Presidents often send out warnings during their farewell address.
It started with our first President, George Washington where he warned a new nation about the dangers of political parties, writing about the “baneful effects of the spirit of the party.”
One hundred and sixty five years later, President and former celebrated general, Dwight Eisenhower solemnly spoke to a televised nation saying,
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
The four-star general’s words fell on deaf ears in Washington as military spending, and military conflict continued to rise.
Today, in 2018, within our $4.4 trillion national budget (the majority of which is mandatory spending for Social Security, Obamacare, etc.) is a budget just shy of $600 billion for military spending.
Of that $600 billion, just one fifth goes to pay our military members.
The vast majority of funds goes to procure and maintain our arsenal of thousands of high tech planes, 430 in-service ships, missiles and communication equipment.
That means that nearly half of our budget is handed over to a handful of defense contractors.
How are these defense contractors doing?
Just taking a look at the pay of their CEO’s it’s fair to say that Eisenhower would have issues.
Here are the numbers:
- Boeing: Former CEO James McNerney pulled in $29 million in total compensation in 2014. While new CEO Dennis Muilenburg earned $16.9 million in 2017.
- Lockheed Martin: CEO Marillyn Hewson received $25 million in 2014 and $19.4 million in 2016.
- Raytheon: Chief Executive Thomas Kennedy was handed $20.4 million in 2015 and $13.7 million in 2016.
- General Dynamics: Chairman and CEO Phebe Novakovic joined Lockheeds CEO as one of the top earning women in America, taking in $21 million in 2017.
- Northrop Grumman: Chairman and CEO Wesley Bush made $16 million in 2017 on par with his high flying colleagues.
- United Technologies Corp: CEO Gregory Hayes was on the low end of the scale receiving $15.7 million in 2017.
- L3 Technologies: CEO Michael Strianese made $10.4 million in 2015.
- BAE Systems: The UK company’s CEO makes a pawltry average of $3 million each year.
The heads of just the top eight defense contractors for the United States military earn $106 million a year combined.
However, that number is only .01% of our military spending.
In the defense of these executives, their pay is actually below the salaries for large retail companies like Walmart, Chipotle and CVS.
Also, it should be said that defense CEO’s are making peanuts compared to the $66 million made by UnitedHealth Group’s CEO and they appeared to have significantly and collectively cut their earnings after the inauguration of Donald Trump.
But Eisenhower’s warning wasn’t about spending, it was about peace.
Within the military industrialized complex, peace and profits are at constant odds with each other and if you look at the stock prices of those eight companies above since 2000, you’ll notice a common, meteoric rise that took place starting in 2013.
If you recall, that was when the Middle East via Syria started to explode once again and defense spending for Middle East nations skyrocketed to a $920 billion commitment through 2020.
While the United States had no national interest in the Syrian civil war, that didn’t stop the Obama administration from meddling in their internal problems nor did it stop Sen. John McCain from drafting a resolution authorizing the use of military force against the country.
As a matter of fact, Senator McCain calls for “war powers” debate after just about every attack that takes place overseas.
Days after 9/11, McCain called for an attack on Iraq (again), despite no evidence pointing to their involvement.
He’s also made cases for war against Nigeria, Ukraine, North Korea, Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Sudan.
McCain, who has a clear track record of being the first out of the box to recommend military force, also represents Arizona which is home to hundreds of defense companies including BAE, General Dynamics, Raytheon Missile Systems, etc.
John McCain is not alone in his hawkishness, but his political support for war nearly always comes from democrats who, despite their “peace and love” mantra, have never met a war they didn’t want to jump in bed with.
All of the major wars in the 20th Century, WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam, were all entered into by Democrats.
While it’s a hard line to draw to insinuate that America’s defense companies are drumming up war, it can easily be argued that politicians looking to appease voters (who collect their pay from defense companies), won’t hesitate to start a war for profit . . . political or otherwise.
While McCain’s war-drum-beating over the years is overt and direct, democrats support for war is far different and falls in line with their “politics of division” that have worked so well with race, gender and identity.
Each time an opportunity arises to spend another dollar on defense, or go to war with some nation we have nothing to do with, politicians of all stripes are quick to rally around the flag with patriotic fervor and look down upon anyone who dare question their decisions.
As they do that, the spirit of George Washington looks down on us and repeats, “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”