It's "empire spending", not "defense spending"
With All Eyes on Bailouts, House Passes Trillion-Dollar War Bill
To help you keep an eye on your money, we trim and append this 2008 article posted on AlterNet on September 26. There is an alternative -- geonomize.
By Joshua Holland, an AlterNet staff writerThe House passed -- and the Senate is expected to concur -- a trillion-dollar stop-gap measure to keep the feds governing through next March, allowing lawmakers to skip town without passing a final budget. The Associated Press reports, "The legislation came together in a remarkably secret process that concentrated decision-making power in the hands of a few lawmakers." Part of it is a mammoth amount for the military.
According to the AP, "To earn President Bush's signature rather than a veto, House and Senate negotiators dropped several provisions he opposed. They include a ban on private interrogators in US military detention facilities and what would have amounted to congressional veto power over a security pact with Iraq." After swearing to not cave in, Congress caved, whipping out their pens and signing a blank check.
The number that the House sent to the Senate for "defense" -- $612 billion for the coming year -- is eye-popping (tho’ still not as enormous as the gift bailout for Wall Stree). The budget calls for $68.6 billion for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009. "Defense" in the era of Bush's "War on Terror," according to official figures, doubled from $300 billion in 2001 to $600 billion plus today.
Yet that number is a sham. It's just the cash to feed the gaping maw of the Department of Defense. Throw in:
a bit more than $50 billion for Homeland Security,
around $20 billion for the nuclear arsenal in the Department of Energy's budget,
about $10 billion for the Coast Guard,
a similar number for foreign "security assistance", and
maybe another $125 billion in other defense-related programs scattered throughout the federal budget.
Bush also requested $91 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2009, up from $72 billion just three years ago. A generation of damaged young men and women are going to cost more and more as the years go by -- many post-traumatic injuries, for example, don't manifest themselves for 10 or more years after people get out of combat. In 2000, nine years after the first Gulf War, 56 percent of those who had served in that conflict were receiving disability payments.
But wait, as they say on late-night infomercials, there's more!
All of this only finances our current military adventures. We're still paying for Korea and Vietnam and Grenada and Panama and the first Gulf War and Somalia and the Balkans and on and on. Estimates of just how much of our national debt payments are from past wars vary wildly. Economist Robert Higgs calculated it like this:
I added up all past deficits (minus surpluses) since 1916 (when the debt was nearly zero), prorated according to each year's ratio of narrowly defined national security spending--military, veterans, and international affairs--to total federal spending, expressing everything in dollars of constant purchasing power. This sum is equal to 91.2 percent of the value of the national debt held by the public at the end of 2006. Therefore, I attribute that same percentage of the government's net interest outlays in that year to past debt-financed defense spending.
In 2006, he came up with a figure of $206.7 billion for interest payments on past militarism. Add it all up, and we're talking about at least a trillion dollars in military and homeland security spending. Of course, very little of this is "defense”. This is empire spending, pure and simple.
JJS: If we we’re not happy with how these politicians spend our money, we could try to elect other politicians. Or, we could take responsibility for spending our money ourselves. Here’s how:
Tie defense spending to current income taxing. You want a war, you pay for it, not your children and grandchildren.
Tie infrastructure spending to nearby locations which would rise in value. As Nobel laureate Bill Vickrey noted, there’s never been a desired public works project that couldn’t pay for itself by collecting the rise in surrounding land values.
That would pretty much cover discretionary spending by politicians. For other social programs like education and medical coverage, leave that to the discretion of citizens. Yet bring down the cost of such services by repealing the anti-competition privileges that lobbyists have won over time, and bring up the citizenry’s ability to pay by directing to everyone a share of society’s surplus.
What’s that? That’s all our spending on the nature we use, like sites, resources, and EM spectrum. And those natural values rise when we don’t tax producers, who then utilize those inputs more intensely, pushing up their recoverable value. Plus, social surplus is the untapped value of government issued permits, like corporate charters and patents/copyrights.
De-taxing earnings while sharing what’s already ours not only empowers us but it also dis-empowers the state and the elite, so neither could misspend our money.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
Chris Hedges: America's Democratic Collapse
US military spending can be completely counterproductive
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