Is there any connection between the U.S. posture of Endless war and the declining quality of life for Americans at home? Put another way, if the U.S. Government every year transfers hundreds of billions of dollars to the arms industry, the CIA, and the Pentagon to fight and fuel wars – as the U.S. is now doing in Ukraine and has been doing non-stop for the last 25 years – will that have any negative effect on the ability and willingness of the U.S. Government to provide more opportunities and better living conditions for its citizens?
Until recently, those questions need not even be asked. Its truth was glaringly obvious. That Americans had to choose between “guns and butter” became such conventional wisdom that its original authorship is not certain; it’s typically attributed to Secretary of State William Bryan, who resigned as Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State in 1915, in protest of Wilson’s obvious desire to involve the U.S. in the European War that became known as World War I, and in particular to the exploding costs of military spending, which he argued would destroy the American way of life at home.
Yet somewhere along the way, it became controversial, almost taboo, in establishment discourse to recognize this connection. And it seems deliberate.
Last week, a pro-war outlet that alternates between neoliberalism and its close cousin neoconservatism – called the New Republic – attacked Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the podcast host Jimmy Dore and myself for arguing that one reason to cease spending so much money on the proxy war in Ukraine – aside from the great danger of escalation between nuclear powers – is that that massive amount of money could find much better uses to improve the lives of American citizens – instead of fight over who will rule certain provinces in eastern Ukraine
According to that article, our attempt to connect massive war spending in Ukraine and elsewhere with Americans’ quality of life made us Kremlin propagandists – what doesn’t do that these days? – but it reflects the growing refusal to acknowledge that massive, endless spending on the American war machine drowns the country in debt, which in turn limits the government’s ability to attend to the needs of American citizens and improve the conditions of their lives.
Just today, The New York Times – a newspaper that has steadfastly supported Biden’s proxy war spending in Ukraine – published an editorial warning, as the headline announced, that “America is Living on Borrowed Money.” As a result, said the Paper of Record, Americans must brace for what the billionaire-owned paper called “painful choices” – namely, sharp cuts in the benefits most important to them:
Democrats must recognize that changes to Social Security and Medicare, the major drivers of expected federal spending growth, should be on the table. Anything less will prove fiscally unsustainable. (The New York Times. July 6, 2023)
The one question not mentioned in the editorial: whether the U.S. Government might want to consider taking a break from endless warfare and spending more than the next 14 countries combined on weapons acquisition. The idea that there is a connection between the wars cheered by the NYT and its comrades and the liberal establishment, and the quality of life of ordinary Americans of the kind rarely seen by the paper’s editors is not only ignored but rendered taboo. We’ll explore this question further.
Then: French President Emmanuel Macron is responding to unrest and protests in his country the way Western governments these days do: by plotting to roll back basic freedoms and civil liberties. Yesterday he warned that France would shut down all social media in the event of similar protests of the kind that swept the country last week after a 17-year-old boy was shot and killed by police while driving without a license, and today French lawmakers authorized its domestic spying agencies to start using cell phone data to track the population – specifically, reports Le Monde, “by remotely activating the camera, microphone and GPS of their phones and other devices.” We’ll examine these developments and the dynamic they raise.
Finally: several weeks ago, we reported that the U.S. intelligence community – the CIA, FBI, DHS and the rest – are purchasing what it calls “commercially available data” about Americans that is deeply invasive, enabling the collection of dossiers about our lives that are remarkably intimate and comprehensive. There’s an update to that story: there’s now a bipartisan bill pending that would ban the U.S. Security State from doing this. We’ll tell you all about that.
As a reminder, System Update is available in podcast form as well.