Friday, July 16, 2010

The Case for Cutting Military Spending

On January 17, 1961, President Dwight David Eisenhower, the thirty-fourth President of the United States and the respected general of World War II, gave his farewell address to the nation. In his address, Eisenhower was ending his career in public service and made some remarks about the future of this nation, particularly of the growing industry of solely building armaments. He claimed, "this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience," and that it encompassed all aspects of American life. Eisenhower saw that this new mindset came out of the Cold War but also insisted that it was something that must have a close eye kept on it, saying "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."

Almost fifty years after President Eisenhower spoke of the dangers of the military industrial complex and twenty-one years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States is now crippled by the very thing that pragmatic general had warned us of. In 2010, the Department of Defense released its budget is $663.8 billion, which is an increase from the $513.3 billion that was used in 2009. Next year, that number is expected to increase to over $700 billion, making the amount of discretionary spending for the Department of Defense for the year of 2011, more costly than the 2008 bailout of AIG, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs.

Like the bailout, the United States has become the personal ATM for armament companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing to build an excessive amount of arms. Meanwhile currently, our country's education budget is at $63.7 billion, only ten percent of the whole Defense Department spending. This week on Capitol Hill, there is a debate over extending unemployment benefits, and if the unemployment rate stays at the rate than it is, then the bill should only cost $8.5 billion, little over one percent of the Defense Department's budget. As a result currently, the country is facing a deblitating deficit of $1 trillion.

There are some who say that it is an absolutely necessity to continue indiscretionary military spending and while it is true that there is a need to maintain our security, most other countries spend only a fraction of what the United States Spends. Case in point, Britain, who has the second most powerful military in the world and is the closest ally of the United States, spends only 5.8% towards the Ministry of Defence. Meanwhile Russia, perhaps the only true existential threat to the United States of America, spends the equivalent of only $46.8 billion. As for North Korea, Iran and other countries presented to be an existential threat, combined they make up little more than one percent of the entire military spending of the world.

By cutting the Defense budget, even if by only shaving off the first $100 billion, the United States can help to offset the crippling debt that so many deficit hawks in Congress and in the Tea Party worry about. In addition if the budget is slashed in half, the United States would still have more arms than Russia and Britain combined and afford to create a system of community service where college students can spend two years performing community service, joining the military, Americorps or the Peace Corps to help pay for their education as well as have an instilled sense of duty to improving their country.

Currently, the US is facing an economic crisis in ways that it has never faced before. With a dwindling Middle Class, many families find it harder to own a home, save for retirement and send their children to college. In addition, the crippling cost of the military industrial complex engorges our deficit higher than any health care program or financial recovery ever could. Meanwhile, with no significant infrastructure, there is little to export to pay for our insatiable need to consume. However, by reasonably scaling back our military spending, the United States can work to move towards securing its future from foreign invaders or the domestic terrorism of generational theft.

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