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military spending

You don’t – at least, I certainly don’t – see as much talk about the national debt as there was, say, back in the 1990’s. Perhaps even debt hawks among the sorriest dregs and rinsings of the contemporary human intellect – the conservative punditry – realize that the issue has lost its edge since it’s become clear that a huge federal debt doesn’t mean economic apocalypse.
 
But that’s not to suggest that a gi-normous national debt is a good thing. Especially if you consider what has really caused it. If you’re reading this you’re presumably enough into the issue to have seen graphs like the following plenty of times before.
 
US-national-debt-GDP-graph
 
Yeah, it started with Almighty Reagan’s tax cuts for the rich and military spending. And the fundamentals haven’t changed. The U.S. national debt is nothing more or less than the cost of 35+ years of aggrandizing the plutocrats and warmongers.
 
But the real cost of prioritizing that aggrandizement is even greater – indeed, far greater. It’s the cost of the lost potential inherent in a shrinking middle class, and a long-term underclass being screwed in almost every conceivable way. And so on; again, if you’ve read this far, having come to this blog, you know what I’m typing about. Fundamentally, we’re talking about constrained to virtually nonexistent access to substantial resources and opportunity for those not born to wealth, or otherwise granted ready access to it.
 
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Pentagon can’t account for $6.5 trillion

by Dan Burns on August 26, 2016 · 1 comment

DF-ST-87-06962 	The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense.  DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force.Earlier this year I did some blogging about military spending. It was from an uncomplimentary perspective, but that doesn’t mean that I foresaw this.
 

A Department of Defense inspector general’s report released (in July) offered a jaw-dropping insight into just how bad the military’s auditing system is.
 
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the behemoth Indianapolis-based agency that provides finance and accounting services for the Pentagon’s civilian and military members, could not provide adequate documentation for $6.5 trillion worth of year-end adjustments to Army general fund transactions and data.
 
The DFAS has the sole responsibility for paying all DOD military and personnel, retirees and annuitants, along with Pentagon contractors and vendors. The agency is also in charge of electronic government initiatives, including within the Executive Office of the President, the Department of Energy and the Departing of Veterans Affairs.
 
There’s nothing in the new IG’s report to suggest that anyone has misplaced or absconded with large sums of money. Rather, the agency has done an incompetent job of providing written authorization for every one of their transactions – so-called “journal vouchers” that provide serial numbers, transaction dates and the amount of the expenditure.
(Fiscal Times)

Here’s the report. I think it also well worth noting here that more than half of the Pentagon budget goes to for-profit contractors.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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Wasteful Pentagon Spending and Costly Wars Hurting Minnesota Communities

by Professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer on November 1, 2012 · 0 comments

Authors:  MN Sen. Sandy Pappas and Professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer

As a State Senator and University Professor, we see evidence of a growing list of social problems facing Minnesota communities at a time when budget constraints impede solutions while federal priorities privilege wasteful Pentagon spending and costly wars.  Many Minnesota communities have lain off teachers, firefighters, police, and other civil servants.  Investments have lagged in roads, bridges, and basic infrastructure.  Libraries have cut hours and staff.  Class sizes have risen in public schools.  Community programs that serve at-risk youth and the needs of the poor have suffered as pain from austerity budgets trickles down from the federal government to states, counties, cities, and neighborhoods.

We hear repeatedly that more pain is coming as the nation approaches a “fiscal cliff” that will require more austerity and deeper cuts.  Largely absent from this discussion is that many of the negative social consequences of austerity could be avoided if our nation stopped squandering its treasure on wasteful Pentagon spending and costly, unnecessary wars.  It was Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who warned the nation of dire consequences linked to the rising power of a “military industrial complex” (MIC).  He understood that because of the “misplaced power” of the MIC our democracy was threatened and that military spending levels, and even the wars our nation would fight, were now disconnected from actual defense needs.  War and wasteful Pentagon spending were becoming sources of money, power and influence, not a means to security.

On Wednesday October 10th, the St. Paul City Council unanimously approved RES 12-1859, a resolution calling on “the Minnesota Congressional Delegation to support shifting federal funding priorities from military operations to meeting the essential needs of our local communities.”

The body of the resolution noted that Minnesota taxpayers spent nearly $5 billion to fund the Iraq and Afghan wars in 2011 alone, bringing total Minnesota taxpayer spending for these wars to more than $38.5 billion.  In addition to these costly wars, wasteful Pentagon spending grew dramatically in recent years.  Minnesota taxpayers spent more than $16 billion in 2012 for our share of the base Pentagon budget, a budget that increased from $290.5 billion to $526 billion between 2000 and 2011.  The St. Paul City Council noted the local impact of these priorities:  “the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program will likely see significant reductions in 2012…due to federal spending reductions.”  These cuts would result in less spending on “capital projects, public service programs, property maintenance and program administration…”        

The resolution defends support for veterans while lamenting that Congress currently devotes 59 cents of every dollar of discretionary spending for military purposes (the budget for veterans is separate).  We concur fully with the City Council’s request to shift priorities and with its assessment that “military spending impacts the nation’s economic recovery and national debt issues” and that the nation “desperately needs to better balance its approach to national security to include the economic, social, and environmental needs of our communities, state, and nation.”

Senator Sandy Pappas (65-DFL) is Vice President of the Women Legislators’ Lobby, a Program of Women’s Action for New Directors (WAND).   Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer is Associate Professor of Justice and Peace Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and a co-founder of the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (MN ASAP).  

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Don’t Forget to Remember: Amnesia about War Costs is Costly

by Professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer on September 11, 2012 · 0 comments

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer Blog
September 10, 2012

Don’t Forget to Remember:  Amnesia about War Costs is Costly

Americans like to think of the United States as a uniquely blessed and noble nation.  Chants of “USA, USA” or “We’re # 1” are commonplace at international sporting events, party conventions, or impromptu celebrations following the killing of arch-villains like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.  And yet when we measure and compare important social welfare indicators of the United States to that of other developed countries it turns out we aren’t number 1.  In fact our nation does very poorly relative to others.

The United States has higher incidences of mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, and gender inequality; greater anxiety, fear, and stress; lower life expectancy; higher rates of infant mortality, child poverty, and incidences of obesity; greater social stratification and concentrations of poverty; poorer educational performance and lower literacy rates; more teenage births, violent crime, and homicides; poorer health outcomes and higher costs; higher imprisonment rates, prison population, and more punitive prison practices; less generosity, including fewer funds for foreign aid; and, lower social mobility.

The United States does rank high in two categories that explain its poor showing above:  It is among the most unequal of all developed countries in terms of distribution of income and wealth (equity is closely associated with positive social outcomes and inequality with poor outcomes); and, it spends almost as much money on militarism and war (“national security”) as the rest of the world combined.

Consider the following:
•In 2012, Congress devoted 59 cents of every dollar of federal discretionary spending to military purposes.

•The cumulative budget shortfalls of 48 states in 2011 totaled $130 billion, $40 billion less than the U.S. spent that same year on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

•The United States will spend more on the war in Afghanistan in 2013 than the entire U.S. budget for food stamps.

•Many small towns, cities and rural communities in Minnesota and elsewhere have laid off police, firefighters, and teachers, and slashed essential services in response to cuts in state aid and/or federal cuts to Community Development Block Grants.  

•Minnesota taxpayer spending for war far exceeds the state’s budget deficits with Minnesotans having spent nearly $5 billion to fund the Iraq and Afghan wars in 2011 alone, bringing total Minnesota taxpayer spending for these wars to nearly $40 billion.

•In addition to these costly wars Minnesota tax payers are spending more than $16 billion in 2012 for our share of the base Pentagon budget, a budget that increased from $290.5 billion to $526 billion between 2000 and 2011.  

We would do well to remember Martin Luther King’s prophetic warning that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death;” and President Eisenhower’s insights that “every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…”  

Election years are dominated by competing claims about which political party or candidate is most responsible for the nation’s economic problems and competing promises about solutions.  Claims and counterclaims are echoed by the mainstream media and through an endless stream of misleading ads.  These ads are financed by millions of dollars from “Super PACs” and from nonprofit “social welfare” organizations that can spend unlimited funds without disclosing the identities of donors.  This corporate-driven, money-constricted system means our democracy is sick.  It has infected both major parties with illnesses that are crippling.  In fact, if U.S. democracy were a patient then it would be fair to say it is in critical condition, on life-support, with no guarantees of return to health.  

The fact that we have a money-driven political system doesn’t mean that there are no meaningful differences between the two major parties.  What is surprising, however, is how little attention is being directed at the bipartisan support for the militarization of federal budget priorities and war spending that hurts the economy and undermines the social fabric of our nation.

As we arrive at the 11th anniversary of the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, it is clear that our nation desperately needs to better balance its approach to national security to include the economic, social, and environmental needs of our communities, state, and nation.  If we are to do so we will need to see connections between federal spending priorities that privilege war and unmet needs in our local communities.

In October the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (http://www.mnasap.org) is partnering with other groups throughout the country to call attention to the high costs of militarization.  We are encouraging individuals and local groups to bring a simple resolution before local city councils (or to start a resolutions process).  In Minnesota what we are asking is simple:  

Therefore be it resolved that we, (insert name of city council here) call on Senators Klobuchar and Franken, and Representatives Walz, Kline, Paulsen, McCollum, Ellison, Bachmann, Peterson and Cravaack as well as President Barack Obama, to shift federal funding priorities from war and the interests of the few, to meeting the essential needs of us all.

For information on how you can be part of this city council resolutions campaign visit http://www.mnasap.org or http://newprioritiesnetwork.or…  

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I wish I could respond with “yes,” but in reality, probably not.

With the possibility of the DoD cutting near $500 billion in ten years with the new budget, and near $500 billion in nine years if Congressional “sequestration” happens by the end of this year, the Pentagon is swooning and predicting doom. However, even with the sequestration cuts, the Pentagon would be going back to 2006 levels, where George Bush and Dick Cheney were fighting two wars and threatening other parts of the world while buying giant overrun weapons like the F-22 and the F-35. After all these years monitoring and exposing fraud and waste in the DoD, I am used to promises of doom whenever the DoD bureaucracy does not get exactly what it wants. However, with the unlikely sequestration cuts looming, the Pentagon and its contractors are acting apocalyptic.

(That’s a great, comprehensive article, and is well worth perusing in full, even though it is somewhat sickening to be reminded of just how foul the squealing warmongers really are.  Those who knowingly and deliberately profit hugely from death and suffering deserve the worst possible consequences, if you ask me.  For a long time now, they’ve had the opposite.)

The public has fewer problems with military spending cuts than with some other items being discussed.  Not that most of their elected representatives care.

How can it be “public spirited” when they’re offering up tax increases on other people and cuts to Social Security and Medicare in order to avoid deep defense cuts? That sounds more like passing the buck. And it’s certainly not in tune with public opinion. Last winter, a CBS/NYT poll found overwhelming majorities calling for cutting military spending (52 percent) over cutting Social Security (13 percent) or Medicare (15 percent). Cutting defense spending is consistently supported by the public, as much as protecting seniors from benefit cuts is a priority.

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President Obama’s proposal for defense spending actually involves reductions.  If you look at all closely, though, they ain’t much.

“The Pentagon’s proposed reductions in its spending plans are far too low,” according to William Hartung, a veteran defense analyst at the Washington-based Center for International Policy.

“If the administration were to follow up on its own rhetoric on smaller conventional forces, getting rid of outdated Cold War-era systems, and reduce our nuclear forces, it could double its proposed cuts in Pentagon spending to one trillion dollars over the next decade. That would be a real down payment on reductions that need to be made to have a significant impact on reducing future deficits,” he said.

“This is an extremely modest build-down,” said Miriam Pemberton of the Institute for Policy Studies, who noted that the anticipated 2013 Pentagon budget that Obama will request in his State of the Union Address to Congress later this month will amount to only four percent less than the previous five-year average.

More below the fold.
Of course a lot of people, many with deep vested interests in this matter, have a different, far less reality-based, take.  But even there, there are wheels within wheels.

The two leading Republican candidates for president, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, immediately denounced Obama’s proposal and reiterated their calls for significant increases in defense spending over the next 10 years.

But the issue divides the Republican Party between two kinds of hawks: defense hawks and budget hawks. A few Republicans, such as Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, have called for even deeper cuts in defense spending than Obama has dared propose. And even Arizona Sen. John McCain, who lost the presidential election to Obama in 2008, has said he accepts the premise that defense spending must be trimmed; McCain said he would study the president’s plan “carefully and thoroughly” before issuing any critique.

Everyone knows that we’ll all be speaking Chinese, Arabic, or whatever – something other than “God’s language,” anyway – if we fall behind in the “clash of civilizations.”

Note, in the above, Iran.  Every GOP presidential candidate except Ron Paul has pimped war with that country, during the campaign.  Not that corporate media has given that potentially disastrous fact, appropriate attention.

Since the dawn of civilization itself, those obsessed with power have used militaristic fearmongering as a means of obtaining, retaining, and extending control.  We’re just seeing the same old thing, in much of the response to Obama’s extremely cautious proposal, and in contemporary politics in general.

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