Reduce the U.S. Military Budget
To the Editor of THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE:
U.S. defense spending for the current fiscal year, including the $79 billion supplemental appropriation for the war in Iraq, totals $1,636 for each man, woman and child in the U.S., $6,544 for each family of four, or $74.1 million for each city the size of Pittsfield.
President Bush intends to spend even more on defense next year. While Bush’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes “only” $399 billion for defense, the total defense spending will likely be much greater. This is because several billion dollars in the energy department’s budget also goes to defense, and because it is anticipated that some unknown supplementary amount will be added later to cover costs associated with our military’s occupation of Iraq.
Citizens of Pittsfield should take note of the huge amount of their money that is going to defense, and should contrast their [approximate] current $74 million per year contribution to defense with the somewhat smaller amount that our city is lacking in order to be able to provide municipal services next year at this year’s level. Right now, it is our municipal services that need defense. It's ironic that Pittsfield's anticipated budgetary shortfall for next year is comparable in magnitude to Pittsfield's $12.3 million share of the extra $79 billion the citizens of our country are being required to pay as just the first installment for the war in Iraq.
And Pittsfield’s situation is not unique. States, cities, and towns throughout the country are all facing a large budget crunch attributed to the nation’s poor economy. The economy is not poor, however, for the Bechtel and Halliburton corporations, and for other favorites of the Bush administration.
Tremendous losses in services are currently being considered in Pittsfield. Potential savings being discussed involve the closing of a high school, a shorter school day for some pupils, reductions in course offerings, elimination of arts programs, reductions in co-curricular opportunities, the elimination of non-compulsory and non-reimbursed school busing, the closing of fire stations during some shifts, a reduced police force, and a contraction in support for health and human services. Isn’t it time to ask whether some of our money currently allocated toward defense could be better spent? Couldn’t the U.S. very safely begin a program to phase down military spending?
There are two ways in which the wisdom behind spending so much on defense can be seen as suspect. First, the $396 billion in the current fiscal year (without the extra money allocated for the Iraq war) can be compared with the current annual total amounts spent by the rest of the world. Our allies (including NATO countries) are spending a total of $198 billion; Russia is spending $60 billion; China is spending $42 billion; and all of the nations the U.S. has identified as “Rogue States” are together spending a total of $15 billion. The U.S., with a population only a small fraction that of the combined populations of all those countries, is spending more on defense than all of them together!
Second, the $396 billion in defense spending can be compared with the amounts we are spending in other areas. For example, of all the discretionary spending in our current federal budget, only $52 billion is allocated for education, $49 billion for health, $29 billion for housing assistance, $28 billion for natural resources and the environment, $23 billion for science and space, $22 billion for transportation, $20 billion for employment training and social services, $15 billion for economic development, $8 billion for Social Security and Medicare, $5 billion for agriculture, and $3 billion for energy.
Even if our military spending were reduced by half, we would still be spending vastly more on defense than any conceivable adversary. The old Soviet Union has broken up, and there is no threat from a Warsaw Pact. What reason is there for the defense spending to continue to grow by leaps and bounds?
June 5, 2003