Huge Military Budgets Make us Broke, Not Safe
By Miriam Pendleton
(WASHINGTON, DC.) – We’re all tense. Hearing about
our fellow citizens in Hawaii scrambling around, looking for a place
to hide from a nuclear bomb, will do that to you. So will contests
between two unstable world leaders over the size of their nuclear
Now, some politicians say they’ll protect us by adding
massive amounts to the Pentagon budget. This seems like a no-brainer:
feel threatened, give more money to the military. But it isn’t.
Practically everyone from the president on down, though, seems
take it as a given. “In confronting these horrible dangers,”
Donald Trump said
during his State of the Union, “I’m calling on Congress”
to “fully fund our great military.”
The president and his party are now looking to add somewhere
between $30 and $70 billion more in military spending to their budget
for next year — on top of the increases for this year.
Democrats seem willing to go along, with a few caveats.
Nobody seems worried anymore about adding to the financial
just dug for ourselves and our children with $1.5 trillion in tax
cuts for the rich.
It’s true that the military needs predictability, which has
been hobbled by politicians who can’t get it together to pass a
real budget. Every enterprise, except maybe improv comedy, does. But
it’s not true that the military needs more money.
The portrait of a “starved” military, which Trump and
his secretary of defense like to complain about, airbrushes out a few
We’re now spending more on the military, adjusted for
inflation, than at any time since World War II — including
during the Reagan and George W. Bush buildups. We spend more than the
next eight countries put together.
Worse still, the military can’t even say what it’s
actually spending — it’s still the only federal agency
that can’t pass an audit. The brass says they’ll really
try this year, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Trusting the Pentagon to rein in its own waste hasn’t
worked. Back in 2015, the Pentagon’s own commissioned report
billion in administrative waste that
could be cut over
five years. But then they simply buried the report.
Here’s what we really need to feel safer: Leaders who are
working to reduce nuclear tensions rather than rev them up.
Instead, in addition to firing off scary tweets, Trump
calls in his State of the Union to “modernize and rebuild our
nuclear arsenal,” to the tune of $1.7
trillion. Why? The
4,000 nukes we currently
have — enough to destroy the entire planet — seem like an
Leaders are meanwhile working on designs for new “lower
yield” nukes, envisioning them as tools for “limited”
nuclear war. That makes nuclear war seem more feasible, and therefore
more likely. Feeling safer yet?
And they want to build up the arsenal of conventional weapons,
mostly to counter China. But China is expanding its influence around
the world not mainly through military spending — its military
budget is only a third of ours — but through its civilian
As the U.S. retreats from providing development aid, China is
filling the vacuum. As the U.S. cuts off its previous investments in
clean energy technology, China has become the solar panel provider to
Our new security strategy, by the way, has also airbrushed out
climate change. A military that previously identified climate change
as “an urgent and growing threat to national security” is
by the administration from talking about it at all.
While we contemplate spending money we don’t have for
weapons we don’t need, the urgency of this threat continues to
is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and an
expert on the federal
article was originally published at Otherwords.org
and is republished