No Money for Health Care at Home; Lots for “Defense” Abroad

You will hear – again and again – that Uncle Sam doesn’t have the money to provide care for the millions of Americans without health insurance. And if you consider the country’s national debt of more than 12 trillion dollars, fueled by an annual deficit approaching 1.2 trillion, you might be tempted to agree.

After all, if you added up all the annual economic activity in America you would get something like 14 trillion dollars, and none of us would want a debt burden equal to nearly a year’s income when we were digging ourselves deeper into the hole each year. Especially if we had to borrow money to pay the interest.

So where does America plan to get the money it is committing to “defense” and “strategic interests” around the world?

karzaiAs you may know by now, it costs a million dollars to keep a soldier in Afghanistan for a year. Yet the President is being asked to send 40,000 more troops there. If my third grade math can be trusted, that’s 40 thousand million – otherwise known as 40 billion – dollars. And that doesn’t include the billions spent on private contractors, bribes to warlords, perks for President Hamid Karzai (photo at left) and his drug dealing confederates, and all the other incidental expenses of the occupation. Giving General Stanley McChrystal the 40,000 soldiers he wants, along with training and equipping the Afghan army is projected to cost about $50 billion each year.

I don’t know how much it costs to keep a soldier in Iraq, but America still has a lot of them there despite President Obama’s campaign promise to bring them home. And apparently there are 40,000 American “troops” in Japan. That’s right – Japan! Can anyone explain why America is still occupying Japan? And America has hundreds of thousands more in places like South Korea, Germany and even the Balkans – about half a million men and women in uniform in some 150 foreign countries (map below shows where most US troops are concentrated).

mapI don’t think anyone knows the number of private contractors and other “civilians” representing America abroad, and how much they cost American taxpayers, but this nugget from an article by Farah Stockman in the Boston Globe will give you an idea:

Two thirds of the nearly $30 billion in international aid to Afghanistan has been routed through foreign consultants, companies and organizations hired by the U.S. government and its allies.

Pentagon spending this year is projected at $673 billion, for a 10-year total of $6.73 trillion (assuming costs don’t rise, and they always have in the past). With that kind of money floating around, you can imagine how much is “falling through the cracks.” To give you an idea, look at the recently published list of the world’s most corrupt countries. You will find Afghanistan and Iraq near the top of the list. (Iraq is number five; Afghanistan is number two – second only to Somalia.)

The media never tell American taxpayers where their “defense” money goes. How much, for example, is Colombia getting to give U.S. armed forces access to seven Colombian military bases over the next ten years? Details of the agreement between the United States and Colombia are shrouded in secrecy, but an article in the Colombian magazine Cambio this past summer drew international attention to a $46 million appropriation earmarked by the U.S. House of Representatives to upgrade the Palanquero base.

Why is America spending millions to assure access to Colombia’s military bases?  If you find out, you might let Hugo Chavez know. The Venezuelan president is eying the U.S.-Colombia pact with apprehension. What’s going on, anyway? Is Uncle Sam expecting to go to war with his Latin American neighbors? U.S. taxpayers will be the last to know.

What I would like to know is why America needs to spend so much money it obviously does not have to defend itself against enemies in such far-flung places. You don’t see China doing anything like that. Or Russia. Or any European or Asian country. In fact, the United States – alone! -accounts for about half of all global military spending. It’s no wonder that most other developed countries can afford to provide health care for their citizens.