Trump’s $54 billion increase on military spending is causing plenty of anxiety in the US, writes MIRIAM PEMBERTON
MILLIONS of Americans are feeling uneasy, disgruntled, and insecure. That message sounded loud and clear throughout the turbulent election year.
The Donald Trump administration’s latest budget proposal isn’t likely to placate that.
It comes down to this: lots more money — $54 billion (£43.5bn) in fact — for the military bringing the total up to $639 billion.
That’s “one of the largest increases in defence spending in US history,” as the president put it in his recent speech to the United States Congress. And less money for pretty much everything else.
Giving the military more money seems like a no-brainer way to increase security. But apply a little brain power and you quickly see what’s wrong with this idea.
It’s true, as Trump says, that our troops are having trouble “winning wars” like they used to.
But the Pentagon that sent them into war already has more money than it did during the George W Bush or the Ronald Reagan build-up years. And more money than the next seven countries put together. Besides, what will the military do with all that extra money?
It’s hard to say, because the Defence Department’s accounting systems are so poor that it’s the only federal agency that still can’t pass an audit. Its own Defence Business Board identified $125bn (£100.8bn) in Pentagon waste without breaking a sweat — though the Pentagon made sure to bury this report.
I’m suspicious of the $54 billion figure on other grounds, too. It happens to be 10 per cent of the current budget.
Did they arrive at this number based upon careful consideration of threats and the necessary tools to respond to them? Or did they come up with a nice big, round number to throw at the Pentagon and let them figure out how to spend it?
I think it’s the latter and that doesn’t make me feel safer.
Now let’s look at where they want to cut. Start with the State Department, whose total budget ($29bn) is dwarfed by the extra money they want to give to the Pentagon.
More than 100 retired generals recently put out a statement saying that cutting the diplomacy budget is a bad idea that threatens our security. After all, we’re more likely to go to war if we’re depriving ourselves of the tools to avoid it.
As general Jim Mattis put it back in 2013: “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.” Mattis now heads the Pentagon.
Further, the military itself says climate change is an “urgent and growing” threat to our security.
The Trump budget would slash funding for the lead agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, in charge of protecting us from that threat.
It’s also hard to feel secure if you think the air you’re breathing and the water you’re drinking might be making you sick.
The same day Trump was telling Congress he’d protect our air and water, he was axing a Barack Obama administration clean water rule.
Another common source of anxiety and anger is the feeling you’ve been ripped off by some bank or retailer and there’s nothing you can do about it. Let’s watch those feelings multiply if the administration succeeds in zeroing out the budget for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
And the list goes on. Imagine the rise in anxiety caused by cuts to the Labour Department’s efforts to protect US workers.
This Insecurity Budget is far from a done deal — the fight over it is likely to go on all year. We’ll need to stand up for a budget that protects our real security priorities every step of the way.
Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs its Peace Economy Transitions Project. This article originally appeared on peoplesworld.org.