“War is a racket!” This was a famous quote from retired U.S. Marine Corp General Smedley Butler in 1934. Butler stated that “I spent 33 years in the Marine Corp, most of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, Wall Street, and the bankers. … In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.” Butler was also quoted as saying that “War only profits the few and costs the majority dearly.”
According to a 2016 Brown University study, as of 2001, the U.S. Government has spent $4.8 TRILLION so far in Afghanistan and Iraq. Total Department of Defense (DOD) spending for this same period of time is over $10 trillion. Total annual military spending budgeted for 2017 is equal to $582 billion, and was expected to increase to $639 billion in 2018. But a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, August 7 increased the military budget to $696 billion—almost $60 BILLION MORE than what President Trump requested. 60% of House Democrats voted for this increase.
The DOD budget consumes 80% of the revenue from the individual federal income tax, which in reality is a war tax equal to $3,200 per year for every adult in America.
A large percentage of this war spending goes to various corporations that sell weapons, and other goods and services like spying on American citizens. The exact amount spent is unknown, because the DOD has refused to submit to an audit for the last 16 years, and none of the contracted corporations that received taxpayer money have ever been audited. From the information that has been disclosed, the top five DOD vendor contractors (Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics and United Technologies) received about $75 billion in 2012 alone.
OTHER HIDDEN COSTS OF WAR
The other hidden costs of war are even more obscure than the lack of transparency in the DOD’s budget, and are more long-term. In addition to long-term care for wounded and psychologically traumatized veterans, there is the neglect of deteriorating infrastructure in the U.S., both physical and human.
A study by the Urban Land Institute in 2011 estimated that $2 trillion is needed NOW, to upgrade existing physical infrastructure in the U.S. that is rapidly deteriorating from years of neglect: roads, bridges, dams, levees, water systems, sewer facilities, railroads and airports. Another Flint water crisis is already beginning to happen in East Chicago, Cleveland and Baltimore, as well as in smaller cities and rural areas.
The study also states that if federal tax money is not allocated to upgrade this deteriorating infrastructure, the federal gas tax will need to be increased, local and state governments will need to create more toll roads on existing highways, water and sewer bills will increase, property and sales taxes will increase, and corporations will obtain ownership of more public spaces, services and projects – leading to the lower quality of services and higher costs that always result with privatization.
The $2 trillion dollars needed is just for existing infrastructure upgrades. So even more money would be required to bring the U.S. into the 21st century with the building of high speed rail networks as well as the improvement and expansion of solar, wind and other clean energy technologies that Western Europe and China already have.
Besides physical infrastructure there is human and environmental infrastructure that desperately needs to be upgraded and expanded, like environmental cleanup and pollution prevention equipment; full funding of public K-12 schools; making post-high school technical and higher education free for all; a guaranteed minimum income; secure and expanded Social Security and public sector pensions; and the start-up costs for an expanded and improved Medicare for All single payer health care system.
For every $1 billion spent on the military, 12,000 jobs are created. But with the same billion dollars spent, 16,000 clean energy jobs, 18,000 health care jobs or 27,000 education jobs could be created – not to mention the vast number of jobs that would be created for the upgrade of current infrastructure and the creation of 21st century infrastructure.
WHAT HAS MILITARY SPENDING ACCOMPLISHED?
Apologists for the massive amounts of tax money spent on the military attempt to argue that it is needed to protect the American people and protect the world from terrorism. But according to a 2013 WIN/Gallup International poll conducted in 65 countries which asked the question, “Which country poses the greatest threat to world peace?”, the United States was voted the biggest threat (24% of those polled), with Pakistan a distant second (8%). Obviously the rest of the world doesn’t think that the U.S. Government is conducting wars around the world to protect them from terrorism. In fact, it appears that the perception among world inhabitants is that the U.S. Government is the cause of terrorist acts and is conducting wars of aggression. If this perception is correct, why is the U.S. Government conducting wars abroad, and for whose benefit? Could it be the same special interests that Marine Corps General Butler identified – large corporations, Wall Street investors, and the banking industry? Perhaps the oil and other energy companies as well?
The fact that the so-called “defense” industry (war profiteers) increased profits and stock performance over the last 16 years seems to indicate that. If General Butler’s other statements are true, that he was a racketeer for capitalism and that wars only profit the few and cost the many dearly, then it appears that the so called “War on Terror” that has been conducted the last 16 years is really something else. Like the attempt to control energy resources, geopolitical territory and low wage sweat shop labor costs, and to increase the profits of the war profiteer industry (a.k.a. “defense” contractors).
In other words, protecting and expanding the wealth, privilege, and power of the 1% billionaire class (the few) is costing us (the many) dearly in the loss of life and limb of U.S. soldiers, our tax dollars and the physical and human infrastructure we depend upon to live.
This insanity must stop!
David Johnson hosts the World Labor Hour radio program, which broadcasts and webcasts live worldwide every Saturday morning from 11 AM – 1 PM on WRFU- Radio Free Urbana , 104.5 FM and at www.wrfu.net