That Washington is holding defense cuts responsible for slow economic growth is a specious argument at best. War spending is unproductive and inflationary. Modern defense costs are capital intensive, not labor intensive, making the industry inefficient as a job creator.
The defense industry has a presence in congressional districts across this country, so cuts affect every member. But every district in the U.S. has pressing infrastructure, education, health and environmental needs, and the return on the taxpayer’s dollar is much higher when invested on these areas.
Instead of concentrating money on capital intensive, military hardware purposed for destruction, and causing long term economic drain, our very limited and valuable economic resources should be invested in building the true strength and capacity of our economy, our nation, and her people.
During the heightened banking crisis in 2009, Rep. James Oberstar, then Chair of House Transportation Committee, called for a massive Eisenhower-level of investment in transportation infrastructure. He was right.
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. requires $3.6 trillion in infrastructure investment by 2020 to bring our grade D+ standards to safe standards.
This is exactly what we need: to put bridge-builders to work rather than funding technology and personnel to destroy bridges, and to take tank-making factories and repurpose them to build high-speed trains.
In prioritizing military spending, Congress is cutting the very programs that can actually strengthen our economy: Cutting federal assistance to the states, forcing them to lay off teachers, firefighters, and social workers; cutting opportunities for job creation, training, and placement programs; and eviscerating funding for children’s programs and assistance for seniors.
These actions make no economic sense.
Military spending generates fewer jobs per billion dollars spent than many other kinds of investments: For every 100 jobs created by Pentagon spending, the same investment would create 251 jobs in education, 169 jobs in health care, or 147 jobs in clean energy.
Conversely, every $1 billion cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program means 13,718 jobs lost. Many teachers, social workers, first responders, and other government workers have already lost their jobs from the $1.5 trillion in spending cuts since 2010.
Even if $1 trillion were to be cut from the military budget over the next 10 years, America would still be spending at the peak levels of the Vietnam War and the Cold War. It is time to gather our senses.
In order to facilitate economic growth and development in America, defense spending is the wrong bellwether. America's increasing number of military expeditions abroad, in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, has undermined the long-term stability of our economy at home. It has neither resulted in an economically vibrant, healthy, and well-educated nation, nor has it made us safer.
Both our progressive and conservative representatives should be joining forces, restraining waste and investing wisely. The key is to conserve, as a good housekeeper would, and invest in that which supports the family and home -- our nation and people.
It is time for our representatives and the Obama administration to seriously address the nature of the structural reforms that need to take place in order for our economy to get back on track.
We understand that the nation cannot spend its way out of this current economic crisis, in the same way that it cannot save or tax its way out.
Congress needs to address the cyclical nature of our debt-based monetary system, which perpetuates inflation and crashes, and reform it meaningfully while massively cutting wasteful spending and, instead, investing in necessary infrastructure improvements that will create millions of productive jobs – all of which will help improve America’s health, education and prosperity.
Michael Shank is director of foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Elizabeth Kucinich was a framer of 112th congress' HR 2990, the National Emergency Employment Defense (NEED) Act.