Americans have been hearing lately about how we need to spend more money on what is jokingly referred to as “defense.” What that really means is we need to spend money paying billions more dollars to corporations that manufacture the tools the armed forces use. More on that later.
First, let’s take a look at the equipment the U.S. now has in our armed forces.
As far as the Navy is concerned, we have some 430 ships in active service. That’s a lot of ships, a lot of parts made by a lot of corporations. They are in active service in every ocean, sea and strait on the face of the earth. Of course, the corporations that build ships and all the equipment that goes on them, would like to build more.
Contrast that with the Russian navy which has no more than 25 major surface combat ships and less than 50 submarines of all types. If we add the 15-20 landing ships and throw in a few tugboats and oilers we come up with a rough estimate of no more than 100 ocean-going ships and submarines in the Russian navy.
But some people, not the admirals who know about the Navy, want to build more. The question is why?
Others would argue that we need more land vehicles like tanks, armored vehicles, Humvees, jeeps and such. Again, a bit of truth is helpful. We now have military land vehicles that number some 298,972. That looks like a whole lot of vehicles and we average folks might wonder who wants more and why they want them?
When it comes to the Air Force, the numbers are equally overwhelming. At the end of 2015 the U.S. Air Force had an active duty fleet of 3,997 aircrafts. Again that looks like like a whole lot of aircraft, and again average Americans might wonder why we need more.
The answer is actually pretty simple. The people who want to spend more on what they call defense is really just another name for what is actually corporate welfare. They are the corporations, large and small, who would gain bigger profits from getting our money to build more weapons. And if the following figures don’t surprise you, remember they only represent a tiny fraction of the money that is now being spent on “defense.”
Just looking at four corporations that build a lot of the machines that the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines use tells us something we should know.
One of the biggest is General Dynamics. It builds all kinds of defense machines and its revenue for 2015 was $31.5 billion. That’s Billion, with a capital “B.” Thirty-one and a half billion dollars. Of course some of that was revenue for building non-military equipment, but the fact remains that a large part of that revenue came from folks like you and me. Is that enough revenue? The CEO of that corporation, Phebe N. Novakovic, was paid more than $20 million dollars last year while four other executives were paid more than $17 million. I am sure they all think General Dynamics needs more profits.
Then there is Boeing which in addition to its commercial business also builds a lot of aircraft for the military. Last year its profits were $15.73 billion. Boeing’s CEO, Jim McNerney’s, total compensation last year was nearly $29 million.
Lockheed Martin had revenues of $47.2 billion and again, and a lot of that came out of the pockets of American taxpayers. And again, CEO Marillyn A. Hewson made more than $20 million.
A fourth corporation, Northrop Gruman, had revenues of $23.526 billion in 2015.
These four corporations had a total of $120 billion in 2016. Just to be fair, let’s agree that not all of that revenue came from the money they made on “defense.” But also being fair, a lot of that money, the profits and the executive compensation, DID come from the U.S. treasury.
How much is enough? What can American taxpayers afford?
We would do well to remember the words of former President Dwight Eisenhower, who had been a soldier, general and commander of the military most of his life. In 1961 he said, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” In short, we must guard against the influence of huge sums of money that go to the “military-industrial complex” who say they will make us safer if we spend more money.
But safer from whom? It looks as though we are in a lot more danger from foreign meddling in our political process than from an invasion through Alaska, or from ICBM’s launched from Moscow. And no number of fighter planes, tanks or battleships will protect us from that kind of threat, or the threat of a poorly educated population. Would it not be a better investment in our security to build and strengthen our alliances with allies and our educational system than to build more fighter planes, tanks and battleships?
If those are weakened or fail we will have no need of tanks, ships and airplanes. We will have defeated ourselves and handed the country over to the companies who care for nothing but their profits.