The Occupy movement seemed to shift the national conversation away from destroying the social safety net, sorry, I meant ‘reforming’ the social safety net, to a national conversation regarding economic fairness. It seemed that America was finally going to discuss the problems caused by economic inequality, and attempt to find solutions. Tax fairness and corporate welfare were, albeit reluctantly, actually being mentioned by the pundit class. With the selection of Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential nominee, Willard Romney has single handedly shifted the conversation back to the cost of America’s social safety net, specifically, Medicare and Medicaid. Not surprisingly, what neither party, nor any high profile pundit wants to discuss, is reforming America’s military budget.
How is it in that in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression the U.S. military is allowed to maintain more than 1000 installations outside of the 50 states(1)? Yes, that figure is the number of military installations located outside of the 50 states. These bases include everything from post WWII bases in Germany to new drone bases in Ethiopia. The cost of maintaining the Pentagon’s empire is approximately 250 billion dollars. That amounts to about one third the cost of the entire Medicare program. Eliminating the Medicare program is the goal of the Romney Ryan ticket. Preserving the Pentagon’s overseas empire is the goal of virtually everyone in Washington.
Closing down foreign bases and relocating U.S. military personnel (and contractor support personnel) would not only save money, it would provide a much needed economic stimulus to the domestic areas in which those personnel are relocated. When U.S. military personnel spend their money in Germany it represents an indirect US government subsidy to the German economy. The U.S. government should not be using the military to assist the economies of other countries. Closing down our overseas bases is not only the right thing to do, it makes financial sense.
Do you have any idea how much America spends on our domestic infrastructure needs? The federal infrastructure budget allocates approximately 2.5% of the total Gross Domestic Budget to infrastructure spending (2). Among the industrialized nations this is one of the lowest rates. While there is a great deal of dispute regarding the actual multiplier effect of infrastructure spending, there is no dispute that the American infrastructure, from water delivery systems to bridges, needs more money than is currently being allocated.
Finally, consider the amount of secrecy involved in military expenditures. For 2011 the amount of money the Pentagon spent on classified projects was more than 56 billion dollars (3). This is money spent with minimal, if any, oversight. Are these projects working? Are they worth the continued funding of the American taxpayers? It is impossible to answer these questions as long as these projects remain shrouded in mystery. On August 15, 2012 the X-51, an aircraft which cost more than 250 million dollars and designed to fly more than 6 times the speed of sound, crashed after 31 seconds of flight (4). The Pentagon has been obsessed with this sort of technology since the 1960s. How long should the taxpayer be expected to indulge the Pentagon’s wish list?
It is time to rein in the Pentagon. Over 50 years ago in his farewell address to the nation, Eisenhower warned us to beware of the Military Industrial Complex. Neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party is willing to take on the Pentagon. It is time for the taxpayer to demand accountability from the Pentagon. It is time for America to demand reality from the Military Industrial Complex.
1. http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175338/ (Nick Turse, The Pentagon’s Planet of Bases).
2. http://www.economist.com/node/18620944 (The Economist Magazine, April 28, 2011 – America’s Transport Infrastructure).
3. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/02/pentagons-black-budget/ (Wired Magazine, February 15, 2012).
4. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/15/us-usa-hypersonic-flight-idUSB... Reuters, August 16, 2012.