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When wars overwhelm welfare
  1. Nancy R Milio
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor N R Milio
 University of North Carolina, Carrington Hall #7460, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7460, USA; nancy_milio{at}

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Vast power and wealth can damage welfare

Budget numbers often seem dull and confusing. But they can test the promises of political leaders against financial realities. Government budgetary spending, which underpins national policies, indicates a nation’s true priorities. The US Bush Administration reveals its aims in its 5-year budget plan. Totalling US$2.7 trillion for 2007 alone, the plan augurs grave effects on the nation’s health and international well-being, and adds over $1 trillion to the $5 trillion national debt.1

These priorities are misplaced because they are creating vulnerabilities for the US. The effects include its decline in world opinion, limits on its ability to address major global issues such as global warming, growing US wealth gaps and poverty, a weakening of science and education, and massive foreign debt, increasingly held by volatile nations such as China.2 Within this brief space, I focus on health and welfare.


The priorities are clear. Of available budgeted funds, the plan projects rises for defence (10.8%) and homeland security, mainly anti-terrorism (4.6%), and sharp cuts in domestic social programmes (over 16%). When defence, as well as off-budget military funds and nuclear weapons programmes are included, these funds will reach at least $600 billion next year alone. Ongoing costs of America’s wars are now running at $10 billion monthly. Social programmes, by comparison, will get about $370 billion next year. Furthermore, proposed tax cuts are mainly for millionaires—who this year get over $110 000 in benefits from previous cuts—whereas the poorest fifth of tax payers get $23 this year. Tax cuts will cost a quarter trillion dollars during the budget plan, to be paid in cuts to social programmes, or more debt.3

Defence funds for Iraqi reconstruction are being shifted to pay for armed private security guards, taking $6 billion of the total …

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

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