Rising Military Expenditure: The
Coming U.S. Budget Attack
by Shamus Cooke
The United States is moving backwards...
fast. State budget cuts are decimating essential health and social
services; public education is being destroyed; the social safety
net is in tatters. To make matters worse, all of this is occurring
when the loss of jobs stands at a twenty-six year high with no
end in sight.
But this is only phase one. The federal
government intends to balance its books too, at the expense of
society's neediest. Instead of governors presiding over painful
cuts, the President will be doing the gutting. And although his
proposed budget isn't due until February, the President's spokespeople
are priming the media to play a major propaganda role in what
will be a colossal blow against working and poor people.
Obama's Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner,
has been particularly busy promoting the future cutbacks, repeating
that "the country must live within its mean;" "deficits
must be brought down dramatically" - something that will
"require very hard choices."
What are these hard choices? One possible
option is no longer available. The biggest annual deficit producer
is the U.S. military, which Obama will not radically reduce. Instead,
he will increase it; Taxpayers will pay $660 billion (!) in 2010
toward the military. And maybe more - military commanders see
more fighting in the future, not less; consequently, they want
more money. The New York Times reports:
"...Admiral. Mike Mullen, the chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not say how much additional
money would be needed, but one figure in circulation within the
Pentagon and among outside defense budget analysts is $50 billion."
(November 4, 2009).
Senate Democrat John Murtha thinks only
$40 billion extra will do the trick, making the military budget
an even $700 billion for 2010.
A different "hard choice" that
could fix the deficit is to drastically raise taxes on the very
wealthy. To this end, Obama has made the wholly-inadequate pledge
to "roll back the Bush tax cuts." Taxing the super-rich
an extra 4 percent isn't going to do the trick; not even close.
At bare minimum, their taxes should be raised an additional 35
percent, to the pre-Regan level. But Obama would never propose
such an idea.
The solutions Obama has proposed are the
ones that Geithner is actually referring to when he says "very
hard choices." Last January, Obama told the conservative
Washington Post that, to lower deficits, he would "reform
entitlement programs" - social security, Medicare, etc. Reform
in this case means to eliminate, or drastically reduce. The Washington
"President-elect Barack Obama pledged
yesterday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare "bargain"
with the American people, saying that the nation's long-term economic
recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets
control over its most costly entitlement programs."
When will this happen? The Post answers:
"[the] administration will begin confronting the issues of
entitlement reform and long-term budget deficits soon after it
jump-starts job growth and the stock market." (January 16,
2009). The upward swing in the stock market gave Geithner the
green light to begin his anti-entitlement public relations campaign.
By choosing not to drastically reduce
military spending and not to greatly increase taxes for the super
rich and corporations, Obama will have few other options: the
federal deficit is too high, especially after the Bush/Obama bank
These bailouts, combined with decades
of reduced taxes for the very wealthy, created the conditions
that led to our "deficit crisis." The solution that
Obama is proposing will further devastate millions already suffering
from unemployment, unlivable wages, and little hope for the future.
It can be further presumed that, while
Obama is getting the U.S. "financial house in order,"
the Federal Reserve will assist by increasing interest rates -
something demanded by U.S. foreign creditors - thereby significantly
risking cutting into Wall Street's most recent profits and opening
up the possibility of transforming our Great Recession into another
This is not a matter of "if,"
but "when." The imbalances in the U.S. economy are too
massive; a giant "restructuring" must take place. The
bank bailouts merely intensified the already enormous economic
contradictions. Who pays for this restructuring will shape the
future for years to come. As Obama implements his anti-worker
plan, he will encounter tremendous resistance. The once-loved
President will leave office more hated than Bush.
Once the Obama illusion is completely
shattered, workers can begin to act independently. We must demand
that the corporate elite pay for the crisis they created. Their
efforts to push this crisis onto us must be fought at every step.
This can be done by clearly articulating our solutions to the
crisis - taxing the super-rich and the corporations, a massive
public works campaign, and ending foreign wars (for starters)
- and promoting these ideas through local and national coalitions
of labor unions, community groups, students, the unemployed, etc.
If we are united and fighting for a clear vision of the future,
we will win. If we rely on the Democrats to solve this problem
our fate is sealed.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker,
trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).
He can be reached at email@example.com