A couple weeks ago Obama was interviewed on “The Tonight Show”. In response to a question from Leno about whether it’s safe for Americans to travel abroad in light of a heightened terror alert, he replied “The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident, unfortunately”. While he probably meant it’s unfortunate that the rate of car accident fatalities is so high, it could also be his conscience (if he has one) admitting the actual threat posed by terrorism is so far less than car crashes and other causes of death, it is indeed weak justification for vastly disproportionate government spending. Regardless of interpretation, he was actually telling the truth.
According to Reason.com, in the period after 9/11 from 2001 to September 2011, only 30 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Data from the 2013 edition of the AFL-CIO’s “Death on the Job” report, shows 70,664 workplace fatalities in the U.S. from 2001 to 2011. According to a Wiki page on U.S. motor vehicle deaths, from 2002 to 2011, 392,760 Americans were killed in car crashes. So in a similar time-frame the number of Americans killed in terrorist attacks were about .04% of the number of Americans killed in work related incidents in the U.S. and .008% of Americans killed in car crashes. Americans are 2,355 times more likely to die on the job and 13,092 times more likely to die on the road than from a terrorist attack.
Of the U.S. government’s $3.5 trillion total expenditure budget for fiscal year 2012,1.4 trillion was defense-related. So military spending is at least 40% of the U.S. budget (a conservative estimate not including black budget projects) for a terror threat that is miniscule compared to actual dangers that kill far more Americans.
Of course one is unlikely to learn this from corporate-stream news because the focus and priorities of corporate media and government spending tell us whose interests they promote and protect. By keeping citizens in a state of ignorance and fear, countless taxpayer dollars can more easily be diverted from essential public services and infrastructure in the name of “homeland security” and “defense” but with a tacit effect of consolidating power and weakening opposition. Rather than make us safer and more secure, U.S. government response to terrorism has had the opposite effect. Now more than ever we must overcome fear and raise awareness of the agenda at the root of the world’s worst problems through self education, questioning corporate media, organizing, strategic actions (or inactions), etc. We also need to start expanding alternatives to the current system (ie. worker owned cooperatives, small local farms and permaculture). The dominant top-heavy political and economic institutions will inevitably have to collapse or transform not only because they may be irreparably corrupt, but are socially and environmentally unsustainable.