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Robbing the People to Pay the Pentagon By Matthew Hoh

For many Americans, the costs of militarism and the military-industrial complex are enormously consequential to them, their families and their communities. However, these costs are not transparent, often hidden from view, and not readily identifiable for their direct tradeoffs. Although our federal government’s revenue and spending do not technically work as a system of money in and money out, that conception and perception allow for a scarcity argument by politicians that we can’t afford investments in our people and communities. Needs such as education, healthcare, climate, housing, and wages, that are just as much required investments in our economy as they are necessities for working families, are under-resourced because we are told by our politicians that “we can’t afford it.” The question is, then, what can we afford? 

What we do seem to be able to afford, or at least what our political leaders prioritize, are institutions devoted to violence and the aftermath of violence. In our federal FY 2024 $1.6 trillion discretionary budget, $1.1 trillion - 70% - goes to the military and law enforcement (the Pentagon alone receives 51% of federal discretionary spending). Within that spending for war and prisons, the second largest tranche, $154 billion, goes to the Veterans Administration, money spent to clean up the mess made of veterans following war. 

Recognizing the extent to which we all bear the brunt of militarism and the military-industrial complex is a unifying factor. These costs bridge our diverse concerns and issues as the Pentagon and its wars take from us all. Many Americans feel issues of war and peace may not affect them in their hometowns but they do in the form of under-resourced schools, denial of healthcare, failure to deal with climate change and many other aspects of our society the war machine steals from.

Matthew has been a Senior Fellow with the Center for International Policy since 2010. In 2009, Matthew resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan with the State Department over the American escalation of the war. The Council on Foreign Relations has cited Matthew’s resignation letter from his post in Afghanistan as an Essential Document. In 2010, Matthew was named the Ridenhour Prize Recipient for Truth Telling, and, in 2021, he was awarded as a Defender of Liberty by the Committee for the Republic. Matthew is a member of the Board of Directors for the Institute for Public Accuracy, an Advisory Board Member for the Committee to Defend Julian Assange and Civil Liberties, Expose Facts, North Carolina Committee to Investigate Torture, The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice, Veterans For Peace, and World Beyond War, and he is an Associate Member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). He is a 100% disabled veteran and was certified by North Carolina as a Peer Support Specialist for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder.


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