Thursday, January 31, 2013

Penta Reasons to Cut the Pentagon

This is an expanded version of remarks provided at the "No Cuts" rally on January 30 on Public Square in downtown Cleveland, sponsored by the "No Cuts Coalition," a Faith-based/Labor/Community coalition 
Those in Congress and the public focusing on saving earned benefit (i.e. Social Security and Medicare) and domestic (i.e. education, food assistance, housing, etc.) programs from budget cuts need to focus on the Pentagon for finding money to reduce our nation’s debt. Additional tax increases on the rich are one source. Closing tax loopholes for corporations are another. Cutting the bloated Pentagon military budget is certainly a third source.

As the Pentagon is the five sided headquarters of the U.S. military, here’s penta (Greek for the number five) reasons for cutting the Pentagon – expressed in five different numbers:

0: Number of full audits of the Pentagon. The Pentagon is the only U.S. agency not subject to regular audits. Their mammoth and decentralized bureaucracy injected each year with hundreds of billions of tax dollars has been virtually impossible to track. Documented levels of waste have in some cases exceeded entire budgets of several human needs programs. Anyone with any semblance of fiscal responsibility should be both shocked and outraged at the “defense” (definitely no pun intended) that the Pentagon is simply “too big to audit” (where have we heard that kind of language before?). No person in his or her right mind would perceive any private company or non-profit charitable organization as reputable, which wasn’t subjected to annual audits. The result of Congress forcing a recent audit of the Federal Reserve system (for the first time in its history) was the discovery of $16 trillion that were made available to “too big to fail” US and international banks -- at the very time homeowners and communities were struggling following the 2007-8 financial collapse. A full Pentagon audit will undoubtedly reveal billions upon billions of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse.

2: As is 2 times or double. Pentagon spending has doubled since 1998—and that doesn’t include the $1.4 trillion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Pentagon doesn’t spend all the money it’s allocated each year. At the end of the 2012 Fiscal Year ending last September 30, $100 billion was sitting in its bank waiting to be spent.

60: As in nearly 60% of all spending Congress votes on directly (called discretionary spending) last year went to the Pentagon. Congress has in the past allocated more to the Pentagon than what they’ve requested. The 2012 budget is about six times larger the military budget of China. It’s also greater than the next twenty largest military spenders on earth – combined.

1000: Number of military bases and installations outside the United States of America. Many call the US global military expansion an Empire – with a presence on every continent in scores of nations. It’s estimated that $170 billion per year is spent to maintain US bases and troops around the world. Since the start of the 2001 so-called “war on terror,” estimates to maintain this global military Empire is around $2 trillion…and counting. Does the U.S. really need multiple military bases and installations in Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Japan and many other nations? The economies of many of these nations are better than ours.

51: As in 51% percent increase over the last year in political lobbying by Northrup Grumman corporation, a major military contractor. Another major contractor, Lockheed Martin corporation, increased their lobbying last year by 25%. Such lobbying buys access and influence – resulting in ever more military contracts to produce ever more weapon systems we don’t need and certainly can’t afford.

The number 51, however, also happens to be the percent of Americans who want Pentagon cuts to reduce the deficit, according to a recent poll by the conservative Economist magazine. This compares to 31% who want cuts to Medicaid, 21% to Medicare, and 19% to Social Security. If our nation is anything approaching a representative democracy, these poll numbers should mean our federal elected officials would look first and not last at the Pentagon for places to find money to reduce the deficit. We know, though, that political influence from corporation and the very wealthy trumps the voice of the rest of our nation’s citizens. It’s up to the vast majority of people who want to see earned benefit and domestic programs preserved to join with vast numbers of others to create a political force to collectively demand cuts in the Pentagon.  Such initiatives won’t come from the top down. They must come from us.

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