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).

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
Louis Proyect
The Witchfinders
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”
David Yearsley
On the Road to Rochester, By Bike
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
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail