The American public is borrowing trillions of dollars to finance private capital and a military industry that president Eisenhower warned about more than fifty years ago. In an historic speech he cautioned that we were in danger of domination by a “military-industrial complex” that could squander our wealth and threaten our democracy. Have we done anything to avoid the problem he identified? Since the 9/11 attack supplied an excuse to expand on the previous myth of a communist menace, the military frenzy of economic waste and bloody slaughter dubbed the “war on terror” makes what Eisenhower feared seem almost benign by comparison.
While our consumer goods producing corporations have been emigrating to cheap labor markets abroad, our military industry has been – literally – booming at home. It’s more than 100% greater than it was in 2000, doubling in size while the rest of the manufacturing sector has nearly vanished. We continue exporting jobs to foreign countries while importing cheap labor and increasing unemployment for American workers here in the USA.
The military sector is nearly three times as large as it was at the beginning of the Bush administration and regime change has brought not just continuity but further growth in that malignant trend; with a military budget of more than 700 billion dollars things are getting worse and at a faster pace. Even true believers in total reliance on market forces for survival must acknowledge that war is ultimately bad for business in that it kills potential consumers. And producing bombs, tanks, and other mass murder weapons are not stacking shelves at the mall with goods to be consumed by America’s shopping legions. Further, given that the crazed credit delirium propping up this economy for the past generation is at an end, a fundamentalist market minister would have to admit that the death business is draining resources from the sacred global mall where we are supposed to shop until we drop or file for bankruptcy.
While we rob our society of its human and productive wealth with this incredible spending binge for endless war, we also subsidize financial cathedrals and their banking clergy with hundreds of billions for corporate capital’s further welfare. Both Bush and Obama say these prophets of profit are too big to fail so millions of citizens are paying for their private survival by taking on a public debt that threatens our future as a functioning society. This makes great sense to the wealthy who dwell at the penthouse levels of America’s class structure. They have little concern for those living on the floors beneath them except that the underclass majority shores up the crumbling foundation of that wobbling structure. How does that minority compare to the rest of us in financial status?
As recently as 2006 the top 1% of Americans averaged incomes of more than 400,000 dollars a year. Even if the lower 99% were all watching news analysis on Fox TV and Masterpiece wrestling on PBS they would know they weren’t included in that group. But wait. Even if they were, the top .1 of a percent – that’s 1/10th of one percent – had more than one and a half million dollars in reported income. If the 99.9% were all stoned, drunk or otherwise sedated while watching TV, they might still know they were a majority that was reduced to a minority in this political economy. In fact that’s why so many of them are angry, frustrated and in various ways saying we’ve had enough and we can’t take it anymore. Unfortunately, because they watch too much fictional reality Fox and minority reality PBS, they tend to lash out at one another, foreigners, demon scapegoats and invisible phantoms that are a product of what passes for reality in our corporate dominated mass media culture.
When we lay out hundreds of billions of tax dollars as interest payments on the national debt and realize that this is money we created, loaned to the top of society and on which they are collecting interest from us since they “own” most of that debt, we should be angry. But our anger needs to be informed and focused on the source of the problem and not ignorantly attacking its results.
We are creating new enemies as we mobilize to fight old ones and that mobilization would make an old anti-communist cold warrior of Eisenhower’s day drool. The profits pouring into the death machine increase as our society is impoverished, states and municipalities near bankruptcy and millions of our citizens are facing unemployment, un-payable debt and futures that are only seen optimistically by therapists, drug dealers and liquor stores that still take plastic.
We are faced with issues that cannot be dealt with by the political economic system that created them. Flip flopping from corporate republicans to corporate democrats and back again is part of that problem. The demonstrators at the UN conference in Copenhagen were speaking for all of humanity when they chanted that the focus should be “system change, not climate change”. The social and environmental crisis faced by all the world’s people is not to be blamed on an abstraction called “humanity”. But a system by which humanity is dominated by minorities and organized to produce and distribute the means of sustenance and survival for the benefit of a relative few at an ever more deadly cost to everyone else is the problem. That system is capitalism and unless we deal with it, our military, financial and environmental problems will get worse. In order to transform reality for the benefit of all and not just some, we need democracy. Anyone who thinks we already have it is probably part of the .1 percent, or seriously drugged. Or both.