Col. Wilkerson: Trump’s Proposed $54 Billion Increase in the Military Budget Not for National Security

Yves here. Wow, Wilkerson is openly annoyed in this Real News Network interview.

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.

President Trump is reportedly proposing a 10% increase in military spending. That’s an increase of $54 billion from approximately $600 billion that will be paired with cuts to other agencies. His so-called America First Budget will also increase funding for local law enforcement, while cutting funds to the EPA, State Department, foreign aid and social programs. Medicare and social security are apparently not on the budgetary chopping block. Trump’s plan is only in the outlining stage, and the final plan should be revealed in the upcoming weeks.

Now joining us to discuss this budget increase for the Pentagon is Larry Wilkerson who joins us from Williamsburg. Larry is the former Chief of Staff for US Secretary of State Colin Powell, currently and Adjunct Professor of Government at the College of William and Mary, and a regular contributor to Real News.

Thanks for joining us again, Larry.

LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Paul.

PAUL JAY: Does America in order to defend itself need another 10% in the military budget?

LARRY WILKERSON: No. It certainly does not. It needs a substantial cut in the military budget, and that would enhance national security because it would force the Pentagon, the military, to do some of the things that they need to do to make the future better. I understand, too, that this $54 billion or whatever it is, it’s not clear whether it’s going to come out of the authorized line or going to go into the authorized line or go into OCO, the Overseas Contingency Operations slush fund, which needs to be killed entirely. That’s a big issue for me, too, is which account it goes into.

And the payers in this are just ridiculous. The EPA, State and US aid, as the bigger bill payers, and as I understand it, too, some of the safety net programs, although he’s promised to – but I don’t put much store in his promises – to keep Medicare, social security and other essential programs like that going. We simply don’t have the money to do all of this and the fact that we have a 600-plus billion dollar defense budget and, really, a 1.1 or 2 trillion dollar national security budget, when you throw nuclear weapons and the Department of Energy, the VA and all the rest of the security budget in there, is just ridiculous. We have a bigger national security budget than the rest of the world combined. It’s absurd.

PAUL JAY: So why is he doing it?


PAUL JAY: Why is he doing it?

LARRY WILKERSON: He’s doing it because he promised to do it. I do believe that Donald Trump, anything he promised in his campaign that is going to keep his base titillated, apparently he’s not doing that good a job even at that right now judging by the poll numbers, he’ll do. And this is one of the biggest things he promised to do.

PAUL JAY: One of his campaign promises in one of the speeches he was critiquing the regime change policy in Iraq. For a time he critiqued it in Libya, although there’s some video surfaced how he actually wanted to send US troops into Libya, so that was a bit of a con.

That being said, at one time he actually said, “Don’t you worry, military guys – meaning military-industrial producers, war manufacturers – there’ll be plenty in this budget for you, too.” The main promise seems to have been to the industrial-military complex. That’s the promise he’s keeping.

LARRY WILKERSON: Well, he’s keeping a promise to them to keep their money flowing and their jobs intact and so forth, and that’s one of the first things that you do to get their vote. As I understand it, he probably got the military vote, certainly in the enlisted ranks, and he probably got a lot the defense-industrial complex vote, too, for the very reason that you just suggested. This is what presidents do to keep that vote in their pocket, and also to keep the American people writ large with that all important security issue at least potentially in their pocket, if not already there.

PAUL JAY: Now, 10%, it’s a fair amount of money. You know, $54 billion. Does this suggest that he has plans for something? And we know we… you and I have talked about this before, he’s certainly… his foreign policy speeches and those of the people in his Cabinet more or less have all said Iran is the problem. That probably means they would like to snap sanctions back, perhaps more. There’s been the suggestion that he’s … Trump’s speech at the CIA, where he talks about how “if I’d been the president we would’ve grabbed the oil,” and then he says, “Maybe we’ll have another chance.”

I mean, is part of this that they are planning something?

LARRY WILKERSON: I don’t think so. I hope not. Because all of those things you suggested, plus a number of others I could conjure up would not be good for this country, not in our national interests, primarily because prima facie they’re not in our national interest, but also because we can’t afford to be doing these sorts of things. Paul, let’s face it: we can’t afford another $54 billion on the military. Where are we going to get it? Print it? We’re going to go out with war bonds to the American people or maybe to the Chinese or the Japanese or the British, our biggest benefactors? Where are we going to get this money? We’ve gotten $4-plus billion over the last year or two in this quantitative easing program simply by going to the Treasury and printing it, or to the Mint and printing it. Now, this is unsustainable. It’s disastrous policy, and I don’t know where we’re headed.

PAUL JAY: Well, the argument they’re giving is that the American armed forces, their hardware, the cyber warfare and such, it all needs to be modernized. General McMaster who’s going to be advising Trump, he’s been pushing for a new tank, newer(?) armored vehicles, lots of rhetoric around the need to have a major overhaul and modernization suggesting somehow that Russia and China are actually more modernized than the United States is.

LARRY WILKERSON: All of which is nonsense. I wouldn’t be talking about tanks. I wouldn’t be talking about aircraft carriers. I wouldn’t be talking about bombers. I wouldn’t even be talking about F35 stealth fighters. I’d be talking about things like 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, and other technologies that are coming on so fast that they’re going to make all these legacy systems, which are extremely expensive, and make them for the military-industrial complex, of course, a lot of money, passé. Just look at the underwater dimension, for example. 3D printing a submarine that’s unmanned, and that’s the future, Paul – not manned flight, not manned unmanned. You put a submarine under the ocean and hang a few smart torpedoes, smart mines on it, and you go out – and by the way, for the price of an Nimitz class carrier, a Ford(?) class carrier, you can build about 150,000 of these submarines, and you go out and kill that $14 billion Ford class aircraft carrier, or you kill a $4 billion, $5 billion ballistic missile class submarine, Ohio-class submarine. That’s the new technology.

And by the way, those technologies are going to be in the hands of state and non-state actors sooner rather than later. These are the kind of things we should be looking at. These are huge cost-savings technologies – they’re deadly, dangerous technologies. We need to have protocols and standards, international law and other things in place for their use. Cyber warfare, as you were talking about, going after people’s networks – nowhere, of course, is there anyone more vulnerable than ourselves to that kind of warfare.

These are the items, the technologies of the future, not aircraft carriers, not stealth fighter planes. Perhaps not even submarines based on what I just said about unmanned submarines taking them out.

So, you know, I would rather see the Pentagon thinking along those lines, developing systems along those lines, and getting a lot leaner in the process rather than getting more money, which is just going to kind of make them very comfortable with their current ways, all of which are dangerous for our future.

PAUL JAY: You were Chief of Staff for Colin Powell. You got a pretty good look at a very senior level of how military policy is established. How much is this driven straight, banally(?), just about money-making? The military-industrial complex lobbies, they get expensive weapons systems, but they fund various members of the Senate and Congress and so on. I mean, how much is this just rather banal ways of having weapons systems to make people that own these manufacturers wealthier?

LARRY WILKERSON: It’s a huge part of it now. In the late 1970s, Paul, when I was a major working on the high–mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle, now called commonly the Hummer, I was told by the Congress to go back to Fort Benning at the time and I had a $400 million program and they said you gotta have a bigger program, gotta have a bigger program, it’s gotta be in every state you can get it in. I went back and developed a $9 billion program for a 59,000-vehicle buy, and sold the program. That was in the late ’70s. It’s mushroomed majorly since then. Now we have helicopters and fighter planes and ships and other things built, a component of which is built in every state. We have a hundred Senators behind them. We have countless representatives behind them. I’m not saying that when the president says he wants a war he goes to the Congress and they say, well, here it is, but I am saying that when they make a decision to support him, when the president even makes a decision to go to war, all this money, all of this commercial interest, all of these jobs, are very much in their minds.

PAUL JAY: All right. Thanks for joining us, Larry.

LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Paul.

PAUL JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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  1. Marco

    Utterly depressing. A 3D printed 150K swarm of drone submarines each outfitted with a smart bomb? This is the sweet fresh hell of a future our MIC folks are preparing? Humans are screwed.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Given the way military procurement works, it would turn out to be a 1.5K swarm for the same multi-dozen-billion lump sum that was supposed to buy 150K units.

      Transactions of decline, as Jane Jacobs used to say.

      So things are bad? Well then, let them get even worse.” — Dostoyevsky, Notes From Underground

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, that was the one false note in the interview. Even if you can make a military defence argument for them, there is no reason to think they’ll end up any cheaper than existing equipment.

        Its often forgotten that two of the most notorious current boondoggles – the Littoral Combat Ship and the F-35 – actually started out as supposed ‘modular, fast, and cheap’ alternatives to traditional weapons programmes.

        1. Norb

          How long can building bridges to nowhere continue? At some point, resource conflict must end in a standoff or stalemate. Defensive technology is just too strong, and offensive action just too destructive. This is the point I take form Wilkerson. If the goal is world domination, as American Empire surely is, then it is a loosing strategy in its present form.

          As long as capitalist systemic power is concentrated in the military and military hardware procurement, it only grinds down the available resources necessary for building useful things. American policymakers are setting up the nation for a great letdown. When the gravy train finally stops, the crash will be immense.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Yes, world history is often created by natural cycles in weapons manufacture. When the state of the art was a defensive technology – the castle – Europe broke up into fragments as everyone who could afford a castle could defend a mini kingdom. But then came artillery, a technology that benefited offense, and you had empires again. I strongly suspect we are coming to a cycle whereby cheap defensive weaponry such as anti-tank and anti aircraft missiles (and even the anti-ship missiles used in Yemen) can stymie the most expensive offensive technology.

            Incidentally, we do forget that there is another way. In the late 19th and first half of the 20th Century the ruinous cost of battleships led to the major powers agreeing to cap their size and number to create a level playing field and prevent those ships from bankcrupting everyone. It wasn’t perfect, but it did temporarily stop military overspending.

            1. JohnnyGL

              “But then came artillery, a technology that benefited offense, and you had empires again.”

              If you’d be so kind as to let me tune up your comment slightly, it’s gunpowder, that fabled play-toy of the ancient China, that the Europeans saw real military potential in. Once you’ve got gunpowder, you can make cannons to throw rocks much harder and further than you could with catapults and even trebuchets. Of course, that’s necessary, but not sufficient. You need steel (lighter and stronger than iron) to make a cannon that can handle the explosive force and that’s easy to transport.

              But yes, your underlying point is correct. Offense was back by the 1600s or so.

              The nation-state rose right along with it. It’s a good point. Thanks for making it.

    2. JeffC

      150K submarines from near-future 3D printing? That’s like saying you can use a 1980’s era dot-matrix printer to create a microfilm version of the Library of Congress. Not gonna happen.

      The technology is at the stage of printing single parts when materials properties are not important. No one is printing working motors, batteries, or metal pieces with serious metallurgical properties, like submarine hulls resistant to crushing.

      And the program cost of a submarine or other complex war machine (think F-35) in any case is not in the manufacturing of parts so much as it is in the engineering. The need for millions of person hours does not go away because a sign saying “3D printing” is being waved around as a talisman to magical thinking.

      1. Mel

        3-d printing 150,000 of anything is pretty silly. 3d-printing templates to make dies for conventionally manufacturing mass numbers of things is probably just conventional machining technique by now.

        1. JeffC

          Thanks. Good to know.

          Still, it sounds like we’re talking single parts, not submarines coming out of a printer like “Earl Grey, hot!” coming out of Captain Picard’s food synthesizer!

  2. Sound of the Suburbs

    If wars were just about money the US would have won the Vietnam War.

    Look at the mess they have made in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

    Cut the budget in half and find a few people that know what they are doing.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      Some, or many, people become rich that way. Winning is incidental.

      I first visited DC thirty years ago. Dad was seconded to the USAF. Flying over the DC region then and now, especially after OIF, suggests there is much money to be made as a parasite.

    2. Dirk77

      As one who has worked in the MIC, cut it by 90%. There is no reason to have a military budget higher than any other country, especially as the Americas are physically separate from all the potential inflammable areas.

  3. Anti-Schmoo

    Funny how all this military spending on equipment and technology, tested in our wars abroad; eventually comes home to our increasingly militarized police departments.
    The MIC has a foot in almost every state of the U.S.. Talk about embedded…

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Anti-Schmoo.

      It’s interesting that the country, or as Jim Haygood called it the colony for settlers from Brooklyn, has influenced US policing just as it did apartheid era policing.

      My father, a former Wing Commander (Lt Col) in the Royal Air Force, worked on development projects in SA, Lesotho and Swaziland in 1991 – 2 and was staggered by the extent of militiarisation (including military ranks in the police) and influence of Brooklyn’s colony in SA. We were staggered when Mandela went to pay homage to the war criminal then serving as the colony’s head of state. Said war criminal said that neither he nor his colony had anything to apologise for their role in apartheid.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    While it may be going too far to ascribe anything Trump does as having a ‘strategy’, it would seem that given the complete absence of evidence that the US military needs this money, the motivation for announcing it is either:

    1. A cheap headline to assure his ‘base’ get that he is strong on the military – it will quietly be dropped later, or he will blame it on Congress.

    2. They’ve decided that there is no chance of getting a real infrastructure spending fund going, so they will, Reagan style, use military spending as a form of regional investment and keynesian boost to create jobs.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Good thinking. And both your points probably apply.

      $54 billion is a vast sum to be funded from cuts in other departments. Feckless as it is, Congress is not going along with that. The only difference from the Obama era is that Republican leaders aren’t calling Trump’s budget “dead on arrival” (though in fact it is).

      Owing to planning, public consultation, environmental impact studies, right-of-way acquisition, coordination with multiple levels of public authorities, etc, infrastructure projects can have 3 to 5 year lead times before a spade of earth is turned. Whereas military contractors will happily absorb as much funding as is thrown at them, on useless weapon projects which already exist. Handy!

      Can’t think of a lower priority in the US than expanding military funding. This malinvestment will actually accelerate its imperial decline. I will repeat, for the record, that if Trump serves two terms, he may even undershoot the feeble 1.8% compounded GDP growth rate during Obama’s eight years.

      America is broken. Its value-subtraction military empire helped break it. Trump, in classic Big Gov fashion, wants to double down on abject failure. He should be named as an honorary Democrat. ;-)

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Can’t think of a lower priority in the US than expanding military funding.

        Its probably even worse than Keynes famous pits full of money as a form of stimulus. It can be tempting to protect a local economy by ordering an unnecessary aircraft carrier from a struggling ship builder, but that aircraft carrier will be an enormous cost and liability on the economy for the next few decades and do will contribute to long term malinvestment and decline.

        1. jrs

          Better to just pay people to do nothing really, less wasteful than that, but that would be a basic income and can’t have that, and besides people wouldn’t feel productive if they can’t build murder machines. It makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside and like they matter – well no, not really, it probably makes the good ones feel ethically challenged, but such is the logical endpoint of thinking that any job is better than no job.

  5. Disturbed Voter

    There are some eternal facts of statecraft. You have to be able, to defeat one or more enemies at the same time, based on realistic war game scenarios. Of course that can be corrupted or undermined by wishful thinking. Because of technology, you have to constantly rebuilding with new equipment, replacing worn out equipment, and retraining troops. The alternative is to go to nukes/chem/bio as soon as your underequiped and/or underprepared force faces the music. The larger strategy is to not paint yourself into a corner where you can be exploited by hostiles. If you can avoid that, then our inscrutable opponents can do what they can, and not succeed. The only thing worse than winning a war is losing one (the US has never actually lost a war … Vietnam didn’t occupy N America). The other eternal fact of statecraft is to use non-military means to avoid conflict in the first place, but that doesn’t always succeed. That has been scuppered by the “always war” strategy the US is following now … our diplomacy is wasted as long as we are implementing regime change ourselves. Regime change is too aggressive to be successful.

    1. Anti-Schmoo

      There is so much here I disagree with, it’s difficult to know where to start.
      DV: …(the US has never actually lost a war … Vietnam didn’t occupy N America)

      That is arguably a false premise for “losing”.
      The U.S. has lost in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria. Lost how you may ask; lost in that it did not succeed in it’s intent of implementing regime change to its favor and influence.
      If de stabilization was the intent, then, yes, the U.S. “won”; but I do not buy that as a reasonable example of statecraft.
      I’ll leave it there for now…

      1. Disturbed Voter

        Ask the Germans what it is like to lose a war. Not the same as not winning, not by a long shot. The US didn’t win in Vietnam either. But then N Vietnam and its allies in SE Asia … were never a security threat to the US in the first place. That is why LBJ is sponging in his grave, in Hell.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I understand the point you are trying to make, but I think the only reasonable way to assess if a country has ‘won’ or ‘lost’ a war is to compare the outcome to the stated original aim (of course, sometimes the ‘real’ objective can be different from the stated objective). By that standard, the US has lost far more of its chosen wars than its won. America in once sense cannot lose a war, because there is no realistic scenario whereby the US could be conquered and settled by another country. But perhaps thats one of the problems, the very security of a fortress North America has meant that the US has less to lose in going to war than any other country.

          1. Norb

            For the very reason you state, Americans can delude themselves that they are a force of good in the world. The standard that is used to evaluate won or lost is always about profit and the expansion of the capitalist mindset. War profiteers benefited and American corporations extend their reach so “we” won. I wonder how long this will last thought. As more Americans are driven into poverty, and the level of inequality increases, this sense of winning will ring more hollow by the day.

            Hippie punching is the next phase in the plan. Dissenters will be rebranded as commie, drug using hippies. When the power of the state is turned on White America, some rational will be needed to justify the violence. Anti-capitalist fits just fine. Ugly nationalism is on the way, and until more voices can identify the real danger to the nation is corporate overreach, violence is the only outcome.

            Military loss is the only remedy to break this spell. The frightening part is the elite know this and why doubling down is the only strategy. It leads to the rational of destroying the village in order to save it. In their twisted minds it makes perfect sense. It maintains their position in the social hierarchy. They win, we loose.

            1. Laughingsong

              It has been my opinion for a while now that no one ever wins a war. Everyone loses the second overt conflict starts. The consequences may feel delayed for a while by the “winners” but they do happen.

              Wars are not winnable because 1) they always involve atrocity, and 2) people remember.

        2. Felix_47

          It seems to me that Osama bin Laden and his 11 merry men managed to crush the most powerful empire in history……with just 11 men. Consider 6 Trillion in costs and rising (counting VA costs). From the vantage point of a lot of time in Iraq and AFG it sure looks like a defeat to me. I rank it as the most successful military campaign in history in terms of cost vs. result. The devastation in our cities and nation secondary to malinvestment is breathtaking…….bombs could not have made Detroit, Newark, St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland and so on any worse.

      2. Anti-Schmoo

        Oh, and I failed to mention the 5,000 or so U.S. troops killed for nothing…
        That’s winning????

    2. justanotherprogressive

      I think you have a very narrow view of what statecraft is. Statecraft is not just foreign policy but is domestic policy also. Therefore, I have to reject your eternal facts. You see other countries as enemies rather than states also trying to act in their own interests. Are there no other ways to work with other countries other than to bully them into submission to your aims? Can you give no importance to what another state might need for its own survival? Your other eternal fact alludes to the use on non-military means to avoid conflict but you claim that doesn’t always succeed. I would remind you that military actions also don’t always succeed either. In fact, I would put to you that those countries that insist on using military means to solve their foreign policy issues succeed much less than those countries that use other means. A review of history tells us that militaristic governments always fail rapidly. I don’t think I need to remind you of what happened to the Soviet Union, do I?
      You also seem to forget that statecraft also includes domestic policy and militarization does nothing to solve the domestic issues a country faces – rather it seem to enhance them. When you take needed monies out of an economy to support your military, you weaken the bonds that keep your country together. You could go back as far as Rome to find instances where this happened if you want, but again the Soviet Union is probably the latest example.
      I would suggest a far better eternal fact: Those countries that last longest and provide the best lives for their humans (what this IS supposed to be all about) find ways to get along with their neighbors and don’t see them as enemies. Another eternal fact: The best way to advance both states’ goals is to work together. Remember that word co-operation?

      1. Anti-Schmoo

        Huh? If you’re replying to my comment, I think you got lost in the weeds.
        An incomprehensible reply making no sense what so ever.
        Cheers or whatever…

        1. justanotherprogressive

          No I was responding to Disturbed Voter…..check the indents…..
          Short-fuseitis today? It’s OK, we all get that sometimes…..

      2. Disturbed Voter

        Sorry, you are clearly not a student of history. Nor am I suggesting that militarism is the only angle of statecraft. but if you fail on the defensive side of militarism, your domestic policy will only enrich your future slave masters. If people were reasonable, there would be no wars at all.

        I did find your comment, and understood it was to me. Thanks for playing.

    3. River

      I’m splitting hairs, but I think instead of the word lost, the word you want is defeated.

      Strategically, the U.S has lost every war since probably the Pacific Campaign. By this I mean they’ve never achieved the aims they’ve set out as a “win” condition.

      I think what you mean is the U.S has never been defeated. Which I mean another power has never imposed their will on the United States after losing a war. There are no wars in which the U.S was forced to sign a treaty of surrender (that I can think off hand). In which case I wholeheartedly agree with you, that the U.S has never “lost” a war.

  6. Lindsay Berge

    By your definition, Germany did not lose the First World War. Does that mean the US was not on the winning side?

    1. Disturbed Voter

      See my new comment. Projection and miscommunication are inevitable, as long was we post, we don’t get to know each other (not that would be a bad thing, but how?)

      The Germans did lose WW I … eventually. They also lost WW II. Why? Because WW II was the continuation of WW I. There was an armistice in between, Germany never actually surrendered in1918. That was the whole point of the US insisting on unconditional surrender. The Germans (both sides) won the Cold War, because no nukes flew. Right now, the US is at war with N Korea .. there is only an armistice in place. Neither the US nor N Korea won the Korean war. But the armistice is getting hot again ;-(

      The US was on the winning side, in 1945. There was no winning in 1918, but there was in 1945. And still winning; Germany, Japan and Italy are still occupied by hostile armies. But the US didn’t win because we were “truth, justice and the American Way”.

      1. Quanka

        This is pure bunk, and WW2 was so yesterday. Holding that out as our preeminent example of winning while ignoring the last 40 years of carnage and destruction in the greater middle east (and now Africa) shows you ignoring facts to try and make some point that I dont even understand.

        What does “winning” even have to do with it anyway? Do you not realize that the consultant class wins whether or not our military wins or loses as long as the money spigots are turned on?

        1. Disturbed Voter

          Yes, the whole point is self enrichment, at the expense of others. That is the whole point of aggressive war, such as we have most recently had since 9/11. But such societies, not unlike Nazi Germany, don’t deserve to survive.

  7. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    I can understand why Wilkerson is angry, especially in terms of aircraft carriers which I imagine with the advance of technology, are ever more likely to become sitting ducks & if sunk, would probably result in a substantial loss of life. Tanks, would I think likely be easy prey for drones, but perhaps their is also an aspect of vanity here.

    Admiral types would probably not be very happy if their large toys were taken away, which reminds me of the French nobility in their state of the art armoured finery, who were slaughtered by English longbow men in 1346 at the battle of Crecy. As most often seems to be the case of military men throughout history refusing to learn from their mistakes – they did the same thing again at Agincourt in 1415. This was a state of affairs that even some the English leadership disapproved of as one of Henry V’s commanders complained about the fact that creme de la creme of the French nobility had been slaughtered by mere riff raff.

    As with the Germans in WW2, who had plenty of evidence from the previous war that U-boats were much more effective than ships of the line, still invested in the likes of Bismark, Tirpitz & Graf Spee, whereas if they had put all that effort into U-boats, they might well have won the battle of the Atlantic, which was as it stood a close run thing.

    Perhaps it is part of the psychology of most war makers that looking good on the bridge of 33,000 tonnes of steel, or strutting around in an expensive suit of armour is considered of great importance, even if you run the risk of having your guts spilled by the equivalent of a dagger or arrow.

  8. Grumpy Engineer

    But wait… Didn’t everybody’s favorite (neo?)-Keynesian economist Paul Krugman advocate this very type of spending?

    If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, oops, we made a mistake, there aren’t any aliens, we’d be better…

    Isn’t it annoying when the president spends “economy-stimulating” dollars on crap that you don’t want instead of crap that you do?

    [P.S. to moderators. I’m doing a one-time change to my handle here. Won’t do it again.]

    1. jrs

      “Isn’t it annoying when the president spends “economy-stimulating” dollars on crap that you don’t want instead of crap that you do?”

      well actually yes because that is a very large part of politics exactly what resources should be spent on, more important than whether it’s “economy-stimulating” to most people most of the time (although if people are desperate they may take any job of course).

  9. Pat

    I can see two ways Trump’s military budget increase could be good, and dozens of ways it could be bad. As Wilkerson says it depends on where he puts it.
    1.) If suddenly rebuilding roads, bridges, water systems and the electrical grid become a defense program this would be a very good thing.
    2.) If there was an increase in the pay of the enlisted ranks, this would be a good thing. (Yeah it still annoys me that like Walmart and McDonalds, we expect many of our enlisted personnel to depend on food stamps.)

    Pretty much everything else is unnecessary. And is merely a showy payoff.

    And as we well know the cuts are largely punishments for being a hinderance to pillage and not necessary at all.

    1. RUKidding

      IF, and only IF, some of our taxpayer dollar$ are spent this way, I could be mollified.

      Otherwise, it’s patent B.S.

      And Trump will make d*mn sure that some of that sweet sweet payola flows into the Trump Family Industries pocketbooks one way or the other.

      Of course, our “representatives” in Congress will love, Love, LOVE it because: CHA CHING!! With the added bonus of more austerity and hardship for Main Street and the other side of the tracks. The latter is especially appealing to these predatory parasites.

      I surely don’t expect the bought-off DLC Democrats to put up any fight against this. I’m sure they’re all rubbing their greedy grubby mitts with unfettered glee. Yippee! Cha ching!

      1. jrs

        “And Trump will make d*mn sure that some of that sweet sweet payola flows into the Trump Family Industries pocketbooks one way or the other.”

        Probably true, although there doesn’t seem to be a lot of coverage of this, I don’t mean on NC, I mean the media as a whole. Much more Russian hysteria, but he’s probably far more garden variety corrupt if anything, con and graft.

        1. Pat

          I heard an assessment that I think might be on the money, only time will tell. Trump is old school corrupt as in Boss Tweed, rather than our new school corrupt as in Reagan/Clinton/Bush/Obama. In that yes he takes his cut but spreads the rest among the commons. New school is that the rich get a gourmet twelve course meal, the politicians get a buffet and the commons gets to pay for it while looking in from the cold.

    2. susan the other

      The interstate highway system that Eisenhower did was accomplished in the name of national security. Trump can do it too.

    3. Felix_47

      Well the personnel you are thinking of are trying to raise a family of four dependents on a Private’s salary. When you consider the benefits that are not recorded including housing allowance etc. it pays very well considering the required qualifications for the job. That being said is it a basic human right for the commons to support unlimited dependents for a particular individual?

      1. Pat

        I said enlisted, so it is not just a private’s salary, it is a corporal’s, ensign’s, sergeant’s, chiefs, etc. And not for nothing in a situation where most of those privates, corporals, ensigns, etc actually do face combat is it too much to demand they get a living wage that will feed a family of four (two adults and two children)

        And for the record right now the average Private’s salary including housing and basics allowance is just over $36,000 a year which averages out to a little over 17 dollars an hour for a forty hour work week. And considering the allowance is based on where they are serving, I do have to wonder how much that private serving in a combat zone has to spend on housing their family at home as obviously they cannot stay together.

        Apparently you consider that a well paying job, considering what the risks can be, I beg to disagree. Heck even without the caveat I disagree as I think that should be the bare minimum paid to burger flippers at McDonalds since minimum wage would be almost 18 dollars an hour if it kept up with inflation.

  10. susan the other

    Several points: 1. Vietnam fractured this country because we were never told the truth and it leaked out in things like the Pentagon Papers, probably to quell the rage. The truth was we were in Vietnam for a variety of reasons, none of which were justified by our constitution. 2.The Pentagon has been worried about climate change/GW since the early 2000s and in a press release just last week they reiterated that concern. It’s quiet possible that GW is our biggest threat, ergo our biggest enemy. Witness what drought has done to civilization in the ME. 3. The military is not going to come right out and say GW is our biggest enemy, it’s anti-capitalistic. 4. Wilkerson always makes a good harbinger of truth – he’s much more believable than anonymous leaks, and he just did an interview wherein he tried to downplay ocean rise/GW but in classic style made the point that it was really a big deal. 5. McMaster is not a boondoggler and he would never recommend wasting money or materiel, or strategy. He might lend himself to propaganda: padding the projects with things like dinosaur tanks and jets so there is enough money justified in a budget to go for things that will really make a difference. Just as Wilkerson intimated above – we need money to go into new technologies. Like robot submarines, cyber tech etc. Consider this: these new technologies can have dual purposes and a robot submarine might be a good tool for ocean cleanup/environmental policing etc. If we do retool the military we should certainly address the real threat – the real enemy.

    1. polecat

      The problem with these evermore sophisticated AUTONOMOUS systems is that they will continue to remove any real-time ‘human element’ from engagement with the enemy, thereby reducing said engagement to such an abstraction so as to make bad decisions/blowback all the more likely ! Additionally, if one considers adding bioweapons and/or nuclear capability, rather than standard ordinance, then the outcomes could be catastrophic. Lastly, rational de-escalation in a ‘bay-of pigs’ type scenario, could be hampered by virtue of possible ‘buggy software/algorithms’ that can’t groak subtle diplomacy when minutes or seconds count …..

      This whole idea of linear ‘progress’ needs to be discarded if humanity is to survive !

  11. oho

    Don’t that this is a primary, secondary or tertiary reason, but reason #32: $54 billion is cheap insurance for Trump in any truly batpoo-insane CIA/Beltway-led coup.

  12. TomDority

    53 billion – what is the cost of quantitative easing in order to bail out the banks – I reckon 53 billion at about an eighth of 1% of bailing criminals out …. How about the net loss to the economy in just the housing crash inspired by the same criminals or the criminal war in Iraq… I do not understand how 53 billion is more than a rounding error.

    The real problem is Democrats and Republicans – the field of economics, and the inversion of the meaning of a free market…..Free market is one free of economic rents.. today we have an economy free for economic rent taking….of which 53 billion is but, maybe, one hundredths of one percent or even ten fold less.
    I suppose that distinguishing between economic rent takers and wealth producers would go a long way to figuring out who should pay, or rather, give back what was taken through artifice and fraud.

  13. Jeremy Grimm

    I would prefer that COL Wilkerson refrained from speculations like his ideas for the tens of thousands of 3-D printed unmanned mini-subs directed by smart AIs. Aren’t the tens of thousands of Hummers he procured for the Army the Hummers that were a little light on armor when they showed up in Iraq — the same Hummers that had soldiers welding hunks of scrap iron to their sides to stop some of the larger caliber bullets — 50-cal machine gun bullets as I recall — the same Hummers replaced en masse by MRAP vehicles in later fieldings?

    It should be enough to recall the British experience in the Falklands and the famous 2002 Millennium Challenge War Game to question the Navy’s wisdom in how they use the dollars from their turn at the Military Industrial Complex pork troff? And how many times does the Air Force need to over-specify an aircraft before someone figures out that approach doesn’t work very well? Actually COL Wilkerson should avoid pointing these failures out to avoid hearing back about the Army’s amazing mis-expenditures on their Future Combat Systems.

    COL Wilkerson should stay with his critique of a Defense Budget bloated to gargantuan size supporting foolish and wasteful procurements chiefly designed for pouring Federal dollars into the coffers of Defense Contractors. Defense expenditures once got us cool stuff like Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System — as Susan the Other pointed out — and the Internet — and GPS systems — and it put Men-On-the-Moon with a little metal US flag. Defense spending does have the merit of employing mostly US citizens to build much of it. But even so, I suspect a larger proportion of the spending goes into Corporate profits, dividends and management pay packages than finds its way into the pockets of the work-a-day people who actually build or use the stuff.

    The COL should have spent more time elaborating on the program cuts and their impacts. Even more important he should have pointed out the programs needed to deal with serious problems in our near future, programs never funded because DoD sucked all the discretionary dollars out of the Federal Budget while it squeezed some tens of billions more out of other Federal programs we somehow just can’t afford.

  14. Chauncey Gardiner

    I much appreciate Lawrence Wilkerson and his insightful observations on military spending and the culture. Not to diminish his comments on the massive levels of wasteful and misdirected military spending, but I do take some exception to what I perceive to be his view that the federal government cannot concurrently fund both the suggested increase in military expenditures; and infrastructure, public education, healthcare, social programs and environmental expenditures such as the EPA.

    The government spends sovereign money into existence. The federal government is not similar to a household. It does not need to raise funds through taxation or to borrow before it can spend money. The federal government can always make any and all payments in its own currency, so there is no solvency risk, and no required trade-offs or offsets such as those being suggested by the current administration and members of Congress. This particularly applies to this currently low growth, low inflation US economy with few real resource constraints evident..

    1. Susan Nelson

      Thank you. I was looking for a comment on his poor grasp of economics. “It’s unsustainable!” Why, exactly? He doesn’t say.

    2. twonine

      Yes. It would be nice if Colonel Wilkerson read up on MMT and changed his “can’t afford’ rhetoric from “can’t pay for” to “can’t bear without serious detriment”.

  15. Edward E

    We’re shutting down Iran, befriending Russia & Saudi Arabia. Back to petrodollars. Message to China: No tickee, no oil. – James G Rickards

    When reading this my thoughts were, how ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’ That Jim’s thinking is old fashioned. After listening to the speech tonight, well, I cannot get it out of my mind. Jim does understand the game at a higher level through experience.

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