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Moment of truth in the NY Times: Military Spending's Out of Control while Slashing It Could Easily Fund Medicare for All

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Military Expenditures 2018 SIPRI.
Military Expenditures 2018 SIPRI.
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Something very unusual happened on Thursday, Oct. 17. The New York Times suddenly ran an article on its opinion page explaining how to cut $300 billion from the $1-trillion military budget - enough, the article explained, to fund Bernie Sanders' proposed program for an expanded Medicare program to cover all Americans without raising a dime in new taxes.

The article, written by Lindsay Koshgarian, director of the Institute for Policy Studies' National Priorities Project , explained that by shifting the US diplomatic and military strategy from one of confrontation, endless wars, expansive overseas basing, and unilateralism to one of diplomacy, a pull-back from foreign bases and global deployments, with a concomitant reduction in the nation's 2.4 million-person military could be accomplished with no threat to US national security.

Koshgarian's opinion article actually listed the cuts that could be made, attaching a dollar value to each one. Examples were:

* End the practice of supplemental appropriations for war funding, much of which is actually used for more spending on other unintended military programs and which have only led to unending wars that have done nothing to make the US safer, for example in Iraq and Afghanistan. Savings: $66 billion per year.

* End funding for other nations' militaries. Savings $14 billion a year.

* Close foreign bases (Almost one-third of all uniformed US military personnel serve abroad, most of them in non-crisis-zone locations or combat zones). Savings: $90 billion

* Cancel nuclear programs. The US has 1550 or more operational nuclear weapons - enough to destroy any enemy, and indeed the whole globe -- yet at the end of his second term before leaving office, President Obama signed a bill launching a 10-year $1.7-trillion program to "modernize" and upgrade the US nuclear arsenal. It is a completely unneeded and destabilizing program certain to trigger a new global arms race. Immediate savings from eliminating this program: $43 billion a year.

* Cancel pointless weapons programs from the F-35 and F-22 to new Navy destroyers and aircraft carriers. These are all weapons that will never be used in any war against the US as all such wars, experts agree, would almost instantly go nuclear. Savings: $57 billion.

Just these five areas of cuts alone would save a total of $270 billion. The remaining savings in the IPS study came from smaller cuts, such as the $9 billion for Trump's Mexico border wall.

The surprise isn't that there are enormous savings to be had by ending America's imperial military and slashing its extravagant annual budget, which by one reckoning done by the Project on Government Oversight's Straus Military Reform Project is actually now closer to $1.25 trillion a year. It's that this opinion piece by Koshgarian is the first time that a major US news organization has published an article detailing how vast that spending is, and how useless and damaging to US society it has become. The Times in fact, has long been a cheerleader for more spending to confront alleged "threats" that its own news pages have fraudulently inflated over the years. These bogus scare stories have ranged from "missile gaps" to "Russian aggression in Ukraine," to "NATO weakness" to Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction," etc.

But Koshgarian is the first to admit that her article really didn't tell the whole story. She explains that space limitations imposed by the Times opinion page prevented her from expanding on the point she was making.

"The US military budget could actually be cut much more without harming US national security," Koshgarian said in an interview with ThisCantBeHappening! Her study, for example, suggested cutting some 200,000 to 220,000 US military personnel through closing bases and ending interminable US-launched wars and interventions in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Actually though, the number of US troops based abroad is double that figure, and virtually all of those soldiers, sailors, pilots and marines, perhaps with the exception of marine embassy guards, could be brought home, and US troop levels could be reduced by that amount. As well, she agreed, the US, has some 900,000 active-duty uniformed personnel based in the domestic US. That's a number greater than the China's People's Armed Police, the domestic troops that country's dictatorship uses to control its 1.4 billion people. What are America's domestic troops, and the top heavy officer corps above them, doing? On top of that, the US has another 1.1 million reservists and National Guard personnel in country, plus another 861,000 civilian employees. Altogether we're talking about a military of 3.26 million people - almost as many as the 3.68 million the US had in 1942!

Clearly the Pentagon could cut its domestic military payroll by a staggering amount. Since the military payroll accounts for about one-quarter of the annual Pentagon budget, that cut alone would produce an annual savings of some $250-$300 billion.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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5 people are discussing this page, with 7 comments


nelswight

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Opinion Page only, Dave, but it does show a weakening stance

for otherwise it would never appear except circular file.

Submitted on Monday, Oct 21, 2019 at 4:09:25 PM

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nelswight

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Circulation and ad sales must both be off.

Submitted on Monday, Oct 21, 2019 at 4:12:18 PM

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Dave Lindorff

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What gets barred from the Opinion pages of newspapers, including the NY Times is a good indication of the limits of "respectable discourse" for the editors and publishers of said publication.

The Times does not publish opinion pieces by Noam Chomsky, nor have they published anything submitted by me on any topic since I did a piece for them back in 1990 on rural public library funding (I was chair of our local little library in Spencer, NY at the time, so it almost doesn't count). Not to compare myself to Noam, but I am proud to be in his company on this!

Opinion pages are touted by editors as places where out-lying views can be aired, but in fact the limits of "outlying" are severely curbed in practice. So it is significant that someone suggesting calling for a 25% whack on the military budget gets published in the Times, it's a seismic event, although even Rep. Barney Frank, in his last year as establishment chair of the House Financial Services Committee, proposed cutting the military budget by the same amount, so it's not that big a thing.

My own view is it should be slashed at least by 75 to 90 percent, primarily by virtually shutting down the standing army and just relying on a reserve army for emergencies, as the fouders intended (more or less). They wisely feared standing armies, and we should too (as well as flying ones and floating ones).

Dave Lindorff

founding editor of ThisCantBeHappeing.net

Submitted on Monday, Oct 21, 2019 at 5:12:24 PM

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nelswight

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Reply to Dave Lindorff:   New Content

You spill out some good mouthfuls, Dave. Thanks.

Submitted on Monday, Oct 21, 2019 at 8:39:17 PM

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Henry Lowendorf

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Perhaps we could do away with the DOD and just rely on a well managed Homeland Security. After all, it's the 99% that need security not the profits of the big corporations that get security.

Submitted on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019 at 2:34:09 AM

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Real Soldiers need Real Leaders, not defects from New York Military Academy. https://www.army.mil/info/organization/

Submitted on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019 at 11:11:16 AM

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Derryl Hermanutz

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Great article! It should be common sense to slash the vast sums the US spends on "defense", in a nuclear armed world where there are no credible threats of anybody attacking or invading US territory. And it should be equally common sense to cut the plundering insurance companies and other middlemen out of the US health care industry, to vastly reduce costs to health care users.

But there are 2 sides to "costs", as this quote from the article makes clear,

"Since the military payroll accounts for about one-quarter of the annual Pentagon budget, that cut alone would produce an annual savings of some $250-$300 billion."

A $300 billion reduction in government/military payroll spending equals a $300 billion reduction in the incomes of all the now unemployed workers/soldiers who are on the receiving end of that spending. I am not trying to justify military spending as a make work project to pay incomes to 100s of 1000s of military personnel. I am just pointing out that it would be a massive job destruction program that would result in 1000s of unemployed workers defaulting on their mortgages and other loans, and being unable to pay their cost of living bills, when their incomes suddenly evaporate.

The annual trillion dollar US war spending becomes the annual trillion dollar income of the literally millions of people who work in one of the biggest industries in the US: the War industry. Health care is another of the biggest industries. Cutting the waste out of these 2 industries means a significant reduction in US GDP, which is measured as money spent buying all the (war) goods and (health) services that are produced. That spending becomes the incomes of the workers and corporate shareholders in the industries.

There is a good argument that piecemeal efforts to restructure the failed US financial-economic system will generate more unintended harm than intended good. If the problems are going to be addressed, it will have to be from a systemic perspective that offers alternatives for the millions of people whose jobs would be lost by eliminating all the "wasteful" spending.

On the other hand, another benefit of vastly scaling back the US military is that it is presently the single largest burner of fossil fuels on Earth; and among the biggest polluters of air, water and land with its toxic exhausts and weapons byproducts. I am astonished that US environmentalists are not the most vocal advocates of US military reduction.

Submitted on Thursday, Oct 24, 2019 at 12:14:39 AM

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