Wall Street, War, and Revolution

Please look back at a tax-day piece I did on the United States’ harshly regressive and militarist (imperial) priorities, where I quoted Martin Luther King. Jr. on the need for a “radical restructuring of those priorities.

I broke down the US budget, using data from the National Priorities Project to show that anti-poverty, education, and other positive social expenditures were dwarfed by the federal government’s investment in what dominant discourse likes to call “Defense” and which many ZNet readers and writers understand to mean “Empire.” You can read this essay/posting at http://blog.zmag.org/index.php/weblog/entry/taxing_reflections_national_priorties_past_and_present/

Of course, “we” spend much more on “defense” – our imperial military – than all conceivable enemy states combined even as millions (including millions of US children and millions of Americans in working families) suffer from poverty and even deep poverty (less than half of the United States’ notoriously inadequate poverty level) in a county where the top 1 percent owns 40 percent of all wealth: the most unequal and wealth top-heavy nation in the “advanced” industrialized world. On wealth distribution in the US, see:


On poverty and inequality in the US, please check out some useful and quickly accessible information at http://www.inequality.org/execsummay04.html.

As Global Issues notes:

* “The US military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world’s.

* The US military budget is more than 8 times larger than the Chinese budget, the second largest spender.

* The US military budget is more than 29 times as large as the combined spending of the seven “rogue” states (Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) who spent $14.4 billion.

* It is more than the combined spending of the next twenty three nations.

* The United States and its close allies account for some two thirds to three-quarters of all military spending, depending on who you count as close allies (typically NATO countries, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and South Korea)

* The seven potential “enemies,” Russia, and China together spend $116.2 billion, 27.6% of the U.S. military budget

* The current (2005) United States military budget is larger than the military budgets of the next twenty biggest spenders combined, and six times larger than China’s, which places second. The United States and its close allies are responsible for approximately two-thirds of all military spending on Earth (of which, in turn, the U.S. is responsible for two-thirds), and spend 57 times more than the seven so-called “rogue” nations combined (Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria).

* Military spending accounts for more than half of the United States’ federal discretionary spending, which is all of the U.S. government’s money not spoken for by pre-existing obligations.”

See http://www.globalissues.org/Geopolitics/ArmsTrade/Spending.asp

Next, to shift gears (though not really), please go check out some information on how it appears that by last year at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians may have died because of the illegal and immoral U.S. invasion of their nation. I suggest starting with BBC, which did a nice job on the by now well known Lancet (leading British medical journal, not known for leftism) report last October at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3962969.stm. You can also see the more conservative numbers (with civilian deaths in the 20 thousands) based on official/ legal reporting requirements at Iraq Body Count http://iraqbodycount.net/. Please also see liberal New York Times columnist Bob Herbert’s useful Monday column on American journalism’s failure to cover civilian deaths in Iraq athttp://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/25/opinion/25herbert. html?th&emc=th.

Fine. Now please look at the full but brief text of a recent bit of web investment advice and reporting from “CNN/Money.” This enlightening dispatch, titled “Wall Street Has Embraced Defense Stocks: Can the Rally Last?,” reports that “defense” stocks are a shining jewel within a broadly bad investor market right now. “The reason,” CNN points out, is “fairly simple:” the imperial war on terrorism (what CNN calls “the ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention an increased focus on homeland security”). “Shares of the twenty U.S.-based defense companies with a market value of at least $1 billion are up 30 percent,” CNN notes, “during the past 12 months compared to just a 2 percent gain in the S&P 500.” I linked this story at http://money.cnn.com/2005/04/26/markets/defense/index.htm

In a broadly bad market, CNN reports, “one sector has held up quite well. And it’s helping to prove that one of the most overused cliches of professional sports is actually applicable to investing: You can’t win without a good defense. Shares of the ten defense and aerospace companies in the S&P 500 are up an average of 5 percent this year while the broader market has sunk 4 percent, according to Thomson/Baseline. Boeing (Research), up 15 percent year to date, is the second best performing stock in the Dow this year. Meanwhile Goodrich (Research) and Rockwell Collins (Research) have both surged nearly 20 percent.”

CNN quotes a leading funds manager whose firm owns shares of leading military contractors Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and United Technologies. “In spite of clear budgetary constraints,” this manager explains, “there hasn’t been any attempt to reign in defense spending.” This marvelous militarist budget exceptionalism “should be reflected,” CNN notes, “in the strong first quarter numbers that most defense firms are expected to post this week. Lockheed Martin (Research), for example, reported on Tuesday morning that earnings increased a better than expected 27 percent from a year ago. Meanwhile, L-3 Communications (Research), a spin-off of Lockheed that makes intelligence and surveillance systems, reported that its first quarter profits surged 42 percent from the same period last year. L-3 boosted its 2005 forecast as well. Later this week,” CNN adds, “Boeing, Goodrich, Northrop Grumman (Research), Raytheon (Research), and Rockwell Collins are all on tap to release their first quarter results. All of these companies, with the exception of Boeing, are expected to post year-over-year earnings gains in excess of 30 percent.”

Call your broker right now. You can ask your minister or priest what he thinks next Sunday

In this investor report, the people on the bloody receiving end of American “defense equipment” and military “research” are invisible and irrelevant. The murderous immorality and illegal nature of the “ongoing military operations” are invisible and irrelevant (like the predominantly nonwhite and nonviolent inmates who are incarcerated in the many hundreds of prisons that serve as rural “economic development” [actually quite flawed in economic as well as moral terms] in America, the world’s leading incarceration state). Also invisible: the domestic social and antipoverty opportunity cost of the billions of taxpayer dollars we are spending to make these increasing “defense” company profits possible.

War and empire are just two more investments, good places right now for the savvy market actor with a wad of cash he or she wants to thicken. Big Pharma’s down (with all those drugs being pulled off the shelves these days), but Big Empire is looking good (with all those bombs and missiles being pulled off the shelves these days), at least to those who do their stock market “homework.”

As that naughty Mr. Marx noted in the 1840s, capitalism has no soul. It reduces everything material and spiritual to the gutter morality of “the cash nexus” and “drowns” all past human values, commitments, and activities “in the icy waters of egotistical calculation.” It’s an evil system, perfected of in its core socio-pathology by the rise of The Corporation, that powerful fictitious personality that mobilizes stupendous collectivities of capital for the sole purpose of ripping investor profit out of humanity, earth, animal life, and sky.

Capitalism is soul death…among other kinds. Its moral and ethical homework comes in late and mangled when it arrives at all. Like war, with which it is intimately linked, it is “the enemy of all [hu]mankind.”

Read all this and pass it on to some of your non-radical friends and acquaintances and ask them if this helps them get it. Ask them if it assists them in understanding why some of us cannot resist the call to dedicate significant parts of our lives to — strange as the words may sound in these times — the revolution.

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