The Spectacle Blog

Guns and Butter Revisited

By on 3.13.07 | 6:09PM

Rob Bluey/> points out the Heritage Foundation's new book of federal spending and revenue charts. While there's a lot of interesting stuff to peruse, what caught my eye was this chart showing that even with the post- 9/11 increase in military spending, "at 4 percent of GDP, defense spending is one and a half percentage points of GDP below the 45-year historical average and well below Cold War and Vietnam War levels." The chart, I would argue, can be explained by this other chart showing the explosive growth of mandatory spending.

 It has been frustrating to watch neoconservatives acquiesce to the runaway spending of the Bush years under the illusion that they have to embrace big government conservatism in order to maintain power and achieve their national security objectives. Not only is big government conservatism not helpful to the cause of maintaining a strong national defense, but the two are incompatible.

As I wrote about this issue nearly two and a half years ago:   

When America/>/> marshaled its resources toward fighting World War II, the federal government was able to boost defense spending from 18 percent of the federal budget in 1940 to 90 percent of the budget in 1945. Such fiscal agility would be impossible today, because mandatory spending gobbles up more than half of the budget.

For years, neoconservatives have called for expanding the size of the military, but the nation has been largely handcuffed because of entitlements. This will only get worse over time, and given the projected growth of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, it's not infeasible that decades from now the U.S./>/> could resemble European welfare states that cannot properly fund their militaries.

For all the recent talk about fusionism, the one blend of fusionism that's the most practical has been largely ignored: neoconservative hawks uniting with advocates of limited government to take on entitlement spending so that America/>/> has more money to spend on national defense, which is the primary function of government. I think, unfortunately, that the time for such an alliance was the aftermath of 9/11, and it'll be hard to bridge the gulf that has developed between the two groups in the years since.

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