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© Alex Blythe |

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday has been making the rounds of the blogosphere:

The poll found 51 percent of Americans support reducing defense spending, and only 28 percent want to cut Medicare and Medicaid health programs for the elderly and poor. A mere 18 percent back cuts in the Social Security retirement program.

The poll is getting less circulation among the Village commentators, who if they will address it will undoubtedly say something about those poor misguided Americans who really just don't understand the difficult things like big budgets, and just don't know what's good for them. What's good for them, obviously, is working until they're ready to drop and then subsisting on catfood and the knowledge that they sacrificed their share.

What you probably won't be hearing from the Villagers when it comes to spending cuts is this, from Christopher Hellman, a military spending analyst with progressive think tank the National Priorities Project.

Though Obama’s 2012 budget remains in legislative limbo, the figures offered within provide a meaningful glimpse into the sorts of costs government programs are expected to incur. Hellman’s breakdown sheds light on just how much money the U.S. really spends on national security.

Last week, Hellman wrote an article for political blog the Tom Dispatch in which he explained that the $558 billion Pentagon budget and the $118 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t come close to depicting the whole picture of national security spending. Nuclear program maintenance, additional war and terrorism-related operational costs and homeland security all drive up defense expenses by nearly $90 billion. Intelligence, veterans programs, miscellaneous peacekeeping and counterterrorism efforts and military pensions push national security spending yet further, tipping total costs just over $1 trillion. Hellman caps that figure off with the $185 billion the U.S. must pay in 2012 in interest on standing defense debts and arrives at a sum total of $1.22 trillion. To put that number in perspective, Hellman says that a country with a gross domestic product that high would have the 15th largest economy in the world, ahead of Indonesia, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

So take out the $129.3 billion included in his calculations for veterans programs, because the nation sent these people to fight for us and they damned well deserve every meager penny spent on them. Take it out and you're still well over a trillion—trillion in one year of defense spending. Now, defense contractors aren't worrying about what they're going to subsist on in their dotage (though some of their shop floor workers in right to work states might be, now that austerity rules).

$700 billion for unending, pointless wars is bad enough—bring them home and spend the money taking care of them here. But $1.22 trillion—enough to fund a comfortably well-off country—when the social safety net for the country is being shredded is obscene.

(See Meteor Blades's Night Owls post from March 3, 2011, for much more on this.)

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for ... (8+ / 0-)

    ... putting this diary up and wiping that embarrassing football shit off the top slot.

    Use a little judgment, eh, kos? Millionaires fighting millionaires?

    Two losers, no winners.

  •  Over a trillion for defense, but cut teachers (18+ / 0-)

    Exactly what kind of future are we preparing for?

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 07:37:52 PM PST

  •  yeah but (7+ / 0-)

    you can get away with whatever you want if you have 1000 radio stations blasting the country to enable whatever you want.

    Progressives will lose all major messaging battles until they picket the limbaugh/hannity megastations and boycott those stations' local sponsors.

    by certainot on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 07:39:35 PM PST

  •  military spending the antithesis of social justice (13+ / 0-)

    I could go on, but I'd rather defer to a prescient voice, and that of a Republican president who first identified the danger that the military industrial complex poses to this country

    "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. "

    Dwight D. Eisenhower, From a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

    How we as a nation justify spending so much on stuff that either blows up, blows up other stuff, or in the best case scenario sits unused until it is obsolete is beyond comprehension.

    "Welcome to Costco, I love you" -- Greetings from "Idiocracy"

    by martinjedlicka on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 07:40:33 PM PST

  •  The fact that America spends 43% of the ... (10+ / 0-) total on "defense" tells you just how insane our leaders are and anyone who buys their BS. We have to be the biggest damned cowards in the world to spend 43% of the worlds total military spending.

    Hell, we going to use a base in Poland now! In this time of austerity, we should be shutting down damned near every foreign base we occupy now. If corporations need weapons systems to protect their foreign pillaging, let them buy themselves or hire someone to do it: I'm tired of subsidizing corporate expansion by military intervention with my tax dollars, then having my taxes raised here at home to make up the shortfall for what the corporations not paying their fair share in taxes.

    I can't help imagining a tomorrow's America (Near future), where we have the most powerful military in the world to protect the most heavily armed third world shit hole in the western world: America. It's so oxy-moronic, it hurts. We have to spend, spend, spend, to have the worlds most powerful military while not investing at home. It's like a giant Maginot Line, only it's a circle, but what's inside is dead from neglect.

    The sleep of reason produces monsters.

    by Alumbrados on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 07:45:25 PM PST

    •  The nitty gritty on how DC operates though (3+ / 0-)

      is the War Machine is likely the one thing making jobs in a lot of states and districts. I don't know the number but if it were a majority of districts, I'd not be surprised.

      There'd have to be a simultaneous re-employment plan to keep all those people working. Maybe for something wild like-- what? -- cheap to free energy products? And then you are cutting out Oil Companies. What part of the government do they own?

      We are cursed with a political class which plays every single fucking play for the pettiest of advantages, and not even a little interested in the long-term effects of what they do.

      Until we break the corporate virtual monopoly on what we hear and see, we keep losing, don't matter what we do.

      by Jim P on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 07:58:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Democrats should show this to the voters (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ctsteve, bekosiluvu, supercereal

    and say, "which do you prefer, jobs or wars?"

  •  The defense budget (8+ / 0-)

    is like a black hole that grows bigger year by year.  No money can escape its gravity.  And no light seems to reach the Beltway pundits, either.

  •  And the sad thing is that this (5+ / 0-)

    massive spending on the military has most probably made us less secure.  A society in which a large number of it citizens are in economic limbo on the edge of disaster, is not a secure one.

    Just think of the possibilities if we directed this money towards the people and towards productive means. Investment in critical infrastructure and green sustainable technologies.

    Yet the Banksters , the MIC and the richest of the rich have us on a path that is insecure and dangerous.

  •  Oh yeah (13+ / 0-)

    That. Good post.

    The last figures I saw military spending accounted for 53% of discretionary spending, 19 percent of all spending, and just under half of all military spending worldwide. I'd like to know exactly how much of the money goes to defense contractors.

    The country is militarizing itself to death.

    The U.S. clearly has reached the point of imperial overreach. Military spending and debt-servicing are cannibalizing the U.S. economy, the real basis of its world power. Besides the late U.S.S.R., the U.S. also increasingly resembles the dying British Empire in 1945, crushed by immense debts incurred to wage the Second World War, unable to continue financing or defending the imperium, yet still imbued with imperial pretensions.
  •  And it's even worse than this (7+ / 0-)
    [$1.22 tr]illion for unending, pointless wars is bad enough—

    The wars increase the numbers of our enemies and their commitment. They weaken us geopolitically and economically. And they call it "Defense."

    More, we guarantee a part of the $1-1/4 trillion will create, merely from its being spent, further expenses down the road, in Veterans Care, in Interest payments, in building inventory back up.

    It's not just that it's wrong, unjust, and even stupid. Our foreign policy consensus is most like someone cutting their own throat than it is like any other thing. Add in "screw the middle class on down at the same time."

    It is not a far reach to say that our foreign policy decision-makers, as a class and with their consensus, are the greatest threat to our national security. In a very real way.

    Until we break the corporate virtual monopoly on what we hear and see, we keep losing, don't matter what we do.

    by Jim P on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 07:48:08 PM PST

  •  Quickly approaching 70% of discretionary (5+ / 0-)

    spending.   It's got a hold on our country and will bring us down unless we bring it down.

    S.A.W. 2011 STOP ALL WARS "The Global War on Terror is a fabrication to justify imperialism."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 08:08:40 PM PST

  •  Vet benefits are defense spending (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler
    So take out the $129.3 billion included in his calculations for veterans programs, because the nation sent these people to fight for us and they damned well deserve every meager penny spent on them.

    It's quite appropriate to consider veteran's benefits part of defense spending just as pensions and disability payments are rightly considered part of a worker's compensation plan.  What else would it be considered?  The original tallier was totaling up the money we spend on defense, not considering its value.

    50% + 1: All Senate candidates should must the pledgeGo Nuclear Now!!!

    by KingBolete on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 08:24:39 PM PST

  •  Thank you for this sentence: (3+ / 0-)

    "So take out the $129.3 billion included in his calculations for veterans programs, because the nation sent these people to fight for us and they damned well deserve every meager penny spent on them."

    As I read your article, this thought was already in my mind from the moment it appeared, only to see you very nicely state it towards the end.

    The military budget is really the trillion-pound gorilla in the room that nobody appears to want to acknowledge when they blather about the deficit...

    Thanks for a great article!

    Inside of me are two dogs. One is mean and evil. The other is gentle and good. The two dogs fight all the time. Which dog wins? The one I feed the most.

    by bakeneko on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 08:31:56 PM PST

  •  thanks for taking out the vets costs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Terra Mystica

    as you said, they have that coming and more. The rest.. slash Star Wars, bases in Europe, Japan etc etc.

    We're broke (supposedly) so why the fuck are we defending Germany from Russia or whatever?

  •  it's why we have Million Musicians March for Peace (0+ / 0-)

    Kossacks in town, please join us.  

    A socialist is a free market capitalist who's been mugged by the market. -- TimeZoned

    by bekosiluvu on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 08:42:50 PM PST

  •  It shows the real purpose of the US military (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler, flavor411

    It is not to win wars. We won the big one against Germany and Japan, and have continued to build a very, very expensive military designed to defeat Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union.

    Why not?  We one that war, so why not continue to pretend that all other wars should be like that?  It's not fair to America, in this exceptionalist logic, for modern enemies to not fight like the ones we're equipped to fight.

    But the real purpose is to squander money on the military-industrial complex.  Waste is the whole point. It is a massive transfer of money from the taxpayers to a group of corporations.  It is no more useful than building walls and tearing them down again, but it uses far more resources.  It pretends to be useful, but even the generals do not want some of the weapons that Congress sends them.  Professional soldiers, the kind who care about results more than about their post-military jobs in industry, would not buy the same things.

    National security? Gimme a break.  The Russkies or Gerries or Nips (remember TV's Combat?) aren't going to attack us.  21st century warfare is not conducted by massed armies.  It is not a high-capital business.  But this pseudo-capitalism is the business that the US military exists to serve.

    •  And what about the four branches of the military? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Each one constantly lobbying for more and more stuff. The Air Force gets their aircraft, the Navy gets their aircraft and the Marines gets theirs. Only the Army doesn't get airplanes because, hell, we don't want to be totally ridiculous. They only get helicopters. You want government waste and redundancy, take a look there.  

  •  back into the ditch... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Terra Mystica, flavor411

    It's sickening, really. The politicians in control seem to have genuinely stopped caring about the greater good of both our society and our culture. Personal enrichment is the political mantra that seems to be in fashion at the moment and it's going to be to the detriment of this country.

    If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. -Thomas Jefferson

    by plato 451 on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:23:24 PM PST

  •  Great post and even if the Wars end tomorrow.... (2+ / 0-)

    As an ex-GI just wait until all this equipment comes back and needs complete Depot maintenance if not total replacement.  Right now much of what is being used is getting field maintenance.  And even if it does'nt need total re-hab or replacement I can gaurantee the Defense Contractors and the revolving door Military complex will make sure it gets replaced / rehabed.  The cost to tax payers will be in the Hundreds of Billions.

    When Republicans Win You Lose

    by workinguy on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 10:55:53 PM PST

  •  You are about to see up close and personal... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The poll found 51 percent of Americans support reducing defense spending, and only 28 percent want to cut Medicare and Medicaid health programs for the elderly and poor. A mere 18 percent back cuts in the Social Security retirement program. a multi-billionaire plutocracy works its magic in contradiction to all indications to the contrary.

    The community of fools might be small if it were not such an accomplished proselytizer.

    by ZedMont on Sat Mar 12, 2011 at 07:19:13 AM PST

  •  As an Ex-GI.... (0+ / 0-)

    You nailed it Joan. I"m always amazed at the Right talking smak about wasteful federal spending and oppressive bureaucracy.  Having done a 6 and 2 in the NG with much of it full-time and active-duty, I can ASSURE you there is nothing more wasteful and bureaucratic then the military.  (And yes I loved my unit but am not blinded to the baloney that I saw in the military.)  I've worked for and contracted to both municipal and state govts.  THEY FUCKING PALE in comparison to the BUREAUCRATIC maze that is the Military and they are like frugal, depression era, granny's when compared to the military spending industrial complex.

    When Republicans Win You Lose

    by workinguy on Sat Mar 12, 2011 at 11:00:47 AM PST

  •  I think you all are (0+ / 0-)

    missing the big picture here. Do you think all that money goes to the soldiers and sailors? Think again. The biggest part of the defense budget is a government jobs program. If spending is slashed like some people want, all those that work in the defense industry will be unemployed. You don't have to like it, I certainly don't. But them there is the facts.

    It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

    by AKA potsi on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 08:55:26 AM PDT

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