New Hampshire Peace Action
Statement on the Latest Military Budget
In July we were dismayed to learn that all four of our Members of Congress, all Democrats who have taken progressive positions on many other issues, could not bring themselves to support an amendment to trim the bloated 740-billion-dollar military budget by ten percent. Sponsored by Sanders and Markey in the Senate, the amendment was supported by twenty-three Democrats, including Minority Leader Schumer, but not by our own Senators Shaheen and Hassan; in the House ninety-three Democrats voted for it, but not our Representatives Kuster and Pappas.
Why didn’t they? Do they like this enormous expenditure on weapons that don’t work and that the armed forces don’t even want? Do they think our military forces have done lots of good in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria? Do they want a war with Iran? Or do they think the military budget is the most efficient job-creator, as the Republicans insist it is?
The US military budget is larger than those of China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil combined—the next ten largest military budgets—and has grown faster than theirs in the last few years. These countries together have ten times the population of the United States, so the average American is paying more than ten times as much in military taxes as the average citizen of our major rivals and friends. What is it all for? Are we any safer than they are?
The two greatest threats to America right now are the covid-19 virus and global warming, and our armed forces have certainly not defended us against them. They may even have made things worse, as we learned when the pandemic blossomed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt; for a time this summer the infection rate in the military was twice that of the civilian population. And jet airplanes and tanks and ships are no help in containing the greenhouse gases in the air: in fact the US military emits as much hydrocarbon gas as Portugal or Peru, and more than 140 other countries. While it’s true that the National Guard has helped with the virus outbreak and hurricane Laura, it has done so in its non-military capacity; to meet such crises it would be more efficient to invest in a newly designed FEMA or a domestic Peace Corps.
America’s economy is in a deep depression and the federal government is going deeper into debt to deal with it. So it decides to spend money it doesn’t have on more jets and submarines and new nuclear weapons. All that can be said for the 740-billion-dollar outlay is that it will preserve or create some jobs, many of them making stuff we don’t need and can’t easily recycle. If jobs are what we want, the Green New Deal will do much more for much less money, and will make things we do need. Solid studies have shown that many kinds of spending—on infrastructure, renewable energy, education, affordable housing—are far more effective in providing good jobs.
Polls made clear that a majority of Americans favored cutting the military budget by ten percent. The arguments for it seem pretty obvious. But our four Congresspeople weren’t listening.