Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 1:38 PM

Money-Pit Budgeting and the Fallacy of America’s underfunded Military

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

In a rare show of bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans are hailing a new budget deal that will increase military spending to $700 billion for 2018 and $716 for 2019.

Arguing for increased spending, McCain said more men and women in uniform are dying in avoidable training accidents than in combat. ‘Where’s the outrage? Where’s our sense of urgency to deal with this problem?’

(Reuters, September 18, 2017)

In fact, Senator John McCain of Arizona and other Republicans spent much of Obama’s presidency venting such outrage. They even blamed his “gutting of the military” for those training accidents.

Except that military spending was higher each year under Obama than it ever was under his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. Significantly, before congressional sequestration limited funding, it reached $721 billion in 2010, which is higher even than President Trump’s projected budget for 2019.

Mind you, Trump scoffs with indignation at the notion of the United States playing policeman of the world. Therefore, gutting the military now seems in order. Indeed, he could save tens of billions annually by airlifting US troops from military quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq and bringing them home.

This is why I say to congressmen: Ask not what more the military needs. Ask what the military is doing with the funding it gets. After all, you’d think the least it could do with hundreds of billions each year is ensure that every soldier has the best equipment and training available to any soldier anywhere.

Which constrains me to share this from “Smart China Spending Less on Military; Stupid US Spending More,” March 6, 2017.


The $610 billion the United States spent [in 2014] was more than the $601 billion the next seven countries spent that year – combined. More to the point, though, far from aping the Soviet Union by challenging the United States to an arms race, China is ceding the (pyrrhic) victory. …

The United States will be spending even more on military hardware it does not need. Meanwhile, nearly 50 million of its citizens remain mired in poverty. By enlightening contrast, China will be spending even less. This will enable it to continue lifting tens of million out of poverty each year. …

China has clearly learned from the Soviet Union’s mistake. Reducing its military expenditure below 2 percent of GDP demonstrates this. After all, nothing hastened the disintegration of the Soviet Union quite like its misguided folly of measuring its status as a superpower primarily by the size of its military.


I assure you, no politician can credibly explain why the United States needs to spend six times more on military expenditures than China or Russia. Therefore, it beggars belief for anyone to complain that the US military is not spending enough.

Waste, fraud, and abuse throughout the military industrial complex explains much of this disconnect. Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned more than 50 years ago that it would be thus. But nothing belies the need for increases in military spending quite like this:

From spending $150 million on private villas for a handful of personnel in Afghanistan to blowing $2.7 billion on an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work, the latest revelations of waste at the Pentagon are just the most recent howlers in a long line of similar stories stretching back at least five decades.

(The Nation, April 11, 2016)

Incidentally, if the American people knew (and cared) how many billions most government departments waste each year, there would be a storming of the Capitol that would make the storming of the Bastille look like a picnic. Unfortunately, cognitive dissonance in this respect is such that Pentagon waste on things like hundreds for a hammer and thousands for a toilet are now fodder for late-night comedy.

This is not the forum to delve any further. Instead, I highly recommend the Politico investigation published on December 12, 2015, under the damning headline:

How do you buy $7 billion of stuff you don’t need?

However, I would be remiss not to note that this bloated military budget comes on the heels of Republicans passing $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for big corporations and rich individuals. Because, by supporting these deficit-busting measures, Republicans have forfeited all claims of fiscal responsibility; just as, by supporting this pussy-grabbing president, Evangelicals have forfeited all claims of moral authority.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is scrambling to execute Trump’s order for a mine-is-bigger-than-yours military parade. And, far from honoring the troops, everyone knows he just wants to make North Korean President Kim Jong-un drool with envy. Never mind that authoritarian leaders like Jong-un order such parades only to reinforce their dictatorial powers.

Alas, Trump has thoroughly debased protocols, principles, and priorities in Washington. This explains Republican appropriators seeing nothing wrong with cutting food programs for the poor to feed “Cadet Bone Spur’s” authoritarian envy.

But just imagine the spectacle of this president treating military personnel and equipment like toys for his personal diorama. Unprecedented!

Related commentaries:
smart China
Cadet bone spurs

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