by Bart Bolger, Linus Pauling Chapter 132, Veterans For Peace
The Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS), a.k.a. “tax day,” is approaching and I have to work that day. So I began wondering just how much of my paycheck, how many minutes of my work day, go straight to the war budget.
Sparing you the math, thirty five minutes of every workday, I work for the Pentagon. For those thirty five minutes, I’m helping build U.S. empire, funding the murder of innocent civilians and irreversibly damaging our planet’s ecosystems.
I am not happy about this.
Doing your own math is not going to turn you into a war tax resister or even get you to write your reps in D.C. But these facts should “shock & awe” you into action.
- The Pentagon absorbs 57% of the federal discretionary budget. That leaves a paltry 2% for transportion (can you say, crumbling bridges?) and 1% for food programs (e.g., school lunches for poor kids), as examples.
- We are spending more now on “defense” than we did during the Cold War, in today’s dollars.
- While military contractors and the right-wing ideologues whine about destroying America’s defense through budget cuts, we find that, even if the sequester kicks in fully, the Pentagon budget will continue to grow, but at a more modest rate, over the next 10 years. “Devastating” our defense, Congressman McKeon? I think not.
Now, what about the argument that cutting defense will cost us jobs?
According to a 2011 study by The Political Economy Research Institute at UMass Amherst, $1 billion of federal military spending creates about 11,000 jobs while the same $1 billion would generate about 17,000 clean energy or health care jobs or over 27,000 jobs in education.
As former labor secretary, Robert Reich, said:
“Wouldn’t it be better to have a jobs program that created things we really need — like light-rail trains, better school facilities, public parks, water and sewer systems, and non-carbon energy sources — than things we don’t, like obsolete weapons systems?”
And speaking of obsolete systems, here’s my favorite target for Pentagon cuts: Strategic nukes and their command and control systems. [Full disclosure: I used to work in that field while in the Navy.]
According to the Arms Control Association update of November 2012, the U.S. has about 5,113 strategic nukes–those are the really big ones. About 1,722 of those are actually deployed on their respective delivery systems, the subs, bombers and ICBM sites. With that goes an incredibly expensive command and control system, requiring an enormous, redundant–and what those in the business call, “survivable”–communications network, maintenance and enough admirals and generals to fill a large concert hall.
We don’t even know how much all that costs, since much of it is buried in highly classified budgets.
There is simply no reason why the U.S. cannot lead the way in reducing the nuclear stockpile while we aggressively urge our allies to reduce and eventually eliminate theirs. Oh yeah, I forgot about the campaign contributions from military contractors.
One of my favorite bumper stickers from Veterans For Peace says, “Peace is Patriotic.” Just as patriotic would be shifting Pentagon funds to domestic programs which would put more people to work rather than lining the pockets of military contractors. That shift in spending priorities would make this country not only stronger economically, but far more respected as a leader in something other than armaments and destruction.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are military contractors [or at least they were until they read this post.] I’m not suggesting they all lose their jobs. And I don’t expect this tectonic shift to occur overnight. I just feel this industry needs to lose a bit of it’s fat around the middle and that those contractors could be retrained and shifted into more productive and peaceful endeavors. After all, isn’t that what we all agreed was the answer to the American workers left unemployed by outsourcing millions of their jobs overseas?
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made his first major speech to the faculty and students of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Mr. Hagel is a veteran and a true patriot. He is also a pragmatist and sees the budgetary handwriting on the wall. In his speech, Secretary Hagel said, “We need to challenge all past assumptions, and we need to put everything on the table.” Here, here! The question is, are the Defense Department program managers listening–the ones who take the “requirements” written by contractors and turn them into taxpayer-funded profits for those same contractors.
For more good info, see David Sirota’s fine piece on Pentagon cuts in Salon (dated Feb. 14, 2013).
The Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) is coming up on April 15. How much are you sending the Pentagon each day and what can you do about it? And would you rather be paying a peace tax? As for me, I think I’ll take a thirty-five minute coffee break and make a few phone calls to the President, Mr. Hagel, my representative and senators.