Most Americans are only vaguely aware that their government spends about $750 billion dollars a year on the nation's defense budget. However, few really comprehend that this is only the tip of the iceberg of money that goes into defense in all its various categories. There are at least ten different pots of money that are dedicated to fighting wars, preparing for future wars and dealing with the consequences of past wars.
A brief tally of the expenses of the U.S. national security state in 2019 includes: $544 billion for the Pentagon's base budget, $174 billion for its private slush fund called the War Budget, $25 billion for the development of our nuclear arsenal, $216 billion for the Veterans Affairs budget, $69 billion for the Homeland Security budget, $51 billion for the International Affairs budget (mostly military aid to foreign nations), $80 billion for the Intelligence Budget (those intel agencies that Trump never listened to) and $156 billion for the defense share of the National Debt (figures from the Center for Defense Information). There are a number of smaller amounts in other areas I haven't bothered to list here, though they total in the tens of billions.
Final total: $1.2542 trillion spent on our national security state every year. It is almost beyond comprehension and is easily way more than the defense budgets of the next ten major powers combined.
What on earth is going on here? It kind of reminds me of my annual insurance premiums which go up every year, nickeling and diming my policies endlessly with hidden extra fees and charges. We have committed ourselves, virtually without any real knowledge or understanding, to wasting vast amounts of our nation's capital. President Eisenhower warned us about the ever growing military industrial complex. He would be astonished to see what has happened since he uttered those prescient words.
The United States government runs the largest military state on earth. We currently have 750 military bases in some 80 countries. Now that is truly an empire on which the sun never sets. Every time a politician says that we are the greatest nation on earth, what he is really saying is that we spend the most money on our military. This obeisance to the military is our nation's greatest sin. A day never goes by that one doesn't hear at least a dozen statements from politicians about how wonderful our selfless soldiers are. Every president says it daily. President Biden ends every speech with "God bless our troops."
I suppose this has to be done in order to dupe millions of our citizens into joining the military, now that we have a completely volunteer service. Of course, the real reason most enter the service is because they can't find a real job in our struggling economy. One of the reasons the Vietnam War was finally brought to an end was because parents were tired of seeing their kids come home in body bags or with serious injuries. The voluntary army made it all the harder to stop our endless string of costly and unnecessary wars all around the globe.
Imagine the good we could have done with an extra $1.2 trillion that we could have been investing in our own nation every year. Free medical care? No problem. New technologies developed to fight global warming? Easily done. A modern transportation system, finally equal to all those tiny European countries we love to visit? A drop in the bucket.
The list goes on and on. Instead of killing millions of people, we could have been saving millions of lives all these years. We would be living in a very different country today if we had invested in our own people instead of in fighting wars in other countries. How well did Vietnam work out for us? Korea? Iraq? Afghanistan? It is hard to see any war since the Second World War that was justifiable.
We could have used our nation's incredible wealth to influence other countries along the lines of the Marshall Plan after WW II. Seeding new democracies instead of ceding countries to life behind the Iron Curtain. Instead, we have squandered and continue to squander our health, our economy and the very future of our world by ignoring climate change.
It's a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.