Terminate the Defense Department
My best friend’s house near UC Merced was robbed last week. The next day, a neighbor tells me someone tried to burglarize their house. A few nights later a family friend is assaulted and stabbed. Each one of them called their local police departments and got the same response: “It’s everywhere. We do not know what to do. We are doing the best we can, but we cannot do anything because the crime is all over town. Nowhere is safe.” Crime is on the rise because, according to an article in the Seattle Times by Stephen Ohlemacher , 1 out of every 6 Americans now depend on programs for the poor and according to Tip’d. com, a community for financial news, 1 out of every 12 Americans is unemployed. That is, Americans are fast learning what it means to be without a ‘legal’ means of survival, and they are taking drastic measures to survive. Teachers in secondary schools, such as my best friend’s parents, receive job loss notifications every day. The UC budget is now down 5 million this year alone, according to UCI’s own website. Students are dropping out of college more than ever according to encyclopedia.com. The figure for American job loss-, which is over 10% in seven states according to The Economic Times, is on par with the Third World country of Hungary, which has a 9.1% unemployment rate according to an article on March 30, 2009, at Forbes.com. In order to get to the root of the collapse of American economy, one needs to get to the root problems of the federal, state, and local budgets. That is, there must be a radical solution to the policies of deregulation and privatization put in place by the Bush Administration, which is now imploding the US. The Defense Department, in the midst of the collapse of the US economy—and some say society—however, still manages to keep more money than all other departments of the federal government combined at the cost of education, healthcare, and transportation. According to whitehouse.gov—the Defense Department’s own website admits that it spends “1.7 billion for the Department's base budget, an annual increase of seven percent, for a total increase in defense spending of 35 percent since 2001” and .21 trillion in total: equal to the entire GDP of Brazil, where I am studying.
The marines, army, navy, air force, Homeland Security, and Pentagon—formal gendered institutions of violence and patriarchy—proceed with their duties of Othering without fear of collapse. Google search the national budget breakdown and see that the defense department—no matter whether in time of peace or war, prosperity or depression—consumes more resources than any other government institution. In fact, the US defense budget is so grossly enormous it eclipses that of all other nations’ defense budgets combined. This money does not find its way into public institutions of peace, such as the university or healthcare or public transportation, but into the institution of what radical scholar bell hooks calls white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. It is crucial to understand that the financial crisis the US suffers from is both socio-economic as well as cultural since the US promotes a culture of income inequality, violence, and torture. The evidence is in not only the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo torture chambers, or the Afghanistan War, the Iraq War, and the Vietnam War, but also through another location of power; a location so ingrained into the culture that it is thought of as necessary to survival: the Defense Department. This social body boasts of pride and responsibility, service and dedication, but the subtext of what these institutions are doing is clear once we remove the rhetoric. This locus of power serves the interests of more than just plain-old elites; it serves the interests of the anti-intellectual; the chauvinist and the phallosupremacist; the heterosexist and classist person who wants to maintain elite privilege in a stratified society through conditioning young people to pursue violence instead of a peaceful “examined” life, as Socrates says.
The Defense Department has no defense when it comes to explaining why it needs to consume the exorbitant amount of resources that it does. Everything it uses exists for one purpose: to promote violence and a culture which tolerates violence, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and chauvinism. The problem is clear, and solution is simple: if the US wants to solve this financial crisis, it must eliminate its largest expense and most violent institution: the Defense Department. It is the Defense Department’s appetite for funding which dissolves entire social programs such as education, health care, public transportation, and alternative energy economies. The days of Cold War politics are over. There is no Other, thus the Defense Department must dissolve itself and relinquish its massive income to projects that citizens desperately need: universal higher education, universal health-care, and excellent public transportation.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned from being abroad is that a nation’s enemies are social constructs. A nation-states priorities and budgets are historically contingent. The US needs to alter its policy of cultural violence and institutionalize peace through free education, free healthcare, and free public transportation for students, the elderly, and the incapacitated. All of this is possible the moment the budget for the War (Defense) Department is transferred to these activities and students reverse the policies of privatization and deregulation.