10 Years Ago: Defense Spending Analysis from Richard Wolff

In most history books, when one side invades another and then leaves without conditions, we refer to that as having lost the war, not winning,” says Professor Wolff.

The U.S. is facing such a loss now. The Biden Administration has announced the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, ending the 20-year war without the defeat of the Taliban, and without any conditions.

So who are the winners here?

Professor Wolff tackles this question in a short video, the first of a monthly Economic Update 10th Anniversary series that aims to look back at relevant moments from a decade ago to explore how, since then, capitalism - and its impact on our society and the world - has changed.

To kick off the series, Prof Wolff takes a look at defense spending, which 10 years ago was at its height, accounting for 4.5% of the total 2011 U.S. GDP. In the ensuing decade, who were the winners? Prof Wolff explains the answer.

“Today, all corporate taxes to the federal government amount to 1% of our GDP, one of the lowest rates in the last half century. But the proportion of the government's budget (in terms of its cost to the GDP) that goes to the military is 3.5%. In other words corporations, all of them, pay a small fraction of the amount of money given back in contracts to the military industrial complex. They are the winners.”

Outsized defense spending has pushed aside other social services such as health, education, infrastructure, and so much more. Prof Wolff asserts that a different allocation of funding could have resulted in a drastically different and more effective response to the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic and economic crash.  

Will this destructive prioritization continue? How can we learn from this history?

10 years ago, Economic Update with Richard Wolff was the first program produced by Democracy at Work, and it has brought you analysis of questions like these every week for a decade. 

Producing Economic Update has always depended on audience donations. To help us grow for another 10 years, please consider donating to Democracy at Work with a monthly gift. Our monthly supporters are invaluable to us, in that they allow us to plan for the future, and commit to bringing you more Economic Update. Thank you.


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  • Liz Phillips
    published this page in Updates 2021-04-27 09:48:15 -0400

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