Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reduce the Federal Deficit by Cutting the Military Budget

I can't believe it but someone in the federal government actually has the guts to discuss cutting the military budget! Not surprisingly, that brave someone is Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Frank has put together his own commission to recommend steps to reduce the federal deficit, and the group will look at specific ways to cut military spending. Frank estimates that $100 billion a year could be trimmed easily.

Have you ever looked at graphs of where your federal tax dollars go? It is astonishing how little money goes to departments such as Education or Health and Human Services, and how much goes to the military. Most information you see about the federal budget includes the moneys spent on Social Security and Medicare which is completely misleading; these are in actuality separate from the federal budget, completely financed through payroll taxes.

The War Resisters League has a pie chart that will shock you: according to their calculations, 54% of our tax dollars go to military spending, both past and present.

‘Current military’ spending amounts to $965 billion (2009 budget), which includes Dept. of Defense ($653 billion), the military portion from other departments such as the nuclear weapons program of the Department of Energy ($150 billion), and an additional $162 billion to supplement the "misleading and vast underestimate" for the ‘war on terror’ of only $38 billion. ‘Past military’ represents veterans’ benefits plus 80% of the interest on the debt. [If the government does not have enough money to finance a war (or spending for its hefty military budgets), they borrow through loans, savings bonds, and so forth. This borrowing (done heavily during World War II and the Vietnam War) comes back in later years as ‘hidden’ military spending through interest payments on the national debt.

The story about Rep. Frank's commission was reported by Dan Froomkin in the Huffington Post, "Deficit Group formed by Barney Frank Looks Where Others Dare Not—At Defense Budget":

Defense cuts seems to be politically off-limits these days, but the group convened by the outspoken liberal congressman from Massachusetts shares a belief that America is "overextended and overcommitted" and that there should be a "substantial reduction in the reach of American military commitments," Frank told HuffPost.

He expects the group to propose reducing the number of overseas bases, especially in the rich countries of Western Europe and Japan. "There's a big debate right now about where 3,000 Marines in Okinawa should go. My suggestion is Nebraska," he said. And he expects it will propose cutting weapons systems that don't meet any plausible need.. "No matter how good a weapon is technically, we shouldn't buy it unless it has an enemy," he said.

Frank despairs that the deficit-reduction debate plays out in Washington as if there are only two choices: raise taxes or cut entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicare.

Even President Obama's proposed freeze on discretionary spending explicitly rules out any defense cuts, which Frank describes as "my biggest difference" with the president since he came into office.

...[S]pending has increased completely out of proportion with the need, he said. "During the Cold War, 26 percent of military spending in the world was American; now it's 41 percent. So we have fewer enemies and we're spending more money."

The key to defense budget cutting, Frank said, is to attack the notion that the U.S. military needs to be everywhere in the world militarily. "If you let them insist that there is a need for worldwide military engagement, we will be at a disadvantage when we fight the specific fights" to cut programs, he said.

Once you drop that notion, he said, "I believe we would save over $100 billion a year over what's been proposed."

The F-35 fighter program alone may end up costing $338 billion or more. And according to author Chalmers Johnson, the U.S. military currently spends as much as $250 billion a year maintaining approximately 865 facilities in more than 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories.

Frank is particularly critical of the proposed missile defense shield in Eastern Europe -- a Bush idea that Obama has adopted. "Defending Poland, the Czech Republic and I think it's Bulgaria against Iranian missile attack? I think what happened is the software from a video game escaped" and got into the Pentagon's computers, he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment