Source: Common Dreams
Maintaining the U.S. status as “No. 1” in war and war preparations comes at a very high price
Maybe those delirious crowds chanting “USA, USA” have got something. When it comes to military power, the United States reigns supreme. Newsweek reported in March 2018: “The United States has the strongest military in the world,” with over 2 million military personnel and vast numbers of the most advanced nuclear missiles, military aircraft, warships, tanks, and other modern weapons of war. Furthermore, as the New York Times noted, “the United States also has a global presence unlike any other nation, with about 200,000 active duty troops deployed in more than 170 countries.” This presence includes some 800 overseas U.S. military bases.
In 2017 (the last year for which global figures are available), the U.S. government accounted for over a third of the world’s military expenditures―more than the next 7 highest-spending countries combined. Not satisfied, however, President Trump and Congress pushed through a mammoth increase in the annual U.S. military budget in August 2018, raising it to $717 billion. Maintaining the U.S. status as “No. 1” in war and war preparations comes at a very high price.
That price is not only paid in dollars—plus massive death and suffering in warfare―but in the impoverishment of other key sectors of American life. After all, this lavish outlay on the military now constitutes about two-thirds of the U.S. government’s discretionary spending. And these other sectors of American life are in big trouble.
Let’s consider education. The gold standard for evaluation seems to be the Program for International Student Assessment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which tests 15-year old students every few years. The last test, which occurred in 2015 and involved 540,000 students in 72 nations and regions, found that U.S. students ranked 24th in reading, 25th in science, and 41st in mathematics. When the scores in these three areas were combined, U.S. students ranked 31st―behind the students of Slovenia, Poland, Russia, and Vietnam.
The educational attainments among many other Americans are also dismal. An estimated 30 million adult Americans cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third grade level. Literacy has different definitions and, for this reason among others, estimates vary about the level of illiteracy in the United States. But one of the most favorable rankings of the United States for literacy places it in a tie with numerous other nations for 26th; the worst places it at 125th.