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.

More articles by:

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.”

Weekend Edition
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
Rick Baum
While Public Education is Being Attacked: An American Federation of Teachers Petition Focuses on Maintaining a Minor Tax Break
Paul C. Bermanzohn
The As-If Society
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail