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July 13, 2006

National SecurityTradeoffs--Its not Just the Left Anymore
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Last month, Congress weenies got excited when the Senate unanimously voted to make supplemental spending for our ongoing wars part of the regular budget --and several House Armed Services Members agreed that this was an important discussion. This news is good and bad. Good because it will improve the oversight process (which has nearly broken down completely in the realm of national security)  Bad because, barring new revenue sources (like taxes)  we will completely bust out of our budget caps with war spending stuffed in there (it could be hundreds of billions of dollars more in coming years).  Supplemental spending is deemed emergency, so doesn't have to be offset by reductions in other federal spending.  If this comes to pass and the current gang stays in power--a distinct possibility given gerrymandered districts, sketchy voting machines and astonishingly--citizens who would continue to vote for them--we can kiss every other piece of public service and infrastructure that we take for granted goodbye. Its the government hater/public sector privateer dream. (short aside, I just received an invite  from Heritage Foundation  about "moral reconstruction" post Katrina--the blurb posits that derelict human spirit was responsible for the hurricane's aftermath. Um. No. How about a stripped and demoralized federal government staffed by fraternity cronies?)

But a new and unusual voice has thrown down the glove on national security priorities.  Rep. John Murtha, a "pro-defense" Democrat and hawk has put forward a formidable statement of priorities.  This might be the legitimizing action that will create the sort of guns vs. guns debate we've been waiting for. His July 11th letter to Capitol Hill Colleages begins:

We are spending $8 billion a month in Iraq.  That equates to 2 billion dollars a week, or 267 million dollars a day, or 11 million dollars AN HOUR.

Attached are some comparisons between what we are spending in Iraq as we "stay the course" indefinitely and what those funds could be used for instead.

Here are some of the first tradeoff items:

$33.1 billion/yr    Department of Homeland Security FY 07 budget
(4 months in Iraq)       

$10 billion (1-time)    Equipping commercial airliners with defenses against shoulder fired
(5 weeks in Iraq)        missiles    

$8.6 billion/7 years    Shortage of international aid needed to rebuild Afghanistan
(one month in Iraq)       

Read the rest of the document and dollar comparisons here .  Just as Murtha's statements on Iraq last winter changed the flavor of the debate on ending the war, this sort of document might really help jump start the discussion we need to look at real threats and resources for the post 9/11 world we're in.


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On this subject Murtha is not a "new and unusual voice" and saying so undercuts your argument.

If being in Iraq and spending 1 dollar a month is bad, much less 8 billion, then it is bad on it's own and need not be compared to something else.

It's exactly arguements like this why the democratic party is not seen as trustworthy on issues of national defense.

Either a given military program is needed or not but saying it's somewhat needed but we need a new highway in Alaska more is not only very bad public policy but it's a lie. The Congress does not operate like this and one does not get to cut a specific line item to fund another- the entire structure is geared against this kind of thing.

In any case it's a false choice. It would be a false choice to say should be spend money on food aid or aids for Africa or aid for Africa vs spare parts for Army helos. If the money should be spent then spent it. The Congress is not going to stop spending billions on wastefull progams so at the very least if something is actually needed then lets do that.

It's not aids for Africa or new ships for the USN when we need both. Maybe if the US and EU stopped spending all the billions on agricultural subsidies the farmers of Africa might be able to compete again and grow food. One can not farm when food "aid" is free. That would save both the subsidy and having to buy the food "aid" and ship it. Talking about how Congress could beter spend money is just an endless waste of time but comparing one thing to another is pointless. Just my opinion...

Lane Brody

I might agree with you, but this isn't defense spending. The reason this is different is that Murtha's documentputs forward tradeoffs with war spending....which are outside the regular budget process. The Iraq war is not "just another military program" in other words....And he is, too, a "not usual suspect" in this regard.

I fundamentally do not understand the need to make this point in these terms. Is the implication that spending money Iraq would be fine except for this specific list of things where the money should be spent instead? Either Iraq should be done or it should not and either that takes X amounts of dollars or it takes zero as we are not there. Moreover, the entire notion that Congress spends money on X instead of Y is a false picture of reality.

Murtha wants our troops out of Iraq now. His arguement supports that position. It's a tad silly to wish to make an arguement over spending priorities when the actual issue is whether we should be in Iraq or not. If we should be in Iraq then we must, out of a sense of national honor and duty, spend what it takes to get the job done. If we should not be in Iraq then every single dollar spent is wasted and need not be compared to anything.

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