- William Hartungdirector of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. His latest book is Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. Hartung’s recent article for TomDispatch is headlined “What Happens When All We Have Left is the Pentagon?”
- Jeffrey Sachsleading economist and the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. He’s the author of many books, including, most recently, Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable. The book’s foreword is by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
President Trump has proposed increasing the military budget to just over $600 billion—a 10 percent increase—while deeply slashing the budgets of other agencies, likely including the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department. Speaking to a joint session of Congress, Trump said, “I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.”
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking Tuesday evening before a joint session of Congress, President Donald Trump called for a historic increase in military spending.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Finally, to keep America safe, we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war—if they must—they have to fight, and they only have to win. I am sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Trump last night. Bill Hartung, you’re director of Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Your response?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, he committed truth: He said it’s one of the largest military budget increases in history—about 10 percent, $54 billion, which, to put it in perspective, would be about what the United Kingdom spends—just the increase. That would be the seventh biggest military budget in the world. And, of course, we’re spending at historic levels, $600 billion a year, which is more than the peak of Reagan. The Obama years, we spent more than under George W. Bush. So the idea that there’s a gap in military spending is ludicrous. He hasn’t talked about tens of billion dollars in Pentagon waste. And, of course, he hasn’t said how he’s going use the military, other than rattling sabers about Iran, which, were they to go to war with Iran, as one person said, would be—make Iraq look like a walk in the park. So, I think the money is problematic, but also kind of the reckless possibilities of how they might use the military.
And given the people around him—Steve Bannon—but also these generals, who are supposed to be the adults in the room, are probably the most hawkish generals, in some ways, of their generation. You know, McMaster helped with the surge. You know, Mattis wanted to attack Iran in the middle of the Iraq War, which is why he left the Obama team. So, the idea that these are the sober voices that are going to restrain things, I think, is, to some degree, wishful thinking.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeffrey Sachs?
JEFFREY SACHS: I was just going to add that the $600 billion that we spend is only counting a part of what we really spend on the military. We have another $60 billion on addition to the $600 billion of the Pentagon. That is the intelligence agencies. We have Homeland Security. We have military expenses hidden in the Department of Energy. Of course, we have the incredible costs, the human damage and health in the Veterans Administration. If you add it all up, it’s probably closer to $900 billion a year. It completely swamps everything else that we’re doing right now. And now he’s going to add on top of that—and propose tax cuts for rich people and for corporations. So, this is just one illusion after another. And it’s got to come to a bad end in some way.