Putting People Ahead of Defense Contractor Profits

US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power has expressed concern over Europe decreasing its defense spending. One-third of all military equipment and weapons exported world-wide comes from US defense contractors. US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power has expressed concern over Europe decreasing its defense spending. One-third of all military equipment and weapons exported worldwide comes from US defense contractors. (Photo: CSIS)

The US is exceptional … when it comes to war profiteering.

Ever since the Supreme Court said that defense contractors can buy off politicians left and right, business has been booming for the defense industry.

Last year, the defense industry spent over $125 million on lobbying efforts. And that industry has spent at least $120 million on lobbying every year since 2007.

In response, our lawmakers have made sure that the defense industry is well-rewarded.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

In 2011, the US government spent 20 percent of the federal budget on defense. That’s more than it spent on Medicare, Medicaid and other social safety net programs.

That 20 percent equals about $718 billion – more than the next 13 closest nations spent on defense combined.

US defense spending today is higher than at any time since the height of World War II.

As you might expect, all of that spending has made US defense contractors very, very rich.

A new report out from the London-based research firm IHS Incorporated finds that US defense contractors are behind a staggering one-third of all military equipment and weapons exported worldwide.

And, not surprisingly, US defense contractors are profiting quite nicely from tensions in the Middle East.

The IHS report found that US contractors accounted for a whopping $8.4 billion in military exports to the Middle East in 2014 alone. That’s compared to $6 billion in 2013.

But as we all know, defense contractors are very greedy. They’re always looking for a new way to make more money, even if that means drumming up a war or two.

So now, they’re using their shills in Washington – our elected officials and politicians – to encourage other countries to spend more on defense just so defense contractors can pad their already ballooning wallets.

That’s where US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power comes in.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program, Power sounded the alarm bells over Europe’s decreasing defense spending.

Power said that cuts to defense budgets across Europe are “concerning” and warned that, “The number of missions that require advanced militaries to contribute around the world is growing not shrinking.”

European nations that are members of NATO have pledged to spend at least 2 percent of their total GDP on defense spending.

But many NATO nations are now trying to back away from that pledge and slash their defense spending, instead preferring to spend those billions on things like health care, education and other critical investments that are needed to make a nation successful.

And the NATO nations aren’t alone.

Much of the rest of the world is also saying that we don’t need tanks or destroyer ships or the latest advanced military weaponry.

Instead, they just want to have good intelligence and be good citizens of the world.

Imagine if the US gave that a try and put the billions and billions of dollars that are spent on defense to other uses.

For example, as of 2011, US military costs in Afghanistan alone were enough to fund the Head Start program for all eligible children in the US for 15 years.

Similarly, according to the National Priorities Project, spending in Iraq as of 2011 would be enough to hire more than 700,000 elementary school teachers for a year, provide 10.7 million households with renewable electricity for a year, or give out 6 million scholarships to college students for a year.

But this is the United States.

None of that matters as long as the defense industry is happy and raking in billions of dollars each year.

For example, yesterday Sen. Tom Cotton tried to sabotage President Obama’s negotiations for peace with Iran.

And today, he spoke at the National Defense Industrial Association to an “off the record, strictly non-attribution” group of lobbyists and representatives of companies like Boeing and Booz Allen.

It’s time for this insanity to end, and for us to start following in the footsteps of the dozens of countries around the world that are putting their people ahead of defense contractor profits.

Let’s make the US exceptional off of the battlefield.