Saturday, 15 March 2008

What happens when military-industrial lobbies run the economy?

graph: WAND. Following are excerpts from "Why the US has really gone broke" by Chalmers Johnson in the Feb 2008 Monde Diplomatique. We recommend the full text.

Global confidence in the US economy has reached zero, as was proved by [the continuing] stock market meltdown. But there is an enormous anomaly in the US economy above and beyond the subprime mortgage crisis, the housing bubble and the prospect of recession: 60 years of misallocation of resources, and borrowings, to the establishment and maintenance of a military-industrial complex as the basis of the nation’s economic life.

The military adventurers in the Bush administration have much in common with the corporate leaders of the defunct energy company Enron. Both groups thought that they were the “smartest guys in the room” ... As a result, going into 2008, the United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment... [putting] off these costs for future generations to pay....

There are three broad aspects to the US debt crisis.

  • In the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on “defence” projects that bear no relation to the national security of the US. We are also keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segment of the population at strikingly low levels.
  • We continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures — “military Keynesianism” (which I discuss in detail in my book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic). By that, I mean the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true.
  • In our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of the US. These are what economists call opportunity costs, things not done because we spent our money on something else. Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world’s number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs, an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing.
[Chalmers then details the billions spent on war materials, dubious aid to military dictatorships, and "black" budgets to support "special ops", spies, contras, and torture.He concludes:] Such expenditures are not only morally obscene, they are fiscally unsustainable.
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See also War and the environment in this blog, QUIT: Quaker Initiative to end Torture, WAND: Women's Action for New Directions, and the Mar/Apr 2008 issue of Mother Jones on the effects of "black budget" operations in the lives of ordinary Americans, young GIs involved despite themselves, and civilian victims worldwide; what the public knows about Abu Ghraib and CIA renditions to secret prisons is only the tip of the iceberg. Also the Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side. Going back at least 40 years, the story leads to a Fortress World for the rich; it is told in in Naomi Klein's new book Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism website with videos. 20 years of police torture in Chicago. Corpwatch investigation of torture by subcontract, Abu Ghraib and the border wall. Film Hidden in Plain Sight on the US Army's School of the Americas. Army-CIA "Kubark" torture manuals used there. Mercenaries, aka private security companies or PSCs. Miriam Pemberton US budget analysis Military vs Climate Security (IPS Jan 2008) .
Canada's government is moving quickly in the same direction,

"simultaneously increasing the military's budget and cutting government revenue to set the stage for future cuts to social programs. Just like Bush, who also came into office with the 'problem' of huge budget surpluses, Harper is well on his way to achieving the neo-con objective of permanently hobbling government's ability to fund anything but the military."
writes analyst Murray Dobbin. See his full text in The Tyee 18 Mar 08. Canada's security services and soldiers have long ago joined the US in rendition (aka sending suspects to torture on little or no evidence, precisely because the evidence is faulty): see summaries one, two, three, four.

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