Cut “Defense” Spending
In coming weeks as the joint House/Senate budget committee grapples with funding the government in the new year, the Republicans appear ready to try to eliminate many of the Defense spending cuts called for in the sequester at the expense of further cuts to domestic spending programs. The goal is to further weaken programs designed to assist the most vulnerable among us to further enrich defense contractors and protect the wealthy and corporations from paying more for the benefits they receive from their government. Given the fact that the Bush war in Iraq has come to an end and the war in Afghanistan is winding down, defense cuts are called for. Further cuts to social safety net programs are not warranted.
Ever since the Department of Defense was created with that name after the conclusion of World War II, it has acted much more as a Department of War than a Department of Defense. A seemingly endless series of undeclared wars has ensued, mainly funded by blank checks and credit card financing. While funding for essential domestic spending programs is often fought tooth and nail with an eye to their being entirely responsible for any deficit spending by Congress, funding for our military exploits, essential or not, seems to be done more as an afterthought. Military buildups and wars cost money – Reagan may have been shocked that increasing military spending while cutting taxes on the wealthy created huge budget deficits, but not many economists were.
Our defense budget currently dwarfs that of any other nation on the planet. While the Cold War provided a good excuse for the military buildup after the Second World War, the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union has brought the wisdom of continued massive expense we are putting into armaments and bases located overseas into question. What enemy are we facing in Europe now, for instance? While the demise of the Soviet Union did result in some cutbacks in military personnel and units, we still maintain a foreign military presence in many more places on earth than can be justified purely on the basis of defending this country.
Recent wars have been started on questionable intelligence and outright falsehoods perpetrated by some of our leaders. Iraq is the most blatant case in point, but the deficit hawks seem to become spendthrifts in a hurry when a potential armed conflict in a faraway land enters the realm of possibility. The budget hawks want to cut food stamps, restructure Medicare, Medicaid and/or Social Security to balance a budget in order to offset emergency spending for recovery from natural disasters or to rebuild a devastated economy. Many of these same people don’t even bat an eye when it comes to wanting to commit troops and billions of dollars worth of armaments to blow up our evil enemies who are hell-bent on our imminent destruction – whether such people actually exist or even have that capability..I heard no talk of offsets to funding either war or a potential strike against Syria.
We cannot afford to be either the world’s policeman nor the schoolyard bully forcing our will on anyone or anything that stands in the way of our amassing even more wealth and power than we already possess, be it on behalf of ourselves or the oppressed people often cited as requiring our assistance in their battle with the tyrants who govern and them. The use ruses such as the possible existence of weapons of mass destruction does not justify the wanton killing of masses of people who neither did nor wished us any harm. The only people who gain from such wars are the ones who profit from the sale of the more “acceptable” machinery of death peddled by our arms merchants the world over. How many defense corporation board rooms were salivating at the prospect of a full blown US military intervention in Syria recently, before it was defused at least temporarily by diplomacy?
The hypocrisy involved in justifying the increased level of spending for “national security” and “defense” while failing to meet the other needs of our populace is mind-numbing. “Support Our Troops” is a bunch of patriotic malarkey spouted to encourage people not to question the motives of those behind the wars, but just to make sure we give our full support to those who are being placed in harm’s way to achieve their ends. The GOP plan to cut food stamps to nearly a million veterans and do nothing to alleviate the shortage of funding for programs to help the homeless (many of whom are combat veterans) or the disabled among them speaks volumes. Our commitment as a nation to the welfare of the citizens of other countries living under oppressive regimes is also negated by our apparent support for such regimes in some of the countries we are allied with.
The sequester was designed to affect defense and domestic funding in a way which would be unacceptable to proponents of either. It has become, as many had predicted, a drag on the economy resulting in slowing it down dramatically at a time when further stimulus is required. Spending priorities must be reordered to better reflect the actual needs of the American people rather than the greed and desires of those who profit from our militarization and constant state of war. Placing more emphasis on new technology that results in less need for boots on the ground in order to carry out military aims may help with public relations back home, but does not reduce the waste and destruction of financial and material resources or the impact of war on the lives of those we choose to target.
What good have the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan achieved for the people on either side of these conflicts to date? Wasting trillions of dollars destroying people, buildings and infrastructure is not admirable, in my view, nor is taking food from the mouths of the people the government is supposed to be defending in order to do it. In terms of the current and future budget discussions, more heed needs to be paid to the needs of the people and less to the desires of the wealthy and corporate bottom lines of those who profit by creating misery, death and destruction. We can easily defend ourselves without destroying our economy and impoverishing ever-growing numbers of our people in the process. We also can pay for it with additional revenues raised by increasing taxes on the wealthy and their corporations, by removing tax loopholes and subsidies which have created the massive economic inequality our society suffers from, and by encouraging investment in our people and economy, rather than in offshore tax havens and sweatshop labor conditions abroad.
Make the Department of Defense just that – a department for defense – instead of the bloated monstrosity it has become, offensive in nature and destructive in practice. When we must fight, which hasn’t been true of any wars in my lifetime so far, let’s bear the burden fairly, not at the expense of those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder and to the benefit of those at the top. The voluntary nature of our military isn’t nearly so voluntary when the economic status of those who serve is considered compared to that of those who benefit most from that service. Forgetting about the service of those men and women once they are no longer militarily useful needs to become a thing of the past. Allowing anyone to go hungry or homeless is unacceptable, but putting them in harm’s way in a war and then discarding them once they return home makes a mockery of such holidays as Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.
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