China Rails on Drunken U.S. Defense Spending

America needs to enter a sobriety program. During this recent debate on raising the debt ceiling, Congress has passed a wide reaching defense spending bill, one that increases the amount of money that Americans spend to throw its weight around the world to an astonishing $17 billion more than last years bill to reach a grand total of $649 billion.

Nearly half the world’s defense dollars are spent by the United States. If we’d just keep raising the amount of money we spend, just a little, we could outspend every other country on earth COMBINED. Certainly, a feat to be proud of.

Yet, this budgetary crime has garnered nearly zero attention in the minds of Americans, mostly because military spending is thought to be sacred, a hold over from our victory in World War II, but absolutely unrealistic in 2011. Mostly, though, the encouragement of defense spending comes from interested parties including the obvious corporate parties such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Dell, General Dynamics, Hewlett Packard and a host of other private entities that would not exist without generous spending from defense appropriations.

Less obvious are the states which depend on the military to provide employment to its citizens. States such as Texas, Virginia, Alabama, Alaska and Montana, where more kids join the military than enter the private sector., Presumably this is because few job opportunities exist in those states, at least none which offer generous pay and signing bonuses, educational benefits, retirement after 20 years, and health insurance for life.

Does this sound like welfare to you? It sounds like welfare to me. I wish I got that deal. It is interesting that the same people shouting to keep spending money on guns and soldiers are the same people that want to cut public education and health care for poor people.

Recently, Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff had the opportunity to visit and meet with officials from the Chinese military.

General Chen of the Chinese Army made the following statement:

“I know [the] U.S. is still recovering from financial crisis, still has some difficulties in its economy,” Chen said. “Given such circumstances, you are still spending so much money on the military. Isn’t it placing too much pressure on the taxpayers? If [the] U.S. could reduce a bit military spending to spend more on the improvement of livelihood of American people and also do more good things for world people, wouldn’t it be a better scenario?”

This is obviously going to feed conservative resentment of liberals who suggest shrinking the US military. Conservatives will inevitably suggest that supporting reductions in defense spending is akin to taking the side of a communist power, so I’ll just be prepared.

The statement itself was interesting. It is doubtful that Chen came up with the statement on his own, but was rather prompted to make the statement by others in the government. China is well aware that any reduction in the US military will still leave the US spending several times the amount that China spends. However, China is also aware that the United States is a consumer economy, and that China’s economy depends on the cheap manufacture of American consumer goods.

Defense spending is an economic blackhole for the average American consumer. Every tax dollar diverted to the military is one that is not spent on investment in infrastructure or even tax breaks that will create opportunities for American small businesses, which in turn create jobs. Every tax dollar spent is another that is taken away from providing health care to Americans, who can’t buy TV’s if they are busy bankrupting themselves to pay for long ignored health issues. Every tax dollar spent on an unnaturally bloated military is one that is not spent on education to insure that kids grow up to meet their earning potential.

I am in no way suggesting that it is realistic for the United States to have a military the size of Malawi’s. However, it is troubling to me that in these debates on spending, conservatives have not put their money where their mouth is and asked for deep cuts in the scale and scope of a gargantuan military run wild. More disappointing is the lack of political will in the Obama administration to lead by example and make bold cuts to an unsustainable dependence on throwing our military might around the world for the sake of pleasing a few companies and states.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

One response to “China Rails on Drunken U.S. Defense Spending”

  1. stumpwater says :

    This cuts straight to the heart of the matter. The war industry is pretty much the root of all the big problems we face (including environmental concerns). You’ve managed to lay it out in short, simple terms that I wish everyone in the US could read. It’s amazing to me how many people don’t get this. Great writing!

    NB: I’m not sure I entirely agree that the Obama administration’s actions are the result of a “lack of political will,” but that’s another discussion.

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