U.S. military budget saps economy
Once again the military budget is rising, dashing hopes that the new administration would reverse the course of the Bush years. As many as 100,000 troops are being added to the military, with 22,000 slated to go to Afghanistan.
The annual budget of the Department of Defense will go from $487.7 billion to $527.7 billion this year. However, the cost of the Iraq/Afghanistan invasions and occupations, which is counted separately, will come to at least another $150 billion for the fiscal year.
To get a true measure of the cost of imperialist expansion and intervention, add in the debt payments for past military spending ($263 billion), nuclear weapons paid for through the Department of Energy ($22 billion), Homeland Security ($57 billion), military construction ($25 billion) and the CIA ($48 billion). It all adds up to more than $1 trillion. (Rolling Stone Magazine; Center for Defense Information)
The United States accounts for nearly half of the combined military budgets of the entire planet. The Pentagon budget comes to more than the gross domestic product of all 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. (World Bank)
On the same day that the military budget was released, a report came out entitled “Feeding America.” Based on 2005-2007 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Agriculture Department, it found that in this country 3.5 million children under the age of 5 go hungry. That’s 17 percent of all children in the U.S. But the imperialist priority is to build billions of dollars worth of new weapons each year.
The Pentagon is wholly in the hands of the ruling class. Its function is to secure global markets, loot natural resources and subjugate the workers of each country for the capitalists. Its mission is to destroy any opposition to this from governments and popular rebellions, causing millions to die each year.
The militarists justify these monumental costs in the name of “national security.” But to have real security, all people need jobs, homes, health care, food, education and culture. All this is being sacrificed at the altar of the U.S. military-industrial-banking complex (MIBC). The significance of these mind-numbing figures lies not only in the Pentagon’s brutality and cost but its growing control over every aspect of society.
‘Generals over the White House’
In his book “Generals over the White House” (WW Publishers, 1980), Sam Marcy wrote that “The Military Industrial Complex is an historically inevitable outgrowth of the inherent tendencies in capitalist production in the epoch of imperialism. ... [With] the accelerating degeneration of monopoly capitalism into state monopoly capitalism ... the military in pursuit of its ends constantly needs greater and greater resources of an economic, industrial and technological character.”
Early capitalism, while brutal, expanded industry. Its profits grew with the exploitation of labor globally. Today, with global markets glutted, the capitalists cannot reinvest most of that profit into useful production. Instead, monopoly capitalism is addicted to three pillars of obscene profit: looting public treasuries through debt, military expenditures and a host of money speculation schemes like those that brought on the current bank crisis. None produce anything of value.
Capitalism, unlike socialism, is not a rational, planned system of production and mass distribution. Capitalism goes where the rate of profit is highest and damn the consequences. Any monopoly capitalist wanting to make huge profits must feed at the public military trough.
Weapons and military technology are not bought at a store. Governments buy them, with the people’s money. The MIBC simply robs the treasury with the agreement of the politicians it puts in office—agreement obtained either through threat or bribery. Each year the government borrows money to cover the cost. If it means cutting schools and hospitals, or letting New Orleans be buried in water, so be it.
Can Obama reverse this?
“The military wants to run the state,” wrote Marcy. “It grows out of the evolution of the fusion of the military with the industrial and banking complex. ... Politicians cannot resist.” When Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower left office in 1961 after two terms as president, he warned of the rise of the military-industrial complex, a term he coined. Almost 50 years later, the invasion of the military into all civilian matters has gone much further.
We’re familiar with the revolving door of retired military brass taking executive positions in military companies. The flip side of that is to bring corporate executives in to run the military. In the first Bush-Cheney administration, 32 executives or major shareholders of weapons contractors were appointed to top policy-making positions in the Pentagon, the National Security Council, the Department of Energy and the State Department. (World Policy Institute Special Report, October 2004) They are still there, with hundreds more infiltrating all the councils of the White House and Congress.
A comparison with the Carter administration can shed light on today’s reality. Jimmy Carter ran on a program of cutting the military budget and signing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT). During his four years in office there was the largest increase in military expenditures thus far. He scrapped SALT. The Carter Doctrine defined the Persian Gulf as an American lake to be defended with “all the force necessary.” The country was in a recession.
Sam Marcy explained that, regardless of Carter’s personal intentions, he could not withstand the pressure and threats of the MIBC. Carter wound up appointing four right-wing Republicans to key posts. Admirals, generals and their close associates ran critical aspects of the government, both inside the White House and out.
A who’s who of President Barack Obama’s administration goes a long way in explaining the call for higher military spending, more troops and continued occupation regardless of Obama’s intentions. First and foremost, Bush Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was kept on the job. Commanding Gen. David Petraeus said, “If President Obama wants to make any dramatic changes in the Pentagon, he’s going to have to do them in the first year, and if he’s got the same secretary, how can Obama do it.” (New York Times, Jan. 21)
Gen. James Jones is Obama’s national security advisor and head of the National Security Council, where Gates and Petraeus also sit. Jones, whose office is practically next to Obama’s, is “a classic, pragmatic conservative,” wrote Robert Dreyfuss. “He’s a titan of the military-industrial complex. He is pro-nuclear. He likes oil drilling. He was on the boards of Boeing and Chevron.” (Rolling Stone Magazine, May 14) Jones opposed a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and was formerly a deputy to McCain.
Dreyfuss wrote that the National Security Council is changing, but not for the better. “They are giving a far wider range of agencies a seat on the NSC, including key officials involved in trade, energy, economic policy and technology.” The new mission is to take up all aspects of society, military and economic.
“When the president cannot attend, Gen. Jones runs top-level meetings. ... They’re making the decisions there at the White House on everything,” said Leslie Gelb, a former State and Pentagon official.
Military spending doesn’t help workers
Mass layoffs continue and home foreclosures are soaring. But Wall Street felt better when the military budget was announced. Raytheon CFO David Wajsgras said, “There was nervousness. We are encouraged, this budget did very well for the company. Stocks rose 7 percent.” (Wall Street Journal, April 23)
Good for the capitalists, bad for the workers. A trillion dollars a year for the military will not stimulate the economy and produce jobs, but it will further replace civilian production.
Marcy wrote, “Carter conveyed the impression that the defense budget would cushion a recession and curb unemployment. Wall Street was happy.” The Wall Street Journal wrote in January 1980 that it would mean more jobs and an end of recessionary expectations.
Why didn’t that happen, asks Marcy. “Military production, if it is relied on as a stimulant over a protracted period, like any other stimulant ultimately turns into its opposite and becomes a devastating depressant. Militarism is an intractable capitalist disease in which production is destined for a blind market for profit and not for human use.
“Military production in the epoch of imperialism is a special case of commodity production. Marx wrote in ‘Capital’ that ‘The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails presents itself as an immense accumulation of commodities.’
“The products of the MIC are by Marxist definition commodities. However, in addition to having an exchange value, commodities must also have a use value. The process of capitalist production and exchange in the final analysis means that the capitalist, in order to realize a profit, must produce a useful product. If not, it undermines the very process of capital reproduction. The sum total of the products that emanate from the MIC is devoid of usefulness to society.”
Marcy explained that “cranking up the war machine in the 1930s was a stimulus to the capitalist economy, but it was the U.S. appropriation of markets and raw materials from allies and foes that vastly enriched monopoly capitalism at home.” Since Korea “the U.S. imperialist establishment has flooded the U.S. as well as the rest of the world with small bits of paper of decreasing value: indebtedness incurred as a result of the military adventures for which there has been no material return or compensation for the vast expenditures entailed in producing the planes, guns, tanks, etc.”
The “new” bail-out-the-banks philosophy is that saving them and spending on the military will resuscitate the economy. But this warmed-over, trickle-down theory is self-serving and a lie. A funded public jobs program at a decent wage would do much more to stimulate the economy for the workers—but superprofits for a narrow group of monopolists trumps, because they run the government.
In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Sen. Allen J. Ellender of Louisiana said, “The truth of the matter is that in many important respects, the Congress and the nation are in the hands of the military. ... The administration and generals, Department of State seem to have the ways and means of getting just about what they want regardless of the monetary difficulties affecting the nation.”
Militarism may still keep the heart of monopoly capitalism pumping. But it is not as powerful as the global working class could be, fighting shoulder to shoulder to wrest back some of what we need and to liberate humanity once and for all.