Military spending is a big threat to health, directly and indirectly. The giant military expenditure of the US far exceeds that of any other nation, as shown in the graph below.Fig. 11   Military expenditures of different countries.

America's monumental "defense" budget diverts for weapons and wars trillions of dollars desperately needed for health care and poverty alleviation.

The private US arms industry supplies 55% of all weapons sales to Third World countries. As America's biggest business, it has a powerful political lobby. It has donated over $50 million to Congressmen in the last 2 years. This helps explain why the US government, over the next 5 years, will increase "defense" spending back to Cold War levels. It also explains why the government spends an incredible 7.9 billion dollars to subsidize arms exports. And why Congress has dragged its heels in signing nuclear disarmament and landmine treaties. In the US money not only talks. It buys votes!

Good health at low cost.

What options are there to the US development model based on economic growth for the rich?

Fig. 12   Pentagon Budget Request, 2001-2005In 1985 the Rockefeller Foundation underwrote a study called "Good Health at Low Cost" to find out "why certain poor countries have achieved acceptable health statistics in spite of very low national incomes." They looked at Costa Rica, China, Sri Lanka and Kerala State in India. Although quite different politically, what these four countries had in common was a strong commitment to equity. Each put the basic needs of all people as its first priority, rather than lopsided economic growth. Each country provided universal primary education and primary health care for all. And most important, each tried to make sure that everyone, regardless of circumstances, had enough to eat.

Spiritual poverty.

In the United States, and increasingly around the world, poverty is not just economic. A pervasive spiritual poverty--or loss of connection with a harmonious whole--cuts across all socioeconomic classes.

Symptomatic of this spreading poverty-of-spirit (or existential despair) in highly polarized consumer societies is the disturbing increase of mental illness, depression, substance abuse, hate crimes, and outbreaks of random violence (such as the fatal shootings by kids at Columbine High School).

But rather than seek to heal our disheartening social order, more and more persons are jailed. Today, with 5% of the planet's population, the US has 25% of the world's prison inmates. Another profit-driven industry!

A core indicator of profound societal dysfunction is the high rate of suicide, especially among the young.

A census conducted by former US Surgeon General C Everett Coop showed that the suicide rate for teens has doubled since 1968. Today 1 in 10 adolescent boys and 1 in 5 girls attempt suicide! Such self-destruction in the prime of life is an alarming sign of system failure in a perniciously inequitable society.

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