Key to enforcement of US economic exploitation of people outside the US is the use and threat of military force. The dominance of the military in US public life and the US economy is also key to the economic exploitation of Americans. Our largest export is weapons, and our largest and longest public investment is in killing. With corporations no longer paying significant taxes, and progressivity stripped out of the tax code, the use of half of every tax dollar for death and destruction is a direct drain on working people. So is major borrowing of money for imperial adventures.
Investing in war could not stimulate the economy in the way that other public spending could, even if war spending were honest and efficient. Weapons makers do not have to produce anything that is of any use to a community. They just have to reach into our pockets (or our grandchildren's pockets) and take our money. And, of course, war spending never is honest or efficient. Much of it goes no further than the already stuffed pockets of a pack of cold-blooded cronies. It's not reinvested in an economy.
According to Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' book "The Three Trillion Dollar War," we have almost certainly spent at least three to five trillion dollars on occupying Iraq if you include lost work, veterans care, the rise in oil prices, and the interest on debt. It's hard to even think of any useful work we could do on jobs, infrastructure, housing, clean energy, or education that could not be done for five trillion dollars. With that kind of money, you have to start straining your imagination to come up with ways to spend it, you have to make college free and preschool free, and hire more teachers, and pay them very well, and build them new public transportation to get to their new solar-powered schools, and you're still just getting started. And the payoff is not just that you've educated kids instead of killing them, although that seems rather significant to me. But you've also much more effectively created jobs and money in the economy that lead to other jobs and more money. This is very different from shoveling bundles of cash into a humvee and never seeing it again.
In the U Mass Amherst report, Bob Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier found that "$1 billion spent on personal consumption, health care, education, mass transit and construction for home weatherization and infrastructure will all create more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military." Spending on personal consumption, they found, generates lower paying jobs than military jobs (at least until the service industry is better unionized), but investing in health care, education, mass transit, and home construction creates better paying jobs.
Almost 20 years ago, with the end of the Cold War, there was discussion of a peace dividend. Now, with no comparable enemy yet discovered or manufactured, the United States spends more on the military than it ever did during the Cold War. At the same time, we ignore the need to invest in green energy, thereby engaging in an action perhaps more suicidal than anything we ever did during the Cold War.
...The amount of money we could put to good use if we shut down the military of the empire is almost unfathomable, as is the potential of green energy.
Source: Economic Exploitation and Empire
Submitted by davidswanson on Fri, 2008-05-23 16:23.
By David Swanson
This combines remarks made on two panels on May 23, 2008, in Radford, Va., at the Building a New World Conference: http://www.wpaconference.org