Massive military spending is bringing America down
ThinkProgress cites a remarkable report showing the enormous cost of the U.S. military:
A new report released today by SIPRI, a Swedish-based think tank, reveals that U.S. military spending has almost doubled since 2001. The U.S. spent an astounding $698 billion on the military last year, an 81% increase over the last decade.
U.S. spending on the military last year far exceeded any other country. We spent six times more than China -- the second largest spender. Overall, the world expended $1.6 trillion on the military, with the United States accounting for the lion's share:
As a percentage of GDP, U.S. military spending has increased from 3.1% in 2001 to 4.8% last year.
For all the bluster from so-called deficit hawks like Paul Ryan, who isn't really a deficit hawk (let alone a "courageous" one) but rather a media-hyped anti-government Ayn Rand disciple, the real burden on the U.S. budget isn't Social Security or Medicare, nor spending on public broadcasting, nor "waste," but rather the military, which has grown to meet the hegemonic demands of two terrible wars and the maintenance of an empire that is declining and falling.
This just isn't sustainable. As Matthew Yglesias writes, "given that the US share of global economic output is extremely likely to shrink over the next 15 years, we're not going to be able to sustain this kind of hegemonic posture without really crippling the domestic economy."
But of course you can't cut the military, can you? If you do, you're apparently not tough enough on America's enemies, and you may even want the terrorists to win. So instead we get Republicans, who claim to be fiscally conservative deficit hawks but who are really just plutocrats seeking to make life even cushier for the wealthy. And so Paul Ryan's much-ballyhooed and media-applauded "The Path to Prosperity" includes regressive tax cuts and attacks on programs for the poor. Surprise, surprise, surprise.
As for military spending, yes, sure, the argument can be made that the U.S. bears the burden of policing the world in a way no other country does. (And, yes, I support the intervention in Libya, too.) But choices have to be made, and if the U.S. is to recover a sense of fiscal sanity it will need to reduce its military spending and to make do with less. And, of course, to decide what sort of global military power it wishes to be -- and can afford to be. Americans may wish to cling to a sense of unchallenged superiority, with a military able to wield enormous power, but the reality is that, considerations of the dubious justice of overwhelming military might notwithstanding, their country's future requires significantly more constrained objectives.