Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Has American Military Spending Really Been a Form of Keynesian Stimulus?

In my recent post, Falling Forward, I discussed the failure of the American economy to de-militarize once the Cold War ended in 1991. 

This is a major issue—major like a hole in the head: The United States spends over 6% of its GDP on the military—more, if you add the money spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. (And by the way: The self-delusion that keeps those two wars “off the books”? Astonishing—but that’s for another time.) 

Since the U.S. is the largest economy in the world, that +6% means that America spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined—with room to spare.

Right there, you know something’s gone horribly wrong. 

In Falling Forward, I argued that this enormous military created the need to find a new enemy, now that the Soviet Union is no more, and the nations of the former Warsaw Pact are busy trying to join NATO, rather than fight it. 

But there’s another thing we should be looking at, when we examine this enormous military spending, especially over the last 20 years: Shouldn’t we really be thinking of it as an enormous stimulus program—a Keynesian stimulus program of the first order?

Military spending as a form of Keynesian stimulus is not an original argument—in fact, it’s been advocated, even by a few non-Keynesians: 

A couple of years ago, Martin Feldstein wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal called “Defense Spending Would Be Great Stimulus”—the title pretty much says it all.

For his part, Paul Krugman wrote a piece back in September called “1938 in 2010”, where he basically argued that World War II deficit spending got the United States out of the Great Depression, and created the conditions for the Post-War Boom—so wouldn’t it be wonderful if something similar happened today (i.e., like a war). Krugman’s argument was not merely flawed—and not merely immoral—but in fact Krugman’s argument depended on fudged data, as I demonstrated here.

David Broder also got on the war-is-good-for-the-economy bandwagon: He wrote a Washington Post editorial for Halloween called “The War Recovery?”, essentially spelling out what Krugman was too slippery and chickenshit to say out loud except through mealy-mouthed, throwing-a-rock-and-hiding-your-hand inference: Wouldn’t a war be great to stimulate the U.S. economy into growing again?

These three writers are all saying the same thing: American military spending would be a great way to get the U.S. economy back on track.

However, these three writers were all making forward arguments: The American economy that is in the doldrums today would improve tomorrow if the economy was stimulated via more military spending—especially with a war.

But what about the past? Consider this chart:

U.S. Military spending as percentage of GDP, 1800–2010. Source and data is here

Looking at the chart, you can see that aside from the War of 1812, the Civil War, and the First World War, military spending in the United States rarely crossed the 2% of GDP threshold—up until the Great Depression.

It was during the Great Depression that military expenditures began to steadily rise—long before the threat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were readily apparent. It can be seen in the above chart as a percentage of GDP, but it can also be seen more starkly in the chart below, in nominal terms:

Same source as above.
As you can see, the Hoover administration cut military spending with the advent of the Great Depression—but the Roosevelt administration increased it dramatically, even though there was no imminent threat of war.

Military expenditures for 1935—the first big bump up—were decided in 1933–‘34: No one would argue in 1934 that world war was even remotely a possibility—especially considering the United States’ isolationist stance following the First World War. No one even in 1939 would have argued that a war involving the U.S. was imminent. After September of ‘39, maybe one could argue that there might be a European war—though the Phoney War/Sitzkrieg of ‘39–‘40 would have severely undercut the argument for an imminent European war. That the United States would be dragged into a possible European war? No way, especially considering the prevalent notion (in 1939) that France was more than a match for Germany.

So the only way to interpret the rise in American military expenditure between ‘34 and ‘40 was as part of the New Deal spending to stimulate the economy: In other words, it was Roosevelt who invented the notion of military spending as a way to prop up the economy—Keynesian militarism.

There are a number of reasons why I am extremely leery of government spending programs as a way to stimulate the economy: One is, Keynesian stimulus is often as not ham-fisted, misallocating resources so badly that it might as well be thought of as throwing money away. A second is, Keynesian stimulus creates an economic dependence of the private sector on the public sector. In a democracy, this creates the incentive for the dependent private sector to lobby politically, so as to maintain the “stimulus”, which becomes like an addictive drug—a necessary prop for economic survival. A third objection—relevant to the specific case under discussion—is that Keynesian stimulus spending on the military creates a larger military, and a momentum to actually deploy that military; that is, Keynesian military spending stimulus creates the incentive to launch wars of aggression.

From a Keynesian perspective, however, a growing military is an ideal way to stimulate the economy: By definition, all military spending is consumption, not investment. Military equipment will either be destroyed in war, or discarded for the sake of newer equipment. Therefore, government spending on the military is a sure-fire way to pump demand into the economy—Keynesians’ idée fixe. (Using the French is so much better than using a good ol’ American word like hobbyhorse, or maybe fixation, or maybe even mania.)

If the increase of military expenditure from 1934 to 1940 was nothing more than Keynesian stimulus, then the military spending from 1941 through 1991 was for real. The only way to look at that period of historically disproportionate American military spending was as a byproduct of the United States fighting both World War II and the Cold War (which I will analyze in a future post as a single continuing Long War).

I don’t have any objection to the military spending between ‘41 and ‘91, and I don’t think anyone else should, either—it was obviously necessary. Why? Because the war between ‘41 and ‘91 with the Romantic Totalitarian Dictatorships (Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Soviet Russia) was a life-and-death struggle—a struggle for the survival of Enlightenment ideals of democracy, secularism, egalitarianism, the Rule of Law, and generalized decency.

However, following the end of the Long War in 1991—as I argued in Falling Forward—the United States did not embark on a period of de-militarization. Instead, military spending continued apace—even though there was no imminent need or threat.

In other words, since most of the military spending the U.S. carried out between 1991 and 2010—including the entirety of the unnecessary, illegal, immoral war in Iraq—was not strictly necessary in order to preserve the existence of the United States, then that military spending should be thought of as nothing more than government stimulus spending à la Keynesian economics.

Keynesian stimulus, AKA mothballed fighter jets.
The key assumption of my argument is that nothing following the collapse of the Soviet Union—including the terrorist incident of Sept. 11, 2001—has come even close to representing a true threat to the existence of the United States. This is an easy assumption to defend—especially in light of the real threats posed by Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Soviet Russia during the Long War. Any confused soul who thinks that Islam represents an even remotely comparable existential threat to the United States as the Romantic Totalitarian Dictatorships needs to seriously get themselves to the library.

To briefly defend this key assumption: No potential military adversary of the United States has had any military or territorial designs on either American soil, American allies, or American interests since 1991. This includes all of the top ten largest militaries in the world, including the European Union member states, China, post-Soviet Russia, India, or any other nation with a credible military power, including Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Therefore, if we consider that historically, the U.S. has only needed to spend on average about 1.5% of its GDP in order to defend itself, we can think of the difference as the amount of stimulus the Federal government injected into the U.S. economy.

To make the math easy, let’s assume an even 2% of GDP is the cost of effectively defending the United States. And let’s assume that a true “peace dividend” would not have begun immediately after the end of the Cold War in 1991, but rather in 1994, when it was certain that the Soviet Union was gone and the surviving nation-states were clearly no military threat.

Using the data I sourced above: Subtracting 2% of GDP from the actual figures for the years 1994 to 2010—not including what has been spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which are kept off-book—I get a total savings of $4.7 trillion.

$4.7 trillion—that’s the amount of Keynesian stimulus the excessive military spending wrought on the American economy between 1994 and 2010.

Or think of it another way: If we include the interest on Treasury debt added roughly 20% to the tab, then more than 40% of the total U.S. Federal government debt—$5.6 trillion—is due to the excessive military stimulus spending.

Military spending is non-productive consumption—it is waste. So that’s how much the United States has wasted on needless military Keynesian stimulus spending:

$4.7 trillion. Plus interest.

The next time some Keynesian Klown tells you that what the U.S. economy really needs is for the Federal government to “get serious and put more stimulus into the economy—the last stimulus package just wasn’t enough”—go ahead and mention the $4.7 trillion of military stimulus, and $5.6 trillion of debt.

How’s that for some stimulation?

43 comments:

  1. Sigh.

    The wars since 1991 have had to do with OIL.

    All wars have to do with redirecting class frustrations.

    Wake me up when you write more about the banksters.

    Merry Christmas.

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  2. can't argue with your thesis. I personally would rather have the military spending than social in order to stimulate. Much less "social" damage done that way.

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  3. Really, too bad Sadam H. was such an imbecil. You really do have to time travel back to 2003 to remember the seriousness of the wmd threat. Sure, laugh it off now. Yuk Yuk. But if that dam fool had allowed unfettered inspections, he and we would have been the better for it.

    But that idiot couldn't figure out that it was no time to be fucking with that idiot George W. Kinda like fucking with Mike Tyson in a bar.

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  4. The ME wars since 1979 have had to do with fears of revolutionary Islam, oil and the USD.

    In 1979, the Iranian revolution happened.

    In 1983, the Marine base in Beirut was bombed. Few people realize that the Marines in Beirut were ordered to patrol with no rounds chambered in their rifles. One Marine claims he had no ammunition at all for his 0.50 cal rifle and was thus unable to stop the truck bomb as it drove up to the barracks.

    Why now would they put Marines in harm's way, on a poorly-defined mission, and force them to patrol with a handicap and/or keep them from being able to prevent an attack?

    Many look at Reagan as a warmonger for his hard-line stance on the USSR that helped end the Cold War. Few people give him credit for not letting us be drawn into a mess in the ME because of that attack. Thank you Ronnie!

    Fast forward to 1993. The WTC is bombed, but the response is NO BIG DEAL. Why? Because there was no body count.

    Do we increase our security measures?

    No.

    Instead, we move the air fighter wing in NJ farther away from NYC, we don't increase(decrease?) screening for visas, we get rid of the bomb sniffing dog program, we get rid of the Air Marshall program...

    America was stronger and more secure before they decided to CREATE circumstances that would draw us into a war in the ME.

    http://www.TheTailDoesNotWagTheDog.blogspot.com/

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  5. Gonzalo, excellent work. Let me just list a couple petty objections to (in my view) tighten the argument a little bit:

    1) Consumption/Investment: Your recounting of the Econ 101-type (or whatever the course is at Dartmouth) elements here differs slightly from what I was taught. Military expenditure isn't really Consumption, since it doesn't go towards goods and services that satisfy human needs in their expenditure. Rather, in that in generally takes the form of the purchase, maintenance, and use of machines that really aren't "consumed" (and salaries for those who operate them), it is really Investment. But it's the wasteful sort of Investment, which does not contribute (unlike infrastructure or business-machines) to a greater ability to produce consumer goods more productively.

    Along that line, and more to the point, you take pains to label military expenditure as Consumption (incorrectly) because you operate under the mistaken assumption that Investment is unwelcome insofar as it does not contribute to boosting aggregate demand. In fact, Investment certainly does that - when the government pays the machine-tool factory owners and their employees, it is certainly creating demand, just as much as when it pays for consumable goods (e.g. paper, staples, coffee). Indeed, if you're smart as a government policy-maker, you make sure that you spend stimulus money (thereby increasing aggregate demand: first-order effect) in a way that produces Investment that does boost the economy's ability to productively produce goods, and even compete better internationally (second-order effect). We can see mention of such considerations back in Obama's 2009 stimulus with the concern voiced then about the availability of "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects to fund.

    2) You claim that military expenditure after 1991 (or at least that above a roughly 2% of GDP level) was "not strictly necessary in order to preserve the existence of the United States." I fully agree, but disagree with the other side of that coin, your assertion that the spending from 1945 to 1991 presumably *was* strictly necessary. Come on now, there was plenty of wasteful military spending during the Cold War period as well, that is, plenty of schools and hospitals that went unbuilt, teachers and doctors unhired and unpaid, so that we could instead devote that government money to (for example) building far too many ICBMs than were really needed in the late 1950s/early 1960s (in a hysterical response to a thoroughly bogus Russian "missile gap"), and numerous other examples as well (including the entire Vietnam War, a completely unnecessary tragedy and not only in the fiscal/wasted-money sense).

    Related to this, I would agree that conflict with the Axis powers in World War II did constitute a "life-and-death struggle," but not that of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, or at least for even most of the Cold War era (if not all). On the contrary, from at least the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis onward Soviet Russia was certainly a conservative power that had given up its expansionary ambitions (Afghanistan can be interpreted as a defensive move, not offensive, and was a bloody failure in any event) and was content to be left alone and rule over its own Communist empire (whose own deteriorating economic and technological conditions were what really led to its break-up). There was really no more danger then of a sudden Warsaw Pact attack into Western Europe - so all the more reason to regret the US Government money wasted on military expenditures (as I do in my preceding argument) during that roughly 1962 to 1991 period.

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  6. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't tax cuts one of the core components of Keynesian economics?

    If so, political parties who are pro the military industrial complex (aka the infamous Eisenhower warning), as well as clubbing us Flintstones-style with the nonstop tax cut mantra, it begs to question how much of free market capitalism was really recycled Keynesianism.

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  7. The truly sad element is that although the USA is the World’s richest country, the citizens have bad healthcare, poor diets, a diminishing education systems and a host of other social deficits that could have been cured by cutting the defense budgets.
    How many hospitals, schools, and social programs could $4.7 trillion fund?
    CNN reported this morning that 43 million Americans are on food stamps, if the recent census is correct, that equates too roughly 14% of the population is living hand to mouth.
    It’s not as if the vast size of the American military has achieved much. A Rag-Tag bunch of ill trained Al Qaeda terrorists have so far managed to inflict untold misery to thousands of service men and their families.
    The Wars in Vietnam and Korea are well documented. Even little old Cuba told the USA to go fuck itself in 1962.
    So you have to wonder, is it all worth it? Is having a military 13 times larger than your nearest rival necessary.

    “Military power wins battles, but spiritual power wins wars.”

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  8. For all the military expenditures and loss of life related to wars or crises in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Vietnam, Korea, Drug War, Kuwait, Panamanian invasion, not to mention conflicts that we supported financially and by supporting arms the contras, Israel, etc... What do we have to show for it? I believe we could have used that money much more wisely if we had wiser leaders more interested in the welfare of its citizens and shared a captivating vision of a great American future. The closest I can think of to a great American vision was the space race...sadly that was almost 40 years ago.

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  9. Gonzalo, another insightful article.

    Krugman and his Wall Street buddies would love us to get into a real war with Iran and North Korea. Who cares if 50K young Americans die? We do!

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  10. Great post as usual. But the question is where does that lead us. What I mean is how does all of this ultimately end?

    When Spain overspent on its military starting at the end of the 15th century and up to the late 17th century, the british took over.

    But the Brits , in time, also exausted themselves in their hudge empire and the military costs related to its cohesion. When it was obvious Britain could not keep up, the USA took over.

    What happens to western civilization when the United States goes officially bankrupt? Who will take over?

    R.

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  11. According to a friend who works there, they are spending money like gangbusters building infrastructure etc. at both the Trident Submarine Base in Bangor WA and the Bremerton Naval Shipyards. Some days its wall to wall contractors and workers - with many on the clock (including my friend) waiting for something to do when they are needed. Shifts are working around the clock and often on weekends.

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  12. disagreeing with Matt and Anonymous -

    Matt says tax cuts are Keynsian. I say, not - because - "Game-over". All of the income, 100% of it - would not be enough to service our debt.

    To anonymous - we are not the "richest country", any more than a jewel thief is accepted into the country club because he seems to have resources.

    Game - over / USA is toast, and it is happening because we are too sheeeepish to control our neocons. They have blinded us with the Cheneyesque slight of hand debate. And all we have is an 8th grade equivelency. However, that eigth-grade equivelency in 1860 would be a Bachelor of Arts today. Inflation has hit every box.

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  13. Poor IKE was right in 1961 as he spell in his farewell address to the nation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y06NSBBRtY

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  14. I hope I'm not introducing something irrelevant...

    The war on drugs (since President LBJ) has cost about the same amount as the wars in I/A (Iraq/Afghanistan) and, in the end, accomplished essentially nothing. (Cost of the war on drugs is inflation-adjusted to today's dollars.)

    Between these two wars, plus the interest, it essentially equals our current national debt!

    When a president inherits a war, it is nearly always a thorn in his side. Military spending has only gone up since Obama took office. The wars in I/A have been costing at least $400B/year for ~10 years now!

    If there's anything I'd say to Republicans it is this: if you're going to fight a war, please be decent enough to raise taxes to cover its cost. Oh, and assess the tax on those who will receive the greatest financial benefit.

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  15. The over-riding concern today should be directed to the Federal Reserve Bank and its handling of the US money. The Virtual Money Machine is running full-speed with no endpost in sight. As our currency is rejected by other nations and it is seriously devalued, we will be the victims of our own hubris - the military will be subject to serious budget cuts and we will not be able to instigate new military missions, and the stimulus effect will be muted. It really is Game Over for the prosperity of the American people...only the Corporate elites and Bankers will survive the economic depression.

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  16. GL states:
    "Any confused soul who thinks that Islam represents an even remotely comparable existential threat to the United States as the Romantic Totalitarian Dictatorships needs to seriously get themselves to the library."

    I see, Gonzalo Lira, apologist for religious fanaticism, for Shia insanity, but in reality an oh so clever propagandist who draws us in with seemingly rational criticism and disingenuous praise of Western ideals.

    What a clever fellow you are, Senor. Getting money from Dubai are we?

    Or just another leftist hater like J. Orlin Grabbe who cried crocodile tears after 9/11 while his business partner collected the cash from the Emirates.

    Vete a la chingada, putito.

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  17. Personally I see nothing wastefull about military spending.Except for what is destroyed during war time all the rest is either saleable or can be used domestically to upgrade infrustructure which is sorely needed now.Plus arm the militias that should protect the citizenry during peace times.
    I can agree that a lot of military weapons are not needed that do exist during peace time.And personnel. Nuec subs that patrol our shores are needed and survelance equipment is largely needed. WHY? Because of the past naturally. Which we who live today had nothing to do with.You blabber all you want about what should have been done. But you were not programmed with the mentality of a depression era human being as an adult.Nor a WW1 percipatant
    The way I see it that the problems we have today are 10 times worse than 80 years ago which brings me thoughts as to why the USA would have wanted to enter WW2.
    A whole ton of people from foriegn lands entered this country during the depression to escape the holacaust that took place in the eastern continents.Their paranoia and extreme mental anguish over the exterminations of humans happening over in their homelands brought them here.They became voters,gangsters, and paranoids that set up the past and future political garbage that we here in the USA substituting for common sense from a non Paranoid thinking Human. Not a stupid human but a non paranoid human. Stupid humans which I believe to be 80 percent of americans and I can count myself in that group to some extent. Hardly anyone can stay away from the peer preasure. You can ignore it but not close your ears to it.Or you become anti social,which many very bright USA citizens are.(anti social) That's because when truth is spoken no one wants to here it. See they say they already know it or they don't care enough to change their addicted programming to compensate for the mistakes made that are so obvious.When I say obvious I mean that personal responsibility has left our society.Not only has it left but laws have been passed to keep those with responsibility from retaliation. In other words largely what has influenced the USA social structure in the last 40 years or so is that of a non self caring human not fit to care for anyone else. Just my opinion.It could just be me too.
    Responsible people don't necessarily hide in a programmed standard environments. On the contrary programmed environments are really border line totalatarian regiems masked as corporations using financial tools to hide their incompetance. However like I said that is just an opinion and I could be wrong. Maybe this is changing.But I doubt it.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  19. Thanks for an interesting view. Can you ask commenters to choose a nickname if they want to remain anonymous, as there are too many people using 'Anonymous', which makes the discussion difficult to follow.

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  20. Gonzalo, you probably know about this book, but it makes many of your same points, written by an American General in the 30s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Is_a_Racket

    Same as it ever was.

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  21. Nice Bullring. Where's that? Oh, you don't answer questions.

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  22. You should fix the typo "war of 1912, Civil War..."

    You mean the war of 1812 when a band of soldiers from Nova Scotia burned down the West Wing of the WhiteHouse..

    Sorry Im Canadian, have to remind the world that the people who became Canadians burned down the WHitehouse.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_1812

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  23. No wonder you don't answer any comments.

    Lemme know if you ever will actually defend the vast heap of insupportable assumptions and unjustified conclusions you drop down here a few times a week.

    RE

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  24. GL

    You really do need to clear your head of all the memes placed there through the years due to heavy amounts of US propaganda concerning WWI and WWII.

    WWI was totally unnecessary and to this day nobody knows why it happened! It was simply idiocy for the US to get involved.

    WWII combatants had no ambitions on US lands. Even if they had it would have been fairly simple and inexpensive to defend US territory. At most a strong Navy was required to protect sea lanes.

    The US actually could have kept defense spending very low from 1934 until now if politicians weren't naturally power mongering idiots.

    And to the feedbacker that thinks producing millions of tons of useless military equipment is great for the economy because it produces jobs. Wake up! If not for this useless production the US could have manufactured products to SELL to people the world over and actually created wealth by so doing.

    Why in Gods name would we sacrifice ourselves to defend South Korea? Why do US citizens pay for the defense of Western Europe, Japan, and every other country that receives US protection at no cost?

    The people that created the US Constitution wanted to stay out of foreign entanglements for very good reasons.

    You say:

    "Because the war between ‘41 and ‘91 with the Romantic Totalitarian Dictatorships (Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Soviet Russia) was a life-and-death struggle—a struggle for the survival of Enlightenment ideals of democracy, secularism, egalitarianism, the Rule of Law, and generalized decency"

    You don't actually believe this tripe do you? If so you need to clear your head and become a truly free thinker rather than just another conventional wisdom spouting want a be.

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  25. Hello GL. With respect to your future post about World War II and the Cold war being one Long War, I wanted to note that Immanuel Wallerstein in The Decline of American Power (2003) writes:

    "The history books record that World War I broke out in 1914 and ended in 1918 and that World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945. However, it makes more sense to consider the two as a single, continuous 'thirty years war' between the United States and Germany, with truces and local conflicts scattered in between."

    If accepted, the US "Long War" was even longer although perhaps this "Long War" has been rather more about economics than Enlightenment ideals?

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  26. Redwine, I agree with your observation that "WWI was totally unnecessary" and "It was simply idiocy for the US to get involved."

    If we had not gotten into WWI, the Germans would have won the war and the Soviet commies would have been taken down by the Germans during the 1920s.

    It was Wall Street that pushed the US into WWI. We all know that the Treaty of Versailles forced the Germans to fight WWII and as a result of Germany losing WWII, we ended up with the Soviets conquering Eastern Europe and spreading communism to every corner of the world.

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  27. Military spending hurts now, for sure. But the real long-term cost to the economy shouldn't be ignored, either. Think of the people who work for defense contractors. They tend to be the best engineers from top and mid-level colleges. In the 1970s, these engineers didn't go to work for the military industrial complex and we got personal computers and cell phones. Imagine what we have lost because our best and brightest were wooed by the dark side. Yes, we got GPS and standardized packet switching (there were computer networks prior to the Internet, just not standards-based), but we could have had so much more.

    Instead we get robotic planes that are used to kill people from 1/2 way around the world.

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  28. Redwine - actually, the Japanese did invade the Alutian Islands, which then, as now, were part of US territory under Alaskan administration (then as a formal Territory, now a state). The Japanese invaders were thrown off the islands only after a somewhat costly US counterattack. So, actually, the Japanese DID invade the US, and DID have intentions on seizing US territory. And there were a number of German landings on US beaches along the east gulf coasts, dropping off spies, primarily. So many that the US Coast Guard was actually guarding the beaches with live ammunition. History has a way of being forgotten, it seems.

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  29. Did the Germans and Japanese have designs upon the continental US? Maybe. Did they have the military capability in the long or short term c. 1939-41 to invade the continental US? No. In fact, the Germans couldn't even make it across the English Channel. The Japanese in California? Give me a break. In the 1950s, did Uncle Joe Stalin's Soviet Union wish to invade the continental US? Unlikely. Did the Soviet Union have the capability to invade the US. No. Did they acquire atomic weapons that could threaten the US. Yes, thanks to WWII era spies and the US development of such weapons.

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  30. a shame military spending only supports the military industrial complex, not the society as well. that is the kicker here. unless the whole society is military, everyone else loses.

    and this type of spending is not productive nor encouraging a full spectrum of thinking, just military aims. there are civilian spinoffs, for sure, but mostly the needs are so focused to one sector that any benefits are so strictly limited and wasted on just that one effort: the military.

    and something about gaining the world and losing one's soul comes to mind here. such a blinded way to live. to focus only on wars is to encourage wars also brings to mind: what so you sow is what you reap.

    then again, military industrial spending is good if you are part of the complex. most societies don't survive long under such military industrial complexes. America is now a totalitarian/fascist state due the military industrial complex. and that is a direct result of the focus on "WAR/DEFENSE."

    waste, waste, waste.

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  31. There is a fallacy in your thesis. Lets assume that in actual dollars the U.S. spends more on the military then all other nations combined. (It does not, by the way, your information is pure propaganda.) But lets agree that when Russia or China spends a dollar on their military that they get 10 times what the U.S. gets. We pay our military much more then any other country does and the personnel costs alone exceed the cost of all the rest of the worlds men in uniform. North Korea has over 1 million men in uniform but I can assure you they pay them pennies on the dollar by comparison. China produces missiles, ammunition and guns for 5% of the cost of the U.S. production. Russia has four times as many tanks as the U.S. and it cost them a fraction of what it costs us to produce them. In fact there is no "cost" comparison that sheds any light on the worth of the worlds military or puts it in any kind of context. In fact if you counted the military might of all nations diametrically opposed to the U.S. we are outnumbered in soldiers by abot 10 to 1 and outnumbered in tanks by about 8 to 1 and out numbered in artillary by about 12 to 1, and all other comparisons are similar.

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  32. Old Soldier said...
    "Redwine - actually, the Japanese did invade the Alutian Islands, which then, as now, were part of US territory under Alaskan administration (then as a formal Territory, now a state). The Japanese invaders were thrown off the islands only after a somewhat costly US counterattack. So, actually, the Japanese DID invade the US, and DID have intentions on seizing US territory. And there were a number of German landings on US beaches along the east gulf coasts, dropping off spies, primarily. So many that the US Coast Guard was actually guarding the beaches with live ammunition. History has a way of being forgotten, it seems."

    The Japanese Aleutian operations occured in 1942 well after war had been declared. I don't know why you didn't mention the 'surprise' attack at Pearl Harbor, since US warships are condidered US territory, but this was inevitable due to US interference with Japans imperialist ambitions in Asia (cutting off Japans access to oil energy).

    Japan and Germany had no intentions of invading and conquering the United States. In any event they would have been very easily repelled.

    I realize conventional wisdom is that the WWII generation was the greatest ever. IMHO they were mediocre. The evidence is clear for all to see. The ruination of the greatest experiment in the history of mankind was due to their stupidity, misplaced loyalties, and belief in the sanctity of big government. They were, simply, subjects of the state.

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  33. GL

    I peruse many blogs and yours is honestly the clunkiest I've seen. The pages take forever to load and the scrolling is maddening.

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  34. I'm shocked at the numbers you mention.. Shocked!! I'm going to lie down now and think about this.. Just the opening lines of "America spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined—with room to spare." makes me shudder.. Do they know something I don't?? Is this an indicator of something to come???

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  35. The U.S. has the best healthcare in the world. We also have the best food available to us.

    It is no coincidence that our national debt equals our spending on welfare since 1965. We used to be the richest country until our government decided to buy votes by giving away our tax money.

    No war is "necessary" but defense is ALWAYS necessary. The Japanese landed a very small force in Oregon in 1941. They wanted to invade the continental U.S. but they decided not to because of our 2nd amendment. They could not simply run over our civilian population killing women, children and babies as they did in China. It would have been suicide for them to invade and they knew it.

    It is doubtful we would all be here to talk this BS without our strong military. The forces of evil are still there and growing stronger. The constitution REQUIRES us to support a strong military. There is no constitutional requirement for welfare, education, subsidies for agriculture, subsidies for mortgages, or most of the things the federal government spends our hard earned tax money on. If you want to weaken the military then you better learn Chinese and Russian.

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  36. It's amazing to view the range on posts to your article. A few agree and a few reject it, others somewhat agree but quickly move the topic on to pet peeves, even a few Reagan supporters thrown in (including apparently GL).

    Just to address that last point ... does anyone dispute that it was during the Reagan administration that our borrowing took flight in earnest with his guns/star wars & butter ---all on the credit card (no worries 'supply side' economics will pay for it all) theory of government began in earnest.

    Reagan was also the beginning of the 'pretty face, excellent teleprompter-in-chief style of prez. Basically that meant ...the first of a series of figurehead presidents that were merely mouthpieces for the entrenched status quo, complete with hired media/political gurus used to win elections by 'spin' more than substance.

    When I read the posts to this (very well written article), I am left with the feeling that we're screwed. There's just too much range of opinion for any sort of consensus in government.

    I fall back to my basic belief that the US would be better served by the Feds falling apart and the States (or a consortium of blocks of States) rising in the void to return power to more local levels. Yes, power closer to the people ... rather than the current ... power to multinational corporations.

    The US Federal Government has failed.
    Epically, big time, totally.

    It needs to go the way of all former empires and dissolve. It's time has past.
    It's a dinosaur.

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  37. The curse isn't a conspiracy, it's America itself, it and nobody else is its prime enemy. But to address your points.

    FDR was as much an imperialist as Teddy - and more lethal to the British Empire, and world peace, than Hitler, Stalin and Tojo combined. Military expenditure under his Presidency had an economic rationale but was for US empire-building, superbly concealed by Hollywood, Dr Goebbels's 'ultimate propaganda machine'. He fought to the last pound and foreigner - some 55K American soldiers died in Europe, versus over 600K British and French and 7,500K Russians - and let Pearl Harbour (about which he had foreknowledge) pull the US in only to avoid facing alone a Eurasia united under the Nazis.

    I doubt that Washington is more evil than London or Paris or Moscow - or Beijing! - but at best it's little better, and your might empowers your government to do more damage.

    I like Americans but I fear America.

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  38. Reagan was/is the most overrated president since Lincoln, who is also overrated. Republicans like to think back to his administration like it was some kind of Shangri-La, but the tax reform bill of 1986 was nothing less than the biggest tax increase ever foisted on the US, and the deficit spending really got going them, and "Reaganomics" has been shown to be a freaking joke. (And lest you think I am a Democrat...FAR from it - I think there's only one party in this country - the elitist incumbent party.) Voting is a waste of time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIraCchPDhk

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  39. Anonymous (the doubting Thomas one), according to Global Security dot org, we do indeed spend more than all other countries combined:

    World $1100 billion

    Rest-of-World [all but USA] $500 billion

    United States $623 billion

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/spending.htm

    Given that your thesis is based on faulty information, there is no way to address the other flaws in your thinking.

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  40. Absolutely! American military spending as well as the United Nations, the World Bank or the IMF and any of transnational institution.

    A debt based fiat monetary system is predicated on inflation. But inflation is a dynamic that conforms to the law of diminishing marginal utility.

    The US$ is the reserve currency of the world so that spreading Dollars far and wide is a vital necessity for the survival of the monetary system.

    Witness for example the degree of inflation that is generated the minute the UN moves into a country. Witness to how the black market blossoms but that's another story; related but another story nonetheless.

    The effects of inflation wane over time so that the authorities must necessarily intervene at ever larger and deeper degrees in the economy. This goes for the economy of the holder of the reserve currency as well as all other economies that must be absorbed into the system in order to keep fiat money alive.

    Military spending is just another tool in the ongoing effort to keep the multiplier effect of the currency above 1.

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  41. Gl, I believe you are right about the stimulus effect of military spending. Particularly of military spending financed by debt. Debt creates money, and money is this injected into the economy.
    It is interesting but not surprising, to see the vehemency that is in many of the replies above. Many in the U.S. are completely brainwashed on our need for "strong defense". They viscerally feel that it is "unamerican" to not want to have the ability to drop countless bombs on faceless people who may disagree with our exploitation of their resources.

    gh

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  42. "Reagan was/is the most overrated president since Lincoln, who is also overrated."

    Wow. You're more of a moron than Mr. Lira. Getting rid of loopholes makes the tax structure more flat. That's more fair. Someone's taxes will go up when you get rid of loopholes--that just means they were, a la crony capitalism, too low in the first place.

    Why does Lira merit being called a moron? He wrote, "including the entirety of the unnecessary, illegal, immoral war in Iraq".

    That war was the best shot we had compared to Afghanistan, was approved of by Congress and so is 100% constitutional and legal, and is immoral in I suspect no way he can name.

    Lincoln of course, is not over-rated unless he's put past Washington, and not under-rated unless he's not in the top five.

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  43. "No potential military adversary of the United States has had any military or territorial designs on either American soil, American allies, or American interests since 1991."

    This is so massively, stupidly wrong I'm gobsmacked. China still wants Taiwan whether the Taiwanese want that or not, and on no grounds the Taiwanese agree to. China wants undue influence throughout Asia, and wants direct control over islands in the South China Seas which are the territory of a half dozen other nations. China is deploying troops into Africa to secure China's oil--I don't really think they'll leave if the host nations ask them to.

    That's just China.

    Al Qaeda wants to run the entirety of whatever has ever been Moslem controlled soil so bad they can taste it. In fact, with the goings on in Egypt, the liklihood that Iran or Al Qaeda aligned entities will get Egypt is pretty good.

    Has Venezuela stopped supporting the FARC, really? Did not Saddam pay off Palestinian suicide bomber's families? Did Nicaragua stop trying to develop Costa Rican territory? (That was just last week, and they did stop when the US flatly threatened them.)

    You might have been ignorant of that last, but it is unlikely you are ignorant of the rest. I do not have the impression of you that you are deceptive.

    So I have to go with moron to best describe you.

    At best, you'll be like a stopped clock.

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