It’s a fact. Most of your taxes go to funding our huge military budget. If you want to save tax money and cut the deficit, the first place to start is the military budget.
The total federal budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which has to be voted by Congress by this Oct. 1, looks to be about $3 trillion. Total military spending of $1.26 trillion includes the Pentagon budget request of $721 billion, plus an estimated $220 billion in supplemental funding to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, $94 billion in non-DOD military spending, and $228 billion in interest on the debt needed to pay for prior wars. I am not including $125 billion for veterans affairs and pensions because this is an obligation that we must honor.
The 2011 military budget, by the way, is the largest in history, not just in actual dollars, but in inflation adjusted dollars, exceeding even the spending in World War II, when the nation was on an all-out military footing.
Military spending in all its various forms (excluding veterans benefits and pensions) works out to represent 42% of total US federal spending. Compare this to the 6% we spend on education and the 2% we spend on agriculture. The military budget is also rising at a faster pace than any other part of the budget. For the past decade, military budgets have been rising at a 9% annual clip, making inflation look tiny by comparison. The Pentagon budget is out of control and is consuming more and more of our nation’s resources. Throughout history, from ancient Rome to the Soviet Union in our time, nations have bankrupted themselves through excessive military spending. We must avoid the same mistake.
US military spending isn't just about being 42% of the US budget. In 2009, US military spending accounted for half of all the money spent on our planet on war, weapons and military preparedness. The amount we spend on our military is more than the military spending by all other nations on earth combined.
China, for example, probably the closest thing to a real threat to American interests because of America's treaty commitments to the island nation of Taiwan spends only 1/10th of what we spend ($130 billion) on its military, much of which is actually devoted to maintaining military control of the country's own 1.3 billion people.
The next biggest military spender, Russia, spends less than $80 billion a year on its decrepit military, and isn't even technically an enemy of the US anymore. Its military is largely busy keeping restive regions from spinning off from the mother country.
Meanwhile Iran, which many are portraying as America's arch-enemy, isn't even on the list of the military big-spenders. Iran's current military budget is a miniscule $4.8 billion, about the same as the estimated $5 billion spent on the military by North Korea—America's other "major enemy." Each of those country's military budgets is about one-quarter of the military budget of Australia, or a third of the military budget of the Netherlands.
Just to give you an idea of how small $4.8 billion is in comparison to the $1.26 trillion that the US is spending each year on the military, that number is roughly what the Pentagon plans to spend over the next year on childcare and youth programs, recreation programs and commissaries on its bases.
Next time you hear that the government needs to cut funds for providing medical care to the children of laid-off workers, or that supplemental unemployment funds are running out; next time you hear that federal funds that are needed to fund teachers at your school are being cut, or that Social Security benefits need to be cut back, or the retirement age needs to be increased to 70; next time you hear that Medicare benefits need to be reduced, think about the 42% of your taxes that are going to fund the biggest military budget the world has ever known.
And ask yourself: Is our huge military really necessary in today’s world where the threat comes from small terrorist cells and not large armies? Is this really where I want most of my tax money going? Who is profiting from all of this military spending? Is spending my tax money on war in distant places really preferable to spending this money here in America on things like education and clean energy? When we talk about cutting government spending, shouldn’t the military budget be a big part of this discussion? It’s time to tell Congress and the president to stop treating the military budget like a sacred cow that can’t be touched. That cow has a lot of fat on it that needs to be trimmed.
President (and 5-star General) Eisenhower warned about the growing power of the military-industrial complex in his 1961 farewell address to the nation and his concern then has become today’s reality. Much of our military spending is going, not to the troops in the field, but to the profits of the big defense contractors. We can responsibly trim the military budget now by $75 billion without touching a penny that goes to support our troops and our veterans. Ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will save us another $220 billion annually. It is possible to defend ourselves without bankrupting our nation. We the people must act to curb the wasteful spending of the military-industrial complex. We must redirect spending away from war and weapons and toward what our people really need. This is the key to making America truly safe and secure.