U.S. Military Spending and Poverty Reduction

SEATTLE, Washington — The U.S. government’s military budget for 2019 is $716 billion. That number is one of the highest budgets in modern history. Furthermore, this amount is greater than the military budgets of the seven next largest budgets combined: Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the United Kingdom and Japan. Looking over the budget for the last 40 years shows that the U.S. expenditure for its military budget is always significantly higher than in other countries. In the U.S., the difference between military spending and poverty spending needs to be addressed.

Comparing Military Spending and Poverty Spending

Such a large budget, especially when compared to other major world superpowers, prompts the concern that more of this money could be spent to help the world’s poor. Here is an overview of the battle between military spending and poverty. This $716 billion budget is allocated for military operations as well as buying new equipment. This equipment includes 77 fifth-generation fighters, two new submarines, three new destroyers and six new presidential helicopters. It accounts for 17 percent of the total federal budget for the year.

Meanwhile, in 2016, only 1.2 percent of the federal budget is distributed to foreign aid. In terms of GDP, foreign aid accounts for .18 percent of the total. This amount is much smaller than other industrialized countries and falls well below the United Nations target for member countries. Countries such as Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom all contribute .7 percent or more of the target set by the United Nations.

World Poverty Aid

This massive difference in military spending and poverty aid calls for a new approach and an examination at what part of that $716 billion could do for the world’s poor. Firstly, it is important to note that the U.S. spent more than $28 billion on foreign assistance in 2018. The largest sectors in this donation were health ($7.63 billion), humanitarian assistance ($7.21 billion) and program management ($2.80 billion).

To add to this amount by cutting military spending, even by just 5 percent, would add an additional $35.8 billion to foreign aid, which would more than double its current budget. A 10 percent cut would add $71.6 billion. As much as $107.4 billion could be added to foreign aid with only a 15 percent cut to military spending. Even the largest cut of 15 percent would still leave the U.S. military budget with $606.8 billion dollar budget, a budget very close to the budget in 2002 at the start of the War on Terror.

Foreign Aid

An increase in federal spending of this size could dramatically improve the lives of people around the world. In the past few years, U.S. foreign aid has produced phenomenal improvements in people’s living conditions. This includes providing food assistance to more than 53 million people, providing services to more than five million survivors of gender-based violence, helping 9.5 million people attain life-saving AIDS treatments and improving education opportunities for 52 million children.

An increased budget could double, possibly triple, the success of these initiatives around the globe. Much like the military, foreign aid is only as successful as long as it has the resources to be. The World Bank says “ effective aid should bring a package of finance and ideas.” Many organizations, both in the U.S. and internationally, are working to fight global poverty. These ideas could not come to fruition without the resources to do so.

Allocating budgets for the federal government is a struggle between many different priorities, military spending and poverty prevention being among the two most debated. When considering these budgets, it is important to think of the real world cost and exactly what that money could do for other people’s lives.

Zachary Sparks

Photo: Flickr


Comments are closed.