Seventy years ago this spring, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave an extraordinary address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors entitled “The Chance for Peace.” It was an appeal to chart a new path for U.S.-Soviet relations. It also underscored the devastating domestic costs of growing Pentagon budgets:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
Sadly, Eisenhower’s observation is as true now as it was when he made his speech to the newspaper editors in 1953. Spending on the Pentagon and related work on nuclear warheads at the Department of Energy is slated to receive at least $886 billion for Fiscal Year 2024 under the terms of the recent budget deal, that would have been unimaginable in Eisenhower’s day. The $886 billion planned for next year is more than twice what was spent for military purposes when Eisenhower gave his speech, and nearly $300 billion more than America spent at the height of the Korean war, adjusted for inflation.
An important factor in sustaining massive Pentagon budgets is the notion that spending on weapons has unique economic benefits. But a new study by the Costs of War Project at Brown University demonstrates that this is not the case. In fact, excess Pentagon spending drains public investment from addressing the urgent needs of the present, from public health to housing to environmental protection. Perhaps even more importantly, it undermines the capacity of America to seed the industries of the future, from the provision of modern, sustainable infrastructure to the development of green energy sources. And it is the least effective way to create jobs compared to any other expenditure of government funds.
Read the full piece in Forbes.