Cost of War and Lost Job Opportunities

Cost of War and Lost Job Opportunities

SHARMINI PERIES: Welcome to The Real News
Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Over 350,000 people have been killed directly
from war-related violence according to a new study done by Brown University on the cost
of war. And of course many more have been killed, directly and indirectly, but the same
study states that we have spent almost $4.4 trillion as of 2014 on these wars. But these
wars in the long term will likely cost us much more. The question is, to what end? The
threats that were stated as the reasons for going to war still exist today. And since 2007-08 financial crisis, one of
the more common arguments used to sustain wars is that it creates jobs. Well, with me
to discuss this issue and findings of a paper she wrote titled The Job Opportunity Cost
of War, is Heidi Garrett-Peltier. Heidi is an assistant research professor at Political
Economy Research Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts. Thank you so much for joining us. HEIDI GARRETT-PELTIER: Thank you for having
me, Sharmini. PERIES: So Heidi, let’s have a layout of what
your hypotheses were here, and what your key findings are. GARRETT-PELTIER: Well as you mentioned, war
spending, military spending, is often seen as a way to create jobs. Certainly we don’t
go to war in order to create jobs, but it’s been used as one of the defenses for keeping
the budget and federal spending on war, on military-related spending, as high as it is.
The notion that it creates jobs. So we wanted to look at this question and say, how many
jobs are created for each million or each billion dollars of war spending, and what
are the alternatives? What if we were to spend that same billion dollars instead on clean
energy, or healthcare, or education? What would that do in terms of jobs? So Bob Pollin and I, Bob Pollin is a co-director
here at the Political Economy Research Institute, we’ve been looking at this question ever since
I think 2007, was the first time we wrote a paper on this. And every couple of years
we’ve updated it with new data. And the results are always the same, that military spending
in fact doesn’t create as many jobs as the other areas I mentioned. And the Watson Institute
at Brown University started a project a few years ago called the Cost of War Project,
where they’re looking at not only the economic cost of war, but also the human cost, the
political cost. And there are 25 or 30 of us, lawyers, anthropologists, economists,
political scientists, looking at various aspects of the cost of war. But the piece that I focus on is the job cost.
And what we have found is over the length of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
the amount of spending that we have done on those three wars and increases to the Pentagon
base budget and so on, we could have actually created many more jobs domestically through
clean energy and healthcare, and education, and other forms of domestic spending. PERIES: Now, when you take infrastructure
into consideration, and in the comparison you do with the possible jobs created in the
green economy, were you looking at, example, the issue of the Amtrak is looming in my head
in terms of the lack of spending and cuts to spending in terms of infrastructure. And
perhaps if we were having speed trains and building a green economy we wouldn’t be faced
with the kind of disasters we saw last week. So I am wondering whether your study actually
made that kind of comparison in terms of the infrastructure we spend on in the military
compared to the, to green jobs and green economy infrastructure. GARRETT-PELTIER: Yeah, we didn’t detail infrastructure
in the military versus infrastructure elsewhere, but we did include the category of rail transportation
in our clean energy and overall spending number. We include wind, solar, bioenergy, rail transportation,
public transportation more generally. Building weatherization, which is a big source of energy
efficiency, and job creation. And importantly, weatherization is a source of job creation
that is really geographically dispersed. There are buildings all across the U.S. in every
community that are energy-inefficient, and could put people back to work or put people
to a greater number of working hours by weatherizing buildings. PERIES: And so give us an example of the more
specific cases that would, society would benefit from spending in a green economy. GARRETT-PELTIER: Well, this is a big area
of my research. And we have so many ways that we can benefit from spending in clean energy.
Number one is to reduce carbon emissions. And to get closer to the targets we need to
hit to prevent catastrophic climate change, or even less catastrophic climate change that
will still affect populations, ecosystems and so on. There’s the job creation benefit. Like I said
with weatherization, that’s geographically dispersed. The renewable energy sector creates
various types of jobs, so there are the manufacturing jobs that are created in wind energy and solar
energy, and that’s one way we can revitalize our manufacturing sector in the U.S. There
are also all the installation jobs that come along with those. So there really are a number
of advantages to investing in clean energy. Particularly in comparison to investing in
the military, that creates certainly fewer advantages in terms of both jobs and climate. PERIES: Heidi Garrett-Peltier, thank you so
much for joining us today. GARRETT-PELTIER: Thank you very much for having
me. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The
Real News Network.


  1. Obvious. So many folks in power make lots of money off war spending though :(. When I was a kid I was sad that the cold war ended because I selfishly was concerned about a job in the defense industry. My reasons for wanting to work in that industry were naive and selfish and it took me growing up to realize how disgusting and stupid I was for really believing and caring about so called spreading freedom. These realizations led me to quitting a nice cushy job working for Army Operational Test Command and also deserting the army and getting a nice OTH discharge on my record… now I'm a broke ass horse shoer and horse trainer. lol. Looking back at it now¬† I sort of wished I could have stayed ignorant to the real implications of what I was doing like many others who worked with me still are. I didn't change anything by quitting and all of my ex coworkers are as right wing as ever. Very selfish that I somewhat regret my decision, yes. Leads me to suspect that shit is gonna stay shitty like its been for a few thousand years because having wealth and power is something hard to say no to (I did and still regret it to some extent, although I do not think I could have made a different decision and would likely make the same decision again if I had to do it all over today).

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