By Jeffrey D. Sachs
In 2000, the US public debt was 3.5 trillion dollars, equivalent to 35% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2022, the debt was 24 trillion dollars, equivalent to 95% of GDP. The US debt is skyrocketing, hence the current US debt crisis. However, both Republicans and Democrats ignore the solution: stop America’s election wars and stop military spending.
Suppose that the public debt remained at a modest 35% of GDP, as in 2000. The current debt would be 9,000 million dollars, with 24 trillion. Why did the US government run up an excess of $15 trillion in debt?
The main response is the US government’s approach to war and military spending. According to Brown University’s Watson Institute, the cost of America’s wars from fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2022 is a whopping $8 trillion, more than half of the extra $15 trillion in debt. The other 7 trillion comes in equal parts from budget deficits caused by the financial crisis of 2008 and the Covid-19 pandemic.
To overcome the debt crisis, the United States stops feeding the military-industrial complex (MIC), the most powerful lobby in Washington. President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned on January 17, 1961: “In governing councils we must be careful not to acquire, or not achieve, unjustified authority through the incomprehensible military-industrial complex.” The potential for the catastrophic rise of corrupt power exists and will continue to exist.” Since 2000, the US has waged electoral wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and now Ukraine.
The Military-Industrial Complex once adopted a winning political strategy to achieve a certain military economic reach of every congressional district. Congressional research has recently mentioned that “defense spending can affect any member of Congress through active and retired military spending and benefits, economic and environmental resources impact, and the search for weapons systems and parts for the local industry, among other activities.” The only strong congress against the lobby The military-industrialist was voting, but fortitude is certainly not the mark of the Congress.
Annual military spending in the United States is now about 900,000 million dollars, about 40% of the world’s total and greater than the next 10 countries combined. In 2022, US military spending tripled that of China. According to the Congressional Budget Office, military spending for 2024-2033 will top out at a staggering $10.3 trillion on a current basis. A quarter or more of that figure could be avoided by ending America’s chosen wars, closing about eight hundred military bases around the world, and negotiating new weapons deals with China and Russia.
However, instead of peace through legacies and fiscal responsibility, the WCC regularly terrorizes the American people with comic book-style depictions of America’s villains at all costs. The post-2000 list includes Afghanistan’s Taliban, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and most recently, China’s Xi Jinping. War, it is often said, is necessary for the safety of America.
An external peace plan organized by the military-industrial lobby is strongly opposed, but not by public opinion. Many public figures now want less, not more, US involvement in the affairs of other countries, and less, not more, US troop deployments abroad. As for Ukraine, Americans overwhelmingly want a “lesser role” (52%) and not a “greater role” (26%) in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. That’s why neither Biden nor any recent president has dared to ask Congress for any tax hikes to pay for America’s wars. The audience’s response would be a resounding, “No!”
Although America’s election wars have been gruesome for America, far greater defeats are intended to preserve the United States. As Henry Kissinger famously said, “America’s enemy can be dangerous, but its friend can be deadly.” Afghanistan was America’s cause from 2001 to 2021, until America left it broke, broke and starving. Now Ukraine is in America’s arms, with the same likely outcome: continued war, death and destruction.
The military budget could be cut sensibly and completely if the US replaced its elite war and weapons career with real arms and weapons. If the President and Congress had heeded the warnings of top US ambassadors, such as William Burns, US Ambassador to Russia in 2008 and now CIA director, the US would have maintained Ukraine’s security through a diplomatic agreement with Russia, the US would not have extended NATO. to Ukraine, if Russia also kept its military from Ukraine. However, NATO’s relentless expansion is the WCC’s favorite cause; New NATO members are major customers for US weapons.
The US has also unilaterally abandoned key arms control agreements. In 2002, the US unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. And instead of promoting nuclear disarmament, as the US and other nuclear powers to act under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Military Industrial Complex has sold Congress to spend more than $600 billion dollars until 2003 to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal.
Now the WCC is talking about the prospect of war with China over Taiwan. Drums of war with China have spread military affairs, although war with China is easily avoidable if the US adheres to the one-China policy, which effectively puts pressure on US-China relations. Such a war should not be thought of. Rather than fail, the US could end the world.
Military spending is not just a budget challenge. Aging and rising health care costs add to fiscal woes. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the debt will reach 185% of GDP by 2052 if current policies are not changed. It would be necessary to impose a cap on health care costs and tax the rich. However, taking on the military-industrial lobby is a vital first step in putting America’s fiscal house in order, necessary to save America, and perhaps the world, from the evil policy of the UST lobby.
By Jeffrey D. Sachs
Column originally published in English on May 20, 2023 in Common Dreams, and published in Spanish on May 24, 2023 in Politika.
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