Pandemic: American Weapons Manufacturers Are Thriving

As Trump was increasing the military budget, he also slashed funding for the Center for Disease Control and for the World Health Organization, perhaps the only international body capable of limiting the spread of the virus.

Why is the military industrial complex booming, even as America suffers? Because Washington has made it a priority to radically overhaul the military in double quick time, designating weapons manufacturers as “essential” services during a pandemic, ensuring they all have enough boots on the ground to continue working through the outbreak. 

In February, the Pentagon released its $705 billion budget request for 2021, where it revealed that it would be ramping up for war with China and Russia in the near future.

In its own words, there would be a “shifting focus from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a greater emphasis on the types of weapons that could be used to confront nuclear giants like Russia and China.”

It also stated that it was going to acquire “more advanced high-end weapon systems, which provide increased standoff, enhanced lethality, and autonomous targeting for employment against near-peer threats in a more contested environment.” Last month, the Air Force commissioned Raytheon to develop and build a new nuclear cruise missile.

On a diplomatic level, the Trump administration is also dangerously escalating the possibility of nuclear war by pulling out of a number of international treaties designed to limit the possibility of a terminal conflict.

The president has signaled his intention to remove the United States from the New START Treaty, the final remaining arms control agreement that binds it, something even the American ex-Deputy Secretary General of NATO condemned as “a chilling sign of how dangerous the world has become.”

Fortune Cookie

The U.S. is also increasing tensions with China and ramping up sanctions and regime change operations in Iran and Venezuela. 

The United States spends almost as much on war as the rest of the world combined. It also has suffered by far the highest death toll from COVID-19. These two facts are not unrelated.

As Trump was increasing the military budget, he also slashed funding for the Center for Disease Control and for the World Health Organization, perhaps the only international body capable of limiting the spread of the virus.

In contrast to other countries that have handled the pandemic well, the rhetoric emanating from the White House treats the virus as an enemy to be fought, rather than a collective effort that everyone in society must engage in.

Instead of purchasing protective equipment and developing test kits like other nations, the government is ordering military flyovers. 

The pandemic has led many to question whether the enormous military budget is really making the country safer and whether it be better spent on healthcare, education, and other programs that would have combated the pandemic more effectively.

However, that question appears not to have been debated within the walls of the White House, where it is full steam ahead with weapons production. 

 

Billionaire Pandemic Profiteers

This year’s Forbes report examines billionaire wealth as of March 18, 2020. By April 10, their wealth had surged to $3.229 trillion, surpassing the 2019 level.

No one has benefited as much as Jeff Bezos, whose wealth surge is unprecedented in the history of modern markets. As of the publication of this report, Bezos’ wealth has increased over $25 billion since January 1, 2020 and $12 billion since February 21st, 2020, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Billionaire wealth, as these numbers show, tends to rebound from market meltdowns. Within 30 months of the September 2008 crash, most billionaire fortunes had recovered. And between 2010 and 2020, the combined wealth of the U.S. billionaire class surged by a staggering 80.6 percent.

Since January 1, 34 of the wealthiest 170 U.S. billionaires have seen their total net worth increase by tens of millions of dollars, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. These include eight billionaires who, as of April 10, have seen wealth gains of over $1 billion.

Bezos’ space company Blue Origin, the world is not enough

  1. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO: up $10 billion ($25 billion as of April 15, 2020)
  2. Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder and CEO: up $5 billion
  3. MacKenzie Bezos, novelist and philanthropist: up $3.5 billion (and up $8.6 billion as of April 15, 2020)
  4. Eric Yuan, Zoom founder and CEO: up $2.58 billion
  5. Steve Ballmer, Los Angeles Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO: up $2.2 billion
  6. John Albert Sobrato, Silicon Valley real estate mogul: up $2.07 billion
  7. Joshua Harris, Apollo Global Management cofounder and owner of multiple professional sports teams: up $1.72 billion
  8. Rocco Commisso, Mediacom Communications founder and CEO and owner of two professional soccer teams: up $1.09 billion