Opinion: The Inflated US Military Budget Is a Form of Destructive Socialism

Walter Rhein

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I’ve been thinking more about the absurd amount of money the United States spends on our military budget. The number currently stands at over 800 billion dollars, and it’s only likely to get higher.

Why do we spend so much on the military? More importantly, what effect might such a massive influx of free government money have on our economy?

We often talk about wasteful government spending in other areas, but why don’t we ever talk about it with regard to the military? It’s not going to the soldiers who risk their lives to protect our freedoms. A new enlistee only makes about $20,000 a year, which is pretty offensive when you think about it.

We like to say that we should respect the members of our armed forces, but not enough to actually pay them I guess. If you’re willing to say, “Thank you for your service,” but you balk at the idea of paying a soldier a livable wage then I don’t see that as “respecting the military.”

But the question remains, where does the money go?

Americans claim to love the concept of free market capitalism. In free market capitalism, the market determines prices without interference from the government. The idea is that the market is “fair” and prices will naturally regulate themselves.

Did you hear that part about no interference from the government?

Injecting 800 billion dollars into the marketplace is not an example of no government interference.

Let me give you an example. I have a friend from high school who has done very well in the military. He has moved beyond the base pay and now has the kind of specialization that means he’s compensated very well. He’s highly educated. He has a unique skill set that is in demand in the private sector, but he received a better offer from the military.

What that means is that corporations that actually create a product have to compete with military dollars to hire the best employees. The military effectively sets the pay scale for certain areas of expertise.

That represents extreme government interference in the free market, particularly when the military budget is 800 billion dollars. Remember that the government can pay whatever it wants. They print up their own money.

The result, therefore, is that private corporations are forced to pay higher wages to compete for the best employees. This expense is passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Corporations can’t print up their own money remember? They’re at a disadvantage when it comes to competing against the government.

Essentially, every dollar that the US budgets for the military amounts to a “military tax” that must be paid by working-class citizens. Corporations pass that cost on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Therefore, we could significantly reduce inflation by reducing the military budget.

Back in 1961, Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the American people to be mindful of the military-industrial complex. You can’t say that Eisenhower was anti-military. He was a highly respected five-star general. He understood the need for strong national defense.

What Eisenhower warned us about was the potential for grift in the military budget. We used to have a concept called war profiteering. That is the idea of using the promise of patriotism to write yourself a blank check for personal wealth at the expense of the national debt.

Unfortunately, the exact thing that Eisenhower warned us about has come to pass. I can anticipate that the comments to this article will be filled with personal attacks on me rather than any rational assessment of my position. Today, it has been normalized to denounce anyone who points out that our military budget is excessive. The phrase “war profiteering” has more or less disappeared from our lexicon.

Nobody is debating whether or not we need to spend money on national defense. Obviously, we do. The problem is that our military budget has ballooned to the point where it’s unsustainable. You have whole industries in the United States today that are competing for government contracts. That means the government decides what industries succeed, not fair market competition.

If Russia, the largest country in the world by land area, can protect its borders with an 84-billion-dollar military, then the United States should be able to do the same.

Everybody knows that the United States' national debt is completely out of control. If we’re going to have serious discussions about making hard cuts, we need to rethink our tendency of forking over excessive entitlements to the military-industrial complex.

Imagine a world where the United States only had a 100 billion dollar military budget. Some states get a large percentage of their yearly revenue through military contracts. That money leads to an increased amount of political influence.

Wouldn't it be better if the direction of our nation was determined by individuals who managed to succeed in a fair market without access to government money?

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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