Down the Drain
The spiral of military spending
By michael carrigan and peg morton
This is the season for paying our federal and state income taxes. In the media has been a drumbeat: “The national deficit is too big and is bankrupting the country.” Something has to be done, and the choices, we are told, are to cut social programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and/or to raise taxes.
For some reason, none of these pundits raises the question of the cost of war and weapons — or of the possibility of cutting military expenses. President Obama’s proposal is to freeze social programs but not the military. Neither the Obama administration nor the mainstream media apprises the public of the huge cost of wars, past and future. For example, the total cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date has been $981 billion in direct military spending; but the true cost of the Iraq War alone will be $3 trillion, counting future veterans’ benefits, costs to veterans and their families, and the impact on the U.S. economy (Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Blimes, Three Trillion Dollar War, 2008).
About half of the U.S. discretionary budget, which is controlled by Congress, goes to the military. The costs of the military, including its role in the increasing national debt, have risen as we pay for wars, military bases around the world, nuclear and other weapons research production, trade and aid. We, the public, are asked to make “tough choices” to cut social programs, and Congress as well as state legislatures that are caught in this morass, dutifully cut them. In addition, taxes on the rich were generously cut during the Bush years, thus lowering the kitty on which U.S. and state governments can rely.
The “sudden” recession has thrown our economy much deeper into already muddy waters. The federal debt was already in the trillions before the crash occurred. Economic policies favoring war and corporate wealth have already caused a vast downturn in the quality of public education at all levels, a worsening of health benefits, an increasing flow of people living on the streets and under bridges. Public and private jobs that since the 1940s have provided a dignified living wage, supporting a large middle class, have been replaced by low level, underpaid service jobs and military service.
We have been asked to believe that the military must be the primary instrument to solve international problems and bring us security at home. We believe that the military policies that have led to vast numbers of civilian deaths and displacement have fed the terrorist movement abroad, and have reduced the underlying infrastructure of an educated public and thriving economy that are required for security and democracy at home.
In a few weeks President Obama will present a bill of about $33 billion for supplemental funding for the Afghanistan war. It is time for our Rep. Peter DeFazio, Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and other members of Congress to step up to the plate and say “No!” to this and further war funding, and to firmly demand changes in U.S. economic and military policies that will prioritize human and environmental needs.
For more information, visit the National Priorities Project at nationalpriorities.org or Friends Committee on National Legislation at fcnl.org
Michael Carrigan is the peace organizer for Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC). Peg Morton participates in the group Taxes for Peace Not War. This column represents their personal opinions. See Activist Alert this week for a list of Tax Day events.