Want to Tackle Unemployment? Reduce Military Spending
... As Brown University’s Costs of War project has reported, “$1 billion in military spending creates approximately 11,200 jobs, compared with 26,700 in education, 16,800 in clean energy, and 17,200 in health care.” Military spending actually proved to be the worst job creator of any federal government spending option those researchers analyzed. Similarly, according to a report by Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for every $1 million of spending on defense, 6.9 jobs are created both directly in defense industries and in the supply chain. Spending the same amount in the fields of wind or solar energy, she notes, leads to 8.4 or 9.5 jobs, respectively. As for the education sector, the same amount of money produced 19.2 jobs in primary and secondary education and 11.2 jobs in higher education. In other words, not only are the green energy and education areas vital to the future of the country, they are also genuine job-creating machines. Yet, the government gives more taxpayer dollars to the defense industry than all these other government functions combined.
You don’t, however, have to turn to critics of defense spending to make the case. Reports from the industry’s own trade association show that it has been shedding jobs. According to an Aerospace Industries Association analysis, it supported approximately 300,000 fewer jobs in 2018 than it had reported supporting just three years earlier.
If the nation’s top defense contractor and the industry as a whole have been shedding jobs, how have they been able to consistently and effectively perpetuate the myth that they are engines of job creation? To explain this, add to their army of lobbyists, their treasure trove of campaign contributions, and those think tanks on the take, the famed revolving door that sends retired government officials into the world of the weapons makers and those working for them to Washington.
While there has always been a cozy relationship between the Pentagon and the defense industry, the lines between contractors and the government have blurred far more radically in the Trump years. Mark Esper, the newly minted secretary of defense, for example, previously worked as Raytheon’s top lobbyist in Washington. Spinning the other way, the present head of the Aerospace Industries Association, Eric Fanning, had been both secretary of the Army and acting secretary of the Air Force. In fact, since 2008, as the Project on Government Oversight’s Mandy Smithberger found, “at least 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers shifted into the private sector to become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors.”
Whatever the spin, whether of that revolving door or of the defense industry’s publicists, the bottom line couldn’t be clearer: If job creation is your metric of choice, Pentagon contractors are a bad taxpayer investment. So whenever Marillyn Hewson or any other CEO in the military-industrial complex claims that spending yet more taxpayer dollars on defense contractors will give a jobs break to Americans, just remember their track record so far: Ever more dollars invested means ever fewer Americans employed.