Demilitarize the Economy

We spend more on the military than the next eight nations combined. This distorts our economy, entangles us in endless wars, and siphons away resources that should be used to build a more fair and just economy. Military spending should be cut significantly over the next decade, and those funds should be reinvest in our human and physical infrastructure.

From Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice

America leads the world in military spending. We spend more each year than the next nine nations combined.

The amount of money we spend on the military has risen steeply since the early 1960s (see Chart 15.2). Even the end of the Cold War in 1989 didn’t stop the military growth spurt.

What and who is responsible for this permanent war? The idea probably didn’t originate with the private contractors. It probably came from our national security state – groups inside and outside government including the National Security Agency (which spies on communications), the CIA, the Defense Department, the State Department and the many think tanks and university centers that focus on foreign policy.

Although these agencies and their personnel have many disagreements, they did coalesce with very little dissent around the Bush administration’s plan to turn 9/ 11 into the Iraq War. Collectively they wrongly claimed that 1) Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; and 2) Iraq supported Al-Qaeda and therefore was involved in the 9/ 11 attacks. In this, the leaders of the national security state blatantly lied to the American people and led us to wars in the Middle East that have proceeded for well over a decade.

The privatization of the military is part of this sleight of hand. Privatization allows our hawkish political and military leaders to hide how costly these wars really are. And if contractors are doing the fighting, we don’t need a draft, which fueled mass upheaval during the Vietnam War.

If we want to halt runaway inequality, we need to capture the huge percentage of the U.S. budget now devoted to war and redirect it to address useful goals. This won’t be easy, of course, since so many businesses are financially invested in our privatized war without end.

Leopold, Les. Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice (p. 208). Labor Institute Press. Kindle Edition.