Reports from the Economic Front

a blog by Marty Hart-Landsberg

We Need Louder Talk About Military Spending

Debates over health care, education, and employment policies always seem to end in the same place—with those opposed to serious reform arguing that “we” just don’t have the money to make any meaningful changes.  In fact, most of those opposing reforms argue that given the shortage of money we actually need to be thinking about cuts in our social programs.

Somehow these debates keep taking place without any mention of our military spending, which keeps rising as if there is no shortage of money.  As Carl Conetta notes (also see chart below):

With his decision to boost defense spending, President Obama is continuing the process of re-inflating the Pentagon that began in late 1998 — fully three years before the 9/11 attacks on America. The FY 2011 budget marks a milestone, however: The inflation-adjusted rise in spending since 1998 will probably exceed 100 percent in real terms by the end of the fiscal year. Taking the new budget into account, the Defense Department has been granted about $7.2 trillion since 1998, when the post-Cold War decline in defense spending ended.

The rise in spending since 1998 is unprecedented over a 48-year period. In real percentage terms, it’s as large as the Kennedy-Johnson surge (43 percent) and the Reagan increases (57 percent) combined. Whether one looks at the entire Pentagon budget or just that part not related to the wars, current spending is above the peak years of the Vietnam War era and the Reagan years. And it’s set to remain there. Looking forward, the Obama administration plans to spend more on the Pentagon over the next eight years than any administration since World War II.

The Project on Defense Alternatives has compiled a very useful collection of studies and articles analyzing our military spending here.

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