The Budget Is the Skeleton of the State

By Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of Western States Legal Foundation, January 29, 2024

Remarks at World BEYOND War billboard unveiling event in Oakland, California on Janury 28, 2024.

Over one hundred years ago, an Austrian sociologist and political activist named Rudolph Goldscheid wrote, “The budget is the skeleton of the state stripped of all misleading ideologies.”[1]

U.S. war spending for FY 2024 is nearing $1 Trillion. Spending on nuclear weapons, while only a small percentage of this total, is at the highest level on record.[2]

The U.S. is planning to spend at least $1.5 Trillion over 30 years to rebuild each leg of the nuclear triad and its accompanying infrastructure, including a new class of ballistic missile submarines, a new set of silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, a new nuclear cruise missile, a modified gravity bomb, a new stealthy long-range strike bomber – and accompanying warheads, with modified or new warhead pits, for each delivery system.[3]

The FY 2024 Department of Energy budget includes $32.4 Billion to maintain and upgrade nuclear warheads. The FY 2024 Department of Defense budget includes an additional $37 Billion to modernize and replace nuclear weapon delivery systems, including the new B21 Raider long-range, stealth intercontinental strategic bomber (contractor: Northrup Grumman), a fleet of new Colombia class sea-launched ballistic missile submarines (contractor: General Dynamics), and the new “Sentinel” system, to replace the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (also Northrup Grumman).[4]

$69 Billion is more than twice as much as is needed to end world starvation.[5] But it’s not just about the money and how it could be better spent.

In 2021, Admiral Charles Richard, then-Chief of U.S. Strategic Command, wrote: “We must acknowledge the foundational nature of our nation’s strategic nuclear forces, as they create the ‘maneuver space’ for us to project conventional military power strategically.”[6]

With Russian leaderships’ and some Israeli officials’ veiled and not-so-veiled nuclear threats in their wars against Ukraine and Hamas, Russia and Israel have both been using their nuclear deterrents in this way – so far. But it is undeniable that the longer these wars go on, the greater the threats of wider regional conflict and the potential for nuclear escalation become.

Other festering nuclear flashpoints include Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula, and South Asia. The scale and tempo of war games by nuclear-armed states and their allies are increasing. Ongoing missile tests, and frequent close encounters between military forces of nuclear-armed states exacerbate nuclear dangers.

The Russian leadership’s recent nuclear threats have raised public anxiety about the possibility of nuclear war, but in reality, we’ve been living under the shadow of the mushroom cloud continuously since 1945.

In 1946, Lewis Mumford wrote, “You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has ceased to worship life and obey the laws of life.”[7]

[1] The Economics and Sociology of Capitalism – Joseph A. Schumpeter – Google Books

[2] Lindsey Koshgarian, Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War 2024 (youtube.com), Jan. 13, 2024

[3] U.S.-Nuclear-Weapons-Modernization-Costs-Constraints-Fact-Sheet-v-May-2023.pdf (armscontrolcenter.org)

[4] Lindsey Koshgarian, ibid

[5] Statistic on Billboard Explained – World BEYOND War

[6] Forging 21st-Century Strategic Deterrence | Proceedings – February 2021 Vol. 147/2/1,416 (usni.org)

[7] Lewis Mumford, “Gentlemen: You Are Mad!” The Saturday Review of Literature, 2 March 1946, collected in Bird and Lifschultz Citation1998, 284, 286

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