I’m dropping off a few Christmas cards at the drive-thru mailbox outside a post office and a man places his hand on my window frame and asks me for money. “I’m homeless. I’m not on drugs. I just need 12 dollars for milk and eggs for my kids.”
Then he adds, “You can even have my phone number and I’ll pay you back.” I am not sure how that would work.
He has a menacing manner that makes me forget that I have a small tube of pepper spray in my car. But it’s also the Christmas season and I’m an easy touch. So I give the guy five bucks, seven dollars short of what he wants. He doesn’t thank me and, instead, begins his spiel again to the driver of the next car in line.
National Defense Authorization Act
Last week President Joe Biden signed the $777.7 billion 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The original bill asked for “only” $753 billion but, just like the guy at the P.O., the menacing hawks in Congress felt the taxpayers and an increasingly unpopular president were easy touches for another $25 billion.
The Senate Armed Services Committee issued the following statement as part of its summary of NDAA: “This year’s agreement focuses on the most vital national security priorities for the United States, including strategic competition with China and Russia; disruptive technologies like hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, 5G, and quantum computing; modernizing our ships, aircraft, and vehicles; and, most importantly, improving the lives of our service members and their families.”
(I’m fairly certain that a measly 2.7 percent pay increase for military service members and Department of Defense civilian workers will not make much of a difference in the face of spiraling inflation, but it will make a nice talking point for legislators during the upcoming election cycle.)
However, when it comes to keeping the well-greased turbines of our military economy churning along — even when we are not at war…for this brief moment, at least — no number is too high. With many of the bomb factories located in red states is it any wonder that their Congressional members always rubber-stamp these ridiculously bloated budget bills? To oppose an increase in defense spending is tantamount to being labeled unpatriotic and, thus, un-American.
By a wide margin, the United States leads the world in the exporting of arms or, more bluntly, we export terror. Many of those weapons end up killing women and children, or “collateral damage.” The new bill will do nothing to end, for example, the practice of selling bombs to countries like Saudi Arabia, who then use them in nations such as Yemen.
According to Antiwar.com, “An earlier House version of the NDAA included an amendment from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) that would have required the US to end support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, but it was stripped in the compromise version.”
Monies paid to the United States from wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia also silence complicity. The Kingdom was let off the hook for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi because then-President Donald Trump was more worried about the threat to a pending arms sale rather than the murder of a U.S. resident. “Part of that is what we are doing with our defense systems and everybody is wanting them…”
Biden is not much different from his predecessor. Witness the past October $735 million sale of “precision-guided” weapons to Israel. These bombs, officially referred to with the antiseptic label, “Joint Direct Attack Munitions,” are manufactured by Boeing, the same company that gifted us with the not-so-precise 737 Max airplane. Do I need to say that to oppose any aid to Israel is to commit political Hari-Kari?
So many of the real needs of not only the United States, but also around the world, are sadly being neglected as military expenditures spiral upwards.
An article from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute cites an estimate from the International Monetary Fund that states that, as of October of 2020, the global gross domestic product shrank by 4.4 percent while military expenditures rose by 2.6 percent.
“As a result,” the article states, “military spending as a share of GDP—the military burden—reached a global average of 2.4 percent in 2020, up from 2.2 percent in 2019. This was the biggest year-on-year rise in the military burden since the global financial and economic crisis in 2009.”
Sixty-two percent of those expenditures come from just five nations: the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Russia, and India. Yes, India, where in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of the total global increase in poverty occurred. That is 75 million more Indians who now live on less than two dollars a day. India’s defense budget for 2021-2022 was $49.6 billion, including $18.48 billion for weapons procurement. This in a country where the majority of its citizens lack toilets, and clean air and water.
Imagine what that $2 trillion in global defense spending in 2020 could have done to address the effects of poverty, pollution, climate change, and treatable diseases that continue to plague our troubled planet as the world, instead, arms itself against…itself.
And imagine all the milk and eggs that money would buy for our children.