National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, a recurring bipartisan crime

On July 14 the US House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2018;  Ayes 344, Noes 81. Among the 117 Democratic aye-sayers was Congressman Jim Langevin. Congressman David Cicilline opposed the bill.

The White House had requested $600 billion, but House members generously added an extra $100 billion. Nobody knows how much money is wasted on the war racket, but this $700 billion does not include spending of Departments of Energy and Homeland Security, nor any of the 16 or so Departments of Deep State.

Let’s put this astronomical amount of money in context, for simplicity rounding it to $1 trillion, a conservative estimate.

What could this kind of money buy? The one-person poverty level in the US is about $10,000. For $1 trillion we could raise 100 million people out of poverty. We would be able to afford a universal basic income and then some. Instead, in overt violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, money will go to modernization of the US nuclear attack force, as discussed in an under-reported article published in March in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The article explains that the effect of this ongoing nuclear program is to undermine strategic stability, whatever that may mean against the background of  World War Three, by Mistake.

Much of  the Bulletin article is technical, but the first paragraphs are simple and shocking:

The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing—boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three—and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.

The second paragraph is of particular interest to Rhode Island:

Because of improvements in the killing power of US submarine-launched ballistic missiles, those submarines now patrol with more than three times the number of warheads needed to destroy the entire fleet of Russian land-based missiles in their silos. US submarine-based missiles can carry multiple warheads, so hundreds of others, now in storage, could be added to the submarine-based missile force, making it all the more lethal.

Rhode Island leadership never misses an opportunity to celebrate the great contributions of Electric Boat to the Rhode Island economy. This press release sums up the views of  our Democratic establishment, Governor Gina Raimondo, the Rhode Island congressional delegation, and assorted luminaries. Slightly updating Samuel Johnson, the collective wisdom is summed up by:

Patriotism, masquerading as a job program, is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Back to the theme of putting the $1 trillion war budget in context. As mentioned, the ruling elites say to no lifting of 100 million people out of poverty.  As they increase the chances of nuclear holocaust, the refuse to do anything substantial about the second existential threat of our generation, climate chaos.

Unless the gods of the free market come to their rescue, our leadership will not bring energy consumption in line with the demands of climate change. Supposedly, doing so at a rate consistent with nature’s time table is not practical.

Here is the energy context of the war budget. The Invenergy-Raimondo one-gigawatt power plant will cost $700 million. For the money spent on US Empire we could buy—not that we want them!—1,500 such one-gigawatt power plants each year. It turns out the total average power consumption of the US is 100 Quads per year. (Hey, we’re an empire; why would we use International System of Units?) That is the equivalent of 3,000 one-gigawatt power plants.

The conclusion of this back of the envelope argument is simple:

  • Call the troops back;
  • Reallocate the funds and use the human resources as consistent with common morality;
  • Within five years we can have a just transition—yes, that includes our fellow Rhode Islanders who work for EB workers—to a green economy, well before the 2035 deadline demanded here.

How about Congressman Langevin’s celebratory tweets about the passing of his climate change amendment to the defense act? This was reported in Langevin Applauds House Approval of Climate Change Language in the NDAA. Also Secretary John Kerry’s response was impressed:

1) Big congrats to my former NE colleague @JimLangevin: huge win today on the NDAA and a longtime champion against climate change.

The answer to the question about the Langevin amendment depends on which side you are on:

  • The words of the actors of our congressional Kabuki theater;
  • The votes showing their budgetary priorities.
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Peter Nightingale is a theoretical physicist and teaches at the University of Rhode Island. He strives to leave behind a more just and peaceful, sustainable post-capitalist world for future generations, and his children and grandchildren in particular.

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