Funding for War, Medicare, Social Security

Funding For War, Social Security, Medicare: Pick Any Two of These Three

by Bill Sardi by Bill Sardi


The day is coming when there will be no money to fight wars, unless there are severe cutbacks in Medicare and Social Security.

After I wrote an article for Lew Rockwell showing that the U.S. military budget is far greater than what the public is allowed to see (the government’s pie chart is shown herein, depicting only 16% of the nation’s annual budget involves the cost of war and defense), the Pentagon made an urgent request for an additional $40.6 billion to fulfill commitments in Iraq and elsewhere (an increase from $98.2 to $138.8 billion extra).

Military/defense spending accounts for more than 50% of the current U.S. budget, not 16% as the government says.

Recently the army made it sound like it couldn’t continue fighting the war in Iraq and meet other defense commitments (e.g. Korea) around the world without additional billions. In order to get this money, anticipate some saber rattling somewhere in the world (e.g. "shots fired at Korean DMZ") to shake more money from the tree. The army also says it needs an additional $8+ billion next year for equipment repairs.

However, a report in the Los Angeles Times points out that "a good portion of the new money the Army seeks is not directly tied to the war, but rather to new weapons it wants — particularly the $200-billion Future Combat System, a family of armored vehicles that is eventually to replace nearly every tank and transporter the Army has." [LA Times Sept. 25, 2006]

One chart shown herein depicts the U.S. Budget as the Federal government portrays it, and the other chart more like the way it really is (figures are in billions). The U.S. spends more than $1 trillion a year in past and present war/defense debts and obligations. Much of this is hidden in budgets of other Federal departments than the Pentagon or is simply "off budget spending."

How much more will US citizens permit to be spent for war? With Medicare headed for an impending bankruptcy relatively soon and Social Security under-funded in its future commitments, something will have to give. Cutbacks in Social Security or Medicare will likely be at the cost of putting more money in the Pentagon’s coffers. Does the public recognize their future is being marginalized by war mongering?

If there were a cutback of let’s say 30% of the war budget, there would be squawking from hawkish veterans and former generals that the U.S. can’t afford to cut back on its military obligations. But the country is obviously squeezed financially because of its overly-fat defense budget. It cannot hold up all three of its biggest financial outlays — war, social security and Medicare. The nation will not be able to compete against growing economies (e.g. China) if it continues in this manner.

As I pointed out in my previous LR column, some hawkish writers have even gone so far as to suggest that Social Security is "crowding out" defense spending, and even the Heritage Foundation that addresses budget issues very realistically, has openly stated that "entitlements" threaten defense spending. In other words, the government shouldn’t have to live up to its commitments to its citizens because of the need to fight more winless wars.

Unless some unexpected epidemic disease shortens many retirees’ lives before they can tap into Medicare and Social Security, there will certainly be a meltdown. Why, all that would be needed is a virulent form of the flu to sweep the globe to fix the budget problem, since adults are far more vulnerable to infectious diseases as they age. Or who knows, maybe a new type of unproven flu vaccine would backfire and cause unpredictable death among seniors.

If the graphs on this page were shown on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers, there would be certain rebellion. But these figures are kept hidden. There are certainly enough adept journalists who could point all this out to the nation’s voters before the next election. But they won’t. This shows collusion by the 4th Estate in misleading the people.