News Analysis

Military contractors Boeing and Northrop Grumman were the big winners in the $2.4 trillion budget presented to Congress Feb. 2 by George W. Bush. The proposed budget is a financial blueprint for disaster in Bush’s drive to keep the White House. It funds the administration’s political priorities outlined in the January State of the Union speech.

Critics have called it a “class warfare” budget with its emphasis on extending tax cuts to the rich, the paltry domestic spending and the lies about deficit reduction.

But less attention has been paid to the mammoth military spending chunk, which is proposed to increase 7 percent. This does not include the ongoing costs of Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, which at least an additional $40 billion request is yet to come. But the bulk of the $402 billion for military spending is for corporate enrichment through weapons procurement, military “modernization,” research and development.

The Bush military budget has nothing to do with national defense. The military budget has everything to do with continuing to feed the beast – the increasingly powerful “military-industrial complex,” about which President Dwight Eisenhower warned the country.

Bush will certainly emphasize funding “better pay, better treatment, and better training” for soldiers as a way to cover up the corporate giveaways. It is also a maneuver, a la Karl Rove, to win support among troops and their families while dodging questions about the reasons U.S. soldiers were sent to Iraq in the first place. It’s designed to blunt growing dissatisfaction among military families towards the Bush administration’s ill-treatment of the troops – from bread and butter issues, like making wounded soldiers pay for hospital food, to the life and death issues they face – because of the administration’s hidden agenda in the Middle East.

Bloomberg News reports Bush’s 2005 budget includes a $9.2 billion request for research on missile defense programs (read Star Wars) under contracts with Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Orbital Sciences Corp. and Lockheed Martin. It includes another $3.2 billion for contractors, including Boeing and Northrop, to develop new ground combat vehicles.

The CEOs are thrilled with the government subsidies. “It looks like the Northrop Grumman programs are right in the sweet spot. All of our major program areas, we believe are going to be well supported and well funded,” CEO Ronald Sugar said.

“Defense has done exactly what it’s supposed to – and that is keep the earnings mill going,” Boeing CEO Henry Stonecipher said in a televised interview. “We received over $50 billion worth of orders last year and that may be a record.” Boeing predicted higher profits in 2005 due to military orders benefiting from accelerated defense spending, Bloomberg News reported. (Boeing is also getting a bounce in stock prices with its current union-busting campaign against the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace at its Wichita, Kan., facility and its deemphasis of commercial airplane production in favor of the more profitable military production.)

Military spending is not a good job creation program. According to Dollars and Cents magazine, “Spending on the military generates fewer jobs than spending the same amount of money on a wide range of alternatives,” like transportation, housing, education and health care.

The military budget is part of the insatiable drive for larger and larger corporate profit. It facilitates that profit drive by using military might to bolster control of labor and natural resources here and around the world. As a result, the working class and oppressed peoples are pushed towards a global race to the bottom, endless war and destruction, environmental degradation – all of which threaten humanity’s very survival.

In order to win over the widest section of the electorate to reject the Bush-Cheney ticket, the corporate looting through military spending has to be exposed.

The author can be reached at talbano@pww.org.

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