Monday, March 26, 2007

But it's such a small 600-pound gorilla!

NPR’s Guy Raz did a sneaky thing with statistics on Morning Edition. He noted that the U.S. defense budget is at a historical low, only 3.7 percent of gross domestic product. “We actually spend significantly less on defense today than we did at any point over the past sixty years,” he reports.

The trick is the comparison. If you stand next to an elephant, you’d seem pretty small, too. Putting the very large defense budget next to the vastly larger GDP makes it look small, but in terms of dollars, it’s at a historical high. According to Congressional Quarterly, “total national defense spending is larger now than at any time in history,” and “Bush’s request for fiscal 2008 stands historically large.”

U.S. military spending, Wikipedia notes, “is larger than the military budgets of the next fourteen biggest spenders combined, and nearly seven times larger than the official military budget of China. The United States and its close allies are responsible for approximately two-thirds of all military spending on Earth (of which, in turn, the US is responsible for the majority), and spend 57 times more than the six front-defying nations combined (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria).”

Federal military spending is over 50 percent of the total budget. Even before the so-called war on terror that percentage was similar. That sort of militarism harms our government, our democracy, our culture and each of us personally. But perhaps we are addicted to the money because it “accounts for the majority of federal spending in nearly every state.”

Don’t let Guy Raz’s sneaky diminution of military spending fool you. Listen to this old hippie instead. (Edited 03/28/07 to remove annoying Flash.)

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