The Permanent American Go For Broke War Culture
How Presidents and pundits
keep "spinning"... War made easy
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The Permanent American War Culture
For the 2009 fiscal year, the Defense Department is asking for $515 billion and a separate $70 billion to cover war costs into the early months of a new administration. Those amounts combined would represent the highest level of military spending since the end of World War II (adjusted for inflation). Already, defense spending hovers around 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)
Britain, France, and Australia spend an average 2.4 percent of their GDP on defense. Germany spends 1.5 percent.
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*Budget of the United States Government Fisca Year 2009
U.S. military spending – Dept. of Defense plus nuclear weapons (in $billions) – is equal to the military spending of the next 15 countries combined.
These numbers show military expenditures for each country. Some say that U.S. military spending will naturally be higher because it has the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any country. The United States accounts for 47 percent of the world’s total military spending, however the U.S.’s share of the world's GDP is about 21 percent. Also note that of the top 15 countries shown, at least 12 are considered allies of the U.S. The U.S. outspends Iran and North Korea by a ratio of 72 to one.
Our military spending exceeds the rest of the world's spending combined, and we spend almost 10 times what the second-place country, China, spends. "Only" about $150 billion of the total U.S. amount is attributable to the two active wars we're fighting, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, even if one wants to excludes those amounts, the basic picture remains the same. Nor do these amounts include the billions of dollars in military aid we give to fund the armies of other countries, such as Israel and Egypt, which alone comprise substantial portions of those countries' defense budgets.
And this gap between us and the rest of the world has widened considerably over the last 10 years. That's true because our own military spending, in absolute terms, has increased wildly during that time.
The budget numbers can be a bit confusing. For example, the Fiscal Year budget requests for US military spending do not include combat figures (which are supplemental requests that Congress approves separately). The budget for nuclear weapons falls under the Department of Energy, and for the 2009 request, was about $29 billion.
The cost of war (Iraq and Afghanistan) is estimated to be about $170 billion for the 2009 spending alone. Note that “Congress has already approved nearly $700 billion in supplemental funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and an additional $126 billion in FY'08 war funding is still pending before the House and Senate.”
Furthermore, other costs such as care for vetarans, healthcare, military training/aid, secret operations, may fall under other departments or be counted separately.
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*USMilitarySpending World Military Spending
In American politics and policy, there is no distinction between "peacetime" and "war." We're the most militarized country in the world by far, on permanent war footing, far beyond what anyone could ever remotely argue is necessary for "defense" or a "strong defense," no matter how broad a definition one wants to adopt for those terms.
Why the USA Has Already Gone Broke
The neoconservatives in the White House and the Pentagon outsmarted themselves. They failed even to address the problem of how to finance their schemes of imperialist wars and global domination.
As a result, going into 2008, the United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment. Its government no longer even attempts to reduce the ruinous expenses of maintaining huge standing armies, replacing the equipment that seven years of wars have destroyed or worn out, or preparing for a war in outer space against unknown adversaries.
Instead, the Bush administration puts off these costs for future generations to pay or repudiate. This fiscal irresponsibility has been disguised through many manipulative financial schemes (causing poorer countries to lend us unprecedented sums of money), but the time of reckoning is fast approaching.
There are three broad aspects to the US debt crisis. First, in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on defense projects that bear no relation to the national security of the US. We are also keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segment of the population at strikingly low levels.
Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures. American politics has the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true.
Third, in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of the US. These are what economists call opportunity costs, things not done because we spent our money on something else.
Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world’s number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs, an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing.
Liars Figure The Figures Don't Lie
It is virtually impossible to overstate what our government spends on the military. The Department of Defense’s planned expenditures for the fiscal year 2008 are larger than all other nations’ military budgets combined.
The supplementary budget to pay for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not part of the official defense budget, is itself larger than the combined military budgets of Russia and China. Defense-related spending for fiscal 2008 will exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history. The US has become the largest single seller of arms and munitions to other nations on Earth.
Before we try to break down and analyze this gargantuan sum, there is one important caveat. Figures on defense spending are notoriously unreliable. The numbers released by the Congressional Reference Service and the Congressional Budget Office do not agree with each other. Robert Higgs, senior fellow for political economy at the Independent Institute, says: “A well-founded rule of thumb is to take the Pentagon’s (always well publicized) basic budget total and double it” (1).
Even a cursory reading of newspaper articles about the Department of Defense will turn up major differences in statistics about its expenses. Some 30-40% of the defense budget is “black”,” meaning that these sections contain hidden expenditures for classified projects. There is no possible way to know what they include or whether their total amounts are accurate.
There are many reasons for this budgetary sleight-of-hand — including a desire for secrecy on the part of the president, the secretary of defense, and the military-industrial complex — but the chief one is that members of Congress, who profit enormously from defense jobs and pork-barrel projects in their districts, have a political interest in supporting the Department of Defense.
The Federal Government Exempts Itself From the Law
In 1996, in an attempt to bring accounting standards within the executive branch closer to those of the civilian economy, Congress passed the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act.
It required all federal agencies to hire outside auditors to review their books and release the results to the public. Neither the Department of Defense, nor the Department of Homeland Security, has ever complied. Congress has complained, but not penalized either department for ignoring the law. All numbers released by the Pentagon should be regarded as suspect.
In discussing the fiscal 2008 defense budget, as released on 7 February 2007, I have been guided by two experienced and reliable analysts: William D Hartung of the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative (2) and Fred Kaplan, defense correspondent for Slate.org (3). They agree that the Department of Defense requested $481.4bn for salaries, operations (except in Iraq and Afghanistan), and equipment.
They also agree on a figure of $141.7bn for the “supplemental” budget to fight the global war on terrorism — that is, the two on-going wars that the general public may think are actually covered by the basic Pentagon budget.
The Department of Defense also asked for an extra $93.4bn to pay for hitherto unmentioned war costs in the remainder of 2007 and, most creatively, an additional “allowance” (a new term in defense budget documents) of $50bn to be charged to fiscal year 2009. This makes a total spending request by the Department of Defense of $766.5 billion.
But there is much more. In an attempt to disguise the true size of the US military empire, the government has long hidden major military-related expenditures in departments other than Defense.
For example, $23.4 billion for the Department of Energy goes towards developing and maintaining nuclear warheads; and $25.3bn in the Department of State budget is spent on foreign military assistance (primarily for Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Republic, Egypt and Pakistan).
Another $1.03bn outside the official Department of Defense budget is now needed for recruitment and re-enlistment incentives for the overstretched US military, up from a mere $174m in 2003, when the war in Iraq began.
The Department of Veterans Affairs currently gets at least $75.7 billion, 50% of it for the long-term care of the most seriously injured among the 28,870 soldiers so far wounded in Iraq and 1,708 in Afghanistan. The amount is universally derided as inadequate. Another $46.4 billion goes to the Department of Homeland Security.
Missing from this compilation is $1.9 billion to the Department of Justice for the paramilitary activities of the FBI; $38.5 billion to the Department of the Treasury for the Military Retirement Fund; $7.6 billion for the military-related activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and well over $200bn in interest for past debt-financed defense outlays.
This brings US spending for its military establishment during the current fiscal year, conservatively calculated, to at least $1.1 trillion.
Such expenditures are not only morally obscene, they are fiscally unsustainable. Many neo-conservatives and poorly informed patriotic Americans believe that, even though our defense budget is huge, we can afford it because we are the richest country on Earth. That statement is no longer true.
The world’s richest political entity, according to the CIA’s World Factbook, is the European Union. The EU’s 2006 GDP was estimated to be slightly larger than that of the US. Moreover, China’s 2006 GDP was only slightly smaller than that of the US, and Japan was the world’s fourth richest nation.
A more telling comparison that reveals just how much worse we’re doing can be found among the current accounts of various nations. The current account measures the net trade surplus or deficit of a country plus cross-border payments of interest, royalties, dividends, capital gains, foreign aid, and other income.
In order for Japan to manufacture anything, it must import all required raw materials. Even after this incredible expense is met, it still has an $88 billion per year trade surplus with the US and enjoys the world’s second highest current account balance (China is number one). The US is number 163 — last on the list, worse than countries such as Australia and the UK that also have large trade deficits. Its 2006 current account deficit was $811.5 billion; second worst was Spain at $106.4bn. This is unsustainable.
It’s not just that our tastes for foreign goods, including imported oil, vastly exceed our ability to pay for them. We are financing them through massive borrowing. On 7 November 2007, the US Treasury announced that the national debt had breached _$9 trillion for the first time.
This was just five weeks after Congress raised the “debt ceiling” to $9.815 trillion.
If you begin in 1789, at the moment the constitution became the supreme law of the land, the debt accumulated by the federal government did not top $1 trillion until 1981. When George Bush became president in January 2001, it stood at approximately $5.7 trillion. Since then, it has increased by 45%.
This huge debt is explained by our defense expenditures.
*Why the US has really gone broke
See The Videos
US Infrastructure Crisis
Let's End The Empire
Failed States:The Abuse of Power & the Assault on Democracy
See the other videos in this series at ....
*Failed States The Abuse of Power