Thursday, March 19, 2009

The sacred cow of spending

Eisenhower wasn't kidding when he warned us about the military-industrial complex. In all the debate over spending, the defense budget is rarely mentioned but it's a bigger suck on our Treasury than the social safety net. The Social Security "problem" and national health insurance could be easily solved by bringing military spending into some semblance of sanity. Young Matt puts it into focus today:
It seems to me that if you told the man on the street that you had a plan to spend double on defense what China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran spend combined that said man would assume you were proposing to spend a healthy amount of funds on national defense. Such a standard would, however, imply very large cuts.
Exactly right. We spend 5 to 10 times more for our national defense than our "enemies" and it's so unnecessary. And I'm not talking about overpriced hammers and toilet seats. The big bucks are being spent on developing sophisticated technology for wars we don't fight anymore. The dynamics of combat have changed, but the spending hasn't because the corporations with a lock on the politicians are deeply invested in obsolete R&D.

The defense budget is around half a trillion dollars. If we cut that in half, and we safely could, it would go a long way towards funding programs spent for peaceful purposes instead of war. It works for me.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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Blogger TRUTH 101 said...

Defense is just as much a social program as food stamps or medicaid. Millions of jobs depend on it. Do we need a bunch of ships that can be sunk by one or two little drones? Maybe. Maybe not. But we need the jobs in the ship yards. There aren't many orders for ocean liners these days. Not saying it's right or wrong. Just my version of a reality check Libby. WE're all dependent on government largesse to some degree or another. In the end it's about the jobs the Dept. of Defense provides. Not how safe we are.

10:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Social Security "problem" and national health insurance could be easily solved by bringing military spending into some semblance of sanity."

I'm curious if you have an source for this claim. Oh, BTW, did you hear an idea Obama's administration was throwing around to cut costs? Something about vets and insurance.

10:30:00 PM  
Blogger OpenMindedRepublican said...

'Department of Defense' is a pretty poor name for what we have.

Only a tiny fraction of the 'defense' budget is for defending America. We could cut the military budget quite severely if we are willing to give up the ability to put our nose into anything we please anywhere in the world.

But is that something we are willing to give up?

12:50:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Truth, that used to be true but the Def Dept isn't really creating the jobs it used to. I believe I saw something a while back that Iraq created the least jobs of any war. We outsource a lot of work. The money is going into advanced tech for new airplanes and stuff like Star Wars that hasn't successfully tested since Reagan as far as I know. If the money is redirected into social programs, the jobs will be created in that sector instead.

OMR, that's the half trillion dollar question. I don't think they have the political will to cut it back. The military contractors have the politicians on a string.

8:29:00 AM  
Blogger OpenMindedRepublican said...

You have a point about the contractors and politicians, but that really wasn't what I meant.

As it stands now, we have the ability to project power anywhere in the world at very short notice, at a strength that only a very few countries could resist. Changing that would have far reaching effects, that I am not sure could be predicted.

Whether the US acting as 'world police' is a good thing or not is debatable. That having us suddenly stop would cause a lot of ruckus is not.

8:44:00 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

The war machines are huge users of fossil fuels. If we convert to technology favoring alternate energy, that would be a saving in any event. However, I join in thinking that using 'defense' funds to defend ourselves from hunger and poor education, while developing natural sources of energy including wave technology, would improve the economy while improving the environment.

9:52:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Ruth, exactly right. The next *war* is going to be over resources and bombing entire countries into glass ashtrays isn't going to be an optin when the fallout pollutes the water we want.

OMR, my point is that our defense superiority is already at least twice that of any other country and yet we're spending billions and trillions to develop weapons to increase that superiority further and we can be *world cops* without doing so. Futher, we're developing weaponry for super power wars and that's not the sort of warfare we're going to see anymore. If they were investing the money in manpower, e.g., paying regular soldiers more to increase recruitment, I would find that less objectionable and it would make sense for the sort of warfare we're already in. Which is not to imply that I think war should be the first solution in any event. I'm a food, not bombs proponent from way back.

10:47:00 AM  
Blogger (O)CT(O)PUS said...

After a era of outsourcing and the dwindling of our manufacturing sector, the only high value jobs left will be in the military-industrial complex. What does this signal for the future in terms of domestic and international policy? The question is rhetorical ... the answer being too terrible to contemplate.

11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

That's the problem 8pus, but again, I think the spending could be re-directed into other peace oritented industries and the only reason it isn't is because *green* industrialists don't have the same political clout.

12:12:00 PM  
Blogger TRUTH 101 said...

Don't confuse jobs with the DOD with jobs paid for by the DOD Libby. Tell Congressman Murtha a shipyard is being shut down. Look at the uproar every time a military base is slated to be closed. The members of the military get transferred. The civilian workers just lose their jobs. It's about jobs Sister. And the guy losing his job isn't going to be comforted by the other guy that get's a job because his was eliminated. Not defending anything. Just making a point about status quo here. If this happens, it has to go real slow.

6:46:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

I understand what you're saying Truth, but the point is the spending hasn't really created a lot of jobs for civilians. Not like it did in the other wars certainly. If we cut the spending for the unneccesary R&D and invested more in intelligence and troops, it would create more jobs at half the price.

9:05:00 AM  
Blogger TRUTH 101 said...

Like I said, I'm not defending. I'm just pointing out the long hard road to cutting anything defense wise. No matter how useless, an opponent will say his opponent voted to cut defense. It works 98% of the time.

I've been doing this awhile. I like smart aleck comments but I am pragmatic as can get when it comes to my politics. "Millions (Trillions?) for defense, not one cent for tribute" sells a whole helluva lot better than "We can cut defense spending fifty percent by closing unneeded bases and dismantling two thirds of the nuclear arsenal and focusing our forces to handle regional conflict.

The only thing that registers is making us less safe and laying off people by cutting defense spending.

Unions and Republicans don't dig that Libby.

3:02:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Good point on the framing Truth.

4:21:00 PM  
Blogger TRUTH 101 said...

I could write a book Libby.

9:51:00 AM  

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