Shave a trillion here, a trillion there?

“Over the last five years, we’ve spent money on the military–in real, inflation adjusted dollars–at a higher rate than at any other time since World War II. That includes the late 1960s, when the United States simultaneously faced a competitor with 10,000 nuclear weapons and sent a half million troops to Vietnam. The Pentagon is spending recklessly at a time of fiscal crisis when America’s debt has been downgraded for the first time since formal credit ratings began in 1917…

“The U.S. spends about as much on its military as all other countries in the world combined. It could shave a trillion off a projected $6.1 trillion in spending over the next decade and still be miles ahead of the next power or any conceivable combination of powers.” – Mike Lofgren, cited in The Pentagon Flunks Another Audit

It’s the holiday season, and I’ve also been reading through the Gospel of Luke. In Greek. So, it’s a slow process. These two events combine to make me think of the prophecy that the Messiah would come to bring peace on earth. This makes me long for peace, and then I am brought back to the reality that I live in a nation who invests vast sums of resources into a war machine rivaling any in all of recorded human history.

What is amazing to me, is that cutting any spending on defense is completely off the table for the American public at large, even in an age where we should be pinching pennies. My guess is that this is fear-driven, not fact-driven. Factually speaking, we spend almost as much on defense as the rest of the world, combined. Then there are the Oreos.

I was at the Salem Mennonite Church in Freeman a week or two ago, and they had set up a little graphic reminder of how much we spend on defense. There were something like fifty Oreo cookies stacked on top of each other in a tall plastic cone. This was defense spending. For education, there was one or two Oreo cookies. So, it isn’t just that we spend more than any other nation, we spend more on destructive war-making than we do for any other more positive and creative national project.

The ironic thing is that spending money doesn’t make us feel more secure or more safe. In fact, if ancient Chinese wisdom is correct, building up weapons tends to make people more insecure and fearful.

Here’s a bipartisan solution: let’s cut military spending by a few trillion, cut taxes for the middle class, and invest in education.

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

4 thoughts on “Shave a trillion here, a trillion there?”

  1. As with incarceration, the military is increasingly a private-sector, for-profit venture. That’s always been the case with the hardware, but increasingly it’s also the armed forces who are hired mercenaries working for Blackwater and other contractors. One of the big pushes behind privatizing education and school vouchers is to turn education too increasingly into a for-profit business. Plenty of lobbyists at work 24/7 promoting these agendas in Washington and the state capitols.


  2. You know, you mentioned Blackwater. I’m not really all that familiar with the details of the for-profit element of the military. Like most Americans, I’m largely in the dark on where the money goes. For the most part, I just see a big hunk of cash that takes up roughly a third of our budget when displayed graphically on a pie chart.


  3. Much of Obama’s “war ending” has the slack picked up by contract soldiers. Some of the military comes home while the contractors go to work. The war is over and the dems have a hero. 🙂


  4. Matt,

    Yes. It’s really too bad.

    I don’t know that there’s all that many people who put the President in the category of “hero.” I hear a good deal more disenfranchisement from liberals and those of us to the left of liberals.


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