As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize — or do not want to recognize — that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire — an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order. —Chalmers Johnson
It is with the context provided by that quotation from historian Chalmers Johnson that one must understand today’s news that the House of Representatives has approved funding today for
defense maintaining the empire. The level of spending has been approved at $636.3 billion dollars– nearly two-thirds of a trillion dollars(see related post on how much a trillion really is) to maintain our network of more than 800 military facilities in more than 140 countries around the world. That spending includes $128.3 billion for fighting our current wars, although Afghanistan is expected to require an additional $30 billion to fund the most recent troop increase.
But at least the money will be well-spent, right? Bloomberg reports on an earlier bill passed which authorizes the spending (emphasis mine):
It includes $2.5 billion to buy 10 additional Boeing Co. C- 17 transports. The Pentagon didn’t request any. Boeing also benefited from $1.5 billion for 18 F/A-E/F Super Hornet fighters, including nine above the administration’s request.
The added C-17 money is a victory for Chicago-based Boeing. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended April 6 that the C-17 program be terminated once Boeing delivers the last of 205 C-17s in late 2010.
Boeing, the second-largest defense contractor, has said its plant in Long Beach, California, will shut down in 2011 without more orders.
We can’t allow Boeing to close a plant, can we? No, we must place more orders, more than the military even needs, or wants!
More corporate welfare, while the rest of the country struggles on.
The statistics are staggering: food stamps now help feed one out of every eight Americans, and one out of every four children. Bodies are piling up in morgues, as families are unable to scrape together burial money. Foreclosure filings in the third quarter were the “worst three months of all time”, and one in four borrowers are now underwater on their mortgage. Bankruptcies were up 33% in the third quarter. Almost 40 million Americans are living below the poverty line. More than 3 million Americans are homeless, and the fastest growing category among the homeless are families with children, leading a UN reporter to describe as “shameful” the government’s handing of billions of dollars to big business and banks while treating the homeless crisis as “invisible”.
The infrastructure in the U.S. is in “dire straits”, and was given a grade of “D” by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Turns out that bridge collapses are indicative of a larger problem. 48 States are facing budget shortfalls, and 10 states are on the verge of bankruptcy. The federal government had a $1.4 trillion deficit last year. Congress is set to raise the debt ceiling by $1.8 trillion, which is nearly double what was anticipated last year. A bipartisan panel of budget experts says that the U.S. must craft a “painful” plan to reduce its “ballooning” debt, or face a crisis similar to those facing Dubai and Greece. Such a crisis would cause a “sharp decrease in the country’s standard of living.”
Zero Hedge posted on the topic the other day:
America is crumbling from the foundation up, and yet we gather around the TV, talking about a fresh paint job and a new screen door, both bought on credit, while handing our grandchildren a bill they’ll never be able to pay. The only way we can live with this lie while perpetrating these despicable acts upon our own family members is to deny it’s even happening. The big lie, which we must continue to tell ourselves, has taken on a life of its own and is consuming everyone and everything in its path. We are addicted to our own public myth and to sustain the lie, we simply ignore the truth. The only way to break through this lie is to go back through decades of propaganda and myth and find out what went wrong. Since this would be too painful, both individually and as a society, we distort reality as quickly as we change cable channels. It’s not just our leaders who are corrupt but we as well.
We have become cowardly, unwilling to commit to the tough decision of setting aside instant gratification in order to assure our grandchildren a home to live in. This is the ultimate act of selfishness, compounded by the fact that we claim we’ve been hijacked by our leaders. Sadly, our leaders are doing exactly what we want them to do, which is to continue the lie. Did we really think we could put our toys and war machines on the charge card and not worry about the bill, just because some politicians said we could? What are we, 5 year olds, pointing our fingers elsewhere when asked who broke the vase? Even if we personally followed the path of fiscal prudence, why didn’t we scream bloody murder, demanding we stop this insanity before the country began its suicidal plunge? Why do we still remain silent? Our hands are bloody and the only question is, how much is yours and how much is mine. Citizenship is all about individual responsibility, something we’ve been avoiding for a while now, at least since we started calling ourselves consumers.
This is what an empire in collapse looks like. Funding to take care of our own citizens or our own infrastructure is spent instead on our military’s ongoing domination of the world. For 2009, the budget for the U.S. military is almost as much as the rest of the world, combined! Stop and consider the enormity of that for one moment. China is our nearest rival when it comes to military spending, and we outspend them by a factor of nearly nine times. How many of the problems from the previous paragraphs could be solved or ameliorated by taking the money that we spend to maintain our global empire, and using it here at home? What kind of standard of life could we provide for our citizens?
I’m always astounded at the prescience of the Founding Fathers. James Madison sounds like he is commenting on current events, although he was writing in 1795:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. . . . [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and . . . degeneracy of manners and of morals. . . . No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. . . .
Lastly, please consider an alternate reality.