By Sarah Lazare, In These Times
The “security state” not only failed to keep us safe, but worsened the coronavirus pandemic and unleashed violence on the people hardest hit.
If there’s one central lesson to take from 2020, it’s that the country with the most well-funded “security state” in the world is also one of the least secure places on Earth. Facing a deadly pandemic that ravaged the globe, the United States leads the world in overall deaths, and is fourth in deaths per 100,000 people. Our cutting-edge, top-of-the-line, trillion-dollar “national security” apparatus was not only helpless in the face of an actual danger, but repeatedly made that danger far worse by foreclosing on a more humane social response — and unleashing violence on the very people hardest hit.
This horrific fact should be a wake up call that challenges the very premises of how we perceive “threats” and danger as we enter the 2020s.
The concept of “security” is an organizing principle behind how the U.S. government allocates public resources. The U.S. military budget is, by far, the most heavily funded in the world — larger than the military budgets of the next 10 countries combined. According to the National Priorities Project, in 2019, the military budget accounted for 53% of the entire federal discretionary budget, which Congress determines through the appropriations process every year. This percentage jumps considerably when you consider the “militarized” budget that encompasses spending on U.S. wars, imprisonment, the war on drugs and immigration crackdown (the National Priorities Project put the “militarized budget” at 64.5% of discretionary federal spending in 2019). Earlier this month, as unemployment soared and Americans waited in miles-long breadlines for food, Congress overwhelmingly passed a $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D‑Calif.) praised the military budget from the House floor, saying it “strengthens our security.” (President Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA over key grievances, including his insistence on the inclusion of a provision prohibiting the renaming of military bases that give tribute to Confederate figures.)