By Dave LINDORFF
President Joe Biden has shown his true colors, as this nation mis-celebrates Memorial Day Weekend by guzzling beer and other alcoholic drinks, racking up a typically epic death toll on the highways, and risking a new upsurge in the Coronavirus pandemic partying without masks, marking the date himself by proposing a record new military budget.
He is calling for giving the Pentagon and related departments like the Dept. of Energy’s nuclear weapons unit and the National Security Agency, a budget for next year of $753 billion. That’s $13 billion more than the outgoing Pentagon-loving Trump had proposed.
It’s also more than 50% of all proposed spending on federal government “discretionary” programs, from Agriculture to War and Welfare, which collectively come to $1.5 trillion. That is to say that under Biden’s proposal the Pentagon would get more than all other government departments combined. (Note: Social security is not included in this calculation because it is funded by the FICA tax paid by current workers, not the income tax, and by money from the Social Security Trust Fund.)
So that is Biden’s clear message: The most important thing in America is the military. He wants to continue this mad policy or prior presidents of blowing half of the federal budget and more than 50 percent of the total revenues collected this year from the personal income tax on war and preparing for war. Another way to demonstrate how crackpot and truly evil this budget proposal of Biden’s is, would be by pointing out that $753 billion is coming at a time that the US is quitting it’s last official war — the one in Afghanistan — which the US has fought for 20 years and has lost, with all expectations that as soon as the last troop transport flies out of Bagram Air Base outside of Kabul, the Taliban the US ousted from that city in 2001, will be marching back in. Already, we read that soldiers of the government’s army, which the US spent a fortune in taxpayer money training and arming are surrendering and deserting in droves, knowing it’s do that or be slaughtered as traitors when the US is gone and the Taliban take back the capital.
I just wrote yesterday about how that giant new proposed Pentagon budget includes money — about $30 billion per year — just to “modernize and refurbish” the nation’s nuclear stockpile of 4800 nuclear warheads. That figure doesn’t include the vastly more expensive “delivery systems” for those hopefully never used warheads.
Budget numbers don’t mean a lot to most people, but if we make a few comparisons, maybe it will help clarify things.
Take Biden’s the $30 billion proposed increase in funding for the US Education Department for next year. That proposal is likely to be blocked by Senate Republicans because Republicans hate federal involvement in public education. Since Republicans also love nuclear weapons and military spending even more than Democrats, Biden should say he’s declaring a national emergency in the nation’s schools because of loss of revenues at the local level during the pandemic and is shifting the $30 billion for nuclear weapons (That’s the argument President Trump made for taking money from the Pentagon to build his pet project — the wall between the US and Mexico.)
Since nuclear weapons are not going to be used (and if they do get used, we won’t need to worry about where the money comes from for anything at that point!), and anyhow, since if some of our missiles and bombs turn out to be duds for lack of “pit” replacement (see yesterday’s story), that would be a good thing not just for the target country but for the US too, should they get launched or dropped.
Now that I think of it, there is a lot of federal spending on war (not defense, so let’s start being honest about that), that could be cancelled or, if you prefer postponed indefinitely, without anyone even noticing, including America’s “enemies” or rivals. One great place to start would be cancelling the coming year’s budget for the F-35 nuclear-capable, non-stealthy, stealth “fighter” bomber, the most expensive and worst designed weapons system in the history of the US military. Okay the “worst” honors maybe go to the B-70 bomber — a failed design of which only two were built at a cost of $1.5 billion in 1960 dollars, one of which crashed on a training flight, leaving plane one suitable for museum display. (It turned out that the B-70 that was supposed to fly so high Soviet missiles couldn’t reach it, which wasn’t true, that it could not fly as far as claimed, and that, flying at the Mach 3 design speed, the plane could not turn but only fly in a straight line, making it easy to predict where it would be going and to hit it with an anti-aircraft missile.)
The F-35 program, if continued, is predicted now to cost $1.7 trillion over it’s useful (sic) life (useless life is more appropriate!). Nobody can honestly tell us — or any member of Congress, including in the Budget and Armed Services Committees–how much is annually being spent on this black hole of a weapons system. That’s because instead of designing, testing and approving a plane for service and only then delivering it, the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-35, devised the tricky scheme of minimizing cancellation risk by starting production while the plane was still being developed, figuring they’d literally upgrade and fix its design problems as they were discovered “on the fly.” The plane was assigned a ridiculous life-span of 50 years, so that the estimated cost of the total program over its “useful life” could be amortized over that period, reducing the perceived annual cost to a less shocking figure of about $35 billion a year. But since in reality that total cost has risen from an original estimate of $200 billion for the claimed life of the plane to a current estimate of $1.7 trillion, anyone who thinks that will be the real cost figure, (assuming the plane isn’t cancelled like its predecessor, the F-22), is one of PT Barnum’s “suckers.”
The other problem in finding out the true cost of this ultimate boondoggle is that the Pentagon, despite strict demands from Congress, still has an unauditable budget — making it the only department of the federal government that has gotten away with such incredible obfuscation for over 21 years (see my story about that here).
It’s anyone’s guess how much longer the Pentagon will be allowed to keep ordering more of these flying turkeys. It certainly won’t be half a century, but let’s just say that they’re spending, on acquisition, updating and maintenance of currently owned F-35s on an annual basis, one-tenth of the total predicted cost of the program. That would be $170 billion per year, which as accurate a figure as any.
Joe Biden seems happy to keep funding the F-35. But let’s us consider what he could he be spending all that wasted taxpayer money on if he just were to say, “Hey, this plane doesn’t work, and if it did it would only be for war against a class-one enemy power, which would be either Russia and China. We certainly don’t want or plan to be fighting either one of them, so let’s spend the money this year instead on infrastructure ($50 billion), bolstering Social Security ($50 billion) and tackling the worsening climate emergency ($70 billion).”
I’m sure we can figure out ways of taking even more out of the nation’s war budget to put to better use than lining the pockets of the arms industry. With the $6-trillion being poured into two “forever” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan finally gone on September 11, as Biden has decreed, given that we spent that much over the past two decades according to the “Costs of War” research of the Watson Foundation at Brown University, we should now be able to free up an average of $300 billion per year going forward from the current Biden Pentagon Budget proposal of $750 billion for the Pentagon’s and related other military agencies’ activities.
I’ll leave it to you, dear readers, to decide where you want to have the feds spend those extra hundreds of billions of dollars.
As for me, I think I’ll focus my time looking at the remaining $250 billion in the Pentagon’s bloated budget for the next fiscal year. I’m sure by doing things like mothballing 90% of our nuclear force, including land-based missiles, nuclear missile-firing submarines and the strategic bomber force, closing all our bases overseas, shutting down undeclared incursions and drone campaigns all over the globe, mothballing all those nuclear aircraft carrier fighting groups that are only good for “projecting power” which nobody needs done, and then furloughing at least 75% of our men and women in uniform — especially the overpaid and overstaffed senior military officers. (We could use some of the save funds to pay for job paying in productive, instead of destructive occupations.)
That should pare the military budget down to a peacetime level of well under $100 billion. I’ll get back with the details of those proposed cuts in a subsequent article.
Get with it Joe! The people of the world and most of the people of the United States want negotiation and peace, not provocation, pressure, threats and bluster. We don’t want budget-busting mindless spending on the US military (which currently outspends the top other eight military powers in the world combined).
I should add that Biden’s allocation to the Pentagon and Energy Department is not at all the total US spending on war and military affairs. A broader definition of military spending would include the budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which cares for the damaged soldiers who return from US wars and offers benefits for volunteering such as college tuition and pensions, the intelligence agencies (16 at last count), the Department of Homeland Security, military equipment donated to US police departments, etc. Adding all that stuff in gives a total spending figure for US militarism and war of $1.3 trillion according to the Brown University Watson Institute, almost doubling just the amount shoveled out to the Pentagon, so really there’s a lot more US government spending that could be more productively shifted into other areas or used to lower our taxes.