I’m not sure where I came across the article I’m going to discuss today; Monthly Review is not one of my typical sources. (The magazine styles itself as an “independent socialist” publication.) I may have clicked through from a different resource.
That said, if the numbers it reports are even close to accurate, it’s very depressing. I am pasting in the rather lengthy first paragraph, which identifies some of the sources of those numbers–sources which certainly seem legitimate–to allow you to make your own assessment.
For decades, it has been recognized by independent researchers that actual U.S. military spending is approximately twice the officially acknowledged level.1 In 2022, actual U.S. military spending reached $1.537 trillion—more than twice the officially acknowledged level of $765.8 billion. Data on U.S. military spending reported by the U.S. government, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI, generally considered the definitive source on international military expenditures), and NATO all primarily rely on the figures of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). These data, however, are subject to two major shortcomings. First, the numbers provided by the OMB with respect to “defense spending” are substantially lower than those provided in the U.S. National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA), the most complete and definitive source on U.S. national income and expenditures as a whole, constituting an input-output approach to the whole economy, and the basis of all analysis of the U.S. economy. Second, as is well-known, key areas of U.S. military spending are included in other parts of federal expenditures and do not fall under the OMB’s “defense spending” category. Although SIPRI and NATO adopt wider definitions of “defense spending” than the U.S. government and claim to increase their estimates using the OMB figures as a base, in practice, they do so only marginally and in ways that are not entirely transparent, with the result that their figures are only slightly above those of the officially acknowledged U.S. figures.
The article goes on to detail what is included (medical costs for military personnel, for example), citatons to academic studies and official agency computations, and includes several charts. Bottom line, it asserts that actual U.S. military spending in 2022 came to $1.537 trillion dollars, rather than the (already huge) $765.8 billion in defense spending acknowledged by OMB.
I was already convinced that the United States spends far too much on defense–we spend more than the next ten countries combined–and I’m absolutely gobsmacked by the likelihood that the real number is $1.537 trillion.
I’ve seen estimates–based upon the lower reported number–that 25% of the defense budget could be cut without affecting the country’s military readiness. What if we accept those estimates and apply the same, very conservative approach, cutting twenty-five percent out of that massive amount? We would have an additional $384 billion dollars to spend every single year on programs that serve the common good.
Think what we could do with that much additional income every year. We could pay the nation’s teachers what they’re worth. We could fill millions of potholes, and fix our substandard bridges. We could plant trees, establish parks, provide affordable childcare… That much money would certainly make a Universal Basic Income more affordable. The list goes on.
One of the reasons America’s defense budget is so bloated is because those dollars enrich the districts where armaments are manufactured and military personnel stationed–a reality that makes both Republican and Democratic representatives of those districts very protective of the Pentagon’s budget. Former Senator John McCain–a supporter of the armed forces–criticized what he called “the military-industrial-congressional complex.” The upshot is that it will be extremely difficult to scale back these expenditures.
It will be even more difficult to change the pro-military worldview.
The Japanese have a saying: when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When a country spends more than a trillion dollars a year on tools of war, it shouldn’t surprise the citizens of that country that it is perennially at war somewhere around the globe.