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.