Why does America love war?

In America, we love our troops and during Memorial Day Ceremonies we remember and honor them. But while we love our troops, the truth is that we apparently love war even more.

From the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, here’s a list of the most significant wars and the number of US military casualties (dead & wounded) in each.

American Revolutionary War          (1775-1783)                                    10,623

War of 1812                                       (1812-1815)                                     6,765

Mexican American War                     (1846-1848)                                    17,435

Civil War                                            (1861-1865)                                  880,213

Various Indian Wars                        (1820-1890)                                        2,000

Spanish American War                            (1898)                                         4,108

Philippine-American War                 (1898-1913)                                        7,126

World War I                                      (1917-1918)                                     320,518

World War II                                     (1941-1945)                                  1,076,245

Korean War                                      (1950-1953)                                      157,530

Vietnam War                                    (1955-1973)                                      243,523

Gulf War I                                          (1990-1991)                                        2,415

Iraq War                                            (2003-2011)                                       36,211

Afghanistan                                      (2001-present)                                   21,000

Note:  This is not a complete list.  It’s only the significant wars – those with more than 1,000 dead and wounded.   There are at least another 10 “minor” wars and combat operations in our history.

Since its inception, the USA has been engaged in war for 154 years (65% of the years the country has been in existence). Let’s face it – we love war. WHY???

For the first 100 years, the young nation was protecting itself but since 1900, the wars have all been fought on foreign soil. Was America protecting itself and the interests of our allies? Certainly, but since 1945 there was also another significant factor at work.

The Great Depression of the 1930’s was ended by the dramatic increase in military spending needed to fight World War II. The greatest beneficiaries of this spending were the country’s largest corporations. Between 1942 and 1945, writes the historian Stuart D. Brandes, the net profits of America’s 2,000 biggest firms were more than 40 per cent higher than during the period 1936-1939. Less than 60 firms obtained 75 per cent of all lucrative military and other state orders. IBM, for example, increased its annual sales between 1940 and 1945 from 46 to 140 million dollar thanks to war-related orders, and its profits skyrocketed. This was a valuable lesson for business – profits can be earned more efficiently during times of war.

During his farewell address, President Eisenhower, the five-star general credited with winning WW II, warned the nation of the powerful and growing “military-industrial complex”. First as a soldier and then as President, he of all people, knew exactly what was going on. War is good for (American) business and the lobby of the military-industrial complex (the Pentagon and the corporations who supply the Pentagon) has been very effective in funding and convincing our politicians that we need to increase our own military spending and sell our weapons to just about anyone. It should come as no surprise that retiring Generals and Admirals regularly obtain high paying consulting (lobbying) jobs with the very companies who produce military equipment.

USA at war

In fiscal year 2015, American military spending is projected to account for 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending, a total of $598.5 billion. That’s roughly the same amount as the next 10 largest military budgets around the world – combined. Amazingly, the conservative movement in the country believes that it is wasteful to spend taxpayer dollars on initiatives that would help domestic citizens (projects to expand education, health-care, roads, bridges and high-speed trains) but that it is our patriotic duty to increase our spending of taxpayer money on the military and foreign wars.

Americans like to think of themselves as a peace-loving nation, but our behavior does not support that proposition.

Is the money being spent on US elections worth the result?

buyingsomevotesAccording to the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute, in 1986, the average cost of winning a seat in the US House of Representatives was $360,000. In the 2012 elections, the average cost was $1.6m – an increase of 344%.   The average cost to win a seat in the Senate cost $6.4m in 1986 but that rose to $10.4m in 2012 – an increase of 62%.

As there are 435 seats in the House, the cost to elect the entire 2012 House of Representatives was $696m. And as there are 100 Senators, the cost to elect the 2012 Senate was $1.04 billion.  This is only the money spent by the people winning. If you assume that the losers spent similar amounts of money, then the money spent on the 2012 House and Senate elections was approximately double those figures or $3.4 billion.

BUT… those figures do not include the funds being spent by outside groups such as Political Action Committees (PACs). In 1986 outside groups spent less than $10m on ALL House and Senate races but with the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court which removed limits on political spending, outside groups spent $457m influencing the 2012 election.

Therefore the total money spent on the 2012 House and Senate elections was close to $4 billion.

In the Presidential race Barak Obama spent just over $1 billion to get elected. Mitt Romney spent approximately the same amount but lost. Their PACs each spent approximately $1 billion mostly attacking the other candidate. Therefore the money spent on electing a US president was approximately $4 billion.

So, in total, the cost to elect the President, the Senate and the House in the 2012 election was approximately $8 billion. (It is expected to be higher in 2016)

The government of the United Kingdom (which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is made up (primarily) of the House of Commons – in which there are 650 elected members and the Prime Minister is among these members. The total spend of all candidates in all parties in the 2010 UK election was just under $100m – and more than 50% of this was funded by the public. There are strict limits on the length of a campaign and the amount of money a candidate is permitted to spend. The theory is that candidates should be elected based on their qualifications and policy proposals and should not be beholden to major political donors. As a result, the average candidate spends less $50,000. – and most of this is secured from the public funding to which each eligible candidate is entitled. In other words, in the UK (at least for now), BIG money cannot and does not win elections.

In the USA, because there is no “public funding”, each candidate must raise the money they need to mount a competitive campaign. It is generally believed that the candidate with the most money has a better chance of winning. As a result, candidates spend much of their time fundraising. They do this before they are elected and also while in office because their re-election campaign typically starts the week after they are sworn into office.

Bottom line, here’s the difference:

US election campaigns last 2-3 years, have no spending limits and cost approximately $8 billion dollars every four years.  UK election campaigns last 5-6 weeks, have strict spending limits and cost less than $100m every five years.

In the US, we spend 80 times more to elect a government than they do in the UK. Are we getting an 80-times better result? I don’t think so.

Why do so many Americans hate Obama?

Obama HatersWhen I travel abroad or meet friends from other countries, they often ask:  “Why do you dislike your president so much?”  Here’s what I tell them:

  • It’s not because the country has had 64 consecutive months of job growth and has created 12 million jobs since 2009 when Obama first took office.
  • It’s not because the unemployment rate is now 5.4% (compared to 8.3% in January 2009).
  • It’s not because the rescue of the auto, insurance and banking industries actually worked – and most of the government money used to fund those rescues was returned (with interest).
  • It’s not because the annual Federal Deficit is now 2.7% of GDP (compared to 10% when Obama took office) and is now well below the 40-year average.
  • It’s not because Obama has the worst record of increasing the National Debt. Every President has increased the debt.  Under Obama it has increased by 70%.  Reagan increased the National Debt by 130%.  FDR increased the debt 1000% and Woodrow Wilson increased the debt by 700%.  Yes, the last two were war presidents – but Obama inherited two wars which turned out to be the longest wars in US history.
  • It’s not because interest rates are about as low as any of us can remember.
  • It’s not because US domestic oil production has increased by 66% since 2009 – reversing a steady decline from 1981 to 2008.
  • It’s not because America is now the #1 producer of oil and natural gas and is practically energy independent.
  • It’s not because the annual increase in health care costs is now slower than it has been for decades.
  • It’s not because the stock market is at an all-time high (compared to the horrible position it was in early in 2009)
  • It’s not because the US dollar has strengthened against every other major currency in the world.
  • It’s not because I (like many Americans) now have health-care coverage when in 2012 and 2013 every insurance company refused me coverage (regardless of the premium I was prepared to pay) because of a pre-existing condition.
  • It’s not because there is no Ebola pandemic in America (and there never was one).
  • It’s not because we now rarely see young American soldiers dying in Iraq or Afghanistan (something that used to be a daily occurrence).
  • It’s not because Obama killed bin Laden and helped get rid of Qaddafi of Libya and Morsi of Egypt
  • It’s not because Obama has killed more than 4,000 terrorists with drones with no cost to the lives of allied soldiers
  • It’s not because there were fewer US civilian deaths by organized terrorists under Obama than under any other recent president – Reagan (675), Clinton (444), GW Bush (3073), Obama (7 – including Benghazi and Boston Marathon).
  • It’s not because Obama has pardoned fewer convicted felons than Regan, H Bush, Clinton and GW Bush combined.
  • It’s not because Obama has issued 200 fewer Executive Orders than Regan, 170 fewer than Clinton and 97 fewer than GW Busch.
  • It’s not because Obama has exercised his veto only 4 times to override Congressional bills – unlike G W Bush (12), Clinton (37), G H Bush (44), Regan (78). In fact you have to go back 125 years to James Garfield to have fewer presidential vetoes.
  • It’s not because in the first 6 years of his presidency, Obama has taken fewer vacation days (161) than Bill Clinton (174), Ronald Reagan (390) or George W Bush (405).
  • It’s not because after 60 years of living with a failed policy regarding Cuba, Obama is now trying something different.
  • It’s not because Americans have not  lost their “freedom”  as many predicted.

No, people don’t hate him for any of the reasons above. They hate him because they either don’t know these facts or don’t believe any of these facts to be true.  They prefer to believe that these are untrue political statements created to defend an economy and an administration that is a complete and utter failure.

Alternatively they hate him because they believe that all of these “improvements” have nothing to do with him.  That it’s the US economy which has fixed itself in spite of Obama’s “mismanagement”.

But, if gas prices were $5 or interest rates were 12% or the Dow Jones was at 12,000 (instead of 18,000) or the US dollar was weak or Americans were dying in foreign wars or Obama was pardoning felons – then he would surely get the blame.

In early 2009 many predicted that Obama would cripple the economy, drive small businesses into bankruptcy, create a European socialist state in America, take everyone’s guns, push gas prices to $5 and suspend the constitution and appoint himself dictator for life.  None of that happened.

But wait – there’s still hope.  Maybe he’s waiting until his last month in office to destroy the country.

So, we apparently hate him not because of what actually happened during his Presidency, but in anticipation of what he might do.