“War is the health of the state,” wrote Randolph Bourne, a maxim with which all anti-warriors are quite familiar. Conversely, war is the disease of the country.
Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in which he claimed that his administration deserves some credit for an improved economy. But he cited some recent government statistics of newly created jobs and declining unemployment in such an underwhelming, lackluster manner, you have to wonder if even he had a hard time believing what his speechwriters wrote for him. His own acknowledgement that millions of Americans would find his claims somewhat difficult to swallow seemed to give away the game. Perhaps he knows that the cat is out of the bag when it comes to the U.S. government’s self-serving methodology for tracking unemployment, or that in any case new jobs in and of themselves do not necessarily mean that real prosperity is being created.
Millions of ordinary people in this country are struggling with diminished wages in real terms as they see their grocery and utility bills steadily increase while their take-home pay stays the same. Their rent’s increasing as well, or if they own their home, they’re suddenly being hit to cover a wide gap in their mortgage escrow accounts as municipalities hike up their property taxes. And the Affordable Care Act isn’t delivering what its title promised as health care costs continue to rise at an alarming rate. It seems that the poorer everyone becomes, the richer Obama’s inflated economic claims get.
But there are at least some Americans who are better off these days–the stockholders of the military-industrial complex. “Syria-To-Ukraine Wars Send U.S. Defense Stocks to Records,” Bloomberg recently declared.
“As we ramp up our military muscle in the Mideast, there’s a sense that demand for military equipment and weaponry will likely rise,” said [BMO Private Bank chief investment officer Jack] Ablin, who oversees $66 billion including Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) and Boeing Co. (BA) shares. “To the extent we can shift away from relying on troops and rely more heavily on equipment — that could present an opportunity.”
Bombardments of Islamic State strongholds added to tensions this year that include U.S.-led sanctions on Russia for backing Ukrainian rebels and China’s feuds with neighbors over disputed South China Sea islands. The U.S. also is the biggest foreign military supplier to Israel, which waged a 50-day offensive against the Hamas Islamic movement in the Gaza Strip…
Lockheed, the world’s biggest defense company, reached an all-time high of $180.74 on Sept. 19, when Northrop, Raytheon Co. (RTN) and General Dynamics Corp. (GD) also set records. That quartet and Chicago-based Boeing accounted for about $105 billion in federal contract orders last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government…
The fiscal year 2015 U.S. military budget is a whopping $756 billion. Washington’s hawks screeched when some modest cuts were enacted a couple of years ago. It’s hardly outrageous to predict that military spending will once again spiral upwards as the Syrian-Iraq-ISIL conflict drags on and yet-undreamed-of foreign military interventions blossom well into the future.
Ordinary Americans, already squeezed by more than a dozen years of wars and recession, will be squeezed even more as ever scarcer resources in a continually diminishing economy will be allocated to the U.S. government’s insanely messianic global crusades. Disillusioned war veterans will return with unmarketable skills to a U.S. job market that will have little to offer anyway. But the shareholders of Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon will be living pretty high on the hog, largely at the U.S. taxpayer’s expense.
Americans at home who have been cheerleading all the U.S. wars have always found it easy to do so because they don’t expect to bear the ultimate cost of war–their own lives. They’re pretty certain that retaliatory bombs and missiles won’t be falling on their homes, killing their loved ones, their children, their husbands and wives. And they’ve been correct, of course. Other than those who suffered injury and death on 9/11/01 or in last year’s Boston Marathon bombing, hundreds of millions of Americans have gone about their daily lives reasonably secure in the knowledge that they won’t have to fear the kinds of dangers people on the other side of the world–in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen–have to accept as a fact of existence as U.S. drones and missiles fly freely about in their respective countries.
But even a country that wages constant war with the great benefit of not having to be a “theater of operations” will bear other kinds of costs, and to significant degrees: mass plunder by the ruling elites, economic hardship for the many, and the social upheaval and disintegration that results.