Facing The Cost of the World's Most Powerful Military
Two-thirds of all federal spending is consumed by just three program areas: Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and National Defense. Because these programs consume most of the budget and are responsible for most of the annual spending increases, there is simply no way to regain control of federal spending without addressing these programs.
So either taxes will have to go up significantly or these programs will have to be reformed. That's not an opinion or policy perspective; that's basic math.
Today, I'll address what it would take to reduce military spending. I'll address the other areas in coming weeks.
We are currently spending nearly a trillion dollars annually on our military, including compensation for our veterans. That's nearly as much as the combined total spent by every other nation in the world.
The reason our military budget is so big is because we have assumed the role of the world's policeman. Just about every hot spot around the globe is considered by some to be worthy of U.S. attention. It's truly stunning to consider just how many times U.S. troops have been sent into hostile situations over the past 25 years.
Our role as the world's policeman requires us to project land, air and sea power to the far corners of the earth. Lots of aircraft, airbases, naval carrier fleets and other very expensive expressions of power. If we adopted a more modest role in global affairs, we could reduce the number of air wings and carrier fleets, along with the soldiers and sailors needed to man them.
Additionally, every time we intervene in a foreign fight, we saddle the next several generations with an enormous burden. Every soldier who is wounded requires care, disability payments and more for the rest of their lives. The only way to reduce this cost is to stop fighting so many battles. Even more important, that would reduce the human costs of our current approach.
I am not suggesting that we should modify our military strategy to meet our budgetary goals. But we must recognize that there is no way to significantly cut military spending while continuing to play the role of policing the world.
This is ultimately a political question, not a budget question. Everybody can agree that the defense of the United States matters more than saving a little money. But there are many who believe that we would be better off trimming our role in the global arena to focus more narrowly on protecting U.S. interests.
And that's the choice before us.
If we want to continue or expand our current global role, we will sooner or later have to pay sharply higher taxes to cover the costs. On the other hand, if it is possible to reduce our global presence while protecting our vital national interests, the bonus would be a great cut in federal spending
It is a discussion worthy of a presidential campaign. We can only hope that it will be addressed seriously by the candidates.
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