Military Expenditure in the USA 1941-2001 and its Effects on Healthcare, Education and Employment

The Pros and Cons of the USA Maintaining the Military-Industrial Complex

The problem about the USA spending too much on its military complex is that the country is playing the role of a peacemaker and a major player on the geopolitical map of the world these days, “trying to stand astride the world,” enjoying its military as well as economic superiority, with no other country having inflicted so many casualties or being so deadly “destructive” in the “post-Second World War” picture (Foster, Holleman, McChesney, 2008). According to Foster et al. (2008), since 2001 the USA defense budget has been padded to being 553 billion dollars, signifying the increase by almost 60 percent, other reliable sources thinking the increase close to reaching the rate of 1 trillion as of 2007 and it is sure to go well beyond that mark as the time goes by, provided the tendency perseveres. It is worth noting that the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported the USA to be accountant for 45 percent of world military expenditures (Foster et al, 2008).

Ward and Davis (1992), Foster, Holleman, and McChesney (2008) agree on the Soviet Union having been the reason enough for the USA to keep itself armed and vigilant years ago. With the Union no longer a threat, now split in multiple countries and the containment policy no longer needed, the question of why not reduce the military potential becomes of a particular relevance as the door for reconsideration for the USA “to enter” has been opened. Besides, so long as terrorism poses no particular threat, the country military stance is close to being what is known shadow boxing. According to Ward and Davis (1992), it should be borne in mind that Eastern economies are on the rise and the diminished threats and foes make it sensible downsizing the military spending.

Military overspending may very well stem from the US politicians’ entertaining their “irrational hubris” (Ward and Davis, 1992; Foster et al, 2008). There is a certain schism in how both Democrats and Republicans see the armament issue, with the former being the proponents of axing budget expenses by pooling the world military resources in terms of “Kaufmann and Steinbruner” proposal while the latter being the double-dyed adversaries of economizing on the budget (Ward and Davis, 1992). In his book “On Empire” Hobsbawm describes the right-wing politicians, being guided by “megalomania,” as applying for the all-American patriots to “mobilize against evil” and those who do not recognize the country’s “uniqueness” (as cited in Foster et al, 2008).

However, whether military expenditure used to be or currently is a problem is what is still to be answered. Charles Mills, an American professor of sociology, coined a term “military ascendancy” which is said to describe how the USA economy benefited from spending on military complex. These economic dividends composed the US Empire and fully shaped its economy, catapulting the country to where it is now, atop (Foster et al, 2008). Foster et al (2008) consider the opinion of Charles Wilson, the General Electric CEO, on the military spending in saying that back in the day there used to be “an economic guns and butter trade-off of military spending, occurring at the expense of other economy sectors”. This point makes no sense, in Charles Wilson’s authoritative opinion, since it was exactly military expenses on armament during the World War Second that let the economy skyrocket, making a complete comeback from the Great Depression, economic rates expanding to 70 percent in the wartime (as cited in Foster et al, 2008). According to Foster et al. (2008), the USA militarism was triggered by the “global geopolitical struggle,” but should be regarded as “essentially costless, even beneficial” to the economy, which “could have more guns and more butter too” in this “win-win solution.”

“Military Keynesianism” construed and propounded by John Keynes justifies and encourages military expenses to deliver the country from stagnation. Armed with the principle the army of Keynesians besieged successive presidents into surrender to their militant proposals (Foster et al. 2008). In accordance with Foster et al (2008), Michael Kalecki, a Polish economist, theorized the American “imperial triangle” in the vein of the aforementioned affiliated “Keynesianism” as such that contributes to the high level of economy via expending on armament and ancillary industries by virtue of maintaining a large body of armed forces and government employees, other triangle angles being the ruling class controlled mass media in an armament advocating capacity and the level of employment and living standards reaching the high rate, compared with that before the war. Harvard economist Sumner Slichter sounds in the same way, adding the demand for goods and the acceleration of technological progress to the already high overall benefits of military spending (Foster et al, 2008). Slichter shares a resounding opinion, “So we may thank the Russians for helping make capitalism in the USA work better than ever” (as cited in Foster et al, 2008). There is yet another opinion of Seymour Harris, the influential Harvard economist, indicative of spending benefits, “If we treat the years from 1941 to the present as a whole, we find again that a period of record prosperity coincided with a period of heavy military outlay” (Foster et al, 2008).

Ward and Davis (1992) say military spending to have spinoff effects for the economy in technologies and production processes initially elaborated for defense purposes. They may easily be brought into the private sector without any particular research and harnessed to the state’s advantage.

Charles Erwin Wilson, Eisenhower’s secretary of defense, made an observation back in 1957, when addressing “the military-industrial complex” and its incorporation into the economy that “the military set-up was built into the economy to make it virtually irreversible.” The matter is that Americans profit greatly by militarism attitude that provides them with “properties, business, jobs, employment, votes, opportunities for promotion and advancement, bigger salaries for scientists.” Trying to get everything changed will result in everybody’s getting into trouble (Foster et al, 2008). As much as the USA would love to switch over to a different much reconfigured economy pattern it seems like squaring a circle this far. The whole situation seems to have come close to being a no way out conjuncture, with the question for the open discussion of whether the armament and the “whatever no-sayers might think of the Cold War” opinion about Russia being a legitimate USSR heir and an anything but grey horse of the weapon race are not smoke and mirrors. That being said, it becomes a no-need-to-prove piece of truth that “the entire system could not be relinquished without relinquishing empire.” The US deadly war machine has always been either a decimating tool or a means to intimidate (Foster et al, 2008).

Speaking of the popular solution generating opinions alternative to the armament, the “euphoria of the peace dividend following the end of the Cold War evaporated immediately in the face of new imperial requirements” of keeping the economy afloat by means of its major flagship – the war industry (Foster et al, 2008). Pollin and Garrett-Peltier (2012) provide unequivocal evidence that “sequestrating” or curtailing the expenses is certain to produce major job losses. Fuller conclude that annual cuts may allegedly culminate in1million job losses, with one trillion cuts costing 8 to 9 percent losses. It makes Pentagon arguably the major employer of the USA. Pentagon spending as of 2011 generated 6 million jobs per 300 million plus population out of 156 million people capable of working (Pollin and Garrett-Peltier, 2012). Still, the question is what if this same money is put in peace industries instead.

Now it is high time the question of whether there is an economic life beyond the battlefield were answered from military spending negative impact and alternative budget allocation perspectives. The whole controversy comes basically to the idea that the USA military spending is nothing but a double-barreled weapon. Beneficial as it might be, military spending still is thought to bring about some losses and question the prosperity and the well-being of Americans. Ward and Davis (1992) voice some concerns as to the spending draining the economy, yet they highlight a quandary of “political commitments” the USA has involuntarily placed itself in.

Foster et al. (2008) claim the ruins of the Soviet Union, instrumental in building “the USA immediate power,” coupled with the decline in economy in the nineteen nineties, forcing political functionaries into leveraging military potential in the series of wars, including the one in the Persian Gulf, mending the economy a great deal, by pumping the black gold from the earth. However, this quasi-peaceful expansionist campaigns necessitated building military bases in 70 countries, with the U.S. troops present “in various capacities in countries twice that number” (Foster et al, 2008).

According to Foster et al. (2008), military buildup is viewed as an attempt to restore the universal “hegemony” of the USA. The price of this ambitious move is more than 50 percent of the federal budget, excluding the budget items of social security, medical care and other transfer payments. The expenditure makes 7 percent of the entire GDP, which pushes the economy to its limits (Foster et al, 2008).

Dwight Eisenhower, the USA ex-president, dedicating one of the items of his farewell address to the armament costs, revealed a fly in the ointment truth saying, “We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations” (as cited in Foster et al, 2008).

Defense Secretary Cheney suggested that the so-called “peace dividend” vision were introduced into the economy. It implies reallocating funds to the peace industries instead of investing in the military complex (Ward and Davis, 1992).

Joshua Goldstein opined in 1988 that “every 1 percent of the GNP devoted to military spending “robs” the USA of about half of economic growth” (Ward and Davis, 1992).

Mintz and Huang’s research of the outcome of military spending gives grounds enough to assert the military spending has a delayed effect on economy, simply put, “lower military spending encourages investment, which, in turn, promotes economic growth.” In one way or another, it takes about 5 years for the economy to feel the effects of lower spending (Ward and Davis, 1992).

Given a two-way approach to interpreting military spending Pollin and Garrett-Peltier’s statistics (2012) indicative of Pentagon being a big employer it is arch-important to counter the opinion inasmuch as spending is also thought to be a “poor source of job creation,” 1 billion of spending on military producing 11,200 jobs within the USA economy. When spent on peace industries instead, 1 billion generates 16,800 jobs through clean energy investments, 17,200 jobs within healthcare or 26,700 jobs in education sector (Pollin and Garrett-Peltier, 2012). Investments in clean energy, healthcare and education create 50 and 140 percent more jobs compared to the percentage of jobs they would generate, if put in military complex. Giving money to “households to consume as they choose” will create 15,100 jobs, which is 35 percent more than the percentage of jobs created by military spending (Pollin and Garrett-Peltier, 2012).

According to Carpenter (2013), who broaches the idea of the USA excessive military spending, backed by the irrefutable statistics, Washington’s military budget for 2013 is more than 6 times China’s official budget. Along with making the military budget disproportionate to legitimate defense needs this spending seems illogical for the United States, neighboring on anything but disturbing countries, unlike China where danger looms large beyond the borderline. It keeps other countries suspicious, overburdens and tasks American taxpayers, which is the disturbing news for them (Carpenter, 2013). Now, it is well-documented that the USA is solely accountable for 44 percent of global military spending. In statistical parlance, the country’s spending amounts to 20 percent of the overall federal budget. Should we draw an analogy with spending outside the country, we should emphatically see NATO allies share of spending does not excel 3,6 percent and that of Japan averages within 2,3 percent. As many as 5 percent of the USA’s GDP is entirely allotted to the military branch while for NATO, Japan and China the number spent is hardly anywhere near 2 percent (Carpenter, 2013). Not wanting to say adieu to their international ambitions of being the gendarme to sentinel the peace and watch interests of its own respected and reckoned with in every possible way, Washington will be keeping other countries relieved of overstraining military obligations for years to come and will surely be dwarfing with its bloated military potential mediocre Islamist states, offering an aggressive resistance in response. With a strong upper hand already in place, the USA is still highly unlikely to really start keeping anywhere close to the Aristotle golden mean at some point.


To conclude, military spending is a complex issue on the governmental agenda, to put it mildly, as it is tolerant of a double interpretation. It is certainly a double standard problem with advantages and disadvantages. It is a fact that for the country in peaceful neighborhood, nearly eliminated external threat, terrorism on its last legs the American budget seems to have been growing out of proportions to the point when its size equals the massive ego of the country’s political moguls. Disturbing is country’s state of affairs with economy on the industrial decline and both external and internal debts still there. Army upkeep and armament are mercilessly taking their toll on the economy and taxpayers’ pocket, but so is the price of being astride the world.

What is the sinister premonition of thing to come may be the blessing for other people, so are the views on the economy impacted by military spending. Still, there should be no denying the American economy enjoys stability and good spells of prosperity. Good news is that the USA would not be such a great country to live in, save that military complex had pulled it from the verge of the pitfall, otherwise known as the Great Depression, it was about to experience heading into the World War turbulent era. Besides exporting war to the turbulent regions, the USA does what may be called military exporting delivering much needed weaponry where military conflict resolution is the forced must-take option. Giving jobs to thousands, business opportunities, being an indispensable part of the USA state body military complex can hardly be surgically removed, without hurting the health of the economy. Still, a healthy and sound allocation between peace and military industries might do the trick and keep the country atop of the world where it rightfully belongs.

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