New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Catalytic Conversions

September 13, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Swanson, Economy, Politics

I Just Found 29 Million Jobs!

by David Swanson

No, not 29 million job offers. I’m no better at applying for jobs than you are, and my town offers nothing but dead-end McJobs or positions in the military industrial complex, just like yours. I mean I just spotted an easy way to create 29 million jobs, one for every unemployed or underemployed U.S. worker.

No, I’m not about to say, “Just raise taxes on gazillionaires and hire people to build stuff.” I’m all in favor of that, for lots of reasons, including the political corruption created by a concentration of wealth. We might have to disempower gazillionaires before we can enact any sensible policies, including the one I’m about to propose, but it can itself be done without raising a dime in revenue. This means that the President, who has broad, albeit unconstitutional, powers to move funding around from one program to another could do this himself. Or Congress could.

Whichever branch of government found the decency first could create 29 million well-paid and rewarding jobs improving the world. And this could be done through policies long favored by a majority of Americans.

How, you ask?

Well, I noticed that we didn’t create any more jobs in August, but did see a record number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan. Then I saw all the reports on the $60 billion “wasted” by the Pentagon in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This started me thinking.

Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe looked at that $60 billion and asked what else could have been done with it. Drawing on a 2009 study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), they concluded that instead, we might have created 193,000 jobs. That is to say, given all the military and contractor jobs that in fact were created for the U.S. workforce by that $60 billion, we could have created 193,000 MORE jobs. This is, in fact, the tradeoff found in the 2009 study between military spending (not even “wasted” military spending) and tax cuts for working people.

There are some other calculations in the same study, however. If we had spent that $60 billion on clean energy, we would have created (directly or indirectly) 330,000 more jobs. If we’d spent it on healthcare, we’d have created 480,000 more jobs. And if we’d spent it on education, we’d have created 1.05 million more jobs.

But isn’t it strange to make this calculation using the $60 billion that was supposedly wasted rather than with the $1.2 trillion that has been spent in total on two wars that a majority says should be ended and should never have begun? If we look at the $1.2 trillion that has been worse than wasted on killing large numbers of people and making us less safe, we find that we could have instead created anything in the range between 3.9 million to 21 million more jobs, depending on whether we moved the war spending to tax cuts or education or something in between. Ideally, of course, we’d have put some into education, some into clean energy, etc., resulting in a figure somewhere between those two.

But this is all looking at the past. What about going forward? Well, I also noticed Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey’s calculation that $1.8 trillion could be saved over 10 years by ending the wars now. That’s a figure taking a broader view of war spending, to include veterans’ care, and that fact almost certainly alters the calculations. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the same tradeoffs still held, by choosing to save that $1.8 trillion, we could add between 5.8 million and 31.5 million jobs over the next 10 years.

Or, sticking with the “wasted” military spending angle, we could start with the $2.3 trillion the Pentagon is unable to account for. That kind of tradeoff would give us 7.4 million to 40.3 million jobs depending on how we chose to invest the money. Of course, the $2.3 trillion is in the past, but given the dramatic trend toward more no-bid contracts (now 45% of military contracting) it seems a safe bet that corruption will hold steady or increase in the years to come.

But let’s forget about “lost” trillions and look at typical military spending, which is what the study we’re basing this on looked at. Of the $1.2 trillion spent each year now on the military, about $700 billion goes through the Department of Defense, which is what the study we’re using looked at. (Another $75 billion, for example, is spent on protecting cows and lakes while enriching campaign funders through the Department of Homeland Security.) We’re spending about half of discretionary spending on the military, and several times as much as the next highest spending nation in the world.

Let’s say we want to create 29 million jobs in 10 years. That’s 2.9 million each year. Here’s one way to do it. Take $100 billion from the Department of Defense and move it into education. That creates 1.75 million jobs per year. Take another $50 billion and move it into healthcare spending. There’s an additional 400,000 jobs. Take another $100 billion and move it into clean energy. There’s another 550,000 jobs. And take another $62 billion and turn it into tax cuts, generating an additional 200,000 jobs. Now the military spending in the Department of Energy, the State Department, Homeland Security, and so forth have not been touched. And the Department of Defense has been cut back to about $388 billion, which is to say: more than it was getting 10 years ago when our country went collectively insane.

Of course I’m writing about numbers here and the numbers represent actual people with particular needs and abilities.  A major effort would be needed to convert military factories and workers to green energy and other industries.  Net job gains reflect a lot of job losses and redirected careers.  But that conversion is part of this process and will involve job creation itself.  If additional funding is needed, then, you know what, the hell with it, go ahead and tax a few multi-billionaires.  It won’t hurt them.

David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie (from which this piece is excerpted) and Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union. He blogs at and, where this article originally appeared.

0 Comments to “Catalytic Conversions”

  1. Wasn’t there a lot of fraud by military contractors in Iran? Aren’t there fines and reimbursement due?
    But what about the military (+Guard and any civilians?) that are currently over there? Will they be discharged? Wouldn’t that need to be calculated in there somewhere?


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