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Sequester Optionally Applied Only to Good Things

6:04 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Spending cuts have been applied by Congress to both military and non-military spending.

Air Force Parade

Despite the sequester, military budgets are growing.

In my view, the military cuts are much too small and the non-military cuts should not exist at all.  In the view of most liberal organizations, the military cuts — like the military spending and the military itself — are to be ignored, while the non-military cuts are to be opposed by opposing all cuts in general.

But, guess what?

The spending limits on the military are being blatantly violated.  Both houses of Congress have now passed military budgets larger than last year and larger than is allowed under the sequester.

Meanwhile the sequester is being used to cut away at all that is good and decent in public policy.

In fact, the House Appropriations Committee proposes to make up for its violation of the law on military spending levels by imposing yet bigger cuts to non-military spending.  And what’s the harm in that if all cuts are equally bad?

The sequester, like the anti-torture statute, the war crimes statute, the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or the U.N. Charter, turns out to be one of those optional laws.

Laws are for certain people.  The top general now being investigated as a whistleblower does not have a nude isolation cell at Quantico in his future, even though Bradley Manning was treated that way.

Laws are for certain things.  Shooting children in a U.S. school is a crime.  Dropping a missile on a foreign school is something more like law enforcement.  Mothers in Yemen now teach their neighbors’ children at home so that they can avoid going out to school while the drones are overhead.  That’s called freedom, the spread of democracy.

And this is called propaganda: “Sequester Putting Military at Risk of Becoming ‘Hollow Force’.”  That’s a real headline, and there are dozens more like it.  Only in the U.S. military can increases be widely reported as disastrous cuts.  The half-truth is entirely unintended.  The military spending will, in fact, be disastrous.  It’s just not cuts.

We have 11 percent in the United States in favor of arming Syrians, or rather “Syrians” as so many of them are recently arrived in Syria for the purpose of killing.  Eleven percent!  That’s nothing.  That’s less than believe in ghosts (48% of Americans according to CBS believe in ghosts).  But the U.S. military and its commander in chief do what they want to do.  Democracy be damned.  And consequences be damned.  And the people of Syria be damned.

The silver lining in the sequester’s storm of misinformation is that states and localities are expecting cuts to the military.  Connecticut has set up a commission to plan a process of conversion from military to non-military industries.  I hope it will serve as a model for the other 49 states and D.C.

But there ought to be another silver lining, and I’m not seeing it yet.   Most liberal activist groups have still not grasped that some cuts are good and others bad, that we should be campaigning for cuts to the war machine that swallows 57% of discretionary spending while campaigning for dramatic increases in spending on green energy, education, and other human needs.

Now is the moment for that realization.  Now is the time to stop saying “No Cuts!” and start saying “Move the money from evil spending to good!”

Read the rest of this entry →

The U.S. Has a Representative Government: The Conference of Mayors

6:52 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Congress can’t break 10 percent approval.  Obama’s arms shipments to Syria just crack 10 percent, with 11 percent approval.  Over 80 percent of Americans in more polls than I can count say over and over again that the government is broken and does not represent us.  But when the mayors of the cities of the United States get together nationally one begins to see positions taken, at least rhetorically, that resemble government of, by, or for the people.

U.S. Conference of Mayors

U.S. Conference of Mayors

On Monday the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution “CALLING FOR U.S. LEADERSHIP IN GLOBAL ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND REDIRECTION OF MILITARY SPENDING TO DOMESTIC NEEDS.”

Cities can follow the leads of their mayors and pass similar resolutions.  A bill in Congress (HR 1650) at least partially meets the proposals in the resolution, and cities could ask their representatives in the U.S. House to sign onto it.  The state of Connecticut this month created a commission to work for the conversion of Connecticut’s economy away from militarism and toward peaceful manufacturing jobs.  Cities could create such commissions or urge their states to do so.  It would be good to see such steps follow from Monday’s admirable rhetoric.  The resolution, as passed, included this:

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce funding for modernization of nuclear weapons systems, to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement, and redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities; and

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce military spending and to reinvest those funds in programs to address the dramatic increase in poverty and inequality in our country; take emergency measures to repair the social safety net and protect Social Security and Medicare; create jobs, retrain displaced workers, including military contractors, rebuild deteriorating physical infrastructure, invest in new technologies for a sustainable energy future, and aid local government to restore and maintain vital public services, reemploying teachers, police, firefighters and other workers.”

The bill passed this month by the Connecticut legislature and signed by the Governor creates a commission to develop a plan for, among other things:

“the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries with an emphasis on encouraging environmentally-sustainable and civilian product manufacturing. On or before December 1, 2014, the commission shall submit such report to the Governor and, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to commerce.”

The commission “shall Advise the General Assembly and the Department of Economic and Community Development on issues relating to the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries” among other things.

Read the full text, inlcuding the make-up of the commission, which is to include labor union and peace movement representatives.  Imagine Congress creating something like that!

But Congress has, at least created this: a bill with a non-voting sponsor and no cosponsors, H.R.1650, the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act of 2013, a bill introduced over and over again by Washington D.C.’s representative in Congress, following action by the city council of D.C.  The key part of the bill reads:

 

(a) In General- The United States Government shall–

(1) provide leadership to negotiate and enter into a multilateral treaty or other international agreement by the date that is three years after the date of the enactment of this Act that provides for–

(A) the dismantlement and elimination of all nuclear weapons in every country by not later than 2020; and

(B) strict and effective international control of such dismantlement and elimination;

(2) redirect resources that are being used for nuclear weapons programs to use–

(A) in converting all nuclear weapons industry employees, processes, plants, and programs smoothly to constructive, ecologically beneficial peacetime activities, including strict control of all fissile material and radioactive waste, during the period in which nuclear weapons must be dismantled and eliminated pursuant to the treaty or other international agreement described in paragraph (1); and

(B) in addressing human and infrastructure needs, including development and deployment of sustainable carbon-free and nuclear-free energy sources, health care, housing, education, agriculture, and environmental restoration, including long-term radioactive waste monitoring;

(3) undertake vigorous, good-faith efforts to eliminate war, armed conflict, and all military operations; and

(4) actively promote policies to induce all other countries to join in the commitments described in this subsection to create a more peaceful and secure world.

(b) Effective Date- Subsection (a)(2) shall take effect on the date on which the President certifies to Congress that all countries possessing nuclear weapons have–

(1) eliminated such weapons; or

(2) begun such elimination under established legal requirements comparable to those described in subsection (a).

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Not a bad bill to pass, if we had anyone representing us.
Read the rest of this entry →

The Military Spending Cut Scare

7:07 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

US Military Budget in Context

The fearmongering is on.  Here’s a typical article, this one from the only daily newspaper in my hometown:

Defense spending could face large loss from federal cuts

By: NATE DELESLINE III | ndelesline@dailyprogress.com | 978-7243
Published: September 17, 2012
Charlottesville Daily ProgressCharlottesville and Albemarle County could see a potential loss of $46.5 million in defense-related spending if federally mandated cuts, which are slated to start next year, come to fruition.

There are several ways in which this is misleading.  First, “defense” here means military, whether or not defensive.  Second, “cuts” in Washington-talk includes reductions in a budget from one year to the next, OR reductions from a desired dream-budget to a less-desired budget, even one that is an increase over last year’s.  For the past 13 years, military spending has grown to levels not seen since World War II.

It’s over half of federal discretionary spending, and as much as the rest of the world combined.  The Pentagon’s budget grew each year George W. Bush was president and the first three years that Barack Obama was president.  It is being cut by 2.6% this year, not the 9% used to calculate a portion of that $46.5 million figure.  If the mandated cuts mentioned above go through, the Pentagon will still be spending next year more than it did in 2006 at the height of the war on Iraq.

In addition, military contractors have been bringing in more federal dollars while cutting jobs.  They employed fewer people in 2011 with bigger contracts than in 2006 with smaller ones.  So the logic of bigger contracts = more jobs is essentially a bucket of hope and change.

And the Pentagon’s base budget is less than half of total military spending. It’s necessary to add in war spending (over $80 billion nationally this year), nuclear weapons spending through the Department of Energy, military operations through the State Department, USAID, and the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, etc., to get the real total. The Pentagon also has $83 billion in unobligated balances it can draw on.

The war industries in the United States are also by no means limited to the U.S. government.  U.S. weapons makers brought in $66.3 billion last year from foreign governments.  Many of those governments, like our own, are engaged in horrendous human rights abuses, but as long as we’re being sociopathic about job creation, there’s no reason to leave this out.

The article continues:

“The figures – compiled by the Center for Security Policy and the Coalition for the Common Defense, conservative-leaning Washington, D.C.-based think tanks – are based on publicly available information on Department of Defense contracts compiled and made available online through the Federal Procurement Data System website.

“The coalition describes itself as a group of individuals and local and national organizations ‘committed to the Constitutional imperative to provide for the common defense and returning the United States to sensible fiscal principles without sacrificing its national security.’”

Never mind that the Constitution was written to include the creation of armies in times of war, not the permanent maintenance of a military industrial complex as a jobs program.  The above is how the two groups pushing the “news” in this article describe themselves.  How would a journalist describe them?  Well, as long as they’re promoting military spending, it seems most relevant and significant to describe the ways in which they benefit from that spending.

The Center for Security Policy has a board of advisors packed with weapons makers executives and lobbyists from such disinterested parties as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, TRW, Raytheon, Ball Aerospace & Technologies, and Hewlett-Packard.  The Coalition for the Common Defense has been maneuvering the anti-spending Tea Party behind massive military spending. Hence the Constitution-talk.  But the “Coalition” isn’t run by Constitutional scholars.  It’s dominated by weapons company lobbyists, including the Aerospace Industry Association, which represents Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, and other military industry corporations.  The Aerospace Industry Association spends over $2 million a year lobbying our government in Washignton.  Much of that money ends up being spent on luxurious lobbyist lifestyles in the great Commonwealth of Virginia.  Never forget the danger of the loss of that source of job creation should Congress simply and unquestioningly take direction from the weapons makers.

The article goes on: Read the rest of this entry →

Best Southern Corporate Editorial Ever

6:44 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

One cannot always count on words of wisdom from the editorials published by corporate newspaper chains in the Southern United States, or anywhere else.  This one is far from perfect, but remarkably great.  This was published by the Charlottesville Daily Progress on Tuesday and adapted by them from their corporate sister the Richmond Times Dispatch.  Possibly numerous other Media General (Warren Buffet) newspapers printed the same or similar:

“Would cuts in defense spending be a bad thing?

“By: the Richmond Times-Dispatch | The Daily Progress
“Published: August 07, 2012

“Gov. Bob McDonnell suggested President Obama hold Congress in session until it hammers out a deal to avert what is known as sequestration — whose effects on Virginia could be profound.”

Note that this editorial is about to challenge the claims of the state’s Transvaginal Governor who is also trying to get himself nominated for U.S. Veep on the Romney ticket.  Not only that, but a gang of U.S. Senators including the previous Republican presidential nominee John McCain recently stopped in Virginia on a tour of swing states hyping the danger to the U.S. economy of any cuts to the military budget.  This editorial does not name those senators but does handily reject their bogus claims.

“Sequestration is the term applied to automatic budget cuts that will take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress acts now to prevent them. They are the result of last year’s Budget Control Act. That law tasked a special committee with finding $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade. If it failed, automatic cuts — half of them in defense spending, half in domestic discretionary spending — would kick in. The committee failed.”

Of course “defense” is code for military, even while few would pretend that attacking Libya or Syria or continuing in Afghanistan or drone bombing Pakistan or Yemen, etc., is defensive.  The code is well understood and virtually unavoidable in a corporate newspaper.  You’ll recall that there was huge public pushback against the Super Congress, that the public told pollsters we favored taxing the rich and cutting the military.  The Super Congress failed to push through a deal to enlarge the military and continue tax cuts on the wealthy.  And rightly so.  But Congress is intent on accomplishing post-2012-election what the Super Congress couldn’t do.

“Without action soon, the first of $600 billion in defense spending cuts will start to bite. That could mean the loss of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of jobs here in the commonwealth — which is the No. 2 recipient of federal defense outlays. That is a frightening prospect indeed.”

Note, however, that dollars don’t translate simply and predictably into jobs.  When the military had less money several years ago, it also produced more jobs. Also, the $600 billion is “over 10 years,” and might as well be called $1200 billion “over 20 years” for all such monkeying with the numbers enlightens us.  It’s $60 billion “over one year,” but reduced from that in order to put more of the cutting later in the 10-year period. $50 billion or less, cut from $1.2 trillion or so in total military spending can only frighten people who are truly intent on being frightened.  Of course, fear is what allows military spending on this kind of scale to begin with.

“But it is not in itself a sufficient reason to oppose the cuts. National defense is not a jobs program. Many of the very arguments conservative Republicans have made with regard to government spending over the years — about inefficiency, about the displacement of private investment, about gargantuan bureaucracies doling out contracts to the politically connected — might apply just as well to the Pentagon as to any other government agency.”

This is a stunning bit of honest sanity.  Reflect on the earthshattering, “debate” crashing, impoliteness of introducing this bit of truth to the public.  Of course it’s also the understatement of the year.  Spending on the military produces fewer jobs than spending on education, energy, infrastructure, or even tax cuts for working people, because it is so incredibly wasteful.  How wasteful?  We don’t know, since it’s the only department that is never audited.  But we know that it routinely misplaces billions — with a b — of dollars, something no other department is allowed to do.  We also know that in much of the world spending money on killing in order to generate jobs would be viewed as sociopathic.

“What’s more, the alarms being rung about the hollowing out of the military sound considerably less grim when put in context. For example, ask yourself this: Was the U.S. military on the brink of collapse in 2007? Few people would answer yes. Yet if sequestration occurs, then military spending would revert to — you guessed it — 2007 levels. That doesn’t sound quite so horrible.”

Again, this is simple and obvious but staggeringly new.  It renders ludicrous countless “news” reports that have been published by these papers.

“Even after adjusting for inflation, Pentagon spending is now almost double what it was in 2000. And that leaves out the billions lavished on Homeland Security. And the further billions spent on ongoing military operations abroad, which add more than another hundred billion to the tab.”

This too is new and different, pointing out that the “Homeland Security” budget is added on top of the Pentagon’s.  But let’s not forget State, Energy, CIA, and all the other departments that include military spending, plus the expense of caring for the veterans our wars keep producing.  The total cost of the military is about $1.2 trillion per year, many times what any other nation spends, more than all other nations combined, and more than half of federal discretionary spending.

“True, federal defense outlays are smaller as a share of the federal budget than they have been in many years,”

Oops.  That’s not true, not when all military (“defense”) expenses are counted.

“and they are smaller as a percentage of gross domestic product than at any time since World War II. But this is not a very useful comparison. It implies that whenever Washington creates a hugely expensive new entitlement program, or whenever the economy booms, Pentagon spending should be jacked up just to keep the proportions steady.”

Wow.  This is amazingly decent and dismissive of an entire genre of public “discourse.”  The Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly stressed to Congress that military spending is low as a percentage of GDP.  Even though it’s high and has been rising each of the past 15 years as a dollar amount adjusted for inflation, as a percentage of the federal discretionary budget, and as a percentage of global military spending, the theory indeed seems to be that if we have more money we should buy more weapons because we can.  This requires a psychiatrist, not an economist.

“The real question is how much the U.S. needs to spend to maintain military dominance. To help answer it, consider a more useful comparison: For every dollar the world spends on military outlays, America accounts for 46 cents. China, a distant second, comes in at about 7 cents.”

Hmm.  Is that the real question?  Isn’t the real question how the United States can best keep its nation safe?  Isn’t it at the very least an open question whether striving to dominate the globe is making us safer or putting us at risk? The answer above to the wrong question is dramatically understated, and yet hugely important and worldview shattering for many potential readers.  I hope they read it.

“Gov. McDonnell is right to worry about the effect of defense spending cuts here in Virginia. Congress should pass legislation to stave off the sequestration meat ax. However, it needs to make judicious cuts to the defense budget. Overseas bases, redundant weapons systems, even force structures should all be on the table. The nation currently borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends. And there is simply no way to fix that problem without including military cuts as part of the solution.”

Wouldn’t you know they’d reach the wrong conclusion after so much good rhetoric.  The sequestration meat ax would cut that $1.2 trillion budget by about $50 billion.  It should be cut by much more.  Cutting back to merely three times the size of China would allow us not only to pay off debt but to make college free, eliminate student loans, develop a massive green energy program, and update our infrastructure.  Those are the tradeoffs that should have been mentioned.  The mass murder of non-Americans that is generated by the war momentum that Eisenhower warned us war spending would create might also merit consideration.  Nonetheless, I doubt I shall ever see this good an editorial in my local paper again.

 

Guess What % of Americans Know Military Spending Is Increasing

12:22 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson


And keep guessing some more, because pollsters are unlikely to ask that question.

A year and a half ago, a poll found that Americans drastically underestimate how high U.S. military spending is.

This fits with consistent polling showing slim majority support for cutting military spending, but strong support for major military cuts when the people polled are told what the current budget it.

Setting aside, however, the absolute size of the U.S. military budget, its size in comparison to the rest of the world’s militaries, or its size in comparison to the rest of the federal budget, are people able to process the fact that it’s been growing every year for the past 15 years — in the face of the steady news reports that it’s shrinking?

I doubt it.

(The Office of Management and Budget can be expected again this week to claim that military spending is low as a percentage of GDP. But the idea that we should spend more on war because we can is probably best left to psychiatrists to handle.)

Meanwhile, three GOP senators are touring the country warning that mythical military cuts will endanger us and hurt our socialistic jobs program.

Here are some basic facts missing from the discussion:

Money invested in non-military programs or even in tax cuts for non-billionaires creates more jobs than does military spending, enough to justify the expense of a conversion program to retrain and retool.

In much of the world, spending money on killing people in order to produce jobs is viewed as sociopathic.

Candidate Obama promised to increase military spending and size and President Obama has done so.

Military spending has increased dramatically in the past decade, in the Department of so-called “Defense” and in other departments, including “Homeland Security,” Energy, State, etc., plus increased secret budgets and the militarization of the CIA, totaling well over a trillion dollars a year now.

The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted to limit next year’s DOD spending to last year’s level, with some loopholes.  Making use of the loopholes, the House increased spending by over $1 billion.

Last year’s Budget Control Act, and the failure of the Super Congress, requires minimal cuts to military spending, but Congress is proceeding in violation of its own law.

When we’re told that cuts have already happened, usually what has been cut is future dream budgets.  But cutting the Pentagon’s wish list can still leave it with more than it had before.

When we’re told that big numbers will be cut, such as $500 billion “over 10 years,” this means that cutting $50 billion out of the budget sounds bigger if you multiply it by 10.  That’s all it means.

The U.S. military costs roughly what all other nations spend on their militaries combined, and more than the rest of U.S. discretionary spending combined.  This, combined with tax cuts for billionaires and corporations, or either factor alone, explains why many poorer nations have better schools, parks, energy systems, and infrastructure.

The U.S. military has troops in more nations each year, and bases in more nations each year.  It continues to be more privatized and more profitable each year.  It has not been and refuses to be audited.

Drone strikes in nations where no other type of war was underway or contemplated are an escalation of violence, not a reduction.

For less than 10 percent of U.S. military spending, we could make state college tuition free.

Americans with college educations are more likely to . . .

1) have job options other than the military, and
2) oppose obscene levels of military spending, and
3) be able to grasp that often the truth is the opposite of what the television keeps saying.

A Crazy Republican Attack That Obama Himself Agrees With

7:13 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Imagine if a bunch of the craziest war-hungry Republicans in the House filmed themselves in a nutty bat-guano video packed with lies addressed to the President of the United States.  And then imagine President Barack Obama almost immediately agreeing with them.  I can think of two ways in which such a series of events could go unnoticed, as it just has.

First, it could be about something insignificant. But this was about undoing the automatic cuts to the military mandated by the failure of the Supercommittee (remember, the top news story of a few months back?).  The military, across various departments, swallows over half of federal discretionary spending, and there’s no greater obsession in the corporate media than the great Spending vs. Cuts issue.  This is NOT insignificant.

Second, it could be about something that the elites of both major parties agree on, the media therefore ignores, most Republican voters love, and Democratic voters pretend not to notice because the President is a Democrat and an election is less than a year away.

If you’re guessing the second option, you are right. (Tell them what they’ve won, Leon!)  You are now the proud owners of the most expensive military ever seen, plus coming increases that will be presented as “cuts.”

When the Supercommittee failed, automatic federal budget cuts were to kick in — half to things we need and half to the bloated military.  The military cuts would take us back to 2004 spending.  We seem to have survived 2004 and the years preceding it OK.

The Pentagon claims to be making other cuts already, but they are “cuts” to dream budgets resulting in actual budget increases — and that’s not even counting increased war spending through other departments.

House Republicans have sent President Obama this crazy video opposing military cuts and introduced legislation to slash 10% of non-military government jobs instead. In the Senate, John McCain is said to be working on a similar bill. Read the rest of this entry →

Panetta: Military Spending Is Going Up

1:58 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

On Thursday, Leon Panetta held a press conference announcing what he called “cuts” to military spending.  The first question following his remarks pointed out that the “cuts” are to dream budgets, while the actual spending will be increased over Panetta’s 10-year plan.  Is there any year, the reporter asked, out of the 10 years in question, other than the first one, 2013, in which spending will actually decrease at all?  Panetta replied that he was proposing really truly to cut the projected dream budgets that he had hoped for.  In other words, he did not answer the question.

Now, there are additional minor cuts “on the table” as the saying goes, cuts that Panetta has described as disastrous, cuts that would take U.S. military spending back to about 2007 levels, cuts nowhere close to what a majority of the country favors.  (How we survived 2007 and all the years preceding it has never been explained.)  Earlier this week, Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee sent President Obama a video denouncing these cuts.  They are, of course, the cuts mandated by the legislation that created the Super Committee, which failed, resulting in supposedly automatic cuts.

The video (available here) is itself packed with lies.  It falsely claims that cuts have already been made.  It uses dollar figures derived from lumping 10 years of budgets together to make cuts sound 10 times larger.  It pretends the automatic cuts would all be to the military, whereas many could be to the State Department and other subsidiary arms of the military.  These Republicans propose slashing 10% of non-military government jobs and describe this as saving jobs, even though non-military spending produces more jobs for the same dollars than military spending does.  And of course there is no mention in this video or in any official discussion of exactly how outrageously huge the U.S. military has become.  But a crazy video, and a bill to go with it, can not only pass the House and make its way into the Senate (Senator John McCain is already working on companion legislation), but the President is already in agreement with this bill’s primary purpose of undoing any actual cuts to the military.  The history of lame duck officials, by the way, is that of becoming less, not more, representative of the public will. Caveat emptor!

In 2004, three times in three debates Senator John McCain proposed cutting military spending and Obama avoided the topic. Candidate Obama proposed significantly enlarging the largest military the world had ever seen.  And he has done so.  He now proposes not to cut it while pretending to cut it.  The best bit of rhetoric in this week’s State of the Union address was this:

“Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”

On Thursday, Panetta put that in real dollar terms.  Setting aside any possible supplemental spending bills, and ignoring increased war participation by the CIA, the State Department, etc., and apart from the much larger “non-war” military spending that continues to inch upward, not downward, Panetta claimed that, if Congress would agree, we would spend $88 billion on wars next year, instead of $115 billion this year.  That $115 billion is fairly typical of the past decade, in which we have spent between $100 billion and $200 billion on wars each year (not counting veterans care, fuel price impacts, lost opportunities, debt interest, etc.)  I suspect it also does not include Libya.  So, we’re saving $27 billion, maybe.  Take half of that for debt, and we’ve got $13.5 billion with which to do our nation-building right here at home.  Let’s be generous and round it up to $100 billion. That’s still in comparison with an overall war and “security” budget of well over $1 trillion annually.  And $13.5 billion is less than a quarter of the $60 billion Panetta now claims he will save purely through “increased efficiency.”  (Granted, that actually could be done in the Pentagon if it were not, you know, the Pentagon.)

The talk of cuts serves more than a political purpose for Panetta and Obama.  It also serves to justify actual cuts to services for troops and veterans even while increasing spending on weapons and occupying new nations.  Also announced on Thursday, Obama is working on re-occupying the Philippines.  To his credit, there has been no mention of the benefits to “our little brown brothers.”  There will be an increased Asian presence, Panetta said.  The Marines will maintain their Pacific presence, he noted in particular, horribly smashing the hopes of the entire population of Okinawa.  There will be no cuts to bombers.  We will have a “posture forward” and be able to “penetrate defenses” strengthening “the ability to project power in denied areas,” also known as other people’s countries.  But healthcare fees and deductibles for troops and veterans will have to go up, Panetta said.

The second question asked at Panetta’s press conference (how did actual reporters get in there?) was why a tiny reduction following a massive increase in troops in Afghanistan was really sufficient.  Panetta was unable to explain.  Can you?

How Many Progressive Budget Analysts Does It Take to Notice the Military?

7:40 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Whether or not one recklessly and misleadingly includes Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid in discussions of the federal discretionary budget, the fact remains that over half of the discretionary budget (of everything other than Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid) is military. The primary talking point coming out of the White House is the need to freeze all non-military discretionary spending. And yet it is difficult to find a progressive analysis of the budget President Obama proposed on Monday that even mentions the existence of the military.

Here’s Robert Reich arguing for taxing and spending. I agree with everything he says. I would tax the rich if all it accomplished was taxing the rich. I would spend on the poor if the money had to be borrowed. But there has to be some reason why Reich does not mention the option of funding everything he dreams of and more by cutting the military back to merely three times the size of anyone else’s. He must believe the United States benefits from and can survive an ever-larger military budget. Or he must be afraid to say otherwise.

You can find similar, military-free analysis at the Campaign for America’s Future, although CAF does squeeze mention of the military in here, and at the Nation. At Huffington Post the main story doesn’t mention the military, and it’s followed by a blurb misleadingly suggesting that the “defense” budget is being cut, while in reality it is going up. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities includes one half sentence misleadingly suggesting “defense” is being cut.

Ezra Klein, not your most progressive blogger, was, to his credit, among those bucking the trend. He called the United States government An insurance conglomerate protected by a large, standing army and pointed out that The Defense Department won the future, or at least the budget.

You can listen to the audio recording of a phone call the White House held on Monday with progressive bloggers here. Congressional Budget Office spokesman Ken Baer briefly mentions the White House’s misleading claim to be cutting $78 billion from “defense” without stressing that those are theoretical cuts in future years and cuts from a dream list but actually increases above this year’s budget. White House adviser David Plouffe did not mention the military at all in his initial comments when he joined the call late.

Progressive bloggers asked why the budget was so hard on poor people and so easy on the rich, why funding for poor people’s heat was being slashed, how cuts could possibly be good for the economy, et cetera. They wanted spending, not cuts. They dragged in Social Security. But the call was almost over before a single one of them brought up the existence of the U.S. military, despite the fact that over half of discretionary spending goes there, and despite the consensus among economists that the same spending elsewhere would produce many more jobs and jobs with better pay.

Christina O’Connell with FireDogLake, always the best blog that manages to maintain access to these calls, asked about the pretended cuts in military spending and about the ongoing war spending and whether there would be additional off-the-books supplemental bills. Plouffe replied by bashing Bush’s practice of using supplementals despite Obama having broken a promise and used them for the past two years, but did not promise not to go on using them for a third year. At the same time Plouffe meaninglessly bragged about a decrease in war spending in the 2012 budget. He did not reply at all to the first half of O’Connell’s question, regarding the pretense that overall military spending is being cut while in reality it is going up. He did not explain that the theoretical future cuts are only proposed as cuts to wish lists while still allowing the budget to increase year by year.

Why the lack of interest among the other bloggers in the majority of the budget they are reporting on?

Do progressive bloggers consider it their duty to talk (albeit in a better way) about the topics those in power want to talk about? Would it be rude to raise a new topic no matter how relevant?

Or do progressives who are loyal to the Democratic Party and therefore invited on White House phone calls share Barack Obama’s desire to increase the military every year and use it against a growing number of countries each year?

These are serious questions, even deadly serious questions.

Public Says Cut Pentagon, Obama Says Increase Funding

9:50 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Did you know that the U.S. public wants military spending cut? Did you know that President Barack Obama wants to increase it for his third year in a row? Actually I already know that most of you didn’t know either of these things.

A poll released on Tuesday and in line with other polling over the years asked: “To ensure its safety, should the United States always spend at least three times as much on defense as any other nation?” This question mislabels the military “defense,” which most of it isn’t, and claims the interest of “safety,” albeit in the context of other questions about spending money, and yet only 25% of voters said yes, while 40% said no and 35% were not sure.

In reality, the United States could cut its military budget (just the Department of so-called Defense, not counting the hundreds of billions spent through other departments) by 85% and still easily be the most expensive military on the planet. Taking the DOD down to merely three times the expense of China’s military (the world’s next largest) would mean cutting it by 55%. Taking it down to twice China’s military would mean cutting it by 70%.

The same poll asked “Does the United States spend too much on the military and national security, not enough, or about the right amount?” If respondents had been informed of what the United States spends, then something smaller than 25% of them should have answered “not enough” and “just right” combined. Instead, 27% said “not enough” and 37% said “just right” while only 32% said too much. Despite 35% saying they were not sure on the other question, and nearly everyone not knowing what they were talking about, respondents all had an opinion on this one, and most of them were wrong by their own measure.

When a pollster tells Americans the facts and then asks for opinions, the results are predictably different. When told how much money goes where in the federal budget, 65% of Americans want the military cut. But only a small minority of Americans is aware of that.

And anyone paying attention at all almost certainly believes that President Obama is cutting the military. When he has increased it in the past, the media has made so much noise about particular weapons being cut, that nobody’s noticed the overall increase. In Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address he claimed:

“The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without.”

The English language is flexible enough to avoid calling this a lie if we want to avoid that. But consider these facts. Obama is not here talking about the 2012 fiscal year budget which he is about to propose and for which he will propose a larger military than ever. Instead he is talking about future years, years the budgets for which will not actually be set until they arrive — at which point it’s anybody’s guess whether the “cuts” will be made. I put “cuts” in quotation marks because of this other key fact: Obama is not here talking about reducing the military budget even in future years, but rather about scaling back the military’s dreams for much larger budgets. That is to say, even with these “cuts” (of $78 billion over 5 years, as proposed by Secretary Gates) the Pentagon budget will still be increasing beyond the rate of inflation. The cuts are not being imagined as made to the current budget level. Instead what’s being cut are the projected budgets for future years as dreamed up by the military.

Thus is an increasing budget referred to as having been cut. The Project on Defense Alternatives has explained this trickery here, as has the National Priorities Project here, not to mention Reuters here. And yet, when I bring this up, people complain to me that Obama promised to cut the military and use the money for good things — they heard it themselves on television.

Now, the unusual thing is that everybody in Washington (other than most Congress members or presidents) is indeed talking about cutting the military. A task force convened by Congressman Barney Frank has proposed cutting $1 trillion over 10 years. The chairs of the President’s deficit commission have proposed cutting $100 billion while Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky says $110 billion, and CATO proposes $150 billion. The American Conservative Union (CPAC) has two sessions on cutting the military planned for its upcoming convention.

But Obama proposed, in that same State of the Union speech, to freeze spending on everything other than wars and the military. Contrary to myth, Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are not part of the federal budget. They are separate programs that fund themselves just fine, thank you. The money in Social Security is loaned to the government and owed back to the people with interest. Politicians have no business touching it. If it starts to run short, that can easily be fixed by asking those with large incomes to pay in at the same rate as those with small incomes. The actual budget funded by our income taxes is dominated by the military. When all types of military and war spending are added up, they amount to more than half of the budget. So, the proposed five-year freeze applies only to a minority of the budget, just about all of which has a superior impact on the U.S. economy to military spending.

Here are ways in which to do something about this:

DefundWar.org logo

MODEL CAMPAIGNS

Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home

St. Louis Peace Economy Project

Boston’s 25 Percent Solution

Bay Area’s New Priorities Campaign

Maryland’s Our Funds

Pennsylvania’s Campaign for Smart Security

PDA’s Brown Bag Lunch Vigils in districts everywhere.

Do more than vigiling.

Peaceable Assembly Campaign

New Priorities Network

Code Pink: Bring Our War $ Home


LOCAL COST CALCULATIONS

A report from the National Priorities Project (PDF) contains on pages 23 and 24 documentation of how investing in military reduces jobs and hurts economy.  Get cost of war to your area here, but multiply it by five. Get cost of military contracts to your area here.  Get the amount of money military companies give your representative here.  And here’s the cost of weapons you give Israel.

Here’s a calculator for what particular weapons are costing us.

50 fact sheets, 1 for each state: here.

CONVERTING ECONOMY FROM WAR TO PEACE

Draft legislation

PROPOSED MILITARY CUTS

From Budget Task Force

From CATO

From President’s Deficit Commission

From Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky

LOCAL AND STATE RESOLUTIONS

Pass a local resolution.  Even big cities and state labor councils and state political parties are doing it.

Put a cost of war counter on city hall.

Here’s a kit from Cities for Progress.

Some additional cities that have done this: Newton, Mass., Cambridge, Mass.

ELECTORAL STRATEGY

Unelect those who fund wars; someone worse cannot be much worse

FLYERS

Six Facts No War Supporters Know

Bring Our War $ Home

Code Pink flyer and other Code Pink resources.

Lipstick on Pig flyer.

We Call for the United States to End Its Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan!

AVATAR Awakening

POSTERS

Lots to choose from

STICKERS

BANNERS

PRESENTATIONS

Here’s a power point with a handout and a script.

Another great power point — and feel free to modify and adapt it.

FILMS

ReThink Afghanistan

Why Are We In Afghanistan Again

Capitol Hill Teach In

Arlington West

Video Contest: What Would You Do With A Trillion Dollars?

ARTICLES

It’s Jobs or Wars, Not Both

The Peace Movement’s Progress.

Democrats forced to cheat to fund war.

33 Billion Dishonest Excuses for War

Dear Fiscal Conservative War Supporter

Congressman, Vote No on Afghan War Escalation

Afghanistan: Ending a Failed Military Strategy: A Briefing Paper by September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Wars have been ended by defunding them before.  Many times.

The Afghan Marshall Plan, an Exit Strategy


LATEST NEWS

Afghanistan War Weekly

War Is A Crime: Afghanistan

BOOKS

War Is A Lie, by David Swanson

Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer, By David Wildman and Phyllis Bennis

Seymour Melman’s books

POLLS

Where U.S. public opinion is and where it’s moving.

And how much people know.

CREATIVE ACTIVITIES

Hold a drawathon. Here’s how.

It’s Not a “Defense” Department

7:27 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

By David Swanson

The U.S. military budget, and the add-on war budget, and the total of the two have all been headed upwards for years and have been headed upwards for the past year and a half. Yes, I know, all you hear about is the one airplane that the so-called Secretary of Defense doesn’t want but that Congress insists on giving him anyway. But he and the President have twice asked for a larger overall budget and twice been given it. And almost none of it has anything to do with defense.

The radical edge of acceptable discussion — and really it’s probably beyond the pale, and you may hear nothing of it — is represented by a report released on Friday at http://comw.org/pda by the Project on Defense Alternatives and other members of the Sustainable Defense Task Force. They propose tweaking what they absurdly call the "defense" budget ever so slightly. Neither Gates nor Obama is likely to stand for such talk, and both are likely to nonetheless be depicted in the media as enemies of a "strong defense." Nonetheless, the new report is outrageously inadequate and laughably unsustainable. It’s merely a baby step in the right direction. And such steps are so scandalous as to be met with silence in Washington.

"We should spend as much as necessary on national defense, but not one penny more," says the report, titled "Debt, Deficits, & Defense: A Way Forward" (DDD). Would that we, or even this report, could live up to that. Congressmen Barney Frank, Walter Jones, and Ron Paul, and Senator Ron Wyden requested the report, and it’s a fine one as these things go. Congressman Dennis Kucinich used to be ostracized for suggesting a 15% cut to the Pentagon. Two years ago, Congressman Frank proposed a 25% cut, but much of the supposed cut came in the form of ending the current wars, something that — as far as Frank is concerned — will happen or not, at the pleasure of the President. The new report (DDD) looks at the non-war military budget alone and proposes cuts that would save "$960 billion between 2011 and 2020". That is to say, $96 billion per year. If the 2011 budget is $708 billion and it miraculously ceases to explode upward during the following nine years, but remains unchanged, then we’re talking about a cut of 13.5%. If the budget continues to skyrocket, and the war budget too continues to climb, then we’re talking about a much smaller cut.

Oh the outrage! The horror! Surely the commies and the terrorists, if not the krauts and the japs, will be marching us all off to camps tomorrow. Well, they might set off a bomb in Times Square. But because our military’s actions antagonize the world and make us less safe, we are endangered by Pentagon budget cuts that are too small, not those that would be too large. DDD refers to the military budget as the "defense budget" and keeps up the pretense that it is used for defending us. The cuts it proposes are not aimed at reducing or eliminating wars of aggression, drone strikes, secret unauthorized coups and assassinations, or prisoner abuse. Instead they’re focused on doing what we’ve been doing but doing it "right". In the words of the report:

"We have focused especially on:
• DoD programs that are based on unreliable or unproven technologies,
• Military missions and capabilities that exhibit low military utility or a poor cost-benefit payoff,
• Assets and capabilities that mismatch or substantially overmatch current and emerging military challenges, and
• Opportunities for providing needed capabilities and assets at lower cost via management reforms."

In other words, we should cut out the waste, impose some accountability on the contracting, and buy the weapons that actually kill the most people for each dollar spent. So, according to DDD, we should reduce our nukes until we can only destroy the planet a reasonable number of times over, reduce "missile defense" programs, cut "peacetime" personnel down to 1.3 million (assuming there ever again is a "peacetime"), cut the Navy back from 10 naval air wings to 8, not buy the crazy planes and vehicles that don’t work, etc. These are all moves in the right direction, but so is drilling 8 new oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico instead of 10. So is partially leaving Afghanistan in 8 more years instead of 10. So is giving Goldman Sachs $8 trillion instead of $10 trillion.

Section VII of the DDD report adds an important bit of information. Its title is "A Strategy of Restraint Would Allow Even Greater Savings." This section was drawn up by task force members from the Cato Institute who point out that:

"By cutting missions we can cut force structure — reducing the number of US military personnel and the weapons and vehicles we procure for them. By cutting force structure and bringing back our forces from overseas, we can reduce the cost of operation and maintaining the military."

One step further in the argument would have explained the difference between offense and defense, between useful spending and spending that is not merely wasteful but actually endangers us and others. Our offensive military budget is larger than those of all conceivable enemies combined. It should be cut by at least two-thirds. But proposing to cut it by 13.5 percent is not just considered reckless; it’s considered so horrifying as to be unmentionable.

Congressman Barney Frank was scheduled to hold a press conference at 10 a.m. on Friday in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center. When 100 teabaggers show up there shouting about their taxes, it’s a national news story. I wonder if GE, Viacom, and Disney will fill you in on what Congressman Frank has to say about where some of that hated government spending could be curtailed. Don’t hold your breath, but hold onto your wallet.