Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beating the Dead Horse

Except this horse isn't dead, and by God he needs beating so more. I'm talking about the nation's outlay for so-called "defense" spending in Obama's budget. We cannot be reminded too many times how much of our national treasure we hemorrhage into the Pentagon's coffers every year, year and after year. Defense spending proposed in the president's budget, the largest since World War II, is for $553 billion--$22 billion more than last FY--a figure that does not include the $118 billion for the Orwellian-named "overseas contingency operations." That would be our wars in the Middle East. And then there is another $55 billion for the National Intelligence Program. Tote all that up and we're talking about nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars. 

We have the usual double talk from the Pentagon. They tell us they've actually cut their budget. $78 billion over the next five years. And everybody thinks that this is a real figure. But what's going on here is double talk. This is money the Pentagon is not going to spend on weapon systems it doesn't want. This doesn't cut any muscle, just flab in a budget that is grossly obese. And don't forget we're going to spend about $44 billion for homeland security, too, including the ever-popular TSA gropers at the airport. (See Amy Goodman piece here.)

Annual "domestic spending," on the other hand is being frozen for the next five years. Want to know how some particulars play out? How about $500 million for military marching bands--protected from cuts and  only $430 billion for public broadcasting, which is due to be cut. Among other things, Obama plans to cut a program to help poor people with heating by 50 percent; 30 percent from the clean drinking water fund; also 25 percent from community development block grants (local needs such as affordable housing, anti-poverty programs, infrastructure). Also chopped are Pell grants for university students and money for teachers. (See here.) Obama claims this will reduce the deficit by $400 billion over the next five years. Actually this is drop in the bucket compared to what's really needed. The utter absurdity of basically exempting the Pentagon from deep cuts is apparently clear to only a few people in the country. Nobody else seems much to care.
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