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Your Tax Dollars at War: More Than 53% of Your Tax Payment Goes to the Military

Dave Lindorff

If you're like me, now that we're in the week that federal income taxes
are due, you are finally starting to collect your records and prepare
for the ordeal. Either way, whether you are a procrastinator like me, or
have already finished and know how much you have paid to the
government, it is a good time to stop and consider how much of your
money goes to pay for our bloated and largely useless and pointless
military.

The budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which has to be voted by
Congress by this Oct. 1, looks to be about $3 trillion, not counting the
funds collected for Social Security (since the Vietnam War, the
government has included the Social Security Trust Fund in the budget as a
way to make the cost of America's imperial military adventures seem
smaller in comparison to the total cost of government).  Meanwhile, the
military share of the budget works out to about $1.6 trillion.

That figure includes the Pentagon budget request of $708
billion, plus an estimated $200 billion in supplemental funding, called
"overseas contingency funding" in  euphemistic White House-speak), to
fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, some $40 billion or more in
"black box" intelligence agency funding, $94 billion in non-DOD military
spending, $100 billion in veterans benefits and health care spending,
and $400 billion in interest on debt raised to pay for prior wars and
the standing military.

The 2011 military budget, by the way, is the largest in history,
not just in actual dollars, but in inflation adjusted dollars,
exceeding even the spending in World War II, when the nation was on an
all-out military footing.

Military spending in all its myriad forms works out to represent
53.3% of total US federal spending.

It's also a budget that is rising at a faster pace than any
other part of the budget (with the possible exception of bailing out
crooked Wall Street financial firms and their managers). For the past
decade, and continuing under the present administration, military
budgets have been rising at a 9% annual clip, making health care
inflation look tiny by comparison.

US military spending isn't just half of the US budget. It is
also half of the entire global spending on war and weaponry.  In 2009,
according to the venerable War Resisters League, US military spending
accounted for 47% of all money spent globally on war, weapons and
military preparedness.  What makes that staggering figure particularly
ridiculous is that America's allies--countries like France, Britain,
Germany, Italy, and Japan--account for another 21% of the world's
military spending. Fully 12 of the top-spenders among big
military-spending nations are either allies of the US, or are friendly
countries like Brazil and India. That is to say, America and its friends
and allies account for more than two-thirds of all military spending
worldwide.

China, in contrast, probably the closest thing to a real
"threat" to American interests because of America's treaty commitments
to the island nation of Taiwan, and China's claim that it is a part of
the PRC, spends only some $130 billion on its military, much of which is
actually devoted to maintaining military control of the country's own
1.3 billion people, some of whom might prefer to be independent, or to
be freer.

The next biggest military spender, Russia, spends less than $80
billion a year on its decrepit military, and isn't even technically an
enemy of the US anymore. Its military is largely busy keeping restive
regions from spinning off from the mother country, anyhow.

Meanwhile Iran, which the White House and Congress are
portraying as America's arch enemy despite its not having invaded
another country in hundreds of years, isn't even on the list of the top
17 military big-spenders. Iran's current military budget is a teensy
$4.8 billion, about the same as the estimated $5 billion spent on the
military by North Korea--America's other "major enemy."  Each of those
country's military budgets is about one-quarter of the military budget
of Australia, or a third of the military budget of the Netherlands.

Just to give one an idea of how small $4.8 billion is in
comparison to the $1.6 trillion that the US is spending each year on war
and planning for war, that number is roughly what the Pentagon plans to
spend over the next year on childcare and youth programs, morale and
recreation programs and commissaries on its bases! It's about what the
Pentagon will spend acquiring replacement Seahawk, Chinook and Blackhawk
helicopters this year.

For the average American, what all this means is that of every
dollar you send to the IRS, 53 cents will be going to pay for blowing
stuff up, fattening the wallets of colonels admirals and generals,
bloating the portfolios of investors in military industries, and of
course funding the bonuses paid to executives of those companies, and
the campaign chests and expense accounts of the members of Congress who
vote for these outlandish budgets. Your money will also be going to pay
for the salaries and the bullets of those brave heroes over in
Afghanistan who are executing kids, killing pregnant women (and then
digging out the bullets and claiming they were stabbed by their
families), and for the anti-personnel weapons that are creating legions
of legless Afghani kids.

Next time you hear that the government needs to cut funds for
providing medical care to the children of laid-off workers, or that
supplemental unemployment funds are running out, next time you hear that
federal funds that are needed to fund extra teachers at your school are
being cut, or that Social Security benefits need to be cut back, or the
retirement age needs to be increased to 70, next time you hear that
your local post office has to be shut down for lack of funds, next time
you hear that Medicare benefits need to be reduced, think about that 53%
of your tax payment that is going to finance the most enormous war
machine the world has ever known.

And ask yourself: Is this really necessary? Is this really where
I want my money going?


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is author of "Marketplace Medicine: The Rise of the For-Profit Hospital Chains" (BantamBooks, 1992), and "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). He is the founding editor of ThisCantBeHappening.

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