Running Scared

August 2005


The proposed defense budget is more than half a trillion dollars -- a figure ominously reminiscent of the US trade deficit. The politics of fear have proven very effective, but will never be prudent.

How big is the proposed defense budget of the United States? It's more than half a trillion dollars. It rolls off the tongue nice and easy, but how much money is that? Well, if you and I were personally invited to the founding of the city of Venice in 421 A.D. -- the same year as the first known representation of Christ on the Cross, when Attila the Hun was still in short pants -- and I started paying you $10-per-second ($3600 per hour) every hour of every day from then on, I would have paid you an amount equal to our proposed defense budget by the end of last month.

How ever you talk about it, half a trillion dollars is a lot of money. Few people are complaining about spending so much money on war and the official reason given is that it is unpatriotic to complain about war expenditures in wartime. Excuse me, what war? Are we at war because the president says we're at war? We sort of had that when we attacked Afghanistan and again when we attacked Iraq, but when those regimes fell, those wars ended, didn't they? We celebrated VE day when the Nazi government fell, not when we finished fighting fanatics in Europe.

We've been at war with poverty since 1964, thanks to LBJ. I never heard anything about winning that war, or calling it over and done with. We've been at war with terror since Reagan said so in 1980. Since then we've spent almost $8 trillion on defense. Are we more secure now from foreign threats than we were in 1980? When you keep doing the same thing over and over again with increasing insistence that it will work this time -- in complete denial of the facts -- it is the definition of insanity.

But they've got us right where they want us -- running scared. On a per-capita basis, the average American in 2004 paid $217.08 per month for defense, while the remainder of the federal government ran on $103.83 per citizen per month. This is not just irresponsible, it is reprehensible.

Not that we don't have every reason to be afraid. Personally, I'm afraid:

Seems like the only thing that's looking up are the prospects of the super-rich. And even they have to contend with a fragmenting social and economic infrastructure that is no longer maintained properly. What good does it do to pay 40 percent less in taxes if your children get kidnapped for ransom and killed? That's not a fair trade.

The only consistent fact of the past 25 years is that we've been bullied and threatened into allowing the government to be used as a means to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The reason much of the rest of the world is angry with us is that we're not just driving our own citizens into beggary, but every other nation's citizens, too. Anger comes from injustice and inequality. It results in terrorism aimed squarely at us. There are only two answers to the equation that result in less terrorism:

Half a trillion dollars spent on increasing our potential ability to kill people is a pretty good demonstration of which solution the current administration prefers. There's no profit in global peace, freedom, justice or equality. This is why you can't run a world for profit that's worth living in.

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