Expenditures on the Military and Crime
excerpted from the book
Against the Conventional Wisdom
by Douglas Dowd
Milex: The Political Economy of the Big Stick
The goal accepted by both the White House and the Congress
in 1996 was to balance the federal budget by the year 2002. The
means of doing so were to include substantial reductions of social
expenditures, most notably in the areas affecting children, health
care, education, and infrastructure (the more vital "opportunity
costs"). Meanwhile, Congress voted to increase milex about
5 percent more than the White House had requested.
Suppose, instead, that milex were cut by 10 percent each of
those seven years, working with the fiscal 1997 military budget
of $266 billion-greater than the milex of the hot cold war year
1980 (in today's dollars). A rough calculation indicates that
after seven years annual milex would be down to about $127 billion
annually-more than 50 percent; instead of an aggregate of $1,862
billion, milex would be $1,248 billion over that period (a saving
of $614 billion), with a consequent release of $139 billion annually
in years to follow. And the magical balancing of the budget would
have ensued sometime before fiscal 2003 without slashing needed
social expenditures. But then, for all too many who wish to slash
social expenditures, budget balance has been the excuse, not the
For decades our milex have exceeded the GDP of all but twelve
nations; today our milex are equal to that of the next ten military
powers combined (most of them allies), amounting to 40 percent
of world milex, three times those of Russia, twice those of Britain,
France, Germany, and Japan combined. Meanwhile, with substantial
government support, private arms exports (including some to potential
enemies), subsidized to the amount of $7.6 billion annually by
our government, provide more than half of the world's arms supplies.
Less than half the current Pentagon budget would leave both
friends and foes still a distant second to us in milex and weapons
technology. Of course approval for such cutbacks either from Congress
or the White House now would be difficult, to say the least: Genuine
and supposed economic, political, and strategic reasons hold both
back from even considering-even mentioning-such a move.
It is almost forgotten that cold war policies met with more
skepticism and opposition than support when first aired after
World War II. Is it inconceivable that the White House and Congress
could provide leadership for a markedly different set of conversion
programs, with the advantage of costing less and yielding vital
economic and social gains? President Eisenhower had the courage
and good sense to speak of what he called a "peace dividend"
in the 1950s, before the cold war had metastasized further into
more deadly realms. And now the cold war is over-in fact, if not
in habits of mind and policy. It remains reasonable to be concerned
with military matters in today's unstable world, of course; but
it is quite unreasonable to act as though there were still-was
there ever?-an enemy justifying John F. Kennedy's "any sacrifice."
Astutely appraising his fellow citizens, LBJ deflected attention
from the horrors of the Vietnam war with policies claimed to provide
"both guns and butter," setting off a lively debate
as to whether both were possible simultaneously. They were, of
course, in the Vietnam as in other wars. As is true for most economic
arguments, however, it should not be numerical calculations, but
qualitative conditions and dynamic consequences, that are defining.
Thus, as only one major example of what is meant by the latter,
Seymour Melman, an industrial economist who is an expert on these
matters, showed even in the record-setting general prosperity
of the 1960s that a main cost of our milex programs was a steady
weakening of our overall industrial efficiency, both in itself
and in comparison to other nations. That was no surprise given
the large percentages (estimated as over 60 percent by Melman)
of engineers, scientists, and highly skilled workers working for
the military-industrial complex...
The Winners' Table
What are the dimensions of milex? Here, as with other official
data, it is necessary to be careful with definitions. Government
figures show that from 1947 to 1991 milex totaled $8.7 trillion
(in 1992 dollars). If we add in milex for 1992 through 1996, we
get to $10-10.2 trillion-a very large sum indeed, but also a very
large understatement, by about 50 percent.
As suggested earlier, a reasonable accounting of milex should
include the interest on that portion of the national debt stemming
from milex-debt incurred for past, current, and future military
strength. When conservatively estimated at about 50 percent, that
would add about 15 percent, or $1-1.5 trillion, to the official
Neither do the official data take any account whatsoever of
the military and paramilitary expenditures hidden away in "energy"
"foreign aid," "space research," and, among
other matters, the military component of covert (and much of the
overt) activities of the CIA's top secret budget ($38 billion
annually, by conservative estimates)-leaving aside the inanity,
dangers, and wastefulness of the recently revealed (by the House
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence) $5.6 billion spent
by the CIA for "keeping secret documents secret." That
was for 1995 alone and was seen by Representative David Skaggs
of the committee as "surely an understatement." Nor
does any of this take note of the U.S. Army and CIA "schools"
for training those who became or worked with dictators-especially
in Latin America.
It was only recently revealed that squirreled away in the
Energy Department's budget were $3.9 trillion spent on nuclear
weapons by the Army and Navy since 1947 but never before admitted.
Now also assume-very conservatively-$10 billion annually in the
half century 1947-1996 for the combined military share of foreign
aid, space research, and the CIA, that is, about $500 billion;
if we add that to the official total plus interest's share, we
have something between $15 and $16 trillion. Senator Everett Dirksen
(as GOP Senate leader in the 1950s) once quipped, "Add a
billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon we're talking
big money!" Child's play; were he quipping nowadays, it would
have to be "Add a few hundred billion here . . ." For
what and to whom does it go?
** Over 130,000 separate firms contract with the Pentagon;
25 of those firms receive about half of all contracts and farm
them out to still other thousands of firms-which, along with about
3 million civilian arms-plant workers, over 1 million civilian
workers on the Pentagon payroll, and over 1 million reservists
(with income supplements), constitute a formidable political support
system for milex.
** Profit rates for military production are two to three times
those for all production. And why not, given "cost-plus contracts"
and virtually assured payments for cost overruns ? The mother
of all cost overruns (one hopes) is that for the B-2 ("Stealth")
bomber. The original contract, for ten bombers, was obtained at
the (itself outrageous) price of $400 million each, $4 billion
in toto. By 1990 the price was $870 million; in 1994 it had risen
to $2.2 billion each, more than five times the original price,
$22 billion in toto. And there is a story lurking behind those
figures that deserves the name of institutionalized corruption.
Standard Pentagon contracts allow payment for correction of
defects. The first B-2 had 110,000 defects. The second had 80,000.
(After a decade, there is still no third.) The payment for the
correction of defects would seem to be a strong incentive to make
defects, given that contracts are cost-plus. But 110,000 defects?
And on the second try, still 80,000? Be that as it may, although
the Pentagon declared that ten B-2s were enough-as the original
two continue to struggle with their defects-Congress in 1996 appropriated
enough for twenty ($44+ billion, at the present going price).
For better or for worse, the B-2 has yet to be used in combat.
That may surprise many who followed the Gulf war and learned of
the Stealth's combat triumphs. Thereby hangs another sordid tale:
The Stealth fighter, the F-117A (at $106 million each), was used,
twice, in Panama and in the Gulf war. However, Panama, one of
the last places in the world where high-tech stealth was needed,
was the occasion for the 117A's low-level bombing, and "collateral
damage" to ordinary Panamanians was very high. The target-
presumably General Noriega's hideout-was never hit. The F-117's
use in the Gulf war was even more problematic; scandalously so,
as the excerpt from a July 1996 General Accounting Office (GAO)
"The Pentagon lied about the performance of its most
advanced weapons systems, particularly the F-117A Stealth fighter....
For example, the Air Force told Congress that the Stealth fighter
had an 80 percent success rate on its bombing runs [as compared
with a real rate of 40 percent, and that] commanders defined "success
~ as launching a bomb or missile, not hitting a target. The Report's
authors said these lies were told to help persuade Congress and
citizens to buy the next generation of weapons: newer, stealthier
fighter jets, newer smart bombs and missiles. Perception management
. . . made the weapons of Desert Storm look better than they were,
as part of a strategy "to justify future weapons spending..."
"The better the F-117 looks, the better the B-2 looks. "
The war news never made clear that it was not the B-2, but
the F-117, in action. The source of the report was the GAO's Program
Evaluation Division. The New York Times story concluded with the
terse statement: "The division is being dismantled, destroyed
by budget cuts imposed by Congress this year and last. In a few
weeks it will disappear." That takes care of those spoilsports.
** In an editorial entitled "The Pentagon Jackpot,"
the New York Times noted that "The Senate Service Armed Services
Committee tossed $1.3 billion into its budget bill to order an
LHD-7 amphibious assault ship the Navy does not want. The vessel
will be constructed in Mississippi, which is represented by Senator
Trent Lott, a committee member and the Republican whip. When Bob
Dole resigned as majority leader, Lott succeeded him in the considerably
more powerful post.
** And then there is procurement fraud, the current term for
the corruption link between the Pentagon and its contractors.
In recent years twenty to thirty of the top contractors have been
guilty of such fraud; none has been or is expected to be barred
from further contracts.
** In the "Defend America Act of 1996," Congress
sought to revive Reagan's "Star Wars." The cost was
estimated by its sponsors, then-Senator Dole and Representative
Gingrich, as one-eighth or less of the $60-70 billion estimate
provided by the Congressional Research Service. The act promised
to deploy a fully operational national missile defense system-regardless
of cost-by 2003. The act was passed by both houses of Congress,
over the objections of both the White House and the Pentagon.
That this seems a big boondoggle for a few at a time when the
many are pushed toward austerity is one matter; that such a program
violates the 1972 U.S.-USSR Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is a
dangerous something else.
Such reservations are reinforced when we examine the reasoning
of Speaker Gingrich, who supported his and Senator Dole's proposal
in this way: "One day, mathematically, something bad can
happen and you ought to have a minimum screen on a continent-wide
basis, and it's doable." Just as "doable," the
American Physical Society had opined (in 1987) as "deflecting
a bullet in mid-flight by firing one of your own." The society
deemed that to be impossible at prevailing levels of technology,
adding that "another ten years of research would be required
to learn whether it might ever be feasible."
** Then there are innumerable expenditures so outrageous as
to be downright funny-so much so that one wonders what, if any,
kind of controls there are over the Pentagon's past and present
fiscal activities. Intermittently the following kinds of follies
have been brought to light: The Pentagon pays $750 for a toilet
seat; $2,034 for a 13-cent nut; $1,500 for a screwdriver; $3,100
for a common wrench. And we must assume that countless toilets
seats, nuts, screwdrivers, wrenches, and the like were bought
at those prices.
All of that would be bad enough if it were only a sad or enraging
tale of money, of greed, corruption, waste, and foolishness. It
is that. But in addition to the greedy behavior on the part of
its principals, there was also much more and worse than financial
misfeasance and malfeasance.
Decades of large-scale militarized production required not
only a militarized economy but also a society whose attitudes
have become significantly militarized, whose responses to complex
problems have come increasingly to be military responses. Given
the many years of huge milex, it is not surprising that we fought
or encouraged and financed (and often trained others to fight)
many wars-in Asia and Central America and the lesser-known conflicts
in Africa and in the Middle East (such as those in Angola and
Afghanistan). Thousands of U.S. soldiers were casualties of those
wars, as were millions of others, both military and civilians,
in the countries involved.
It is not easy to find justification for all that bloodshed
and misery. Strong arguments have been made that most of those
wars occurred when and where they did not as a means of defending
our country but as a virtually inescapable part of the cold war
and its military-industrial complex, whose main participants gained
greatly thereby. That position will be seen unconvincing by some
and as an understatement by others. In either case, there remain
serious questions needing serious answers from us as a nation
regarding the questionable ways and means of milex: its money
costs, its financial crimes, misdemeanors, and associated corruption,
and its larger effects on the social process here and abroad.
We return now to some narrower and less complex aspects of milex:
What about the losers?
Who Paid and Who Pays?
The "payment" has taken many forms: taxes, distortions
in the economy, pressures to curtail or deny needed social expenditures,
diverse tendencies toward the shallowing of political discourse
and behavior and the contamination of relations between government
and business, and, not least, the damages done to those directly
involved in warfare. Here we confine our attention to a relatively
narrow band of economic matters. First, taxes.
Among the many things about our nation in which we take pride
is the high level of our per capita income. Until recently it
was the highest in the world. That the GDP ($6+ trillion) into
which our population (260+ million) is divided to get that "per
capita" includes milex ($400+ billion annually by our calculation)
is seldom if ever remarked upon by economists. One cannot, however,
eat a hand grenade or mow one's lawn or get to the supermarket
with a tank. But, those economists might add, milex stimulate
the economy over time and in more than a one-to-one fashion: A
dollar of fedex will ultimately result in $2-3 of national income.
However, many studies have pointed out that $1 of fedex yields
much less in income and jobs from milex than if it were spent
on education, infrastructure, or health care-and that in yielding
higher incomes it would make higher taxes feasible.
Consider some of the tax data: In California, the average
household pays over $3,000 annually in federal income taxes, of
which half is for milex (as officially calculated). Comparing
taxes paid with milex (and its associated incomes) in their areas,
New York City had a net loss of $8 billion, and Chicago and Los
Angeles each a net loss of $3 billion; calculated by family, the
loss was $3000+ per family-a result common to nineteen of twenty-five
major cities. Funds thus diverted from public and private investment
also meant a significant loss of jobs in past and present. Some
areas must have gained, of course, mostly in the Sunbelt states
of the Southeast and Southwest (excluding California), notably
Georgia and Texas.
If we look at milex with a different measure-the relative
importance of milex in total fedex-we find a major distortion
when comparing official with more realistic numbers. Thus, it
is officially stated that milex usually count as 25 percent or
less of fedex. More accurate measures, such as those earlier calculated,
yield a percentage of fedex over 50 percent. That is so even if
we neglect to take into account the budgetary sleight of hand
of President Johnson in 1966 (mentioned in Chapter 2). The Vietnam
war had begun to get out of hand-financially, militarily, and
politically. In addition to hiding $10 billion of milex from his
own budget chief, Johnson initiated the custom of including Social
Security in annual budget calculations-thus automatically reducing
the percentage of milex to fedex.
But Social Security always has been and remains outside the
realm of fiscal policy. The taxes and expenditures that constitute
fiscal policy and determine the dimensions of the federal budget
are decided upon by Congress and the White House each fiscal year.
Social Security collections and payments go into and out of the
Social Security Trust Fund and are independent of the budgetary
process. Congress, which legislated Social Security, can of course-and
often does-change the terms of its operation, but the Social Security
Act placed the trust fund where it remains, outside the realm
of fiscal policy. To give it the appearance of being inside that
process is to camouflage government operations.
On top of that, despite the deliberately created public impression,
Social Security has for many years run a rising surplus (now between
$50-75 billion annually); and for those same years a portion of
that surplus has been shifted from the trust fund to the Treasury.
That means the Treasury need not borrow from the public to that
same amount, thus creating the illusion of a smaller annual deficit.
The present rate of that legal deception is near $50 billion annually,
As in many other governmental deceptions, those just noted
have been practiced by both parties in the Congress and the White
House. It is worth repeating that when the regular surplus of
the trust fund becomes instead a deficit (in about twenty years),
the Treasury will have to borrow from the public-sell bonds-to
"replace" the amounts shifted and raise taxes to pay
the interest. Those politicians who regularly deplore the "perilous
condition" of Social Security, and the "thievery"
of today's elderly from today's young fail to mention their own
role in heightening that peril. Corruption makes strange and bipartisan
Waste, and Want Not?
The pressures on political leaders to maintain milex come
from both the public and business. Economically, it is of course
true that cuts in milex cause problems for enterprises and workers
and their communities. The cuts up to now have been disproportionately
in milex going to people rather than to corporations: Many bases
have been closed and the armed forces reduced, whereas weapons
expenditures have been increased. Whether or not that difference
was calculated to preserve popular support for milex, that is
its effect. Meanwhile lobbyists ensure that the maintenance of
milex favors weaponry. There can be no blinking at the fact that
"conversion" entails not only physical facilities and
supply-demand relationships, but also habits of mind and procedure,
including slovenly habits of management and production.
Must we choose between milex and some mix of chaos and stagnation?
No, we need not. The intricacies of conversion have for many years
been the focus of discussion and study by the relevant parties:
engineers, economists, businesses, unions, and civic groups. The
literature is both abundant and solid. "Beating swords into
ploughshares" is feasible and it would have immense benefits
of many kinds over both the short and the long term. There is
no question of whether it can be done; it was done after earlier
wars, most notably after World War II, when there was a will to
Nevertheless, it is important to recall that the processes
of conversion after World War II were much eased by several conditions
that contrast sharply with the current situation: (1) World War
II brought "over-full employment" (less than 2 percent
unemployed, 1943-1945) at home as factories expanded, and 16 million
were serving in the armed forces; the last two decades of the
cold war, the 1970s and 1980s, were marked by relatively high
unemployment (2) Through the combination of rationing, bond sales,
price controls, high incomes and high profits, personal and business
savings were substantial and growing throughout the war, thus
creating an aggregation of "pent-up" demand from both
consumers and businesses; savings in the cold war years were in
steady decline, and now the levels of business and consumer debt
are both worrisomely high. (3) That earlier pent-up demand combined
with cold war milex and expanded exports to stretch production
facilities, leading to rising business investment and (in particular)
consumer durables, along with a boom in construction-residential,
commercial, and road (the latter much stimulated by the superhighway
program of the 1950s).
When all that coincided with (4), the economic stimuli provided
by Truman's Fair Deal and pressures from then-strong unions, there
developed a U.S. version of the "social wage" (pensions
and health care for a significant share of workers with a program
of subsidized public housing). What lay ahead in the 1950s was
thus strikingly different from now: two decades of growth that
stimulated and supported processes of rapid technological and
socioeconomic change. When a different era took hold in the late
1970s it was characterized not by "pent-up" but by sagging
(or debt-financed) levels of consumer and business demand; marked
more by recession plus inflation ("stagflation") than
by easy growth; weighed down by social and political controversies,
fears, and the beginnings of political "gridlock," which
blocked the processes of beneficial change.
In sum, future reductions of milex require a degree of social
concern, imagination, understanding, and intelligent leadership
not required for the post-World War II milex increase. There is
another, if subtler, difference between the end of World War II
and the end of the cold war, as regards conversion. The appropriations
for and the granting of military contracts in the cold war era
were (and are) done with a shocking casualness. The resulting
waste and corruption blot the political economy; they cannot be
repeated in this age of heightened sensitivity to fedex (although
that sensitivity does not cover milex and crimex). It should be
assumed that a substantial process of conversion will not permit
either amusing instances such as $750 toilet seats or the larger
economic crimes attending the built-in institutionalized fraud
of multibillion cost-plus contracts or their connected and predictable
processes of corruption between capital, labor, the Pentagon,
... It is still believed by many that ordinary working people
have a stake in the continuation of the milex status quo, lest
a worse fate befall. They might ponder but one example plucked
from a large selection: From 1992 to mid-1995, while the CEOs
of six of the largest military contractors were cutting 178,000
jobs, their own average compensation more than tripled-from $1.3
million in 1989 to $4.0 million in 1994.'
In the military-industrial complex, as in the rest of the
corporate economy, profits and CEOs' incomes are coming to be
inversely related to the jobs and incomes of workers: Like a seesaw,
the former go up as the latter go down (except that a seesaw normally
goes back the other way, which the present process shows no sign
of doing). Any conversion program, instead of carrying with it
cost-plus contracts and the other thievery of milex, must ensure
that its benefits are justly divided between those who pay taxes
and those who own the enterprises.
Crimex: Solution or Part of the Problem?
Just as the United States is Number One in milex, so it is
in crimex. Ah, but we are such a large country, it may be said.
But our leading position is relative, as well as absolute: Average
incarceration rates for the United States in 1991 were 426 per
100,000 of population; second was South Africa (mostly blacks,
this before its recent conversion to a democracy), with 333; then
the Soviet Union with 268. Even Northern Ireland, with its ongoing
conflict, had a rate of less than a third of ours: 120. Equally
interesting are the figures at the other end of the scale: France,
81; Japan, 45; Netherlands, 40; Philippines, 22. And that was
in 1991; the number of our imprisoned had risen 16 percent by
In 1995, the Justice Department reported that the number in
federal and state prisons and local jails rose 6 percent, and
that since 1980 the total number under correctional supervision
(probation and parole) had "almost tripled, from 1.8 million
to 5.4 million, with an average annual rate of growth of 7.4 percent."
Those are the very years in which crimex accelerated to their
present spectacular rate of increase. An objective analysis might
well conclude that the side effects of crimex are exacerbating
the disease they presumably seek to cure.
Although it may not have been used consciously, the military-industrial
complex has been a model for what has now become the prison-industrial
complex. As this is written, forty-four of the fifty states are
building new and expanding old prisons; prison construction is
the most rapidly rising item in state and local budgets. The money-making
aspects of the federal grants for that process have become so
obvious that a major weekly subtitled a piece on appropriations
for prison construction: "An Anti-crime Program Smells a
Lot Like Pork."
Federal grants to states and localities are rising for prisons
while they have been falling for social expenditures. That decline
is scheduled to continue and accelerate-especially now that federal
grants for social entitlements have been changed into "block
grants." The latter is a euphemism for increased leeway for
the states to use (probably reduced) federal funds as they choose;
and the choice is likely to veer away from health, education,
and welfare and toward crimex. As with CEOs' salaries and bonuses
in relation to jobs and workers' wages, as crimex (or milex) go
up, social expenditures must go down. The most spectacular example
of that process is in California. Once the state that led all
others in its fiscal devotion to higher education, California
is now low on the list in terms both of expenditures and achievements:
In 1996 crimex edged out expenditures on higher education for
the first time.
Measures touted as reducing crime neither begin nor end with
prison construction, of course; the latter happens to be the most
profitable-as advanced weaponry is among milex. The comparison
is quite close in some respects: In the 1980s, California's prison
construction (the most costly in the nation) boasted new prisons
whose minimum security cells would cost $100,000 each (half for
construction costs, half for interest). Then there are the additional
costs for food and clothing, guards, and medical care, amounting
to $25,000 per year per inmate. Make what you will also of this
(still in California): While industrial workers' wages were declining
in the 1980s those of prison guards rose from $21,000 in 1982
to $43,000 in 1991-plus pensions, medical care, and the like.
Teachers and nurses should be so lucky.
... crime became a lively political issue in the late 1960s,
and crimex began their rise soon thereafter. Before long, so too
did crime. In 1973, there were 500,000 inmates in U.S. prisons
and jails; by 1995 that number had tripled to 1.6 million. In
California, the leader in crimex among the states, the number
of inmates quintupled in the same years.
It wasn't just prison construction that had increased in that
period; so had other supposed remedies: fewer restrictions on
police, longer sentences, harsher treatment, twenty-three-hour
incarceration, and reinstitution of the death penalty and (in
Alabama) of the chain gang and rock busting. Meanwhile, training
and education and other rehabilitation efforts were decreased-despite
the view of an overwhelming number of prison wardens that "cutting
back on amenities" was a mistake. Between 1990 and 1995,
the number of prison guards and wardens doubled. In those same
years-as both crimex and crime were growing rapidly-violence within
the prisons exploded: The number of assaults on guards rose fivefold.
These changes, followed not just by higher costs per prison
and per prisoner but also higher rates of recidivism, would be
seen as dramatic signs of failure were they to take place in the
business world. Instead, none of this having reduced crime, the
latest experiment is "three strikes, and you're in for life"-requiring,
of course, more prisons, more crimex.
It would be comforting if stupidity were the reason for this
rush toward counterproductive policies. The reason is not that
benign. As an article in the New Yorker put it: "Politicians
are well aware that cutting prisoner education programs will result
in higher recidivism rates and contribute to a need for more prisons....
Right-wing politicians consider additional prison construction
not a necessary evil but a necessary good." (For "right-wing"
it might be more accurate to say "politicians beholden to
the prison-industrial complex. ")
All this occurs in an environment of deteriorating socioeconomic
conditions: long-term joblessness, double-digit joblessness for
the young, deepening racism, drug use, demoralization, and despair.
There is almost universal agreement among criminologists and sociologists
that neither the prevention of nor the cure for crime will be
found principally-if at all-in crimex; in particular, prison wardens
almost universally advise that prison work programs reduce violence,
help discipline, and reduce the high rate of recidivism; that
present tendencies increase violence within and outside the prison
walls. They should know, and they can't be seen as "soft
There is strong, if not unanimous, agreement among criminologists
and sociologists that significant reductions in crime could be
expected with better education, housing, and job opportunities
for all. But such experts can offer only judgments; they cannot
afford lobbyists. Their views, if they are ever to prevail, would
need widespread political support.
In the immediate future the changes are going in the wrong
direction: Using California again as representative, since 1991
prison expenditures have risen by 11 percent as AFDC has gone
down by 9 percent and as state university fees have risen by 20
percent to offset the fall in state expenditure. The "correctional"
budget, which was $300 million in 1980, had risen over ten times
by 1995, to $4 billion; the average monthly AFDC payment (in California)
was $630 monthly and falling; the average monthly cost per prison
inmate was $2,000, and rising.
If there is a causal connection between desperate social conditions
and crime-and there is surely some significant connection-the
wrong-headedness of current priorities is quite startling. But
practicality is not the only matter: Well over half of all AFDC
payments are for the support of children; as these payments fall,
along with other patterns of deterioration in the lives of children,
fundamental questions as to our society's future are raised.
We Must Do Better
The American Dream has already become a nightmare for the
tens of millions whose lives are blighted, dangerous, desperate,
without hope. There are more in that plight today than there were
twenty years ago; we could, were we to muster the will, find the
way to reduce those numbers toward the vanishing point. A sample
of what we could do was captured by Melman when after exposing
the folly of our weapons programs, he noted that such "valueless
military parts of the proposed 1996 to 2002 budgets would save
at least $875.7 billion. He added: "With these savings, we
could improve America's infrastructure while creating two million-plus
jobs-more than enough to offset the jobs lost by ending these
military programs. This combined with local advance planning for
economic conversion would reduce the fear of lost jobs that manacles
communities and their members of Congress to a cold war mindset."
the Conventional Wisdom