“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” said President Dwight Eisenhower, in his 1961 farewell address. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Ironically, President Eisenhower’s time in the White House was marred by a massive arms buildup spurred on by the “red scare” paranoia of the Cold War. Eisenhower didn’t heed his own advice during his presidency. In fairness, the American global military empire began long before Ike, and overspending on its military budget still persists today. The sphere of influence that the military has on our economy has only grown exponentially. Eisenhower’s prophetic words have come true. Military overspending dominates America’s industry and economy.
Over the past half century the United States has spent $5.5 trillion on nuclear weapons alone. That outrageously exceeds the combined spending on education, social services, job programs, environment, science, energy production, law enforcement, and community development. In the effort to achieve mutually assured destruction with Russia, America has achieved mutually assured stupidity. Granted, such military waste kept the Cold War from becoming hot, and thankfully we never used those nuclear weapons. Yet surely we could have used more diplomacy and saved some of that $5.5 trillion for programs which we really need and would definitely use here at home. America is falling apart internally as we keep our eyes on problems abroad. Our roads and infrastructure are crumbling while “the department of defense pays $511 for 90-cent light bulbs, $640 for a toilet seat, and $5,096 for two pairs of pliers” (p. 503, Social Problems, Charon and Garth).
Absolute power breeds absolute corruption. The United States military-industrial complex lacks any real system of checks and balances. Independent oversight committees exist, but they do not have the power or purity to stop this runaway train. Our military-industrial complex has become too powerful, and it is corrupting our economy from within.
This post is published as part of the Prison Op/Ed Project, an occasional series authored by CCRI sociology students who are incarcerated at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute.