“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” – Eisenhower, Chance for Peace, 1953. Our last US president to have been a career military general.
Budgets are usually met with an understandable anxiety and boredom. Mix in congressional politics and the cocktail for an apathetic un-involved citizen is perfected. The problem is, those un-involved citizens are the ones at the bar, paying the tab.
The US budget is a bit out of control. About 7% of all US spending, both discretionary (think movable) and mandatory (think social security specific taxes), is set aside to pay interest on our debt. That’s $283 billion. Pundits come on TV every year and talk of wasteful spending, welfare abuse and where to trim the fat. But if we cut the Departments of Education, Housing, Energy, Environment, Science, and Transportation entirely, the savings is only $277 billion—less than the interest on our debt. Focusing on any of these programs to solve our debt ignores the big fat armored elephant in the room.
Military spending doubled from 1998 to 2011, as of two weeks ago, the senate approved over $700 billion for 2018. The new National Defense Authorization just passed the senate last week, 89 – 9, approving an extra $80 billion the administration didn’t even ask for. Only 3 Republicans, 4 Dems and an Independent voted No. 41 blue guys, including Warren, Harris and Booker (our “progressive senators”), fell in toe. He must be doing one heck of a job to warrant such a bonus check.
Reducing the military budget is damn hard, and one reason for starters is we can’t even talk about it–not in any rational, civilized, way at least. “ISIS, Russia, Iran, N. Korea!… Support our troops!?” It’s like we have no other choice but to boost defense funding or die.
But budgets are a choice and if the progressives are going to start demanding more accountability for the American taxpayer, they need to start learning how to have the conversation. A tried and true place to start? The ever more powerful, the ever more demanding, D.C. ball ticklers, in the featureless, anemic, D.C. lobby. Lockheed Martin, though an independent corporation, is a staple of the defense industry that also has happened to donate money to 386 of 435 members of the 112th Congress. It’s almost shocking how small the largest committee on the hill is—House Armed Services Committee—with 30 Dems and 34 Republicans. Unlike some stalemates in congress, like the obviously trivial debates on education or healthcare, our country’s national security is not a partisan issue.
Strangely enough, the talking heads that salivate at the thought of quoting a “founding father,” never seem to mention that in the wake of the revolution they refused to enlist a standing army because the general population viewed an army as a threat to democracy and freedom. In 1774, Josiah Quincy, Congressman (MA), called a standing army in a free nation a deformed monster. James Madison said “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.” As late as 1939, a North Dakota Republican Congressman, thought the ability to manufacture weapons should be restricted to the government, “The removal of the element of profit from war would materially remove the danger of more war.”
The argument over budget only ever gets as far as cutting waste, but our country doesn’t accumulate massive debt feeding the hungry or healing the sick, or educating their population. If done right, those actions would actually have their own returns. No, our country is bankrupting itself with war. The founders knew it in the 1700s, but pundits are still squabbling about it today. The conversation needs to change. We are having the conversation the industry would like us to have, you either “support our troops,” or you don’t. But we are ignoring, of course, the fact that nothing is that simple, and obviously not the budgetary decisions of the United States Government.
By: Jake Tonkel