Why Does America Spend More on Military than On Public Schools?

America’s military spending budget is a controversial, hot-button issue that is widely debated among many circles. It is not hard to see why: American taxpayers spent $13.34 trillion from 2000 to 2019 on the military. This is a yearly average of $826 billion when the Veterans Administration’s input is accounted for. 

In 2019, it was reported that the US spent three times more than China on its military budget and over ten times more than Russia! When you look at other American infrastructure elements and their failings, it is not hard to see why military spending is so debated.

Public schooling is one such area of infrastructure that is often compared unfavorably in terms of budget. While the American military thrives in bucketloads of money, the US education system flounders as one of the world’s worst. 

So, why does America spend more on fighting wars overseas than it does on educating its population? Why does the American school system suffer so much when it has more money per student spent on it than the global average?

All of these questions and more are answered below, so read on if you want to find out why America spends more on the military than it does public schools. 

Brinkmanship and Global Peacekeeping

The US is certainly infamous for its military involvement in various conflicts worldwide. This means that the force is spread globally, and that comes with its costs.

Compounding on that problem is the kind of attitude that the United States has towards its military. The Cold War period was infamous for the US fostering brinkmanship – racing towards the edge of warfare to see which side would flinch first.

Since the end of the cold war, this approach has continued, with Trident’s nuclear defense system being upgraded every year. This is several billion-dollar affairs, and it only gets more expensive as the need for the most “advanced” defense system changes and increases each year. 

State-Based Funding

Another element you need to bear in mind when making this comparison is how state and federal funding work. The US military is entirely funded by national means, meaning the US itself supports its military.

By comparison, the US public schooling system is funded through multiple means. While there is absolutely a considerable amount of federal funding, public schools are also funded primarily on a state-by-state basis. 

This means that, yes, US public schools have much less spent on them by the government. However, the central government itself has little to no control of a considerable portion of how much is given to schools in a state. 

While the US federal government can apply the taxes, it directly takes its vast and expansive military. It cannot do the same for education. There is a massive difference in budget allocation between states and even districts within states. This complicates the comparison significantly, unfortunately. 

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