FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Budget Goes Military

by

 DVIDSHUB | CC BY 2.0

DVIDSHUB | CC BY 2.0

Economist Dean Baker, in an article published at NationofChange, complains that the New York Times never explains the federal budget in a way that Americans can comprehend, because it publishes big numbers, like the billions of dollars spent on welfare or on foreign aid, but never notes that neither of those “big” numbers amounts to even 1% of the federal budget. His critique is correct as far as it goes, but like all too many liberal analysts, Baker studiously fails to note a few really BIG numbers in the budget that also don’t get mentioned by the Times and the rest of the corporate media, either as a number or as a percentage.

This is a big failing of the liberal left: not calling out the Hannibal’s war elephant in the room.

Military spending, even when it does get reported, is often only referred to in terms of the increase being proposed, without the total ever being provided. It is reported (in the Times!) wrong in so many ways. For example, while the actual budget outlay is sometimes mentioned, the amount of the interest on the debt that is for prior military spending that was financed through borrowing is not included. Nor is the spending on veterans’ health care, which is surely part of military spending. Nor is the share of the Energy Dept. budget that is for nuclear weapons included. According to the National Priorities Project, the 2015 budget for the military was $598 billion, which represented 54% of all federal discretionary spending. That number didn’t include $65 billion in veterans spending and $26 billion for nuclear weapons, bringing the total to about $690 billion, or 63% of all discretionary spending. 2015 total discretionary spending was $1.1 trillion, including nuke spending and veterans spending, spending on the military represented 63% of the total.

Discretionary spending is spending that Congress can cut, and that is funded through borrowing or through income tax and other federal tax collections. Other spending, called mandatory or non-discretionary, is primarily for Medicare and Social Security, is non-discretionary, as it is mandated and has been funded through separate tax collections — the FICA tax and the Medicare tax. Also non-discretionary is payments of principal and interest on the national debt. Interest alone was $400 billion, about half of that being for interest — and half of that interest was on borrowing to fund wars and the military.

One of the tricks of the trade, often used by the Times, is to lump non-discretionary spending together with discretionary spending and then to describe military spending as a percentage of the whole, which is grossly misleading. That equation: $3.36 billion was the figure for total federal outlays in 2015. So by that reckoning, the military spending looks like a more reasonable 39% of the total. That could be made a bit more honest by adding the $200 billion in war-related interest payments to the military outlays, which would make it 45% spent on the military, but the times does none of that, and doesn’t include Veterans or energy department outlays. The paper typically counts just current Pentagon budgeting which is that $598 billion figure for 2015, and then gives that as a percentage of the total discretionary and mandatory budget of $3.8 trillion, making it look like the military share of that budget was just 16%.

No wonder Americans aren’t freaking out about how much of their tax dollar goes to the military. They think it’s 16 cents of each dollar, when it’s really the percentage of the discretionary budget, which is that 63 cents on the dollar.

Want to know why Americans pay more in taxes than people in the Nordic countries or Europe, with all their fine infrastructure, good schools, national health care systems and one month or even 6-8 weeks of paid vacations? It’s because they pay maybe 5-6% of their taxes for their military forces, and we pay 63% for ours.

As tax day rapidly approaches, remember this figure and tell your friends and neighbors about it, and remind them that President Trump is calling for giving the Pentagon another $54 billion in this year’s budget.

More articles by:

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).

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail