What We Read This Week: Our Investigative News Roundup
U.S. Defense Spending Is Double What You Think
TomDispatch contributors William Hartung and Mandy Smithberger have run the numbers. The United States spends $1.25 trillion a year on the national security state—up $200 billion since they last added up the figures for everything from the Pentagon to Homeland Security to Veterans Affairs in 2017.
“Our final annual tally for war, preparations for war, and the impact of war comes to … more than double the Pentagon’s base budget. If the average taxpayer were aware that this amount was being spent in the name of national defense—with much of it wasted, misguided, or simply counterproductive—it might be far harder for the national security state to consume ever-growing sums with minimal public pushback. For now, however, the gravy train is running full speed ahead and its main beneficiaries—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and their cohorts—are laughing all the way to the bank.”
Leonard Leo, Right-Wing Court Stacker
For two decades, Leonard Leo has been on a mission to turn back the clock to a time before the U.S. Supreme Court routinely expanded the government’s authority and endorsed new rights such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Now, as Trump’s unofficial judicial adviser, Leo told the audience at the closed-door event in February that they had to mobilize in “very unprecedented ways” to help finish the job. “We’re going to have to understand that judicial confirmations these days are more like political campaigns,” Leo told the members of the Council for National Policy, according to a recording of the speech obtained by The Washington Post. “We’re going to have to be smart as a movement.”
Rich People and Corporations Are Hiding Trillions
Gabriel Zucman a 32-year-old French-born economist on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley has found billions of dollars moving into and out of big economies and smaller ones such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and Singapore, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. He is the world’s foremost expert on where the wealthy hide their money. He and Berkeley colleague Emmanuel Saez now estimate that the top 0.1% of taxpayers—about 170,000 families in a country of 330 million people—control 20% of American wealth, the highest share since 1929. Zucman has also found that multinational corporations move 40% of their foreign profits, about $600 billion a year, out of the countries where their money was made and into lower-tax jurisdictions.
Facebook and Your Cellphone Company Are Watching You
A confidential Facebook document reviewed by The Intercept shows that the social network courts carriers, along with phone makers—some 100 different companies in 50 countries—by offering the use of even more surveillance data, pulled straight from your smartphone by Facebook itself. Offered to select Facebook partners, the data includes not just technical information about Facebook members’ devices and use of Wi-Fi and cellular networks, but also their past locations, interests and even their social groups. This data is sourced not just from the company’s main iOS and Android apps, but from Instagram and Messenger as well. The data has been used by Facebook partners to assess its standing against competitors, including customers lost to and won from them, but also for more controversial uses like racially targeted ads.
Featured image: The USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea this week. (US Navy)