With Ukraine’s global image having taken a hit because of its identification with Naziism along with the failings of its summer counteroffensive, the Biden White House is now urging lawmakers in both parties, according to Politico, to sell the war effort in Ukraine as a job creator and economic stimulus in the U.S.
In an Oval Office address on October 19 requesting $106 billion for Ukraine and other conflicts, Biden said that the money would lead to “investment of over $50 billion in the American defense industrial base—ensuring our military continues to be the most ready, capable, and best equipped fighting force the world has ever seen—and expanding production lines, strengthening the American economy and creating new American jobs.”
These words echoed Pentagon talking points about the war in Ukraine, which the Pentagon claimed would result in a $20 billion investment in the U.S. industrial base.
The Biden administration and Pentagon’s arguments are perverse as the war in Ukraine—which was entirely avoidable—has resulted in vast human misery and the decimation of a generation of Ukrainian and Russian youth.
A soldier on the frontlines of the Ukrainian counteroffensive recently described the plains of Zaporizhzhia as a hellhole filled with “corpses, the smell of corpses, death, blood and fear. Not a whiff of life, just the stench of death.” The same soldier said that units such as his own “had more chances of dying than surviving. Seventy-thirty. Some don’t even see their first battle.”
While contributing to this hell on earth, U.S. war spending may inject some money into the U.S. economy but will yield only superficial economic growth, if any, and primarily benefit a few fat cats in the weapons industry.
Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy significantly called the billion dollar U.S. weapons supplies to Ukraine “a money-laundering scheme,” taking wealth out of the pockets of tax-payers and putting it into the coffers of Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed-Martin, which, he notes, are owned by the investors of “BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard.”
Eric London wrote in The World Socialist Review that the tax burden for the new $106 billion will fall disproportionately on the U.S. working class, as revenue on corporate taxes fell $5 billion from 2022 to 2023 and 34 percent of large corporations now pay zero in federal taxes.
According to London, the $106 billion that Biden requested was “more than the federal government will spend all year on education ($84 billion), transportation ($67 billion), or energy and the environment ($94 billion). It equals the total budget for healthcare ($100 billion). For $100 billion, Biden could house every homeless person in America ($20 billion, per Globalgiving.org), feed every person facing starvation or acute malnutrition across the world ($23 billion, per Oxfam), forgive $30,000 in student loans for two million people ($60 billion), and still have almost $10 billion left over.”
Pentagon Capitalism 101
A counter to Biden and the Pentagon’s vision can be found in books written by Seymour Melman, a distinguished political-economist at Columbia University, including Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War (McGraw-Hill, 1970).
Melman argued that over-investment in military industry had a depleting effect, which impoverished American society because it resulted in under-investment in civilian industries. The latter produce more spinoff jobs than military-related industries and are more durable over the long-term.
Overinvestment in the military also diverts funding from the public sector, resulting in the decay of public transport and infrastructure, which is vital for economic growth, a two-tiered health care system, and decline of public education which is vital for establishing a skilled workforce and for the flourishing of democracy.
From the 1960s through the 1980s, Melman was involved in efforts to convert U.S. defense plants into factories that manufactured goods that could benefit civilian society. He cultivated alliances with lawmakers from both major parties, including House Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX), who ironically had been known in the Vietnam era as the “Congressman from Convair [subsidiary of General Dynamics].”
On the first day of the opening of the 101st Congress in January 1989, Speaker Wright convened a meeting of congressmen and women who had proposed economic conversion legislation with the goal of ensuring that all proposals be joined into one, and that this legislation be given priority. Having read Melman’s writings, Wright had come to believe that “the arms race had taken on dangerous but also economically damaging characteristics,” and that military spending “sapped the strength of the whole society.”
Wright unfortunately was brought down in a political scandal manufactured by Newt Gingrich whose Georgia district served as the headquarters for Lockheed Martin. A historic opportunity was lost at a time when many were looking for a transformation of the U.S. economy with the end of the Cold War.
Today, there is a new opportunity for people to heed Melman’s message and repudiate the arguments of Biden & Co. that a permanent warfare economy is needed for prosperity. We need a new political movement that will revive plans to transform the U.S. economy along lines that Melman and Wright advocated for, and whose main goal is to turn swords into plowshares.
The U.S. and its European allies encouraged Ukraine not to implement the Minsk peace protocols, which were supported by Russia and could have resolved the conflict by granting autonomy to Ukraine’s eastern provinces. ↑
- Moon of Alabama, “The War is Lost—Zelenski Will Leave—The White House Has Failed,” October 31, 2023, https://www.moonofalabama.org/2023/10/the-war-is-lost-zelenski-will-leave-the-white-house-has-failed.html#more↑
See also Seymour Melman, The Permanent War Economy: American Capitalism in Decline (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974). ↑
Quoted in Jeremy Kuzmarov, Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State (Atlanta: Clarity Press Inc., 2019), 320. ↑
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About the Author
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine.
He is the author of five books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019), The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018), and Warmonger. How Clinton’s Malign Foreign Policy Launched the U.S. Trajectory From Bush II to Biden (Clarity Press, 2023).
He can be reached at: email@example.com.