The Five Borough Report


Five Borough Report   June 2003


Building Weapons of Mass Construction


George Locker

The latest emergency appropriation to pay for the invasion of Iraq, $80 billion, could instead have been used to construct 800,000 units of badly needed low and middle-income housing, with no debt. Such expenditure would, by itself, transform and indeed liberate urban America overnight. So why are the human needs of ordinary citizens off the government’s radar screen?  Because we have become a nation engorged on military power and prowess.

The Militarization of our Productive Capacities

Money spent on war preparations hardly leads to socially useful and productive goods, services and activities, the kinds of items that make life easier and better for the average American. Once, magic bullets were made of penicillin; now they are made from depleted uranium. Rather than improve the general welfare for the many, our trained personnel, research, technical priorities and government procurement have been massively misdirected.

Our former superpower rival, once among the world’s largest economies, collapsed under the weight of its unaffordable defense budget. America’s wealth too has been squandered; our civil sector subsidizes the military at unaffordable levels.


U.S. expenditures for defense, nuclear weaponry, veteran’s benefits and indebtedness related to past military activity are more than half again as great as all other discretionary federal spending put together. They exceed the military budgets of the next 25 countries combined.

Decline of the Civil Sector

We have failed to invest in our own civil economy. It has undergone significant shrinkage and de-industrialization, exposing the economy to unsustainable trade imbalances and a depreciating currency. The infrastructure of America, its railroads, sewers, mass transit, roadways, and water systems are in desperate need of repair and modernization, but there is no money.  Without bringing the permanent war economy under control, there is no chance to rebuild and invest domestically for productive purposes or to address the urgent needs in every community.

Every state and city faces budget deficits of historic proportions. We cannot afford decent housing, schools, healthcare, daycare, libraries in this environment. Massive cutbacks are presented as the only solution, and blame is placed on the recession.

From Delusions of Power to Re-visioning America

For a few distracting moments, all eyes were riveted on images of our military’s devastating firepower in Iraq. The clear message to the American people: believe that it pays to spend your national fortune to have the world’s best weapons of mass destruction.

But this belief is profoundly self-destructive and, ultimately, deeply unpatriotic. It is no over-reaction to fear that our democracy, as we know it, will not survive. The real road to security and freedom will be traveled only if our wealth, our knowledge, and our muscle are directed to developing and building weapons of mass construction, both at home and abroad.

June 2003

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