Money for Food or for Nuclear Weapons?
We live in strange times, indeed. In the past few months, the U.S. Congress has failed to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people and has passed legislation that will cut $8.6 billion in food stamps over the next 10 years, affecting 850,000 households in 1/3 of the states.
At the same time, the 2015 budget shows a 7% increase in spending on nuclear weapons, from $18.6 billion to $19.4 billion -- almost $1 billion. While the overall amount allocated for nuclear weapons is greater than last year, the funds dedicated to nuclear nonproliferation programs -- programs to reduce the numbers of available warheads or securing so-called "loose nukes" was cut, making more dollars available to either build new nuclear weapons hardware or spend billions to modernize old ones, such as the B-61 bomb.
If this budget is accepted it will show once again that our nation's priorities favor increased spending on weapons of mass destruction at the expense of programs that help people survive tough times and keep food on their tables. At a time when our economy continues to struggle and the gap between rich and poor widens, how is it that our elected officials opt to spend more money on nuclear weapons? It is the wrong time to promote additional spending on nuclear weapons when diplomacy is easing tensions between the international community and Iran, a country which once again has assured the world that it is not planning to build nuclear weapons or when another diplomatic agreement obliged Syria to destroy its chemical weapons.
After spending $4 -- 6 trillion on war since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the American public is war-weary and war-wise. The tremendous outpouring of opposition to a proposed military strike against Syria or war against Iran is due, in part, to an increasing number of Americans understanding the connection between these huge outlays of cash for war and a treasury drained of funds to help local communities.
Winslow Wheeler's March 13th article titled " America's $1 Trillion National Security Budget" published by the Straus Military Reform's Project on Government Oversight, explains how the Pentagon's criticism of a proposed $495.6 billion military budget for 2015 as "austere and dangerously inadequate" is misleading. According to Wheeler, "Scarcity of money is not their problem. Pentagon costs, taken together with other known national security expenses for 2015, will exceed $1 Trillion." Included in Wheeler's analysis are:
a maximum of $79.4 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan,
$6.2 billion in "mandatory" spending for military retirement and other DOD-only programs;
the Pentagon's $26 billion dollar portion of the "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative" characterized by some as a slush fund,
$37.8 billion in additional money paid by the Treasury for military retirement and DOD healthcare,
$19.4 billion in nuclear weapons' costs borne by the Department of Energy,
$52.1 billion in non-DOD spending in the Department of Homeland Security,
$161.2 billion for the human consequences of past and ongoing wars in the Department of Veterans Affairs,
$39 billion for the activities of the Department of State and related agencies-for international security and the exercise of US power abroad; and
an equitable share of the interest on the national debt that is related to this spending.