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North Korea’s latest act of war underscores why we mustn’t cut defense.
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Why, in the name of fiscal discipline, would we forfeit this crucial geostrategic advantage — an advantage that redounds to our commercial and economic benefit?
Economic Illogic. The economics of cutting the defense budget are also nonsensical. “Defense spending now accounts for around 19% of the federal budget and more than half of all U.S. discretionary spending,” laments the left-wing Center for American Progress.
True, but that doesn’t tell us much. In fact, defense spending accounts for not even five percent of the Gross Domestic Product (!) versus nine or ten percent of the GDP under President Kennedy.
Moreover, as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) point out:
The idea that defense cuts will restore fiscal health simply does not add up: suppose Pentagon spending for 2011 — $720 billion — were eliminated entirely. This would only halve this year’s federal deficit of $1.5 trillion.
And defense spending is a drop in the ocean of today’s $13.3 trillion of government debt. From the Korean War to the collapse of the Soviet Union, total U.S. defense spending was about $4.7 trillion. So had there been no military spending at all during the Cold War, the savings would not equal even half our current national debt.
Actually, less than 20% of all new spending from 2001 to 2009 went to defense — and this figure doesn’t even include the mammoth $787-billion “stimulus,” which essentially bypassed the defense budget.
The bottom line: the core defense budget — that is, the defense budget not allocated to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — accounts for less than 3.5% of the GDP, says AEI military analyst Tom Donnelly.
“Defense spending constitutes a fifth of federal spending; projected deficits over the next decade are similar” explains Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson. “We won’t shut the Pentagon.”
Thus, to reduce the crushing burden of debt, policymakers must look elsewhere. Cutting the defense budget won’t do the trick, Samuelson says.
What, then, must be cut, or at least reformed along market-oriented lines? Simple: entitlements: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and now “Comprehensive National Health Insurance” aka Obamacare. Unlike defense, after all, none of these entitlement programs are constitutionally prescribed or required. And yet they are fast consuming the federal budget.
“Entitlements now account for around 65 percent of all federal spending and a record 18 percent of GDP,” notes Eaglen.
The three largest entitlements — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — eclipsed defense spending in 1976 and have been growing ever since.
If future taxes are held at the historical average, these three entitlements will consume all tax revenues by 2052, leaving no money for the government’s primary constitutional obligation: providing for the common defense.
In a world filled with rogue states and terrorist networks intent on our destruction, that simply won’t do. North Korea’s latest act of war should be a wakeup call for policymakers and the American people: Don’t cut and gut defense.
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