Thursday, October 31, 2013

Orwell for Congress! (Never Mind, He’s Already There…)

Orwell for Congress! (Never Mind, He’s Already There…) By Thomas Magstadt Critics in this country have long railed against profligate military spending. They point out correctly that US taxpayers are saddled with a greater defense burden than is true in any other advanced society in the world. Taxpayers are curiously oblivious to this argument, so it's hardly surprising that calls for deep defense cuts fall on deaf ears in Congress. However, Republicans who fought to defund "Obamacare" and who oppose raising the debt ceiling, the very ones who clamor the loudest against the evils of big government and budget deficits but have no problem with outlandish expenditures on war and weapons, are shameless about demanding deep cuts in social spending. Thus, for example, in the spring of 2011: …the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives [was] intent on taking out fuel subsidies for the poor, federal funding for Planned Parenthood, money for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, and the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant that “supports state-based prenatal care programs and services for children with special needs,” among many other programs, but not (as New York Times columnist Gail Collins pointed out recently) the millions of dollars the U.S. Army sinks into its “relationship” with NASCAR. To repeat: these are the same politicians who never question the size or contents of a bloated defense budget and are not in the least troubled by the Pentagon's well-documented failure to account for untold billions of dollars that simply disappear without a trace every year. The US Defense Department hemorrhages taxpayer dollars and yet Congress continues to pretend that military and war-related waste and mismanagement aren't a problem. (Never mind, for example, that most of the $73 billion in AID money poured into Afghanistan apparently vanished into thin air.) Officially, the US spent about $645 billion last year. But anybody who knows anything about the federal budget knows that it's sliced and diced for political reasons in ways that would make any self-respecting public accountant cringe. According to one detailed analysis, actual US defense spending in 2011 was a staggering $1.2 to $1.3 trillion, a sum greater than the GDP of Australia or the Netherlands. A country with a GDP of that magnitude would have the 15th largest economy in the world. But let's pretend the official $645 billion figure is accurate. Even if we spent HALF as much as we really do we would still spend TWICE as much as China, India, and the rest of Asia; about 10 times more than Russia; as much as the next 15 biggest military powers combined (see below). Money for Guns: The US vs. the World… (billions $) 2012 Defense Expenditure (budget authority in billions of current U.S. dollars) Country or Region 2012 Spending United States (including war and nuclear) 645.7 Asia 314.9 Europe 280.1 Middle East and North Africa 166.4 Russia and Eurasia 69.3 Latin America and The Caribbean 68.8 Sub-Saharan Africa 19.2 Canada 18.4 Global Total 1,582.8 Countries of Interest (budget authority in billions of current U.S. dollars) Country 2012 Spending Percent of GDP United States* 645.7 4.12 Canada 18.4 1.04 China 102.4 1.24 Russia 59.9 3.06 United Kingdom 64.1 2.63 France 48.1 1.86 Germany 40.4 1.20 Japan 59.4 0.99 India 38.5 1.98 Italy 23.6 1.19 Brazil 35.3 1.45 Australia 25.1 1.63 Saudi Arabia 52.5 7.99 South Korea 29.0 2.52 Israel 19.4 7.85 Taiwan 10.3 2.21 Iran 23.9 4.95 North Korea ** ** Pakistan 5.9 2.55 Venezuela 6.1 1.80 Iraq 14.7 11.28 Afghanistan 2.1 10.54 Oman 6.7 8.42 Jordan 1.8 5.6 *Includes war and nuclear Source: Meanwhile, although we spend far more on war and weapons than any other country in the world, we spend less than a bunch of other countries on health, education, and pensions. The tables below tell a story, particularly when juxtaposed with defense outlays. 2013 Social Expenditures Country Rank Share of GDP (%) Australia 10 19.5 Brazil* 5 26.2 Canada 11 18.2 France 1 33.0 Israel 12 15.8 Italy 3 28.4 Japan 8 22.3 S. Korea 14 9.3 Mexico 15 7.4 Netherlands 6 24.3 Spain 4 27.4 Turkey 13 12.8 Sweden 2 28.6 UK 7 23.8 US 9 20.0 *In 2008-2009. (Source ECLAC) Social expenditure for selected policies in selected countries - share of GDP (%) Country Health Education Pensions Total Australia 5.7 4.5 7.1 17.1 Belgium 7.3 5.9 11.5 26.4 Canada 6.9 4.6 5.0 16.5 Denmark 5.9 8.3 11.6 27.1 Finland 6.2 6.3 13.2 26.1 France 7.8 5.7 14.5 29.2 Germany 7.7 4.5 13.5 26.7 Ireland 6.5 4.8 5.4 16.7 Italy 6.8 4.4 15.8 25.0 Norway 5.8 7.0 9.5 21.6 Spain 5.8 4.2 10.9 21.2 Sweden 6.8 6.9 15.8 29.4 United Kingdom 7.0 5.2 8.7 21.3 United States 6.7 5.0 7.4 15.9 Source: PNUD (for PPC), OECD and ECLAC for Brazil. So here's the 1.3 trillion dollar question: Why is it that whenever Congress gets out the meat cleaver, it's social – not military – expenditures that are on the chopping block? Don't expect the Democrats to demur either. Not cutting the defense budget is the ONLY BIG THING the two major parties agree on. Essentially, defense appropriations amount to a bipartisan exercise in throwing money at nearly every military base, fighter-bomber, battle ship, and boondoggle the military-industrial complex has been able to dream up since Congress passed the National Security Act in 1947. Talk about creating a monster! Sixty-six years later we have military facilities and defense contractors in every state and congressional district, 11 carrier battle groups (no other country currently has more than one operational carrier), and military bases in dozens of foreign lands. In 1984, George Orwell conjures up a dystopia called Oceania where "war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength". Try to imagine Washington without Orwellian language and labels. The Pentagon becomes the Department of Offense, NSA is the National Surveillance Agency, and Congress morphs into a single body called the House of Hypocrites. This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved. Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

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