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The War Budget Is Burning Down Our Economy

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President Obama will talk jobs tonight. Good. That's what we should have been talking about all year. Here's all thirty-five words of our suggested script for the speech:

"Good evening. To get American working again, we must cut our massive war budget and find better ways to spend that money. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America."

This would be by far the shortest presidential speech on jobs ever given, and one of the most effective plans given in years to get people back to work.

The simple truth is that, beyond war industry hype, military spending costs us jobs. According to the Political Economy Research Institute's (PERI) 2009 study, when you compare it to other ways of spending the money, every $1 billion spent for military purposes costs us, at minimum, 3,222 jobs. At the upper end, war spending costs us 17,500 or more jobs per billion dollars. Military spending creates fewer jobs, both directly and indirectly, than every other kind of spending studied by PERI. So, given that we spend well in excess of $700 billion every year on war in this country, it's fair to say that our obsession with war spending is sucking the life right out of our economy.

War spending is good at making a few corporations very rich at the expense of the rest of us, however. Take Lockheed Martin, for example. Lockheed is the top contractor for both the Pentagon (.pdf) and the U.S. government in general (.xls), having made $35.8 billion off the taxpayer in 2010. Just to put that in perspective, if they were an "official" arm of the U.S. government, their taxpayer-funded budget, ironically, would be roughly three times the size of the Department of Labor (.pdf). Their CEO, Robert J. Stevens, made $21.9 million dollars last year, or $10,527.80 per hour. That's a pretty sweet deal for the head of a company whose two marquee products, the F-22 and the F-35, have yet to see action in a war-zone because they aren't safe or don't work.

While Lockheed Martin and their buddies in the war industry are rolling in the taxpayers' dough, the rest of us are choking on the ashes of the economy. The unemployment rate in this country as usually quoted in the press exceeds 9 percent. But, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, real unemployment exceeds 16 percent and has remained relatively flat for at least a year. Last month, the economy created zero jobs. Given this very nasty employment picture, there's absolutely no justification for maintaining what's essentially a job-killing corporate welfare program for war profiteers.

By coincidence, President Obama's jobs speech takes place on the same day as the first meeting of the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. If the members of the committee are serious about doing what's best for this country, they'll focus on changes to the budget that have a chance of getting people back to work. Serious cuts to the war budget should be at the top of their list.

War industry corporations like Lockheed Martin know that if Congress does zero in on job creation, their days of living high-on-the-hog may be over. They've banded together under the banner of a front group, "Second To None," to pressure the committee and other influentials on the Hill to protect their profits. [See Nick Turse's excellent piece on AlterNet today detailing just who is behind the Second To None effort.] They plan to stage a "march to the Hill" on Tuesday, and with members of the so-called "Super Committee" having taken well over a million dollars in campaign and PAC contributions from these war profiteers, there's a real danger that Second To None could "cash in," corrupting the process to shield their job-killing profits.

Brave New Foundation's War Costs campaign is working to put Second To None on the defensive. That's why we're running a full-page ad in Politico on Monday to call out Second To None's deceptive spin on jobs and to tell Congress we need jobs, not war industry profits that are killing our economy. Please consider joining our effort.

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Follow the War Costs campaign on Facebook, and follow Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe on Twitter to stay updated about War Costs' latest actions to expose the true costs of our nation's obsession with war spending.