The Military and the Debt Limit: Stiffing Taxpayers When the Bill Comes Due

By Dr. Tom H. Hastings

Hypocrisy in high places

Most folks are honest; this tricks them into a belief in the bedrock honesty of others, especially those who make bold public statements. How could someone lie in a public statement? Most folks know they would not want to live with that embarrassment when the truth inevitably came out. 

And yet we get fooled again. And again. 

George Santos claimed his mother died in the 9.11.01 attacks. She did not. He claimed his grandparents survived the European holocaust. As we all know, his shenanigans have been extraordinary.

From Trump’s incessant and continuing lies to the fictions spun up on Fox News, we are awash in a gaslighting culture from the right that cannot seem to stop its relentless daily “flooding the zone.” 

But this is the chop on the surface; what about the current underneath? Where does the political left join the political right in framing profits as patriotism, bloodshed as glory, immiseration as inspiration?

Military budget more sacred than your savings?

Here we are in yet another crisis of our own making (well, made by the people we freely elected), the debt ceiling debacle. At the actual nut of the problem is the military budget. 

Why? Because it seems to be literally more sacred than the money the government takes out of your paycheck for your retirement, Social Security. 

Just ponder the headlines. 

Forbes: ” Republicans Plan To Cut Social Security—Will Voters Let Them?”

Time magazine: “How Biden Got Republicans To Run Away From Their History of Pushing Social Security and Medicare Cuts”

The fight is on, even as your paycheck shows the deductions made to the Social Security fund. That is your money, not Congress’s to play around with. And yet it’s a public debate now. 

On the other hand, find me the politicians who are calling for cuts to the biggest budget item by far in the pool of your tax dollars that we do give Congress the right to divide as they see fit, discretionary spending. That would be the Pentagon budget, of course. There is pretty much radio silence on that topic. Where there are minor quibbles it’s usually about how much to increase it, not whether it should be cut.

Back in the day, Ronald Reagan’s head of his Office of Management and Budget, David Stockman, in an interview in The Atlantic, talked about the defense contractors and noted, “The hogs are really feeding now.” 

Fast forward to today and those hogs are breeding and feeding, gorging on your tax dollars, and yet the Pentagon is so reckless and eager to spend that they cannot pass an audit, year after year. 

So the bloated Pentagon budget, some $816 billion officially, is far more than every hostile foreign power combined, and yet in reality is much more than that, since military costs are also absorbed into other budgets, such as Veterans Affairs, Dept. of Energy, and NASA, amongst others. 

Where credit is due

Into all this comes the fatuous self-inflicted threat of a default to the US full faith and credit because Republicans won’t honor past expenses they voted to make. If a Dad does that, he’s a deadbeat Dad. If a contractor does that to a subcontractor, expect a lien. Do that do a neighbor nice enough to sell you an appliance that you never paid for and he’s going to see you in small claims court. 

Deadbeat Republicans never met a weapons system they wouldn’t vote for but now that the bill is here they want to dip out. Gullible Democrats also voted for those military boondoggles but at least they want to honor those debts.

Republicans are, as usual, aiming to cut programs that really serve human needs, but the budgets they seek to eliminate are so small the Pentagon would regard them as rounding errors. They want to cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)? No food for poor kids! More caviar for Raytheon war profiteer executives!

It is long past time to really pare down the DoD budget. We should not have sophisticated weaponry all over the Earth, under the seas, and in space while families are living in tents in the snow on sidewalks and while health care is still not available to all. Can we unite for peace and prosperity?

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is Coördinator of Conflict Resolution BA/BS degree programs and certificates at Portland State University, PeaceVoice Senior Editor, and on occasion an expert witness for the defense of civil resisters in court. 

We are located in the traditional homelands of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Watlala Bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other indigenous nations who made their homes along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. By recognizing these communities, we honor their legacies, their lives, and their descendants, and we do so by working to gain justice for tribal members. A good starting place: .

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