A lot of newspaper talk revolves around the cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Libya. Congress wants to cut military spending so they can keep the social programs of entitlements running at full bore.
There are two things to look at here. The billions we are spending on the wars are not being spent in those countries, but rather in the US. We build weapons and tanks for deployment by the military. Secondly there is an obsolescence factor for many weapons. The Napalm produced for the Vietnam War is still hanging around leaking, presenting a nightmare disposal problem. I’d hazard a guess that the missiles we fired on Libya had a “use by date” that had expired (this eliminates a potential disposal problem and justifies the reordering of replacement weapons).
The Kennedy moon program was on par with military spending, the money was spent on research and production in the private sector and it stimulated the economy. Critics often point to the space craft on the moon being worth 2 billion dollars. Not quite, it took two billion dollars to put them there.
Right now in simple terms, our government has three spending modes, administrative costs (running the government), two transfer payments (Social Security, Unemployment, Medicare) commonly called entitlements, and third, discretionary, spending (military, infrastructure, scientific research etc).
Administrative spending won’t be cut much, unless they cut a department or two ( offhand 9 or 10 come to mind).
Of the three types of spending, entitlements (non discretionary) are just a redistribution of wealth to people for consumption. These payments stimulate the economy the least.
Discretionary spending is where we get the biggest bang for tax dollar spent, and it’s all “optional.” A strong defense and a solid infrastructure have a definite return for the average citizen and is a necessary expense, but of course, here is where the first cuts come. In the future, we will have to tolerate bad roads and lousy government service. Funding will not be there for it. Honk your horn before you drive into a pot hole.
Military spending is an exceptional economic stimulus, but it does have one drawback, it is not for private consumption. You might want a wide screen TV, but not a Bradley Tank; it wouldn’t fit in the garage, plus it gets lousy gas mileage.
The government interest expense last year ($413 billion) is close to what we budgeted for defense ($515 billion). The current Congressional goal is to cut spending and at the same time continue borrowing. How does that work? Why not just stop borrowing? It’s a little like using a pay toilet that has no toilet paper. The solution to one problem creates another.
New technological advances don’t come from Social Security and health care entitlements. Investing in our future has to do with the youth of our country. Entitlements are benefits that should be the first things to be cut in the government budget, not the last. Congress is eyeball to eyeball with the silver foxes. What will happen to military spending and other government research? Sadly, it is all about votes. Maybe that’s why Congress and the President like to play golf, if you lose your balls, you can always buy more.