The Shocking Truth: How Our Empire Rips You Off
Imagine you find yourself in a film not unlike The Matrix, except that it focuses on what Republican president Gen. Dwight Eisenhower famously termed the Military Industrial Complex. You then find yourself in a dimly lit room, having this exchange:
Figure in sunglasses: Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It’s this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?
You: Our endless wars..?
FIS: (Nods slightly) Have you noticed our seemingly intractable addiction to these never ending wars? To “regime change”? To overthrowing democracies, and to overthrowing dictators we so often installed ourselves not many years earlier? Bombs..drones.. virtually permanent occupations..hundreds of military bases encircling the globe like an iron grid, as if we’re holding on to something in a grim death-grip?
All this militarism…which we call it by that most gentle sounding of names: “defense..” It is the Military Industrial Complex, and it is everywhere; it’s all around us, with its corporate media, surveillance state, and Hollywood components all intertwined like the arms of a squid grasping prey. It is all around us. Even now in this very room…Yes, the Deep State, but most of all, the true controlling institutions and structures, the essence lying behind that shadowplay we call foreign policy. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
You: What truth?
FIS: That the U.S. today is nothing less than an Empire. A global hegemon bent on endless power, resource grabs, and domination — and not for your or my benefit. That we live in a Rogue State; in fact, in a rogue superpower. The truth that this rogue empire rules over you as well, not merely over our foreign so-called enemies. That it is the most powerful, multi-tentacled, hypnotizingly seductive, false-patriotic, and dangerous empire in all of human history — whose Gods are money, violence, and unaccountable power — and that you, your tax dollars, and your whole life-energy, serve as it slaves..are slaves to this empire.
That you, like everyone else in America, was born into bondage…kept inside a prison of Hollywood, establishment think tanks, slick tongued talking heads, and corporate media illusions. A prison for your mind..”
And what if we told you right now, that just as the mountains of cash spent on militarism are even higher than you likely feared, that the alternative is a more beautifully satisfying, fulfilling, and secure future — for all of us living in the heart of the empire — than you would even dare hope for? What if I told you that once we redirect those ‘mountains’ away from wars and empire, then everyone, yes everyone, from that point on, could be made, with these savings alone, a virtually guaranteed millionaire? Impossible? Can’t be true? Too outlandish a claim? Yet it is true, as we will prove in the sections below following these five steps:
Step 1 — The Trillion Dollar Secret. How much are we really spending on militarism? Far more than the official figures suggest.
Step 2 — How much do we really need for actual defense?
Step 3 — How much could we save per year if we ended this military madness (which actually makes us less safe) and replaced the Empire Budget with an actual defense budget?
Step 4 — Main Calculation; yes, every American going forward is a nearly-guaranteed millionaire under conservative assumptions (shocking, but true, as the numbers reveal).
Step 5 — More reasons why these calculations are conservative
Concluding remarks — and possible ways forward.
Appendix Inspiration: A modern day vet with PTSD shares poetic song and his realization; and the powerful, passionate words of Helen Keller.
So, are you ready for (the rest of) the truth? Okay, we’ll drop the Matrix talk other than to recall that even when it’s unsettling to the point of vertigo, only the truth can really set us free. So let’s begin, shall we?
Note: If you’re very familiar with the true size of U.S. military spending, feel free to skip to Step 2 (or even Step 4, but then you’d miss most of the context), then return to Step 1 later for a refresher with links; if you’re at all unsure, or have only seen the ‘official’ figures, we very much recommend you start with Step 1, and find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes.
Step 1: The Empire’s $1 Trillion ‘Secret’
Our goal in this step is very simple: we’re just documenting as fact one single number: the trillion dollar per year secret of U.S. military spending. This is a secret the Rogue Empire doesn’t want us to be aware of as concerned citizens or as taxpayers, but it’s not a secret to insiders, despite being almost unknown to the public. Nevertheless, this will be the most extensive step, lest the real budget numbers in question be left to be framed as somehow controversial simply due to their usually being hidden from view by mainstream politicians and corporate media. Consequently, plenty of corroborating links and extra background details are included.
As the Atlantic noted “While everyone knows that the defense budget is large —even in the numbers that the public sees as the formally admitted figures..the truth is that when one scratches beneath the bureaucratic veneer, national security spending is much larger, nearly double the amount U.S. citizens are told.”
This budget examination includes militarism-originated interest on the national debt, the VA, and Homeland Security. The analysis cited by the Atlantic — authored by a “Republican, numbers-compulsive defense wonk at the Center for Defense Information (CDI)” — found real spending on militarism even back in 2012 and 2013 was some $990 Billion. That’s a twelve-digit figure, and as tax-payers and citizens let’s look at it: $990,000,000,000. And as a proportion, is barely an iota under a Trillion per year (it’s exactly 99% of a trillion). Not one-time, but our ongoing annual spending. And even these numbers don’t seem to include military spending hidden in other departments such as NASA and the Energy Department, making the actual, comprehensive total higher still.
Even the narrower summary by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, with its extremely Establishment background — the Chair of the Board is a former Undersecretary of the Army and whose staff include many “who have served in senior level policymaking positions within the Department of Defense, State Department and the National Security Council” — spoke of The Pentagon’s No Limit Credit Card in 2014, writing at the time: “The OCO account is separate from the base defense budget and is exempt from spending reductions under Budget Sequestration set to remain in place until 2021 under the sequestration laws. Even with sequestration cuts the 2014 military budget that was originally to be capped at $498.1 billion is now at over $520 billion. This does not include $80 billion additionalspent in Afghanistan… Of course none of this includes that OCO credit card debt,” referring to the “Overseas Contingency Operations” — an Obama Administration euphemism for the former term, “War on Terror” — whose “account serves as a credit card with no limits as apply on consumer credit cards” (emphasis added in both).
Always keep in mind that this year and in past years alike, the “military budget” numbers we read and hear on TV or on the radio, including NPR, virtually always “do not include” the actual full truth about military spending. That’s right, those 80 Billion didn’t even “count” in the budget. What’s 80 billion dollars? “small” compared to the Trillion dollar total, but think of it this way. 80 billion dollars that year, would have been enough for each of the 50 states to receive over an over 133 million dollar refund, each and every month, for that entire year (133 Million × 12 × 50 ≈ 80 Billion). And remember, this is worse than waste; worse than ‘just’ killing innocents abroad; it’s all that plus reducing our security. Getting angry yet? Alas, there’s more to be upset about.
In 2016, Mandy Smithberger for CDI at the Project On Government Oversight (pogo.org) likewise calculated, in a detailed line-by-line forensic survey, that our true spending on militarism is within a relative hair’s breadth away from a Trillion dollars per year, standing at $997 Billion (that’s 99.7% of a trillion, or: $997,000,000,000 of taxes being used to make the world worse for Americans and “foreigners” alike.)
Incidentally, while the empire has usually kept the spying or “intelligence” budget secret from its own citizens — and we are often among the main targets when funds aren’t used to overthrow democracies or fund terrorist groups — the figure revealed way back in 2010 was more than $80 billion on such spying alone, and which was already three times higher than the previously released figure. And those hundreds of military bases? The U.S. empire probably has more foreign military bases “than any other people, nation, or empire in history” and “it’s doing us more harm than good” per a 2015 article in The Nation building on official pentagon figures, and where our global empire was estimated to own a whopping 95% of all foreign bases in the world (encircling supposed adversaries where we later accuse themof being aggressive). Crowded together in the other 5% were all the foreign military outposts held by allies (e.g. France, Israel, South Korea) and ‘foes’ combined, with Russia having had about the same number of military bases as does one single U.S. ally, the UK, and mostly located in nearby former Soviet republics. Including some huge “city-sized” ones, our out of control empire has about 800 military bases — leading to jokes about ‘proof’ of Russia’s hostility: how dare they locate their country so near to so many of our bases?
The Trillion Dollar Empire Budget is also known about in U.S. economically right-wing but anti-interventionist Libertarian circles. The Ron Paul Institute commented in 2017 on the irony that “Defense Secretary Mattis is worried about the military budget. No, he’s not worried that spending a total of over a trillion dollars a year on the military might bankrupt the country and thus make us more vulnerable to outside forces with ill intent.” (emphasis added.)
That same year, 2017, a piece at Tom’s Dispatch, which was reprinted at PopularResistance, by William D. Hartung, likewise found the real Empire Budget about $1 Trillion (now we’re at thirteen digits: $1,000,000,000,000.00) per year, as did a 2012 investigation by Chris Hellman and Mattea Kramer. We haven’t even touched upon “trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments” one case of which Reuters called “the latest example of the severe accounting problems plaguing” the military “for decades.” Put aside all the huge irregularities and we still spend on the order of a Trillion a year — year in, year out — on a global empire that doesn’t serve us Americans well, let alone non-Americans.
As postscript to this section and a painfully funny contrast, recall the 50 cents annual per person ‘savings‘ by the Social Security administration under pressure to cut costs, by denying the option even to those who preferred a paper statement. Saving us a whopping three-and-a-half pennies per American ($11.3m) in 2017 with more cuts. This is despite a study showing that receiving paper statements can encourage workers to save for more years before claiming benefits. But those $3,000 per capita on drones, bombs, wars and invasions that make us less safe, while killing and maiming so many both outside and inside our country? The average American has no idea. After all, who cares about a measly annual $3,000 financial wallet-suck to cover this, billed to every adult and child to pay for this death and misery, right? The Empire, of course, doesn’t want Americans to know and actually remember this critical $3,000 per-capita annual figure. It wants to keep us in the dark about it. “Look, over there! We’re saving you a lot of money in paper forms!” (Read: pennies per year saved.) And the corporate media (and NPR/PBS) play along.
It’s also worth remembering the Trillion Dollar (open) Secret of our perpetual war machine when Democrats and their corporate press allies inform us the end is near because the Republican tax reform plan may turn “America’s $20 trillion debt” into — be still my heart — a $21 trillion debt (join me as I clutch my pearls). Another reason for skepticism over the sincerity of the expressed deficit concerns in this CIA-linked newspaper is because Democrats didn’t mind the first 20 trillion being built, in large part, on decades of deadly hyper-militarism, including the trillion-a-year rates since early this century.
Elites’ visceral hate of Trump — levels of passionate hatred never expressed or felt against politicians carrying out policies leading to well over half-million slaughtered (Bush-Cheney, with critical backing from HRC) in Iraq, or hundreds of thousands killed, displaced or under the rule of CIA-backed jihadists (terrorists) in Libya/Syria thanks to both Obama and what the pro-HRC press approvingly called “Hillary’s War” (Libya), or even the deliberate implementation of outright genocide of over a million impoverished brown skinned largely Muslim civilians by both Clintons in the 1990s and in early 2000s by Senator Clinton herself; mere slaughter of a hundreds of thousands of civilian women, men and children didn’t get those other leaders’ “mental stability” questioned or screaming media outrage; mainstream media ranged from tepid, half-hearted criticism to outright cheer-leading. But elite deep-seated hatred of Trump is based largely on the few unambiguously sane directions he has suggested (criticism of NAFTA and TPP, and an evidently lower appetite than elites have for the bloodbaths they call “regime change”) so corporate media also shed crocodile tears in other articles, about a possible $1.5 trillion added to the deficit — over a period of 10 years, that is, 0.15 trillion a year.
Never mind that the Democrats aren’t too bothered by deficits when they’re in power. What’s really outrageous is that the Trillion-a-year Endless Global War budget is too much of a sacred cow; for otherwise a mere 15% little trim alone, would cover the above budget shortfall. But such actual significant trimming down of militarism is off the table for Democrats and for their media allies who now ‘fret’ over Republican tax cuts. Both Democrats and the corporate press supported, and continue to support, business-as-usual hyper-militarism instead of the deep cuts needed for a changeover from Empire Ruling The Planet to actual defensive levels of spending.
True, there would still be the matter of economic justice in how the tax cuts are implemented, nor would be want Republicans to use the deficits as an excuse to cut Social Security and Medicare. Hold on, Obama himself was “pushing for cuts to Social Security, Medicare” (not to mention had “a lot of egregious things” in store for Medicare even after backing down) and was more than willing to throw us under the bus: no Republican president was needed to do that. “How many people who voted for Obama in 2008 would have expected a headline like this a short two-and-a-half years later?” asked healthcare-now.org. No, social austerity and annual trillion-dollar spending to fund and feed the Global Death Machine are deeply bipartisan enterprises, entrenched in establishment liberal Democratic as well as Republican circles.
Section Summary: The true U.S. military spending levels amount to roughly $1 Trillion dollars a year by conservative analyses. That’s a thousand times larger than a Billion and a million times larger than a million dollars. Think of spending a million dollars over and over again, not a thousand times, but a total of a million times. It’s spending about a hundred and ten million dollars every single hour, 24 hours a day, for 365 days a year, or close to $2 million per minute.
The U.S. population (currently about 327 million) is a little short of being one-third of a billion. This makes our actual Empire Budget per-capita spending higher than $3,000 per man, woman and child. Each year. Read that again. Spread over the population this averages to $12,000 in empire spending for each family of four. We need to make this fact widely known.
But to see how deep the rabbit hole really goes, we first need to answer just two more very simple preliminary questions.
“What if I told you…?”
Elites actually branded terrorists as ‘moderates’ to
help terrorists overthrow our ‘regime change’ targets.
Step 2: What would an actual defense budget look like?
So, how does this stratospheric level of military spending by the U.S. compare to other countries? To be sure, militarism plagues much of the world, not just here in the U.S. That said, a truthful assessment is that we make the rest of the world seem like petty amateurs by comparison when it comes to having a domestically entrenched and globally sprawling military industrial complex.
For example, in 2016, even just that part of U.S. military spending that’s official — which as we’ve seen, is far less than the actual total — was not equal to but was more than double the sum China’s (the very distant #2 spender, about one-third of our spending) and Russia’s budgets combined. If the comparative “tiny rounding error” of Iran’s military spending is added to these, the same holds for these three combined being more than 2-to-1 dwarfed by U.S. militarism, yet media would deceive us into thinking “we” rather than they need to catch up in military expenditures. (see this PDF by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute or quick wikipedia snapshot.)
But even this is misleading: the U.S. is not alone; indeed, some of the world’s largest military spenders — like France, the UK and Germany — are very much in military alliance with the empire maintained by the regime that runs our country, even if these countries aren’t always quite 100% in our pocket to the extent our leaders, who find any deviation troublesome, may prefer.
|“If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government..but rather as love of one’s country, one’s fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles.” – Howard Zinn, Declarations of Independence:Cross-Examining American Ideology|
For example, the World Economic Forum in March 2017 published a piece, The US spends more on defence than all these countries combined, including the figure that “in 2015 U.S. defense spending outstripped that of China, Russia, UK, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia and India combined.”
But what this really says is that the US-UK-France-Japan-etc Global Empire Alliance outstrips the rest of the world even more sharply than the extent to which the heart of the Empire (the U.S. alone) outspends its real or imaginary enemies. And this, again, is still using the just official Pentagon budget which is about half the real U.S. Global Empire budget.
Even the pro-NAFTA Peter G. Peterson Foundation — started by a billion-dollar endowment bestowed by the former Nixon Commerce Secretary, Lehman Brothers CEO, Council on Foreign Relations Chair and Blackstone Group co-founder whose name it carries — has a chart using 2016 data to demonstrate the U.S. outspending our top “enemies” plus several top allies, all combined:
Furthermore, when we look at the above bar graph we should mentally imagine striping away France-UK-Japan-Germany from the left half and adding these countries’ budgets atop the right bar, on top of U.S. spending (photoshoppers are invited to email such an image to the author!) And the lunacy of the present level of Global-Empire level spending is what’s taken as ‘sensible’ and ‘moderate’ in Washington, at best: the insanity is often taken to greater heights, by complaining that we’re not spending enough on the machinery of death. And it’s not just the neocon Republicans or Trump; Bill Clinton ran in 1992 promising he’d fortify, reinforce, and make the military stronger, and about the only times a Democrat or most corporate media praise Trump is when he bombs overseas, or engages in similar acts or words. While Trump so far has not engaged in GWB-HRC-BO levels of slaughter a la Iraq/Libya/Syria, or McCain levels of rhetoric in favor or if, Trump too regularly utters rather standard U.S. mainstream politician lunatic-speak proclamations, including about needing to beef up our military, as if it’s inadequate, standing reality on its head.
Surely the mind-boggling $3,000 per head spent on its global empire by the Rogue Superpower here at home needs to end, and we must stop practicing the mass-murder of “regime change” abroad, instead changing the domestic regime which manufactures endless war. Yet Americans can’t oppose what they don’t know. Support would be greater for a transformational shift to a military budget suitable for actual defense but not empire, if Americans knew the extent to which false ‘threats’ are constantly created through provocation, or else outright manufactured and invented if necessary. On very rare occasions, even mainstream media, Foreign Affairs in this case, are candid enough to admit such things as:
“According to the prevailing wisdom in the West, the Ukraine crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Russian aggression…But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis….For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected president — which he rightly labeled a “coup” — was the final straw.” (Emphasis added. See Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault in the eminently Establishment magazine Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, a piece penned by John Joseph Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, admitting the American “party line” on Ukraine, too, puts reality on its head: ’twas our side that backed a bloody coup against an elected government.)
Readers may also be interested in my in-depth 2013 piece The Hidden History of the Syrian Civil War in Popular Resistance, documenting how the spin, propaganda, and lies of empire are even farther removed from the truth of Syria’s actual on the ground realities, than even most peace advocates (including myself before researching this article) are aware.
This is also not the place to review Iraq, Libya, etc, beyond saying: Not only are the vast majority of wars waged by the empire in whose belly we dwell both unjust and based at least in part on lies (and generally overwhelmingly so), and not only is the cost massive in human (Brown University study) as well as financial terms; but these wars also do the opposite of what they promise — they make us lesssafe, not to mention, they worsen human rights and freedom for the people on foreign soil which the empire obscenely claims to wish to help, and who are left to deal with failed states and terrorist groups our policies and actions create.
The bottom line is that we pay with dollars and broken lives — many here and even more overseas — for the ‘privilege’ of living in a world that our empire’s official and unofficial wars make more dangerous.
Let us now turn to the next key question: just how huge is the potential financial windfall for all Americans, if we stop paying for the ‘privilege’ of supporting our rogue superpower’s global empire?
Step 3: How much could we save, per capita?
We can now ask a critical question: How much would we save? How massive would the savings be, were we to replace the Global Empire Budget — euphemistically called “defense”, a term and euphemism to which we should not acquiesce — with a budget whose actual goal was defense? Not one for endless wars and empire, but one whose design and purpose was, you know, defending the country from attack. A budget which truly embodied the meaning of the word would be enough to protect us from external military attacks. That is, safeguarding us from external and military attacks which genuinely threaten the country, or threaten to cause large-scale death and destruction. What would such a budget look like?
Some years back I read an estimate for the answer at something like $100 billion per year would be more than enough; that’s the same as a million dollars multiplied 100,000 times over, not exactly pocket change. The source may have been the Center for Defense Information in a past incarnation or another group, but in any case, it’s not difficult to see.
After all, China has more than four times our population while spending some $200 billion per year on defense, and this largely in response to our own provocations, endless wars, hundreds of military bases abroad, and a declared unending global hit-list against anyone who defies the empire. China previously was spending far less (PDF). So, adjusting for population, we should do fine with $50 billion per year for actual pure defense, which would come to an annual $1,000,000 (one million) multiplied 50,000 times over.
This is still a huge amount. There’s also the matter of how much more secure we’d be from terrorism — and thus could keep our country safer while spending far less — simply by ending our global assaults that create terrorists and fuel terrorism, and by ending funding by the CIA for terrorist group it “hopes” won’t later turn against us. And also by securing our ports with better inspections and other ‘boring’ methods that aren’t as amenable to politicians posturing but can be highly effective; Noam Chomsky commented not many years 9/11 on how little interest there seems to be in such spending which costs much less to make us safer, while far higher spending on military adventures overseas (which as we’ve noted, makes us less safe) goes on unabated.
Beyond that, we in the U.S. have a giant geographical advantage that China lacks: a massive ocean on each side, separating us from numerous dangerous and potential hostile forces; forces which can proceed on land, and for much smaller distances, in order to attack China.
And that’s putting aside our technological advantages over China. And still ignores the NATO alliance with countries with their own massive spending or our ally Japan. For perspective, in 2016, the combined military spending of France, the UK, Germany and Japan alone was over 190 billion, almost matching China’s budget, and that’s before figuring in the rest of NATO, let alone adding in the elephant in the room, the U.S. Global Empire war and intervention budget.
Rather, we will err on the side of suggesting a far larger size for a defensive budget than $50 billion or even $100 billion per year for our purposes here. We’ll instead take it that out of the $3,000 per head we currently spend on militarism, we could — were the goal genuinely one of defending ourselves and even allies from actual military attack, and not a goal of Empire — achieve this goal on somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 per man, woman, and child, rather than the Trillion-a-year current astronomical level of $3,000 per head.
Let’s examine this range of providing honest defense with a still huge budget range of between $1,000 and $2,000 per capita. It translates into not $50 billion, or $100 billion or even $200 billion a year, but to much larger figures: it would mean we’re allowing for a range of between $325 billion and $650 billion per year for total military (not just Pentagon) spending, to replace the current ~$1,000 billion ($1 trillion) we spend each year.
This would make the amount saved come to somewhere from $1,000 (going from the current $3,000 per head, to $2,000 per head) to $2,000 (from the current $3,000 to $1,000) per head (per man, woman, and child) in the U.S.. And let’s emphasize that this would be an annual savings; not one-time, but savings which grow and accumulate and over the years.
Section Summary: We could, conservatively, save between $1,000 and $2,000 for every man, woman, and child, and do so each year, by switching from an Empire Budget euphemistically called ‘defense’, to a real defense budget worthy of its name.
We’re now at last ready for the heart of this inquiry, and to answer the key question: what could we accomplish with the savings of at least $1,000 (and up to $2,000) per man, woman and child in the U.S.? Care to guess? The answer may surprise or even shock you. You may notice yourself getting angrier than you thought you already were at the Military Industrial Complex for the massive heist and theft of your own and your family and friends’ long term wealth, on top of the piles of corpses and shattered lives that it produces. This brings us to the fourth, most central, and penultimate step in our analysis.
Step 4: Want to be an automatic Millionaire? Help End the Empire!
So, how would you like for millionaire status to be the new floor for every American? As demonstrated in the calculations below, this is no exaggeration. Nor is the intention here to minimize the non-financial human elements which are at the top of moral objections to empire. We’re also not suggesting that “return all the money” (let alone “and invest in the stock market”) rather than public reinvestment of much of the empire-ending savings, is the only or even best path. We’ll return to these disclaimers following this section.
The point, however, is to uncover and see numerically precise, accurate, and vivid illustrations of the staggering scale of the financial opportunity costs of empire, and riches the War Machine is throwing away in parallel to the rivers of blood spilled. We don’t have to be wage slaves toiling away at jobs we hate for forty or often many more hours a week, or have to be slaves to the empire in whose heart we live; we can and should ditch both. Hopefully, you’re now ready to get on the road to becoming a millionaire in a most moral and peaceful way: ending the U.S. empire. Because financially, it is simpler than you may think.
Suppose now for our thought experiment that each year, instead of spending it on Global Empire, our government took those annual savings of between $1,000 and $2,000 per person and put these savings into an “index” fund averaging the entire stock market. This would start the day you’re born, with a new deposit on your birthday. We’re saving that much each year after all.
Let’s start with the lower figure: $1,000 per year starting at birth; that’s just over $83 per month deposited in your name, which adds up to a lot more than you’d think over the hundreds of months you have starting at birth, further turbo-charged by compounding growth. This increase in value is the historical average annual percent growth of equities including dividends, compounded over months, years, and decades. We’ll later return to the fact that the stock market isn’t all wonderful, after first letting the numbers speak for themselves and hit like a brick and impress upon us the titanic order of magnitude of the wealth we could redirect away from destruction and towards serving human needs.
The first key fact here is that the historical average of the entire stock market comes close to 10% appreciation per year including dividends; when averaged over decades, this has been fairly steady. How much do you think your account would have at age 20 (that’s 21 deposits: on the day you were born, and each birthday from your first to your 20th), assuming this historical rate of appreciation? The answer is well over $55,000. But that’s just the beginning of the story.
After your 30th birthday, your account is over $170,000. After your 40th birthday, over $460,000, and on your 49th birthday, over a million dollars; in fact, more than $100,000 above a million. Bankrate estimates millionaire-status already when you’re 48 in point of fact. You’d be a millionaire well before turning 50. Shocking? Equally shocking to us should be the current massive wasted potential of the U.S. global empire, and the possibility of huge positive social change — as much or in fact more so than the personal enrichment part; but let’s finish the hypothetical, so allow those dollar signs in your eyes for a few more steps first.
Yes, there’s inflation, so the purchasing power of these huge amounts would be lower in inflation-adjusted dollars, e.g., lower than what a million dollars would buy today. Yet we’re still talking about many hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s dollars, even after adjusting for inflation. For example, with these savings working for you since birth, the total would be almost $300,000 even in inflation-adjusted dollars, just by age 50 — and over a half-million by age 59. That’s in today’s, or what you may call real dollars. Is the magnitude starting to hit you? (what about us who are already adults, not newborns? Still not too shabby; see below).
Further, that million is without you saving one single cent on your own; anything and everything you saved at all during those 50 or 59 years, would be added on top of that cool million. And to be clear, this doesn’t replace Social Security like in some nasty reactionary scheme; we’d still get social security (which we earn through our existing payroll taxes). Instead this would be your huge bonus for not living in a Global Empire, added to your personal savings, added also to the Social Security you’re entitled to thanks to payroll taxes. Now picture having all three combined. Because we could.
And let’s pause for a moment, to envision and think about what just the non-material, mental and emotional freedom from today’s level of economic insecurity, anxiety, and stress, that this would mean. But let’s continue, because wait a minute, the preceding numbers were using our mildest scenario of annual “let’s not be an Empire any more” savings (saving $1,000/year per capita) and it gets better.
Because now you can double the above numbers. After all, these figures came from the case when our total military spending reduces from $12,000 per family of four, to a still staggering annual $8,000 of our taxes for each such family (from $3,000 per head to $2,000 per head). Recall that in the second scenario — which as we’ve seen would still leave a military budget far higher than true defensive-only levels — we’d still be spending $1,000 a year for every adult and for every child in the U.S.: a still gigantic $325 billion ($325,000,000,000), and more than six times higher than that $50 Billion “proportional to China, purely defensive” figure. And yet such a level of military spending $1,000 per head each year) would still mean we save $2,000 each year over the current “$3,000 per man, woman and child” obscene levels of military spending.
That’s an annual $2,000 per year for you, rather than the preceding calculation with $1,000. Now each baby gets not $1,000 but $2,000 deposited into that account when it’s born, with another $2,000 added on each birthday; or in monthly terms, then just under $167 each month, added for the hundreds of months from birth until age 30, 40, 49, etc.
This time, by age 30 your account would have over $340,000. At age 40? About $920,000 (with millionaire status at age 41), and over 2 million (in fact over $2,200,000) at age 49. And this would be worth, even in that distant future, well over a half-million in today’s dollars — but coming a decade sooner than waiting until you’re 59. It’s worth emphasizing that these amounts would be yours even after adjusting for inflation, and assuming an inflation rate of about 3% (not unusually low and even somewhat high by the standards of the last quarter century) and without assuming that continued automation gives us lower inflation in the future.
And it’s worth underscoring once more that none of this counts Social Security, which would still be there, and importantly, none of the above counts what savings and wealth you may additionally build by saving part of your salary, depending on the pay at your job and how many years you stick at your job(s). That’s would be up to you.
Incredible? Mind-boggling? The flip side is that these words apply equally to the current levels of material waste (on top of human loss and suffering) as they do to the massive material gain for Americans that awaits, untapped, at this time. These figures surprised even the author, and should fill every American with a combination of rage at the status quo but also hope about just how much incredibly better we can all do — and live.
If you could, how would you spend that most valuable commodity, extra time, starting age at 58 or even 49? Take better care of your health? More time with friends and family? Community involvement, activism, a bit more relaxation, leisure, and downtime? Imagine the whole country able to move in these directions.
Envision crime and stress levels going down, health and a sense of community going up, and the country moving forward with more energy thanks to reinvigorated civic, neighborhood, social, communitarian, and artistic participation by so many. These are the massive gifts we could give, starting tomorrow, to every child, every baby born in this country from Day One of ending Empire, onward. But that’s not all.
Those of us who are not infants may not get quite as much, but we get far more than nothing. After all, we saw that by ending empire we’d have enough to give those same hypothetical “annual peace dividend” receiving accounts to everyone. So for example, every 10-year-old child would receive somewhat smaller but still enormous amounts.
Every 20 year old wouldn’t be quite as rich, but still benefit massively. And starting as late as age 33 and until age 65 (which is still less than full retirement age), even the lowered post-inflation amount would still be about $85,000. Younger people aged 20-30 would have their accounts grow to even higher amounts. Us older folks could still gain tens of thousands; in fact, we’d gain over $10,000 if we had 9 years of not being ripped off by the military-industrial complex; over $30,000 if we had 19 years before retirement. More if you have more time. And this is for the lower, $1,000 per-head savings figure; double all these numbers (including getting $60,000) if we as a nation use the full $2,000 per capita savings. Here too these funds would be added to all your personal savings, investments, and Social Security.
This in turn would create an America with far better mental and emotional health for all, just by virtue of more material security at retirement, or early retirement (or a more comfortable retirement, or all of the above). We’d also gain better mental health just by virtue of not feeling our backs are quite as badly up against the wall in dog-eat-dog stressful, unhealthfully anxious competition every year of our lives until retirement. We really have set our sights too low. Far too low.
It should go without saying that we must end all homelessness and other moral scandals like our elders needing to worry about affording food or heat. But we can, and must, demand a much higher economic floor upon which each of us can build up any additional, higher personal savings and economic security generally. We can and we must give a sense of safety and dignity to our seniors, and a solid sense of security and being valued to all working Americans including those who educate our kids, bathe and care for our elders, our infirm friends and relatives, respond when a fire engulfs a home, and so many others.
This is not us asking for some perfect ideal. Quite the opposite: this is asking for and insisting on basic decency. And as the calculations show, it’s not just a bare minimum of decency, but also from a “hard-nosed” financial accounting point of view, it’s the bare minimum of what we could very easily afford as a nation — and which would cost us nothing besides negative ‘costs’ — that is, additional bonus benefits like much less suffering, PTSD and other injuries, and a safer world with other nations to economically partner with instead of war-torn wreckages of former countries, which breed new (often Deep State-backed) terrorist groups and worse.
Beyond the abovementioned far lower stress and headaches worrying about your retirement, economic security and survival, picture some of the other benefits: it would also mean much greater freedom in terms of not being stuck at a job you hate, and which does not let you realize what you’re capable of in terms of contributing to society. Think of the benefits to human wellbeing and empowerment, but also in meeting our fuller potential by the virtue of simply being able to take more risks and do what we feel most passionate about.
True, not everyone will be an Einstein. However, it’s also true that with current levels of economic insecurity, a modern day Einstein might not have even been able to afford to take that patent-office job allowing time to tinker on the side; they may have to work 2 or 3 retail jobs with no time to reach their potential. Unleashing millions of people — including the myriad beautifully unique non-Einsteins — to innovate, imagine, tinker, and experiment, would benefit the rest of us if even a mere one percent of those additional explorers succeeded. In other words, the gains go well beyond the purely financial benefits or the strictly numerical side of the above Ending-Empire analysis, for this entirely realistic and realizable project.
Step 5: Have we exaggerated the possible savings?
By now the reader has probably started to overcome the initial shock or denial at the colossal amount of wealth we’re squandering yearly and which we could recuperate by ending empire. The numbers are quite real, and relate to what economists refer to as an opportunity cost, i.e., what we’re giving up, by squandering over $3,000 for every man, woman and child/infant on bombs, hundreds of military bases encircling the Earth, CIA-funding of “moderate” terror groups, drone attacks 90% of whose victims are not the intended targets, etc, each and every year, and which cause massive death and suffering at home and abroad while making all of us far less safe. Heck, it would be massively wasteful yet still less damaging, were we to instead merely throw that much money into a great Hole In The Ground each year and burn it all, rather than using it to destroy and maim, shatter, shorten and diminish lives and quality of life abroad and at home. (I first heard this contrast with just throwing away all the money, from a friend in the 1990s, but in 2008 an Onion satirical piece about such a “Money Hole” hinted at the darker and painful truth with a passing mention of a similar entity called the “soldier hole”. Indeed, an empire which vastly over-spends on militarism while simultaneously failing to keep its soldiers adequately protected is the ultimate proof of how expendable their throwaway lives are to our empire, and of how the best way to Support the Troops is to bring them home).
Does our above calculation in any way overestimate savings? While the calculations are quite accurate overall, they do neglect some non-trivial costs such as that of re-training people from the military. Wouldn’t part of each $1 in hypothetical savings need to go to retraining? Given that most of the trillion-dollar budget goes to contractors, weapons builders, and so forth — not salaries — this is a smaller factor than may first meet the eye. A small but real part of our expected annual savings may need to be redirected to retraining in this way as we transition. And yet, that very word, transition, reminds us these would be one-time costs, while the savings of a post-empire U.S. would continue yielding profits indefinitely, years and decades into the future.
But in general, have we exaggerated the savings? Actually quite the opposite is true. First, the calculations speak for themselves. Secondly, the numbers are conservative and arguably underestimates in one very important aspect we haven’t focused on. In calculating the would-be savings we’ve assumed we’re reducing a destructively wasteful militarism budget that is constant, that is, the same budget every year, for the decades ahead. And yet our military budgets have not stayed constant from decades ago through today. On the contrary, they’ve increased quite significantly. Hence the tremendous scale wasted dollars on future militarism — and correspondingly the scope of savings that could be had — would be substantially higher than the figures quoted, if we incorporated this major factor into our analysis.
We’ve already hinted about other ways the calculations underestimate savings, such as turbo-charging of the economy when retrained workers contribute to the domestic economy in areas directly meeting human needs (including education which in turn further boosts productivity) rather than throwing financial energy down the “money hole” or towards destruction, and with the money spread more broadly in the economy rather than sending dollars to a small group of military contractors. We also undercounted in other ways. Such as the status quo’s long-term or permanently higher healthcare costs (Brown University Costs of War project) and lower productivity that caring for (or being) a badly physically or mentally injured returning soldier entails. These additional costs not counted above would be saved ending the internally and externally harmful catastrophe that is the U.S. empire.
Nor have our numbers counted the financial (or other) savings that ending empire would come from having overall better psychological health not just in those who avoid battlefield trauma, but also better mental health for their family members and close friends who at present bear a far from small amount of the strain and burden which the empire puts on Americans.
Also not touched upon are additional savings — above and beyond your future millionaire-status from ending the global Legalized Mass-Murder (War) Machine — savings possible through other rather moderate measures, which we might have more time to think about if the national psyche wasn’t focused so much on near-constant warfare. Like adopting for healthcare a so-called single payer system (either like Canada’s, which keeps doctors in private practice, or like the UK’s with so-called ‘socialized’ medicine of doctors being on the public payroll and accountable to the public, though often under assault from reactionary politicians). Sometimes called Expanded and Improved Medicare For All, such a not-for-profit, efficient public universal National Health Insurance would save hundreds of billions — again billions with a ‘B’ — of dollars, annually as the Physicians for National Health Program (PNHP)’s website documents. Another PNHP note cited a University of Massachusetts economics professor’s testimonyat a Congressional briefing about “more than a half-trillion dollars in efficiency savings in [the] first year of operation” were a single payer system instituted.
Although a good portion of those savings would, in a sane set-up, be turned not into even more cash-backs but into coverage for the uninsured (thus benefiting the rest of us also through lower dangers in infectious diseases among other things), those who have insurance today would benefit not only from far better truly comprehensive insurance not at the mercy of our employment, employer, or corporate insurer’s bean-counter — but also financially when the massive economic toll is added up for sick days avoided thanks to a not-for-profit system’s emphasis on earlier, cheaper, preventative treatment. And, avoiding the higher costs society bears in emergency room and other hospital care that would have cost far less had insurance covered it at earlier less severe stages.
Even back in the 1990s the GAO and the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) calculated savings, and they are true also today: hundreds of billions saved each and every year. We’ll conservatively assume the entire savings go to better coverage and a better, safer public health environment for us all, with no additional savings available for infrastructure investment or returning funds to the public. Nevertheless, it still would represent additional life quality improvements and untapped ways of increasing standards of living beyond all the preceding factors. In our daily struggles to survive, move ahead, and fight against sinking ever deeper into a valley of economic misery, we seem to have forgotten the much higher peaks that are attainable. This may be only natural, but shouldn’t we aim higher?
The inescapable conclusion is that this survey of the level of material safety, security and even high material prosperity every American could have, with a millionaire’s-level ‘floor’ from which they could further climb up, while it might initially have sounded “too good to be true,” in truth vastly underestimates the massive gains throughout American society that could be unlocked. (Disclaimer: we’re aware that among many other critiques of our economic system is the fact that exponential growth cannot continue indefinitely on a finite planet, logic that applies to the stock market. As should be clear by now, the point is to visualize and make palatable the unmitigated immensity of the wealth we are throwing away, which can most palpably be illustrated by using examples based on existing institutions. Nothing prevents us from realizing these savings and massive gains in human wellbeing while also working over the long term, and starting now in the short term, to reform, overhaul, and replace those aspects of the economic system that do not or cannot serve us in the long run.)
And maybe it’s not so surprising in retrospect? After all, we live in what is (as we sometimes forget) an extremely rich country in natural resources, human and technological ingenuity, and other advantages over other countries. The reason it doesn’t feel that way to most of us is rooted in the fundamentally pathological political and economic systems we’re saddled with. Small wonder, in hindsight, that we’re missing out on what could only be called, both materially and non-materially, fabulous levels of gains in overall wealth when we replace oligarchy, death, and destruction with productive investing. We must stop the corporate welfare- and Deep State-based war machine from continuing suck dry and hollow-out what’s left of the middle and working class before we slide further into “third world” status. The alternative demands that we take our destiny in our own hands and use our vast resources to actually invest in, and for, human beings. To invest in ourselves, in our neighbors and neighborhoods, and in our people. And instead of Death, to invest in that most valuable and precious of resources: Life.
|“If those in charge of our society — politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television — can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.” –Howard Zinn|
In practice, what we as citizens and as a society will probably wish to do with the massive savings from ending empire is to invest these savings, yes, but in the broadest sense of the word. That could mean investing in a wide variety of areas including various economically-stimulating public enterprises, infrastructure, job-retraining, research and development, healthcare (especially preventative), education, and more, which in turn would increase the quality of life — hence the wealth, in both material and non-material senses — of all of us in the United States.
Perhaps a significant portion of these investments could also come in the form, yes, of returning some of the savings to individuals, who may in turn choose to invest some or all of these funds towards personal supplementary retirement income goals. These personal investments could, in turn, be chosen to take place through traditional vehicles like the stock market, or in more forward-looking things. Like investing in local and democratic alternatives to Wall Street that have been proposed. Perhaps some individuals will feel more comfortable investing their limited personal savings in a combination of the two — familiar things like stocks and bond, and innovative community- or worker- owned retirement income-generating local or regional public enterprise vehicles — as activists gradually push forward the transition to a post-scarcity, collaborative decentralized and ecologically-sustainable system putting human beings above short term maximization of narrowly defined profits as is the unfortunate model and norm today.
Additionally, we as a society may have a third type of investment where immense savings from unplugging the machinery of endless war and mayhem can do a world of good, a type or monetary redirection lying betwixt the two tiers already discussed: between national and state-level investments in large scale projects on the one hand, and returning funds to individuals on the other. Such reinvestments in public enterprise projects could assist small businesses including cooperatives, worker-owned jobs and workplaces, including green-coop models.
Included could be neighborhood-scale entrepreneurial projects like the solar-powered corporate financial middleman-eliminating Brooklyn Microgrid and similar blockchain-based embryonic hints of new local economic models. Technology is no panacea, but embracing and encouraging appropriate technology and tools can give causes we believe in an advantage. There are also innovative non-corporate economic models in healthcare as we create local and regional solutions based on what works. An example is the United States Health Alliance, a national nonprofit healthcare co-op network being plannedwith standards, by the League of Uninsured Voters (LUV). Such grassroots work can take place in parallel to vigorous efforts to institute Medicare For All.
We must not settle for the ‘lesser evil’ — where for certain key issues the shoe may be on the other foot more often than we may be comfortable admitting to ourselves — and instead unite to promote the greater good.
Moving on to more familiar technologies like renewables, there’s encouraging progress. Not only ‘unprecedented’ and ‘astounding’ price-beats (UK and elsewhere), but also examples like Scotland meeting itsambitious 2020 carbon cut goals set in 2009 six years ahead of schedule and planning even deeper emissions cuts — and in Australia, “on a business as usual basis, without any further government policy efforts, renewable energy generation will represent as much as 74% of the power consumed by [South Australia] by 2025” and with 25% storage, according to a January 2018 report by Green Energy Markets.
We might have already checkmated the possibility of a hospitable climate system under Bush-Cheney and then as Hillary Clinton pushed hard for fracking around the world while Obama expanded drilling,while on his watch global carbon dioxide levels increased by 2 ppm (parts per million) or more for each of for five straight years — calendar 2012 through 2016; previously so much as three consecutive such years was unheard of — without the shocked headlines and demand for change which 2002’s and 2003’s back-to-back 2ppm/year increases (one of only two other times in the nearly 60 years’ record) elicited at the time. However, technology and economic realities may well have all but likewise checkmated Republican and DNC obstructionism from substantially further increasing the harm, particularly as the U.S.’s share of global emissions as well as population decreases (and with the number of U.S. cars already having peaked in 2008 as Obama came in, and per capita vehicle miles peaked a few years prior) while China’s coal consumption decreased in 2016 for the third year in a row (by almost 5%, and with renewables already constituting 19.7%) and China making remarkable progress and investments inrenewables. That’s putting aside that much of “China’s” emissions are in reality, our own indirect emissions as so much of what it manufactures are products the rest of us demand, China virtually acting as a factory for the rest of the planet.
But more exciting news came recently in a major study by researchers at Stanford University, Berkeley and Aalborg University in Denmark developed, tested and proved methods “of keeping the lights on if the world turns to 100% clean, renewable energy” with three separate ways of avoiding blackouts despite the intermittent nature of wind and solar power, and showing that a stunning 100% clean energy mix is “reliable enough to power at least 139 countries.” A press release stated:
“The fact that no blackouts occurred under three different scenarios suggests that many possible solutions to grid stability with 100 percent wind, water and solar power are possible, a conclusion that contradicts previous claims that the grid cannot stay stable with such high penetrations of just renewables…’One of the biggest challenges facing energy systems based entirely on clean, zero-emission wind, water and solar power is to match supply and demand with near-perfect reliability at reasonable cost,’ said Mark Delucchi, co-author..’Our work shows that this can be accomplished, in almost all countries of the world, with established technologies.’ “
The summary noted that while the cost of producing a unit of energy “is similar in the roadmap scenarios and the non-intervention scenario,” the research found that “the roadmaps roughly cut in half the amount of energy needed in the system” to provide the same comfort/use in the end, “so, consumers would actually pay less.”
In other news, hell froze over and heads exploded when the “Free (Corporatist) Trade is Always Good, and Anything Trump does is Bad” press reported on and even praised a significant win for jobs and for relocating factories to the U.S. resulting at least in part from the Trump administration’s Tariffs to help U.S. solar manufacturing grow (CNBC) while on other developments, CleanTechnica days prior wrote only partly ironically that “It’s Official: Trump Loves Renewable Energy, Hates Coal.” If we can get Trump voters to unite with us in pushing for follow-on policies, we would be foolish not to do so.
It’s up to us whether to denigrate, demean and assume the very worst about Trump voters (many of whom had voted for Obama in prior elections) and ignore them, or whether instead to smartly work withthem where and when we agree, or can agree (anti-Regime Change; anti-NAFTA/TPP for fair trade; infrastructure, and why not massive rural-jobs, alongside inner city jobs, via Green Energy including its infrastructure?) Doing so would certainly not prevent us from working against or without them on other issues when and where necessary. The Deep State and the D.C.-based “CIA Post” newspaper badly hope we do the former and remain divided — that is, remain weaker.
The analogous questions to that posed by Terkel are at least as relevant today. Like when modern-day red-baiters would also have us hate not only Russia when it opposes our government’s pro-terrorist regime change efforts but also to passionately hate every (and never cooperate with any) Trump voter. I mean, we might need to let our partners re-brand Green Infrastructure as “Red White and Blue Lasts-Forever-Energy that’s 100% American” infrastructure or something, but last I checked, getting others to cooperate with you to succeed and achieve the goals you have (for those goals which they too share) is called winning. It’s both moral and smart, especially when confronting militarism. Our mass-murdering and self-impoverishing global empire isn’t going to roll over and play dead.
If we wish to win, we should keep in mind the point made by Studs Terkel when the deep state and its media and famous talking heads attempt to shame us into a fractured, uncooperative, mutually ever-suspicious populace — into an utterly divided set of far less effective citizen-activists.
As the green energy and healthcare reviews demonstrate, not only can ending empire allow us to reach simply massive increases in personal, financial and human well-being and wealth, but we can gain even more security, health, wealth, and savings on top of that through these other sectors. We’ve been aiming too low. The Air Force advertising motto ‘Aim High’ is right — we just need to do it not in astronomical spending on the worldwide death machine of empire, but to refer to how high we can aim for human welfare and improved lives and lifestyle for all Americans.
Returning to the central point, we hope readers will remember and spread the word about both the Trillion Dollar Secret and the bombshell calculation — about the “everyone-a-millionaire“-level of wealth and prosperity we’re missing out on and could have by ending empire. If they doubt the numbers you cite, just send them to this article. In the thought experiment presented here, it’s ‘assumed’ that all funds are invested in the deeply flawed but most familiar, traditional vehicles of stocks for the sake of simplicity of presentation and because it makes it easy to visualize: we get one single stunning set of bottom-line numbers — depending only on how much we wish to cut the Empire Budget and at what starting and ending ages we look at the balances of an American’s hypothetical account — a jarring and vivid illustration. That is, everyone in the U.S. becomes an automatic millionaire (the new “floor”) going forward, a powerful realization of just how much we’re currently throwing down the drain in financial terms alone.
In other words, this hypothetical scenario is not prescriptive, but simply one dramatic way to begin to quantify the simply gargantuan amounts of wealth we are squandering, on top of the rivers of blood and countless broken lives which the perpetual war machine is creating. It is hoped that this extended calculation and thought experiment (and some of the above links and appendix below) are motivating and empowering for citizens and activists concerned with world peace — indeed, with world survival — and for building a brighter future for all Americans, for the Earth, and for all of humanity. ◼
Jacob David George (1982-2014) and Helen Keller (1880-1968)
“I’m just a farmer from Arkansas, there’s a lot of things I don’t understand,
like why we send farmers to kill farmers in Afghanistan.
I did what I’s told for my love of this land.
I come home a shattered man with blood on my hands.“Now I can’t have a relationship, I can’t hold down a job.
Some may say I’m broken, I call it Soldier’s Heart.
Every time I go outside, I gotta look her in the eyes
knowing that she broke my heart, and turned around and lied.”Red, white and blue, I trusted you and you never even told me why.”
The above is a song by Jacob David George who was just 19 years old when sent to fight the “War on Terror.” Jacob wrote that Soldiers Heart “more accurately describes my wounds and what I experienced” than the modern term of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and ultimately took his own life, a result of the “moral injury” that he said was a major part of PTSD.
Jacob also had written:
“With our choice to join the U.S. military, we soldiers gained great insights into the effects of war.During basic training, we are weaponized: our souls are turned into weapons. This intentional adjustment of the moral compass seems to be the onset of Moral Injury. Basic training demands the dehumanization of the enemy.
“Through my personal healing from PTSD, I’ve discovered it’s not possible to dehumanize others without dehumanizing the self.“
In memory of Jacob David George (1982-2014)
Helen Keller was born in 1880 and became both deaf and blind at a very early age. She learned to communicate by reading lips with her hand, a finger system alphabet and feeling vibrations, and by reading braille. She was friends with Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin, Mark Twain, and other progressive thinkers and met leading thinkers such as Rabindranath Tagore internationally.Keller was fluent in English, German and French, and most importantly, advocated for the disabled, for worker’s rights, contraception and women’s suffrage, democratic socialism and other causes that made her ahead of her time. For example, she was a donor to and supporter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), advocated for child welfare, and strongly spoke out for peace and against the military industrial complex. Below, from a 1916 speech Helen Keller gave, are excerpts highlighting her themes of empowering ordinary people to overcome the power of propaganda and the warmongering of corporate capitalists and their profit interests:
“The future of the world rests in the hands of America. The future of America rests on the backs of 80,000,000 working men and women and their children. We are facing a grave crisis in our national life. The few who profit from the labor of the masses want to organize the workers into an army which will protect the interests of the capitalists. You are urged to add to the heavy burdens you already bear the burden of a larger army and many additional warships. It is in your power to refuse”..All the machinery of the system has been set in motion….’Friends,’ it says, ‘fellow workmen, patriots; your country is in danger!’..[Americans] are taught that brave men die for their country’s honor. What a price to pay for an abstraction—the lives of millions of young men; other millions crippled and blinded for life; existence made hideous for still more millions of human beings.
“..As civilization has grown more complex the workers have become more and more enslaved..And what is their reward? A scanty wage, often poverty, rents, taxes, tributes and war indemnities.
“..It is your duty to insist upon still more radical measure. It is your business to see that no child is employed in an industrial establishment or mine or store, and that no worker in needlessly exposed to accident or disease. It is your business to make them give you clean cities, free from smoke, dirt and congestion. It is your business to make them pay you a living wage.
“..Strike against all ordinances and laws and institutions that continue the slaughter of peace and the butcheries of war. Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought.Strike against manufacturing scrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.” –Speech by Helen Keller given at Carnegie Hall on January 5, 1916.