U.S. and World Politics

Obama’s War Budget Breaks All Records

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

On Capitol Hill, resistance to U.S. militarism has all but collapsed—and the Republican majority in the U.S. House has not even arrived, yet. With no opposition whatsoever in the Senate, and only 48 nay votes in the House, the Congress last week passed the biggest military budget since the end of World War Two. Only 42 Democrats, including just 12 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, dared to defy their warmongering president and compliant House leadership.

From the moment that Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination, we at Black Agenda Report have been predicting that he would become the most pro-war president in modern American history. Forget about Obama’s phony rhetoric; the proof is in the numbers.

The military budget firmly cements Barack Obama’s place as the biggest pro-war president in two generations. Today, the United States, although it is the world’s only superpower, spends almost as much as all of the rest of the world’s militaries combined. The U.S. defense authorization for 2011 is $725 billion. China, with the second most expensive military machine on the planet, spends less than $80 billion a year.

If Barack Obama lasts for eight years in office, he is on track to spend $5 trillion dollars on the Pentagon, significantly more than George Bush, who in turn spent a lot more than Ronald Reagan. But, as they say on the TV commercials, that’s not all. The defense budget doesn’t include expenditures for Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, nuclear weapons work at the Department of Energy, military aid to other countries through the Department of State, NASA space programs that are really military projects, the military retirement fund run out of the Department of Treasury, and the interest payments on past military expenditures that were financed by debt. Inclusion of those hidden costs of war would bring military-related spending to well over $1 trillion dollars a year—and rising all the time.

In real dollars, the U.S. is spending far more on the military than at any time during the Cold War, when there was another superpower in competition, and more than President Lyndon Johnson spent at the height of the Vietnam War. Dr. Martin Luther King broke with LBJ over that war, in part because he knew, in King’s words, “that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.”

Under the First Black President, that military suction tube is far bigger and more destructive than in Dr. King’s day, while the economic crisis is arguably much worse, threatening the very viability of Black America as a national community. Yet only 12 Black members of Congress can bring themselves to vote against Obama’s wars, and the Black misleadership class in general demands that African Americans sacrifice their own economic survival interests to Barack Obama’s political interests.

Obama is not merely a continuation of the Bush administration’s war policies; he has accelerated the descent into a war economy. That is nothing for any Black person to be proud about.

Black Agenda Report, December 29, 2010