Monday, February 2, 2009

Taxpayers Alert: Meet the Madoff Pentagon, A Money-Burning Machine

Think of the Pentagon, and you think of security, right? Think again. The Pentagon may just be the U.S. taxpayers' Bernie Madoff. It's the biggest drag on the economy, and the reason is not because we need what it burns money on. The reason is not that the "world is a dangerous place" and we need "protection", and protection costs what it costs. We need what the Pentagon is paying our lifeblood and treasure on less than we need a huge Ponzi scheme to keep our economy from totally tanking. Chalmers Johnson at Tomdispatch really turned the world inside-out on this one.

Worried about pork-barrel spending? Maybe you should worry about the defense budget.
Given our economic crisis, the estimated trillion dollars we spend each year on the military and its weaponry is simply unsustainable. Even if present fiscal constraints no longer existed, we would still have misspent too much of our tax revenues on too few, overly expensive, overly complex weapons systems that leave us ill-prepared to defend the country in a real military emergency. We face a double crisis at the Pentagon: we can no longer afford the pretense of being the Earth's sole superpower, and we cannot afford to perpetuate a system in which the military-industrial complex makes its fortune off inferior, poorly designed weapons.

A trillion a year? On what? Oh, those wonderful, wonderful wars and their flying machines.

It is hard to imagine any sector of the American economy more driven by ideology, delusion, and propaganda than the armed services. Many people believe that our military is the largest, best equipped, and most invincible among the world's armed forces. None of these things is true, but our military is, without a doubt, the most expensive to maintain. Each year, we Americans account for nearly half of all global military spending, an amount larger than the next 45 nations together spend on their militaries annually.

Equally striking, the military seems increasingly ill-adapted to the types of wars that Pentagon strategists agree the United States is most likely to fight in the future, and is, in fact, already fighting in Afghanistan -- insurgencies led by non-state actors. While the Department of Defense produces weaponry meant for such wars, it is also squandering staggering levels of defense appropriations on aircraft, ships, and futuristic weapons systems that fascinate generals and admirals, and are beloved by military contractors mainly because their complexity runs up their cost to astronomical levels.

That most of these will actually prove irrelevant to the world in which we live matters not a whit to their makers or purchasers. Thought of another way, the stressed out American taxpayer, already supporting two disastrous wars and the weapons systems that go with them, is also paying good money for weapons that are meant for fantasy wars, for wars that will only be fought in the battlescapes and war-gaming imaginations of Defense Department "planners."

So we've got an economy about to go over a cliff, and yet we spend billions on weapons systems that we will never use, to satisfy the fantasies of admirals and generals and other military-related beneficiaries? Well...yes.

So when we talk about "stimulating" the economy, maybe we should talk about cutting spending and cutting pork. Not birth control-type nickel-&-dime pork. Big, lousy, wasteful, useless, dead-weight, sink-the-national-treasury Pentagon pork.

It has nothing to do with security, but everything to do with procurement and the good ol' boy system. Oh, and PR. Lots of lies and PR. Is that really "conservative"? Sounds very very liberal to me - as in "use liberally".

What do people struggling to make ends meet need with a 6.2-billion dollar aircraft carrier designed to fight the Cold War? It was probably commissioned, like the one named in 2009 for Bush I, to pat some old political hack/warrior on the back with his outdated dream. And we put people in prison for not paying a few thousand in self-employment taxes (which are required for anyone with over $400 in income - like he can afford to pay taxes on $400! - talk about preference for the big corporation!).

It's time to think twice about those "guaranteed" Pentagon budgets, to think twice when you think that paying for anything labeled "military" means you'll be more secure. The opposite is true. By paying for way overpriced, outdated equipment, we are sinking the whole country ... and none of those fancy flying machines, etc., will be able to lift one square mile of us out of that sinkhole.

Taxpayers, unite! Screw the Pentagon, and tell your Congresspeople they'll have to think before they spend.

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