Sunday, March 19, 2017

Time To Cut Defense Spending

Recently, I posted something on Facebook defending the proposed defunding of the National Endowment of the Arts. Like day follows night, my son rose to the defense of government subsidized do-goodery on the grounds that Art is good, therefore the government should promote it...or something. Although he knows me well enough to know that I too love the Arts, he also is quite aware that I am generally for any cut in Federal funding for...well, anything. Still, he dropped the mic with this challenging observation, "I sure would like to see you endorse cutting the defense budget with as much passion as you're endorsing cutting the NEA."

Little did the young squire know that I have been gathering data for just such an endorsement for quite a while now. At his urging, it's time to write it up. Let's hope that he defends his dear old Dad with half of the passion with which he lit into me for screwing with government-laundering of taxpayer funds to provide Italian operas for the fine people in Podunk Junction, Iowa.

Ok, as a Libertarian, I am, generally speaking, in favor of government spending for only the core functions outlined for it in the Constitution. While people who want the government to fund everything usually cling to the "promote the general welfare" clause as their barest of fig leaf constitutional covering, most everyone can agree that "providing for the common defense" qualifies as an iron clad proper function of our Federal government. As such, it needs to be funded. Yes, we live in a dangerous world. I suffer from no delusions in this regard. But, let's look at some facts, shall
we?

In 2015, here are the five largest defense budgets on the planet in U.S. dollars. To the right of this number is the percentage of each country's Gross Domestic Product which this amount of spending represents:

1. United States.      596 billion.      3.3%
2. China.                  215 billion.      1.9%
3. Saudi Arabia.         87 billion.    13.7%
4. Russia.                    66 billion.      5.4%
5. GB.                          55 billion.      2.0%

Of course, the first thing that jumps out to me from this chart is...wait, what's up with the Saudi's? I mean, good lord, for that kind of money, they could air condition the entire stinking place!

So, this past week, our President met with the German Chancellor and complained (rightly) about the fact that four years ago all NATO members agreed to spend a minimum of 2% of their GDP on defense. Of the 28 countries now counted as NATO members( talk about your mission creep...) only 5 have stepped up to honor their commitments, Great Britain, Greece, Poland, and Estonia. Notice that the two nation's closet to the Russians are fully up to date, and the most broke country in the alliance, Greece, has somehow managed to pay their fair share. The Germans, on the other hand, who happen to be the only country practically in the entire universe who currently is running a freaking surplus, checks in at a mere 1.19%, while the haughty French can only be bothered with 1.78%.

The other thing that stands out from the chart for me is this...we spend nearly 381 billion dollars more than the number two spender, China. Think about that for a minute. What the devil is wrong with us?? But Doug, but Doug you say, we are the world's super power, the beacon of democracy, the defender of the free world. To which I say, says who? Have the American people fully agreed to this role of civilization's policeman with all of its attendant loss of treasure and fortune? Have we been consulted on why we have to spend this amount of money every year despite running trillion dollar deficits? How much of this nearly 600 billion dollars actually goes to defense of our borders as opposed to say...South Korea's borders or Poland's borders? And, how can it be possible that there are actually people screaming that we need to spend more, a lot more to make up for that cheapskate Barack Obama's hollowing out of our military? Well, if reducing defense spending from 687 billion back in 2009 to 596 billion last year qualifies as hollowing out, then Hell's Bells, we are doomed.

My problem with this sort of military spending...besides what it does to the financial stability of the budget, is the fact that if you constantly build bigger, better, fancier and more deadly weapons, you will end up with a hundred generals who start dreaming up ways to use them. I mean who gets a shiny new toy for Christmas but never wants to play with the thing, right?

Here's my proposal. I say we live up to the obligations we have made to the NATO alliance and spend 2% of our GDP on defense. We would still be outspending everyone else in the galaxy...by a lot. This would free up roughly over a quarter of a TRILLION dollars to the U.S. Treasury...every year!! We can immediately start fighting over what to do with all this money. My son can lobby for full funding of every Arts program known to exist in the free world and even invent some new ones. I could start arguing for a tax rebate back to the citizens who actually pay taxes, and I would not even be opposed to a paying down of the national debt with the windfall.

Before you start haranguing me about how naive I am about how the real world works, explain to me what exactly we got out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Was our safety and security enhanced or threatened by those vast expenditures of men, women and materials? My modest proposal above still calls for spending more on our defense budget than Russia and China do on theirs combined.