FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Sacred Cow of American Defense Spending

by LYNN FITZ-HUGH

2012 headlines were full of horrible depressing news: cuts on the federal, state, county and the city level.  The nation was subjected to a full time diet of descriptions of cities agonizing over whether to cut libraries or sewage treatment, or of the city that, in one fell swoop, cut all its employees—from firefighters to garbage collectors— to minimum wage.  Or the story of the governor who left the budget discussion to hide her tears over the cutting of hospice while one of her family members was in hospice dying.  We have argued as a nation over whether teachers and firefighters are “greedy” because they want a cost of living raise as compared to other private employees who also don’t have dignity in their pay.

But in all these discussions the sacred cow in the middle of the room remains invisible and unmentioned:  the Pentagon.   Never in the same article that talks about the painful cuts being made to public services do we discuss that the Pentagon (and the debt from our wars) got about half of the discretionary US federal budget in 2012.  In all the articles about the fiscal cliff and the prospect of the 10 percent across-the-board cut applying to the Pentagon, it is also never mentioned that our military budget dwarfs all others and is as large as the next 14 largest countries combined. Nor do we mention that it is five times that of China, the next largest military budget.  So if we cut our military budget by 50 percent, we would still far outstrip all the other countries of the world.  How much bigger do you personally feel it needs to be?

When our huge debt is endlessly decried, it is sometimes argued whether it is the Democrats’ or the Republicans’ fault.  It is never mentioned that we have not returned to a peace time budget since before the Vietnam War, nor are we informed that waging two wars simultaneously has created a huge debt.

However, when we utter the phrase “cutting our defense,” suddenly this specter of insecurity is raised.  But I must ask you as a parent are you personally more secure when a drone hits a village killing one “militant” plus a dozen civilians including children, or are you more secure when your children can get a good education, or when money is available for them to go to college?  Are you more secure when a nuclear missile sits in a silo unused or are you more secure when there are fireman and police in your community?  Do we really believe that there is enough money in the world to make us completely invulnerable to any attack? Are we as safe as the citizens in neutral countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Costa Rica or Japan?

Many years ago some friends had a booth at a county fair and with a big jar for each US dept: defense, education, health, agriculture, energy, etc.  When people approached the booth they were given a roll of 100 pennies and told to allot in accord with their budget priorities.  I don’t recall which dept usually won, but I do know it was not the Pentagon.  Day after day when they started new it came out very much the same.  Human needs were funded by average fair goers much more generously than by Congress.  What we are doing right now is not what we really need or want. Rather than believing that we are broke perhaps we could begin to notice that we are not getting our money’s worth when we fund the Pentagon.  When they start discussing eliminating Social Security COLA’s, or cutting Medicaid, or other human services, we need to remember where 60 percent of our money is sitting.  Can we afford this sacred cow?

Lynn Fitz-Hugh, Seattle, is a therapist, a lifelong peace proponent, an organizer with Just Sustainable Economy, and a mother.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail