Everyone knows that unemployment must be lowered, but few of us realize what must be done to make that happen. The Tea Party folks seem to think that if the country spends less, and taxes are lowered, all of our problems will go away. For some strange reason, they are overlooking the obvious. Over half of our discretionary tax dollars are being given to the bloated military budget. We are spending more on our military now (in inflation-adjusted dollars) than we did at the height of the Cold War!
Why are we spending over $700 billion this year, not including our war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan? The short answer is the military-industrial complex, which President Dwight Eisenhower warned us when he left office in 1961.
Any time a weapon system is looked at for possible elimination there is a huge outcry from wherever the system is manufactured. Shrewd weapons corporations spread their work out over many states, so that if and when the need for whatever it is they are producing is questioned, they have dozens of congressmen willing to fight the elimination on the basis of putting people out of work in their district. What everyone fails to understand is that for every billion dollars spent on arms manufacturing, 11,600 jobs are created; for the same amount of spending in clean energy, 16,100 jobs are created; and in education, the number of jobs is 29,100.
The Pentagon is proposing an additional $500 billion a year spending over the next 10 years. If that money were spent on education instead, it could create an additional 9.1 million jobs.
Many of us are trying to turn the situation around. A coalition is being built of agencies, groups and cities negatively impacted by public budget cuts. Awareness is being raised of the relationship between wasteful military spending and public needs. The most difficult task is to get men and women in Congress to vote against money for war. But, even here, we are making progress. Over 100 Democrats and a handful of Republicans voted against the additional $34 billion that President Barack Obama requested for Afghanistan. Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina are two GOP congressmen who realize military spending must be cut.
Congressman Barney Frank has put together an alternative Department of Defense budget that reduces military spending by $1 trillion over 10 years. He has logic on his side. Since 2000, the Pentagon budget has gone up by that much, in addition to the trillion spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today, the Pentagon’s comprehension of its own material resources is a deep, dark void. It can’t track its own money; it cooks its own books and makes spending decisions on phony data. [On 8 September 2001, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld reported $2.3 trillion dollars of Pentagon funds missing.] It has been three decades since the Pentagon’s books have been audited. Billions have been handed over to contractors without any accounting.
A task force created by Obama in January 2010 has come up with recommendations for cuts amounting to $960 billion in 10 years without weakening America’s defenses. This did not include monies spent on our current wars.
The task force suggested such commonsense ideas as not modernizing our nuclear weapons, reducing the number of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,000 (how many would it take to destroy the world?), reducing our overseas troops in Europe and Asia by 50,000, reducing recruitment costs as wars wind down, reduce the Navy fleet to 230 ships, cancel the F-35 fighter that will cost about $200,0000,000 per plane, etc. The ways are there if Congress and the President can muster up the courage to enact them.
While paying down the huge debt this country has built up needs to be a priority, an even greater need is to provide civilian jobs for folks who want to work at rebuilding our roads, making seismic improvements to our buildings and bridges, improving our parks, educating our grandchildren, etc.
Terrorism needs to be fought by police agencies, not a million-man Army. If a terrorist does manage to set off a bomb in one of our major cities, who do we retaliate against? Of what use is a billion dollar aircraft carrier or a nuclear-armed intercontinental missile against a terrorist training camp in Yemen or Somalia?
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been a consequence of a misguided foreign policy, using borrowed money and force of arms as a substitute for diplomatic engagement, resulting in thousands of lives lost, terrible physical destruction to the invaded countries, a deteriorated American economy, and increased security threats to the United States. —
*Dr. Robert Hansen is Treasurer of Democratic World Federalists – DWF.