No Endless War and Excessive Militarism: It’s time to shift our economic priorities away from corporate profits

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No Endless War and Excessive Militarism (NEWEM) gathered Tuesday along the edge of the commercial plaza where Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed‘s office is. We gathered to press Senator Reed (as well as United States Representative James Langevin and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse) to shift our economic priorities away from corporate profits for arms merchants and back towards education, infrastructure, constructing wind turbines, solar panels, engineering and constructing resiliency efforts to address climate change, as well as helping those in need. Democratic members of Congress need to stop green lighting excessive military budgets that crowd out the domestic part of the budget. (United States Representative David Cicilline has not been approving these war budgets that are an attack on social programs.

Enough is enough.

President Donald Trump has asked for a $750 billion war budget. The Democrats have countered with $733 billion, which still gives the Pentagon a raise from the current $717 billion and that was a raise from the $700 billion Trump received his first year in power. (And we need to remember that the amount given to him by Congress, including three of Rhode Island’s Democrats was almost $50 billion more than he asked for!)

This is a horrible idea for more reasons than we can cover in this press release. But because most of our Congressional delegation has been quite comfortable with supplying Trump and the Pentagon a veritable blank check for war and huge profits for the military contractors that contribute to their reelection campaigns, we thought we would run through three reasons why this is horrible based on logic and numbers alone, saving the moral questions for another day. Below we will provide contact information to the offices of the Congressional delegation.

AS WRITTEN, A SMALL INCREASE IN THE WAR BUDGET IS A HUGE INCREASE IN PENTAGON SPENDING – BUT DOMESTIC CUTS ARE REAL CUTS

Because of internal accounting within the budget, an expansion of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) section of the budget of almost $100 billion will enable the Pentagon to avoid budget caps written into law that will allow for a lot more spending than the budget numbers indicate, Although when presented the Pentagon’s share of the “Defense” budget will seem to slightly shrink, this is an accounting trick; it will increase greatly while also freeing up funds that can be used for items not budgeted by Congress. Things like Trump’s border war, for instance. (We cannot cover that here but the changes will intensify, as this shows.)

The OCO fund – sometimes referred to as war funds – is a separate pot of funding operated by the “Defense” Department – a tiny fraction of it is given to the State Department as well – in addition to its base budget. Originally used to finance Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the OCO has now become a regular part of the “defense” budget since it receives very little oversight and is not subject to the sequestration cuts that slashed every other part of the budget in 2013. Many experts consider it a slush fund for the Pentagon.

Trump is seeking to cut domestic spending by about 9 percent in this budget. While increasing that slush fund by about $100 billion.

MILITARY KEYNESIANISM IS AN INEFFICIENT WAY TO CREATE JOBS

The Democrats have cooperated with the Republicans in proposing expanded military budgets as a way to create jobs and get the economy going again, a sort of military Keynesianism that creates “good jobs.” Congressmen eagerly join in touting a conversion to a war economy. Whitehouse called Trump’s first budget a victory for Rhode islanders and Reed and Langevin attend banquets for military contractors and use the word “we” in their speeches heaping praise on the mega-corporations that spend our tax dollars on endless war and weapons that may or may not be needed but are designed to kill in ever more efficient or random manners, depending on whom they are sold to and how they are employed. (See here and here.) But evidence shows that huge contracts for our Represntative’s corporate donors (and paying for the training of contractors’ workers with our state tax dollars) is an inefficient and wasteful way to revive our economy.

Research by the Costs Of War Project based at Brown University‘s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs finds that federal spending on domestic programs creates far more American jobs and yields more broad-based benefits than military spending. A press release on the report on Brown’s web site sums up the findings:

“The study by economist Heidi Garrett-Peltier documented how many jobs are created in a variety of domestic sectors for every million dollars of federal money spent. She compared that to the number of jobs created for every $1 million spent on defense and found that domestic spending outpaces military spending in job creation by 21 percent (for wind energy development) to 178 percent (for elementary and secondary education).

“The United States has a bloated military budget, and one of the reasons it has historically remained outsized is that defense spending creates jobs, both in the military and in the industries that supply goods and services to the armed forces,” said Garrett-Peltier, an assistant research professor at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “But when we compare federal spending on defense to the alternatives, such as health care, education, clean energy or infrastructure, we find that all of these areas create more jobs than an equivalent amount of military spending.”

Strikingly, Garrett-Peltier found that investments in elementary and secondary education create nearly three times as many American jobs as defense spending, while health care creates about twice as many jobs. Whereas $1 million spent on defense creates 6.9 direct and indirect jobs, the same amount spent on elementary and secondary education creates 19.2 jobs. $1 million spent on healthcare creates 14.3 jobs.

THIS A ZERO SUM GAME -LARGER MILITARY BUDGETS WILL CROWD OUT DOMESTIC SPENDING AND INFLATED MILITARY BUDGETS WILL CAUSE DEFICITS THAT WILL ALLOW REPUBLICANS TO GUT THE SAFETY NET AND MAKE FURTHER DOMESTIC CUTS

This was obvious before Trump’s tax cuts and is more obvious now that the Republicans have explicitly pointed to deficits as an excuse to attack Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. (This is old news. Senator/Governor Lincoln Chaffee has recounted to some members of NEWEM how Trent Lott used to rub his hands in glee over reports of federal deficits, crowing that the opportunity to go after Social Security had arrived.) Whitehouse and Reed are doing nothing but crying crocodile tears when they disparage the Republicans’ cuts to domestic programs but vote for the military budgets that allow this to happen.

This point about domestic spending is so patently obvious, it really needs no more discussion. But since three of our four Congressmen don’t seem to understand this we will pursue it a little further. 94 year old President Jimmy Carter clearly gets it though, and he explained it to his Sunday school class at Marantha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia earlier this month.

A SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON

Apparently, President Trump called President Carter, worried about China’s growing economy and how China was “getting ahead of us,” seeking advice. Carter told Trump it was a result of China’s peaceful foreign policy. Since the Chinese stopped fighting the Vietnamese in the mid-1970s they have not fought a war. According to Carter, China’s peace dividend has allowed and enhanced its economic growth. “How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?” he asked. China has around 18,000 miles of it while the United States has “wasted, I think, $3 trillion” on military spending. (Cost Of War estimates the United States has actually spent $5.9 trillion since 2001 on war in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other nations in Asia and Africa.) After referring to United States war spending as “more than you can imagine” Carter stated that China “has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every single way.” We at NEWEM are aware of China’s expansion of islands in the South China Sea and the existence of China’s military budget. But the good ex-president’s main point still stands.

And here’s the point that President Carter made that people might want to share with our Congressmen’s staffs when they call them at the numbers provided below. “And I think the difference is if you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure you’d probably have $2 trillion leftover. We’d have high-speed railroad. We’d have bridges that aren’t collapsing, we’d have roads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of say South Korea or Hong Kong.”


Senator Jack Reed’s office phone numbers:

  • Washington DC office phone: 202-224-4642
  • Rhode Island office phone: 401-943-3100

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s office phone numbers:

  • Washington DC office phone: 202-224-2921
  • Rhode Island office phone: 401-453-5294

Congressman James Langevin’s office phone numbers: 

  • Washington DC office phone: 202-225-2735
  • Rhode Island office phone: 401-732-9400

If you want to thank Congressman David Cicilline for his past resistance to Trump’s budgets and to encourage him to continue doing so his DC office number is 202-225-4911 and the Rhode Island office number is 401-729-5600.


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About No Endless War and Excessive Militarism 13 Articles
Join the effort of those who think we can have a more peaceful world and oppose the new massive military budget and unchecked, unauthorized wars.

2 Comments

  1. Barry – Thank you for your constructive suggestions. Another way to humanize the meaning of the Pentagon budget would be to discuss what this money would pay for, which we did in a general way; we prefer to discuss things in terms of how society as a whole is affected and not reduce things to the neo-liberal focus on one individual’s or one individual family’s pocketbook. The section on President Carter actually is our attempt to humanize things and address societal impact beyond the numbers. We get that attacking “corporate profits” might rub some people the wrong way. But we never attacked all corporate profits or the concept of corporate profits in general. On the contrary, we specifically address the corporate profits of the contributors to the campaigns of our Congressmen, our supoosed representatives who in turn are brazen enough to refer to their sponsors’ interests in terms of “we”. Citizens’ interests are not always interchangeable with those of defense contractors. We need to continuously point out that profits are generated as a result of the relationships between our elected officials and those that profit from war and arms dealing because our Congresspeople have a tendency to refer to war spending in terms of “supporting the troops” (and this has been done in response to NEWEM’s first protest at Senator Reed’s office by a spokesman for Senator Reed) in an effort to conceal this relationship, to, in effect conceal, the profits from public view while casting aspersions on the patriotism of those that bring up the subject. Shaping political reality by refusing to allow deceptive framing of the argument necessitates using the words we did. Our focus in this article was on the Pentagon budget and the need to lobby our Congressmen on it. Iran and Venezuela are very important, of course, but we needed to stay on topic. We probably should have been more specific in talking about the OCO section of the budget, making it clear that it originally was created to make sure there was money on hand for use in arenas of combat, noting how very ominous this is in terms of what the Trump administration seems eager to do in Iran and Venezuela.

  2. thank for this excellent post calling attention to out of control weapons spending. I make some suggestions: as a math teacher aware of the need to humanize large numbers perhaps explain the meaning of the Pentagon’s $750 billion projected budget on a per-capita basis it amounts to about $2300 PER PERSON; be alert to the possibility of the Trump regime getting into a war with Iran and think about how to try to head it off; perhaps the political reality is that its best not to headline attacking “corporate profits” in general, instead suggest that both ordinary profits AND consumers can be better off if weapons spending were to be curtailed, as suggested in the section on the job efficiency of non-military spending.

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