The US has a serious addiction problem. George W Bush previously warned about its "addiction to oil." Current President Trump this week declared the nation's addiction to opiate drugs an "emergency." While his predecessor Barack Obama's calls for firearms controls following numerous mass shootings fueled concerns of "gun addiction."
But the biggest American addiction of all is hardly mentioned -- the country's massive dependency on war. On that problem, the country is living in denial, at least for those among its political class.
While Trump is feuding with Republicans and Democrats over passing his budget for tax cuts and social spending, one item remains off-limits for debate. The Congress is whistling through a record miltary spend of $700 billion for next year. That's an increase of some $50 billion on last year's budget for the military, which itself was something of a record.
As the US-based National Priorities Project audits, American military spending consumes over half of the annual $1.1 trillion discretionary budget. That allocation represents about 10 times what the US federal government spends on either education or healthcare out of its annual discretionary budget.
Putting that $700 billion annual military expenditure into a global context, the US spends 10 times more than either Russia, Britain or France. Or, put another way, the US spends the same aggregate amount as the next nine top world military spenders combined, including China, Russia, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
What's more, today the American military budget is at a record high compared with any other time during the Cold War. Think about that. Officially, the Cold War ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Yet, in a nominal period of peace, the US has escalated its war economy.
David Stockman, who worked as a senior economist in the Ronald Reagan administration during the 1980s, has compared the present military spend with previous peaks during the Cold War. In equalized dollar terms, he estimates that the current $700 billion figure is roughly double what the US was spending at the height of the Cold War during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
Another data point, in 1968 when the Vietnam War was raging, the annual American military spend was $400 billion, according to Stockman.
Even during the 1980s, when President Reagan launched an unprecedented arms race against the Soviet Union -- the US military budget reached a peak of $550 billion a year. That is, $150 billion less than what the Trump administration and Congress are proposing. A quarter-century after the Cold War supposedly ended.
Stockman, with some understatement, calls this allocation of US tax dollars "hideously oversized." He describes America as a "warfare state" and he predicts that the misallocation of resources is leading eventually to the nation's economic collapse. The "bleeding of fiscal solvency" is piling on ever-more national debt -- estimated already at $20 trillion.
There are many reasons why this insatiable consumption of national resources for the military should be deplored.
One good reason is the appalling neglect of social needs for millions of Americans. Trump is pushing through a $1.5-trillion tax cut plan -- which the Tax Policy Center calculates will largely benefit the super wealthy and corporations. That giveaway for the richest top 10 percent of the population will be paid for by brutal cuts in public spending on healthcare, social welfare, education, housing, and medical and scientific research.
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