The Choice Trump’s Budget Creates

Trump proposes to increase U.S. military spending by $54 billion, and to take that $54 billion out of the other portions of the above budget, including in particular, he says, foreign aid. If you can’t find foreign aid on the chart above, that’s because it is a portion of that little dark green slice called International Affairs. To take $54 billion out of foreign aid, you would have to cut foreign aid by approximately 200 percent.

Alternative math!

But let’s not focus on the $54 billion. The blue section above (in the 2015 budget) is already 54% of discretionary spending (that is, 54% of all the money that the U.S. government chooses what to do with every year). It’s already 60% if you add in Veterans’ Benefits. (We should take care of everyone, of course, but we wouldn’t have to take care of amputations and brain injuries from wars if we stopped having the wars.) Trump wants to shift another 5% to the military, boosting that total to 65%.

Now I’d like to show you a ski slope that Denmark is opening on the roof of a clean power plant — a clean power plant that cost 0.06% of Trump’s military budget.

Trump’s pretense that he’s going to just screw the no-good foreigners by taking $54 billion out of foreign aid is misleading on many levels. First, that kind of money just isn’t there. Second, foreign aid actually makes the United States safer, unlike all the “defense” spending that endangers us. Third, the $700 billion that Trump wants to borrow and blow on militarism every year would not only get us close in 8 years to wasting directly (without considering missed opportunities, interest payments, etc.) the same $6 trillion that Trump laments blowing on recent failed wars (unlike his imaginary successful wars), but that same $700 billion is more than enough to transform domestic and foreign spending alike.<--break->

It would cost about $30 billion per year to end starvation and hunger around the world.  It would cost about $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water.  These are massive projects, but these costs as projected by the United Nations are tiny fractions of U.S. military spending. This is why the top way in which military spending kills is not with any weapon, but purely through the diversion of resources.

windFor similar fractions of military spending, the United States could radically improve U.S. lives in each of those other areas in that pie chart. What would you say to free, top-quality education for anyone who wants it from preschool through college, plus free job-training as needed in career changes? Would you object to free clean energy? Free fast trains to everywhere? Beautiful parks? These are not wild dreams. These are the sorts of things you can have for this kind of money, money that radically dwarfs the money hoarded by billionaires.

If those sorts of things were provided equally to all, without any bureaucracy needed to distinguish the worthy from the unworthy, popular opposition to them would be minimal. And so might be opposition to foreign aid.

U.S. foreign aid right now is about $25 billion a year.  Taking it up to $100 billion would have a number of interesting impacts, including the saving of a great many lives and the prevention of a tremendous amount of suffering.  It would also, if one other factor were added, make the nation that did it the most beloved nation on earth.  A December 2014 Gallup poll of 65 nations found that the United States was far and away the most feared country, the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world.  Were the United States responsible for providing schools and medicine and solar panels, the idea of anti-American terrorist groups would be as laughable as anti-Switzerland or anti-Canada terrorist groups, especially if one other factor were added: if the $100 billion came from the military budget. People don’t appreciate the schools you give them as much if you’re bombing them.

trainsInstead of investing in all good things, foreign and domestic, Trump is proposing to cut them in order to invest in war. New Haven, Connecticut, just passed a resolution urging Congress to reduce the military budget, cut spending on wars and move funds to human needs. Every town, county, and city should be passing a similar resolution.

If people stopped dying in war, we would all still die of war spending.

War is not needed in order to maintain our lifestyle, as the saying goes.  And wouldn’t that be reprehensible if it were true?  We imagine that for 4 percent of humanity to go on using 30 percent of the world’s resources we need war or the threat of war.  But the earth has no shortage of sunlight or wind.  Our lifestyles can be improved with less destruction and less consumption.  Our energy needs must be met in sustainable ways, or we will destroy ourselves, with or without war.  That’s what’s meant by unsustainable.

So, why continue an institution of mass killing in order to prolong the use of exploitative behaviors that will ruin the earth if war doesn’t do it first?  Why risk the proliferation of nuclear and other catastrophic weapons in order to continue catastrophic impacts on the earth’s climate and ecosystems?

Isn’t it time we made a choice: war or everything else?

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  • Kansas_Voter

    The money for war will only increase because our economy and Stock Market are so dependent on war spending. Tens of thousands of Americans would be out of work if we had a sensible defense budget, so it’ll never happen. Same thing with single-payer or Medicare for all–it’ll never happen because tens of thousands of insurance workers would be unemployed, so we’ve got to keep paying more than we should to subsidize that industry.

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  • David S

    Please don’t heap praise on foreign aid. It most certainly does NOT make us safer. Much foreign aid is spent by dictators on weapons purchased from American death merchants. Other aid is used to oppress citizens (Israel’s settlements and wall come to mind). And don’t think the citizens of these countries don’t know where the money comes from and goes (despite the gross ignorance of 99.9% of Americans. If you don’t think that US contributions to suffering in foreign lands makes us less safe, then clearly you don’t understand human nature. Direct food aid (of which there might actually be some), undermines local farmers and food suppliers thus reducing local food infrastructure and creating dependency on US handouts. All around, foreign aid is a failure. But 95% of the military budget should be cut. The actions of the military and our overseas empire are absolutely NOT making us any safer.

  • cityspeak

    There is a dam in California waiting to burst as the cost for repairing it “is way too expensive”.

    When the Republican’s say were are broke and take an axe to the few crumbs remaining for the public welfare they are saying you the American citizen are flat broke. We insiders live lives you serfs can only imagine.
    Of course having the Nobel Peace Prize first african american President increase military spending every chance he had without a squawk from his fellow party members lets you know how the “alternative party” is in on it as well.

    Th USA government is as corrupt as was the USSR politburo. Lets hope for a Glasnost soon.

    • David S

      And the American public continues to overwhelmingly support these two nearly-identical parties and their economically and socially-destructive policies (well, unless you consider that 50% of eligible voters essentially do not support the broken system by not being registered, 50% of those left also vote against the process by not participating in the election). Go figure.