While Poor and Elderly will Suffer from Debt Deal, Pentagon Gains $50,000,000,000
The eleventh-hour debt deal hashed out in Congress over the weekend that culminated in the passage of a bill that will slash government spending by $2.1 trillion will be felt most by those among us who can least handle the pain. As usual, the poor (and this time, the elderly) will bear the brunt of the cuts, while the rich will not pay one penny in extra taxes and corporations will continue to take advantage of lucrative tax loopholes. This is not only grossly unfair, it does not make any sense being that the gap between rich and poor is the widest in living memory and corporate profits are at all-time highs. While many corporations pay absolutely zero federal corporate income tax, one out of every six Americans is living in poverty, more than 50 million lack health insurance, tens of millions are without jobs and the largest cohort of greying adults in our nation’s history is about to reach the age when they’ll need government-subsidized health care. This is not the time to take from those who can least afford it.
The military, on the other hand, can afford to have its budget parsed. The war in Iraq is winding down; the one in Afghanistan will (hopefully) begin doing the same soon. Al-Qaeda has been mostly crushed. No country on earth dares challenge America’s hegemony in any meaningful way, and those countries deemed a “threat” — Iran chief among them– are, militarily speaking, a joke. Yet US military spending has risen for 13 straight years, a record increase. Adjusted for inflation, the US spends more on “defense” than it did during the height of the Cold War. The US spent a maximum of $580 billion a year back then; that figure is now $708 billion.
It may come as a surprise, then, that the Pentagon stands to gain $50 billion from the debt limit deal just passed by the House. In April, President Obama pledged to cut $400 billion in “defense” spending through 2023. But according to McClatchy Newspapers reporter Nancy Youssef, the cuts proposed in the current deal will trim $350 billion through 2024, meaning the Pentagon will have $50 billion more than expected over the next decade.
“This is a good deal for defense when you probe under the numbers,” Lawrence Korb, a defense expert at the Center for American Progress, told Youssef. “It’s better than what the Defense Department was expecting.” According to Korb, the US can afford to make $100 billion in military spending cuts every year for the next ten years and still spend more than it did during the height of the Cold War (inflation adjusted, of course).
Still, “defense” hawks are crying foul at even the less-than-promised military spending cuts that are on the table. A spokesman for Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) said the senator “is very concerned about rumors that the debt agreement now being negotiated will disproportionately cut defense spending and result in unacceptably high risk to our national security.” It is a sentiment echoed by conservative lawmakers and top Pentagon brass alike. Marine General James Cartwright, the outgoing Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that any further cuts to the Pentagon budget could “hollow out” our nation’s armed forces. What China, Russia or Iran wouldn’t give to have such “hollow” militaries!
The real driving forces behind sustaining ridiculously high levels of military spending are American imperialism and its bastard child, the military industrial complex. There is absolutely no need for more than 1,000 overseas military bases, including hundreds in Germany and Japan, two countries America defeated more than 60 years ago. I know, the bases in Germany are to protect Europe against the, ahem, imminent Soviet threat, and the ones in Japan are there to counter a rising China– a country that has, count ’em, zero major overseas military bases of its own. It is unconscionable that the US is maintaining and expanding a global military presence, with bases in such far-flung corners of the globe as Iceland and Australia, while millions of Americans– including thousands of War on Terror veterans— are living on the streets and many millions more don’t have enough to eat.
But the United States, more than anything, is a corporatocracy. The Supreme Court has ruled the corporations are people and money is free speech, and when the corporations that make bombs, bullets and battle tanks are screaming for more wars and higher Pentagon budgets, our leaders listen. Beholden to the military industrial complex– the “iron triangle” made up of the Pentagon, the government and the “defense” companies, our (mis)leaders in Washington won’t dare seek any meaningful cuts in military spending. To do so would amount to political suicide.
It is far easier to slash spending on programs for the poor, for those folks can’t fight back. And so it is that health care, education, housing and food assistance to those who need it most will be sacrificed upon the alter of corporatism. Our nation may have already passed the point of no return. It will take nothing short of a Second American Revolution to bring down the kleptocratic corporatocracy that has hijacked our democracy and driven it head-first into the abyss of terminal decline.
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