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
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?
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.
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