Why not cut defense?
No, seriously. That is the one thing I have not heard anyone discuss.
The GOP took the nation to shutdown last week demanding cuts in the budget, they’re doing so again with the debt ceiling. Spending, they insist, must be cut!
Rep. Paul Ryan claims to want to cut $4 trillion over 10 years ($400 billion a year) for the same reason.
But nobody talks about cutting defense spending.
More disturbingly, during this last crisis, there was even talk of passing special legislation to make sure the troops got paid even if the government shut down. More on this in a minute.
Our national defense budget is more than $700 billion a year. We have more than 700 bases and military installations overseas and hundreds more in this country, and we spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined. We do all this because we are the world’s one remaining superpower, I suppose, but that is a very expensive place to be, especially when you consider that, as the GOP is fond of telling us every time they slash funding for abortions or PBS, we are broke.
Then they cut taxes, again. Mr. Ryan’s budget actually adds to the deficit because he would continue the Bush tax cuts on the rich even as he cuts Medicare because we’re broke – so much for making “tough” choices.
But nobody talks about defense.
Ross Douthat, an op-ed columnist at the New York Times, is speaking at Weber State University on Wednesday, and I’d love to ask him why the three columns he’s written on Ryan’s budget proposal have given scant attention to defense.
If he’d read his own paper, he’d discover that there are gobs of things in defense to cut. An excellent op-chart recently detailed them (click) everything from multi-billion dollar aircraft carriers of dubious utility (a former head of the navy’s submarine service kept a scrap book of pictures from war games of nuclear aircraft carriers all framed in his periscope’s targeting scope) to the F-35 (useless against guerilla terrorists) and on and on.
Why are we not talking about this?
Here’s a hint — and it’s not just because defense corporations make darn sure they put a factory of some sort in every legislative district to lock in votes.
I think Congress is afraid. I think the military in this country may be the ultimate “too big to fail” enterprise, and I don’t mean on the field of combat. I mean in the corporate boardroom.
We got a hint of this, as I said, during the shutdown scare last week. There were serveral proposals, and at least one bill approved by the House, to exempt the military from having its pay held up because of the shutdown. There’s a facebook page (click) advocating this, and even saying that it should be made permanent.
This has an appeal, on a surface level, but consider the implications: You are saying the military is so special that it will, in the future, be exempt from Congressional oversight of the soldiers. Yes, yes, our soldiers are special, but why make the jobs of those in Congress easier? Shouldn’t politicians do their jobs out of concern for the troops?
Yes they should, and the specter of not paying the troops ought to be a huge motivator. But if we we pay the troops permanently, without future votes, the fear goes away.
This would make the politicians even more dangerous than they already are. Take that motivation away to do their jobs and you have (a) unmotivated politicians who will be even worse about passing a budget and (b) military types who think they’re exempt from congressional control.
It’s only a small step from exempting soldiers’ pay to exempting the military as a whole, too — how can the soldier function without his supply system? Next thing you know, the procurement systems for the military are exempt, and suddenly corporate america’s many defense contractors have an even more solid line into your tax dollars than they already have now.
This would eventually make the military an independent arm of government, possibly even exempt from civilian control because, really, what control do you have if you don’t control the money? Not a lot.
And it’s not a far leap from that to the military running the government. Don’t think so? Several people, on facebook, put up posts from military types showing a tank and saying “these politicians need to be reminded of what we’re trained to do.”
All this comes about because we insist on having such a huge military because we’d rather the world simply fear us than respect us and live with us as equals. Spreading fear of foreign military power — the Chinese have an aircraft carrier! — has been the chief lubricant on the spigot of funds to American defense industries for decades.
This money has built up such a huge military establishment that Eisenhower’s “military industrial complex” almost sounds quaint by comparison. At least, then, there was at least talk of controlling spending on military stuff. As I said, now there’s not even talk.
So we spend $135 billion over 50 years for an anti-missile system that still doesn’t work (and $40 billion more in the next 3 years) but cut spending on medical care for old people because, good Lord, just look at that deficit!