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Bush Arms Buildup Rivals Hitler and Stalin

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 The relentless increases in Pentagon spending President Bush has pushed through since taking office recall the actions of Hitler and Stalin prior to the outbreak of World War Two.

 Both European dictators escalated their war machines and both dictators showed little concern when their domestic economies and workers’ incomes suffered as a result.

In 1933, his first year in power, Hitler pushed up German arms spending from less than a billion to four billion Reichsmarks. He jumped that figure to 10 billion in 1936; 17 billion in 1938 and 38 billion in 1939, the year he invaded Poland. Similarly, Stalin steadily boosted military spending in the Thirties from two billion rubles to 41 billion rubles.

As historian Richard Overy put it in “The Dictators”(W.W. Norton & Co.): “The share of defence spending in the state budget in Germany reached 54% in 1938/39; in the Soviet Union it reached one-third of the budget by 1940.” 

The commitment to military spending, he says, “was historically exceptional” and created by the late 1930s “something approaching a war economy in peacetime.”

Today, President Bush is right up there with the European dictators. His military spending has soared from $291 billion to a lavish $515 billion and he’s proposed a stunning $651 billion next year.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, of Washington, D.C. says that 44 cents out of every dollar in his 2009 budget will go for war. Typically, he calls for cutting 47 education programs while handing the generals 8% more.

Under Bush, U.S. military spending is now roughly equal to the combined total of all other nations.  What’s more, Uncle Sam is the world’s Number One arms peddler, selling about half of all weapons bought by the developing nations, and showing few scruples about sales to dictators. The Center for Defense Information reported last year that U.S. arms sales to 25 countries it studied increased 400 percent over 9/11.

Of course, the two criminal 20th Century dictators didn’t build their war machines for sport, and neither has Mr. Bush. By mutual agreement in 1939, the “CommuNazis,” as they were known, carved up Poland, Hitler invading from the West and Stalin from the East.  In the summer of 1941, Overy writes, Hitler remarked “what one needs and does not have, one must conquer.”  That’s not much different from Bush’s view of Middle East oil.

Having made war on Iraq based on lies and having subjugated that small country by force, Bush is pushing  its cabinet to put through a giveaway law to profit the oil companies. And he’s threatening oil-rich Iran with an attack.

As for the quality of life on their home fronts, Stalin and Hitler didn’t mind sacrificing their people one bit to a war economy. Neither of them tolerated labor unions.

 In the Kremlin-controlled economy, real hourly wage rates in 1937 were 40% lower than in 1928 and by 1940 they were down another five to ten percent, Overy writes.  There was food on the table for Hitler’s workers but few consumer goods to buy. In 1932, consumer industries accounted for 40 percent of Germany’s investment.  By 1938, this had shrunk to only 17 percent, a trend similar to that in Russia under Stalin.

Under Bush, the real wages of Americans have stagnated as well. Despite their fantastic productivity, U.S. workers are earning less today in real dollars than five years ago.  And restrictive laws make union organizing tougher than ever.

As ever more Americans lose their jobs and homes, favored Pentagon contractors reap record profits, not necessarily from operating on free market principles. Indeed, the Center for Public Integrity noted only one of the top 10 defense contractors “won a majority of its contracts through full and open competition. "

All the rest collected most of their contract dollars through sole source contracts or other no-bid procedures.” CPI identified Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, United Technologies, General Electric, Carlyle Group, and Newport News.

One might think in these hard times --- when the price of a gallon of gas has doubled in good part because of the Iraq war --- the White House might ask this supine Congress for a windfall profits tax on the oil majors.  With two former oil executives holding the two top jobs, though, that’s not likely to happen, any more than the Iraqi people will ever see the profits from their oil resource as long as George Bush is president. 

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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)
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