America has become the Sick Man of the Western hemisphere, Obama certainly cannot continue running a world empire on borrowed money

Eric S. Margolis

President Barack Obama calls the $3.8 trillion budget he just sent to Congress a major step in restoring America’s economic health. In fact, it’s like giving a drug addict another potent dose of the narcotic to which he is addicted.

The drug is debt. More empires have fallen because of reckless finances than invasion. The latest example was the Soviet Union, which spent itself to ruin buying tanks. Washington’s deficit (the difference between spending and income from taxes) will reach a staggering $1.6 trillion this year. The huge sum will be borrowed, mostly from China and Japan, which the US already owes $1.5 trillion. Debt service will cost $250 billion. By 2015 it will consume a third of total federal spending. To spend $1 trillion, one would have had to start spending $1 million daily soon after Rome was founded and continue for 2,738 years until today.

Obama’s total military budget is nearly $1 trillion. This includes Pentagon spending of $ 880 billion. Add $75b (nearly 2.5 times France’s total defense budget) for 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars ($1 trillion so far), will cost $200-250 billion more this year, including hidden and indirect expenses. Obama’s Afghan ‘surge’ of 30,000 new troops will cost an additional $33 billion — more than Germany’s total defense budget. No wonder US defence stocks rose after Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama’s ‘austerity’ budget.

Military and intelligence spending relentlessly increase as unemployment hovers at 9.7 per cent. Critics claim the real figure is closer to 20 per cent. America has become the Sick Man of the Western hemisphere, an economic cripple like the defunct Ottoman Empire that used to be called the Sick Man of Asia. The Pentagon now accounts for half of total world military spending. Add America’s rich NATO allies and Japan, and the figure reaches 75 per cent.

China and Russia combined spend only a paltry 10 per cent of what the US spends on defence. There are 750 US military bases in 50 nations and 255,000 US military personnel stationed abroad, 116,000 in Europe, nearly 100,000 in Japan and South Korea.

US military spending gobbles up 19 per cent of federal spending and at least 44 per cent of tax revenues. During the Bush administration, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars – funded by borrowing – cost each American family over $25,000. Like President George Bush, Obama is paying for America’s wars through supplemental authorisations – i.e. putting them on the nation’s already maxed-out credit card. Future generations will be stuck with the bill. This is the height of public dishonesty. Both the president and congress share the blame. America’s wars ought to be paid for through direct taxes, not bookkeeping fraud. If US taxpayers had to actually pay for the Afghan and Iraq wars, these conflicts would quickly end. America needs a fair, honest war tax that allows them to understand the true costs of their military operations around the globe.

The US has clearly reached the point of imperial overreach. Military spending and debt servicing are cannibalising the US economy, the real basis of America’s world power. The US also increasingly resembles the dying British Empire in 1945, crushed by immense debts incurred to wage WWII. It is increasingly clear President Barack Obama is not in control of America’s runaway military juggernaut. Sixty years ago, the great President Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans to beware of the military-industrial complex’s growing power. Six decades later, partisans of permanent war and world domination have joined Wall Street’s moneylenders to put America under their power. Increasing numbers of Americans are rightly outraged and fearful of runaway deficits. But most do not understand their political leaders are spending their nation into ruin through unnecessary foreign wars and a vainglorious attempt to control much of the globe – what neoconservatives call ‘full spectrum dominance.’ If Obama were really serious about restoring America’s economic health, he would demand military spending be slashed, quickly end the Iraq and Afghan wars, and break up the nation’s five giant banks. He certainly cannot continue running a world empire on borrowed money.

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