Thursday, July 31, 2008

So Long, And Thanks for all the Fish!

So were the final words of the dolphins as they left a doomed Earth in Douglas Adam's Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. And that's pretty much what the Bush administration will be telling all of us come January 2009. The White House Budget Office has estimated the government's deficit will surge past a half-trillion dollars next year--amounting to a staggering $482 billion.

Oh but it gets better...

According to reports, "That figure is sure to rise after adding the tens of billions of dollars in additional Iraq war funding it doesn't include, and the total could be higher yet if the economy fails to recover as the administration predicts."

In fact, the AP points out, "The administration actually underestimates the deficit since it leaves out about $80 billion in war costs. In a break from tradition — and in violation of new mandates from Congress — the White House did not include its full estimate of war costs."

In case any of you have not been paying attention, that bungled Iraqi colonial venture is currently costing the US an estimated $341.4 million per day.

The irony of course is that when George W. Bush was appointed to the presidency by the Supreme Court, he inherited a budget of unprecedented surpluses due to a 10-year period of uninterrupted economic growth. Sure much of that owed to exploitative neoliberal policies at home and abroad,
and all boats certainly did not "rise" (Sorry Mr. Friedman, world ain't so flat after all) . But it's not as if the Bush administration made any improvements. In fact, they actually made things worse. Continuing to aggresively push the same "free market" ideologies of his predecessors, Bush also pushed through a 10-year, $1.35 trillion package of tax cuts--mostly for the rich and upper class.

In typical form, presidential candidate Sen. John McCain used the news to rail against profligate government spending. "I have an unmatched record in fighting wasteful earmarks and unnecessary spending in the U.S. Senate, and I have the determination and experience to do the same as president," Sen. McCain said. In GOP speak this generally means, cutting funding to social services utilized by ordinary citizens even during an economic downturn. The one service Sen. McCain doesn't intend on cutting are the reported multi-trillion dollar tax cuts he plans on doling out to the wealthy.

Democratic contender Sen. Barack Obama promised as well to cut "wasteful spending." But to his credit, he identified this as closing corporate loopholes and rolling back the Bush-era tax cuts on upper brackets that Sen. McCain favors. At the same time he is promising to make "health care affordable" as well as engaging in a middle class tax cut (sorry poor folks, you guys never qualify much for tax cuts; just hold onto that third job, if you can find it). How the Illinois Senator plans to do this however, and at the same time expand the military (and by extension the already bloated military budget) while prosecuting a war in Afghanistan and maybe even Pakistan, remains to be seen.

All of which brings me to my main point...

Now I'm no economist, and far be it from me to tell the experienced parties where to take their budget cutting scissors when it comes to reducing the deficit. But last I checked, the US in 2008 spent a staggering $623 billion on military funding--that's $123 billion more than the entire rest of the world *combined.*

And as massive as these numbers are, they don't even include the billions given away yearly in military funding to "friendly" regimes--from Pakistan to Israel--that the US doles out each year.

To put this in terms that are plain and relatable, in Fiscal Year 2007, 20% of American tax dollars went to health research and services; 12% went to respond to poverty; 11% went to interest; general government operations accounted for 7%; all of 3% was spent on community and economic development, including social programs; scientific and environmental studies was afforded another 3%, while international diplomatic aid accounted for 1%. The remaining 43% almost half of the federal budget, went to military and war funding. That's your money folks--our money.

Now call me a crazy man, but perhaps if we shaved just a little off the top there--heck a whole lot off the top--it might make a dent in our deficit and other economic woes? Instead of cutting funding to things that save and enrich lives (health care, education, etc.) how about we scale back on the things that take lives?

Unfortunately, as Glen Greenwald over at put it, there seems to be a "bi-partisan consensus" on US military spending. Outside of restricted and muzzled agitators like Rep. Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader, there is literally no debate or criticism of America's out-of-control military spending. In fact, there only seems to be an appetite--from both parties--for more.

Perhaps in the end this is part of that "military-congressional-industrial complex" that long haired hippie and kook President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about. But that's another post, for another blog...

*Special thanks to Glen Greenwald's The bipartisan consensus on U.S. military spending and the Friends Committee on National Legislation for the information. God Bless the Quakers!


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