Drum circle of the war hawks
The war hawks, desperate to avoid huge impending cuts to the defense budget, have formed a drum circle to stall the reductions and are beginning to pound out a rhythm. Seung Min Kim of Politico reports:
Congressional Republicans are still full throttle in their efforts to dismantle the automatic spending cuts that would be particularly painful to the Pentagon.
A quartet of Senate defense hawks [Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Jon Kyl of Arizona] announced on Wednesday they’ll introduce legislation to undo hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts by replacing it with budget savings elsewhere. Those across-the-board cuts were mandated by the supercommittee’s inability to strike a deal slashing the nation’s deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
The U.S. government faces massive deficits as far as the eye can see. We’ve been very fortunate to fund these deficits with borrowing at historically low rates as global investors sought the safety of U.S. Treasuries. But our fiscal imbalances, like those of many European nations, are unsustainable in the long run. We cannot continue to spend more than we take in. We must shrink every part of the federal budget and get more efficiency from what we do spend. The arguments of fiscal expansionists that stimulus spending is necessary to jumpstart the economy have proven unpopular. Government spending must shrink, and a major component of that is defense spending. The war hawks defend military spending with the patriotism mantle, but that’s a worn-out cliche that can’t pass scrutiny.
Let’s have a look at the numbers.
President Obama proposed spending approximately $924 billion on defense, veterans care and international affairs for 2012. This represents about 24.7 percent of the $3.729 trillion federal budget. The automatic cuts to these areas required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will equal about $75 billion per year over 8 years. This would be on top of already-enacted Defense Department reductions of $45 billion per year over 10 years. The combined $120 billion of annual spending cuts will equal about 12.9 percent of the joint defense/intelligence budget. It’s a big cut, but it would barely dent the capabilities of the biggest military force on earth.
Other countries spend much, much less than we do on their defense needs. For example, China, with about 19 percent of the world’s population, spends about 16 percent of what the U.S. military spends. Germany, which everyone expects will use its wealth to save other Eurozone nations, only spends about 1.4 percent of their GDP on its military. Meanwhile the U.S. will have 42 military installations in Germany even after multiple installations are closed through 2015. So America spends on European defense while Germany saves. It’s an imprudent strategy and our deficit-funded government really can’t afford it.
I’m not suggesting that other parts of the federal government should be spared. Every area of the budget should reduces expenses at a level equal to the military cuts, even if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire in 2012.
Senators Graham, McCain, Ayotte, and Kyl should ask if borrowing to maintain our enormous military doesn’t ultimately weaken our economic strength. No amount of patriotism will protect a fiscally weakened nation. Our strength comes from careful conservation of our resources. It’s time to roll back military spending.