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March 28, 2007

"Defense" Spending to Oblivion
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

The Senate today voted to keep the timeline in the Iraq bill. Who would have thought it would come down to the wire in Nebraska?Though the congressional debate is getting most of the attention--as it should--we still need to remember the crazy amount of money we're shoveling out the door to support our "defense". I put that in quotations on purpose...because the level of spending is so high and the debate about it so inadequate, and we are so NOT funding the solutions that will keep us safe in the long run.

Last year a Congressional Research Report put the average per troop costs for Iraq are between $355,000 and $360,000 per individual, per year; this dollar amount has been increasing since 2003. The last report came out this month put the cost of the wars so far at around $752 billion. gulp.

But the public is continually mis-educated about defense spending---so it isn't surprising that many people believe a fallacy: the more we spend on defense, the more security we purchase. Continually, we hear how today's defense budget is just over 4% of GDP...far lower than at any point in recent history. NPR repeated this trope yesterday. But journalists almost always fail to mention how gigantic our economy has grown in comparison to the World War II era. Even worse, They don't place this figure in context. The most important fact for taxpaying citizens is that the defense budget now takes up more than half of all the dollars we have available to spend every year. This year, its at 59% for 08 not including war spending. The amount of dollars is getting smaller and smaller for everything else. Here's a fantastic video on the topic.

There's no end to the lameness of the mainstream coverage. Today the New York Times framed this question

as another dead-end conversation in an article about how Hillary Clinton is cultivating the military to bolster her image of strength. The author twice mentions how the military is afraid she will divert their resources to domestic concerns. What? Are we ever going to have a real debate? Probably not. As long as tradeoff debates are verboten, everything becomes a security issue. And anyway, forget about Guns versus Butter. How about a Guns versus Guns debate? Like Why in tarnation is the Army paying one penny for missile defense when it needs more people who speak Arabic, or to get all the sand out of its equipment.

This is insane. MyDD has a post about how Democrats and Independents are converging on this issue in a hopeful way.


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So money spent on entitlement programs is now not counted in the money we "have available to spend" each year?

Unless you're going to explain the difference between the discretionary and the total (entitlement + discretionary + interest on debt) budget, the figure you should be quoting is the percentage of the total budget (which is 21% in FY08). This in an increase from FY07 when it was 19%, and the total budget has increased. To get a better sense of how much of the FY08 proposed budget focuses on 'security' (DoD, DHS & F-150), see Table S-2 here.

We should be left to wonder why def. spending is rising 4 years into a war that was supposed increase our security.

The US is spending about two billion dollars per day on the military, exclusive of its stupid wars, every day of the year, when the country is not threatened by any other country. The US has not been invaded since 1812, Canada and Mexico are fairly reliable neighbors and there is no prospect of an invasion fleet off our shores, so--the founding fathers were right--there is no need for a standing army. The expensive navy sails around trying to intimidate the citizens of other countries but only succeeds in alienating our relations with others, and besides the big-ship navy is obsolete because it can be easily defeated by new generations of cruise missiles, torpedoes and drone aircraft (think Hezbollah crippling an Israeli warship with a cruise missile). The US air force has no meaningful mission. None of these forces are serving any purpose except to furnish the means to bombard, invade and occupy other countries (the Department of Defense is really the Department of Offense) and we have seen the folly of this policy most notably in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We currently have two major aircraft carrier fleets raising tensions in the Persian Gulf, with the result that oil prices are increasing daily.

The expenditures of money largely borrowed from Japan and China on a military which actually weakens our security, as it is doing presently in Iraq, are used to finance an expending imperialistic military force and to provide corporate welfare used to fund research, development, engineering and production of increasingly sophisticated machines which have no earthly purpose for anything worthwhile. The effort to design and produce war machines detracts from US capability to produce useful items--new forms of power generation, transportation, etc. Some of these war machines are sold to other countries which further weakens our security by contributing to regional wars, and weakens our domestic economy because these sales require "offsets" which export US jobs to other countries with the assistance of the US government.

Many of the people who have served in the US military form a handy political constituency for further expansion and use of the military to the detriment of our standing in the world and of our domestic needs. The US, of all developed countries, ranks poorest in health care, infant mortality, maternal mortality, suicide, homicide, incarceration and executions. War as a policy is increasing domestic repression, and we have the sad precedent of one US citizen, Jose Padilla, being locked up and tortured for years without legal representation or trial. Military expenditures are expanding the national debt to the point where every US citizen, including newborn children, has a share of the national debt of about $28,000. No wonder babies cry!!

I'm no budget guru, but no. entitlement spending is not counted as discretionary is pre-obligated. C.L. Ball. That's a good point. I guess I just try to make it simple, which isn't a way to enlighten people about the real proportions of the budget. Don, I feel cynical about the civilians, not the military is, after all, a public service and does the bidding of people who we elect.... it has been general after general who has sat in front of Congress since 2005 and essentially said that the use of force has become counterproductive....and the JAGs at DoD are hated by the political appointees...btw

Entitlement spending is pre-obligated, unless the terms of entitlement programs are changed by Congress. One can argue that it is unwise to do this in specific cases, but it is a big jump from this to claiming that it may never be done. I don't think even Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), the House Agriculture Committee chairman, believes that, and his committee is scheduled to have one group of entitlement programs, the ones that make payments to farmers, marked up with the rest of the farm bill by the end of May.

The Speaker's attempt to foil the "Unitary Executive" and force withdrawal from Iraq will fail and, I think, the Speaker and the Majority Leader know that. They will do "anything" they do not have to take exclusive responsibility for and nothing with their undisciplined majority -- you know, where a vote for "pork" is now euphemized as matter of "conscience".

Money is fungible and this SCOTUS will back this POTUS in its discretionary use. President BUSH will leave office with a wider war he thinks he could have won and the next President -- not today's Democratic Congress -- will have to deal with it. The Speaker and the Majority Leader have made their gesture. That is all they have in them.

The House/Senate Democrats will not do anything they have to take exclusive responsibility for. Until they find enough "Moderate Republicans" to hide behind, they will support as big a defense budget as they can beg, borrow, or steal enough money to fund -- economic responsibility being something they have given over to the Federal Reserve to give the appearance of, relieving themselves and, indeed, the other branches of government the burden of.

This bi-partisan deference began after 1876 when the Congressional Democrats reversed the outcome of the contested election in Florida in exchange for military concessions that ended Reconstruction and restored the all-white partisan monopoly in the ex-Confederate states.

And, it matured after 1916, when anglophile Republican and racist Democratic internationalists agreed to enter World War I against Germany and Austria.

Today's Democrats will remain a loose alliance of do-nothing, risk-averse, incumbent wind-bags and Committee Barons more responsible to extra-party interests that to even each other:

The DSCC backs Joe LIEBERMAN and the DCCC backs Steny HOYER against REID/PELOSI and, for that matter, the DNC and both grass-roots and net-roots Democrats like myself.

The AFL-CIO has a huge stake in all defense programs. You cannot zero-out a single one without laying off a union shop steward or janitor. Union-administered pension funds? Don't even ask!

While Th. EDSALL notes that Democrats have opposed major weapons systems rhetorically and said they want to cut the Pentagon budget for decades, they have never actually done so even when they had the majorities to do so.

AIPAC/JINSA has become a sort of Navy League organized around the US military assistance programs that now feature US-Israeli co-production agreements for US-style aerial and naval ordnance including ballistic missile defense. (Not IDF mechanized, light, or naval infantry ordnance that might actually be useful.)

Moreover, the Democratic Leadership in Washington have simply re-installed the pre-1994 regime of bi-partisan concession-tending and Committee Barons with a huge stake in the agro-military defense budgets of the Great, World, and Cold War era.

They did nothing after 1989 and never dealt with even the change from 2nd Generation to 3rd Generation warfare. Remember, these are the Democrats who simply ended the draft, pretended we were winning the War in Vietnam, gave Nixon carte blanche to widen it, and failed to impeach him or Reagan over their extra constitutional military activities.

They legally trivialize military provisions of the US Constitution, for instance, allowing the proliferation of "Private Military Contractors" despite exclusive Congressional responsibility for "Letters of Marque and Reprisal". There is no "well regulated militia" in any state, unless Israel is now a state, and the franchise is still administered by tax and, now, private bill collectors, not the Adjutants General.

I do not think Democratic House and Senate Leaders should follow the crack-pot, self-described "military genius" Newt GINGRICH.

But, they ignored John BOYD and Chuck SPINNEY and have utterly marginalized Gary HART. They are the Reactionary Liberals Newt mocks, indeed, just cartoon characters out of The Simpsons.

Don, I feel cynical about the civilians, not the military is, after all, a public service and does the bidding of people who we elect..

Of course, when I say "US military" I take it as a given that that the military is funded and managed by civilians, civilians who "revolve-door" as congresscritters/lobbyists and DODers/corparatists. When Eisenhower talked about the dangers of the military/industrial complex he wasn't deriding soldiers--he was one. So am I, in that sense. In other words, the "military institution" in the US pervades our life to our detriment as you imply.

By the way, thanks for responding. I wish there were more give-and-take on this site. You diarists are so well informed and smart and seemingly connected with the essentials of our political life that it's a shame to not have an informed debate. How else can we find the truth? Shadi-like.

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