New military spending is coming so fast, and in so many forms, it is difficult to know the total cost. The administration is officially proposing an increase of $46 billion, bringing the total to $437 billion – but we can assume that this is a minimum figure. The U.S. is now spending almost as much on arms as the rest of the world combined!

For every job created in military production, many are lost to the trade policies that are enforced and protected by U.S. military power. But the cost of the military buildup reaches every working-class family in the U.S.

Nearly every state faces a severe budget crisis. The total shortfall, according to the National Priorities Project (NPP), is $27 billion nationwide. “The vast majority of the states have imposed significant cuts to balance their budgets,” according to NPP, and more cuts are in store.

Instead of helping, the Bush budget is proposing to cut grants to the states by $2.4 billion (after inflation), resulting in serious losses to local communities. There are big cuts in development programs that are particularly vital for communities most affected by the economic crisis.

There is some simple arithmetic at work here:

Budget shortfall faced by the states: $27 billion.

Increase in military spending: $46 billion.

The increase in military spending could pay for all the states’ shortfalls, and start to cover additional costs necessary to meet the needs of working families.

The hardships facing us in the coming year from state and federal budget cuts are only the start. Recent history tells us that we will be paying for this war for years to come.

Lyndon Johnson promised that the Vietnam War would not interfere with building the Great Society. But the escalating cost of that war stopped the forward progress the American people made in the early 1960s. The promise to extend Medicare to a national health program never materialized. Progress toward racial equality was halted, real wages started to stagnate and the minimum wage began a long decline from which it has never recovered. The Vietnam War deficits contributed to the raging inflation of the 1970s, which cut into the living standards of most U.S. workers.

Like Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush is boosting the military budget while cutting taxes for the rich. The result under Reagan was deep cuts in social spending, and a dramatic shift in costs from federal to state and local governments. This resulted in higher taxes and more service cuts on working people.

Bush brings us war without end and military spending without limit. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are in danger from nuclear weapons proliferation, environmental destruction and spreading impoverishment. These consequences threaten us in this country, too. Speaking only in economic terms, we can look forward to:

* Continuing broad cuts in federal programs, eventually affecting almost every American.

* Continuing state and local budget crises, resulting in layoffs, higher taxes, and declining government services.

* Continued attacks on Social Security, with the goal of converting the system into a vast slush fund for Wall Street speculation and military spending.

* A sluggish economy at best, with unemployment a growing threat.

* Increased inflation, resulting in a hidden wage cut for most workers.

These are the economic costs of the military buildup – the costs of empire. For a few multinational corporations and arms contractors, the cost is worth it. But the rest of us are the ones who get stuck with the bill.

The author can be reached at


Fred Gaboury
Fred Gaboury

Fred Gaboury was a member of the Editorial Board of the print edition of  People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo and wrote frequently on economic, labor and political issues. Gaboury died in 2004. Here is a small selection of Fred’s significant writings: Eight days in May Birmingham and the struggle for civil rights; Remembering the Rev. James Orange; Memphis 1968: We remember; June 19, 1953: The murder of the Rosenbergs; World Bank and International Monetary Fund strangle economies of Third World countries