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Is There An Alternative To Endless Military Spending?

The U.S. faces unprecedented internal crises, and yet its defense spending continues to grow.

Despite the end of the war in Afghanistan, the United States’ military budget continues to balloon. At the same time, the country faces a series of internal social crises–from political polarization to homelessness to a lack of healthcare access. Writers Bill Astore and Dick Price joined Roundtable to discuss whether there’s an alternative to the country’s ballooning military budgets.

Politicians have anticipated our current situation for generations—at least since Dwight Eisenhower’s landmark 1961 speech warning against the growth of the military-industrial complex. Writer and retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Bill Astore notes that Eisenhower’s admonishment remains prescient today. “What Ike was talking about is that we had to work toward world peace and human betterment,” Astore says. “That doesn't mean we get rid of all spending on national defense. It doesn't mean that we disarm. It means that we make prudent decisions about what we need to spend on defense. And we don't spend a penny more than what we need."

Vietnam veteran and Hollywood Progressive founder Dick Price argues that the U.S. ought to divert spending towards addressing social issues. “In the United States, our society right now is at a deep crisis. We're fraying at the edges. We need to invest in ourselves,” he says. “Tens of thousands of people are homeless here in Los Angeles, and yet we don't seem to have a solution.”

Still, external threats by other major powers continue to loom. “It's true that China is growing in strength, but we've seen this before,” Astore says, “when we had the Cold War with the United States and the Soviet Union.” Astore argues that defense spending isn’t necessarily the most important, or effective, deterrent. “It's not necessarily that the best way to control [China] is to keep building more and more weapons here in the United States.”

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