, but the federal budget deficit could be instantly slashed by close to $600 billion a year. That is the amount that is being cut in the current so-called “Fiscal Cliff” bargain over a period of ten years.

In a genuine democracy, there would be politicians and a political party that would be calling for just such an end to US militarism and the massive spending that is needed to support it. It is something that polls show the majority of Americans want to see happen, even though there are no people in government calling for doing it, and even though the very idea of seriously cutting military spending is blacked out by the US corporate media.

Instead, what the American public gets is a fake debate between Democrats and Republicans, and between the White House and the Republicans in the House of Representatives, all focussed on the rest of the US budget — the non-military part. This “debate” is basically a matter of Republicans saying they want to cut the non-military budget deficit by slashing “social spending” and Democrats saying that they are willing to cut “some” social spending, but they would rather raise taxes.

The thing is, cutting social program spending more than by a small amount would be catastrophic, leading to even more mass teacher layoffs, declining health, hunger, collapsing bridges, and to fewer people being able to afford to go to college. It would lead to even more homeless Americans, including returned veterans. Nobody would accept this. We’re already suffering from such cuts. And as for taxes, in a long-running economic crisis such as we are experiencing, nobody but the rich can afford to pay more, and the rich are given a free hand at escaping taxes through loopholes, offshore banking, and high priced accountants.

The reality is that there really is only one way to attack the nation’s massive and growing budget deficit without destroying both people’s lives and the nation’s economy, and that is to slash military spending and to put an end to the country’s militarism and imperialism.

The US today, as former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel famously said during an early televised Democratic presidential primary debate in 2008, “has no enemies.” It is not threatened by any nation, has a military that is without equal, and has a populace that is armed to the teeth. The United States simply does not need to be spending in excess of a trillion dollars — at least on defense. The country would be just as safe — it would be much safer actually since it wouldn’t be destroying lives around the globe and creating enemies where there were none — if it were a tenth of its current size.

The time for a real debate about cutting the US budget by focusing on military spending has come. It is long overdue. If it isn’t addressed now, it will be eventually, not by choice perhaps, but because the US will simply no longer be able to pay for its addiction to war.

Dave Lindorff is a  founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail