By David Swanson
When a Congress member steps forward and courageously articulates a forbidden truth that is absolutely necessary for our survival and well-being (and by “our” I mean our species, not just our nation), he must be praised, rewarded, and defended at all costs, without question or hesitation. This is the situation we are in with Congressman Barney Frank having just blurted out the obvious but taboo fact that the U.S. military budget must be cut. “If we are going to get the deficit under control without slashing every domestic program, this is a necessity,” Frank said, proposing to cut military spending by 25 percent.
Frank has already been attacked by the only presidential candidate who, during each of the three debates, suggested cutting military spending: John McCain. Rather than pointing out this flip-flop, the corporate media can be expected to pile on Frank with accusations of endangering us all (which is the polite way of saying threatening the profits of some of the same corporations that control our communications system). We need to call the media and Congress in support of Frank’s proposal or an even saner one. Frank needs to know that we have his back.
I haven’t been a fan of Congressman Frank. He helped engineer the theft of $700 billion by Wall Street tycoons from my unborn grandkids, and guilt may be part of the explanation for his sudden fit of honesty. Frank has been a bitter opponent of impeaching Bush and Cheney, and has generally gone along with every outrage Congress has created or permitted in recent years. But when you’re right, you’re right, and Frank is 100 percent dead on.
Frank told the editorial board of the Standard-Times that “the Pentagon has to start choosing from its many weapons programs, and that upper-income taxpayers are going to see an increase in what they are asked to pay. The military cuts also mean getting out of Iraq sooner, he said.” Frank told the Politico that “the Pentagon is probably the most wasteful organization in the federal government and people have given it a pass for years.”
McCain quickly hid behind the poor kids he’d like to see continue killing and dying for his deteriorating ego: “Yesterday, Barney Frank again previewed the Democratic congressional agenda, when he proposed … cutting defense spending by a quarter — slicing defense funding while our troops are at war and our ground forces are already too small. My friends ….”
It’s pretty clear that McCain hurts his already hopeless electoral chances with these comments, while Frank helps those of Democrats. In a March 2005 report called “The Federal Budget: the Public’s Priorities,” the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) told people the basic distribution of funds in the federal budget and asked how they would rearrange the funding if they could. Americans from across the political spectrum, on average, said they would cut the military budget by 31 percent. That’s more than Frank’s 25 percent. Congressman Dennis Kucinich has in the past proposed a 15 percent cut. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey has proposed a shift of resources away from the military but has never named a specific number.
We the people are, as usual, out ahead of our leaders. Sixty-five percent of Americans, when they saw how much money the military had, told PIPA they favored taking at least some of it away. Majorities favored reducing spending on the capacity for conducting large-scale nuclear and conventional wars. Next on the list of cuts after the “defense” budget? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Majorities of ordinary people taking this survey were also able to do what Congress members, including Senator McCain, have declared impossible, distinguish between wars and soldiers. They favored slashing money for wars and the military, while increasing funds for veterans and preserving funds for those on active duty.
The biggest increases in the PIPA survey went to education, job training, employment, and medical research. And the largest increase in percentage terms went to conserving and developing renewable energy: 70 percent of Americans favored an increase, which averaged 1,090 percent (yes, over a thousand percent).
The PIPA survey treated the ordinary military budget and the supplemental budget for endless wars separately, and Americans wanted major cuts in both. Frank appears to treat the two as one and to advocate for a 25 percent cut in the whole. How much would that be, exactly?
Well, for fiscal year 2009, we’re looking at $653 billion for the Pentagon, plus $162 billion in supplemental spending for Iraq and Afghanistan. A quarter of $815 billion is $203.75 billion. Anyone who couldn’t figure out where to cut $203.75 billion from the Pentagon is probably a danger to themselves and others. You could get $162 by ending two horribly damaging foreign occupations. You could get $73.7 billion just by ending the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the people who brought you mechanical killer elephants and telepathic warfare, people who are now researching exploding frisbees, cyborg wasps, and Captain America no-meals and no-sleep soldiers. That’d be $235.7 billion right there. Imagine if you shut down some of the 1,000 or so bases we’re imposing on other people’s countries building animosity around the globe. Or what if we were to shut down “missile defense” or abandon all space weapons programs until, you know, there was a sane argument for them. Let’s face it, Frank’s proposal is disgustingly and immorally conservative.
It’s safe to assume the $162 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan will actually be double that by the end of the year. There’s also about $150 billion in the military portions of departments other than “defense.” And that’s not counting veterans’ benefits or the interest on debt for past military spending. The total tax dollars we devote to killing each year now is over a trillion and a half, which compares to some $1.2 trillion we devote to living, not counting trust funds like Social Security and not counting Paulson’s Plunder. In fact, what we spend on the military is now more than all other nations combined. So, Frank is absolutely right that we can afford to cut it, and McCain knows he is lying when he claims that doing so will endanger us. He said so himself during his debates with Senator Barack Obama. Obama avoided the topic of military cuts each time McCain raised it. Our job is to join with Congressman Frank to pass the necessary cuts and compel President Obama to sign them into law.