Taxes, Debt and War

“War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes.” President James Madison (1751-1836)

Today well over half the discretionary federal budget (your income tax dollars) go for war, weapons of war and the bureaucracies of war – the “armies” from which “proceed debt and taxes.” A large percentage of the national debt is the result of Pentagon spending and the cost of wars. We spend more on “defense” than the next 10 military powers in the world combined (and most of those ten are our allies).

In 1953 President Dwight Eisenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed… This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

In 1959 Eisenhower also warned about the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex because “the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” And persist it did.

In 2023 economist Jeffrey Sachs wrote, “The $1.5 trillion in military outlays each year is the scam that keeps on giving—to the military-industrial complex and the Washington insiders—even as it impoverishes and endangers America and the world…Hundreds of billions of dollars are money down the drain, squandered in useless wars, overseas military bases, and a wholly unnecessary arms build-up that brings the world closer to WWIII.”

Martin Luther King spoke about the consequences of our militarism, ““A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

What do we have to show for all this waste of our nation’s wealth, resources, talent, and the lives of military service members? Lt. Col.(ret) William Astore says, “despite all our military might and spending. we are not winning any wars.” Today our nation is totally dominated by the merchants of death. The American people have been manipulated and deceived into paying way too much for “defense” with little to show for it.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs points out that, “In the past 20 years, every major US foreign policy objective has failed…US foreign policy seems to be utterly irrational. The US gets into one disastrous war after another…American foreign policy is not at all about the interests of the American people. [and today] the U.S. stands globally isolated in its support of Israel’s genocidal actions against the Palestinians…”

We have the most powerful, best equipped, most technologically advanced and most expensive military in the world. No country in the world has the military or logistical capacity to invade – much less conquer – the United States. We have not been invaded since 1812. Yet we are irrationally obsessed with national “defense.”

Pentagon sending is huge and it increases every year regardless of any real “threats” to our country. It goes up regardless of which party is in power or who controls Congress. Plus, the Pentagon is notorious for waste and poor financial management. Robert Weissman, head of the advocacy organization Public Citizen, has written, “We are racing toward a trillion-dollar military budget that tolerates and encourages mind-blowing waste, rewards military-industrial complex political spending with unfathomably large contracts and fails to address priority national security needs.”

The National Priorities Project ( has analyzed the Biden administration’s proposed FY 2025 discretionary budget (beginning October 1, 2024) They say the $1.6 trillion discretionary budget request allocates $1.1 trillion (69%) for war related spending and only $499 billion (31%) for all other discretionary spending needs. According to the Biden administration’s figures, this “militarized” funding includes:

  • $850 billion for the Pentagon
  • $34 billion for nuclear weapons
  • $11.6 billion in international military aid
  • $62 billion funding for the Department of Homeland Security, including $9.3 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and $17 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • $113 billion for Veterans’ Affairs medical programs.

This does not include all war spending such as war related interest on the national debt. The NPP concludes this budget, “won’t provide the security we need, in terms of costs of living, quality of life, climate change, or securing peace.”

Cost of War Project at Brown University published a report on military spending in 2022 that finds similar conclusions. The report says, “…continuing to spend in this way will ensure that the military industrial sector grows at the expense of other, more generative economic sectors…reducing the military budget and funding other priorities such as healthcare, education, clean energy, and infrastructure will help increase other forms of security – the kind of meaningful human security rooted in good health, good living conditions, and a productive and well-educated society – while also increasing employment nationwide.”

David Swanson is the executive director of World Beyond War. Currently international polls show the U.S. is the most feared, hated (and most protested) country in the world. He says we could be “…the most beloved nation on earth…[and] the idea of anti-American terrorist groups would be as laughable as anti-Switzerland or anti-Canada terrorist groups. “

Mr. Swanson suggests a better way to protect our country. He says using a portion of our huge military spending to increase economic and humanitarian aid to other countries would make us and the rest of the world safer and better off. Instead of being the world’s largest arms dealer – exacerbating and fueling conflicts – we could be the world’s biggest supplier of education, schools, medicine, health, clean water, food security and other assistance to improve people’s lives. We could become the world’s biggest advocate for mediation and non-violent conflict resolution. We could actually use our wealth and influence to help improve the world instead of protecting our selfish “national interests” (and military contractor’s profits).

As a nation we do not understand that national security involves much more than weapons and troops. Diplomacy and good relationships with our neighbors are essential for real security. We need a new foreign policy that wages peace and projects cooperation instead of trying to dominate and control the world with military power.

If you are concerned about taxes, government spending, budget deficits or government waste you need to look at our nation’s eight decades of excessive military spending.