David Hoppe

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:: War is our drug of choice

We're hooked

By David Hoppe

It's been widely observed that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama had more to do with wishful thinking than accomplishment. Obama himself said as much.

On reflection, though, the prize may have had less to do with Obama than with those of us who voted for him. Obama was a surrogate. What the Nobel committee was really doing was sending a message to American voters. They wanted to thank us for electing a guy who seemed to think this country was something more than the world's biggest war machine.

Apparently the folks in Oslo are unfamiliar with addiction. They grossly underestimated the depth of our jones for shock and awe.

We like to call this our Defense Budget. That's like calling a street gang a youth organization, but never mind. Here's what the newly minted Nobel laureate has proposed to spend on our military in fiscal year 2011: $708 billion. Add an additional $33 billion the Obama administration asked Congress to approve as an "emergency supplemental," and the total comes to $741 billion.

This is the largest military budget (adjusted for inflation) since World War II. Others have pointed out that this means our government will be spending over $2 billion per day on war.

The announcement of this spending plan was good news for the socialist sector of our economy - those corporations that live to make things the government pays for. Harris Corp, which specializes in radio encryption technology, saw its stock rise 4.2 percent. At General Dynamics, where they manufacture munitions, submarines and warplanes, shares went up 3.9 percent. Northrop Grumman, maker of unmanned spy planes, rose 2.3 percent. Pity poor Raytheon, the missile-maker. Its shares only jumped a single percentage point.

The USA is responsible for 41.5 percent of total world military spending. In second place is China - they account for 5.8 percent. France is third at 4.5 percent. No one, in other words, comes close to us when it comes to "defense."

Addicts, we know, will concoct up any number of reasons to justify their all-consuming habits. They'll say their drug of choice makes them feel more alive, that it kills their pain or, simply, that it makes it possible for them to function. Finally, though, the drug, whatever it is, becomes its own reason. You plan your days around it. You may do other things, but a junkie is what you are.

Making war is the American drug of choice. Almost 45 percent of our tax dollars go to military spending and the cost of past wars. Meanwhile we argue about budget deficits and whether or not we can afford to pay for health care (19.7 percent of federal tax dollars), respond to poverty (11.8 percent), or provide a better educational system (2.2 percent).

Policy makers, including Obama, who wants to freeze future nonmilitary expenditures, will say we're spending enough on, for example, education -- we just need to spend it better. Virtually no one with any power says this about the military.

That's because, like any powerful drug, the military has consumed us. Indiana is a good example. We hear all the time about the blows to our once proud manufacturing sector. But guess what part of Indiana manufacturing is booming right now. In an excellent 2008 series in Fort Wayne's Journal Gazette, Dan Stockman researched the extent to which military spending props up Indiana's economy. He reported that in 2006, the federal government spent $6.05 billion on defense in Indiana, making it a bigger part of our economy than farming, which brought in $5.97 billion. According to Stockman's findings, defense spending in Indiana totaled $960 for every Hoosier man, woman and child.

Stockman underlined our dependence on military spending in terms of jobs. In July 2008, unemployment was 6.5 percent in the Fort Wayne area. That figure would have been almost 10 percent without those tax supported, defense-related jobs.

The next time someone tells you they don't want government-run health care, ask them what they have against our government-run military.

Functioning addicts are expert at keeping up appearances. They get to work on time and pay the proper respects. It's like the way our war-addled country insists on reserving a special day for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King said, "When a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, social programs must inevitably suffer. We can talk about guns and butter all we want to, but when the guns are there with all its emphasis, you don't even get good oleo. These are facts of life."

It wasn't that long ago that President Obama called for sending 30,000 more troops to fight in Afghanistan. Evidently this is his idea of a jobs program. But this is what happens in an age of specialization. It just so happens that America's specialty is war.