The Real Predators
Just think for a minute what you can do with $1.415 trillion a year.
That would be enough money to provide every single American citizen with quality, affordable health care for a decade, with over $400 billion in change. And I didn't pick the number $1,415,000,000,000 out of my ass. That's the high end of the proposed defense spending requested of Congress for FY 2012.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made headlines earlier this month with his doom-saying scare tactics, claiming that if the Super Committee decided to cut defense spending, it would be "devastating." The proposed budget for the military is just over $700,000,000,000, up about twenty billion from last year's budget of $685.1 billion. Panetta argued that defense spending cuts would result in the curtailing if not the cancellation of "ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, cancellation or delays in plans to build a new strategic bomber, and cuts to missile submarine production."
Yet, considering the Irwin Allen-style disaster economics that have taken place all over the nation from the smallest hamlets to the federal government, it's far likelier that even if the Super Committee agreed to cut the Pentagon's discretionary spending the shortfall would be made up by cuts to the salaries, pensions and health care benefits to our nation's service members (pensions to veterans are expected to reach $54.6 billion, a rich, ripe target right there. Veteran's Affairs accounts for another $70 billion, a total of nearly $125 billion.).
So, if the Pentagon's requisition for 2012 is $705 billion, where does the other $740 billion come from? Well, that's the ancillary budget for national defense that you rarely, if ever, see added to the Pentagon's budget, money that goes to the FBI, NASA, Homeland Security and other agencies within the federal government. When you add everything up, the total defense budget is expected to be as high as $1,415,000,000,000. And that doesn't include the separate budgets that fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which comes out to another $80-100 billion a year.
If you look at the annual general breakdown of defense spending, you'll note categories such as Operations and maintenance, Military Personnel, Procurement and so forth. And if you've been keeping track at how much we've been spending annually on war profiteers, you'll note that in virtually every general category (especially procurement), there's always some way to fit private industry into the mix.
For instance, the 15 costliest research and development programs this year add up to $53.3 billion. In all but four cases, there have been cost overruns of up to nearly 58% (The Predator and Reaper unmanned drones that have killed hundreds of not thousands of innocent civilians worldwide.).
Match that against this year's educational spending, which is less than 1/10th that of the Defense Budget. (Just to be fair to the president, his budget proposal for educational spending was $76 billion, which is still just over 10% of what we'll plan on spending for the Pentagon. The federal government also kicks in only 11% of what we spend annually on education.). The interest alone on the national debt, OTOH, is estimated to be almost a quarter of a trillion dollars, or over three times what we'll spend on education.
In January of this year, the Pentagon's Inspector General issued a report (.pdf file) citing "material internal control weaknesses ... that affect the safeguarding of assets, proper use of funds, and impair the prevention and identification of fraud, waste, and abuse." Just the day before that, the GAO issued its own report (.pdf file) explaining why it couldn't offer Congress a comprehensive audit of defense spending for roughly the same reasons.
It's an age-old story that we hear year after year from one Inspector General or another yet Congress keeps tamping hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars down the throats of private industry while education, health and infrastructure are crumbling around us. And many of those war profiteers offshore their headquarters overseas (like Halliburton and Blackwater, to cite just two of the more notorious examples) while virtually all of them, especially GE, offshore American jobs to be done by foreign labor for pennies on the dollar in order to maximize profits.
Instead, Obama decided to make Jeff Immeldt, GE's CEO, as his jobs czar. If there's a more effective way to twist the knife with sarcastic glee, the President has yet to find it.
So if Occupy Wall Street wants to make a statement to the government, they could start with military spending, contractor corruption and this Congress' and this administration's unwillingness to do anything to stem the tide of corruption and contractor abuse that is literally bankrupting this country at the expense of our and our children's health, education and general welfare.