By Paul Gable
As 2012 winds down, we are hearing hourly about the fiscal cliff that the U.S. economy is approaching if our current do-nothing Congress can’t reach a deal on taxes and expenditures.
While much of the present focus is on not raising any new tax revenue and cutting entitlement spending, an overall concept of a budget for the entire U.S. government seems to be seriously absent.
The current fiscal cliff crisis, if you wish to call it that, is two philosophies, left and right, banging heads while no one in Washington attempts to see the bigger picture.
One area which I believe needs further investigation, as well as a reasonable long term plan for what we wish to accomplish, is defense spending.
According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the top 15 country defense establishments in the world spent a total of $1.735 trillion in 2012. Of that total, the U.S. spent $711 billion, or 41% of the total. The 2012 budget for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts alone was $115 billion.
Since the Department of Defense came into being during the administration of President Harry Truman, no administration or Congress has discovered a way to control the urge toward massive spending by the military. Remember, every dollar expended on the military is public government spending, really no different, in fiscal terms, than spending on food stamps, unemployment benefits, transportation infrastructure and the like.
The second largest military spending country was China at $143 billion or 8.2% of the world total.
China is the next threat to American military hegemony, but is outspending China by a 5:1 margin the way to maintain that hegemony? And can we continue to afford to do so?
Essentially, we are borrowing from China to maintain massive military superiority over China. Does this make sense? Maybe the Chinese philosophy is to allow the U.S. to borrow itself into oblivion, pull the plug on available funds and take over world military leadership by default.
But, the Chinese military threat to U.S. world leadership is real and, probably, is not in our best, long term interests.
Nevertheless, nobody I can see in the administration or Congress bothers to get into the details of military spending in general, the future Chinese threat and what to do about it.
This is an example of why the administration and Congress are failing the American people with the current ‘fiscal cliff’ discussions. Nobody is bothering with the details and the devil is in the details.
An interesting piece on the Chinese threat and, possibly, a resurgent Russian threat was published recently in World Politics Review. We need people with vision, not rigid political philosophies, looking at these problems.