The first week after the announcement of the arrests of dozens of selfish and unethical rich folk who committed fraud to get their kids into college, the New York Times must have had 25 articles analyzing various aspects of this disgraceful scandal. All of these articles repeated a limited number of basic facts, with each article providing a different frame—the kids, the parents, the corrupt coaches, the investigation. After a while, it was just so much blah, blah, blah…
I wonder whether that’s why there has been no room in the Times to cover “War Spending and Lost Opportunities,” a truly startling piece of research by Heidi Garrett-Peltier, a research fellow at the Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Garrett-Peltier studies the impact of war-related spending compared to other ways the federal government could spend the money. The paper demonstrates that if instead of going to war in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the federal government had spent the money on other government programs, the economy would have created approximately 1.4 million more jobs since 2001.
In 2017, her first paper on the subject, published by the Watson Institute of International Affairs at Brown University, Dr. Garrett-Peltier took a look at how many jobs various government activities produce, including waging war, investing in education, support of wind and solar energy, maintaining our infrastructure of mass transit, sewers systems, highways and bridges and healthcare. Her analysis consisted of three parts:
- Distinguishing between wartime spending and the base Pentagon budget.
- Comparing the number of jobs created by waging war to the numbers created by other federal spending.
- Creating a reasonable mix of other ways to spend and comparing the number of potential jobs created with the number of jobs actually created by our war economy.
As it turns out, virtually every other kind of federal expenditure creates more jobs than bombing and invasion. Check out some of these numbers: Healthcare sending creates 107.2% more jobs, which means that if war money created 100 jobs, the same amount spent on healthcare would have created more than 207 jobs. Elementary and secondary school education spending creates 178.3% more jobs, infrastructure spending creates 42% more jobs, retrofitting existing manufacturing and energy systems creates 53.6% more jobs.
While other researchers could disagree about how much alternative spending should go to education versus renewable resources, whatever mix you pick will create significantly more jobs than spending it on war.
Her initial study was ignored by the mainstream media at the time, and the same fate has met her 2019 update so far. Her latest numbers estimate warfare spending from FY 2001 through FY2019 (FY = fiscal year) and fine tune some details of her analysis.
Perhaps the most shocking number Dr. Garrett-Peltier provides is the average annual amount we have spent on war-related activities over the past 19 years. The number is in addition to the base Pentagon budget, which already puts us way ahead of what any two other nations combined spend on the military. Get ready for this number. Sit down. Relax. Maybe ready a glass or pipe of your favorite anti-anxiety home remedy. Or an Ativan or two.
On average, every year since 2001, the United States has spent $290 billion fighting wars. Again that’s not the total, but the annual average. Using Dr. Garrett-Peletier’s model, it works out 1.8 million defense-related jobs, instead of 3.7 million jobs that spending that money on a realistic mix of education, infrastructure, retrofitting, healthcare and renewable energy would have created.
And what did we get? Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and our bloody little adventures throughout Africa.
Dr. Garrett-Peltier doesn’t measure the toll our wars have taken on American soldiers, their families and the soldiers and civilians of our adversaries. She hasn’t measured the monetary value of the wrecked cities, roads and bridges. She hasn’t taken into account the millions of refugees created by our wars. On a more Kissingerian “Realpolitik” note, Dr. Garrett-Peltier’s research doesn’t measure the loss of status we have suffered throughout Western Europe and the Muslim world for our stupid, goalless bullying wars. She doesn’t compute the value of the loss in global leadership to China and other countries in the areas of alternative fuels and infrastructure development. Or the value of the loss of status as a leader in the future by spending trillions of dollars on bombing and shooting instead of investing in meeting the Paris Accords on climate change.
None of these wars made the United States any safer. None of them advanced our expressed interests. None of these wars created greater democracy, freedom of speech, equality for women or economic growth. All they did was to kill people, destroy economies and enlarge the bank accounts of military contractors and weapons manufacturers.
It’s time to bring home all our troops, reign in development of new weapons of mass and pinpoint destruction, and start investing our tax dollars in life, not death.