Wednesday, September 2, 2015

WHERE'S MINE? Inequality in the US and the Military-Industrial Complex

"Don't like war? Don't pay for it! Your taxes arm the world."
New South Network of War Resisters banner at 2012 NATO protest in Chicago.
(Image: FJJ)

Columnist Mike Royko said in his book Boss that the motto of Chicago is "City in a Garden" but it should be "Where's mine?"

When Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel brought NATO (and attempted to bring the G-8) to Chicago, one of the proposals was that people across the city organize around the theme "Where's mine?" (In a way, that's what happened. The protests against NATO were bolstered by the high tide of the Occupy movement.)  NATO came and went; the uprising in Chicago is just beginning.

*    *    *    *

Social scientists puzzle over a basic disconnect: when you ask people what they think would be a reasonable amount of inequality of wealth among people in the US, they respond with something like this:

When polled, people say they think the richest might
reasonably have three times as much as the poorest.

And when you ask them how much inequality they think there currently is, they tell a different story:

People think the wealthiest probably have more than half the wealth.

But the sad reality is, the vast majority of people are scrunched up in one tiny corner of the wealth distribution picture:

The wealthiest 20% have more than 80% of the wealth?
(The rest of us are screwed.)

This information is widely available. Why don't people want to acknowledge it? Why don't they want to do something about it?

*    *    *    *

Thomas Piketty,
Capital in the
Twenty-First Century
There are some rumblings.

Unexpectedly, the person grabbing all the attention in the current electioneering for the 2016 Democratic nomination is not the presumptive heir apparent, Hillary Clinton, but the socialist, Bernie Sanders. Are people starting to ask where their bread is buttered?

In the last 1-2 years, a book by Thomas Piketty -- Capital in the Twenty-First Century -- has encouraged people to recognize inequality as the mainstream problem that it is.

 *    *    *    *

 I'm wondering when people are going to decide to do something about it.

. . . and when they're going to begin to ask about the connections between inequality and the military-industrial complex.

For a long time, organizations like the American Friends Service Committee have been making the connection between the money spent on war and the money that ISN'T spent on services.

US government spending: military vs "all other"
(More details here.)

How might an uprising against inequality and dismantling the military-industrial complex dovetail?

Update - September 12, 2015 

In the UK, the twin issues of inequality and the military industrial complex are resonating with progressive leaders.  In a surprise, the Labour Party has elected a new leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn on inequality: "We don’t have to be unequal, it doesn’t have to be unfair, poverty isn’t inevitable." Corbyn calls current levels of inequality "grotesque."

Notably, Corbyn has called for the UK to eliminate its nuclear weapons.

What will happen next?

Update -March 11, 2016

Kristine Wong reported in The Hill on a survey of 7,000 voters: "The majority trimmed the 2016 defense budget by $12 billion, including cutting $4 billion for ground forces, $3 billion for nuclear weapons, $2 billion for air power, $2 billion for naval forces and $1 billion for missile defense." ("Survey: American voters would cut defense spending by at least $12B")

Related posts

I'm grateful to my friend, Jim Barton, for framing the problem in a way that is adequately broad, and yet contains a measure of hope.  It's about the future, and whether we have one -- or can construct one -- he said.  Young people today are asking: Do I have an economic future? Does the planet have a future? Will (nuclear) war extinguish everybody's future?

(See A FUTURE: Can we construct one? )

What if we had a massive region in the heart of the country pushing back against the war-crazed conventional wisdom of "more weapons," "more consumption," and "more destruction of the environment"?

(See Another Modest Proposal: A Green, Demilitarized Midwest! )

There's no question that for the next 18 months, we members of the general public will be deluged with media about the 2016 presidential election. Maddeningly, 99 and 44/100% of that media will make no mention of the need to end U.S. wars, occupations, imperialism, and militarism.

(See I Support Antiwar Candidates! (Know Any?) )

To many people, the relationship between finance and war is obvious: banks finance the military-industrial complex. In my opinion, however, that misses the point. Banks finance everything (in our society); so why, in particular is it so desirable to have all these ongoing wars?

(See Why Permawar? It's All About the "Vol" .... )

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