Monday, November 10, 2008

Cutting Defense Department Pork

Conservatives wanted to paint Barack Obama as a big spending liberal but maybe he will propose reducing DoD spending says Bryan Bender:

A senior Pentagon advisory group, in a series of bluntly worded briefings, is warning President-elect Barack Obama that the Defense Department's current budget is "not sustainable," and he must scale back or eliminate some of the military's most prized weapons programs. The briefings were prepared by the Defense Business Board, an internal management oversight body. It contends that the nation's recent financial crisis makes it imperative that the Pentagon and Congress slash some of the nation's most costly and troubled weapons to ensure they can finance the military's most pressing priorities.

I’m all in favor of a strong military but there has always been room to make our Defense Department leaner without sacrificing national security. According to this source, overall Federal spending rose from 18.99% of GDP in 2000 to 20.86% of GDP in 2007 with defense spending leading the way as it rose from 3.77% of GDP in 2000 to 4.8% of GDP in 2007. Defense spending represents 23% of the total Federal budget even if we include Social Security benefits. Defense spending is also more than double nondefense Federal spending. While you may her talk among Republican circles that we can balance the budget without raising taxes, this talk is pure fantasy unless one is willing to curb DoD spending. Yet – Republican support for the type of proposals outlined by this advisory group has historically been quite rare. Let’s hope things change over the next few years.


Anonymous said...

"Defense spending represents 23% of the total Federal budget even if we include Social Security benefits. Defense spending is also more than double nondefense Federal spending."

This is a very troubling statement
in that it implies that inclusion of Social Security as a general budget item is appropriate. That provides grist for the mill of the idea that Social Security is an entitlement program. It is not. It is directly funded by FICA deductions which are not general tax revenues. It also allows for the presentation of Defense spending as a lesser proportion of the actual budget than it really represents.

What proportion of the general budget is Defense spending when taken as a part of only the general budget, exclusive of Social Security payments? That percentage would certainly seem more staggering, wasteful and injurious to the nation's economic life.

ProGrowthLiberal said...

Jack - fair question. If we pull out government social benefits to persons (using BEA definitions), Federal spending for 2007 drops from $2.88 trillion to $1.63 trillion with reported defense spending representing over 40% of the latter.

Anonymous said...

It would be of interest to have comparative data of that 40% figure
relative to other past super powers and their eventual demise.
Forty percent of the bill is guns and ammo. Are we nuts?? Granted that some sectors of the business world benefit from such expenditures, but how can we expect to promote health and well being within such profligate spending. What was the percentage at the hight of WW II I wonder, just a a baseline that people can relate to.

Kevin Carson said...

Well, I'm afraid I *don't* favor a strong military as much as anyone. The only legitimate reason to have a strong military is to defend the country's territory against foreign attack.

So right away, we could eliminate the most expensive item in the military budget--aircraft carrier groups--whose main function is to project force against other countries, and to keep the sea lanes open so the corporate economy can get its oil fix.

We could close down every single American military base in the world, and transfer the garrison forces back to the United States to, you know, DEFEND THE COUNTRY.

My guess is that by doing these things we could lower the military budget to around $100 billion or so.

Anonymous said...

"My guess is that by doing these things we could lower the military budget to around $100 billion or so."

Sounds like a plan to me, but if we understand the military budget for the pork barrel that it really is, we then understand that virtually every member of Congress is gooing to object to cutting off the largess. What our esteemed representatives in the Congress, and the Oval Office for that matter, are most likely to be concerned with is satisfying their need to collect on the rebates from pork. What they say in speeches to their constituents, the actual voters that is, is less a predictor of their legislative behavior than what they discuss with their "friends" in the defense industry.

It all reverts back to voter behavior. The only candidate in the race for the Presidency that truly reflected these basic issues of what to spend, how much to spend and what to spend it on was Nader. He has no voice that one can expect to be heard by the public. We've been cowed and the reality of the economy has been misrepresented. Democracy does have its limits once there is a substantial financial factor put into the mix. The current bail out in all its varied complexities is the best example. The Treasury will spend more than $Trillion under the guise of "fixing" a broken system. The pigs are at the trough and no one is asking that their appetites be curbed in any effective manner. With income distributed in the current manner who has money to spend on taxes and products? And who has Obama sorrounded himself with that gives one any sense of relieve and that a significant change is on the way in regards to these central issues?
The media is full of the usual talk of Democratic Party modifications to the neo-conservative agenda, but that only means that we can, at best, look to a return of Clintonism and the DLC perspective.

Kevin Carson said...

Good point, jack. And of course all the flag-wrapped "national security" appeals would be protective coloring for most of the manufacturing and hi tech sector, considering the central role that military procurement and R&D play for the "commanding heights" of the economy.

I think Obama's just a hair to the left of the Clinton/DLC agenda (he doesn't strike me as quite so much your typical managerialist Crolyite liberal, like Hillary), but you really have to squint to see it.

Anonymous said...

That's the problem, I'm going blind from the need to squint at, and over look, too many dissatisfactions with American political phenomenon. I grant that Obama may have a slightly more progressive lean to his ideology, but will the Congress feel the weight of that inclination. It's another wait and see event wherein we only learn the sad truth after the passage of too late time. It will not take too long to see the color of Obama's stripes, I think. The "financial crisis," which seems to be becoming more of a crisis to the all of us than it is to the financial industry insiders, will test Obama's metal. If the cash keeps flowing with little requirement for reform and repair then we know it's just another breezy day in Chicago.