Is There a Shred of “The Greater Good” Left in American Society?

One has to wonder, looking at the “defense” budget for next year. The House of Representatives has passed a military budget of $778 billion for the coming year. As usual, it passed with only a few criticisms, one of which was that it’s a “reckless misuse of resources.”

Looking at such spending, one would think that there never was an opportunity for a “peace bonus,” after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the U.S. was the last empire standing. Instead, it seemed to push the country into an even greater frenzy of production of killing systems and weapons of war. It’s called the military-industrial complex, but it is more appropriately called the military-industrial-congressional-academic complex. It takes all those parts to come up with the machinery that, since the end of World War II, has killed more civilians than what are described as “enemy combatants.” This situation is an ongoing atrocity and should be identified as war crimes. Instead, the deaths of whole families are considered “collateral damage,” as if they were a munitions dump.

The Congress has even gone further, increasing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by $25 billion more than President Biden requested. That amount, according to some estimates, would be enough to vaccinate the rest of the world, if the U.S. had its priorities straight. Doing that would be helpful in curbing the spread of Covid-19 and its variants, including its trip back to the U.S. Apparently, the powers that be in the U.S. are incapable of listening, and hearing, the scientists whose job it is to point out these facts. They are not likely to want to help vaccinate the poorer countries, they would rather bomb them. It’s not just the right-wingers who are to blame, even though many of them still claim that the pandemic is a “Democratic hoax.” Hospital workers have a different take on that.

There are, as well, more-liberal citizens who want to curb U.S. spending on the rest of the world, using the “we’ve got ours, fend for yourselves” attitude, never thinking that, in some ways, the world has become a little smaller, since it has been universally connected by trade, travel, and communications, especially through the Internet. Money changes hands easily, as does the potential for disease in a smaller world.

So does the capacity for destroying populations, especially those whose land holds resources that the U.S. and other rich nations want, mean anything? As desired resources begin to run out in those rich countries, the eyes of the big corporations turn toward the countries in which the people are poor, but their land is rich. It is often the case that the elected officials in said poorer countries do not cooperate in giving up their resources and a military solution is indicated. These are the actions of empire.

While a family of wage earners might have to account for every penny, just to pay for housing, food, clothing, and medical care (when they can afford it), the Pentagon never has to worry about outspending its budget. All the generals have to do is ask Congress and its compliant members will grant their wishes and the president will sign the legislation. No questions asked.

It isn’t just the generals who want the money. There are the thousands of CEOs of the defense industries. There are countless thousands more who benefit from working in those industries and, especially, those who benefit from the presence of military bases in their states and communities. All have a vested interest in keeping the military and defense industries overflowing with money.

Who are these people? They are those whose livelihoods depend on the largesse of the military for paychecks, large and small. They are people who work in the PX on the ubiquitous military bases in the U.S., making a modest wage. They work at higher wages (usually union) in the high-tech factories that make weapons systems, bombs, missiles, planes, ships, and motor vehicles. In other words, they are just like you and me. Any shrinkage in the military budget is a potential threat to their livelihoods, so they will fight to keep the airbase or training camp in their backyard. It’s a human impulse to want to keep getting a paycheck, but there is always a price to pay.

We can keep the defense jobs, but risk draining money from schools, hospitals, health care, decent housing, and nutritious food, and all of the social programs that are a great benefit to the elderly, the children, the handicapped. What happened to the Build Back Better bill that was proposed by President Biden? It started out at about $6 trillion, then it got whittled down in a hurry to about $3.5 trillion. After Senators Manchin and Synema (both Democrats) were done with it, it came down to less than $2 trillion and many of the social programs that would help hard-working wage earners were cut out. It might take another decade or two before the opportunity comes along that will provide such needed help to vulnerable Americans.

To show that it’s rank-and-file Americans who are just as responsible as the generals and their sycophantic politicians for the perpetuation of an ever-growing military and defense budget, just have a look at who turns out at a public hearing on the question of the closing of a military base in the U.S. It’s everyone, from the cashier at the PX, to the mayor and every politician in the vicinity. Few of them are willing to give up a dime. It’s the lifeblood of their communities. Don’t think it wasn’t planned that way. They just sprinkle some of that money across the country and get people dependent on it to run their local societies and the thought of losing it causes great stress.

The other motivating factor is fear. Fear is the great motivator and for the past 100 years, the propaganda of the right has been effective in causing great popular support for development of every kind of military weaponry and every “improvement” in the training of a growing population of soldiers, sailors, pilots and technicians, and more. All to protect us from whatever enemy that has been conjured up for us to contemplate in our dreams.

Everything has been done to weave the military and “defense” into our daily lives, to such a degree that for the most part, we cannot imagine life without it. The heroes who are hailed every day on local television news shows are military, who have served in one war or another. Or, no war. That they served is enough to make them heroes. “Thank you for your service,” they are told. There are few teachers, scientists, doctors, or novelists who are treated or hailed as heroes and it’s likely that they never will be. They are not woven into our daily lives like the military and they are not backed up by generations of public relations as the military has been. The difference is money. The perception is that war bases bring money into local communities. The others cost money and that’s why the likes of Manchin and Synema can slash their programs, their pay, their very workplaces, and then vote enthusiastically for budget-breaking increases in the war budget.

To a great degree, we are all responsible for the waste of war and weapons budgets that hurt the most vulnerable Americans. Whether we are talking about Pentagon spending, mitigation of climate change and global heating, providing for our elders, children, and disabled, we are all responsible for the current condition.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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