Where Has All The Money Gone?

In 2015, Michigan State economics professor, Mark Skidmore became curious when he heard former assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Catherine Austin Fitts mention that the Pentagon couldn’t account for $6.5 trillion in spending. So he asked Fitts and a team of his graduate students to help him confirm that number. After poring over public documents, the team discovered that the original number was inaccurate.

Instead of $6.5 trillion in unsupported spending, the team found that the actual number is $21 trillion – a sum equivalent to our entire national debt!

Even if that number is flawed (and there’s no reason to believe that it is), there is plenty of evidence to show that the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned about has severely damaged our nation’s economic health. For example, it is estimated that our misadventures in the Vietnam civil war cost us $1.3 trillion in 2017 dollars. The cost of care for Vietnam vets has cost us at least $1 trillion to date. And neither of those figures include the billions of dollars wasted on supplies fraudulently sold through the black market in Vietnam.

It is estimated that the Reagan-era tax cuts and military build-up contributed $3 trillion to our national debt. The Bush tax cuts contributed an additional $10 trillion to the debt. The cost of our war in Afghanistan – now our longest-running war – is $2.4 trillion and counting. The cost of care for Afghan war vets is $1 trillion. Our invasion of Iraq cost yet another $2.6 trillion. And the cost of care for Iraq war vets is estimated at $1.3 trillion.

In addition, the US has spent more than $61 billion in the reconstruction of Iraq. Another $8 billion of US funds is missing in Iraq. $45 billion is missing in Afghanistan. And, claiming that the cost of transportation is too great to bring military equipment home, the Pentagon ordered it buried in the sands of Kuwait.

The Pentagon’s F-35 joint strike fighter program has already cost more than $450 billion and is expected to top out at more than $1.5 trillion. Yet it has failed almost every test. In the words of two military analysts, “It can’t turn, can’t climb and can’t run.” And in another blatant display of waste, Congress authorized spending hundreds of millions of dollars for Abrams tanks that the Army doesn’t even want.

How has the Trump administration and Congress responded to all of this spending? They increased the Pentagon budget by another $700 billion! Then they passed a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that is expected to add yet another $1-2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade!

Of course, the GOP has a plan to pay for all this spending. As articulated by Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, they plan to cut spending through “entitlement reform.” In other words, the GOP plans to cut funding for Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP and Social Security.

Maybe – just maybe – there’s another way. Imagine if, instead of spending our money on unnecessary wars and tax cuts for the rich, we spent that money for good. Imagine if we spent it on health care for our citizens; on education; on rebuilding our infrastructure; on scientific achievements; on lifting people out of poverty; on eradicating disease. We could do all of that and more with just the money the Pentagon wastes.

Author William Blum put our current military budget in context when he said, “Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.”

And that doesn’t even include the trillions of dollars in Pentagon spending that are missing or unaccounted for.

The Ongoing Bloodless Coup.

Prior to the Great Depression, the world’s financial institutions and industrialists had most everything going their way. Still living in the gilded age, they had been able to stave off labor unions by exercising all of the power their money could muster. But when the stock market crashed and Herbert Hoover failed to right the ship of state, things changed. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace, led a new movement intended to help the common men and women who were out of work and out of money. This didn’t sit well with the wealthy financiers on Wall Street who had visions of turning America into a fascist government based on those of Germany and Italy.

Even before FDR’s inauguration, they struck.

Though ties to the nation’s elite were never proven, it seems clear that they had hired a lone assassin to shoot the president-elect at a public speech. But, thanks to a woman in the crowd who spoiled the shooter’s aim, FDR escaped unharmed as the bullets struck five members of his party, eventually leading to the death of the mayor of Chicago.

Then, when FDR abandoned the gold standard at the behest of manufacturers whose foreign customers could no longer afford their products, Wall Street went nuts. They believed their wealth and investments would be devalued. Almost immediately, they began seeking new ways to remove FDR from office, eventually settling on the so-called “Business Plot” involving an army of 500,000 veterans under their employ. The army was recruited from the right-wing American Legion that had already been used to beat back (quite literally) the labor union movement. The plan was for Wall Street’s army to march to the White House where it would capture FDR and replace the democratically-elected government with a business-friendly government that would mirror Mussolini’s fascist government of Italy.


The fact that Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were Nazi sympathizers has been long established. But they represented just the tip of the iceberg. Other fascist supporters included the leader of the American Legion and many of J.P. Morgan’s allies, including Prescott Bush (father of George H.W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush and Jeb Bush), George Herbert Walker (Prescott Bush’s father-in-law), Irenee du Pont, and many others. And, though Bush and Walker escaped the embarrassment of an investigation and trial, it seems clear that they helped finance the Axis war machine even after the US declared war following Pearl Harbor.

As outrageous as it may seem, the Business Plot likely would have succeeded had the plotters not sought the help of Major General Smedley Butler. A lifelong Republican and loyal patriot, Butler played along with the plotters only long enough to take names before exposing the plot. Of course, many later dismissed the plot as a hoax, but the fact remains that the final report from a congressional committee stated: “There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient.” Further, the report stated that “the committee was able to verify all the pertinent statements made by General Butler, with the exception of the direct statement suggesting the creation of the organization.” However, that statement was later corroborated in written correspondence from one of the plot’s leaders, Gerald C. MacGuire.

Yet, even though the plot was acknowledged to be a real threat, congressional hearings on the matter refused to release the names of the conspirators revealed by Butler, and Congress dragged out the proceedings long enough to allow Wall Street’s propaganda machine to gloss over the coup attempt.

Although details and the names of those behind the coup attempt were eventually exposed, and FDR was re-elected two times, it appears that the idea of a hostile takeover of our government never faded from the minds of some of America’s wealthiest families. But, instead of relying on an army of veterans to help them pursue their goals, it seems that the fascists have chosen, instead, to rely on something more familiar and trustworthy…money.

I’m referring, of course, to the global industrialists who profited from the Nixon administration, the large manufacturers who were able to beat back labor unions with help from the Reagan administration, and the interests of Big Oil, military contractors and private equity firms that profited handsomely during the Bush/Cheney administration. Of course, these big money interests had a setback in 2008 and 2012 when President Obama defeated their preferred candidates. But they most certainly haven’t given up.

They not only have a sympathetic majority of the Supreme Court, which ruled that money equals free speech, that corporations have the rights of individuals and that there should be no limits on political donations. They have control of the American propaganda machine, otherwise known as mass media. And thanks to the billions in dark money laundered through a complex network of non-profit “education” organizations, they have retaken control of Congress where Teapublicans are gleefully working to pay back their masters by attempting to deregulate Wall Street, defund the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, gut the Environmental Protection Agency and nullify the Dept. of Labor. They even want to eliminate the Dept. of Education (likely on the premise that an educated and informed citizenry is a threat to their rule).

There’s an old adage that tells us the best way to uncover corruption is to follow the money. That’s especially true when it comes to politics.

For more information about the Business Plot, check out the link to a segment on National Public Radio.

The New F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. My, How Time And Money Fly!

It seems that the United States military-industrial complex has always been good at squandering taxpayer money. But, as the most costly weapons program in our nation’s history, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has taken wasteful spending to a new level.

The F-35 was supposed to replace the F-16 as the nation’s premier fighter jet. But it’s more than seven years behind schedule and more than $163 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) over budget. It has also been grounded more than a school kid who refuses to study or listen to his parents, leading the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, to call the F-35 program “acquisition malpractice” during an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

In order to fully appreciate the problems with the F-35, it should be noted that a contract for the fighter was awarded to Lockheed-Martin in 2001 with expectations that our combined forces would acquire 2,852 of the planes at a cost of $233 billion. But, following a series of blunders and redesigns, only 114 had been built as of November 2014, and the fighter is not expected to be fully deployed until 2018. Ultimately, the fighters are expected to cost from $98 million to $114 million each with the total cost of the program likely to exceed $400 billion. To make matters worse, the GAO found that operating costs for the F-35 would be 79 percent higher than for the aircraft it replaces. And the F-35A’s cost per flying hour is $7,000 per hour higher than the F-16C/D.

Yet costs aren’t the only concern. There are also concerns with the plane’s performance and safety.

For example, some defense experts have questioned relying solely upon “short range” aircraft like the F-35 in future conflicts and have suggested reducing the number of F-35s ordered in favor of a longer range platform. Others have raised safety issues over the F-35’s reliance on a single engine versus the twin-engine F-16. The plane has been accused of being “heavy and sluggish” and possessing a “pitifully small payload for the money.” These problems showed themselves when, in 2008, two former RAND Corporation employees conducted simulated war games between the F-35 and the Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter. The Russian fighter won!

There are also questions about the F-35’s capability of engaging modern air defenses. In an apparent acknowledgement of the problem, the Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin $450 million in 2012 to improve the F-35 electronic warfare systems and incorporate Israeli systems.

During evaluation flights, USAF test pilots have noted a lack of visibility from the F-35 cockpit, stating that the problem would lead to them being shot down in combat and leading one defense analyst to conclude that the F-35A “is flawed beyond redemption.” It was also noted that the plane’s current software is inadequate for even basic pilot training, that its ejection seat may fail causing pilot fatality, that its radar performs poorly, or not at all, and that its engine replacement takes an average of 52 hours, instead of the two hours specified.

A 2015 Pentagon report also found issues with the plane’s reliability and maintainability, significant fire risk due to vulnerability of its fuel tanks, concerns with wing drop that have yet to be resolved after 6 years, engine problems, problems with its software and problems with the F-35’s high-tech helmet. And even before the F-35 could be deployed, China unveiled a portable long-range surveillance radar system specifically designed to defeat stealth aircraft like the F-35.

As if all of these problems aren’t bad enough, the fighter’s technology has already been compromised. After sharing the F-35’s plans with our ally, Australia, last year it was determined that someone – likely China – had hacked Australia’s computers and downloaded the plans. Though the plane offered to Australia is not exactly like those intended for the US military, it’s close enough for concern.

Given the delays and cost overruns, would anyone really be surprised if China ended up deploying the fighter before we do?

To read even more about the F-35, visit Wikipedia.

How Much Is Enough?

In 2014, the US spent $612.5 billion on defense. Although numerous sources have reported that this number exceeds the military budgets of the next 12 biggest spenders combined, I find that most people still have trouble getting their minds around the number and even more difficulty putting it into perspective.

So let’s look at it another way. In 2014, the US and its closest known allies spent an astonishing $1.15 trillion on defense.

Meanwhile our known “enemy” nation states of North Korea and Iran spent a total of $13.8 billion. If we add Pakistan, which is home to many extreme jihadists, and our one-time enemies who are now close trading partners (China and Russia), our potential adversaries (at least theoretically) spent a grand total of $223.4 billion on defense. Combined, that is little more than one-third of the US defense budget alone, and roughly one-fifth of the combined military budgets of the US and its close allies.

The US and its allies not only spend more money than the so-called rogue nations and the former communist bloc. They have more weapons of every kind; more sophisticated weaponry; and the financial means to build ever newer and better weapons. This is, of course, great comfort to our military-industrial complex consisting of Boeing, Halliburton, General Dynamics, General Electric, Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon and more.

It is, however, small comfort to US taxpayers who are expected to pay for this ever-growing budget item, especially since the only real threats to our homeland appear to come from relatively small groups of terrorists whose weaponry consists of handguns, AK47s, IEDs and captured weaponry that we previously sold to corrupt or failed governments.

Take into account that the costs of the Afghan War, the Iraq War, the war against ISIS, military aid to other countries, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and veterans’ benefits are paid for out of budget line items separate from our defense budget, and you quickly discover that the vast majority of our taxes now go to defense. Yet the Department of Defense is asking for significant increases for 2015 and 2016, and it’s almost certain to get them.

One can only conclude that we are the most gullible, most paranoid people on Earth.

The True Cost Of America’s War Machine.

President Obama just released his proposed budget for 2016. Out of a total budget of $1.15 trillion, $625.2 billion is earmarked for our military. And that doesn’t include the $70.5 billion for veterans’ benefits. That means $695.7 billion, or 60.4 percent of our total annual budget, will be dedicated to planning for war and dealing with the impact of war on our servicemen and women. In addition, the budget calls for $41.6 billion for international affairs – much of it likely dedicated to providing weapons to other nations.

Virtually all of this money will be used to line the pockets of defense suppliers and their executives. Worse, much of it will be wasted on equipment that is unwanted, ineffective and unnecessary. One need only look at the colossal waste that is the F35 fighter (which is hopelessly behind schedule and over budget), the materiel left behind in Iraq and Afghanistan (much of it now in the hands of ISIS and the Taliban), and the Abrams tanks being built over the objections of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

By comparison, only 22 percent of our budget – $255.6 billion – will directly aid our citizens. $60.6 billion is allocated to Medicare and healthcare, $31.4 billion for Social Security and unemployment insurance, $27.4 billion for transportation, $13.3 billion for food and agriculture (including food stamps), $41.6 billion for energy and the environment and $74.1 billion for education. But the dirty secret is that much of the money for these budget items will provide large subsidies for big pharma, big agriculture, big oil, and big coal. Still more money will be used to clean up after big corporate polluters or to provide them with low-cost transportation and infrastructure.

Of course, it’s unlikely that President Obama’s budget will ever pass Congress. Teapublicans will probably increase the amount of military spending and corporate subsidies while cutting funds for the EPA, the Labor Department and education…maybe even Medicare and Social Security.

But imagine if, like in many European nations, things were reversed. What if we spent 60.4 percent of our federal budget to improve the lives of individuals and 22 percent on the military? What if all of our children could receive a world class education for free? What if no Americans went hungry or homeless? What if all Americans received healthcare? What if all Americans could comfortably retire at age 65? What if our transportation systems were, once again, the best in the world? What if, instead of subsidizing large corporations and the inflated salaries of their executives, we made them pay their fair share of taxes?

What if, instead of allocating nearly 4 percent of our GDP (the world’s largest economy) to defense, we spent only 2.1 percent like China (the world’s 2nd largest economy). Or what if we spent only 2.2 percent like the United Kingdom and France? Better yet, what if we spent only 1 percent like Canada? Collectively, the US and our NATO allies spend an amount on defense that exceeds that of our alleged enemies many times over. If necessary, NATO (even with a smaller US military) could overwhelm any possible opponent or collection of opponents.

Moreover, if we spent our money on improving lives, instead of the weapons intended to destroy them, we likely wouldn’t need such overwhelming military force.