By Ty Joplin
The U.S. federal Budget is a cerebral subject, seemingly reserved for the technocratic elite to calculate, deconstruct, recompose, modify, and amend. But it affects people’s daily lives in profound ways, and not just in America.
The Department of Defense currently gets around $716 billion dollars every year. That sum has given Saudi the tools to besiege Yemen, it’s helped contribute to the chaos of Libya and Somalia, and it’s worked to destroy Afghanistan and Iraq. The military budget is what allows the U.S. empire to continue on, and its increase allows for the expansion of U.S. hard power into every corner of the globe.
To get a sense of how the military budget works, where the money goes to, and why there’s an unending drive to increase it, Al Bawaba spoke with Lindsay Koshgarian, who is the Program Director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Koshgarian is an expert on the U.S. military budget, and knows more than almost anybody about where the money goes currently and where it should be going instead.
Lindsay Koshgarian (Institute for Policy Studies)
The $716 billion budget for the military, Koshgarian says, reflects a bloated and ineffectual empire that doesn’t actually make the U.S. that much safer. Only about 20 percent of that sum actually goes to paying troops’ salaries and for directly assisting military efforts: the rest is either given to massive contracting firms or is found to have been squandered somewhere along the bureaucratic process.
Almost half of the Department of Defense’s budget goes to corporations like Lockheed Martin. Koshgarian found that in 2017, the average U.S. taxpayer gave $240 to Lockheed Martin. Much of that money goes to paying the $25 million salary for Lockheed Martin’s CEO, Marillyn Hewson, who Koshgarian suggests in our talk, is a de facto member of Trump’s executive cabinet thanks to the power she wields in Washington D.C.
Almost $1.5 trillion of taxpayer money is going to fund Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Jet, which many critics have pointed out is a massive engineering failure. It cannot fly near lightning storms for fear its gas tank will explode, and until the beginning of 2018, lightweight pilots were not allowed to fly the jet, because their neck would be snapped if they tried to eject from the aircraft.
The U.S. has also poured trillions into the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen; wars that have no end in sight and have created political vacuums in which militants can organize.
The mismatched priorities of funneling hundreds of billions of dollars into the military while hollowing out much of the U.S.’ own domestic programs like child education, healthcare, infrastructure and welfare programs, Koshgarian warns, may jeopardize the U.S. in the long run.
“We could spend ourselves into a quicker downfall or a lower status in the world,” Koshgarian says, adding that the Soviet Union’s downfall was due in part to the country attempting to win an arms race with the U.S., which bankrupted the state.
“While so much of the politics driving this is American exceptionalism, ‘we are number one,’ clearly that is no longer the case as it was. By any other measure besides military, China is catching up with the U.S. economically, [and] politically.”
To listen to the full conversation, click here: