Large corporate contractors providing military hardware and services distort Department of Defense (DoD) spending. They inflate U.S. military spending and generate waste, abuse, and sometimes outright fraud.

(Note: If you find my posts too much to read on occasion, please just read the bolded portions. They present the key points I’m making.)

The United States spends more on its military (over $800 billion a year) than the combined total of the next nine biggest military spenders: China, India, Russia, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, and South Korea. The U.S. also spends a larger share of its overall economy on military spending than its key allies, spending roughly twice the percentage of its Gross Domestic Product on the military as do the UK, France, Italy, Canada, Germany, and Japan.

U.S. military spending is roughly half of all federal government discretionary spending (i.e., spending that is authorized each year as opposed to multi-year, mandatory spending such as Social Security and Medicare). Even after adjusting for inflation, Department of Defense spending has been higher in each of the last 20 years than in any previous year since World War II. Over these 20 years, it’s been higher each year than the spike in DoD spending during President Reagan’s military build-up in the 1980s and higher than the spending peaks during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. [1]

In the budget for fiscal year 2023 that was just passed by Congress, military spending is $858 billion and spending for all other federal government programs and functions is $787 billion. There’s also $85 billion in emergency spending; $47 billion for Ukraine and $38 billion for natural disasters that occurred in 2022. These three pieces make up the $1.73 trillion overall cost of the omnibus budget bill. The $858 billion for the military is $45 billion MORE than the Biden administration requested.

This very high level of military spending in the last 20 years is due in good part to the political activities of large corporations that provide military hardware and services. These corporations have spent about $130 million a year on lobbying for the last 25 years. In addition, they have contributed about $15 million a year to candidates and political committees for the last 15 years, with a spike in contributions to $51 million for the two-year 2020 campaign cycle. This political spending targets presidential candidates and members of Congress who sit on the armed services and appropriations committees that have jurisdiction over military spending. [2] One analysis of military spending attributes excessive Department of Defense spending to three causes: corporate lobbying, pork-barrel politics, and strategic overreach.  [3]

In addition to the direct lobbying and campaign contributions of these corporations, they also pay significant amounts to trade associations and other groups lobbying for more defense spending in general, sometimes for their corporate interests explicitly, and sometimes for positions the corporations support but want to keep at arms’ length (so they are not associated with them in their shareholders’ or the public’s eyes). These groups include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Defense Industrial Association, the Air Force Association, the Navy League, the Submarine Industrial Base Council, and state and local groups lobbying for funding for local jobs. The military contractors also provide in excess of $100 million a year to think tanks that advocate for more military spending.

Roughly half of military spending goes to contractors and about half of that, over $100 billion per year, goes to just five huge military contractors.  These five and their 2020 contract awards in billions are: Lockheed Martin ($75B), Raytheon, ($28B), General Dynamics ($22B), Boeing ($22B), and Northrop Grumman ($20B). From 2001 to 2020, these five corporations received over $2.1 trillion in DoD contracts (adjusted for inflation). These five corporations have been the five biggest recipients of government money every year since 2016 except in 2021 when Pfizer broke in due to spending on the Covid vaccine. [4] Similar to what’s happened in so many industries in the U.S. economy, mergers and acquisitions have reduced what were 51 companies in the 1990s to just these five huge, powerful, politically active corporations.

The Department of Defense’s growing reliance on private contractors raises issues of accountability and transparency, increases risks of waste and fraud, and creates perverse, profit-driven incentives. The five huge military contractors are spending about $40 to $50 million a year on lobbying. Overall, the defense industry hires about 700 lobbyists each year to lobby the executive branch and the 435 members of Congress. The majority of these lobbyists have come through the revolving door from jobs in Congress, the DoD, or other military-related positions in the executive branch of the federal government.

Further evidence of the revolving door is one study’s finding of 645 instances in 2018 alone of the top 20 military contractors hiring former members of Congress or their staffs, ex-military officers, or former executive branch officials. The revolving door turns the other way as well and, for example, four of the past five Secretaries of Defense came from the top five military contractors. [5]

The very high level of U.S. military spending is not necessary to keep the country safe. The DoD (which has never passed an audit) and its contractors are known for significant waste, abuse, and sometimes outright fraud. For example, the F-35 jet fighter may never fly a combat mission because of its hundreds of defects and problems. Nonetheless, the Defense Department has contracted for 2,400 of the planes at a multi-year cost of $200 billion. Lockheed Martin, which builds the plane, spends about $13 million a year on lobbying and $7 million on campaign contributions. This, and its exaggerated claims about the number of jobs the F-35 program creates (which it breaks down by state), have pushed Congress to approve spending for even more planes than the DoD asked for! [6]

One straightforward but valuable step that could be taken to address the issue of corporate influence on DoD spending would be for President Biden to issue an executive order requiring companies with significant government contracts to disclose all their direct and indirect political spending. Such transparency would allow the public and our elected officials to better understand and counteract the military contractors’ self-serving lobbying and campaign activities.

I urge you to contact President Biden and to ask him to require the disclosure of all political spending by government contractors. You can email President Biden at or you can call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 or the switchboard at 202-456-1414.

[1]      Hartung, W. D., 9/13/21, “Profits of war: Corporate beneficiaries of the post-9/11 Pentagon spending surge,” Watson Institute, Brown University (

[2]      Open Secrets, Retrieved from the Internet 12/28/22, “Summary of defense industry political spending,” (

[3]      Williams, J., & Hartung, W. D., 8/14/22, “Secret spending by the weapons industry is making us less safe,” The Hill (

[4]      Giorno, T., & Timotija, F., 11/3/22, “Defense sector spent $101 million on lobbying during the first three quarters of 2022.,” Open Secrets (

[5]      Hartung, W. D., 9/13/21, see above

[6]      Williams, J., & Hartung, W. D., 8/14/22, see above



Large corporations wield enormous power in our economy with little accountability. There’s a little good news on the accountability front and more evidence, both in general and in specific examples, of their power in creating “inflation.”

(Note: If you find my posts too much to read on occasion, please just read the bolded portions. They present the key points I’m making.)

First, the good news. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is proposing a registry of finance companies whose violations of consumer protection laws are the subjects of criminal or other legal action. The registry would allow consumers, both individuals and small businesses, to check on the performance of finance companies before engaging in business with them, such as obtaining mortgages or other loans. It would help the CFPB track and oversee corporations that repeatedly break consumer protection laws. The registry would also help CFPB more effectively share information with other regulators and law enforcement agencies. [1]

Then, there’s the bad news. It’s become crystal clear that consumers are suffering from substantial increases in the cost of living because big corporations are increasing prices to increase their profits. Although costs for corporations have increased, they have increased their prices to more than cover their costs. As a result, their profits have soared to their highest levels in 70 years. In 2020 and 2021, increased profits were responsible for over 53% of the increase in prices. [2] Workers’ wages have increased somewhat, but not enough to keep up with the increases in the costs of food, baby formula, cars, gasoline, housing, drugs (including insulin), and other essential needs. [3]

Big corporations have the power to increase prices more than their costs have increased because 40 years of deregulation, consolidation, and lax antitrust enforcement have resulted in mega-corporations with monopolistic economic power. This hyper-capitalism creates great economic inequality and threatens our democracy. (See previous posts here and here about the threat to democracy; here, here, and here about how this has shifted our economy and political system toward oligarchy; and here about the effects of deregulation and consolidation.)

Here’s the really bad news. As corporations’ costs are starting to decline and supply chain delays are easing, they have no intentions of reducing prices – they just plan to increase their profits even more. The Groundwork Collaborative has documented hundreds of examples of corporate CEOs telling investors that they have used Covid-related reasons to jack up prices and profits and, furthermore, that they have no intentions of reducing prices as costs come down. This means they will further increase profits beyond their already record levels! Corporate executives from corporations ranging from the Kroger supermarket super chain, to toy-maker Mattel, to food-makers Hostess, Hormel, J.M. Smucker, and Kraft Heinz, to Proctor and Gamble, to Autozone, to paint and chemical giant company PPG have all boasted to investors about their increased profitability and their plans to increase profits even more – while consumers and workers struggle to survive high “inflation” due to corporations’ price gouging.

Because corporate power and profits are the main drivers of “inflation” (exacerbated and facilitated by pandemic-related supply chain problems and the war in Ukraine), Federal Reserve interest rate increases aren’t likely to be very effective in reducing inflation. They will, however, hurt workers by increasing unemployment, hurt home buyers by increasing mortgage rates, and hurt small businesses and home builders by increasing the interest costs for their loans.

Three strategies that would be more effective in addressing the current brand of “inflation” than increasing interest rates are:

  • A windfall profits tax,
  • Closing loopholes in antitrust laws to prevent corporations from colluding to increase prices (i.e., engaging in price fixing), and
  • Better enforcement of antitrust laws to reduce the monopolistic power of mega-corporations over for the longer-term.

There are bills in Congress that would institute a windfall profits tax. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced legislation that would put such a tax on a broad range of companies, while other bills have focused on the oil and gas industry. [4] Eighty percent (80%) of U.S. voters support a windfall profits tax. (See this previous post for more details.) [5]

A bill to prohibit price gouging during market disruptions such as the current pandemic, the Price Gouging Prevention Act of 2022, has been introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), along with Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). It would empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general to enforce a ban on excessive price increases. It would require public companies to report and explain price increases in their quarterly filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. (See this previous post for more details.) [6]

The Competitive Prices Act, which would close antitrust loopholes that have allowed blatant price fixing and collusion to go unpunished, has been introduced by Representative Katie Porter (D-CA). For example, the three dominant makers of insulin have for years increased their prices in lock step. [7] Porter’s bill would make this illegal. [8]

I urge you to contact President Biden and your U.S. Representative and Senators to ask them to support the CFPB’s proposed corporate criminal registry and to take steps, including a windfall profits tax, to reduce corporate price gouging and price fixing. You can email President Biden at or you can call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 or the switchboard at 202-456-1414. You can find contact information for your US Representative at and for your US Senators at

[1]      Conley, J., 12/13/22, “CFPB applauded for proposing ‘public rap sheet’ for corporate criminals,” Common Dreams (

[2]      Bivens, J., 4/21/22, “Corporate profits have contributed disproportionately to inflation. How should policy makers respond?” Economic Policy Institute (

[3]      Becker, C., 12/19/22, “Understanding corporate power and inflation,” Common Dreams (

[4]      Corbett, J., 7/29/22, “Price gouging at the pump results in 235% profit jump for big oil: Analysis,” Common Dreams (

[5]      Johnson, J., 6/15/22, “With US consumers ‘getting fleeced,’ Democrats demand windfall profits tax on big oil,” Common Dreams (

[6]      Johnson, J., 5/12/22, “New Warren bill would empower feds to crack down on corporate price gouging,” Common Dreams (

[7]      Pflanzer, L. R., 9/16/16, “A 93-year-old drug that can cost more than a mortgage payment tells us everything that’s wrong with America’s healthcare,” Business Insider

[8]      Owens, L, 10/30/22, “Who’s really to blame for inflation,” The Boston Globe


As you’ve probably heard, the threat of a railroad workers’ strike was ended by a new contract imposed by the federal government. The Biden administration brokered a tentative agreement last September after almost three years of unsuccessful bargaining by the workers’ unions and the railroad corporations. However, some of the workers’ unions voted against the proposed settlement, largely because they didn’t feel it adequately addressed some quality-of-life issues; in particular, it lacked paid sick days.

(Note: If you find my posts too long or too dense to read on occasion, please just read the bolded portions. They present the key points I’m making and the most important information I’m sharing.)

Four of the 12 railroad workers’ unions, but those representing a majority of the workers, voted against the proposed contract, which included only one paid sick day. Congress passed a bill that President Biden signed which has imposed the proposed contract on railroad workers because a rail strike would have had serious negative effects on the economy, which is never a good thing but especially not just before the December holidays.

The new contract that was imposed, which covers 115,000 workers, would:

  • Allow workers to take days off for medical care without being penalized, but only one of those days would be paid. (The unions had asked for 15 days of paid sick leave.)
  • Increase pay by 24% over five years, going back to 2020 when the last contract expired, bringing the average workers’ pay to $110,000 in 2024.
  • Provide more worker-friendly work schedules.
  • Keep workers’ health care premiums at current levels.

In addition to the bill imposing the contract, a separate bill was passed by the House but rejected by the Senate (the vote was 52 in favor, including six Republicans, but the filibuster requires 60 votes to pass) that would add seven days of paid sick time to the contract. This paid sick time would cost the railroad corporations an estimated $321 million a year. Given the over $20 billion a year in profits the six big railroad corporations are making, this is less than 2% of their record profits.

President Biden could require the railroads to provide seven paid sick days to the railroad workers through an executive order. An executive order from President Obama required companies with federal contracts to provide seven paid sick days. The railroads, which all have large, long-standing federal contracts, were exempted. President Biden could remove this exemption. Over 70 Democrats in Congress and union supporters are urging him to do so. [1] [2]

I urge you to contact President Biden to ask him to require the railroad corporations to provide their workers seven paid sick days per year. You can email President Biden at or you can call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 or the switchboard at 202-456-1414.

The background for all of this is that the railroad industry is a textbook example of the extreme capitalism our current laws allow. The railroad corporations are generating very large profits for shareholders (including executives) while workers are getting squeezed very hard. Fortunately, the railroad workers are in a union so they have some power to fight back.

Extreme capitalism has allowed the railroad corporations, through consolidation, deregulation, and aggressive personnel policies, to gain so much power that they have been providing huge returns to shareholders while making life miserable for their employees. Since 1980, through mergers and acquisitions (that our government has failed to stop under antitrust laws), the 40 major railroad corporations have become six (Burlington Northern and Santa Fe [BNSF], Union Pacific, CSX, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern, and Canadian Pacific). Four of them have roughly 85% of the freight business and they operate with monopolistic power in much of their service territories. [3] (See this previous post for more background.)

The profit margin in the industry (the percentage of revenue that is profit) has soared from 15% in 2001 to 40% in 2021. A big part of this increased profitability is that the portion of revenue dedicated to paying employees has dropped from 34% to 20%. [4] In 2019, the freight railroad industry was the most profitable industry in the country with a 51% profit margin. [5]

These record profits are, for the most part, NOT being reinvested in the businesses but are being used to reward shareholders (including executives) through the buying of the corporations’ own stock and paying dividends. For the industry as a whole, these stock buybacks and dividends have totaled over $200 billion since 2010, averaging over $15 billion per year, and they are continuing. [6]

The railroad corporations have cut staff by one-third since 2016 and over 70% since 1980 as total employment in the railroad industry has dropped from 500,000 to under 135,000. This reduced workforce is generating more profits than ever for their employers but hasn’t gotten a wage increase in almost three years as their contract negotiations have dragged on and on.

Many have called the working conditions at the railroads inhumane. Workers’ schedules have been unpredictable as they have been on-call 24/7. The railroads are so thinly staffed that they can’t allow employees any flexibility and need to have them on-call at all times to keep the trains running. Workers had been penalized if they took a day off to go to the doctor or deal with a medical need. The safety of the workers and the communities the trains run through is being compromised.

It’s ironic that railroad executives, who regularly complain about and oppose government regulation, turned to the federal government to impose a contract on their workers. [7]

[1]      Meyerson, H., 12/2/22, “The rail impasse: Your questions answered,” The American Prospect (

[2]      Conley, J., 12/9/22, “70+ lawmakers tell Biden ‘You can and you must’ provide rail workers paid sick leave,” Common Dreams (

[3]      Buck, M. J., 2/4/22, “How America’s supply chains got railroaded,” The American Prospect (

[4]      Gardner, E., 9/13/22, “Rail strike by the numbers: Railroad profits are soaring at workers’ expense,” More Perfect Union (

[5]      Buck, M. J., 2/4/22, see above

[6]      Stancil, K., 9/19/22, “While fighting workers, railroads made over $10 billion in stock buybacks,” Common Dreams (

[7]      Johnson, J., 11/25/22, “One day of Warren Buffett wealth gains could fund 15 days of paid sick leave for rail workers,” Common Dreams (


Last March, eight members of Congress, dubbed the “Blockchain Eight,” meddled in an investigation of cryptocurrency companies that included the FTX exchange that just went bankrupt. They wrote a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) trying to bully it into easing off on its investigation of cryptocurrency companies. Representative Emmer (R-MN) was the lead author of the letter that was signed by three other Republicans [Reps. Budd (NC), Davidson (OH), and Donalds (FL)] and four Democrats [Reps. Auchincloss (MA), Gottheimer (NJ), Soto (FL), and Torres (NY)]. [1]

(Note: If you find my posts too much to read on occasion, please just read the bolded portions. They present the key points I’m making.)

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is an independent regulatory and law enforcement agency whose investigations are not supposed to be influenced by politicians. However, the letter the Blockchain Eight sent questioned the SEC’s authority for making information requests to cryptocurrency companies and stated (inaccurately) that the requests might violate federal law. It said that the crypto companies found the requests “overburdensome” and that they were “stifling innovation.” The crypto industry’s complexity and opacity, along with its history of evading sanctions, concealing transactions, and defrauding investors, all make an SEC investigation into it more than appropriate. [2]

The SEC’s investigation of FTX was relevant to its possible mishandling of customer funds, which is what led to its bankruptcy. FTX was improperly transferring customers’ funds to an associated trading company, Alameda Research, which used them to engage in speculative transactions. Ironically, at a congressional hearing back in December 2021, Rep. Emmer told FTX’s CEO Bankman-Fried, “Sounds like you’re doing a lot to make sure there is no fraud or other manipulation.”

U.S. Representative Emmer (R-MN) was clear in a Tweet he sent in March 2022 that the Blockchain Eight’s letter was in response to complaints from crypto companies and that the intent was to stop the SEC’s investigation. He wrote that crypto companies “must not be weighed down by extra-jurisdictional and burdensome reporting requirements. We will ensure our regulators do not kill American innovation.” Simultaneously, Rep. Torres had an op-ed published that called for New York State to loosen its regulation of the crypto industry. However, many experts believe the crypto industry is seriously under-regulated.

It’s unclear whether or not the Blockchain Eight were acting based on a direct request from FTX in their effort to slow or stop the SEC’s investigation. In any case, it’s inappropriate for members of Congress to interfere in an on-going investigation. There are both congressional ethics rules and federal laws that prohibit political interference in investigations.

Five of the eight signers of the letter had received campaign contributions from FTX and/or its employees: Emmer and Gottheimer each got $11,600, Auchincloss got $6,800, and Budd and Torres each received $2,900. Rep. Budd had also received $500,000 from a Super PAC created by FTX co-CEO Ryan Salame. In the 2022 election cycle, with Rep. Emmer as chair of the House Republicans’ campaign committee, its PAC received $5.5 million from FTX-related sources. In 2021, the overall crypto industry contributed $7.3 million to political campaigns and committees.

The House Financial Services Committee has announced hearings into the FTX bankruptcy. Perhaps not surprisingly, six of the Blockchain Eight are on the committee: Emmer, Gottheimer, Auchincloss, Budd, Davidson, and Torres.

The FTX bankruptcy hasn’t stopped Rep. Emmer from supporting the crypto companies. At a recent event of the Blockchain Association, the crypto industry’s trade group, he promoted cryptocurrency and opposed regulation of the industry. Furthermore, Emmer and the other Republican letter signers have tried to blame the SEC and its Chair, Gary Gensler, for the FTX bankruptcy and have peddled conspiracy theories about ties between Gensler, the SEC, and FTX.

Among other things, the SEC has been investigating whether FTX and other crypto companies are creating securities that should be registered with the SEC. The Blockchain Eight’s letter criticized the SEC for “employing … investigative functions to gather information from unregulated cryptocurrency and blockchain industry” companies. However, this is exactly what the SEC should be doing – investigating whether securities that should be registered and regulated are being created by crypto companies.

The revolving door of personnel moving between related government and private sector jobs is very evident in the crypto industry and with its lobbyists. The Blockchain Association’s director of government affairs is the former financial services policy expert for Rep. Davidson. Many of the other lobbyists for the crypto industry are former regulators or other government officials, including three former SEC Chairs, three former Chairs of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, a former Treasury Secretary, a former White House chief of staff, and three former Senators.

The crypto industry is actively using all three government influencing strategies – campaign spending, lobbying, and the revolving door – in its efforts to avoid regulation. Meanwhile, many customers are losing money in the basically unregulated cryptocurrency financial markets.

The Blockchain Eight’s letter is eerily reminiscent of the Keating Five scandal in 1987 that was part of the Saving and Loan debacle. Back then, five Senators pressured bank regulators into shutting down an investigation into Charles Keating’s Lincoln Savings and Loan bank. Keating had donated $1.3 million to the five Senators’ campaigns over a number of years. Shortly after the shutdown of the investigation, Lincoln went bankrupt, costing the government and taxpayers $3.4 billion. This was a piece of the nationwide Savings and Loan debacle and bailout that cost the federal government and taxpayers $125 billion. Keating was convicted of fraud and served time in jail. The Senate Ethics Committee found that three of the five Senators had improperly interfered with a federal investigation.

I urge you to contact President Biden and your U.S. Representative and Senators to ask them to support strong regulation of the crypto industry. Enough people have lost enough money that strong regulation is clearly needed. Also encourage them to ensure that a thorough investigation of the FTX bankruptcy occurs and that appropriate punishments and sanctions are meted out to companies and individuals that were involved.

You can email President Biden at or you can call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 or the switchboard at 202-456-1414. You can find contact information for your US Representative at and for your US Senators at

[1]      Sammon, A., 3/21/22, “The eight Congressmen subverting the SEC’s crypto investigation,” The American Prospect (

[2]      Dayen, D., 11/23/22, “Congressmembers tried to stop the SEC’s inquiry into FTX,” The American Prospect (