Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Pentagon

Soldiers fire rounds from an Army M1A2 Abrams battle tank at Fort Carson, Colo., Sept. 22, 2021. (Photo: Defense.gov)

Stop Calling the Military Budget a ‘Defense’ Budget

To call the Pentagon's massive and escalating budget a "defense" budget is nothing less than internalized corruption of language that undermines our capacities to think clearly and talk straight.

Norman Solomon

It's bad enough that mainstream news outlets routinely call the Pentagon budget a "defense" budget. But the fact that progressives in Congress and even many antiwar activists also do the same is an indication of how deeply the mindsets of the nation's warfare state are embedded in the political culture of the United States.

The misleading first name of the Defense Department doesn't justify using "defense" as an adjective for its budget. On the contrary, the ubiquitous use of phrases like "defense budget" and "defense spending"—virtually always written with a lower-case "d"—reinforces the false notion that equates the USA's humongous military operations with defense.

In the real world, the United States spends more money on its military than the next 10 countries all together. And most of those countries are military allies.

What about military bases in foreign countries? The U.S. currently has 750, while Russia has about two dozen and China has one. The author of the landmark book "Base Nation," American University professor David Vine, just co-wrote a report that points out "the United States has at least three times as many overseas bases as all other countries combined." Those U.S. bases abroad "cost taxpayers an estimated $55 billion annually."

As this autumn began, Vine noted that President Biden is "perpetuating the United States' endless wars" in nations including "Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Yemen" while escalating "war-like tensions with China with a military buildup with Australia and the UK."

All this is being funded via a "defense" budget?

Calling George Orwell.

As Orwell wrote in a 1946 essay, political language "is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." In 2021, the hot air blowing at gale force through U.S. mass media is so continuous that we're apt to scarcely give it a second thought. But the euphemisms would hardly mean anything to those in faraway countries for whom terrifying and lethal drone attacks and other components of U.S. air wars are about life and death rather than political language.

You might consider the Pentagon's Aug. 29 killing of 10 Afghan civilians including seven children with a drone attack to be a case of "respectable" murder, or negligent homicide, or mere "collateral damage." Likewise, you could look at numbers like 244,124—a credible low-end estimate of the number of civilians directly killed during the "war on terror" in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq—and consider them to be mere data points or representing individuals whose lives are as precious as yours.

But at any rate, from the vantage point of the United States, it's farfetched to claim that the billions of dollars expended for ongoing warfare in several countries are in a budget that can be legitimately called "defense."

Until 1947, the official name of the U.S. government's central military agency was the War Department. After a two-year interim brand (with the clunky name National Military Establishment), it was renamed the Department of Defense in 1949. As it happened, that was the same year when Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" appeared, telling of an always-at-war totalitarian regime with doublespeak slogans that included "War Is Peace."

Today, the Department of Defense remains an appropriately capitalized proper noun. But the department's official name doesn't make it true. To call its massive and escalating budget a "defense" budget is nothing less than internalized corruption of language that undermines our capacities to think clearly and talk straight. While such corroded language can't be blamed for the existence of sloppy thinking and degraded discourse, it regularly facilitates sloppy thinking and degraded discourse.

Let's blow away the linguistic fog. The Pentagon budget is not a "defense" budget.


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

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'When We Organize, We Win': Ocasio-Cortez Joins India Walton at Rally in Buffalo

The two progressives joined striking hospital workers on the picket line at Mercy Hospital after the early voting rally.

Julia Conley ·


Fatal Film Set Shooting Followed Outcry by Union Crew Members Over Safety Protocols

"When union members walk off a set about safety concerns, maybe 'hiring scabs' isn’t the solution you think it is."

Julia Conley ·


New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·


West Virginia Constituents Decry 'Immorality' of Joe Manchin

"West Virginia has been locked into an economy that forces workers into low-wage jobs with no hope for advancement, and after decades of this our hope is dwindling," said one West Virginian. "The cuts that Sen. Manchin has negotiated into the agenda hurt our state."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo