by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
February 20, 2010
FLYING WITHOUT FEATHERS
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It's hard to believe, but according to the Project on Defense Alternatives, the Defense Department has been given about $7.2 trillion since 1998, when the post-Cold War decline in defense spending ended. This includes President Obama's proposed total military budget for fiscal year 2011 of more than $1 trillion - which represents the biggest share of the federal budget since World War II.
So while the so-called deficit hawks in Washington are squawking about President Obama's proposed $3.8 trillion federal budget for fiscal 2011, and talk about shelving health care reform, or making cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other social welfare programs has increased, one area of the budget is off-limits to the budget-cutters - military spending.
Certainly, there is reason to be alarmed by a budget that has an estimated deficit of $1.6 trillion. A huge sum that our nation will have to borrow, mostly from China and Japan - two countries to which the United States already owes $1.5 trillion. Just the debt service on that borrowing will cost $250 billion. But how ironic is it that the newest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize has proposed a military budget that is scarcely unchanged from the Bush Administration's spending priorities?
This $1 trillion figure includes the $250 million that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost, as well as the secret "black" military programs that cost about $70 billion. It also includes military aid to nations such as Egypt, Israel and Pakistan, paying for the 225,000 military "contractors" that supplement our soldiers, and the $75 billion it costs to maintain 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees.
Does it not seem a little out of whack that military and intelligence spending keeps relentlessly increasing while our economy struggles with a deep recession and an unemployment rate of near 10 percent? Why does military spending gobble up one-fifth of all federal spending and nearly 45 percent of tax revenues?
Why is it that the United States now accounts for half of the total world military spending, while China and Russia combined spend only 10 percent of what we do? Why is this nation borrowing money to pay for the maintenance of 750 U.S. military bases in 50 nations? Why are there 255,000 U.S. service members stationed abroad - 116,000 in Europe, nearly 100,000 in Japan and South Korea - in addition to those service members now in Iraq and Afghanistan?
We're coming up on the end of seven years of war in Iraq. We've been in Afghanistan for more than eight years. The combined costs of both wars, which weren't included in the federal budgets during the Bush years, is about $1 trillion dollars - again, mostly funded with borrowed money.
History has shown that debt and imperial overreach have toppled more countries than foreign invaders. The British Empire fell after World War II when Great Britain couldn't afford to maintain it. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 after spending itself into ruin keeping up with a U.S. military buildup in the 1980s.
Now look at the United States today. Combine a military that's spread too thin in too many places with an unwillingness to fully fund through taxation the cost of having our soldiers garrisoned in 50 nations, and you have a recipe for economic collapse.
As James Madison wrote in 1795: "Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. ... No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
No nation can't afford the amount of military spending and debt service that threatens to devour the U.S. economy. Our leaders refuse to confront the reality that six decades of a permanent war economy, coupled with dreams of being the lone superpower controlling the world, is bankrupting our nation.
American Reporter Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for nearly 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.