Reply to “Billionaires”: Part 2 budget cuts @ WTF 3/22

 

 

WTF is gonna take a break this week…

Sorta…

I’m devoting the entire WTF column, to Part 2 of my kinda, sorta rebuttal to last Thursday’s “billionaires” column…

 

Now… let’s talk about some real money… the U.S. budget…

Wanna know a way we can save this country a lot of money? Money that could be used elsewhere? Maybe helping fund programs like Social Security?

Through cuts in the budget.

Wanna know what needs to be cut?

The Defense… or… let’s call it by its correct name the military or war budget…

Trumpty Dumpty wants to add $54 billion to the war budget.

No. We need to cut the war budget… need to make it a leaner budget. And, that can be done.

In 2016, the International Institute for Strategic Studies released its Military Balance report for the year. This report tries to closely examine the changing nature of military power. The big piece of information that it showed? That U.S. military spending outpaced the rest of the world… by a lot.

The US war budget was $597 billion and that figure was almost as much as the next 14 countries put together and much, much, much greater than the rest of the world.

China… an up and comer in the war budget game… spends “only” about $145.8 billion… less than a third of the U.S. war budget.

A sizable part of that budget is making sure the military bases that the US has around the world are safe, secure and well-functioning. The United States maintains about 800 military bases… some say that number is closer to 900… in more than 70 countries and various territories… from giant so-called “Little Americas” to small barely personed radar facilities.

Britain, France and Russia have about 30 foreign bases combined.

The cost of maintaining all those facilities?

Various calculations say the costs for the year 2014 was between $85 to $100 billion… when the cost for US bases and troops in active war zones was added… the cost blossomed to about $160 to $200 billion.

Do we need all these bases and facilities? Do we need the costs that are attached to supporting all these military bases and facilities?

A prominent big argument that is generally heard is that these bases are the centerpiece of protecting a free and democratic European world from any potential enemies…. specifically, Russia. But, having 80,000 troops at 350 installations in Europe is not necessary to protecting either American or American allies’ interests. Not really.

The deterrence value of bases is simply an exaggeration. Even during the height of the Cold War, the tensions that were depicted were more a creation of the U.S propaganda machine than any real threat that the Soviet Union would mount a full-scale invasion into any free European state, and, that the US would need to mount a full-scale counter offensive measure to drive the Soviets back.

And… instead of actual deterrence what sometimes occurs is that the overbearing presence of so many military installations so close to Russia’s border creates the opposite effect of the one that is desired. Instead of making Russia quake in their boots at American military strength, the Russians become more insecure about their own borders and lack of military preparedness and begin to step up military activities. Thereby creating an overall unstable environment instead of the desired safe and well-guarded one.

People in other countries also get angry and resentful with the obvious US military presence elsewhere in the world.

The result is that the US show of military might deters nothing and often serves instead to validate various anti-American sentiments to further rage against the U.S. war machine. In fact, ever since the post-9/11 uptick and growth in U.S. military presence in the Middle East, terrorist attacks on troops and bases in the Middle East have dramatically been occurring more frequently instead of less.

Another effect of the proliferation of U.S. military in the world, America often winds up on the wrong side of the law so to speak. In short, we can often find ourselves supporting dictators or maniacs who do more to harm their own countries through their barbaric and anti-humane regimes than to make the world safe for freedom and democracy.

We did it in Cuba… we did it in Vietnam… we did it in El Salvador… Haiti… Cambodia… Iran… Iraq… Egypt… Rwanda…

And… are still doing it to various degrees and extents in other places throughout the world. For instance, under the Obama regime the presence and buildup of America’s military strength in Africa was nothing short of immense. (See Tomgram: Nick Turse, America’s Shadow Wars in Africa  by Nick Turse July 12, 2012.)

Another prime argument is if not for these bases and U.S. military influence that the flow of crucial natural resources… such as oil from the Middle East… could be compromised.

The theory goes that a regional war, or even a serious instability. will create a crisis whereby countries can’t get their oil onto world energy markets. And, that could create an unstable economy due to a worldwide oil shortage. This unstable economy would stifle any growth and thus ultimately send the world’s markets into a downspin that could spell gloom and doom for the global economy and it would take the world many years to eventually recover.

There is no state in the Middle East that has anywhere near the kind of power-projection capability to invade another country and take over their oil fields.

BUT… even if there were, America’s carrier forces deployed throughout the region’s waterways… Indian Ocean… Atlantic Ocean…Mediterranean Sea… as well as various other airbases with long-range bombers could handle any real threat to, or even an invasion of, a friendly nation relatively quickly and easily.

The fact is this… none of these arguments for having a strong military presence by establishing and maintaining an enormous number of bases throughout the world is valid.

The final nail in the coffin regarding military deployment and bases around the world is… the Pentagon itself.

The leadership of America’s armed forces says that the Army and Air Force have more space than they need for their present manpower complement. Therefore, they want to cut back on various surplus facilities and then use the saved money to strengthen their forces elsewhere.

Simply put… America’s modern-day armed services are a leaner, meaner fighting machine that is more dependent on technological advances than actual man power. In short, it needs more trained technicians than actual feets on the ground to fight today’s wars.

The Pentagon says that the military could shave 22% of their capacity which is no longer necessary by the year 2019. Which would save billions of dollars that the military could use elsewhere to a much better advantage.

And, this is just in America. Domestic bases.

The primary reason Congress wants the bases kept open?

They claim the bases provide economic well-being for the communities the bases are within. Translation… local votes.

However, by blocking base closures Congress is wasting money the military could use elsewhere and preventing those same local communities from using potentially valuable land and infrastructure.

Think about it this way… if, every military base that was decommissioned was just transformed into a natural parkland or animal refuge… or… maybe used for affordable housing… or…

The alternative uses for the land that could benefit communities if certain bases were to be closed are endless. Instead of just providing a limited amount of income for a minimal amount of local businesses the closed facilities could provide communities with valuable land resources AND would save anywhere from $2 billion to maybe $8 billion dollars that the military could use elsewhere.

And…remember…this is just domestically.

If… say another 10% of all bases worldwide were closed? Maybe another $10 billion saved? Or… 20% closings? Make that $20 billion and counting…

Between domestic and international closings, the number could be anywhere from $22 billion to about $39 billion dollars saved.

If, however, 50% of all bases were closed worldwide how does saving $50 billion or more sound?

Another area that we could save billions?

The war on terrorism…

Terrorism?

Yes… terrorism…

The chance of an American being killed by terrorism outside a war zone from 1970-2012 was roughly one in 4,000,000. That is an extremely low risk.

Terrorism is a threat and obviously is seriously dangerous to human life, children and other living things as well as property and it needs to be dealt with… similar to how we would deal with any other threat to our lives and our property.

But, it needs to be done with sanity and a certain detachment from emotionalism or hysteria about how America is being targeting by mass waves of terroristic activity.

Since 2014, most experts estimate the United States spends about $100 billion per year seeking to deter, disrupt, or protect against domestic terrorism. Some of that is included in the overall money spent on military activity but a fair amount is spent on other anti-terrorist activities.

We know that in 2015 the FBI’s Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence Decision Unit spent about $3.3 billion… they requested the same amount of $3.3 billion in 2016.

Documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that in 2013, more than $16 billion was spent by the CIA and the NSA to fight the “war on terrorism.” It can be assumed that same amount, close to it or even more was spent in the following years since then.

The Department of Homeland Security’s FY 2016 Budget was $64.9 billion.

That’s $84.2 billion… it wouldn’t be hard to imagine another $15.8 billion coming directly from military intervention as well as other ancillary expenditures.

On October 3rd, 2016, A CNN online article said that between 2001 and 2014, there were 3,043 people killed in domestic acts of terrorism.… keep in mind that 2,997 deaths were directly attributed to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. That means since 9/11 there have been 46 people who have died on American soil because of direct terrorist actions. Or… an average of 3.2 people killed on American soil by terrorists during the 14 years that followed 9/11.

For the sake of argument make it 4 people.

Which means we spent an average of… give or take a million or two here and there… about $25 billion dollars to try and save each life.

Turning to the CNN article once more… “Using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we found that from 2001 to 2014, 440,095 people died by firearms on US soil. (2014 is the most recent year for which the CDC has data for deaths by firearms.) This data covered all manners of death, including homicide, accident and suicide.”

That’s about 10,007 lives a year lost to guns. It is safe to say we do not spend anywhere near $25 billion to try and save lives that are lost due to guns.

Take into account deaths lost every year to heart disease (700,000), cancer (600,000), stroke (160,000) respiratory disease (120,000), diabetes (70,000) pneumonia ((60,000) Alzheimer’s (50,000) and car accidents (40,000). The ways people tragically die are innumerable… ways of dying that could arguably be curtailed if enough money were invested. Yet, it is safe to again say we spend nowhere near $25 billion per person to try and save any lives due to any of these other causes of death.

Maybe if we did… just for one of them… then we could eliminate that one cause of Americans needlessly dying.

But, the real reason we can’t do that is America does not have an infinite amount of resources to eliminate every cause of death due to illness or tragic events.

And, we don’t have billion upon billions upon multiple billions available to eliminate every terrorist threat. Especially, when the threats from terrorism are minimal when compared to the many other ways Americans die every year.

Simply put, we need to rationally allocate how we spend our money… we the people’s money… taxes… so, it is spent effectively to counter the dangers we face from day to day… from all sorts of diseases… to deaths from crimes and accidents… to terrorism. The total number of people killed by terrorists within the United States is minuscule in comparison to all other deaths. To spend $100 billion to continue to prevent something that is not very common is, frankly, not money wisely spent.

Would it be that outrageous to declare that the so-called war on terrorism has been nothing more than overreaction from certain government officials tapping into the public’s paranoia and fear rather than any actual threats from a real and imminent threat from terrorism?

I, frankly, believe that is the case.

Why government peeps would want to do that is a discussion that needs to take place but the reality is we could easily cut the budget… in half maybe… that is wastefully applied to fighting the war on terrorism and allow the military to use that money elsewhere where it could be put to a much better and more efficient job of providing real protection for all Americans wherever they be in the world… home or abroad.

There… I just saved the American people over $100 billion. Between base closing and allocating a judicious and rational amount to defend America against terrorism. I shaved $100 billion off the federal budget.

And, I haven’t even begun to talk about the combat ships that don’t work properly or are just obsolete that the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Navy doesn’t want but Congress keeps forcing them down their throats.

Or, the planes that don’t fly right that the DoD and the Air force doesn’t want but Congress keeps allocating funds to build. Or, the aircraft that they need to retire because they just are not needed or cost too much to maintain but Congress refuses to allow that to happen.

Or, the tanks the DoD and the Army and the Marines don’t want, or need, but Congress keeps right on giving out contracts to get built.

Why?

Some Congresspeeps say they need to repsent their districts and save jobs. Others say it simply is just in the best interests for the defense of  the United States of America, otherwise they would agree with the DoD and other armed forces bigwigs.

The truth?

War and war readiness, or preparedness, are big time money generating businesses and that are run by multi-billion corporations and without many of these war machine contracts they might simply have to close down operations and that would hurt their profit margins. After all, billionaires gotta keep on making money so they can maintain their ability to keep on being billionaires.

Besides, how else is a poor congresspeep supposed to have money to stay in office and prepare for their retirement if not for billionaires who make money from having factories humming along building war products that are not necessary for anything but mostly decorations and maybe some very ostentatious drum banging “Keep America Safe” photo ops.

Yes, if those war factories were shut down people would lose jobs… but… maybe it’s time we start thinking about creating industries that produce materials to help keep the planet alive and allow the people who live on it to live better lives rather than building stuff that is meant to destroy. maim and kill, and, simply blow things up… and… then… they don’t even do a decent job of doing exactly that.

That Trump request for cuts to many socially needed programs so that $50 billion-plus for the US war budget would be available? It is now a moot point.

Plus… we still got an extra $50 billion to spend elsewhere where it could do some real damn good.

Another thousand words…

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1 Comment

  1. Joe, thanks for your responses to the “Billionaires” post. They were necessary even though they will likely do nothing to change the perspective of those who deny facts. But a failure to rebut essays like “Billionaires” could be seen by some as tacitly supporting such outlooks.

    The only “fact” in Ghost Writer’s article was that taxing billionaires would not generate enough money to close the budget gap, a claim which is partially true. You put it on the line how to reapportion funds to achieve meaningful goals, even if those goals are unlikely to be accepted by out society at this time.

    The views of those who are fantasy-based rather than fact-based will ultimately come back to haunt them, but adversely affect many others as well (as some are now beginning to realize in the “repeal and replace” debate). A fantasy-based viewpoint can frequently be identified by its use of pejorative terms like “whiny” kid wanting support for college.

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