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Foreign Correspondent

by international syndicated columnist &
broadcaster Eric Margolis

Aug. 8, 2011


NEW YORK - No sooner had President Barack Obama signed the bitterly contested federal budget deal than financial markets gave their verdict by nose-diving. The best that America’s reviled politicians could say was that the deal was a “down payment” on serious future spending cuts.

The agreement calls for $2.4 trillion in spending cuts over ten years. A bipartisan committee was tasked with coming up with another $1.5 trillion in cuts by November.

Considering that the 2011 deficit will be over $1.4 trillion, and the national debt is over $14 trillion, these cuts, if ever realized, are modest, to say the least.

Obama hailed this compromise as “an important first step.” Many others saw it as the latest example of the growing financial and political paralysis of the United States. The budget deal merely curbs runaway government spending; it does not reduce it.

As of now, it appears that the heaviest cuts would fall on the social services Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. In other words, the poor and elderly are to bear the brunt of budget reductions. More guns, less butter.

Fifty million Americans rely on Medicaid for health care; 44 million Americans rely on government food assistance.

Not surprisingly, America’s left is fuming with indignation. The right is crowing.

What is remarkable about this budget is that military spending is largely spared, showing once again the power of America’s military-industrial complex.

The Pentagon may face cuts of $350-400 billion over a decade.But that’s peanuts compared to the Pentagon’s budget which is now near $900 billion annually when all war costs are accounted for.

The US military budget doubled after the 9/11 attacks. Talk in Washington of a “peace dividend” from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is illusory. The US-installed Baghdad regime is shortly expected to “request” the US maintain “training” troops in Iraq indefinitely. The same will happen in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has expanded active military operations into Yemen, Libya, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, and West Africa. It may end up involved in the new state of South Sudan.

The US is now “fiscally hollow,” warns respected senior American strategist and diplomat Charles Freeman, noting the entire US military budget is financed by money borrowed from China and Japan. He warns the US is entering a long-term military rivalry with China that Beijing can easily bare but that may prove “fiscally ruinous for us.’

One cannot avoid the sharp irony that during the Cold War in the 1980’s, the US spent the Soviet Union into the ground. Now, it appears that China may end up doing the same thing to the financially strained United States.

Few in Washington dare admit that the US can no longer afford “full spectrum global dominance.” The federal budget can only be balanced by cutting in half the gargantuan US military budget which amounts to an amazing 45% or so of world military spending. Add Washington’s rich allies, and the figure rises to 80%.

Halving the Pentagon budget would only take it back to pre-9/11 days. Wars and vast buildup of internal and external security forces under President George W Bush left a budget deficit of $6.1 trillion, just about equal to the combined deficits of all US presidents since Jimmy Carter to Obama.

But no one has yet come up with a way to halt this military-industrial juggernaut. While benefits of the poor and elderly are to be cut, the Pentagon is trying to forge ahead with its $1 trillion F-35 fighter purchase. Why not just call up Moscow and Beijing and say, “hey, if you don’t build any new generation stealth fighters, we won’t either.”

Fat chance. The military-industrial complex and Wall Street supply the lion’s share of political contributions. Jobs in every state depend on continued military production.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is already warning the nation’s security is in danger if Pentagon budgets are cut. From whom, we must ask. Are Red Chinese troops about to land in Los Angeles? Are the Russians going to grab Hawaii?

Well, there are always the lurking Muslims whose nefarious plans to impose a caliphate over the USA can only be stopped by new stealth heavy bombers.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2011.

Published at since 1995
with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

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