Posts Tagged ‘Military budget’


by Chaz Bufe, editor See Sharp Press

(I wrote this about three years ago, so some of the statistics, especially the employment statistics, are no longer accurate.)

Let’s get one thing straight right now: I’m not questioning the good intentions of those who join the U.S. military. The vast majority almost certainly do so for very understandable reasons.

At the same time, respect for the individuals who comprise the military is not the same as worship of the military, which is almost a state religion in the United States. It’s nearly all pervasive, from Fox “News” to liberal pundits¬† (Rachel Maddow, Stephen Colbert, Michael Moore) to every craven baseball announcer (in other words, almost all of them). The reasons for this military butt kissing are obvious: 1) to create and maintain conformism with its us-versus-them mentality; 2) to confuse military worship with patriotism; and 3)¬† to make discussion of the size and role of the military taboo, “unpatriotic.”

But what of those who serve in that military? Why do they do so? And are they heroes simply because they do so?

The primary reason that most young people enlist is almost certainly that they’re economic draftees. Real unemployment (counting the “underemployed” and “discouraged workers”) is approximately twice the official rate of 7.0%. On top of that, the black unemployment rate is more than twice the rate of whites, with hispanics falling in between: 6.2% white; 12.5% black; 8.7% hispanic; with teenage unemployment at 20.8% (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). And the employment situation is in reality even worse than that: the percentage of adults aged 18 to 65 either working or actively seeking work is at a historic low, only 63%.

Then realize that wages in this country are so low that it’s nearly impossible even for those who have jobs to get ahead. Real hourly wages hit their high point in the U.S. in 1973, and have fallen about 15% since then; productivity per hour worked has doubled over the same period. And during the current “recovery,” a large majority of new jobs are low-wage jobs.

So, it’s virtually impossible for young people to work their way through college (if they can find jobs), and their families simply can’t afford to send them. The cost of college tuition rose roughly 300%, three times faster than the cost of living, over the last 35 years–far higher even than the increase in the cost of health care. As a result the percentage of college graduates in the 25 to 34 age group in the U.S. fell to sixteenth in the world in 2012, with the U.S. seeming to fall further behind with every passing year. And those who do graduate from college in the U.S. are often burdened with crushing debt well up into the tens of thousands of dollars–debt which, thanks to the U.S. Congress, they cannot discharge through bankruptcy.

So, is it any wonder that many “volunteers” in the U.S. military enlist simply because they have no good economic or academic alternatives?

The second reason Americans enlist in the military is that a great many believe that they’re “protecting America” or “protecting freedom.” But is this at all realistic?

The first and most obvious question here is “protecting” against what?

The U.S. has been the world’s sole superpower for the last quarter-century, and has a military presence in over 100 countries and on all continents except Antarctica. Since the War of 1812, U.S. territory has been invaded exactly once: two remote Aleutian islands invaded in 1942 by the Japanese–twice if you count Pancho Villa’s border raid on Columbus, New Mexico in 1916. In the same period, to name only instances that immediately come to mind, the U.S. has invaded Mexico (seizing half of its territory), Cuba, the Philippines, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. That’s some “defense” there, Bubba.

Who does this benefit? Certainly not the American people. The U.S. spends more on its military than the next ten countries combined; the U.S. military budget was $682 billion in 2013 ($711 billion now), and that doesn’t count the “black budget” nor veterans benefits nor interest on loans taken out to finance previous military spending. This means that the U.S. government spends over $10,000 on the military annually for every American family of four.

So, again, who does this massive military spending benefit? Certainly not American soldiers. They’re the ones in harm’s way (4500 dead in Iraq, over 2000 so far in Afghanistan–with tens of thousands physically wounded, and quite probably far more bearing psychological wounds: approximately 5,000 current or former members of the U.S. military commit suicide every year). And their wages are often so low that their families end up on food stamps.

The ones who benefit from massive military spending and military intervention are the transnational (not U.S.) corporations that have no loyalty to anyone or anything other than their bottom lines. The U.S. military essentially operates as security, as muscle, for these corporations as they siphon profits from the rest of the world.

The words of former U.S. Marine Corps Commandant, Major General Smedley Butler are still pertinent after eight decades:

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service in the country’s most agile military force, the Marines. I served in all ranks from second lieutenant to major general. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….

War is a racket, possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious… Out of war a few people make huge fortunes, nations acquire additional territory (which is promptly exploited by the few for their own benefit), and the general public shoulders the bill–a bill that renders a horrible accounting of newly placed gravestones, mangled bodies, shattered minds, broken hearts and homes, economic instability, and back-breaking taxation of the many for generations and generations.

How would you describe those whose lives and physical and mental health are sacrificed in such service? Or simply all those who put on the uniform? Heroes? All of them?

Those who indiscriminately use this term cheapen it; they use it as a propaganda term to stifle dissent. If all members of the military are heroes, their acts are also heroic. And who wants (or dares) to protest against those who order “heroic” acts?

Reserve the term “heroes” for those who deserve it–those who commit out-of-the-ordinary, genuinely heroic acts. The term simply doesn’t fit all those who are cynically used and discarded by the government and the corporations it serves.


heretic2

by Chaz Bufe, compiler/editor of The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations

Certain economic assertions keep popping up year after year, much in the manner of venereal warts. Here are a few of the most common assertions (in italics at the beginning of sections), along with some of the reasons they’re bogus:

* Stock ownership is so widespread that we all have a stake in the economy, that we all benefit from it. This is belied by the facts: the top 1% own 35% of stocks and mutual funds; the next 9% own 45.8%; and the bottom 90% own 19.2%. Other measures of financial wealth are even worse. The top 10% own 91.1% of business equity and 93.9% of financial securities. The top 1% own 42% of financial wealth; the next 9% own 43%; and the bottom 90% own 15% of total financial wealth.

Distribution of wealth is so lopsided in this country that according to Politifact the Walton (Wal-Mart) family owns more wealth than the bottom 41.5% of American families combined.

* It doesn’t matter if corporations are taxed, because they pass those taxes on to their customers. If this is true, one wonders why corporations so strenuously attempt to shift taxes to individuals. One might also wonder why, if corporations are people, according to a grotesque, still-in-force Supreme Court ruling (Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania – 125 U.S. 181 [1888]), these “people” should be exempt from paying taxes.

And while it is hard to believe, competition still exists in some sectors of the economy, and if corporations are taxed, they can’t automatically pass along the taxes to their customers. They can, to preserve or expand market share, shave their profit margins and executive compensation. Beyond that, not all individuals use all products. For instance, a tax on companies that produce corporate jets will affect corporations that produce and corporations that buy private jets, not the vast bulk of consumers. Further, consumers can choose to avoid passed-on taxes by buying goods from manufacturers who have trimmed their profit margins, by buying used goods, by reducing consumption, or simply by refusing to buy nonessential goods.

* Unemployment is a result of laziness. If this were so, why do unemployment levels vary so drastically over the years, and often change nearly overnight (as in 1929 and 2008)? Is it really the fault of employees’ laziness that employers shut down their businesses and lock their doors? Do employees really prefer losing their health benefits, pensions, and most of their income in favor of limited-time unemployment insurance checks? As anyone who’s ever suffered it knows, unemployment is a miserable, stressful condition, often accompanied by irrational shame. That shame–and endless repetition–is why well-paid corporate lackeys get away with uttering this cruel lie.

* Military spending is good for the economy. The U.S. government’s 2013 military budge is $682 billion, by far the largest military budget in the world. It’s more than the military expenditures of the next ten countries combined. and that $682 billion doesn’t even include veterans’ pensions, veterans’ healthcare costs, or the cost of the interest on military spending-incurred debt.

Somehow this is supposed to be good for the economy. Why isn’t it? Isn’t money flowing into communities with “defense” industries and military bases? Yes, it is. But that money produces nothing to meet human needs (food, housing, medical care, utilities, transportation, etc.). To put this another way, this massive expenditure of taxpayer money pays people and companies that contribute nothing useful to the economy.

In fact, the harm extends beyond this utter waste. Those who perform useful work are not only taxed heavily to pay for military spending, their tax dollars that go to the giant military make-work project devalue the money that’s left in their pockets. Rather than their spending the money taken from them on useful goods and services (which would stimulate demand and employment), the government spends their money nonproductively. That spending results in no additional useful goods or services. The amount of money in circulation remains the same, but there are fewer goods and services than there would be if taxpayers kept their money and spent it on their own needs. Military spending devalues the wages of everyone not on the military-industrial dole.

Military spending is not a boon to the economy. One could just as easily spend the $682 billion military budget on the mass production of ping pong balls and produce the same economic “good.”

Military spending is to the economy as a shot of methedrine is to the body. It produces a temporary feeling of euphoria, but at a high ultimate price.

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