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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/25/20

Bernie Finally Puts a Number on Cutting Military Spending

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Bernie Sanders' campaign has published a fact sheet on how everything he proposes can be paid for. On that fact sheet we find this line in a list of items that collectively will pay for a Green New Deal:

"Reducing defense spending by $1.215 trillion by scaling back military operations on protecting the global oil supply."

Of course there is an obvious problem or mystery about this number, namely, isn't it too damn good to be true? The full cost of military spending including numerous agencies plus debt for past wars, etc., is $1.25 trillion a year. While one might like to hope that Bernie is intent on leaving the military only $0.035 trillion a year, it seems highly unlikely that he means that. It's highly unlikely that he even thinks of military spending costing $1.25 trillion a year rather than the $0.7 trillion a year or so that goes to the one agency misnamed the Department of Defense.

Elsewhere, the fact sheet uses 10-year periods to refer to certain numbers, and 10 years is the most common random period of time used by people to confuse budget figures for no apparent reason. However, Bernie's Green New Deal Plan, which has long been online, refers to "15 years" just prior to referring to cutting back military spending by an unstated amount. This makes it highly likely that 15 years is the clue to this particular obfuscation.

$1.215 trillion divided by 15 is $81 billion. And $81 billion per year is the super-conservative figure that a study estimated the U.S. spends "to protect global oil supplies." I think we can safely conclude that Sanders is proposing to take $81 billion a year out of militarism.

Of course, $81 billion falls dramatically short of the $350 billion that progressive groups have proposed moving out of militarism annually, or even the $200 billion urged by Public Citizen, or even the high range of the $60 billion to $120 billion that the CATO Institute suggests saving merely by closing foreign military bases.

On the other hand, the Sanders campaign has finally revealed a number related to moving money out of militarism, but only in relation to paying for part of a Green New Deal. It's possible to fantasize, in the absence of any information, that Sanders wants to move other bits of military spending to other human and environmental needs. Sanders has claimed he wants a "very different" military budget, dramatically reduced; he just hasn't put any approximate number on it at least not in recent years.

As Politico reported four years ago on Sanders, "In 1995, he introduced a bill to terminate America's nuclear weapons program. As late as 2002, he supported a 50 percent cut for the Pentagon. And he says corrupt defense contractors are to blame for 'massive fraud' and a 'bloated military budget.'" Those last bits are not really disputable facts, but the fact that Bernie has said them out-loud augurs danger for war profiteers.

The trouble is that presidents for the past couple of centuries have performed less well in office than their campaign platforms, not better. Secretly imagining that Bernie simply must want to significantly reduce militarism is highly unlikely to produce a President Sanders who works hard to reduce militarism much less a mass public movement that works hard to compel Congress to do so. Our best chance at moving money in a major way our of mass-murder and into mass-protection-of-life is to demand that Bernie Sanders take a position now. Moving money out of the military and into human and environmental needs is a hugely popular position in polls and has been for many years. The corporate media doesn't like it, but the corporate media is already all-in on trying to stop Bernie it can't get any worse. Taking a position now would be beneficial to Sanders and distinguish him from other candidates.

Let's look at how Bernie's fact sheet proposes to pay for things.

College For All > Wall Street speculation tax.

Expanding Social Security > Lifting the cap on Social Security.

Housing For All > Wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent.

Universal Childcare/Pre-K > Wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent.

Eliminating Medical Debt > Income inequality tax on large corporations that pay CEOs at least 50 times more than average workers.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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