Military-Industrial Complex: 2011 U.S. Defense Spending More Than Next 13 Nations Combined

In President Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address he warned the country about the peril of the “military-industrial complex” to peace and a free people:

Dwight Eisenhower - 34th president - whitehouse.govA vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction…

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

You have to ask yourself this question — If out of fear, We the People allow our country to keep a large standing army, do we really believe in the founding principles of the United States? — Do you know that the founding fathers were wary of a large standing army? In “A Right to Bear Arms?: What were the Founders Thinking?“, Gerald Petersen writes:

One of the greatest fears of the English people in the seventeenth century and of the American colonists before independence and of the American people in the early years of the United States was of any government having a large standing army in times of peace. Large standing armies were equated to tyranny and despotism. These people felt that no matter how honorably a new government began, once it acquired a large standing army in peacetime, the security and freedom of the people would be put to great risk. This fear was reflected in the English Bill of Rights of 1689, constitutions of the various states written shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the debates at the Constitutional Convention, during the ratification process in which many opponents called for a Bill of Rights, and by some of the early presidents of the United States.

I’m the first to say that we adapt government to a changing society, but have we allowed the military-industrial complex to grow beyond reason?

America’s staggering defense budget, in charts:

The Washington Post, Wonkblog — The United States spends far more than any other country on defense and security. Since 2001, the base defense budget has soared from $287 billion to $530 billion — and that’s before accounting for the primary costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

And that $530 billion is just the base defense budget. Entire military and international security spending was $718 billion in 2011.

All told, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense and international security assistance in 2011 — more than it spent on Medicare. That includes all of the Pentagon’s underlying costs as well as the price tag for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which came to $159 billion in 2011. It also includes arms transfers to foreign governments.

Federal budget - defense spending

In 2011, the United States spent more on military than the next 13 nations combined. Defense spending accounted for 20% of the federal budget, equaling Social Security and only a percentage point less than Medicare/Medicaid/CHIP. If you remove defense, social safety-net and interest payments, 20% remains for everything else including: transportation and infrastructure (3%), benefits for federal workers (7%), education (2%), science and research (2%), etc.

Have we heeded President Eisenhower’s warning? — I just want you to keep this in mind when you hear people say we can’t cut defense.

If you are a fiscal conservative and feel the government is wasting money, do you believe 20% of the federal budget should be spent on defense while only 2% is spent on education? How do we become a better people, a people that may find alternatives to war, if we neglect something as fundamental as education in favor of the military-industrial complex?

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