military spending cuts us congress blank check pentagon

Cut War Spending, But Not Mindlessly
blackwater arms trafficking

Ex-Blackwater Faces $50mn Over Arms Trafficking

Because spin matters so much in politics, the spin-masters changed the name from the honest “War Department” to the misleading “Department of Defense”, as if killing others were the only way to defend, and alternatives like free trade were not feasible. Wake up, citizens! We trim, blend, and append two 2012 articles from (1) USA Today, Aug 2, on cutting military spending, and (2) AFP, Aug 8, on fining a military contractor.

by Editors at USA Today and by AFP

The cuts in military spending by the US Congress -- about $55 billion each year for nine years -- that are now provoking insider angst were willingly approved by both major parties as the alternative if a congressional "supercommittee" couldn't find some way to reduce the deficit. The supercommittee then predictably did nothing, triggering the cuts.

US military spending has more than doubled since 9/11, and with the United States out of Iraq and planning to leave Afghanistan in 2014, there's room for reductions. This year's military outlays are expected to reach $716 billion, up from $294 billion in 2000. As troops come home and the fighting ends, it's time to cancel the post-9/11 blank check and think seriously about how big a military the nation can afford.

An analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies shows that the post-9/11 spending surge was bigger in inflation-adjusted dollars than the buildups for the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. All three of those conflicts were followed by spending drawdowns that averaged about 37%. Today, plans call for a drawdown of about 8% over 10 years; adding a cutback the size of the one scheduled to start next year would bring that to 17%.

Many of the same members of Congress who complain so loudly about the impending cuts repeatedly block the Pentagon from making smart reductions. The military suggested closing more unneeded military bases and raising the super-low premiums and copays for the Tricare health insurance program for military retirees. Congress wasn't interested, but it continues to insist on building planes, tanks, and other hardware the Pentagon doesn't want but fat contractors do.

It would send a terrible message if Congress simply kicks the deficit can down the road again. Lawmakers like to promise to punish themselves if they don't do their jobs. The honorable way out of this mess is for them to do what they promised in the first place.

To read more

JJS: Of those trillions that Congress gives to war-makers, the Justice Department claws a little tiny bit of that back for some very ugly business.

The security firm formerly known as Blackwater has agreed to pay nearly $50 million to avoid US prosecution for illegal arms trafficking, the Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday.

The company will be fined $7.5 million and pay another $42 million as part of a settlement with the State Department over "violations" of the Arms Export Control Act and arms trafficking regulations, the department said.

To read more

JJS: While the company might have to give back a few million, the actual individuals who were guilty get off scot-free -- not much of a teachable moment.

Kevin Phillips, an old Nixon speechwriter, found that there are four ways to grow and maintain fortunes. Most people are familiar with one -- invention and techno-progress -- which actually is patent hoarding. The other three are inflation (assets gaining value while wages don't keep up), owning or lending to owners of nature (meaning land and resources like oil), and war. There’s just too much easy money to be made in war. Military contractors charge taxpayers many, many times more than civilian businesses can charge customers.

The solution, of course, is to divorce war from profit. To make people comfortable with such a reform -- people ranging from youth who enlist to military families -- people will have to get that money from some other source. And since the whole point of progress is to get rid of work, and since competition among hirelings drives down wages, that extra income can not come from one’s labor or one’s capital but must come from the third factor in production, one’s region’s land.

If people no longer had to enlist for income or medical care or college tuition, would so many? Not very likely. They’d be able to enjoy such benefits without hiring themselves out to kill foreigners.

As the saying goes, if you want peace, work for justice. But if you want justice, you must work for fair distribution of society’s surplus. Quit wasteful spending. De-tax people’s efforts, both labor and capital. Recover the socially-generated value of sites and resources. And pay the citizenry a fair share of society’s surplus, of all its spending for the nature it uses. Adhering to such geonomic policy, it’d be interesting to see how peaceful humans can be.

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Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

As China, the US, etc confront corruption …
http://www.progress.org/2011/pawlenty.htm

For the US Government ...
http://www.progress.org/2011/boxer.htm

Senator Levin Questions U.S. Aid3
http://www.progress.org/2011/levin.htm

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