Why Not Defense?

2011 February 16

by Roy W. Bakos

The deficit is too high.  Taxes are too high.  Government needs to be cut.  We all need to sacrifice.  Entitlement programs make up the biggest part of the Federal Budget so we must cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other Entitlement programs…

Wait a minute.  That last part changes when you realize that all of the 670 Billion Dollar outlay for Social Security is paid for by a dedicated revenue stream that comes from the collection of payroll taxes and benefit taxes collected on benefits paid to high-income seniors.  All of it.  100%.  What does this mean?  It means that the biggest cash cow in the Federal Budget is an Entitlement Program that benefits a large number of American and foreign companies…the almost 700 Billion Dollar Defense budget.

This argument came to mind while listening to a new Republican Congressman talk about the needs of cutting the Federal budget on NPR and how this must be done by curtailing entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid because we are spending more in real dollars right now than at any time since WWII and that we are “not even in a World War.”  Wait a minute.  Aren’t we spending hundreds of Billions of Dollars on our continuing 9 year-old wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?  Haven’t we now been at war across the World for a longer time than at any other in US History (WWII “only” lasted just under 4 years.  Just under 4 years to defeat Hitler and Japan but we can’t catch a guy in a cave in over twice that time)?  Maybe instead of penalizing Senior citizens and the poor we could just trim say 270 billion or so from defense to put us in the 400 billion a year spending range there.  Crazy to cut that much?  I don’t think so.  If we cut our defense budget to 400 billion per year, we would still spend 4 times what the number two country China spends at 97 billion annually and almost 6 times more than number 3 Great Britain at 67 Billion.  In fact, if China and England were to become best friends tomorrow, we would still spend 3 and 1/2 times as much as the two of them combined if we cut defense spending by 270 billion dollars.  This cut in spending, along with other sensible cuts and reforms of some programs would go a long way towards erasing the deficit and paying down the National Debt without penalizing the most vulnerable in our society.

Where are the calls to do this?  Where are the calls to reign in the Empire a bit and stop using our military to open markets and defend other countries and corporate interests?  This is the “Peace Dividend” for winning the Cold War that we never got to spend or use back home.  It is time that we beat some swords into ploughshares (that could easily be converted back to swords if needed) and started cutting government in the area where there is more largess, fraud, and waste than any other (see Pallets of Cash in Iraq, $15 per-gallon gas payments to Halliburton in Iraq, and Congressional Spending allocations for programs that even the Pentagon does not want or need for a few examples here).  We would still have the largest and most potent military in the world but we would just have to do with a little less of it…just like the new deficit hawks want unemployed workers, students, seniors, and the poor and working classes to do when they tell them we must sacrifice to survive.  I am ready to sacrifice as long as that sacrifice is shared by everyone…including defense contractors.

One Response leave one →
  1. Marie Kelly permalink
    April 14, 2011

    I completely agree with you on the dismissive attitude I read, over and over again, about any proposal to cut defense spending. Either it doesn’t get mentioned at all, or the amount of “sacrifice” is hopelessly little, like 5% or less.

    Further, Mr. Obama’s new budget magic still does not include any cuts to defense spending. In fact “defense” or “war” is consciously avoided in print on the White House “fact sheet”, where the term defense spending is re-invented as “security spending”:
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/04/13/fact-sheet-presidents-framework-shared-prosperity-and-shared-fiscal-resp
    Mr. Obama was not able to sugar-coat the discussion with creative language in the live speech; the transcript mentions war a couple times, and doesn’t use new term “security spending”:
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/04/13/remarks-president-fiscal-policy

    Sounds like a simple choice of words? Well now you can’t enter “defense spending” into a search engine and expect the results to include the White House proposal. But I guess you can enter the term “security spending” and hope it doesn’t get confused with Social Security or Homeland Security. Why would the White House want to confuse this $700 billion per year entitlement by introducing confusing terminology? The cuts that the president discusses are apparently cumulative over a 12-year period, where a $400 billion dollar reduction appears meaningful (of course, that is before you actually divide by 12 years!) Since when did we switch over to a 12-year federal budget? It was enough drama to pass a federal budget for a single year, which didn’t even happen for FY 2011. But now, we are all financial geniuses and we are thinking ahead –12 years at a time?!?

    Well I guess it is not that mysterious: defense spending continues without supervision; it just got upgraded with a name change. Thanks to this administration’s deliberate misrepresentation of defense spending, this issue can continue to escape rational discussion on fiscal responsibility.

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