When Guns Defeat Butter

History is filled with cautionary tales about militarily powerful empires that collapsed because they spent far too much on guns over butter. The United States is now tempting a similar fate behind a ruling elite that uses fear and propaganda to maintain control, as Gary G. Kohls notes.

By Gary G. Kohls

Years ago I read a newspaper story about an elderly man, a loner, who lived in an impoverished area of Cleveland. Neighbors had noticed his mail piling up on his porch. When they received no responses to phone calls or to knocks on the door, they called the police, who broke into the man’s house. What they found is an allegory for our time

The withered old man was dead in his bed, surrounded by rifles, pistols and guns of every description. Boxes of bullets and cartridges were stacked on the floor. He had a knife in his cold, dead hand and an actual harpoon was leaning against his refrigerator, which was empty.

In a nation of plenty and with grocery stores in the man’s neighborhood, he had starved to death.

He had fiercely upheld his Second Amendment rights but had ignored his health. He had apparently heard the National Rifle Association’s sermons about defending one’s property against trespassers – by lethal means if necessary – but he died, alone and friendless.

He had wasted away, in a paranoid state, while “defending” himself against “the other,” who never did come to rob him. He had spent all of his money – his Social Security checks, his pension, everything – on guns and ammunition, but he had spent nothing on food or life-giving activities. He was afraid of burglars and thieves and had developed an obsessive fear that had cost him his life.

And, what was perhaps a more tragic reality, he had been suspicious of his neighbors who probably were keeping their distance from that crazy and scary old man who had all the guns in his house.

Guns or Butter?

For Americans, our paranoid, militarized and heavily armed nation doesn’t seem to be capable of learning the lessons that is obvious from that story.

The arms race that financially bankrupted the Soviet Union and morally bankrupted and nearly financially bankrupted the United States during the Cold War, was at the expense of the sick, hungry, under-employed, homeless and desperate people everywhere, including many who were living, unnoticed, in our own backyards – in the local ghettos on the other side of the tracks.

Mutual fear of “the other” caused the two superpowers and their allies to spend obscene amounts of money on inedible weapons systems. The training of tens of millions of “kill or be killed” warriors (ultimately depriving many of them of their physical and mental health for the rest of their lives) drastically weakened the moral integrity of the nation as well, all in the name of “national security.”

Contrary to what patriotic believers in American exceptionalism want us to believe, a nation can’t afford, for very long, both guns and butter.

During the Cold War, the saber-rattling superpowers each spent/wasted an irretrievable $12 trillion dollars. In the case of the U.S., this spending was done mostly with borrowed money that accrued handsome interest rate repayments that went mainly to wealthy investors, and which are still not even close to being paid off!

America spent trillions of dollars on: recruiting, training and retaining troops; researching, developing and producing costly weapons systems; maintaining hundreds of budget-busting military bases in both friendly fascist states as well as democracies, all the while virtually ignoring the growing numbers of impoverished and under-privileged people and oppressed minorities who helplessly watched their health, savings, civil rights, jobs and food security disappear.

America has been ruled by a powerful insider group of over-privileged, body-guarded, and indifferent Wall Street elites who live in gated communities and are the 1 percent fingered by the Occupy Wall Street movement. That 1 percent has been responsible for what is destined to become the Great American Depression of the 21st Century.

The nefarious group that is responsible for the crash has, with its ill-gotten gains, managed to buy and pay for most of our politicians (and even our judges), who are now faithfully serving that 1 percent by helping to implement the ubiquitous neo-fascist agendas in right-wing statehouses around the nation.

Most of our elected pro-corporate state and national political leaders (including five of our nine Supreme Court justices) are serving that ungodly agenda. These traitors to true democracy only preach fiscal responsibility when the bottom lines of their paymasters are at risk, but they never seem to do it when those of us in the lower 99 are in crisis.

The moneyed ruling class, with its large fortunes and its casino capitalism to protect, has conveniently forgotten that it was the Reaganomics-inspired, profligate borrowing and spending (the propaganda trick called trickle-down economics) that sky-rocketed the national debt to unmanageable levels.

The debt crises that followed were only met by more borrowing, raising the debt ceiling and cutting the spending on programs of social uplift, while never questioning the obscene budget requests from the Pentagon. These budget requests were, year after year, invariably approved by large majorities of our chicken-hearted legislators in the dark of night, after the limited scrutiny of the daily news cycle had passed.

Chickens Home to Roost

And now, predictably, the chickens (in more than one sense of the phrase) have come home to roost.

Strongly deluded that there is “glory” in war and trusting in blank-check borrowing and spending on weaponry, America has spawned tens of millions of sick, hungry, homeless, under-employed, under-educated, addicted, psychologically-traumatized and impoverished people, many of whom are conveniently hidden in inner cities that the out-of-touch elite policy-makers never see.

Universal health care, which large majorities of the population desire, is habitually rejected by the powers-that-be in the medical, pharmaceutical and insurance industries.

After all, the politicians that have been financed by such industries have great health insurance and health care themselves. So why would greedy power-mongers want to have their taxes go to help those that are sick, poor and hungry? (For that matter why should the 1 percent want to pay taxes that support public libraries and parks when they themselves have personal libraries and private playgrounds? Let the average folk eat grass.)

But America’s rapidly deteriorating infrastructure can’t and won’t be fixed while bloated and wasteful military budgets go unopposed in Congress. You can’t afford both guns and butter!

If readers are seeing cuts to the programs that make life worth living, understand that much of the responsibility lies in the massive Pentagon borrowing and spending that has gone on every year since the Vietnam war, with massive increases in spending on nuclear weaponry during the late, lamented Reagan/Bush administrations.

What is the eventual outcome of putting basic human needs last? Poor mental and physical health, poor educational opportunities, a poorly trained workforce, hopelessness, suicidal tendencies, addictive behaviors, drug use, domestic abuse, street gangs, prostitution, violence, ignorance, malnutrition, desperation, crushing poverty and, inevitably, anger at a system of government and corporate control that neglects its people and then shows no signs of remorse for having done so.

It shouldn’t surprise us that the Occupy Wall Street and Arab Spring movements have, at long last, emerged. The despair and desperation behind these movements (summarized in the preceding paragraph) are what the mainstream news media and the talking-head “experts” pretend not to understand.

Police face down 'Occupy' protesters in Philadelphia (Photo by Ted Lieverman)

Are average Americans going to continue to allow themselves to be perpetually and increasingly sickened and impoverished while blindly and patriotically cheering an unaffordable “we’re number one” military-superpower status?

Are we going to continue to waste scarce resources on bankrupting wars and military occupations world-wide while ignoring investments that would foster a sustainable peace, a sustainable economy and a sustainable planet?

Are the weapons-makers, the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI and the dozens of other intelligence agencies in reality expensive make-work jobs programs that enrich and protect the wealthy war-profiteers at the expense of the poor? When one adds in all the “black box” budgets of the intelligence agencies, one wonders if the United States has a military or if the military has a nation.

Are we going to continue ignoring the fact that war industry jobs cost taxpayers at least twice as much to generate and fund as health-care, education or green-technology jobs? Are we going to continue to allow excessive military spending at the expense of the disappearing middle-class and the already lost lower classes?

Are we going to continue fearing the wrath of the 800-pound gorillas of the 1 percent that intimidate and threaten us into silence? Or are we going to courageously organize and band together to demand justice from the ones who are withholding it from those of us in the lower 99?

Is It Too Late?

The unchecked spending of taxpayer money on the biggest and most bloated of the gorillas – the military/industrial/congressional/media/investor-class complex – which has flourished since World War II, has finally been proven to be disastrous for non-wealthy Americans.

That complex has orchestrated the extinction of small-family farms and small businesses while creating the heartless multinational corporations that try to pay slave wages. That complex has been behind the “fouling of the nest” (the poisoned, exploited environment) with tens of thousands of lethal and cancer-causing industrial pollutants, radioactive waste disposal sites and toxic military dumpsites that are poisoning the water, soil and air.

Unsustainable levels of borrowing by powerful corporations and government entities have created obscene levels of debt and obscene disparities in wealth between the haves and have-nots.

Unsustainable levels of personal credit-card debt and home-mortgage debt among the 99 percent, who were tempted by predatory lenders to imitate the actions of the 1 percent at the top, have resulted in an epidemic of under-employment, home-mortgage foreclosures and personal bankruptcies.

Although it might already be too late, the lower 99 may finally be waking up and trying to reverse the orchestrated descent toward total economic collapse, at which time the 1 percent, with their fortunes undepleted, will snap up everything they can afford at fire-sale prices.

Being armed to the teeth and universally feared and hated (because America’s exploitative bullying behavior around the world) is not a sustainable path to security. Rather, we are destined to be pariahs as we sink into moral, spiritual, physical and brain malnourishment.

Because of America’s misbegotten over-spending on inedible weapons systems and its bullying behavior that is victimizing billions of people, we will soon have nobody who will be interested in rescuing us from our self-imposed, suicidal path towards collapse.

Americans cannot continue to delude themselves by thinking that they can afford both butter and guns. America cannot have refrigerators that are well-stocked with nutritious food and also be armed to the teeth. It must reject one and embrace the other.

Gary G. Kohls is a retired physician who practiced holistic mental health care. Dr. Kohls feels is it his professional duty to warn others of the dangers to mental and physical health that are inherent in the participation of violence, especially military violence. 

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33 comments on “When Guns Defeat Butter

  1. Hmmm…me thinks Mr. Kohls has never been in a “killed or be killed” situation or ever been in a mugging before where it’s your money and your life. I guess Mr. Kohls would just give the mugger his money, get down on his knees and beg for his life or offer the mugger a pat of butter for his salvation.

    • Geez, Mike, way to miss the point. Kohls us thinking nationally and globally, and you are thinking of a personal anecdote.

      • I don’t think I missed the point at all Bobzz. Mr. Kohls is advocating world disarmament up to and including personal small arms. What Mr. Kohls is missing is the fact that War has always been a part of the human condition since the beginning of time and will continue to be so, until our Creator decides he’s had enough of this circus and ends it all.

        S&W 9mm…never leave home without it.

        • …or, he’s evolved and trusting that the rest of us are evolving too. We don’t need weapons anymore. We are one. If you don’t believe it, you are part of the problem.

          Dorothy and all of Oz were afraid of the Wizard until Toto pulled back the curtain and revealed a scared old man pretending to be more powerful than everyone.

          Sound familiar?

          • Jarhead1982 on said:

            Evolved, he is evolved?

            No the correct term is DEVOLVED!

            You know how to eliminate violence forever?

            Take those parts of the human emotional spectrum, including greed, vice, jealousy, lust, desire, but most of all FREE WILL, etc, etc, and remove them from the humans psyche so that all you have are mindless zombies.

            Of course along the way you are going to have to eliminate other human weaknesses for addiction (drugs & alcohol), religious fervor where your God has a bigger D$$K than my God, racial & economic inequalities, starvation, etc, etc, or you dont belong to the correct political party.

            Then coming soon to a country near you, the fight to control fresh water supplies.

            Get back to us when you have this mystical tool that evolves humans into brainless zombie drones that will never create another act of violence.

        • Yes, there will be wars and rumors of wars, but we have gone way beyond deterrent. We have become the aggressors. We went into Viet Nam and Iraq based on lies. We overthrew democratically elected Mossadeq in Iran and stationed troops in the middle east; that led to 9/11 (Afghanistan would have been unnecessary); we set up coups in Central and South America, etc. Our enemies are creations of our own dumb foreign policy. History is replete with evidence that those nations that focus on the military conquest eventually implode. Read Paul Kennedy’s Rise and Fall of Great Nations. War has always been with us all right, but we do not have to be the ones creating the circumstances for it (since WW II).

  2. Pingback: Phoenix Adult Entertainment: When Guns Defeat Butter | Who's News In Phoenix Escorts.

  3. Mike G. sounds like a frightened rabbit. You don’t need to keep forces everywhere to stop a mugger. The US has military bases and installations in over 100 foreign countries. That is both wasteful and stupid. It breeds hatred and contempt for America, which is seen in most of these countries as an imperialist power–which it has become by virtue of so much military spending. Time to re-think the whole business and to take back power and political control from the war profiteers and their stooges in congress.

  4. Bill J on said:

    Mike G. epitomizes American Exceptionalism:
    More scared of everything anywhere, than anybody any time.

  5. There’s a lot of things I’m not scared of. But one of the things that does scare me is Liberal Progressives and their bent towards Socialist programs and “social justice.” Social Justice is just a fancy way of saying thief; Taking money from people who work and giving it to people who are too lazy to work.

    By the way, I’ve served overseas and most of the people were glad we were there and especially glad to take our money into their economies.

    • Who is too lazy to work?

      • A goodly portion of the so called 99% are too lazy to work, it seems to me. Personally, I’d pick shit with the chickens if it pays, and have more than once, to survive and pay the bills. Those 99%ers want the folks who work hard and earn a living to provide them with a living while they sit on their lazy asses and collect a government check.

        • rosemerry on said:

          I cannot comprehend why a selfish, belligerent, conceited,violent, mindless liar like mike g would think of reading the articles on this site.

  6. Matt Palmer on said:

    I understand and agree with the point of this article, but I must point out that the undereducated, sick, depraved, violent, lunatic, impoverished, criminals and thieves, under-employed, psychologically traumatized in america’s inner cities, to paraphrase, are exactly what the dead man in Cleveland was frightened of and protecting himself against. I know. I lived in Cleveland and Detroit; out of the frying pan and in to the fire. I empathize with my fellow 99%, but they have alot of learning and growing up to do. This is a nation of childish nincompoops who have learned all that they know from entertainment. Thus the hip-hop gangs, the survivalists, the secessionists, the ultimate fighters. What a bunch of petulant children.
    Good luck Mr. and Mrs. America!

  7. Matt Palmer on said:

    If the nefarious powers that be and the multi-national corporations and right-wing fascist american assholes want to control the world so much, that’s fine as long as they will give something back to us, like jobs and social stability and security. But they don’t, do they? Instead they steal everything (like the brains of conservatives have been) and leave the rest to rot. Tax the rich, seize their assets, then try, convict and execute them.

    • theaton on said:

      “as long as they will give something back”

      Typical liberal/progressive mindset. Give me, give me, give me. JFK said “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country?” All it takes to succeed in America is drive and desire. The Libs don’t want success, they want a dependent serfdom. They started slavery, fought to keep slavery and are still creating slaves through entitlement programs. The vast majority of Libs are also racists. Just look how they attack Herman Cain because he is a black conservative and won’t bow to the liberal left that want to put him back in slavery!

      • LordZontar on said:

        “They started slavery, fought to keep slavery…”

        Um, wrong. CONSERVATIVES did that —they were called the Confederate States of America. Emancipating the slaves and destroying the Southern slaveocracy was liberalism in action.

        “Just look how they attack Herman Cain because he’s a black conservative…”

        No, Herman Cain is attacked because he is a)an idiot, b)spewing discredited and dumb ideas and, like most conservatives, is c)a hypocrite hiding behind the mask of a moral crusader. No, that is not racism, that is seeing things for what they are. BTW, liberals are also attacking Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul for the same reasons.

  8. I’m sure that family that was raped and murdered in conneticut had a full refigerator.

  9. Mike, it is easy to see, is not a reader but rather a cheerleader! No one is advocating dissarmament, nationally or personally. The mugger you talk about, is a mugger because of the inequallity of wealth in this country. Perhaps you should read about a real souldier like General Smedly D. Butler, a twice winner of the Congressional Medal Of Honor and stated that war is a racquet! I dare you to read what he said about it! Most people just keep their eyes and ears closed, rather than look at the matrix. Take the ble pill Mike!

    • Jack, Seriously, General Butler a “real soldier”? First, he was a marine, not a soldier. Second, read his bio. Even though he won the Medal of Honor twice, he tried to return the first one because he admitted he didn’t deserve it. Finally, he had enough foibles to consider his words “tainted” at the very least. As for your statement about the mugger doing what he does “because of the inequality of wealth in this country” that might very well be the most asinine statements I’ve ever read. “Inequality” doesn’t make him a mugger—his choices do. I choose to work to make my money. That he chooses to steal to make his puts us directly at odds….and that’s why I’m grateful for the 2nd amendment! If you wish to avail yourself to his mercy or hope he’ll just mug your neighbor but not you, so be it. I prefer to be ready to respond with superior firepower. “Chance favors the prepared mind”

    • theaton on said:

      Jack, General Butler never won anything called the Congressional Medal of Honor. There is no such medal. There is a Medal of Honor, maybe that is what you are talking about?

      And yes, many people are advocating personal disarmament. President Obama, while in Chicago advocated that very thing. Personal disarmament is the goal of the Brady bunch and the VPC.

      • rosemerry on said:

        Why is it only mercans in the developed world that seem to hate all their fellow men and need to arm against them? I have lived in many countries and have never even seen a gun

        • Jim In Houston on said:

          rosemerry.

          Why are you so full of hate and invective for those with whom you disagree? BTW, your personal experiences and concepts of “need” have no statistical or policy meaning.

  10. Williams S. Berger on said:

    One good anecdotal story about a man starving to death while surrounded by defensive weapons makes it just that , a good story. Throughout the history of civilization, weaker nations have been and will continue to be overrun by nations with more strength, audacity, jealosy and envy . Today the many of the most prosperous countries in the world cannot defend their borders, but the poorest nations are seeking nuclear weapons. The strength projected by the U.S. today enables other counties to enjoy that prosperity, though any nation’s time at its peak is limited, the power of the U.S will wane. Is it too late? “Unchecked spending of taxpayer money on the biggest and most bloated of the gorillas” should refer to growing welfare state we find ourselves in. Defense of the nation is, to many people today, as it was perceived during the time of the founding of this nation, the main and overriding purpose of the federal government. Blind acceptance of promises for coddling nanny state politicians has allowed the U.S to follow the failing policies of the socialistic European nations.

  11. John Parks on said:

    I love this part “programs that make life worth living”, what the F@#!. I also like that the whole story becomes FACT once he puts it in print. How about this, where the hell is this old timers family? I guess this is really a story about eroding family values in a nation of godless Occupy Wall Street liberals.

  12. Time for a reality check. We have created the highest standard of living in the history of the world. Our environment is cleaner than it was 25 years ago. No one is starving in America unless they are mentally ill and refuse to eat.
    The job of the Federal govenment to to regulate interstate commerce (which it has reached to far in doing) and providing for the common defence. Yet sixty percent of the Federal Budget is transfer payments. The Federal govenment taking money from someone who took risk and worked hard for it and giving it to someone else. The make work jobs program is the bureacracy that supports these transfer payments. I should not be the govenments job to provide you with food healthcare and a place to live. In the real world you don’t deserve anything. You get what you actually earn.
    Mr. Kohls also has a fundamental misunderstanding of how economies work. The Global economy is not a 0 sum game. Someone building wealth is not at the expense of someone else. The evil large corporations are feeding the world and finding ways to cure diseases. They wouldn’t exist unless they have something that people are willing to pay money for. No one forced some idiot to buy a home he couldn’t afford with 0% down and an interest only loan
    Last but not least yes, we have made mistakes in foriegn policy but to say that Muslim extremist that want to kill us wouldn’t want to kill us if we just left them alone is not only stupid but dangerous. Please Mr. Kohls go hand them some butter and see how long your head stays on your shoulders.
    Personally, I will continue to work hard earning a living, continue to grow a lot of my own food in my garden, carry a gun so I can defend myself and will vote for politicians who beleive in peace hrough strength.

  13. A lot of what appears here is generalization to justify an ideological stance, e.g., “progressives are looking for a handout.” All progressives? The majority? No one has taken an official poll here, but most are looking for good jobs—the kind that sensible capitalism once offered. How is the “welfare system” draining the economy when America can spend more on the military than all other nations combined? SS, Medicare, Medicaid totally are paid for by FICA taxes; the problem is the raiding of the trust funds. But imagine that SS, Medicare, Medicaid were wiped out tomorrow. Do you think you get any of that? No. Eventually it would end up in the big banks and corporations. It won’t go in your pockets unless you are well connected. People are where they are because that is where they were born; opportunity in this society is constricting. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates stories are the exceptions not the rule. I lucked out by being born in 1938. Had I been born to the same middle class parents today, I could not afford a college education, and even if I could, I would not be able to find a job commensurate with my education. What conservatives lack is insight, the inability to see anything from someone else’s perspective.

  14. this thread has benn unsettling to follow without wondering when the shooting and killing is going to begin again in earnest ? shall we have the civil-war coming to iraq right here in america now ? a lot of hatred expressed towards the poor here. maybe we should just kill ‘em ! a lot of hatred expressed towards the occupy crowd. maybe we should just kill them too ! how about mexicans and blacks ? if we are to follow the expressions of the haters in this thread maybe we need to kill them too. and wait, then there’s the women. ah, hell, kill them too. lets’ just kill anyone that ain’t a white male god fearin’ gun totin’ hard workin’ tax payin’ all american flag wavin’ patriot that knows whats’ best for all of us. america will look great with an all white all male population runnin’ around working hard and wavin’ their guns in the air yelling, USA, USA, USA !

  15. Bye Bye Miss American Pie on said:

    So much money wasted. The USA is going the way of the Roman Empire, and 1980s Soviet Union.

  16. Noah Scape on said:

    “Start another war that we don’t fight HERE” – to say that war is an inescapable part of the human condition is to ignore the fact that America chooses when and where to start wars.

    Wars do not “just happen”, someone, a group of Elites somewhere, decides to create war, like the current warmongering based on lies about Iran’s nuclear capability.

    Remember how, in about 2002, 2003, the CIA was trying to tell the White House that Saddam’s nuclear program, run by Saddam’s brother actually, was DEFUNCT, but the White House staffers were told to discard those reports [so the Pres/VP would have "plausable deniability"].

    War is a choice. 99% of us would not make that choice. Occupy your military activities!!

  17. Jim in Houston on said:

    “decides to create war, like the current warmongering based on lies about Iran’s nuclear capability. ”

    There are always fools among us.

    Will you apologize to the world and to the thousands of dead after you discover you are wrong? Will you change your life and give up all your treasure to make amends for the political blunder you are supporting?

    • And have YOU apologized to the 100′s of thousands of dead, and millions displaced in Iraq because of YOUR support of a bogus, clearly-contrived war? Or perhaps the 2-4 MILLION dead Vietnamese that we killed ‘bringing democracy’ to them??

  18. Colin Smith on said:

    “It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character almost every other country in the world has learned to fear and despise”. Hunter S Thomson;(Rolling Stone (June 1994)

A civilized society is denoted by the way it’s citizens treat each other, not by the level of technological advancement. The average American treats his fellow citizens with mistrust and suspicion(US tourists are always surprised by how ‘friendly’ foreign countries are). That is why you feel you need guns. The USA is not a civilized society. Happily there is a cordon sanitaire between it and the rest of the world…The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Only Canada and Mexico suffer directly from it’s culture of violence, the former being flooded with illegal guns while the latter is not only flooded with illegal guns, but also caught up in a minor war over the drug trade to the USA.

To paraphrase George Orwell….”Americans sell their souls in public and buy them back from their friends in private”.

US history records two great crimes against humanity….slavery and the attempted genocide of the indigenous peoples. These crimes are quite recent and almost within living memory. Paradise cannot be built on a mountain of corpses. The violence of those crimes carries over into civil society. Factor in the beleaguered male ego and it’s pathetic machismo ( a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do) and the violence increases. North America produces strong women and weak men, and the further South you go the stronger the women and the weaker the men. All the posturing, posing and faux tough-talk hides a very vulnerable ego. Most of this posturing is based on myths about the history of the Wild West. Turning away from guns and their attendant violence requires an emotional and intellectual maturity that is not common in America. I for one refused to work and live there.
    I fear and despise the USA in equal measure. The tenor of this blog demonstrates how sick and violent it is. many visitors, including de Tocqueville, and Dickens, have been moved to comment on it. As long as they keep it at home I can live with it. But when I have to deal with it abroad………I fear their reckless brutality.