Peace Dividend - the True Economic Stimulus
(Daniel Martin and John Rachel - Rev. 04/05/21)
Most everyone pays attention when something like the Covid Relief bill is passed…because most everyone is directly effected. People want their $1400 checks, and 90% of American households are getting them. However, little attention is paid to the consequences of piling on to our already massive deficit. Americans want the extra money now, and to defer the government’s budgetary problems for later…let future government worry about it. And who can blame them?
We propose an economic stimulus that can happen every year, one that can be used to both reduce the national debt and pay direct dividends to our citizens, potentially in amounts orders of magnitude greater than the Covid stimulus checks. This requires getting on board with the non-interventionist principles of Libertarians, and the Liberty-wing of the Republican Party (Senator Rand Paul, Congressman Thomas Massie, etc.).
“Deficits will have to be trimmed, but not all deficits are created equal. Deficit spending that goes to households who need help in a downturn is different than deficit spending that goes toward endless wars. Washington politicians are quick to phrase wasteful spending in terms of small discretionary items or special interest tax giveaways, which are due for belt-tightening, but there are much larger examples of waste that few talk about.
War overseas has cost American taxpayers more than $5 trillion since 2001. We spend about $40 billion in Afghanistan every year, which excludes some of the longer-term costs of the war, and billions more protecting wealthy Germany and South Korea. The United States spends $50 billion on foreign aid every year, often as a subsidy for defense contractors, because the money is earmarked to allow the foreign countries to buy U.S. military wares.
This spending is of dubious value. A clear candidate for reform is the amount of money we spend overseas, which stems from our overstretched military position, especially in the Middle East. A simple solution is to start paring back this unnecessary military position and spending. Eventually, Americans may be asked to make sacrifices. Before then, Washington special interests and foreign policy adventurism must make sacrifices also.” - William Krumholz, via The Federalist, 3/04/2021
So How Does the Peace Dividend Work?
Many good bills have been introduced which address our out-of-control military spending: the Audit The Pentagon Acts of 2013 and 2017 (H.R.559/S.1510 and H.R.3079, respectively), the War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007 (S.119), and the Stop Arming Terrorists Act (115th - H.R.608), to name just a few. None of these bills made any headway into becoming legislation, because there was not enough visible vested interest by constituencies to create enough accountability to offset the political risks of taking on the pro-war foreign lobby. “To get the plan underway requires that we package peace in an entirely different way, that instead of only appealing to pity and conscience, we focus on personal self-interest. This is not meant to be cynical. It’s not that people don’t care about suffering. It’s that most individuals care first about the suffering of those immediately around them, not those in far flung nations they can barely find on a map.” - John Rachel, February 20, 2017
Adding a Peace Dividend amendment to any of these bills would solve this conundrum. Or a new and broader bill could be introduced, similar to the Budget Control Act of 2011 (S.627) but specific to auditing war spending by identifying the items of “dubious value” as discussed above and below, and encompassing an overall strategy aiming for a combination of spending cuts and redistribution towards a fund earmarked for “Peace Dividends”; resulting in checks paid out directly to American households. The exact amounts to distribute can be debated, but because spending cuts may be unpopular in some circles (neoconservative think tanks, employees of weapons manufacturers, advocates of Keynesian economics, etc.), it should be enough to create the political good will to offset any negativity about it…and to get the constituency behind it.
What are Some More Specifics About the Kind of Waste That Can Be Eliminated?
- A report by the Department of Defense (DOD) estimates that the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria cost U.S. taxpayers over $1.5 trillion from 2001-2018, or a total of $7,740 per taxpayer.
- A Michigan State University study detailing DoD and Housing and Urban Development budgets between 1999-2015 found $21 trillion unaccounted for. “This is $65,000 for every man, woman and child resident in America.” - Former Assistant Secretary of Housing Catherine Austin Fitts. The Pentagon has subsequently failed two audits in a row, and as of this writing remains the only government agency yet to pass one. Yet, there have been no consequences or fundamental changes to its spending habits. DoD comptroller Thomas Harker last year projected a timeline where an audit wouldn’t be truly passed until around 2027.
- A 2017 article by The Nation, “Here’s Where Your Tax Dollars for ‘Defense’ Are Really Going,” notes that nearly half of the over $600 billion DOD’s budget from the previous year was spent in the form of contract awards to corporations. It goes on to show a shockingly low amount of this going toward actual “defense.”
- According to a March 1, 2021 MilitaryTimes article, a U.S. government watchdog “reviewed $7.8 billion spent since 2008 on buildings and vehicles. Only $343.2 million worth of buildings and vehicles ‘were maintained in good condition’”. The rest “were either abandoned or destroyed.”
These are just a few of many. Also see John Rachel’s 2016 suggestions on his “Paying For the Peace Dividend” blog post on the following pages, for paying out approximately $6 trillion over a period of three years. These should be adjusted for inflation and additional spending since.
War is How We've Always Handled Things...Why Now?
One of the benefits of the post-Trump era is that skepticism of media is now at an all time high. Mainstream media is one of the things that needs to be audited as part of this process, for its complicit role in reporting these wars in a manner that manufactures consent. There is no time like now, and this is an opportunity to garner good will with voters, to get on the right side of history, and to push back against a Democratic Party that has assumed control of the Presidency and both chambers of Congress. Democrats have proven themselves to be the more aggressive war party, from expanding the nation’s wars from 4 to 7 during the Obama administration, to running Henry Kissinger protege Hillary Clinton for President in 2016, to their subsequent pushing of Trump to be more hawkish, as part of their binary efforts to oppose him in every manner during his presidency. (Since he did at least campaign on ending wars.)
“We’ve gone to a liberal form of John Bolton.” - Senator Rand Paul
This is not meant to further polarize, and it is not to say there aren’t bright spots in the Democratic Party. Former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, for a brief period during her Presidential campaign before the 2020 Primary, included a “#PeaceDividend” in some of her tweets. The current administration, however, and the war records of so many members of Biden’s cabinet, are of great concern. The illegal bombing of Syria barely a month into his Presidency is indicative of what may be more to come.
“This latest Biden airstrike is being spun as “defensive” and “retaliatory” despite its targeting a nation the US invaded (Syria) in response to alleged attacks on US forces in another nation the US invaded (Iraq). You can’t invade a nation and then claim self-defense there. Ever.” - Caitlin Johnstone
OK, So Our Current Wars Aren't Really About Self-Defense. What About Our Wars of Humanitarian Intervention? Isn't This a Good Strategy and Good For the People of the Target Nation?
In short, no. “One of the lessons we might learn, we might learn from Iraq also, is that regime change does’ work…that Thomas Jefferson isn’t waiting in the wings, and American-style democracy is to going to blossom…and when you get rid of a tyrant maybe you get another tyrant.” - Senator Rand Paul, while questioning Biden State Department nominee Wendy Sherman
The debacle of the Iraq War is living proof of this. The ever-shifting narrative on why we intervened and continue to have troops in Syria also shows that “humanitarian intervention” is just the excuse du jour at the time the term is used. One need only do a search in Google Trends to get an accurate picture of how concern in the United States for the well-being of people in Libya under Qaddafi was manufactured by the media.
“Interest in Libyan human rights spikes massively 10 years ago then falls to almost nothing after March 19, 2011, the day the US/NATO began its intervention…”
-Alan MacLeod, 2/11/2021
Why Not Use All the Savings Towards Paying Down National Debt?
People require a vested interest in ending war. As noted above, not everyone fundamentally supports spending cuts, nor questions media. People do not realize how much the deficit, inflation, and the economy effect them, and most would prefer the instant gratification of a check. See John Rachel’s notes on packaging peace.
Why Not Use All the Savings Towards Dividends?
Balancing the budget is the better long term strategy. And while direct checks can have a significant economic stimulating effect, that effect is limited and temporary. We cannot lead people to dependency on regular peace dividend checks. We just need to distribute enough to pique citizens’ interest and get them invested in a noninterventionist foreign policy.
Will We Be Able to Maintain a Strong Military and National Defense?
Yes. The idea isn’t to take away ALL Military spending, nor to become a pacifist nation. It is to eliminate spending waste…our false-premised wars are just an extension of this. Furthermore, the wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Afghanistan have done nothing to make our nation “more safe”. In fact, studies show an increase of terrorism since the beginning of the “war on terror”. “Civilian drone deaths (not always reported) create more enemies, meaning more of our troops will be put in harm’s way eventually.” - Daniel Martin, via The American Conservative, 12/15/17. But that doesn’t justify even more spending for national defense. The cycle cannot continue forever without the bottom dropping out. Moreover, greater investment in our own economy will result in greater technological progress…economic stimulus leads to innovation, innovation leads to a more effective military. Reduction in military spending need not weaken our national defense in the least bit. Over the long term it will actually strengthen it.
Peace Dividend Concept (excerpt)
Here’s the premise: With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, American citizens were promised a “peace dividend”, i.e. less money for war, more for peace and a good life for all. The U.S. military under misguided leadership has attacked eight countries since then. The defense budget has exploded, buying a lot of junk that doesn’t work and military hardware we don’t need.
It’s time for a fresh new narrative, and a vibrant national conversation. It’s time to start thinking and talking about peace again.
The Peace Dividend strategy is a direct attack on America’s systemic addiction to war by appealing to the self-interest of its citizens, literally INCENTIVIZING citizens to redirect their thinking and start WORKING FOR PEACE!
The Peace Dividend: Could It Really Happen? (excerpt)
…the military-industrial-security complex allied with a deranged inner circle inside our foreign policy institutions, have perpetrated over the past two-and-a-half decades the most odious fraud in history. This conservatively amounts to stealing $5.97 trillion of taxpayer money.
The VOTING public sees this as more evidence that the “system is rigged”, that “they are getting shafted”, that they are again being had by the establishment blowhards who never do anything for everyday citizens. Here we have the seeds, the tinder for a MASSIVE VOTER REVOLT. We unite these angry, frustrated voters into a VOTING BLOC, rejecting business as usual — fraud as usual! — behind the demand of justice and fair compensation in the form of the Peace Dividend Refund.
Paying For The Peace Dividend (excerpt)
Understandably, the first reaction I get when I tell people we’re going to get the U.S. government to refund to its citizens $5,972,000,000,000 is: “What? We can’t afford that. Our government is already in hock over $21 trillion and every year since 2000, we’ve been running a deficit.”
Aside from the fact that the deficit spending — which has been the focus of overwrought debates, ultimatums, government shutdowns, and a celebrated hand grenade tossed back and forth in the political blame game — is both unnecessary and entirely intentional, the ultimate impact of the Peace Dividend is actually to remedy such fiscal irresponsibility. The Peace Dividend refund drives a whole host of fundamental reforms which will over time help to put our financial house in order. However, that’s a topic for another blog.
The Peace Dividend is paid out over three years. Thus, each year we have to come up with a little over $2 trillion each fiscal year.
Here’s how we do it. Here’s how we raise a minimum of $2 trillion dollars each year . . .
$300 billion . . . cut from the official DOD budget.
$43 billion . . . cut from future Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria war budgets.
$45 billion . . . cut from homeland security agency budgets.
$32 billion . . . cut from the black budgets of the NSA and CIA.
$102 billion . . . raised from closing tax loopholes and taxing offshored money.
$469 billion . . . ending unnecessary and counter-productive corporate welfare.
$250 billion . . . raised by issuing domestic-use-only Peace Dollars.
$250 billion . . . raised issuing Peace Bonds for investing in a peaceful future.