The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

FORTY-EIGHT billion dollars
– for what?

Feb 18, 2002

Forty-eight billion dollars – that’s how much Bush wants to increase the military budget.

To get some idea of what that means, consider this: Not a single other country in the world spends 48 billion dollars on their TOTAL military budget.

Bush tries to tell us that this vast increase in military spending is needed to win the war on terrorism. No, the problem of terrorism can’t be addressed with high tech planes and weapons of mass destruction. Afghanistan has already shown that – just as September 11 did. But high tech planes and weapons of mass destruction are useful for handing out money to the corporations.

Significantly, the figures for the military budget were released first not by Bush, not by Congress, not by the military – but by lobbyists for the big corporations. The ones who are taking the biggest share of this lucrative pot were the ones who knew all about it.

We shouldn’t forget that almost all the top 500 corporations get an important part of their profits either directly or indirectly from the U.S. military budget. With this new budget, they will get still more. And in fact, that is the main point of this budget: to help the large corporations roll up vast profits.

Where will the money come from?

Think of a program that serves the population and you have a program that is going to have its budget cut this year.

Medicare spending is to be cut – bringing the total cuts enacted in Medicare up to 200 billion dollars since 1997. This can only mean reduced medical service to retirees.

Spending for public services will undergo drastic cuts: highways, CUT 28%; Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains dams, harbors and river ways, CUT 13%; the Forest Service, CUT by four%; the Environmental Protection Agency, CUT six%; departments in the National Institute of Health that work on chronic disease prevention and on infectious disease control are both cut.

Workplace programs will get the ax: the National Institute for Workplace Safety, which sets safety standards, CUT 10%; OSHA which enforces the standards, CUT two%; the Labor Department agency which enforces the minimum wage, CUT five%; two Labor Department job training programs for laid-off workers are to be entirely ELIMINATED and vocational training programs run by the Department of Education will also feel the ax. Cutbacks in funding to the states will translate into cuts in state funding for education. Cutbacks in funding to the cities will translate into more cuts in city services.

This budget is an enormous attack on the vast majority of the working people – those who work for a living and their children and those who are retired.

A bigger deficit pleases high finance

All this increased military spending means that the budget will be in deficit.

And that leads to a big increase in the total government debt – and to an increase in the amount of money the government pays out in interest payments on the money it borrows.

The big banks, Wall Street brokerages and the major insurance companies couldn’t be happier. When the budget is in deficit, they take care of funding it – and drawing big interest payments to do so.

In fact, today, interest is the third biggest item in the federal government’s budget – and about to grow bigger still.

Social Security “Fire Wall” Comes Down

With the move into government debt, the so-called “firewall” that both parties promised to keep up around Social Security funds is to be torn down. More than two TRILLION dollars from the Social Security surplus are to be used – even according to Bush’s most optimistic estimates.

The very same people who today tell us that Social Security is in bad shape are proposing to dip into it again.

If it’s in such bad shape, maybe it’s because they can’t keep their sticky fingers out of it.

Now what about the wealthy?

A year ago, Bush proposed and the Congress passed a “tax reform” law which provided enormous tax cuts to the wealthy and to the corporations. Oh, yes, everyone got a little money coming back – remember that $300 rebate you got last year. But the wealthy got much more than everyone else put together – almost 90% of the total.

Now, as we see, this tax cut is directly contributing to the budget’s problems. In and of itself, the amount handed to the wealthy in the form of this tax cut is more than the total budget deficit.

The easiest way to overcome the deficit would, of course, be to roll back the tax cut for the wealthy.

But, no, Bush proposed even more tax cuts, 591 billion dollars more over the next 10 years. And an even bigger part of those are to go to the wealthiest part of the population.

Does that make sense? No, of course not, but it sure makes the wealthy still wealthier.

Wrapping himself in the flag to justify an attack on the population

This budget and all the politicians who eventually will pass some version of it are not defending the population. They are attacking us.

That’s why Bush keeps harping on September 11 over and over again – in order to cover up what is really going on.

It’s not in our interest to fall for calls for patriotism. Patriotism for the politicians is nothing but a pretext for robbing from the poor to give to the rich. It’s the weapon they use as they stick us up.

A society armed to the teeth

In a very significant way, the United States looks very different from all the other developed countries. It is the dominant imperialism – meaning that its corporations go more or less where they please. Backed by U.S. armed might and by the military dictators which the U.S. arms and pays for, the big corporations impose near slave labor conditions around the world.

Inside the country, there are few social programs and very reduced public services. As we all should know – we’ve been told it often enough – the U.S. is the wealthiest country in the world. But this wealth does not go to organize decent public transportation and housing; to guarantee medical care to everyone; to provide adequate pensions for people who have worked their whole life, or adequate disability payments for people who suffered injuries preventing them from working, etc.

The social programs which people take for granted in other countries either don’t exist here at all or, at best, exist on a very minimal level. This is not due to a lack of wealth. The lack of social programs and public services is a direct consequence of the diversion of vast sums of money into military programs.

That will not change except when the U.S. working class decides it has the right to make this society respond to its needs, and not to build an even bigger military to impose low wages on still more people around the world.