The military budget is insolvent. All the money that we put into the military trust fund has gone away. In fact, the Pentagon is losing so much money that it threatens to bankrupt the entire American economy.
But, we ought not to be surprised. The military is a ponzi scheme that has never paid for itself. Year after year, the military completely fails to turn a profit, and comes back to the American people, asking for more money to fill up its empty accounts. At the same time, the Pentagon refuses to reform its wasteful programs, which are filled with corruption and fraud.
Does this judgment sound unfair?
It’s the same judgment that the Republican Party currently makes against a huge number of government programs – but never against the American military. The Republicans are asking to cut a huge number of programs that contribute measurably to the way of life that Americans enjoy, using the same criticism you see above.
Replace the word “military” in the passage above with “Social Security” or “Amtrak” or “U.S. Postal Service”, and all of a sudden, the argument becomes familiar. The language is identical with the language that the Republicans use to attack effective government programs.
Social Security has been a wildly successful program. It’s helped hundreds of millions of Americans to weather personal tragedies and mass economic downturns. Through several recessions, Social Security has never failed to make the promised payments to the Americans who have invested in the system with their own hard work.
The U.S. Postal Service is a remarkably solid program that’s worked for generations. It’s a strong employer in large cities and rural communities alike, delivering packages and letters with reliability. The daily benefit of the USPS is seen every time we open up our mailboxes.
If Amtrak could be better, it’s because it’s not big enough. Amtrak moves huge numbers of Americans with fewer delays than the commercial airline industry, and with astonishing energy efficiency, when compared to the messy money pit that is the automotive transportation infrastructure.
These government programs continue to provide a substantial, measurable benefit to the American people year after year after year. What’s more, their budgets are a tiny fraction of the annual military budget and supplemental military spending.
What has the benefit of the American military been? Thousands of Americans dead. Even more disabled for life. Two wars that were fundamentally flawed in their assumptions, and failed in their objectives.
Year after year, the military sucks hundreds of billions of dollars out of our economy, without delivering any tangible benefit to our society. The economic benefit of government military spending is inefficient, in that it doesn’t create an infrastructure that’s a useful domestic resource.
Amtrak keeps the rails maintained. The USPS provides a solid foundation for business. Social Security brings money to every community, and keeps huge numbers of Americans fed, sheltered, and safe. The military, on the other hand, cloisters itself in big bases separated from most American communities.
The Republicans in Congress want the American people to overlook this tremendous waste of our national resources. Their spending legislation seeks to create a special loophole by which military spending cannot be cut, while much more effective government programs are eviscerated. Republicans insist that other government programs be profitable, but ask us to keep pouring money into a military that hasn’t been able to achieve its objectives.
Republicans ask us to accept that the military will be a permanent, monumental drain on our national economy. Democrats in Congress, for their part, go along with the Republicans’ efforts to shield the military from fiscal accountability.
It wasn’t always this way. The founder of the Republican Party, Thomas Jefferson, was opposed to the creation of a permanent U.S. military. He wrote, in 1807, that “The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force.”
The Democratic Party once also acknowledged the tremendous economic burden of a large military. The platform of the Democratic Party in 1900 included this statement: “We oppose militarism. It means conquest abroad and intimidation and oppression at home. It means the strong arm which has ever been fatal to free institutions. It is what millions of our citizens have fled from in Europe. It will impose upon our peace loving people a large standing army and unnecessary burden of taxation, and will be a constant menace to their liberties.”
Budget cutting legislation currently being considered by Congress continues to send resources into the strong arm of militarism, while withering the institutions that support our national prosperity.
The military is not projected to become insolvent 10 years from now, or 20 years from now. It’s insolvent right now.
If budget cutting must be done, the bloated, insolvent military should be the first, not the last, target.