If your definition of “obscenity” is sexual, you can stop reading now.
Lockheed Martin recently held a conference for Defense contractors, at which they shared the “good news” about global conflicts.
Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner told the conference his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria, citing the Turkish military’s recent decision to shoot down a Russian warplane.
Executives of OshKosh and Raytheon reported equally positive business prospects, noting “significant upticks” for sales of military equipment due to ISIS and unrest across the Middle East.
The last bit of good news for the contractors is the latest budget deal in Congress. After years of cuts following the budget sequester, the deal authorizes $607 billion in defense spending, just $5 billion down from the Pentagon’s request, which DefenseNews called a “treat” for the industry.
America’s infrastructure—our roads, bridges, electrical grid, water utilities, rail—is dangerously deteriorated. Our cities are struggling to hire sufficient police. Our schools lack supplies, our teachers are underpaid, and we can’t find the money for universal kindergarten, let alone day care. We have nothing that can compare to Europe’s public transportation systems, or China’s high-speed rail. Our right-wing lawmakers are furious that we are finally making basic medical care accessible, and they insist we cannot afford to continue social security and other social safety net programs at current levels.
But we can evidently afford to spend more than the rest of the world combined for defense, and the military-industrial complex about which Eisenhower warned us. We seem able to find billions for the armaments that keep defense contractors fat and happy, while we starve the “homeland” and citizens we are supposedly protecting.
That’s my definition of obscene.
We talk a lot about the growth of American inequality, and the focus of those conversations is usually on income–wage stagnation, the incredibly bloated salaries paid to Wall Street “movers and shakers,” a tax system that allows mega-millionaires to avoid paying their fair shares.
All of those issues are important. But in a properly functioning society, where all taxpayers do pay their fair share, government is responsible for using that tax money to provide a physical and social infrastructure serving all its citizens, rich or poor.
We recognize third-world countries by inequalities of infrastructure; they are places where the wealthy hire their own police or bodyguards, live in gated compounds where they pave the streets and landscape parks for their own use, while segregating themselves from the wretched surroundings inhabited by the less fortunate. Those countries often support and valorize highly privileged military establishments.
If, as most knowledgable observers claim, the threats America faces are significantly different than in the past—if those threats come primarily from non-state terrorists—we need fewer tanks and bombs and missiles, and more targeted and surgical strategies.
We can defend the legitimate interests of the United States without unnecessarily enriching the military-industrial complex, and without maintaining the current bloated and obscenely expensive defense establishment.