It should come as no surprise to anyone that America spends more on defense than any other nation on Earth. What you may not know is that as of June of this year, the U.S. is in fact spending more than the next 8 countries combined, and devotes a larger part of its economy to defense than many allies. This figure is likely to rise as the Senate recently approved a $700 billion defense budget that is an $80 billion increase over last year’s. Military spending is already obscenely high and an increase of this magnitude is grotesque.
The problem with trying to advocate for military cuts is that people will accuse you of: a. trying to weaken/undermine America’s national security, b. not caring about our soldiers/veterans, or c. being a secret communist Muslim trying to destroy America’s freedom (only if you’re Obama). Because everyone is used to bleeding heart liberals like myself condemning wasteful and expansive military spending and feel that’s enough justification to dismiss their opinion, I’ll ask the five star general who led invasions against Nazis what he thinks. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
I believe this quote is particularly pertinent in the present day. If you pay attention to people like Bernie Sanders, you would know we are the only advanced country on Earth without things like universal healthcare and guaranteed paid family leave. People who decry implementing these initiatives in America always bring up the cost of such programs. The same people didn’t have any qualms about spending trillions on war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and seem perfectly okay with pumping up our military budget to increasingly greater heights.
We are so quick to spend money on war, but when you boil it down war never produces a net positive gain for anyone. Its death and destruction no matter what side wins. Why not go to war against homelessness, or hunger? There are 16 million children in America who struggle with hunger every year. Millions of citizens are homeless, including 1.5 million children and tens of thousands of veterans. I can’t understand why there are homeless veterans with how much we spend on military, except that the well-being of the arms industry is more important than the well-being of those who have served. It is shameful that we as a nation prioritize defense contractors over caring for our population.
Aside from the moral argument of why we should focus on things like hunger and healthcare over military spending, let me make another point. We spend so much, so people say, because we want our military to be the best. This is not an unreasonable thing to want. However, we should be able to accomplish this without spending more than the next 10 countries combined. One study revealed by the Washington Post, and repressed by the military, found $125 billion in potential savings (over a 5 year period) in regards to how the Pentagon operated. To hear that this much money is being wasted is revolting. This figure only includes administrative waste and does not even begin to look at what we waste on equipment we don’t need, use, or just plain doesn’t work. We scrutinize other government programs for misused and unneeded funds and our military should be no different.
We cannot continue, as a people, to prioritize our military over all other things. What defines the greatness of a nation is not its military might; the greatness of a nation is defined by the advances they make in science and the arts, in the quality of living it provides for its people, in millions of small things that on their own seem inconsequential or unimportant but together are everything. When we finally decide that feeding hungry children is more important than lucrative defense contracts for private companies, then we’ll be a great nation.
Jacob Kowalski is a weekly columnist to The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.