Military spending: Much more than 'defense'

by Mary Ann McGivern

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How much do we spend on the military? $719 billion.

To help us understand how much $719,000,000,000 is, the American Friends Service Committee designed a 3 foot strip of paper, two inches high, where the Department of Defense budget stretches in red for more than half the space: 59 percent.

A little more than a foot of the paper strip is divided among Health and Human Services, 6 percent; Transportation, 6 percent; State Department, 4 percent; Education, 4 percent; and everything else the government spends money on.

American Friends doesn’t include Social Security and Medicare in the federal budget. We’ve made “entitlements” a bad word, but these are funds we’ve paid into our whole lives and they are reserved for our use.

The Feds didn’t used to include them in the budget either. But inclusion of Social Security and Medicare in the federal budget dilute the impact of interest on the debt as well as our arms budget that I refuse to refer to as “defense.”

When I unfolded and read this paper strip, I promptly ordered 200 of them and I’ve been distributing them at board meetings, luncheons and other gatherings. You can too. Just go to or call 1.888.588.2372.

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