Should we feed starving children, or the war machine?

On August 21, the humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, published a heartbreaking callusl that nations keep their promises to send humanitarian aid to feed destitute families in war-torn Yemen. Unless promised funds are received quickly, she warned, food rations for 12 million people would be cut and at least 2.5 million malnourished children would be deprived of the services that keep them alive. . “When the money doesn’t come,” Grande said bluntly, “people die.”

The total UN appeal is $4 billion. While it’s the the greatest attraction for countries the UN has never published, the entire bill represents just two days of the US military budget of nearly $700 billion in 2019. Lacking in generosity, the US offered barely $300 million, or less than four hours of Pentagon spending. Meanwhile, American companies are reaping billions of dollars selling the weapons to Saudi Arabia that are largely responsible for this humanitarian crisis.

The great disparity between money to feed people and money to arm the army is reflected here at home. In 2018, the federal government spent $68 billion on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provided food for 40 million people. It would only take ten days of the Pentagon’s budget to cover this tab, but this administration says it’s too expensive and is trying to reduce eligibility for the food of the poor.

What if, instead of military interventions, the United States decided to fight global poverty?

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Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, one of the world’s foremost experts on economic development, has argued that the cost to end global poverty is $195 billion a year. With the next 2020 military budget proposed at $750 billion, the United States could feed the world’s hungry while spending twice as much on its military as the second biggest spender: China. It would also serve our national interests. Feeding the poor would certainly make us more friends around the world than deploying another aircraft carrier.

If we decided to focus on education instead, part of our military budget could fund college for all program proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders, which would eliminate existing student loan debt and make all public colleges and universities free for $47 billion a year. In fact, we could implement this program 14 times on this year’s military budget alone. Despite this reality, as arms manufacturers billions in alms and contracts with the US militarysome of these same educational institutions are losers in the federal budget reinvest their funds in arms manufacturers lobbying to divert public money to war.

The trend of military spending to exceed the cost of even our most ambitious social programs continues for just about every cause you can name. We could house every homeless person in the country, provide the Ministry of Transport with a budget nine times larger than its current budget, or dramatically expand programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Every dollar of public money that goes to fund American militarism overseas is a dollar that could be used to fight hunger, homelessness or climate change.

Our elected officials have chosen to prioritize the pursuit of military hegemony over the welfare of our people. Moreover, they treat military spending as an inevitability, while programs that could improve the lives of students struggling with crippling student debt or the sick struggling with crippling medical debt are presented as a luxury. Defenders of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal constantly have to justify their high prices to save lives and our planet, while the military gets an ever-growing check to destroy them.

In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a deep speech on grotesque spending on weapons. “Every weapon made, every warship launched, every rocket fired means, in the final sense, robbery from those who are hungry and unfed, from those who are cold and unclothed. This world in arms does not only spend money. It spends the sweat of its workers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

As he prepared to leave office in 1961, he issued a warning against “the acquisition of unwarranted influence, sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”. Today, this complex is often referred to as the military-industrial security complex, or simply the national security state. To understand the enormity of its scope, one must begin with the $750 billion proposed for 2020 the Pentagon and war-related activities and add the money for nuclear weapons, veterans, homeland security, intelligence and the military portion of the national debt. The total comes to an obscene $1.25 trillion.

Senator Bernie Sanders, railing against this spending spree in a speech at Johns Hopkins, called on people to stand up and say, “There’s a better way to use our wealth.” Sanders, along with Elizabeth Warren, have laid out visionary plans to fix our struggling health care, education, infrastructure and planet, but they have yet to propose sweeping reform of our military spending. The only way to see change toward a more just and sustainable world is to change how we spend — or waste — our nation’s wealth.

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