It’s the Military, Stupid!: Don’t Blame America’s Debt Crisis on Social Security and Medicare

By Dave Lindorff

Amid all the nonsense and gobbledegook that has been written about banking industry and about the economic slump during the last four years of the global financial crisis, New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson has stood out both for the clarity of her analysis, and for her willingness to go after the guilty parties in the political and especially the banking system, naming names and calling it as she sees it.

So it was kind of disappointing–even shocking–to read her latest article reporting on a new “study” by Peterson Institute for International Economics Senior Fellow Joseph Gagnon, warning about the nation’s growing debt crisis.

Real cause of the deficit: the Pentagon, not “Entitlements”

The Peterson Institute, founded by Wall Street tycoon Peter Peterson, has long been gunning for the Social Security and Medicare systems, which he, and the rest of the Wall Street gang, see as unfairly competing with Wall Street for the assets of the public, and as destructive of the “free market.”

Peterson’s basic schtick is that the two critical support systems for the elderly and infirm are going to bankrupt the country as they pay out benefits that exceed what retirees paid into the system, and that the solution is to cut back on those benefits, increase the taxes collected, or better, to privatize both systems.

Given Peterson’s and his institute’s long-standing agenda to gut Social Security and Medicare, it’s not surprising that Gagnon, as a fellow there, would say the solution to the nation’s growing debt is to either raise taxes or cut those two hugely successful, critically important and broadly popular social programs.

Morgenson is too smart not to know better, and yet not once in her article did she look outside of Gagnon’s narrow definition of the problem at the real cause of the national debt: the country’s outlandish military budget and a decade of unfunded wars, which have been piling up debt at a rate of some $150 billion a year (and that’s just the principal!).

After all, the country has been piling up this debt for several decades, and especially over the last decade, but during all this time, Social Security and Medicare have been paying out their benefits from current dedicated payroll taxes and by drawing on the trust funds that had built up because of the years that more was being collected than paid out in benefits.

Get the point? Nobody, including Gagnon, Morgenson or the Social Security and Medicare-hating members of Congress like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), will acknowledge the fact that not one dime of the huge US deficit has been caused by a benefit check paid by Social Security or Medicare.

It’s the wars, stupid!

If the US would just cut its military spending down to size, instead of spending as much as the rest of the world combined on war or preparing for war–say by 75%–it would free up more than $450 billion a year that could go towards funding things like improved education, research into alternative energy, improving health care access, and paying down the deficit, too. Toss in cuts in the outsized $40+ billion annual secret intelligence budget, in the nation’s obsolete and dangerous nuclear weapons program and other ancillary military-related expenditures, and we’re talking about saving half a trillion dollars a year!

Morgenson should be ashamed at carrying water for the likes of Peterson and Gagnon.

She could make an attempt to restore her once sterling but now sullied reputation as an uncompromising financial journalist by taking on the Pentagon.

*Dave Lindorff is founder of blog “This Can’t Be Happening”. This article was originally posted there. LINK:


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  • Laila  On May 30, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Dear Dave
    A beautiful assessment,hats off to you. My research tells me the total Cost of Wars Since 2001 $1,199,699,555,689.Cost of War in Iraq $781,246,319,629. Cost of War in Afghanistan
    The United States has unquestionably been the most formidable military power in recent years. Generally, US military spending has been on the rise. Recent increases are attributed to the so-called War on Terror and the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, but it had also been rising before that.

    For example, Christopher Hellman, an expert on military budget analysis notes in The Runaway Military Budget: An Analysis , (Friends Committee on National Legislation, March 2006, no. 705, p. 3) that military spending had been rising since at least 1998, if not earlier.
    Since 2001 the military expenditure of US is steeply on the rise!The cost of war (Iraq and Afghanistan) has been very significant during George Bush’s presidency. Christopher Hellman and Travis Sharp also discuss the US fiscal year 2009 Pentagon spending request and note that “Congress has already approved nearly $700 billion in supplemental funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and an additional $126 billion in FY’08 war funding is still pending before the House and Senate.”

    Furthermore, other costs such as care for veterans, health care, military training/aid, secret operations, may fall under other departments or be counted separately.The US alone accounts for over two-fifths (or just under half) of the world’s spending on military.
    At least SOMEONE has the sense to cut through the crap & talk brass tack.
    Cheers to you & more power to your pen!

  • Jose  On May 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Great article; however, we need an over-the-top military because we create so many enemies.

  • Ayesha Khan  On June 1, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Told you, the Americans among all the Westerners are the stupidest and most barbaric of nations, known to the modern world.

    They never bothered to learn anything from the East instead hooked us on self destructive ways of living. If you want to destroy inner peace and balance of nature study in the US!

  • Siddiqui My  On June 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Problem or reality is and has been USA is a military state!! No foreign policy can be made without Pentagon approval……………… who can bell the cat??

  • Arif Khan  On June 5, 2011 at 4:27 am

    USA is a Mily State ?????? thats why Obama fired the General Mccrystal incharge of Afghanistan about blowing off to a Magazine??? can Zardari fire Kayani??? HAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAH USA is a Military State??? HAHAHHAHAAHHH Arif Khan

    • Ijaz Khan  On June 5, 2011 at 4:44 am

      Dear Arif Sahib
      With due respect, let me state, I, do not need childish comments cluttering my in box. Obviously, come hail or storm, you favor US in anything they do. That is your prerogative Sir & you are welcome to it. But by posting such responses you merely expose your bankruptcy in a logical thinking process.
      Kindly refer to the legal definition of a Military State(in form of an example).For your understanding I have also included the definition of Military Occupation as both are inter related in case of USA:
      “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”.
      Martin Luther King Jr., speech at NYC Riverside Church , April 4, 1967
      Sparta was a military state because the Dorians invaded Southern Greece (including Sparta, the rest of Laconia and Messenia) and took over all the original inhabitants which became Helot slaves. There were so many more Helots than Spartans that they rebelled. The rebellion was crushed but it alerted the Spartans to the fact that they needed to have an efficient fighting force to prevent it happening again. So it became a military state with all men (and women in a small degree) preparing for war.

      Military occupation occurs when a belligerent state invades the territory of another state with the intention of holding the territory at least temporarily. While hostilities continue, the occupying state is prohibited by International Law from annexing the territory or creating another state out of it, but the occupying state may establish some form of military administration over the territory and the population. Under the Martial Law imposed by this regime, residents are required to obey the occupying authorities and may be punished for not doing so. Civilians may also be compelled to perform a variety of nonmilitary tasks for the occupying authorities, such as the repair of roads and buildings, provided such work does not contribute directly to the enemy war effort.
      Although the power of the occupying army is broad, the military authorities are obligated under international law to maintain public order, respect private property, and honor individual liberties. Civilians may not be deported to the occupant’s territory to perform forced labor nor impressed into military service on behalf of the occupying army. Although measures may be imposed to protect and maintain the occupying forces, existing laws and administrative rules are not to be changed. Regulations of the Hague Conventions of 1907 and, more importantly, the 1949 geneva convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War have attempted to codify and expand the protection afforded the local population during periods of military occupation.


  • nature cures more herbs for flu  On June 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Very informative and helpful content . You have good command on the topic and have explained in a very nice way. Thanks for sharing.Nice work,hope your blog be better!I just want to make a blog like this!

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