Last Year, You Spent More Than a Month’s Rent on Pentagon Contractors

A dollar by dollar look at how our taxes enrich military contractors — at the expense of things that actually make us secure.

By Lindsay Koshgarian

Ever wonder where your taxes go? Each year, the Institute for Policy Studies releases a tax receipt so you can find out.

One item always stands out: the Pentagon—and the contractors who profit off it.

In 2023, the average taxpayer spent $2,974 on the Pentagon. Of that, just $705 went to salaries for the troops, who often have to rely on programs like food stamps. A much larger sum—$1,748—went to corporate Pentagon contractors. That’s more than the average American’s monthly rent, $1,372.

From Lockheed Martin (the top federal contractor and longtime weapons maker) to SpaceX (which Elon Musk runs when he’s not spewing racist and anti-semitic tropes), these corporations don’t need your support. And they aren’t operating with your well-being in mind.

Enriching them comes at the cost of better health care, education, clean air and water, disaster management, and more. Here are just five examples from the average tax bill.

1. Pentagon contractors ($1,759) vs. the Child Tax Credit ($110).

In 2024, the Pentagon budget is set to increase by $27 billion, bringing the department’s budget to about $825 billion. About half of that will go to for-profit contractors.

Meanwhile, an expansion of the Child Tax Credit during the pandemic succeeded in cutting the child poverty rate almost in half—progress that was almost immediately reversed when the expansion expired in late 2021.

Lifting kids out of poverty can have lifelong effects on their health, education, and employment. Isn’t that worth more than a tiny fraction of our spending on military contracts?

2. Lockheed Martin ($249) vs. renewable energy ($11).

Lockheed Martin is perhaps best-known as the maker of the always over-budget, never-quite-ready F-35 jet fighter, which has spontaneously caught fire three separate times. Despite claims that programs like this are job creators, Lockheed recently made moves to cut jobs.

Meanwhile, despite the necessity of addressing climate change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, the average taxpayer’s contribution to renewable energy programs tops out at just $11.

3. Boeing ($87) vs. the Federal Aviation Administration ($23).

From commercial flights that crashed to others that fell apart in midair, Boeing’s commercial safety record lately has been abysmal. Yet the company is also among the top five Pentagon contractors. Among other military aircraft, it’s the maker of the V-22 Osprey that crashed and killed eight service members in November.

The FAA, of course, is the understaffed, underfunded government regulator responsible for the safety of commercial flights. Maybe we should spend more on regulating companies like Boeing than subsidizing them?

4. Federal prisons ($32.29) vs. substance use and mental health programs ($31.69).

With about 2 million people incarcerated nationally, about one in three Americans will have an immediate family member who has been in prison or jail. Your federal income tax dollars support this system, which often treats substance use and mental health challenges as issues best confined to a prison cell.

By contrast, help for substance use disorder or mental health issues can still be profoundly hard to get, as any affected person or family member will tell you. What if we spent more on treating these health conditions than punishing them?

5. Foreign militaries ($112) vs. wildfire management ($14).

From Afghanistan and Iraq to Ukraine and now Gaza, it feels like the U.S. is always either starting a war, fighting a war, or subsidizing a war. These wars are increasingly unpopular—and they’re not making us any safer.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Americans have experienced the direct or indirect effects of wildfire in recent years. These disasters cost upward of $394 billion each year. Isn’t that threat worth addressing?

Pentagon contractors want us to think we need what they’re selling, but wrong-headed priorities like these mean we’re actually worse off. Spread the word: every taxpayer deserves better.

Federal budgeting expert Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. This op-ed was distributed by


This Fortnight in 1892

Up To His Old Antics Again

George Stover, well known in police circles, is at his old antics again and recently beat his wife and cruelly abused his horse by prodding the animal with a pitchfork, and has since got out of town to avoid arrest. Stover used to make south-end howl when a resident there, but this is his first escapade since he moved into the country.

Annie Gammon, Portsmouth, keeping a disorderly house, pleaded guilty, three months in jail.

– New Hampshire Gazette, April 21, 1892, pg 6.

A class from the Paul Mitchell School of Cosmetology and Cosmology took a field trip to the top of the Foundry Parking Garage and Observatory on the afternoon of April 8th, the better to observe the partial solar eclipse.


Billionaires Are Bad for Democracy.
Taxing Them Is Good for It.

By Omar Ocampo

A new, disturbing milestone has been confirmed in the latest Forbes World Billionaires List. The U.S. billionaire class is now larger and richer than ever, with 813 ten-figure oligarchs together holding $5.7 trillion.

This is a $1.2 trillion increase from the year before—and a gargantuan $2.7 trillion increase since March 2020.

The staggering upsurge shows how our economy primarily benefits the wealthy, rather than the ordinary working people who produce their wealth. Even worse, those extremely wealthy individuals often use these assets to undermine our democracy.

Billionaires have enormous power to influence the political process. They spent $1.2 billion in the 2020 general election and more than $880 million in the 2022 midterms. Even when their preferred candidates aren’t in office, our institutions are still more likely to respond to their policy preferences than the average voter’s, especially when it comes to taxes.

The vast majority of Americans, including 63 percent of Republicans, support higher taxes on the wealthy. Yet our representatives consistently fail to deliver. A quintessential example was Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for corporations and the rich—the most unpopular legislation signed into law in the past 25 years.

Though backers promised the tax cuts would benefit all Americans, a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that the primary beneficiaries were the top 1 percent.

The good news? Those cuts are set to expire after next year. So we’ll have an opportunity for a new tax reform—one that raises more money for the services we rely on while protecting our democracy from extreme wealth concentration.

President Joe Biden’s Billionaire Minimum Income Tax (BMIT) is one promising proposal. By raising the top tax rate and taxing unrealized capital gains, the BMIT seeks to repair a system where billionaires pay a lower average tax rate than working people. It would raise $50 billion a year over the next decade, making our tax system a bit more equitable.

Senator Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) similarly named Billionaire Income Tax (BIT) is more straightforward. It would target asset gains that can easily be tracked by the public, like a billionaire’s stock holdings in a publicly traded company.

Another idea? A well-designed progressive tax on billionaire wealth.

A modest 5 percent tax on all wealth above $1 billion would raise more than $244 billion this year alone. And that’s likely an underestimate, since some billionaires keep their wealth concealed from Forbes. Wealth-X, a private research firm, identified 955 billionaires in their  Census last year, 142 more than what Forbes just registered.

A wealth tax wouldn’t hurt investment and innovation—most innovation in the U.S. is driven by people worth less than $50 million. But for billionaires, it would function “as a constraint on their rate of wealth accumulation,” according to Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy people who support higher taxes on the rich.

Of course, a wealth tax alone isn’t enough to ensure the safety of our democracy. We also need campaign finance reform to limit political spending. And stronger labor unions could prevent extreme concentrations of wealth from occurring in the first place. Unions not only increase the collective power of workers, they also close wage gaps between workers and CEOs.

Finally, we need better tax enforcement. The Inflation Reduction Act gave the IRS more resources to track down wealthy tax dodgers, and now the agency is projecting an unexpected windfall in tax revenue over the next decade.

That’s a great first step towards strengthening our democracy and democratizing our economy. Now let’s take the next step and fix the tax code itself.

Omar Ocampo is a researcher for the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies. This op-ed was adapted from a longer version at and distributed for syndication by


This Fortnight in 1892

An Aged Officer

Capt. James E. Rand began his 93rd consecutive year as a member of the police force of Concord on Saturday. – Exchange

A lively fistic encounter took place on Water street Sunday evening.

New Hampshire Gazette, April 21, 1892, pg 6.


‘Lawless Con Man’ Leonard Leo Defies Senate Subpoena Over Supreme Court Gifts

by Julia Conley

“Incredible,” said one journalist on Friday of right-wing legal activist Leonard Leo’s reasons for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee as the panel investigates conservative Supreme Court justices’ relationships with Leo and other Republican operatives and donors.

The Federalist Society co-chairman told the Washington Post that the subpoena was “politically motivated.”

“I am not capitulating to [committee Chair Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.)] lawless support of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and the left’s dark money effort to silence and cancel political opposition,” said Leo, who has lobbied for the appointments of far-right judges to federal benches, in a statement.

The subpoena came over four months after the committee voted along party lines to subpoena Leo and billionaire GOP donor Harlan Crow following numerous reports about luxury travel and gifts they and others bestowed on Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

ProPublica revealed last June that Leo organized a luxury fishing trip to Alaska for Alito, with lodging and private jet travel paid for, in 2008. The trip was not included on Alito’s federally required financial disclosure forms, continuing a pattern that ProPublica first reported on last April with several luxury vacations, real estate transactions, and other financial gifts to Thomas that were paid for by Crow.

Durbin said Thursday that the subpoena was issued because of the “blanket refusal to cooperate” with the investigation that Leo has displayed since last July.

“His outright defiance left the committee with no other choice but to move forward with compulsory process. For that reason, I have issued a subpoena to Mr. Leo,” said Durbin. “Mr. Leo has played a central role in the ethics crisis plaguing the Supreme Court and, unlike the other recipients of information requests in this matter, he has done nothing but stonewall the committee. This subpoena is a direct result of Mr. Leo’s own actions and choices.”

The ethics violations revealed by ProPublica’s reporting forced the Supreme Court last fall to adopt a code of conduct for the first time, modeled on the rules followed by judges on lower federal courts.

But ethics watchdogs labeled the code a “toothless PR stunt” and a “cover-up for Clarence Thomas,” as it did not include an enforcement mechanism and provided the justices with discretion over recusal decisions.

Debt relief advocates called on Alito to recuse himself last year from two cases pertaining to Biden’s student debt cancellation program, citing the reporting on Leo’s gifts to the justice. The plane Alito took to Alaska was owned by billionaire investor Paul Singer, who has financially backed groups that lobbied the court to overturn Biden’s plan.

The court struck down the debt relief program last June.

Like former President Donald Trump, said Alex Aronson, former chief counsel for Judiciary Committee senior member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), “the other man most responsible for shaping our Supreme Court’s runaway majority is a lawless con man and crook.”

Caroline Ciccone, president of government watchdog Accountable.US, said Friday that “Supreme Court billionaire matchmaker Leonard Leo” is the force behind “a full-blown corruption crisis has plagued the high court for over a year, undermining its credibility and plummeting public trust in the court to record lows.”

“Today’s subpoena is a critical step toward accountability, and toward ensuring that our high court adheres to the highest possible ethics standards,” said Ciccone. “As a result of the strong leadership of Chairman Durbin and the Judiciary Committee, we can now begin to get to the bottom of the corruption crisis pervading the Supreme Court.”

With Leo refusing to comply with the subpoena, Democrats would need to hold a vote in the closely divided Senate to seek enforcement.

Former Trump aide Peter Navarro was found guilty of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the committee that investigated the January 6, 2021 insurrection, and reported to a federal prison last month to serve his four-month sentence.

“Leonard Leo thinks he’s above the law just like Navarro did,” said one attorney. “We’ll see if he’s right.”

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams. This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.


This Fortnight in 1892

Granite State Journalism Will Be Less Acid

H.H. Metcalf, of the Concord People and Patriot, has sold out his share in the Democratic Press association, and resigned his editorship of the Patriot.

– New Hampshire Gazette, April 21, 1892, pg 6.

A Tale Told by an Idiot…

Steam Launch No. 132, the successor to the Emerald, on the route between the navy yard and this city, ran her first regular trip at ten o’clock a.m. Saturday from the navy yard. There is no knowledge of any attempt being made to get this boat away and she will doubtless continue here for many years. The sensational figures of the cost of this boat, printed a few days ago by the idiot who picks up navy yard items at Mrs. Chesley’s lunch counter at Newmarket Junction, were evidently given him by a woodchopper at East Epping. …

– New Hampshire Gazette, April 21, 1892, pg 6.

Rum Shops Open Sunday

We heard recently, through certain newspapers, that Sheriff Coffin was determined to suppress road houses, and stop the sale of rum on Sunday throughout Rockingham county. The statement was evidently a “roor back,” and not authorized by the sheriff, as Sunday a a number of road houses within five miles of Portsmouth were running full blast, and young men not yet twenty-one years of age residing here, thronged these houses, and many of them came home in an intoxicated condition. At one house, on Sagamore road, where the Russell house formerly stood, there were more than a dozen half-grown boys under the influence of liquor Sunday afternoon, and making a noisy time of it. This house, and others of its kind, ought to be suppressed and its proprietor made to feel the penalty of the law. The talk of closing up road houses amounts to nothing. In this city it is notorious that gin mills and rum shops keep open on Sundays with the full knowledge of the city marshal and his police force. Last year, with a republican city marshal, the rum shops were kept closed on Sundays, but there is a different order of things now.

– New Hampshire Gazette, April 28, 1892, pg 3.

Professional Egg Eater

Frank Berry, the professional egg eater from Rye, managed to eat forty eggs in a minute and twelve seconds on Saturday evening last at a resort on Fleet street. This is his best time. We are not informed whether the egg shells were part of the diet or discarded.

Beware the Tramps

The boys have made a hole in the front of the old mill building at the north mill bridge, and can gain access to the interior at any time. It should be boarded up, so that tramps and evil disposed persons cannot make a rendezvous.

Jubilation Over Sewer

The Market street and Market square merchants feel quite jubilant at the prospect of getting a sewer after years of hitherto fruitless appeal.

– New Hampshire Gazette, April 28, 1892, pg 6.

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