The Largest “Enterprise” and the Largest Taking Without Just Compensation

The world’s largest company by revenue is Walmart ($486 billion of revenues in 2016). The U.S. defense establishment is a larger “enterprise” than Walmart, however. The armed forces “revenues”, extracted from us by taxes, are $525 billion in 2017. Other estimates of this number are higher. One estimate is $825 billion for 2018.

The U.S. Department of Defense has a workforce of 3.2 million people. Walmart has 2.1 million.

The accumulated military-related assets (weapons, real estate, inventories, intangibles, etc.) of the U.S. are certain to exceed any private company in the world, even though we do not have an estimate in hand. Walmart has about 200 billion in assets. Exxon-Mobil has about $270 billion in assets. The U.S. in 2014 was thought to have 14,612 aircraft in its military. Even if these are worth on average the measly amount of $20 million each, that item alone adds up to over $290 billion. The U.S. commercial fleet is less than half that of the military. It is said to be 7,126 aircraft in 2016 spread among 60 different companies. The world’s fleet is about 20,000, we read. The U.S. Navy has 430 ships. It says that 272 are combat ready. It wants to phase in 254 more (while retiring others) at a cost of $566 billion over a period. Costs would probably be 4x that figure.

It can be concluded that the U.S. military defense establishment is the largest enterprise in the world, larger than any company.

It is also known as a terribly inefficient enterprise that overpays for everything. If military fanatics like Trump and Graham support taxing Americans for this enterprise, which is the largest taking (coerced by definition) there is under the 5th Amendment for a public use (“nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”), what is the just compensation that accrues to taxpayers in this taking? What can Trump, Graham, Bush 2 and the entire cabal of neocon warmongers, what can the U.S. Congress who pass these taxes tell us are our compensations for these staggering takings? Parades? “Beautiful” weapons? Trump said “Our military has never been stronger. Each day, new equipment is delivered; new and beautiful equipment, the best in the world – the best anywhere in the world, by far.” [Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2017] Stalemate in Korea? Perpetual trouble in Korea? Loss in Vietnam? Continual war in the Middle East and Afghanistan? Confrontation with Iran, Russia and China? Turmoil in Libya and Africa? Worldwide American commitments and possibilities for warfare? Where exactly are the just compensations to taxpayers for the vast takings devoted to the U.S. military establishment? Where is this mythical “national security” that has been the object?

Without a doubt, the U.S. military establishment is the largest enterprise in the world. It’s also the recipient of the largest single government taking in the world. The language in the 5th Amendment is powerful. If there is to be a government and if it takes (taxes), then there must be just compensation for the force that has been employed in the taking. This is missing in this case, and it’s missing because the government is the judge. No operable check exists to constrain it from extending its takings far, far beyond what it provides in return. The 5th Amendment’s provision on takings by taxes is not enforced by the government, and there is no reason to expect that it would be. The government doesn’t face competition in the supply of defense. The election of nationalists and militarists like Trump certainly can’t rectify this situation. They get their kicks from beautiful weapons, from the power to threaten and browbeat, and from the unleashing of missiles and force. We who want peace are not compensated in the slightest from these aggressions and potential for aggressions.


2:26 pm on November 8, 2017