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Clear and Present $5 Trillion Waste

If climate change is a hoax, what about US defense...?

The OOLD WORLD is convinced that climate change presents a clear and present danger of irreparable harm, writes Bill Bonner in his Diary of a Rogue Economist.

It is a threat, says the European elite, that must be stopped before we find out whether it really is a threat at all.

The man on the street is not so sure. Recently, he's taken to setting cars on fire to protest against high gas taxes, causing the French feds to back off – for a while.

Still, in Europe, if you claim to be plucking a goose for the good of the environment rather than for your Christmas dinner, you'll get a whole lot less squawk.

Here in America, on the other hand, the squawking stops when you claim to be "protecting our military". What the military needs protection from has never been adequately explained.

Where's the clear and present danger? No country has a plausible capability of invading the US. An invader, if he existed, would be blasted to bits before he even got close.

But the military acts as if an attack is imminent, thus keeping the public in a constant state of alarm and in need of protection.

When people claim to want to protect you, what they usually want is to take your money and boss you around. But we'll keep an open mind.

Putting aside an actual invasion, there are really only two threats – acts of terrorism and intercontinental missiles. As to the first, we'll see below what trillions of Dollars spent fighting terrorism have wrought.

And in any case, the remedy is simple and cheap: Bring the troops home so the foreigners have no reason to want to do us harm. (When was the last terrorist attack on Switzerland?)

As to the second, we already have the world's best anti-missile/bomber defense.
A reasonable estimate of what the Pentagon currently spends on actual defense is about a third of its budget. The rest – about half a trillion Dollars per year – is wasted on crony projects or spent doing the kinds of things that make foreigners want to blow up the White House.

The tab for the War Against Terror alone – a catch-all for various adventures in various places, including a huge eye-in-the-sky surveillance program – is now probably around $5 trillion. That includes future commitments to weapons deals as well as medical and other benefit programs for veterans.

What did we get for that money? The New York Times figured it out:

"Nearly four times as many Sunni Islamic militants are operating around the world today as on Sept. 11, 2001, despite nearly two decades of American-led campaigns to combat Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, a new independent study concludes.

"That amounts to as many as 230,000 Salafi jihadist fighters in nearly 70 countries, with the largest numbers in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to the study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

"The report's conclusions, drawing on multiple databases dating to 1980 to compile one of the most extensive studies of its kind, underscore the resiliency of these terrorist groups, and the policy failures by the United States and its allies in responding. The findings also highlight the continuing potency of the groups' ideology and social-media branding in raising money and attracting new recruits as they pivot from battlefield defeats in strongholds like Iraq and Syria to direct guerrilla-style attacks there and in other hot spots."

Nothing but trouble, in other words. The more we fight terrorists, the more terrorists we get.

And so, we ask: What kind of scam is this?

And first, we turn to President T., whose gut has proven occasionally reliable at scam detection. What does his gut tell us about this one?

Alas, it seems to be twisted up. The Trump team has increased the military budget by about 10% and signed the biggest military pay increase in nine years. This has helped make the soldiers fat and sassy. From Brookings:

"Over the last 18 years, active duty military pay increases significantly outpaced their civilian counterparts. A combination of economic forces and political obligations inverted the earning potential for uniformed personnel. With very little fanfare, military service became one of the last bastions of middle class social mobility.

"And polls show Americans hold the military in the highest esteem of any of the country's major industries or institutions."

But for all the money and status, are Americans safer? And against what enemy?

Meanwhile, the US is going broke. Deficits doubled in the last two years. Between the anvil of rising entitlements and the hammer of rising Pentagon spending, US finances are being beaten hard.

Why not cut back and save the US from bankruptcy?

In a recent tweet, The Donald seemed to be on the case:

"I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The US spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!"

Yes, he's right there. It's crazy to spend so much money and get so little for it.

But here, we permit a very high-confidence prediction: There will be no change to the military budget...or to the Pentagon's worldwide meddling.

For while the US military hasn't won a real war since 1945, it has won something more important. Like the environmentalists in Europe, it has won the bamboozle battle for control of the public's myths.

What's more, it has become the strong arm of the Deep State, which controls the government...and the press.

Since Dwight D.Eisenhower, no American president has dared to defy the Deep State or its enforcers at the Pentagon.

New York Times best-selling finance author Bill Bonner founded The Agora, a worldwide community for private researchers and publishers, in 1979. Financial analysts within the group exposed and predicted some of the world's biggest shifts since, starting with the fall of the Soviet Union back in the late 1980s, to the collapse of the Dot Com (2000) and then mortgage finance (2008) bubbles, and the election of President Trump (2016). Sharing his personal thoughts and opinions each day from 1999 in the globally successful Daily Reckoning and then his Diary of a Rogue Economist, Bonner now makes his views and ideas available alongside analysis from a small hand-picked team of specialists through Bonner Private Research.

See full archive of Bill Bonner articles

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