A new report released by SIPRI, a Swedish think tank, indicates that U.S. military spending has nearly doubled since 2001, report Judd Legum in Think Progress. The U.S. spent $698 billion on the military last year, an 81% increase over the last decade. The U.S. currently spends six times more than China, the second largest military spender. Overall, the world spends $1.6 trillion on the military, with the United States spending more than the next 9 nations combined.
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Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that these numbers are significantly lower than the actual expenditures. He believes that the true cost of just the Iraq war could be over $3 trillion by 2017, or $180 billion a year. Furthermore, the Swedish report does not include new wars, like the one in Libya.
As shocking as this huge waste of money is, what is left out of such an analysis is the true cost in terms of human death, injury, privation and misery. Civilians are bearing the brunt of these wars, not only in terms of casualties, but also in destroyed homes and infrastructures, job loss, environmental devastation, terror and stress. Generations of children have now grown up in Afghanistan and Iraq without knowing peace.
Poor and working class people in America also suffer from this phenomenal waste of resources. While the ruling elite demand that we live within our means by gutting education, and services for the poor, disabled and elderly, they continue to live beyond their means by spending lavishly on warfare and bloodshed to protect their financial interest abroad. There always seems to be money available for the military, but not for health care, resulting in thousands of poor people dying prematurely in the U.S. from treatable diseases and injuries.1 Despite the end of the world scenarios being spun around the deficit, there are plenty of funds available for a new war in Libya, but we cannot afford investigators to make sure our food and workplaces are safe, resulting in thousands of deaths annually from food-borne illness and workplace accidents.2 We have no problem finding money to kill and maim Iraqis with depleted uranium and white phosphorus3, but we cannot find enough to keep our own air clean, resulting in 9,000 premature deaths from air pollution each year in California alone.4
1. A, 2009 study (PDF) from Harvard Medical School said that lack of health coverage can be tied to about 45,000 deaths a year in the United States.
2. In 2009, there were 4,340 fatal workplace injuries (compared with 5,214 in 2008). have averaged 156 fatalities per year or about 3 percent of the revised totals. According to the Centers for Disease Control, food borne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths annually in the U.S. 1,500 of these deaths are caused by Salmonella, Listeria, and Toxoplasma.
3. The U.S. government has admitted it used white phosphorus against Iraqis during the assault on Fallujah, according to a report by Democracy Now in violation of international law banning the use of chemical weapons.
4. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2 million people world-wide die prematurely each year due to air pollution, while the California Air Resources Board reports that 9,000 die in California each year from air pollution.