A face peers up from a field, larger than most of the nearby homes, making direct eye contact with anyone who cares to look down from above. The art piece, #NotABugSplat, was rolled out in northwestern Pakistan last week as a memorial to the young girl depicted, who was killed in a drone strike. She is telling one story about the U.S. military and the role of militarism in her world. The stories of militarism are not happy ones. Veterans returning from combat without the tools to heal lash out in violence. The government does little to undo the damage, and PTSD and sexual violence in the military continue unabated.
Our cultural myths tell us that war is a fact of life and a part of human nature. Even if that myth were true, it would be dishonest to pretend that we aren't heavily tipping the scales in war's favor, sowing chaos and suffering along the way.
This year in Washington state, the average taxpayer spent $3,227 to support the U.S. military. That's 27 cents of each dollar, a larger proportion than any other type of federal spending. Three thousand dollars may not sound like much, but adding up each taxpayer around the nation, small businesses and the corporations who pay federal taxes, the grand total comes to $682 billion. That's more than the next 10 nations spend on their militaries combined, and it overwhelmingly comes from average people who may not even realize what it is that they're funding.
One pro-military argument is that we're simply following the Constitution's mandate to "provide for the common defense," but 900 bases in 120 different countries is not defense; it's an empire. The past few years are the first in which U.S. military spending, as a share of total global military spending, has dropped. While the U.S. military itself may be drawing out of many of the countries it's embroiled in, our corporations are not.
Our policies have paved the way for a handful of powerful corporations to trample throughout the globe with few consequences for their actions. The U.S. military and its private allies have stood guard during this process, knowingly or not, for decades to make this destruction possible. Meanwhile, the corporations that profit in the trillions from this activity, like ExxonMobil and Honeywell, pay no significant federal tax themselves. Their subsidies generally cover their rates, and when they have a mishap, like the Exxon Valdez spill, taxpayers like you end up covering the cost because their litigation fees qualify as business-related deductions.
In our system, control of the budget is granted to candidates selected and promoted by the very elite discussed above. We can't "vote with our dollars" on this one, because federal taxes are sucked up to the top with or without your consent. It's been a long process of education, struggle and disappointment, but every year more Americans get together to figure out how we can move forward into a demilitarized world. April 14, just before Tax Day, was also the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (demilitarize.org), so this week, ask yourself: What would I do with hundreds of billions of dollars? ♦
Taylor Weech, who hosts the weekly public affairs program Praxis on KYRS-FM, has advocated, among other things, for environmental sustainability and all-ages access to the arts. She blogs and shares photos at truthscout.com.