Sacred Cows

I have remarked from time to time that we might take an important step toward reducing our national debt and climbing out of our economic hole if we simply cut some of what we euphemistically call “defense” spending. This pie chart tells us that our country contributes a very large part of the money spent in the entire world on what is accurately called the “military”:

As we know, the military takes a disproportionate amount of our tax money in order to maintain this ascendency I am ashamed to say. We also know that our country leads the rest of the world in providing bellicose people with arms and ammunition to fight their wars. But when it is suggested that we cut some of our military spending in order to help balance the budget we hear an uproar. Clearly the military is a sacred cow in this country — much as sports are a sacred cow on the local levels when there is talk about balancing school budgets. Some things simply are not considered in the discussion: they cannot be touched. In the case of “defense” spending it’s not clear why, unless we probe the psychological depths of those who regard the military as essential to their well-being. The word that springs to mind is “fear,” but then I am not a psychologist. I do, however, recognize fear when I see it and I also know how our emotions frequently impair our reasoning abilities. Whatever the reason, what  we spend on the military is positively obscene.

Be that as it may, it is certainly the case that the military is the largest customer in this country for miscellaneous goods which may have nothing whatever to do with defense such as electronics, food, housing, recreational equipment, and clothing — not to mention arms and military equipment (such as planes and tanks) which clearly do. Last week the Department of Defense signed defense contracts with such companies as Boeing, Textron, Honeywell, Lockheed, Raytheon, Northrop Grummen, and Oceaneering International. As a recent report reveals, in part,

The number of contracts reached 90 for the week, ranging from weapons and vehicle development to night vision set replacement across different branches of the military.

The company realizing some of the largest contracts is Boeing (BA). The DoD agreed to pay Boeing $500 million to transition into post production of the C-17 jet because their need was being met. The company is likely still responsible for parts and maintenance for the fleet of C-17s.

Given this situation, when we talk about cuts in “defense” spending we are talking about cuts in the flow on great sums of monies to other segments of the economy that seem to have nothing whatever to do with killing other folks or keeping the world safe for democracy. We are dealing with a giant weed with a multitude of twisted roots that go deep into the economy of this country.

What this means, then, is that the pie chart above reflects the pie-in-the-sky thinking when we have the audacity to suggest cuts in the military. It would appear that the military keeps the economy afloat (though it seems at present to be in need of water wings). It’s no wonder that Republicans, especially, shout “foul” when they hear talk about cutting “defense” spending. It is, indeed, a sacred cow: it is the source of much of their livelihood.

8 thoughts on “Sacred Cows

  1. Good article and graphic. Three comments. First, it was Eisenhour who said to beware of the military-industrial complex as he knew of what he spoke. Second, Costa Rica has no military as they rely on us; as a result they have a 97% literacy rate and almost all of their people are bi-lingual, some tri-lingual. Third, when Gates got up in front of Congress and laid out some cuts they had thought through, the Congressmen who felt they knew better, were saying you do not need to go that far. I think we need term limits and rotating committee memberships. This is will help stop the wealth build-up these lobbyists and campaign financiers provide.

    • Yes. I have discussed the need for term limits in previous blogs. That and the absence of any discussion of corporate power in the Constitution are two of the reasons I think the Constitution needs a serious revision. It is really outdated. But I don’t see those in power doing anything that might take that power away!


  2. So true. The economic consequences and the dependence of many industries on war makes this issue much more complex. But then again, I can think of some other things that could also have ripple effects on the economiy like food stamps! and Katie, what a great quote!! 🙂 Great post, Hugh.

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