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Nothing Exceeds Like Excess

Nothing Exceeds Like Excess

Nothing Exceeds Like Excess
The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.

—Ernest Hemingway

Military spending is the second largest item in the US federal budget after Social Security. It has a habit of increasing significantly each year, and the proposed 2019 defense budget is $886 billion (roughly double what it was in 2003).

US military spending exceeds the total of the next ten largest countries combined. Although the US government acknowledges 682 military bases in 63 countries, that number may be over 1,000 (if all military installations are included), in 156 countries. Total military personnel is estimated at over 1.4 million.

The reader could be forgiven if he felt that a US military base was rather unnecessary in, say, Djibouti or the Bahamas, yet the US Congress will not allow the closure of any military bases. (The Bi-partisan Budget Act of 2013 blocked future military base closings under the argument that they’re all essential for “national security.”) And Congress has a vested interest in keeping all bases open and consuming as much in tax dollars as possible (more on that later).

Of course, those bases need to be kept well-stocked with small arms, tanks, missiles and aircraft. Yet, in spite of the admittedly incredible number of US military bases across the globe, the additional stockpile of weaponry is so great that the government has difficulty finding places to put it all.

One storage location is pictured in the photo above—Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. In spite of the size of the photo, it shows only a portion of the aircraft located there. (And bear in mind, such aircraft often cost over $100 million each.)

If asked, the military states that, although these aircraft are in dead storage and many have never seen any use whatever, they might possibly be called up for service, “if needed.” Of course, if they’re needed, they’re unlikely to be of use if located in Arizona. And, in addition, they may not be useful for warfare, as war technology has moved on since the days when such aircraft designs were suitable.

It’s been said that generals are forever fighting the last war, and this is certainly true. Even a layman can observe that such conventional aircraft will never see use, as they serve no purpose in modern warfare.

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War Spending Will Bankrupt America 

War Spending Will Bankrupt America 

Why throw money at defense when everything is falling down around us? Do we need to spend more money on our military (about $600 billion this year) than the next seven countries combined? Do we need 1.4 million active military personnel and 850,000 reserves when the enemy at the moment — ISIS — numbers in the low tens of thousands? If so, it seems there’s something radically wrong with our strategy. Should 55% of the federal government’s discretionary spending go to the military and only 3% to transportation when the toll in American lives is far greater from failing infrastructure than from terrorism? Does California need nearly as many active military bases (31, according to militarybases.com) as it has UC and state university campuses (33)? And does the state need more active duty military personnel (168,000, according to Governing magazine) than public elementary school teachers (139,000)?”

— Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times

Mark my words, America’s war spending will bankrupt the nation.

For that matter, America’s war spending has already bankrupted the nation to the tune of more than $20 trillion dollars.

Now the Trump Administration is pushing for a $4.4 trillion budget for fiscal year 2019 that would add $7 trillion to the already unsustainable federal deficit in order to sustain America’s military empire abroad and dramatically expand the police state here at home. Trump also wants American taxpayers to cover the cost of building that infamous border wall.

Truly, Trump may turn out to be, as policy analyst Stan Collender warned, “the biggest deficit- and debt-increasing president of all time.”

For those in need of a quick reminder: “A budget deficit is the difference between what the federal government spends and what it takes in. The national debt, also known as the public debt, is the result of the federal government borrowing money to cover years and years of budget deficits.”

 

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Lavishing Money on the Pentagon

Lavishing Money on the Pentagon

Exclusive: It seems like it’s always Christmastime at the Pentagon where the stockings are full and budget-cutting is for those domestic social-program guys, as Jonathan Marshall explains.


Wise parents who celebrate Christmas advise their young children not to make unreasonably grandiose requests of Santa. After all, he has to squeeze down a rather narrow chimney to deliver their presents.

President Trump announces the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 on Dec. 12, 2017, at the White House. (Screen shot from whitehouse.gov)

But as Christmas approaches this year, leaders of Congress, the Pentagon, and the Trump White House seem to have forgotten that lesson. Their wish list for the U.S. military, if taken seriously, will bust the federal budget at the very time Republicans are ramming through tax legislation that will shrink Uncle Sam’s savings account by more than a trillion dollars over the next decade.

President Trump this week signed into law a $700 billion blueprint for military spending in the current fiscal year. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes funding for more troops, more weapons, more interventions abroad, and more active wars, with Trump’s enthusiastic blessing. “We need our military,” he declared at a White House signing ceremony.

In addition to lavish spending on new weapons — like $10 billion for purchases of the disastrous F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — this Christmas legislation for the military includes all sorts of smaller presents, including billions of dollars to fund NATO’s European Deterrence Initiative (whatever happened to Trump’s demand that our allies pay for their own defense?), missile defense systems of doubtful efficacy, and development of a new cruise missile that would violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia.

The bill also earmarks $350 million for military aid to Ukraine, including lethal weaponry — a highly provocative measure that Arizona Senator John McCain has long promoted. Independent analysts, including prominent conservative foreign policy experts, warn that such lethal aid would be destabilizing, provocative, and “extraordinarily foolish.”

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Tomgram: William Hartung, What a Waste, the U.S. Military

Tomgram: William Hartung, What a Waste, the U.S. Military

Late last year, I spent some time digging into the Pentagon’s “reconstruction” efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, countries it invaded in 2001 and 2003 in tandem with a chosen crew of warrior corporations. As a story of fabled American can-do in distant lands, both proved genuinely dismal no-can-do tales, from roads built (that instantly started crumbling) to police academies constructed (that proved to be health hazards) to prisons begun (that were never finished) to schools constructed (that remained uncompleted) to small arms transfers (that were “lost” in transit) to armies built, trained, and equipped for stunning sums (that collapsed).  It was as if nothing the Pentagon touched turned to anything but dross (including the never-ending wars it fought).  All of it added up to what I then labeled a massive “$cam” with American taxpayer money lost in amounts that staggered the imagination.

All of that came rushing back as I read TomDispatch regular William Hartung’s latest post on “waste” at the Pentagon.  It didn’t just happen in Kabul and Baghdad; it’s been going on right here in the good old USA for, as Hartung recounts, the last five decades.  There’s only one difference I can see: in Kabul, Baghdad, or any other capital in the Greater Middle East and Africa, if we saw far smaller versions of such “waste” indulged in by the elites of those countries, we would call it “corruption” without blinking.  So here’s my little suggestion, as you read Hartung: think about just how deeply what once would have been considered a Third World-style of corruption is buried in the very heart of our system and in the way of life of the military-industrial complex.  By now, President Dwight Eisenhower must be tossing and turning in his grave. Tom

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Recipe for Collapse: Rising Military and Social Welfare Spending

Recipe for Collapse: Rising Military and Social Welfare Spending

Leaders faced with unrest, rising demands and dwindling coffers always debauch their currency as the politically expedient “solution.”

Whatever you think of former Fed chair Alan Greenspan, he is one of the few public voices identifying runaway entitlement costs as a structural threat to the economy and nation. We can summarize Greenspan’s comments very succinctly: there is no free lunch. The more money that is siphoned off for entitlements, the less there is for investment needed to maintain productivity gains that are the foundation of future income generation: Greenspan: Worried About Inflation, Says “Entitlements Crowding Out Investment, Productivity is Dead” (via Mish)

Many people look to the rising costs of the U.S. military as the structural problem, and they have a point: there is no upper limit on military spending, and the demands (by the civilian leadership of the nation) on the services and the Pentagon’s demands for new weaponry are constantly pushing budgets higher.

But the truth is entitlement spending now dwarfs military spending:entitlements are more than $1.75 trillion, half of all Federal spending, while the Pentagon, VA, etc. costs around $700 billion annually.

We have a model for what happens when military and social welfare spending exceed the state’s resources to pay the rising costs: the state/empire collapses. The Western Roman Empire offers an excellent example of this dynamic.

As pressures along the Empire’s borders rose, Rome did not have enough tax revenues to fully fund the army. Hired mercenaries had become a significant part of the Roman army, and if they weren’t paid, then the spoils of war became their default pay.

This erosion of steady pay also eroded the troops’ loyalty to Rome; their loyalties switched to their commanders, who often decided to take his loyal army to Italy and declare himself Emperor.

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The wrong kind of victory

The wrong kind of victory

John Hayes

One often hears of the fact that the US spends more on its military than most other nations combined. This is usually presented as evidence that the US is more powerful militarily—perhaps so powerful that it could take on the rest of the planet, and prevail. I find this attitude highly questionable. If we look at what sort of “defense” the US actually spends money on, and what it gets in return in terms of military capabilities, an entirely different picture emerges: of a corruption-riddled blundering leviathan that is thwarting its own purpose at every turn.

To start with, assessing relative military strength based on relative levels of military spending is a lot like betting on a race horse based on how much the horse eats. Sure, horses have to eat, but a horse that eats ten times more than all the other horses is probably not going to come out ahead because there is something seriously wrong with it.

Then consider the fact that a dollar spent on the US military in the US is not directly comparable to a dollar’s worth of rubles or yuan spent on in Russia or China; in terms of purchasing parity, the ratios can be 5 to 1, or even 10 to 1. If Russia gets 10 times the bang for the buck, there goes the assumption of supposed US military superiority based on how much the US military eats.

Also, let’s not lose track of the fact that the US military has different objectives from the rest of the world’s militaries: its goal is primarily offensive rather than defensive. The US military strives to dominate and subjugate the entire planet; everyone else simply tries to defend their territory, while a few countries also try to thwart the US military in its ambition to dominate and subjugate the entire planet.
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COMBAT VS. CLIMATE: The Military and Climate Security Budgets Compared – IPS

COMBAT VS. CLIMATE: The Military and Climate Security Budgets Compared – IPS.

As the U.S. debates the President’s plan for new military engagement, hundreds of thousands converged on New York to urge the world’s nations to take stronger action against the threat of climate change.  A new report connects these two issues, and finds that the gap between U.S. spending on traditional instruments of military force and on averting climate catastrophe has narrowed slightly.  Between 2008 and 2013, the proportion of security spending on climate change grew from 1% of military spending to 4%.

The report argues that a change from 1% to 4% of security spending is not commensurate with the role U.S. military strategy now assigns to climate change: as a major threat to U.S. security. Nor is it remotely sufficient to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control.

The U.S. balance between military and climate security spending compares unfavorably to the record of its nearest “peer competitor,” China.  Although China’s environmental record is unquestionably problematic, it strikes a far better balance than the U.S. in the allocation of its spending on military force and on climate change.  Its climate security spending, at $162 billion, nearly equals its military spending, at $188.5 billion.

Other Key Findings:

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Shadow Facts About Shadow Government Washington’s Blog

Shadow Facts About Shadow Government Washington’s Blog.

Tom Engelhardt keeps churning out great books by collecting his posts from TomDispatch.com. His latest book, Shadow Government, is essential reading. Of the ten essays included, eight are on basically the same topic, resulting in some repetition and even some contradiction. But when things that need repeating are repeated this well, one mostly wants other people to read them — or perhaps to have them involuntarily spoken aloud by everybody’s iPhones.

We live in an age in which the most important facts are not seriously disputed and also not seriously known or responded to.

The United States’ biggest public program of the past 75 years, now outstripping the rest of the world combined, is war preparations. The routine “base” military spending, not counting spending on particular wars, is at least 10 times the war spending, or enough to totally transform the world for the better. Instead it’s used to kill huge numbers of people, to make the United States less safe, and to prepare for wars that are — without exception — lost disastrously. Since the justification of the Soviet Union vanished, U.S. militarism has only increased. Its enemies are small, yet it does its best to enlarge them. U.S. Special Operations forces are actively, if “secretly,” engaged in war or war preparations in over two-thirds of the nations on earth. U.S. troops are openly stationed in 90 percent of the nations on earth, and 100 percent of the oceans. A majority of the people in most nations on earth consider the United States the greatest threat to world peace.

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