Here’s What We Could Have If We Slashed The Military Budget

| Educate!

Above Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford speaks during a press briefing at the Pentagon August 28, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. Zach Gibson / Getty

The US military budget sucks up an enormous amount of resources without making the world more peaceful or democratic. Here are a few ways we could better spend that $717 billion.

The Pentagon is set to receive $717 billion in 2019 — more than half of the roughly trillion-dollar annual budget. That level of Pentagon funding is immense by any standard. Next year’s budget will be roughly twice the size of military appropriations in the mid-1990s, before George W. Bush and his twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it will be higher than the peak of Pentagon spending during the Vietnam War.

None of this is necessary. The Pentagon is the least accountable part of the federal government, wasting billions of dollars on needless bureaucracy, pouring billions more into dangerous (and redundant) nuclear weapons, and cozying up to contractors who siphon off roughly half of the Pentagon’s budget each year. Even worse, the never-ending US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made the world more dangerous, and American imperialism continues to undermine the autonomy of other nations and peoples.

While profligate Pentagon spending doesn’t make the world more peaceful or more democratic, it does guarantee that the US government will be cash-strapped when it tries to fund vital public programs. Here are a few ways we could be spending our money if we didn’t bequeath the military with $717 billion.

1

Medicare for All

Medicare for All has become a top item on progressives’ policy wish list, raising the ire of conservatives and centrists everywhere. But despite the cries from fiscal scolds, Medicare for All is not as much as might you think: the $717 billion military budget is just about $12 billion shy of the sum needed to expand government health insurance to the 200 million US children and adults who currently have private insurance or no insurance at all. Structured the right way, Medicare for All could even reduce overall US health care costs by as much as $2 trillion.

2

Free College

Free college for all is completely affordable — especially if you have the Pentagon budget at your disposal. The military’s $717 billion could pay full tuition for four years at a public university for 21 million college students — more students than are currently enrolled in all colleges in the country.

3

Food Assistance

At the same time that the $717 billion military bill wends its way toward Trump’s desk, Congress is debating the merits of cutting $24 billion over ten years from food stamps and related assistance for the poor. Together, the proposed cuts and rule changes could result in 3 million Americans losing food assistance.

Trimming the Pentagon budget by $2.4 billion per year — a reduction of less than half a percent — would make up the difference and keep food stamps and its sister programs intact.

4

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood received $543 million in government funds in its last reported year. Thanks to lots of resistance, attempts in Congress to defund the organization have so far proven unsuccessful. But now women face a new challenge, named Brett Kavanaugh. Trump’s Supreme Court pick is widely believed to be the vote that could overturn Roe v. Wade, or at least weaken it past recognition. Technically no federal funds are used to pay for abortions (an absurd restriction that should be reversed), but the Pentagon budget could fund services like birth control and gynecological exams at the current funding level until the year 3336.

5

Reduced Fossil-Fuel Emissions

The only way to slash carbon emissions is by taking aggressive action at the federal level. That will be costly. But fortunately, there’s a bloated Pentagon budget we can draw on.

The military budget could fully fund the $200 billion annual investment needed to reduce US fossil fuel emissions by 40 percent by 2035, according to a 2014 study. That study — the best cost-estimate available for carbon reduction — also estimated that a $200 billion annual investment would create 2.7 million new jobs.

6

Upgraded Infrastructure

Aside from clean energy, the United States is in desperate need of new infrastructure investment for roads, bridges, public water systems, schools, and more. Millions of Americans drink tap water that isn’t up to public safety standards. The American Society for Civil Engineers gave the United States a D+ for its infrastructure on their most recent report card. Since the United States is $2 trillion shy of the needed funds for repairs over the next ten years, a 28 percent cut to Pentagon funding — from $717 billion to $513 billion, still higher than during the 1990s — would cover the difference.


The military budget crowds out spending that could make America more just. And the costs to countries where the US wages war are even higher. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have killed hundreds of thousands of people and caused 10 million to be displaced or flee their homes. Meanwhile, at home, millions struggle to meet their basic needs. Paring back the Pentagon budget by $300 billion — a modest step that would still leave it at 1990s levels — would free up resources for domestic needs while weakening the military’s ability to do harm abroad.

It’s not national security that drives this spending. But human security could be the rationale for cutting it.

 

  • tibetan cowboy

    The greatest threat to We The People of Amerikkka, and indeed all life on earth, is the Pentagon and the armed forces & liars and cowards who are the generals. Get rid of all of them – the generals – and 50% of the Pentagon, and we have a chance to continue as a country, and life would have a chance for survival after all on earth.

  • SissiePooh

    And while we’re at it… punish those executives of corporations who engage in the profitable business of warfare. They’re just as much of a threat the the American people as the generals within the Pentagon, because they’re getting richer by providing the weapons which slaughter innocent people around the world. Get rid of all of them, realign our national and international policies towards peace and sustainable development through nation rebuilding, and make peace more profitable than warfare.

  • edj11

    Although I agree with the spirit of the article, the rationale in it is backwards in many places.

    First, if you are against US making war, then support a National Job Guarantee program, forgiving student loans, and free college for all.
    Because
    1) This will make recruiting military personnel more difficult because people will have real options
    2) This will be an investment in life instead of death
    3) As creator of the US Dollar, the US government can afford anything for sale in USD.
    3) As creator of the US Dollar, the US government can afford anything for sale in USD.

    The title is supports a lie, “SLASHING THE MILITARY BUDGET” does NOTHING to make funds available for the programs we need. And worse, cutting the spending would be disastrous for the US economy.
    The US Government can already afford anything for sale in USD. It creates USD when it spends and uncreates it when it collects taxes.

    Does the USG suck up resources? Yes. Can you measure the value of those resources in USD? Yes.
    But, for the US government, the USD is not a limited resource. The personnel hired with those dollars is limited and being spent for war instead of peace. We need the spending shifted for peace, we don’t want to drop support for these people by cutting the US dollar creation that is done in the spending itself.

    Point 1) Medicare for All:
    Note that the savings that comes from Medicare for All comes from cuts to the health insurance industry employees. These are salaries being cut. Please do not think that taxes should be raised during a time people are needing to find new jobs. Taxes hurt businesses ability to invest because it removes money from supporting business. We need the money to support the creation of goods and services which means jobs.

    Point 2) Free College
    Yes please, great investment in our future. Helping people invest in ways that enrich our society and lives should be obvious.

    Point 3) Food assistence
    “Trimming the Pentagon budget by $2.4 billion per year — a reduction of less than half a percent ” No. Trimming and cutting spending does nothing to make funding available for a different program. The USG can spend if the will is there to spend. Fix the heart. Learn the truth. The money is already available.

    Point 4) Planned Parenthood
    Yes please. Do not fall into the trap of thinking this is taxpayer dollars spent on this. Because the USG spends the US dollars into existence based on its spending choices that are not limited by tax revenues collected. Therefore thinking that the spending is somehow associated with tax payers incorrectly negates the non-taxpayers from appreciation. It is public money being spent into existence by the US government.

    Point 5) Reduced fossil-fuel emissions
    Good ideas here, but we can go BIGGER. This is not my idea, but I think it is great: The USG can just purchase the fossil fuel industry and phase it out. USD is no object for the USG, so no reason not to. This would remove the profit motive from the fossil-fuel industry which is one of its drivers.

    6) Upgrade Infrastructure
    Again, it is not a limit of USD that is an issue here. The estimate is $2 trillion in spending required. Do we have the available personnel to do the work? Maybe spread out over 10 years we do. Spending on infrastructure would move demand for real resources away from the military and toward investing in the future of real people who are fixing the things we need.

    So
    This is not quite right:
    “The military budget crowds out spending that could make America more just. ”
    Instead think of the military itself as a bunch of resources including personnel and their tools being put to a destructive use. Change what we invest our real resources in to be constructive. We can either use our resources to construct the society we want or continue to suable over something that has an infinite supply because of a lie that it is limited.

    If
    You want to learn more about this way of viewing government spending:
    #LearnMMT
    Follow Stephanie Kelton and others and figure out how they are working to correct our understanding of how government currencies operate.

  • chetdude

    For your consideration:

    For 18% of the estimate in this article of the total of the bloated budgets for the Forever War…

    Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization
    Lester R. Brown

    Table 10–2. Plan B Budget: Additional Annual Expenditures Needed to Meet Social Goals and to Restore the Earth

    Goal Funding (billion dollars)

    Basic Social Goals
    Universal primary education 10
    Eradication of adult illiteracy 4
    School lunch programs for 44 poorest countries 6
    Assistance to preschool children and
    pregnant women in 44 poorest countries 4
    Reproductive health and family planning 17
    Universal basic health care 33
    Closing the condom gap 3
    Total for Social Goals: 77 Billion (less than USAmerican corporate welfare payments)

    Earth Restoration Goals
    Planting trees to reduce flooding and conserve soil 6
    Planting trees to sequester carbon 17
    Protecting topsoil on cropland 24
    Restoring rangelands 9
    Restoring fisheries 13
    Protecting biological diversity 31
    Stabilizing water tables 10
    Total $110 Billion

    Grand Total $187 Billion

    Search (DuckDuckGo) “Lester Brown Plan B Earth Policy Institute” and download the entire book as a PDF…

  • kevinzeese

    Excellent. Lester Brown has done some excellent work. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • chetdude

    I was often near to tears while reading Plan-B…

    It’s heart rending to realize how goddamn inexpensive and easy it would be to reverse the process, engage in Restorative Justice to repair some of the damage that 74 years of the Forever War waged by our country has caused (although we can’t restore the lives and health of the millions of killed and maimed that are our responsibility)…

    And it would provide an entirely different model for national behavior…

  • edj11

    Although I agree with the spirit of the article, the rationale in it is backwards in many places.

    First, if you are against US making war, then support a National Job Guarantee program, forgiving student loans, and free college for all.
    Because
    1) This will make recruiting military personnel more difficult because people will have real options
    2) This will be an investment in life instead of death
    3) As creator of the US Dollar, the US government can afford anything for sale in USD.
    3) As creator of the US Dollar, the US government can afford anything for sale in USD.

    The title is supports a lie, “SLASHING THE MILITARY BUDGET” does NOTHING to make funds available for the programs we need. And worse, cutting the spending would be disastrous for the US economy.
    The US Government can already afford anything for sale in USD. It creates USD when it spends and uncreates it when it collects taxes.

    Does the USG suck up resources? Yes. Can you measure the value of those resources in USD? Yes.
    But, for the US government, the USD is not a limited resource. The personnel hired with those dollars is limited and being spent for war instead of peace. We need the spending shifted for peace, we don’t want to drop support for these people by cutting the US dollar creation that is done in the spending itself.

    Point 1) Medicare for All:
    Note that the savings that comes from Medicare for All comes from cuts to the health insurance industry employees. These are salaries being cut. Please do not think that taxes should be raised during a time people are needing to find new jobs. Taxes hurt businesses ability to invest because it removes money from supporting business. We need the money to support the creation of goods and services which means jobs.

    Point 2) Free College
    Yes please, great investment in our future. Helping people invest in ways that enrich our society and lives should be obvious.

    Point 3) Food assistence
    “Trimming the Pentagon budget by $2.4 billion per year — a reduction of less than half a percent ” No. Trimming and cutting spending does nothing to make funding available for a different program. The USG can spend if the will is there to spend. Fix the heart. Learn the truth. The money is already available.

    Point 4) Planned Parenthood
    Yes please. Do not fall into the trap of thinking this is taxpayer dollars spent on this. Because the USG spends the US dollars into existence based on its spending choices that are not limited by tax revenues collected. Therefore thinking that the spending is somehow associated with tax payers incorrectly negates the non-taxpayers from appreciation. It is public money being spent into existence by the US government.

    Point 5) Reduced fossil-fuel emissions
    Good ideas here, but we can go BIGGER. This is not my idea, but I think it is great: The USG can just purchase the fossil fuel industry and phase it out. USD is no object for the USG, so no reason not to. This would remove the profit motive from the fossil-fuel industry which is one of its drivers.

    6) Upgrade Infrastructure
    Again, it is not a limit of USD that is an issue here. The estimate is $2 trillion in spending required. Do we have the available personnel to do the work? Maybe spread out over 10 years we do. Spending on infrastructure would move demand for real resources away from the military and toward investing in the future of real people who are fixing the things we need.

    So
    This is not quite right:
    “The military budget crowds out spending that could make America more just. ”
    Instead think of the military itself as a bunch of resources including personnel and their tools being put to a destructive use. Change what we invest our real resources in to be constructive. We can either use our resources to construct the society we want or continue to suable over something that has an infinite supply because of a lie that it is limited.

    If
    You want to learn more about this way of viewing government spending:
    #LearnMMT
    Follow Stephanie Kelton and others and figure out how they are working to correct our understanding of how government currencies operate.

  • Dea Hagalaz

    It is even worse than outlined in this article. The most important fact that this author misses is that the US is a monetary sovereign nation. Our government is the sole issuer of the currency it creates. Every one else are users of that currency. What that means is that as the monopoly issuer of it’s currency the US can never run out of the currency it issues and is always capable of paying any debt that is denominated in that currency. This power to create currency is given to our government via the Constitution of the United States. Therefore it can never be forced into bankruptcy. Only Congress through refusal to raise the debt ceiling, which would be a criminal act, can cause the US to default.

    So far we have elected a Congress that is more interested in widening the income/wealth gap which means more wealth for them and less for us. They do this through fear mongering about the national debt which is nothing more than the money the government has spent into the non-government sector – Social Security, food stamps, and other subsidies – and has not taken back by taxing. The less the government taxes the more money it leaves in the non-government sector. So every time Congress passes a tax cut the wealthy get to keep more of their money. Every time Congress cuts the social programs the less money the lower income people have to spend. Thus the income gap just keeps getting wider and wider. The rich live opulent lifestyles while the rest of us are force to live in austerity. This is purely a political decision made by the people we elect to office. It has nothing to do with the capability of our government to pay for whatever it wants. It is all on the choices that Congress makes. Congress chooses to keep us unemployed and stressed to the max by denying us the security of a well paying job, making it harder to improve ourselves through education and denying us access to health care. They are in effect killing over 50,000 of us every year and what do we do? We keep electing them year after year. So whose fault is it that we are left struggling to keep a roof over our heads? Whose fault is it that millions have to choose to not fill that prescription so that they can keep their house? Whose fault is it that we allow our governors to go against the wishes of the citizen and reduce our wages because it is what is best for the corporations?

    We voted these monsters into office and we need to vote them out. Demand more from those you elect to office. Demand that the FICA tax be abolished and set a new minimum of $2,000/mo because no one can live comfortably on less. Demand that the government fully fund an expanded Medicare for all program – a nation can not properly defend itself if its citizen are in poor health. Demand the opportunity to become the best you can be by making all education, from preschool through the rest of your life, free.

    If you had any understanding of microeconomics you would know that all of what I stated is entirely possible. Years of research by some of the most prominent economist has shown that government deficit spending does not induce hyperinflation. This can be proven by looking at Japan. They have been pouring money into their economy for decades with no inflation in sight. They have also proven that taxes do not fund the government’s spending. In fact it is the other way around. The government funds us. Without the government spending the currency, that only it has the power to issue, we would not have any dollars to spend at all. This is the secret the politicians hide from you to funnel more money upward and starve you. Why do we continue to let them starve us this way?

    We can fight them by educating ourselves on how our monetary system works. Once you figure it out there will be no going back to the old way of thinking. Let the revolution begin… https://moslereconomics.com/wp-content/powerpoints/7DIF.pdf

  • edj11

    Here is a great interview on NPR with the economist Bernie Sanders hired as the chief economist during his last presidential campaign. She also went on to lead a group of economists studying what would happen if all student debt was canceled.

    Her name is Stephanie Kelton. This way of understanding deficits provides an understanding that leads to the things that progressives know we should have. It helps us better understand, in more detail what is affordable and how.

    https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=652001941

  • Lycaon pictus

    Another benefit of cutting the military budget, would be that they would not have the money for their false-flags.