Defense Spending

Congress Needs To Worry Less About The Pentagon

After living a year in Washington, D.C., my husband and I are returning to Peoria. While in D.C. I visited our congressional leaders several times regarding producing a moral budget and the “Circle of Protection” for the poor and disadvantaged. Being an observer in the galleries of the House and Senate was instructive and often frustrating. I sometimes wondered why anyone wanted to work there.

If I Had a Million Dollars ...

Cash, Denis Opolja / Shutterstock.com
Cash, Denis Opolja / Shutterstock.com

Play along with me. If you had $1 million to spend to help stimulate the economy, what would you do? What would I do?

Option 1: 

Give the money to a billionaire, in the blind hope that the billionaire will pass along that million to his employees in some form. Or that he’ll spend it on a nice luxury product that (hopefully) will be an American product. Or that he won’t exercise the many loopholes that still exist and he’ll give that whole amount back to the U.S. government to spend. And of course, pray that the money won’t go into an offshore investment account somewhere in the Caribbean or Switzerland.

But what would Jesus do? What investments would Jesus make that I would want to make as well?

Pentagon Gains as Billions Cut from Poverty Programs

From Politico:

American soldiers learned the hard way not to walk down enemy trails in Vietnam — and certainly not twice. But here come the House Republicans, marching into the sunlight by shifting billions from poverty programs to the Pentagon, all within hours of adopting an entirely new round of tax cuts for those earning more than $1 million a year.

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Why We Need to Cut Wasteful Defense Spending in the United States

It's funny the things that you remember. I can remember one time when I was a teenager watching an episode of the Montel Williams show. I don't remember the topic, but I do remember Montel criticizing the U.S. government for spending too much money on military defense and not enough on domestic needs. I remember thinking to myself, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." In the world that I knew, the idea of slashing military spending was absolutely, totally, utterly UNTHINKABLE! I personally had never met anyone who thought that way, so I assumed that anyone who would suggest such a thing had to be either a) naive; b) stupid; c) a tree-hugger; or d) unAmerican.
That was then.

I don't know if it's because I changed or because America has changed (or both), but for years it seemed like the only ones who suggested slashing military spending were groups that few Americans could identify with: like hippies, pacifists, environmental and civil rights activists, and conspiracy theorists. Today, the idea that a significant portion of the nation's economic woes is due to wasteful Pentagon spending can be found both on the left and on the right ends of the political spectrum. It can also be found in the Pentagon.

Meet "Mr. Y."

Defense Strategies

Defense Strategies

Jim Wallis’ article “A Call to Repentance” (January 2008) speaks directly and powerfully to an issue that is incredibly important for American Christ­ians to come to terms with. I would also like to add a concrete example of the fact that “generous leadership to combat poverty and disease, for example, might be a more effective way to make friends in the world.”

Several years ago our church sponsored a mission trip to Costa Rica. Eighteen people went to a small village to teach children and paint buildings. We slept on a concrete floor and visited the sick. These people were clearly moved that Caucasians from the richest country in the world would come to their impoverished village and do this work. We made many friends and certainly helped all of us to be more secure in the world.

This trip wasn’t unusual as mission trips go, but what we often forget to look at are the economics of these ventures. This trip cost us $14,000. What if we used our current average defense budget to sponsor such service trips? $450 billion pays for 32 million trips. This is enough for millions of Americans to visit every country on earth thousands of times every year.

Imagine what such an outpouring of service, compassion, and mutual understanding would do for our world. This would buy security for all.

Daniel Wolpert
Crookston, Minnesota

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Sojourners Magazine June 2008
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The Money Defense Shield

A missile defense shield would not have stopped the hijacked planes. A hundred dollars worth of knives and box cutters, available at any hardware store, would have overcome the administration's $200 billion proposed system. Add the conspirators' flight training, airline tickets, and living expenses, and the budget to murder 7,000 innocent people would total a bit more, but Bush's proposed system would still not have saved a single life. If he rams it through in the wake of this ghastly round of vengeance, it will benefit only the weapons producers who've spent more than $40 million in the past two years on campaign contributions and lobbying.

A group of Lockheed Martin employees essentially acknowledged this several years ago, when I was giving a talk at their Missile and Space Division in Sunnyvale, California. The company had invited me to discuss my book on the values of current students-their future employees. When students feel that the world is corrupt and can't change, I said, they often point to the political clout of weapons companies, citing corporate bailouts, pork barrel contracts, and military systems that are useless but still make millions. The students were beginning to believe, I said, that political access comes only when you give at the door.

Since the average American household now pays more than $200 each year to finance Lockheed Martin's government contracts, I challenged the audience to question their corporate culture and not assume that just because a contract provided money and jobs, it automatically served a greater common good. I specifically questioned the company's missile defense systems. A man in the audience quickly jumped in to defend the company's role in developing them.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 2001
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Fund Raising for Cruise Missiles?

In the first such case in nine years, the Internal Revenue Service has taken longtime activist and war tax resister Ed Hedemann to court. Hedemann, a resident of Brooklyn, began withholding his taxes in 1972 as a protest against the Vietnam War, donating the withheld money to several nonprofit organizations. Supporters of Hedemann staged a march in New York City when his hearing began.

Hedemann claims the IRS has "routinely sent me threatening notices and levies, called me at home, harassed organizations I work for, and looked for nonexistent bank accounts and property. But this is the first time they’ve ever taken me to court. I guess they’re in desperate need of more money to pay for all those cruise missiles." During the past 30 years, only six out of 8,000-10,000 U.S. war tax resisters have been taken to court, according to the War Resisters League.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1999
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A Sign of Spiritual Distress

A democratic nation’s true priorities are revealed in its national budget. If you examine how a country spends tax dollars, you will understand its values and spiritual health.

Measured against this yardstick, our nation’s number one concern is not the education of our children or the plight of the poor, but the profits of defense contractors and their lobbyists. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, Pentagon spending is still America’s number one budget priority.

The total U.S. defense budget exceeds $275 billion this year—18 times as much as the combined spending of all the potential adversaries identified by the Pentagon itself, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Cuba. (Iraq’s total defense budget is about $1 billion.) If you add the entire military budgets of Russia and China, the United States still spends twice as much. And—as if the United States were somehow shortchanging the Pentagon—the Clinton administration is seeking a $12 billion military budget increase this year, as part of a five-year, $112 billion add-on, the largest Pentagon increase since the Cold War.

But the real national tragedy—and the top indicator of America’s spiritual distress—is revealed when Pentagon spending is compared to other programs funded by the federal government. For example in the current U.S. budget, while the Pentagon receives $276 billion, the country spends $31 billion on education, $30 billion on children’s health, $21 billion on affordable housing, $7 billion on the Environmental Protection Agency, and $5 billion on Head Start.

This year about half the $580 billion discretionary budget—or half the money Congress actually votes on—goes to the Pentagon. The rest is divided among nondefense programs—for example, housing and income security (10 percent); health (6 percent); education training and employment services (8 percent); and environment, science, agriculture, and energy (9 percent).

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1999
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With Smoke and Mirrors

Congress claim to represent different approaches to national governance, they have virtually no disagreements when it comes to setting the Pentagon budget. Key leaders of both parties, including Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, agree that military spending must rise in the years ahead to ensure continued American military supremacy.

In March 1996, when the Republican-dominated Congress was avidly slashing federal aid to the poor, the homeless, and the infirm, Clinton sent to Capitol Hill a six-year Pentagon budget laying out steady increases in military spending. Under the administration's plan, Department of Defense allocations will rise to $276.6 billion by 2002, an increase of 14 percent over fiscal year 1997. If the Republicans maintain their control of Congress (and/or win the presidency), these figures could go even higher.

Underlying this agreement on budget levels is a deeper consensus on the nature of future threats and on the type of forces needed to counter those threats. This consensus was forged in 1993, when Clinton unveiled a new U.S. military blueprint for the post-Cold War era. Known as the "Bottom-Up Review," this blueprint calls for sufficient U.S. forces to fight and win two "major regional conflicts"—that is, Desert Storm-like engagements—"nearly" simultaneously, a force about three-quarters of that supposedly needed to defeat the Soviet Union at the peak of its strength.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1996
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