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Apr 28 2014

We have some screwed up priorities here

You might also take a look at the whole defense budget, which will reach almost $500 billion, and which is characterized as…

…a sound path to responsibly meet the risks and challenges of the current national security environment.

It actually is a reduction in military spending from last year ($526 billion), but it’s still obscenely high.

2012milspending

Is it reassuring to know that we have a military that out spends the military of China, Russia, the UK, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, and Brazil? I guess we can pick a fight with everyone all at once. Maybe the logic is that we can’t afford to have kids fill their heads with book-learnin’ when their most important job is to fill the ranks of the army.

58 comments

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  1. 1
    karmacat

    In the meantime, veterans are struggling to survive when they come home:

    According to Center for American Progress
    http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/military/news/2012/03/06/11201/veteran-poverty-by-the-numbers/
    Veterans are disproportionately homeless
    ■Nearly one in seven homeless adults are veterans, as of December 2011.
    ■More than 67,000 homeless veterans were counted on a given January night in America last year. More than 4 in 10 homeless veterans were found unsheltered.
    ■Almost half of homeless veterans were African American in 2008 despite the fact that only 11 percent of veterans overall are African American.
    ■1.5 million veterans are at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

    Many veterans have trouble finding good jobs
    ■30.2 percent of veterans ages 18 to 24 were unemployed according to unpublished 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
    ■Nearly 1 in 10 veterans with disabilities were not employed in 2010.
    ■According to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a 2007 survey showed that more than one-third of employers were unaware of protections they must provide to service members, and more than half spent less than 2 percent of their recruitment budget on military advertising and/or did not understand the qualifications of military service.
    ■In that same survey more than half of all veterans were unsure of how to professionally network, and nearly three in four felt unprepared to negotiate salary and benefits and/or unable to effectively translate military skills.
    ■More than 968,000 of veterans ages 18 to 64 had been in poverty in the past year in 2010.

    The safety net provides veterans with critical food, heat, and health assistance
    ■More than 33,000 veterans were housed since 2009 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs in permanent, supportive housing with case managers and access to VA health care.
    ■Through its Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program, the Veterans Administration provided a wide range of career services, including counseling and training, to more than 116,000 veterans with service-connected disabilities in fiscal year 2011.
    ■$31 million of SNAP/food stamps funding in 2008 was spent at military commissaries to help feed military members and their families who struggle against hunger.
    ■A veteran lives in one in five households benefiting from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides heating and cooling assistance.
    ■1.2 million veterans used mental health services in 2010.

  2. 2
    atheistblog

    East or West, North or South, Democrats and Republicans are the same. Don’t even ask about how much free money or war money are giving to Pakistan, Israel, Egypt and all other numerous countries and warlords, don’t even go there. And again expansion of already existing military bases in Philippines And for no freaking reason 1 Billion dollars was given to ukraine, and for F reason Biden and CIA director flying to Kiev… Most civilians killed in one last week by illegal drone attack in Yemen which is of course war crime.
    Meanwhile FCC kills net neutrality, Wall Street cronies, banks, 1% got so much bigger in past 6 years.
    Bush 3.0 continues. Hope and moving forward my as$. At least I can live with my consciousness I chose not to vote for “Move Forward®” but to Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala. Screw you PZ for advocating for “Move Forward my as$®”.

  3. 3
    Rey Fox

    I’d remind atheistblog for the thousandth time that PZ is highly critical of Obama, but it wouldn’t matter because atheistblog is a craven drive-by commenter who doesn’t even have a blog. (it’d probably be a lousy read anyway)

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    And in what, I am sure, is totally unrelated news: U.S. Students Slide In Global Ranking On Math, Reading, Science.

    The problem with US universities is that they have become for-profit institutions. The education is irrelevant, except insofar as it can be used as a marketing ploy. Federal funding comes with federal oversight, and federal oversight would very likely severely cut into practices such as exploiting college athletes and appropriating grad student discoveries.

    Most significantly, though, is the fact that our Corporate Overlords do not want a college educated workforce. They much prefer people with only a diploma, willing to work non-union jobs for minimum wage because “Sorry, you don’t have a college degree so we cannot promote you.”

  5. 5
    Gregory in Seattle

    @atheistblog #2 – This has been quite obvious to some of us for decades. There is only the Two Party (as in the “Two Party system”) and its socially liberal and socially conservative wings. When it comes to education, corporate law, the environment, energy policy and far too many other important issues, there is no discernible difference between them (although the liberal wing, to their credit, will wring their hands a bit and pout when they vote.)

  6. 6
    coldthinker

    The American culture being very business oriented, I have considered it obvious that the Republican and corporate support for creationism, anti-scientific ideas and evangelical Christianity is intentional and well calculated, as it plays well to their political and economic needs. So much of US economy would collapse if there wasn’t a constant state of war. Educated electorate would seriously undermine this power structure.

    Or am I being a conspiracy theorist here?

  7. 7
    PZ Myers

    I know atheistblog is a goddamn fucking idiot, but see this post. That was our choice: a lackluster centrist Democrat against war-mongering insane Republicans. Or in the last election, a lackluster centrist Democrat against an obscenely wealthy plutocrat/tool of Wall Street.

  8. 8
    Phillip Helbig

    Almost exactly 1 million dollars. Per minute.

  9. 9
    countryboy

    Something to keep in mind, the bulk of the troops in war zones are National Guard and reserves. Why? It’s cheaper if they get injured because they don’t get the same level of benefits that full time regular troops get. My son found that out the hard way in Aghanistan and when he returned home.

  10. 10
    Gregory in Seattle

    @PZ Myers #7 – Keep in mind that “centrist” is relative to the Overton window, which has shifted very hard right in the last three decades. I believe it was early last year, when Obama presented a national economic plan identical to Reagan’s “trickle down” theory, and the Republicans exploded with screeches of “Socialism!”

    Today’s centrist Democrat sits well to the right of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater.

  11. 11
    cycleninja

    Not that Democrats are blameless in the bloating of the military, but stuff like this reminds me of George Carlin’s quote: “Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers.” I’ve never seen any evidence to the contrary.

  12. 12
    samihawkins

    This is one of those things that makes me feel absolutely certain that the vast majority of people advocating against government aid programs are simply sadists who get their jollies off from the suffering of those less wealthy than them, a few have even admitted it to me.

    Not once in my entire life have I met someone screeching about how much money we ‘waste’ on various forms of welfare who also opposes our bloated defense budget. Hell most of them think it should be bigger. It’s plainly obvious that our defense budget is bloated, far higher than it needs to be, and that it’s largely due to defense contractors going overbudget and overschedule on projects we didn’t need in the first place. The only difference between it and welfare is that this money is going to upper class engineers and executives, people they actually consider to be human beings, while welfare goes to the unemployed and impoverished, people they consider no better than vermin.

  13. 13
    Geral

    Despite all the money that is being spent I have serious doubts that the USA could even win a war against most of the developed (even undeveloped) countries. I have this vision of the USA entering a conflict but being spread so then it cannot project enough force to decisively win (sounds like Iraq and Afghanistan).

    I find myself more hawkish when it comes to threatening with military force when civilians are being murdered by ruthless dictators but I think the USA could project power from home instead of occupying half the countries of the world. We’re so damned paranoid about potential enemies we drop cruise missiles on people in the middle of the desert because they may be plotting against us… Reeks of paranoia.

    By the way my student loans are in the tens of thousands of dollars. It’d have been nicer if a drop of the money was given to me so I wouldn’t have to stress about how much money a month I’m losing into a black hole and I could buy a house.. some day.

  14. 14
    Kevin Alexander

    The priorities are perfectly sound. If you are a rich conservative.
    Educated people don’t vote conservative so, even if you can show that the lack of education is sinking the country it’s still better for them since thinking people don’t vote conservative.
    Did I point out how, once your education goes beyond sunday school and Dick Dynasty reruns, you tend not to vote conservative?

  15. 15
    doublereed

    @1 karmacat

    Not to mention that veterans returning from war correlates strongly with right wing extremism.

    It’s frankly disgusting how much we spend on defense, when we could be using that money to take care of veterans, subsidize daycare, subsidizing student loans, building infrastructure, and make a country that we all want to participate in.

  16. 16
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @Geral:

    A lot of that has to do with war weariness than anything else. The United States has been at war forever.

  17. 17
    jeffj

    I guess we can pick a fight with everyone all at once.

    I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Don’t panic now, but if US military spending is as inefficient as its healthcare spending you might only be able to simultaneously take on China and Russia.

  18. 18
    twas brillig (stevem)

    But the Defense Budget is a jobs maker!!!! Defense budget develops brand new technologies… aaarrrggg.
    Seriously, The size of that Defense Budget could easily pay for ALL college education, both Public AND Private. (I presume, with no list of all tuitions handy). Don’t they realize that an Educated Population is a much better Defense than “Guns and Boots”? Or do they just think it would make one a more lucrative Target?

  19. 19
    norsk

    Job #1 of ALL US presidents is to make the world safe for corrupt, predatory, crony, monopolistic capitalism while destroying all alternatives at every opportunity… Enriching a handful of the ruling elite while slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children is simply an added benefit of a war based economy… In this, Obama has taken the crimes of the psychopath duo of Cheney/Bush and has magnified them many fold….

    Vote for the warmongering, lying, neoliberal Republican or the warmongering, lying, neoliberal Democrat perpetuating the illusion of choice, the illusion of democracy where there is none. Welcome to “Inverted Totalitarianism” 101 or what Wolin further describes as a “managed democracy.”. Where the elite rule without the appearance of doing so…

    Always fascinating to observe Democrats act much like Republicans when it comes to apologizing for their leader of choice… Once again, voting for the lessor evil actually brought the greater evil to fruition, with the added benefit of having Democrats apologize for actions they would have protested if committed by Cheney/Bush… ALL presidents expand upon the crimes of their predecessors. The numerous crimes of Nixon made possible the numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity of Jimmy Carter, which made possible the war crimes and crimes against humanity of Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Cheney/Bush on up to Obama… who really has become “The More Effective Evil.” as put forth by Glen Ford again and again and again…

  20. 20
    Marcus Ranum

    The United States has been at war forever.

    We have always been at war with EastAsia.

  21. 21
    Zeppelin

    Re Carmacat #1 — What I’d like to see is for Americans to stop their bizarre lionisation and borderline worship of “veterans” as heroes, and instead have some pity on them as people who got suckered into doing an awful, damaging job hurting other people and themselves in support of the economic interests of their ruling class.

    Maybe once they’re recognised as victims or dupes rather than heroes, they’ll have an easier time getting the help they need. But I guess that’s less marketable than buying new tanks.

  22. 22
    opposablethumbs

    And we don’t trust them funny-talking Eurasia bastards neither.
    .
    Seriously, just out of curiosity – looking at the bar chart – does anyone happen to know off the top of their head roughly how the same bar chart would look if it showed GDP or some other measure of the total size of the economy? I’m wondering how far out of proportion this is.

  23. 23
    Zeppelin

    Also university is free here :D

    Some states tried to introduce fees a few years back, but they withdrew those after the protests from students and faculty and everyone else wouldn’t stop.

    Admittedly though our military is much less impressive!

  24. 24
    marcus

    karmacat @ 1 Thank you for this. I remember hearing an advocate for veterans’ issue talk on NPR about the expansion of treatment for veterans with PTSD. While, as an advocate, he thought this was a good thing he was concerned that it was going to overwhelm the process for treatment and actually have a net negative effect on the timeliness of treatment for those suffering from the disorder Because, you know, we just don’t have enough money and personnel to do it right.
    There are no words…

  25. 25
    Marcus Ranum

    if US military spending is as inefficient as its healthcare spending

    Are you kidding me!?!? It’s vastly worse on an epic scale. If you asked Monty Python to design a procurement system for maximum dysfunction, it would look surprisingly like the pentagon’s (though, admittedly, more money would be spent on bananas-as-weapons research) (compared to, say, the F-22) The DoD’s ‘death spiral’ is well-documented since the 1980s military reform movement, which, you can guess, didn’t last very long. A good summary by Pentagon analyst Chuck Spinney is here ( http://www.ranum.com/editorials/must-read/spinney/spinney_testimony.htm ) key takeaway:

    Brutally stated, the aim of this gaming strategy is to turn on the money spigot and lock it open.

    Remember – the US military was having trouble staffing and gearing up for both Afghanistan and Iraq – because the entire thing is geared for great big (expensive) stand-up fights, WWII and Korea-style and not operations in which there is no line of departure, such as Vietnam and Afghanistan. If you really want to be depressed you should read some accounts of what an utter clusterfuck the Iraq war was and how the Rumsfeldian army tried its damnedest to lose against a weak, technologically inferior, poorly trained, badly-motivated opponent in spite of superior intelligence, satellite imagery, logistics, and complete air superiority.

    It’s not the best military money can buy, it’s a potemkin village with tanks – it’s the most expensive military money can buy.

  26. 26
    hyphenman

    Good morning PZ,

    Yes, our priorities are screwed up, but we need to keep our eye on the root cause for why our priorities are screwed up.

    We are spending little more in Afghanistan than we spent in space/on the Moon prior to the conclusion of the Apollo program. What I mean by that is that all the billions we spent on NASA went to American companies, not the Moon. In the same way, the billions spend on defense are being paid to American defense contractors, not (for the most part) to Afghans.

    Here is the nut: how much money do the presidents/boards of American universities invest (and I use that word advisedly) in political campaigns compared to how much owners/CEOs/boards of American defense contractors invest in political campaigns?

    Until we figure out how to change that equation–dollars invested in political campaigns = government dollars invested in your company/organization–the screwed up priorities will stay screwed up.

    Do all you can to make today a better day,

    Jeff Hess
    Have Coffee Will Write

  27. 27
    Marcus Ranum

    What I’d like to see is for Americans to stop their bizarre lionisation and borderline worship of “veterans” as heroes, and instead have some pity on them as people who got suckered into doing an awful, damaging job hurting other people and themselves in support of the economic interests of their ruling class.

    There’s some sort of good news there, offset by bad news. The Iraq and Afghanistan debacles have conclusively demolished the army reserve and national guard systems; nobody but nobody is going to buy that it’s just a “one weekend a month, one month a year” commitment after watching those guys get used as cannon-fodder and deployed again and again and again… The recruiter’s marketing message is shot below the water-line; what you’re getting into the military now are people who want to kill, or people who have nothing else to do thanks to the economic downturn. A highly motivated professional military is not going to result from that kind of recruitment practice. The economic downturn has offset what was looking to be a hellacious staff retention problem, somewhat, but the military still has a gigantic marketing problem in the form of discontented veterans whose benefits are being cut in favor of more expensive gear. (If you read the budgets, the DoD’s playing a game with the ‘force cuts to pre-WWII levels’ – they are cutting the number of soldiers in uniform to drive down the cost of the deployed force, but are actually increasing expenditures on massively expensive programs-in-search-of-a-mission like the Littoral fighting ship and the F-35 Ginsu Fighter Bomber Floor Wax Dessert Topping)

    They’re still going to get recruits, but Rumsfeld, Iraq, and Afghanistan have collectively gotten the US military back down to late Vietnam-level quality. The current strategy is going to actually exacerbate the problem – instead of trying to get the system back under control and tighten it up they are ultra-emphasizing special operations, which is basically a self-selected subset of the personnel who actually really want to get out there and kill someone, and want to be good at it. So they’ve set up things up to internally divide the military even further along elite/cannon fodder lines. That’s gonna work just fucking great. It’s basically the same strategy the air force has followed: “we have the best fighter planes on earth! both of them! and if they’re not in the repair shed on the day you need them, they can kick some ass!”

  28. 28
    jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

    Unlike our European friends here, Canadian universities aren’t free to attend, but the cost of tuition is a lot more easily swallowed. The first time I saw what it cost to attend some of the U.S. universities I nearly had a coronary. Canadian unis seem to average around the 5K per year mark, for an undergrad degree. My masters cost me 40k for the entire program, for further comparison.

    Here’s a table with some data that compares undergrad tuition across Canadian universities in arts and humanities:

    http://www.aucc.ca/canadian-universities/facts-and-stats/tuition-fees-by-university/

  29. 29
    johnmarley

    I was talking about this some time ago with a far-right acquaintance. Apparently all of those other countries (even the ones we might be expected to sanction) can afford to have such low defense budgets specifically because ours is so high. And here I was, thinking “Team America: World Police” was satire. America! Fuck yeah!

  30. 30
    Alexander

    @7 PZ Myers:

    That was our choice: a lackluster centrist Democrat against war-mongering insane Republicans. Or in the last election, a lackluster centrist Democrat against an obscenely wealthy plutocrat/tool of Wall Street.

    I beg to differ; while those were the two candidates run by the One True Two Party System Party, in Minnesota, you also had the choices of Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party), Jill Stein (Green Party), Virgil Goode (Constitution Party), Rocky Anderson (Justice Party), Peta Lindsay (Party for Socialism and Liberation), Roseanne Barr (Peace and Freedom Party), James Harris (Socialist Workers Party), and Jim Carlson (Grassroots Party). Or writing in a candidate’s name yourself.

    Those candidates may have no chance of winning due to no public exposure, but the option was there all the same.

  31. 31
    Marcus Ranum

    Apparently all of those other countries (even the ones we might be expected to sanction) can afford to have such low defense budgets specifically because ours is so high.

    So he favors big-government subsidies to other countries? I feel teh fiskal conservutizm from here!

  32. 32
    unclefrogy

    I don’t know what to say. I do know that there has been since the 70′s there has been an emphasis on managing and analyzing government functions like a business. I wont even comment on whether that even makes sense or whether government is a business or what the product might be..Business has been adopting management systems and practices that emphasize short tern gains and increased quarterly profits over long term goals and sustainability with adequate re-investment in R&D. instead they out source to low wage subcontractors and outside manufacturers where ever they can.
    The conservative political policies and rhetoric has also adopted these short term ideas with the emphasis spending cuts on people and tax cuts. There is no long tern planing on much of anything including infrastructure, energy policy or education. All the result of the short term thinking from the modern business management ideas.
    The conservative pols. campaign against the high spending of development , education and health care through the use of resentment and fear to the majority of their ignorant voters. To counter act the effects of these policies they encourage foreign students enrollment in universities to make up for the earning short fall of the growing un-affordability of education which is caused by their unwillingness to want to pay for it and their need to make the “elite” the enemy of their voter base. They also need to cry to the government so they can hirer foreign workers (at much lower wages ) because they can’t find enough workers while at the same time vilify emigrants to their voting base as criminals .
    We are reaching the point where the result of the lack of support for the people of the country will finally lead to the conclusion that they feel no need to support the government and its leadership.
    Not unlike the effects of the modern short term businesses management on once thriving businesses which often end in the liquidation of the assets and the dissolution of the business. maybe the corporate raider makes some money but few others.
    uncle frogy

  33. 33
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    hyphenman 26

    We are spending little more in Afghanistan than we spent in space/on the Moon prior to the conclusion of the Apollo program. What I mean by that is that all the billions we spent on NASA went to American companies, not the Moon. In the same way, the billions spend on defense are being paid to American defense contractors, not (for the most part) to Afghans.

    See, a major fucking difference is that the Moon landing program wasn’t killing thousands of people and maiming thousands more, which is not something that can be said for military operations in Afghaniztan. Also, it led to loads of spinoff technologies with civilian uses, which also can’t be said for Afghanistan. So, in short, what the fuck did you think your point was?
    johnmarley 29

    I was talking about this some time ago with a far-right acquaintance. Apparently all of those other countries (even the ones we might be expected to sanction) can afford to have such low defense budgets specifically because ours is so high. And here I was, thinking “Team America: World Police” was satire. America! Fuck yeah!

    I hear that one all the time, even from people who aren’t (by U.S. standards anyway) far-right. Many of them vote Democrat. They will also often cite unspecified ‘national interests’ that apparently require a dozen carrier groups do protect, although I’ve never gotten a straight answer on how.
    Alexander 30
    FFS learn something. There’s a lot more to it that just lack of exposure.
    unclefrogy 32

    I do know that there has been since the 70′s there has been an emphasis on managing and analyzing government functions like a business.

    Usually advocated by people who’ve demonstrated that they don’t know how to run a business either.

  34. 34
    hyphenman

    @Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    The point is simply that our elected officials, largely, agree to spend tax money where that money best benefits those who funded their campaign. Until we change that, don’t expect government spending to benefit anyone but those who invest in the people who get elected.

    And oh, don’t bother to reply. I’ve put you on ignore.

    Jeff

  35. 35
    scourge99

    I don’t see how anyone can intelligently comment on military spending without seeing a breakdown of how the money is spent.

    Furthermore, comparing our military spending to other countries with much smaller economies seems a tad dishonest.

  36. 36
    Alexander

    @33 Dalillama, Schmott Guy:

    I didn’t mean to imply there weren’t other causes for the two party system, just point out one place that concerned citizens could, right now, work toward changing the system. I’m not aware of any organized movement to end First Past the Post elections in the US; I’m not in favor of proportional versus preferential vote systems, but if you know of any movement(s) in that vein I could support as well, I would greatly appreciate it.

  37. 37
    methuseus

    @scourge99 #35

    Furthermore, comparing our military spending to other countries with much smaller economies seems a tad dishonest.

    So, China’s GDP is about 45% of the US’s. Their military spending is way lower than 45% of the US’s. Germany’s GDP is roughly one-fifth of the US’s, and their military spending is well below 10% of the US’s. I’ll look into the combined GDPs of those countries on the left side of the bar graph, but I’m willing to bet that, together, they’re well above the GDP of the US.

  38. 38
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Alexander 36
    I’m a member of the Working Families Party myself, but a lot of the time that still means voting for someone on the Dem ticket. I don’t know of any organized efforts to change the voting system, no, and many of them would run afoul of the fundamental problems regarding changing the Constitution at all these days, as I noted over in the gun thread.

  39. 39
    methuseus

    So, I looked up GDPs for all these countries. The countries on the left combined GDP is almost twice that of the GDP of the US alone, so we are comparing apples to apples, and coming up with oranges.
    The data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_between_U.S._states_and_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)

    Numbers:
    Total for left $29,296,383.00 USA $16,240,675.00

  40. 40
    NitricAcid

    “Apparently all of those other countries (even the ones we might be expected to sanction) can afford to have such low defense budgets specifically because ours is so high.”

    I’m sure that China and Russia are perfectly willing to cut their defense budgets, on the grounds that America will pick up the slack.

  41. 41
    zenlike

    35 scourge99

    Furthermore, comparing our military spending to other countries with much smaller economies seems a tad dishonest.

    USA spends 36,6% of total global military expenditure.

    USA GDP is 19,53% of global total.

    So yeah, the USA is spending a disproportionate amount. And it took 2 minutes Googling. A tad dishonest of you to throw out your accusations without doing any of the research yourself, isn’t it?

  42. 42
    scourge99

    The graphic presents the picture that the US spends a disproportionate amount on its military compared to the rest of the world. However, if you adjust military spending by GDP, the US is within 2 percentage (at 3.8% of GDP) points of most major countries in military spending.

    If you put military spending as percentage of GDP on a graph, then suddenly the US doesn’t look like an extreme outlier in military spending.

    Yes, the US spends a lot. But that is commensurate with our large involvements overseas such as keeping shipping lanes open in the Middle East, preventing piracy off Somalia, supporting the Afghan government, and fighting AQ. Not to mention our overwhelming contributions to the UN and NATO military forces.

    Is it possible to reduce spending? Sure. But the consequences of those cuts must be understood. For example, regardless of whether you agree with the Iraq war or not, the reason we only had a few hundred casualties during the invasion is because of the vast technological superiority of our military. Compare that to the more than 100,000 Iran lost fighting Iraq or any other country loses fighting a major war.

  43. 43
    anteprepro

    scourge99:

    1. Within 2 percentage points, at 3.8%, is still double the rate of other countries
    2. If you look at military spending per capita, still extreme.
    3. Military spending as percentage of GDP only makes U.S. look like less of an outlier by controlling for economy size, allowing the U.S. to share its ranks with third world countries.

    The fact of the matter: The U.S. uses a massive, privileged first world economic budget with the same military priorities as a war-torn third world country.

    For example, regardless of whether you agree with the Iraq war or not, the reason we only had a few hundred casualties during the invasion is because of the vast technological superiority of our military.

    Yep. Gotta keep spending those military dollars, just in case we decide there are more governments to unilaterally topple, or so civilians to massacre with impunity.

    Again: Priorities!

  44. 44
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    scourge99 42

    However, if you adjust military spending by GDP, the US is within 2 percentage (at 3.8% of GDP) points of most major countries in military spending.

    Which is pretty fucking big, given that the variance between the rest of the G8 is about .5%.

    If you put military spending as percentage of GDP on a graph, then suddenly the US doesn’t look like an extreme outlier in military spending.

    O RLY?. Sure, China spends as much of their GDP on their military as we do. Saudi Arabia and North Korea spend more. Are you noticing something these places have in common? Something that’s generally not considered desirable to emulate?

    But that is commensurate with our large involvements overseas such as keeping shipping lanes open in the Middle East,

    Citation needed.

    preventing piracy off Somalia

    How, exactly, does one carrier group do this, let alone a dozen of them.? Be specific.

    supporting the Afghan government,

    You do realize that the entire invasion of Afghanistan is one of the things that folks here are objecting to in the first place, right? Saying “We need the money for the ongoing occupation” isn’t really a good counterargument to “We shouldn’t be spending money and lives invading and occupying foreign countries”.

    and fighting AQ.

    Oh, wait you’re serious. Let me laugh even harder. Terrorism is a category of organized crime, and is best dealt with using police methods. It would also help not to prop up dictatorial governments to get oil, invade and occupy foreign countries, and all that sort of thing.

    Not to mention our overwhelming contributions to the UN and NATO military forces.

    Only fair, since we’re responsible for most ‘NATO’ and ‘UN’ actions, which have the same problems mentioned earlier re: the morality of shooting a few hundred thousand foreigners whenever the current President gets a hardon.

    the reason we only had a few hundred casualties during the invasion is because of the vast technological superiority of our military.

    This? This makes you an unspeakably vile scum-sucking shitweasel. Hundreds of thousands of people died in that atrocity, and hundreds of thousands more were maimed, orphaned, made refugees, had their entire lives destroyed, and you’re gloating that only a few thousand of them were the perpetrators? What the fuck is even wrong with you?

    hyphenman #34
    You’re still a dipshit if you think that we weren’t also spending a disproportionate amount of money blowing up foreigners or preparing to do so while the Apollo program was going on.

  45. 45
    Alexander

    @38 Dalillama, Schmott Guy:
    *SIGH* I was afraid that you might say there weren’t any voting-system changes you were aware of either. I don’t really think that adding third parties to the televised debates will “fix” anything, but I far prefer any attempt to correct the system to a “too bad, so sad” attitude. (I’d say “keep me posted” but I only rarely read the comments here.)

    I had to go look at the gun thread to confirm if what were saying in regard to amending the Constitution applied; however, I don’t believe that problem applies here. Proportional representation for the House of Representatives is stopped by US Code Title 2, Section 2, not the Constitution. (If it weren’t for that small paragraph, states could declare themselves one unified “district” with votes being proportionally distributed between party slates. Of course, we’d want to ensure that was the only other option, and still exclude party-based FPTP for multiple representatives.) Likewise, Instant Runoff voting systems for Congressional seats (or state / city level positions) should be immediately implementable. Better yet, for the presidential vote, both Maine and Nebraska already allow a semi-proportional division of electors toward presidential votes.

    While I still think there’s not enough political clout being brought to bear against the entrenched parties to make real change to the system, the situation appears to be is far less daunting than having to make a change to the oh-so-”sacred” Constitution.

  46. 46
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Alexander
    Doing it at the city level would be implementable in some places, others the city would need the state government’s permission to make a change like that, depending on their charter. Doing it on the state level could also be a thing, and you could even, as you suggest, make a state a unified district and apportion the votes proportionally among the candidates, and all of these are good ideas that I’m in favor of, but the problem that I was getting at still applies, in a slightly different way. The problem comes with the way that Federal Legislators are divided among the states; low population states get disproportionate amounts of clout in the Senate and to a lesser extent the House, and right now trend heavily conservative in ways that would make getting PR implemented on the state scale exceedingly difficult, so they’d still be sending the same assholes to Washington, and they’d still be pulling their roadblocking shit, leading to chronic Federal gridlock. I’m not saying that state of affairs wouldn’t be an improvement, but I don’t know how sweeping the change would be.

  47. 47
    David Marjanović

    Something to keep in mind, the bulk of the troops in war zones are National Guard and reserves. Why? It’s cheaper if they get injured because they don’t get the same level of benefits that full time regular troops get. My son found that out the hard way in Aghanistan and when he returned home.

    *blink*

    *blink*
    *blink*

    Once again, voting for the lessor evil actually brought the greater evil to fruition

    Well, no. That the greater greator evil is beyond your imagination doesn’t mean it has come to fruition. McCain would have bombed Iran long ago, and don’t bother imagining what McCain or even Romney would have done to the Ukraine crisis.

    Did you seriously believe it couldn’t get worse? Did you seriously believe this hole has a bottom?

    Furthermore, comparing our military spending to other countries with much smaller economies seems a tad dishonest.

    Why? Does a bigger economy automatically create more enemies for itself?

  48. 48
    mikeyb

    The sad part is that military spending is such an entrenched part of the government, that any effort to reduce spending significantly would entail massive layoffs which in turn would put our economy into an even deeper recession. There are a lot of places where military bases, for example sustain a regions economy. This isn’t to say that spending is way way out of line with what is needed, it is just that any plan to move spending from A to B to other priorities like education if it were even politically feasible would have to be gradual or there would be unintended consequences to lots of people who’s job depends upon the military who are civilians for no fault of their own except that job opportunities in government are disproportionally in defense and not elsewhere. Not to say that this couldn’t or shouldn’t be done. But anyway it’s idle speculation given we all know it ain’t gonna happen any time soon no matter what.

  49. 49
    unclefrogy

    when ever I hear any thing about the causalities of the wars were are currently in my doubt alarm goes off loudly!
    I do not believe we are really getting an accurate picture of what is happening or maybe I should say a complete picture,
    As far as I know the Iraqi causality numbers are in dispute, their is undoubtedly some distinctions between those killed by US and those killed by other Iraqis and or the “foreign fighters”
    I do remember hearing early on that we are only announcing only those of our soldiers who died directly as the result of enemy action in theater as dead. If they died later in hospital out of theater in Germany or the US they are not counted as war dead. also any deaths or injuries that occurred because of other causes are not counted as in the causality numbers, other causes to include accidents that occurred there and disease were contracted because of them being there.( I do not think the contractors are included either in any of the reporting)
    In essence we are not being given the raw data of all that died or were injured as the result of the war and the occupation but were are given selected numbers so as to minimize the negative impression. This is not an uncommon practice in corporate reporting so as to not negatively effect the share price. It is the truth but it is put in the best possible light,
    modern business management 101.
    I have tried before to get more accurate and complete numbers but I am afraid I will have to wait for history or someone who is much better at finding thing out than I am.
    uncle frogy

  50. 50
    mykroft

    I’ll probably get some heat for this, but here goes.

    Yes, we spend way too much on our military as compared to GDP. Much of that is due to our maintaining a global presence, and trying to keep local crises from becoming big crises. For the most part we’ve been successful, although thanks to Bush we nearly ruined our military and economy in the pursuit of a reliable oil supply.

    The thing is, we don’t have any recent experience with a world without the US as a global cop. From the analyses I’ve heard (but haven’t studied in detail), an abdication of that role could lead to:
    - large military buildups by smaller countries once they realize we don’t protect them anymore
    - countries having greater interest in possessing nukes, because their neighbors are either working on them or they are afraid their neighbors are working on them
    - Local crises spiraling out of control, becoming regional confrontations

    Of course, these may all be worst case scenarios. I’m sure the Sunni and Shia can learn to play nice together, China will not be interested in absorbing any of its neighbors, etc. Perhaps it’s time for the rest of the world to grow up, while we leave them to their own devices. /snark

  51. 51
    JohnnieCanuck

    So mykroft, you are suggesting that the US is acting somewhat like Tito’s government did in Yugoslavia and Saddam’s in Iraq? Perhaps another comparison might be the Pax Romana.

  52. 52
    brett

    If you want to cut military spending drastically, then you need to identify a new strategic mission that requires less troops and spending. Because there are strategic re-alignments that we could embark on that would require much less personnel and operations expense (the two biggest components of military spending), like if we cut the Army down drastically, heavily cut the Marines, cut several carrier groups (which means basically picking an ocean where we’re not going to have a military presence anymore – probably the Atlantic), and then cut down foreign bases. We could do the whole thing on a shrunken Navy, small Army, and the nuclear armament plus R & D spending.

    Of course, then we’d have very little flexibility to intervene when it does matter. You’d have to sacrifice a lot of treaty arrangements we have with countries in NATO, southeast Asia, east Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia, and so forth – which means their military spending is going to go up rapidly, and we get all kinds of fun new geopolitics. And then think about stuff like Gulf War I, where one regime invaded another and none of the locals were in any position to push said invaders out. The US would be in a position of “Welp, guess Saddam now controls a significant percentage of the world’s oil reserves and is sitting right next door to Saudi Arabia’s, nothing we can do.”

  53. 53
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    unclefrogy 49

    As far as I know the Iraqi causality numbers are in dispute, their is undoubtedly some distinctions between those killed by US and those killed by other Iraqis and or the “foreign fighters

    The numbers are probably literally unknowable, but estimates range from 100,000+ deaths at the low end to 600,000+ at the high end. That’s leaving aside the people maimed in bomb blasts, driven out of their homes, etc. Nor do I consider the argument that the U.S. isn’t responsible for the deaths caused by the influx of violent jerks who showed up to fight our army, since they wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the invasion in the first place.

    Mykroft

    I’ll probably get some heat for this, but here goes.

    You will, and deservedly.

    Yes, we spend way too much on our military as compared to GDP. Much of that is due to our maintaining a global presence,

    That’s a nice euphemism for colonial empire.

    and trying to keep local crises from becoming big crises.

    Crises like democratic elections in Iran, Syria, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua and other places? Yes, those certainly required U.S. intervention. Otherwise brown-skinned people might have had some political self-determination, and we can’t have that.

    For the most part we’ve been successful,

    HAHHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHA
    Oh, wait, you’re serious. Let me laugh even harder. Seriously, try to get at least a vague clue before you start in on this kind of nonsense.

    although thanks to Bush we nearly ruined our military and economy in the pursuit of a reliable oil supply.

    While in the past we’ve done the same thing in pursuit of all kinds of dumbass things, killing a few million people along the way. I’m not seeing the upside here and you’re not making much of a case for there being one.

    The thing is, we don’t have any recent experience with a world without the US as a global cop goomba.

    Seriously. Phrases like “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business,” are not ones that should be associated with cops. (I know that in reality they often are, but that’s a sign that the police department has degraded to the level of organized crime, and goomba is still an appropriate term.

    From the analyses I’ve heard (but haven’t studied in detail), an abdication of that role could lead to:
    - large military buildups by smaller countries once they realize we don’t protect them anymore

    Which small countries? Whom are we supposedly ‘protecting’ them from. Please be specific. Include in your answer a justification for the fact that one of the primary things small countries might feel the need to defend themselves from is, in fact, the U.S., which has done an awful lot of invading small countries on shaky pretexts over the years.

    - countries having greater interest in possessing nukes, because their neighbors are either working on them or they are afraid their neighbors are working on them

    See above, and explain how our army is actually stopping anyone from getting nukes. Give evidence.

    - Local crises spiraling out of control, becoming regional confrontations

    And again, which ones are you referring to? Please make sure you reference cases where the U.S. has prevented this via military intervention, rather than causing it the same way.

    Of course, these may all be worst case scenarios.

    Or total fantasies.

    I’m sure the Sunni and Shia can learn to play nice together,

    The Catholics and Protestants have for the most part in the industrialized world. Improving overall wealth and education does wonders for reducing sectarian violence. Shooting people, not so much.

    China will not be interested in absorbing any of its neighbors, etc.

    You seriously think that we’re what’s stopping them, or that we could if they tried? Maybe we could hold the mainland off Taiwan, but not for long; we couldn’t afford it.

    Perhaps it’s time for the rest of the world to grow up, while we leave them to their own devices. /snark

    Perhaps it’s time for us to leave them to their own devices anyway, and allow them their own political determination, instead of pulling this White Man’s Burden bullshit.
    brett#52
    I’ll get to your comment later.

  54. 54
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    Take up the White Man’s burden, Send forth the best ye breed
    Go bind your sons to exile, to serve your captives’ need;
    To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild–
    Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.

    Take up the White Man’s burden, In patience to abide,
    To veil the threat of terror And check the show of pride;
    By open speech and simple, An hundred times made plain
    To seek another’s profit, And work another’s gain.

    Take up the White Man’s burden, The savage wars of peace–
    Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease;
    And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought,
    Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought.

    Take up the White Man’s burden, No tawdry rule of kings,
    But toil of serf and sweeper, The tale of common things.
    The ports ye shall not enter, The roads ye shall not tread,
    Go make them with your living, And mark them with your dead.

    Take up the White Man’s burden And reap his old reward:
    The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard–
    The cry of hosts ye humour (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
    “Why brought he us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?”

    Take up the White Man’s burden, Ye dare not stoop to less–
    Nor call too loud on Freedom To cloke your weariness;
    By all ye cry or whisper, By all ye leave or do,
    The silent, sullen peoples Shall weigh your gods and you.

    Take up the White Man’s burden, Have done with childish days–
    The lightly proferred laurel, The easy, ungrudged praise.
    Comes now, to search your manhood, through all the thankless years
    Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, The judgment of your peers!

  55. 55
    coldthinker

    mykroft,

    You anticipate the heat, and you try to be polite. I appreciate that. Apart from that, your attitude is infuriating, since you think you’re being fair and reasonable. I’m not a regular commentator here, so consider this heat outside the box.

    You’re apparently American. As such, who the fuck do you Americans think you are? (Thankfully not referring all Americans, just vast brainwashed majority) You really buy this Pax Americana stuff, using it as an argument? You really think the rest of the world sees you as a peace maker — instead of a fearful, violent, intrusive bully?

    You’re arrogantly insulting the people of the rest of the world by thinking that the US military force is helping anything but the own selfish interests of the USA. In fact, the US goes even further by creating its own enemies, since US interventions are actually the essential cause for most of the political problems in the world today.

    Afganistan — the US brought Taliban to power.
    Iran — the US brought Saddam Hussein to power.
    Iran — the US and the UK forcefully replaced a democratically elected president with a corrupt despot, thus generating support for extremist islamism.
    North Korea — Well, this I wouldn’t really consider your fault, but did the Korean War manage to bring about a peaceful peninsula?
    Not to forget the US orchestrated coups against all those democratically elected leaders in South America? And Middle East? How’s that one-sided support for Israel working out for everyone, including the Israeli people?
    It is no wonder the fanatically religious USA is an essential player in most fanatically religious conflicts on this planet.

    Some of it is just naiveté and short-sightedness, as it is the habit of the US politics to march in with iron boots ignoring the local history, culture, customs and past tensions wherever they go.

    But naiveté and short-sightedness could be overcome by learning, so there could be hope. Alas, I fear most of the US military interventions happen because of the neverending unfettered corporate greed and rabid protection of American business interests. That’s probably the biggest cause of evil in the world today, eventually killing perhaps billions of people in this century in the turmoil of the global climate change.

    But still, thanks for your great-grandparents for helping the Russians defeat Hitler. That was nice.

  56. 56
    Daniel Schealler

    Sounds like someone’s playing for a Domination Victory as America.

  57. 57
    norsk

    “As such, who the fuck do you Americans think you are? ” coldthinker

    “We’re The Cops Of The World”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_2x3JWWzvY

    While in Norway and in much of the rest of the world, the US is viewed as the most violent, terrorist, unequal, corrupt nation in the world… Slaughtering innocent people for profit to enrich a handful of psychopaths at the top…

  58. 58
    widestance

    The military budget is, in reality, roughly double what we label “the military budget.”

    That budget doesn’t factor in Veteran’s Affairs (an entirely separate agency), nuclear weapons and cleanup of military nuclear material (Dept of Energy), our mercenary armies (mostly funded under the State Dept), most of our intelligence gathering (CIA, NSA, FBI, etc), and probably a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember right now.

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