U.S. Military Spending

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced to change military spending.1 The Obama administration intends to scale back spending on certain programs while increasing spending on others. The overall assumption that the United States will spend less for military is too premature and can furthermore be doubted. But I rather think that given the still ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan plus the anticipation of a future military conflict the U.S. military and all its branches will keep on growing and President Eisenhower’s criticism of the military-industrial complex returns to our mind.2
Having a look at the actual numbers we will see that we invest approximately 30 % of U.S. tax collection solely toward our armed forces (given our huge budget deficit the number is smaller in relation to our overall federal budget). In the year 2009 87.6 billion $ is dedicated to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 515 billion $ to the Department of Defense and 52 billion $ to the Department of Homeand Security, adding up to 654.6 billion $ for defense and national security-related expenses. The United States dedicates around 4.6 % of its GDP towards military.The costs of the War in Iraq and Afghanistan are not included in any federal budget figure, because they have been part of the supplementary spending apart from the federal budget.3
It can be rightfully assumed that the spending on military is going to grow, because a certain dynamic has developed apart from our war efforts. As indicated in the New York Times article (see 1) Georgian Congressman Tom Price for example spoke out against ending funding for the F-22 jets program that employs 25,000 workers in Georgia and all across the country. It may sounds nice of him to be deliberate in keeping and creating jobs, but the purpose behind it is very questionable. Why do we need more jets? The great threat that the Soviet Union once posed has long been over. I can not imagine that those jets will help us in any way fighting terrorists. Regarding the military aircraft industry there is, in fact, a very disturbing aspect about it. The Congress and public are constantly being convinced by this industry to expand the building of new airplanes that are of no specific use to American people, but mainly enrich the pockets of the few on expense of the taxpayers.4
The implications of two wars being fought and the relentless military spending are far-reaching and straining. As Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank correctly pointed out, the military spending is startling and that "if we do not make reductions approximating 25 percent of the military budget starting fairly soon, it will be impossible to continue to fund an adequate level of domestic activity even with a repeal of Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy." Furthermore he said, "I do not think it will be hard to make it clear to Americans that their well-being is far more endangered by a proposal for substantial reductions in Medicare, Social Security or other important domestic areas than it would be by canceling weapons systems that have no justification from any threat we are likely to face. (…)If we do not reduce the military budget, either we accustom ourselves to unending and increasing budget deficits, or we do severe harm to our ability to improve the quality of our lives through sensible public policy."5
Our inability to actually reduce military spending, make it more efficient, eliminate various programs, including weapons, tanks, missile defense (the missile defense system in Europe is simply outrageous), ships, airplanes, virtually everything, will cripple us in our efforts to reduce the budget deficit, the national debt, invest in our economy, invest in education, energy and health care. By the way, talking about missile defense system: Alaskan governor Sarah Palin has just yesterday said that the North Korean atomic threat endangers Alaska, which is why she opposes a 1.4 billion $ cut in the Missile Defense Agency and supports a defense missile shield stationed in Alaska.6 This woman as seen during the elections represents this kind of short-sightedness and unreason that has distracted American people from understanding the real threats facing us. Those over-patriotic people may hail national defense that, however, does not evidently spur our economy and even shrinks our economy because every dollar spent on military is every dollar not spent on other programs like education or science that will actually help us. The North Korean threat has to be in some way be encountered, but the assumption that any country will launch a missile strike against the United States is simply impossible. The political realities do not allow any destructive happenings of that kind. If the U.S. and its allies are, in fact, able to contain the spread of atomic weapons, we will help protect the world more than in spending billions of dollars in programs that will not protect us in any way, including the missile defense shield.
Given those almost to be expected Palin statements I am very glad that she had not become Vice President of the United States (and perhaps President- can you imagine how much threat to our national security that actually poses to us and the world?).
Again, military spending in no way can lastingly boost our economy or preserve and create jobs in the long term. We must get away from it, because we know that we can not slash entitlement programs that are crucial to our citizens, children, senior citizens, disabled, unemployed, veterans, poor, sick, men and women. Those programs include Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Unfortunately, many Republicans still rave about the idea of privatizing Social Security, a plan widely promoted by President George W. Bush. That would have endangered millions of people and facing large opposition the former President had to abandon his plan. (He never actually did, but knew that he could not win enough support to implement this privatization.) However, Social Security remains a big issue due to the baby boomer generation that is heading towards retirement, the consequences of the economic crisis, the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the huge tax cuts under President Bush (that are going to be repealed under the current administration). The solvency of Social Security must be safeguarded. And as seen by the ongoing health care crisis (in a largely privatized sector), it makes sense to do that within government’s reach.7
I hope that President Obama will take those thoughts into account. (Based on what his defense secretary announced I remain skeptical.) The guidelines are: What kind of spending helps us? What doesn’t? I think the choice is clear.

2http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html (Eisenhower speech in 1961, 3 days before leaving office)

U.S. military spending; Wikipedia
4http://www.cdi.org/adm/Transcripts/923/ (Interview with Noam Chomsky in 1996 about military and foreign policy)
Furthermore, I am reading a book addressing disturing things about "corporate socialism" inflicted on American taxpayers: Free Lunch by David Cay Johnston:
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090302/frank?rel=hp_picks (Congressman Barney Frank from Massachusetts on The Nation on February 11, 2009)
http://www.gov.state.ak.us/news.php?id=1739 (Governor Palin’s press release on April 6, 2009 on missile defense shield)
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