Your Tax Dollars at Work: Welfare for (Wealthy) Allies Edition

There’s a type of welfare that many conservatives don’t seem to be as concerned about. We hear a great deal about welfare benefits for the poor and some about green energy subsidies but subsidizing the defense for wealthy allies gets very little attention from these critics (though in fairness, the chorus against tax payer dollars going to support countries that “burn our flag” has been getting louder as of late).

Flag burners or not, it’s time that America’s allies need to pay more of their fair share for their own defense. The infographic below illustrates just how much of the burden U.S. taxpayers shoulder.

  • ricketson

    That’s an interesting way to spin things, and I hope it gets some attention (particularly the graphs showing how our military spending compares to that of others).

    However, I think that the answer of “why don’t they spend more” is pretty well known — typically because they don’t want more, and the US imperialists don’t want them to have more.

    Here’s the logic of military spending among those allies:

    Nato: there’s no real threat facing any members.

    Japan: they were forbidden from having a military for a long time. They don’t face major threats… to the extent that they are threatened (China), they are starting to increase their armaments. Even now, we are concerned that a strong Japanese military would scare China and produce an arms-race.

    South Korea: they actually do need a strong military, but even if they spend 5% of GDP they would still need our support.

    US: much/most spending is not defensive. At least, it is not defense of core allies. Most spending is intended to project power globally and maintain hegemony.

  • ricketson

    Also, Japan and South Korea spend substantially more on scientific research than we do. That sounds like a good deal for a hegemon — the hegemon benefits from the research done by others (and the new goods they produce) but still maintains control through military might.

  • Steve Markey

    You are forgetting Panama, Germany (past), Australia, Saudi Arabia (past), Kuwait, UAE, Turkey, Cyprus (not wealthy anymore), Omen, and others.

    Here’s what I don’t get we have 140+ bases. Meaning we have a lot of real estate on the books, as well as buildings and equipment that depreciates.

    For hegemony, that is way expensive.

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  • Stephen Littau


    Those are all good points and I don’t disagree. For the most part, I don’t blame the allies for not spending more on their own defense; the U.S. government has pretty much volunteered to do the job for the reasons you mentioned. In some cases like in Japan, the Japanese are forbidden by our government to raise a military and the U.S. military is responsible for their protection.

    I think it’s time to re-think the entire strategy and abandon the idea of being an imperial power. Rather than provide defense for Japan, it’s time to raise and train a Japanese military, leave the bases and weapons behind for their use (perhaps even give them tactical/short range nukes) etc. At this point it would be irresponsible to leave Japan defenseless. Perhaps a similar approach for South Korea.

    I’m sure that’s all easier said than done; unwinding such a policy after several decades would be tricky to say the least.

  • Stephen Littau

    Here is a link to Christopher Preble’s report that goes with this infographic.

  • FSK

    Many of those countries hold US dollars as currency reserves. They use dollars for most international transactions, especially oil. That means they’re indirectly paying the USA, as their dollar purchasing power is eroded via inflation.