Skip to content

Can America Afford an Empire?

Sheldon Richman
Campaign For Liberty
July 12, 2010

Fiscally speaking, the U.S. government has been running a disorderly house for some time. That makes the fiscal crisis in Greece an uneasy portent for Americans (as Steven Horwitz points out here).

Just contemplate some of the numbers. The total federal debt is nearly $13 trillion, $8.6 trillion of which is held by the public (with the rest held by government entities). (These are conservative estimates, since many government obligations are not counted.) GDP is something over $14 trillion. That ratio of debt to GDP isn’t pretty. “The CBO estimates that at the end of 2020 publicly held debt will be a staggering $20.3 trillion — 90 percent of GDP — with total debt being notably higher than that,” Horwitz writes.

As for the budget deficit, the Congressional Budget Office projects it to exceed a trillion dollars this year and next, bringing it into the neighborhood of 10 percent of GDP. This comes on top of a 2009 deficit of $1.4 trillion — the government spent a buck-ninety for every dollar it collected. The deficit is projected to fall in the years following 2011, before resuming its growth in 2015 and beyond. By 2018 it will be back over $1 trillion, assuming these estimates are not wildly optimistic. Remember, ObamaCare has not kicked in yet.

According to the CBO, the Obama administration will create $9.75 trillion in deficits over the next decade.

Compare with Greece: Its accumulated debt is 113 percent of GDP, and its budget deficit last year was 12.7 percent of GDP. Greece needed to sell bonds to obtain the money to pay debts come due, but lenders were too nervous to lend the money at rates the Greek government can handle. So Greece needed a bailout in the form of cheaper loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund ( a k a American taxpayers), conditioned on budget austerity (spending cuts and tax increases), which in turn incited violent street demonstrations by government employees, who have benefited from high deficit spending for years.

If we want to avoid the Greek experience, which could spread to other EU countries in the future, the U.S. fiscal house will have to be put in order. Contrary to what the policy elite is thinking, this does not mean raising taxes, which would impede economic activity and make conditions worse.

So if the deficit is to be eliminated it will have to be through dramatic budget cutting. In the current fiscal year the federal government is planning to spend $3.55 trillion. Among the largest categories of spending are Social Security (19.63 percent); unemployment/welfare/other “mandatory” spending (16.13 percent); Medicare (12.79 percent); Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (8.19 percent); and interest on the national debt (4.63 percent).

Of course I’ve left out a category, but it’s one often ignored by deficit hawks: the Department of Defense. It comes in at 18.74 percent of the budget, or $663.7 billion. (More about this number below.) For some context, the 2009 Pentagon budget was almost as much as the rest of the world’s military spending combined.

More than a Trillion

For fiscal 2011 President Obama has asked Congress to appropriate $719 billion for the Pentagon, a 4.5 percent increase over the current year. But as Robert Higgs points out, “few appreciate that the total amount of all defense-related spending greatly exceeds the amount budgeted for the Department of Defense.”

Writing about the 2009 Defense Department budget of $636.5 billion, Higgs states: “Lodged elsewhere in the budget, however, other lines identify funding that serves defense purposes just as surely as–sometimes even more surely than–the money allocated to the Department of Defense. On occasion, commentators take note of some of these additional defense-related budget items, such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear-weapons program, but many such items, including some extremely large ones, remain generally unrecognized.”

Those other items include the departments of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, and programs within the Energy, Justice, and State departments. Higgs also calculated the share of the interest on the debt attributable to past Pentagon spending: “Adding this interest component to the previous all-agency total, the grand total comes to $1,027.8 billion, which is 61.5 percent greater than the Pentagon’s outlays alone.”

The grand total will be well above a trillion dollars in the current fiscal year also.

“Owing to the financial debacle and the ongoing recession,” Higgs sums up, “millions are out of work, millions are losing their homes, and private earnings remain well below their previous peak, but in the military-industrial complex, the gravy train speeds along the track faster and faster.”

Worldwide Presence

It’s no mystery why so much is spent on the military. The U.S. government maintains close to a thousand military bases around the world and is engaging in two foreign occupations, not to mention less formal campaigns in Pakistan and elsewhere, including covert operations that never make the papers. This costs money. The Iraq and Afghan occupations consume over $12 billion a month. USA Today reports that the Pentagon has spent $620 billion on the Iraq invasion and occupation, America’s longest military adventure ever, and more than $190 billion on the operation in Afghanistan. Other estimates are higher, as much as $300 billion for Afghanistan, according to U.S. News and World Report. More spending has just been approved in Congress.

The fiscal question is whether, in the face of the huge national debt and multiyear trillion-dollar budget deficits, we can afford a “defense” establishment more befitting an empire than a republic. That’s not the only question, however. We must also ask if a society that claims to value free enterprise can long endure the economic disfigurement that inevitably accompanies a large military-industrial complex?

Small-government men from Richard Cobden to William Graham Sumner to Robert Taft would have said no, as does their political heir, Ron Paul, today. As for whether slashing military spending would deny us needed protection, one could as well ask whether we are safe today with policies that risk “blowback,” bankruptcy, and monetary disarray.

One cannot help but conclude that James Madison had it right:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few… . No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Posted in Finance & Economics, Politics, War on terror.

Tagged with , , , , , , , .

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.

Support #altnews & keep Dark Politricks alive

Remember I told you over 5 years ago that they would be trying to shut down sites and YouTube channels that are not promoting the "Official" view. Well it's all happening now big time. Peoples Channels get no money from YouTube any more and Google is being fishy with their AdSense giving money for some clicks but not others. The time is here, it's not "Obama's Internet Cut Off Switch" it's "Trumps Sell Everyones Internet Dirty Laundry Garage Sale". This site must be on some list at GCHQ/NSA as my AdSense revenue which I rely on has gone down by a third. Either people are not helping out by visiting sponsors sanymore or I am being blackballed like many YouTube sites.

It's not just Google/YouTube defunding altenative chanels (mine was shut), but Facebook is also removing content, shutting pages, profiles and groups and removing funds from #altnews that way as well. I was recently kicked off FB and had a page "unpublished" with no reason given. If you don't know already all Facebooks Private Messages and Secret Groups are still analysed and checked for words related to drugs, sex, war etc against their own TOS. Personally I know there are undercover Irish police moving from group to group cloning peoples accounts and getting people booted. Worse than that I know some people in prison now for the content they had on their "secret private group". Use Telegrams secret chat mode to chat on, or if you prefer Wickr. If you really need to, buy a dumb phone with nothing for the NSA/GCHQ to hack into. Ensure it has no GPS tracking on it and that the battery can be removed. These are usually built for old people to get used to technology storing only a set of numbers to call. However they have no games, applications to install or other ways people can exploit the computer tracking device you carry round with you most of the day - your smart phone. If you are paranoid ensure that you can remove the battery when travelling around and do so to prevent GPS tracking or phone mast triangulation. Even with your phone in Flight mode or turned off, it can be turned on remotely and any features like front or back cameras, microphones and keylogging software can be installed to trace you.

So if your not supporting this site already which brings you news from the Left to the Right (really the same war mongering rubbish) then I could REALLY do with some..

Even if it's just £5 or tick the monthly subscription box and throw a few pound my way each month, it will be much appreciated. Read on to find out why.


Any support to keep this site would be appreciated. You could set up a monthly subscription for £2 like some people do or you could pay a one off donation as a gift.
I am not asking you to pay me for other people's articles, this is a clearing house as well as place to put my own views out into the world. I am asking for help to write more articles like my recent false flag gas attack to get WWIII started in Syria, and Trump away from Putin. Hopefully a few missiles won't mean a WikiLeaks release of that infamous video Trump apparently made in a Russian bedroom with Prostitutes. Also please note that this article was written just an hour after the papers came out, and I always come back and update them.

If you want to read JUST my own articles then use the top menu I have written hundreds of articles for this site and I host numerous amounts of material that has seen me the victim of hacks, DOS plus I have been kicked off multiple hosting companies, free blogging sites, and I have even had threats to cease and desist from the US armed forces. Therefore I have to pay for my own server which is NOT cheap. The more people who read these article on this site the more it costs me so some support would be much appreciated.

I have backups of removed reports shown, then taken down after pressure, that show collusion between nations and the media. I have the full redacted 28/29 pages from the 9.11 commission on the site which seems to have been forgotten about as we help Saudi Arabia bomb Yemeni kids hiding in the rubble with white phosphorus, an illegal weaapon. One that the Israeli's even used when they bombed the UN compound in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. We complain about Syrian troops (US Controlled ISIS) using chemical weapons to kill "beautiful babies". I suppose all those babies we kill in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria are just not beautiful enough for Trumps beautiful baby ratio. Plus we kill about 100 times as many as ISIS or the Syrian army have managed by a factor of about 1000 to 1.

I also have a backup of the FOX News series that looked into Israeli connections to 9.11. Obviously FOX removed that as soon as AIPAC, ADL and the rest of the Hasbra brigade protested.

I also have a copy of the the original Liberal Democrats Freedom Bill which was quickly and quietly removed from their site once they enacted and replaced with some watered down rubbish instead once they got into power. No change to police tactics, protesting or our unfair extradition treaty with the USA but we did get a stop to being clamped on private land instead of the mny great ideas in the original.

So ANY support to keep this site running would be much appreciated! I don't have much money after leaving my job and it is a choice between shutting the server or selling the domain or paying a lot of money just so I can show this material.

Material like the FSB Bombings that put Putin in power or the Google no 1 spot when you search for protecting yourself from UK Police with "how to give a no comment interview". If you see any adverts that interest you then please visit them as it helps me without you even needing to give me any money. A few clicks per visit is all it takes to help keep the servers running and tag any tweets with alternative news from the mainstream with the #altnews hashtag I created to keep it alive!

However if you don't want to use the very obvious and cost free ways (to you) to help the site and keep me writing for it then please consider making a small donation. Especially if you have a few quid sitting in your PayPal account doing nothing useful. Why not do a monthly subscription for less money instead. Will you really notice £5 a month?