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Month in Review September 2010: The Alchemy of Empire

COMMENTARY: Who Will Pay the Bill?


Like a credit card bill, the tab keeps going up, up, up. But the charges for the administration's "war on terrorism" run in the billions and we are all likely to be stuck with them.

A few days after the September 11 attacks, Congress approved a $40 billion "down payment" for national security and to support reconstruction, then a $45 billion budget increase for "discretionary spending" in light of the attacks, then $15 billion to bail out the airlines, then $20 billion mostly for the war, followed by a $328 billion military defense bill.

In January 2002, Bush asked for an additional $48 billion for the military (which surprised even the Pentagon), plus $10.7 billion for stiffer border control.

Who can even imagine such sums? Think of other needs that money could fill.

For $40 billion, you can cover the entire Department of Education budget for this year. How much would it cost to provide every uninsured child in the U.S. with health insurance? Just $13 billion. And housing? For $9 billion, every homeless family with children could be housed.

Spending on many basic needs will further diminish, given current priorities. Bush even cancelled a planned increase of $200 million to help abused children because, it was said, the government "can no longer afford it."

On Feb. 4, Bush proposed the biggest military buildup in 20 years while axing more than 20 job-training programs and cutting $200 million from new public housing.

In this time of recession, with massive job loss, people want relief. Instead Bush has given huge tax breaks to the wealthy. Out of the big cut in taxes last April, the richest one percent of taxpayers got 38 percent. Taxes that hit lower- and moderate-income families-like the sales tax-were not cut.
In the same spirit, absolutely none of the $15 billion airline bailout went to laid-off airline workers. Congress even voted down a bill to give $1.9 billion in relief to laid off workers in the airlines, tourism, restaurant and service industries.


The recession has already hurt people enough. But to make the rich richer and the poor poorer under the cover of fighting terrorism embodies a "culture of greed" that can be found elsewhere today.

When financial collapse threatened Enron, its top executives sold their stocks at up to $90 a share for a total of $1.1 billion-but ordinary employees were prevented from unloading their shares. They had to sell later, for as low as $1 a share, and there went their retirement funds.

Will Enron executives pay a serious price for their spectacular greed? After they shredded so many documents, what proof is left? Above all, the Houston-based company was Bush's top financial patron and 26 of the 29 members of Congress responsible for investigating Enron have also received campaign contributions. Enron avoided paying any income tax in four of the last five years and Bush's energy policy reads like Enron's wish list.

The word goes out from the White House, from Enron and from everyone making a profit off the "war against terrorism": it is we the people who will pay for that war. As the boss said, "let 'em eat cake."

Elizabeth Martinez is a War Times associate editor, an award-winning author, and a social justice activist.

Month in Review

August 2010:
U.S. Militarism

July 2010:
Making Monsters
of Nations

June 2010:
Passing the Torch

May 2010:
Militarism Run Amok

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War Weariness, Military Heft, and
Peace Building

The Global Military Industrial Complex

A Stalled
Peace Movement?

Bush's Iraq “Surge”: Mission Accomplished?

Iran: Let's Start with Some Facts

Nuclear Weapons Forever

Time to End the Occupation of Iraq

First-Hand Report from the Middle East

Haditha is Arabic
for My Lai

A Movement to End Militarism

From Soldier to
Anti-War Activist

Students Not Soldiers

Israel's "Disengagement"
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U.S. Soldiers
Say No To War

It's Still Going On

Help Stop Torture —
Raise Your Voice

Be All You Can Be:
Don't Enlist