The Editors
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Another year and another unchallenged Pentagon budget goes by. This year the nation is officially committing $636 billion to its defense budget with $128 billion allocated for “overseas contingency operations”—the military campaigns formerly known as the global war on terror—assumed into the official budget for the first time. The 2010 and proposed 2011 Pentagon budgets continue the escalation of the nation’s defense spending initiated after the terrorist attacks that began the 21st century. The United States is currently spending more than 10 times the amount of the world’s other big spenders, the United Kingdom and China, which each commit about $60 billion a year to defense, and accounts for about half of all defense spending in the world.

And let’s remember that the nation’s total defense spending includes much more than the amounts allocated to the Pentagon. A comprehensive listing of defense costs would also include defense contributions from the federal departments of energy (nuclear weapons development and clean-up of weapons sites), justice (F.B.I. counterterrorism), state (military aid programs), homeland security, and treasury (military retirements); the Veterans Administration; NASA’s counterterrorism programs; and the military share of the nation’s annual debt servicing. All together, the total defense tab quickly approaches $1 trillion a year or more. There comes a point when one must ask whether this is not a sinful misallocation of the nation’s limited fiscal resources.

While the Obama administration has made some small efforts to contain defense spending—cutting back missile defense, killing the F-22 fighter program—the nation’s ongoing confrontation with worldwide Islamic terrorism since 2001 has basically meant carte blanche for the Pentagon. Few legislators challenge the bloating of the budget or the strategic and economic assumptions underlying it for fear of seeming soft on terrorism or vaguely unpatriotic. This is a poor understanding of patriotism, just as our reliance on defense is a poor substitute for real security. It has been the historic fate of empires to diminish themselves through overspending on military might while their rivals and allies allow themselves more judicious investments of their resources. It is unfortunate that the United States seems set on this familiar course.

While Washington wonks are aware of the danger of a global strategy and foreign policy overdetermined by military force, few U.S. citizens can calculate the profound opportunity costs of our current and projected defense spending. Will we have the discipline to roll back this budget expansion as our military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq is eventually concluded?

One can argue endlessly about the proper role of the federal government in responding to the economic and social challenges menacing the country. But defense spending sets severe limits on what the government can and cannot do: in terms of saving failing states, paying down the national debt, creating employment, patching our social safety net, making creative investments in human capital and bankrolling infrastructure maintenance and expansion.

The way to put ourselves on a sustainable path to true strength and security is to reassess our international responsibilities and focus on reducing our debt, investing in our people and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. We cannot alter the maximalist mentality of Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists through force, though we can surely still protect ourselves and our national interests with more sensible allocations for defense.

The United States cannot afford to be the world’s biggest defense spender. While our nation continues to make dead-end commitments, the world’s rising nations are investing in their own future. Weighed down by its defense allocations, the United States may be shaping for itself a future of complaint, lamenting its falling standard of living and overwhelming debt. In such a future we may reach a point where we will no longer be free to choose between guns and butter. Both will be denied us by our debt holders.

Defense Trade-Offs

$1 million, the amount required to put one U.S. soldier into the field in Afghanistan for one year.

$3.6 billion, the cost of one month of war in Afghanistan.

$8 billion, the “reduced” amount committed to missile defense.

$7 billion, the amount the Navy will receive for seven vessels.

$7 billion, the amount the U.S. Air Force will spend to acquire 30 new fighters.

$5.7 billion, the unallocated price tag for sending every at-risk 4-year-old in the United States to quality pre-school.

$3 billion, the unallocated cost of preventing 59 million children in the developing world from going to school hungry.

$10 billion, the annual amount still needed to ensure that those same children have a classroom to go to.

Comments

LARRY | 2/2/2010 - 6:02pm
I want to thank Rich Broderick for his terse response to your 1/18 ‘Weakened by Defense’ editorial. I was glad to learn that both Harvard economist Linda Bilmes and Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz, co-authors of their 2008 bestseller 'The Three Trillion Dollar War,' revised their total cost of the two wars to significantly more than $3 trillion, giving it instead a 'moderate-realistic" price tag of $5 trillion.

I don’t know whether I should smile or cry when I hear the word trillion used so glibly in the media today.

How much is a trillion dollars? No human being has ever been able to count to a trillion for the simple reason that, if you could say one number every second, IT WOULD TAKE YOU THIRTY-TWO THOUSAND YEARS to count to one trillion.

Spelling it out, there are 3,600 seconds in 1 hour, 86,400 seconds in 1 day, 31,536,000 seconds in 1 year, 31,536,000,000 seconds in 1000 years, 1,009,152,000,000 seconds in 32,000 years.
C Walter Mattingly | 1/27/2010 - 5:48pm

Yet it is not defense spending that has been wildly rising and threatening to bankrupt our country, but rather the massive, phenomenal growth in social security and medicare that has grown exponentially and in comparison to which defense spending has drastically shrunken.

Tom Maher | 1/12/2010 - 12:41pm

Jimmy Carter's presidency is considered a "failed presidency" in great part becsuse he on taking office signifcantly reduced the U.S. military budget in a time of relative world peace called "detente". In 1976 he campaigned on the idea that the U.S. had more than enough arms and that the gesture of a unilateral reduction of military spending would further relieve world tensions by encourage our adversaries to also reduce their military budgets. Carter's military reductions did not work out at all.

Most memorable,unusual and epic in 1979 Chinese primer Deng Xiaoping invited himself to visit the U.S. where he was allowed to address the nation in a prime-time telivised speech. Deng's speech implored our nation in the strongest terms to "BEWARE OF SOVIET HEGEMONISM." Deng had gone out of his way to warn our nation of the comming dangers to the world that the Carter adminstration was asleep to. Deng's televised warning soon proved be a very justified.

Carter's polciy of unilateral reducing of the military's budget proved to be disasterous. The Soviets precieved and exploited the weakness of Carter's policy. And budget reductions were shown to actually weaken needed U.S. military capabilities. The Soviets unrestrained began new military buildups in central Europe, Africa, Latin America and south central Asia. In 1980 soon after Deng's speech the world was astonished by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. "Detente" was swept away. Carter's military reductions had lost the peace and soon after overwhelmingly lost the 1980 election.

Cutting military prepareness is very bad polcy and politics.

C Walter Mattingly | 1/12/2010 - 9:26am

There is no denying that defense spending in the US has been as profligate and wasteful as government spending has been in other areas. We should note, however, that the Murtha's of the world and their earmark circumventions of full checks on defense and other spending have met with some progress. Despite the support of Senator Dodd and many others, Secretary Gates, with the support of the president, managed to defeat the wasteful spending on the extraordinarily expensive fighter program made to protect against a now non-existent Soviet Union threat has saved billions of dollars.  Hopefully this represents the beginnings of a sea-change in the endless governmental gravy chain, "squeezing Uncle Onion" it has been called, that has characterized much of our governmental spending, from education to social spending to defense.

Yet let us look at alternatives to defending other nations against murderous genocidal regimes such as those in Bosnia and Iraq.  During the Clinton administration, convinced to act by Tony Blair, we saved many Albanian Muslims by our intervention and our military might. Had we not done so, how many Albanians would have been slaughtered? During the same administration, the Hutu-Tutsi genocide loomed before the world, but we chose not to use military force after negotiations failed. How many hundreds of thousands were slaughtered that could have been prevented had we chosen to take military action?

These are not the questions anyone really wants to confront questions which provide no desireable answers.  Yet they have been with us always, freshly perplexing to us all. 

Louis Heitz | 1/11/2010 - 4:52pm

It is disconcerting that the editors focus on tax-generated revenues to solve social problems.  The primary role of government has grown over time because we have allowed it to do so.  Now with so many dependent on government, the editors have little choice but to critique the defense budget.

America should champion the Judeao-Christian ethic and tradition of caring for those who are in need, and not put the burden on the taxpayer.  Continued dependence on the tax dollar will bind those (including thousands of charitable organizations) who give by volition, ultimately securing their dollars without their voice or giving hands.

Michael Basile | 1/11/2010 - 4:08pm

Contention around the “proper” role of government in American society is as old as our Constitution, which has been referred to in several comments here. At issue today is the concept of “entitlement” put forward by social conservatives in their effort to constrain “runaway” social spending by government. When I look more deeply into our history, I see the two opposing ideas embedded into the Constitution’s fundamentals, the most immediate stated up front in its Preamble:

 “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” 

Study of the three clauses I italicized reminds us that our Constitution was borne of compromise after deep and often fierce conflict over the proper role of government in the new American society. Perhaps common view has been more readily attainable around the clauses I did not italicize. When we get into our government’s constitutional mandates to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and promote the general welfare,” we historically have struggled, especially in hard economic times. We are once again so engaged.

In a November New York Times Magazine article about him, Dick Armey, former House Majority Leader, makes the point that in our country, as opposed to the democratic governments of Europe, what freedom comes down to (and I paraphrase) is “freedom from government, where the individual, not the collective, prevails.” Today, our country has been hit on two fronts: severe economic recession and protracted stress from fear of terrorist attack that bodes no end. This unhappy convergence only sharpens the Constitutional divide: the strict (conservative) interpretation of preserving individual liberty from “unwarranted,” if not socially destructive, government intervention versus the more egalitarian push that asks government to help counter the effects of economic displacement and hardship.

Catholics are no less torn, with the additional complication of conflicting interpretations and priorities of doctrine. American citizens who are on the outs understandably ask if government should once again face up to the responsibilities implied in the Preamble, for, they reason, not only does a free people have an inalienable right not to be oppressed by its own government, but also to not be treated unjustly and to enjoy the security of freedom from basic need. Not having equal or ready access to institutional resources, they have only their government to redress for guaranteeing such freedoms.

RICH BRODERICK | 1/10/2010 - 8:59am

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned that a nation that spends more on war than it does in meeting human needs is approaching "spiritual death." Afghanistan war costs are budgeted at $65 billion for fiscal 2010, The true total is probably closer to $85 billion or more, estimates Gordon Adams, a defense expert at American University’s School of International Service in Washington.  Factoring in outlays for veterans’ health and other benefits, the replenishment of military hardware and the interest on debt incurred by the war, the total cost of the two wars will be “significantly more” than $3 trillion, says Professor Linda Bilmes, a Harvard University economist,  She and coauthor Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University Nobel Prize economist, estimated in their 2008 New York Times bestseller, “The Three Trillion Dollar War.” Adding in some social costs (such as families caring for the disabled and a diminished labor force), the two economists put a “moderate-realistic” price tag on the two wars of $5 trillion. Professor Bilmes, reckons a robust healthcare safety net for all Americans would cost less than the two wars. It seems  that we always find money to keep the machinery of war oiled at the expense  of programs for social uplift; healthcare, education, housing,.  Budgets are moral documents, they reveal what we truly value. It is obvious we value funding perpetual war more than enhancing life.

E.Patrick Mosman | 1/9/2010 - 11:22pm

In response to your No 13 I have revised my deleted post to make it more responsive to the editorial.

The editors and Poster #5 propose increasing the dictatorial role of the government to solve social problems, financial problems, employment problems, medical problems,(even non-problems ,i.e., climate change and energy), many of which the government had a major role in creating in the first place and to provide additional services in the face of failure of a major Government intevention in welfare programs, the Great Society, Medicare, Medicade, Social Security and most recently housing all of which are bankrupting the country.

The following is in response to the editorial and poster #5 calling for increasing the government's role in social engineering which was a prime cause of the recent housing disaster as explained below.

Every effort has been made to place the blame for the mortgage/housing crisis on anyone President Bush, greedy bankers, predatory lenders, et al, and everyone except the truly guilty, the politicians behind the social engineering program, "home ownership is an entitlement" by the federal government.

TheTimeline to today's disaster starts here:
1977- The Carter Administration
The Community Reinvestment Act becomes the United States federal law designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

1992-The Clinton Administration
The New York Times published the following article outlining the furthe implementaion ofthe 1977 law.
Fannie Mae Seeks to Ease Home Buying
By KEITH BRADSHER, Published: March 10, 1994

"The organization that stands behind many of the nation's mortgages is taking broad steps to make home ownership easier for lower-income Americans, particularly recent immigrants and minorities, people involved in the effort said today.
Under the new rules, banks would have more flexibility in lending to people who already owe a considerable amount of money or who cannot afford a down payment equal to 20 percent of the price of a home".
 
"President Clinton is tentatively scheduled to attend the announcement. The Administration is urging that loans be more broadly available to poor and lower-middle-income Americans."
 
"In addition to changing its guidelines, Fannie Mae plans a national educational campaign that will seek to teach recent immigrants and minorities how to obtain mortgages. The campaign will be aimed particularly at immigrants in a dozen "gateway" cities where the percentage of home ownership has been declining. 

The long-term goal is to broaden the economic and ethnic diversity of homeowners. About 70 percent of white households now own their homes, compared with 40 percent of black and Hispanic households.

"Two Million Excluded Mortgage experts have estimated that up to two million American households are excluded from buying homes now because of conservative mortgage lending standards. These include Americans with minor blemishes on their credit records, for such things as changing jobs repeatedly or failing to pay utility bills on time. Most mortgage experts assume that even people who fall behind on other bills will struggle to make mortgage payments lest they lose their homes."

!999 The Clinton Administration
IN 1999 the New York Times warned that Fannie and Freddie were taking on additional risk at the insistence of the Clinton administration and predicted the eventual meltdown and bailout in an economic downturn.

"This is from the New York Times September 30th, 1999.
Headline: "'Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending'  by Steven Holmes
In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders. The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets - including the New York metropolitan region - will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring. Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits."
 
'Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. 'Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.' Demographic information on these borrowers is sketchy. But at least one study indicates that 18 percent of the loans in the subprime market went to black borrowers, compared to 5 per cent of loans in the conventional loan market. In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's."

The role of HUD during the Clinton administration is documented in a lengthy article in the Village Voice:

Andrew Cuomo and Fannie and Freddie
How the youngest Housing and Urban Development secretary in history
gave birth to the mortgage crisis By Wayne Barrett Tuesday, August 5th 2008
The full article is found at:
http://www.villagevoice.com/2008-08-05/news/how-andrew-cuomo-gave-birth-to-the-crisis-at-fannie-mae-and-freddie-mac/

2003- The Bush Admiistration
In 2003, the Bush administration recommended significant regulatory
overhaul of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, the Democrats opposed
that proposal, fearing that tighter regulation could sharply reduce
financing for low-income hous ing, both low and high risk. Under
immense lobbying pressure from Fannie Mae in association with
Congressional Democrats led by Rep. Barney Frank, Congress did not
introduce any legislation aimed at bringing this proposal into law
until 2005.
  "In 2006, the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005
(first put forward by Sen. Chuck Hagel) where he pointed out that
Fannie Mae's regulator reported that profits were "illusions
deliberately and systematically created by the company's senior
management". However, this legislation too met with opposition from
both Democrats and Republicans. This bill was passed by the House,
but was never presented to the Senate for a vote.
The FHA is still providing sub-prime mortgages to risky buyers, up to $700,000, and under Senator Dodd and Representative Frank the cap on Federal guarantees of Freddie and Fannie have been lifted leaving the American taxpayer fully at risk for all future losses.

tim obrien | 1/9/2010 - 9:29pm

Interesting choice for an editorial as the world seems to be heading into a more perilous state that requires a strong defense.  Iran is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons and attempting to destabilize the Middle East more than it is already; Russia and China flex their muscles as they desire; and, the increase of Islamic terrorism is spreading throughout the globe.  Perhaps we do not need the same Cold War weaponry as before, and we may not belong in various theatres of the world (from Afghanistan to Korea and beyond), but we should maintain a defense in case of trouble.  We are the most generous country in history, regularly donating billions in charity and foreign aid to troubled regions, as well as shedding our childrens' blood to protect others and ensure their freedom. 

I think we have learned what the "open palm" approach to negotiating with our enemies gets us-nothing but more trouble and uncertainty.  Iran has yet to unclench its fists, despite Obama's overtures.  A nation that is serious about its defense and does not shy away from its strength helps stabilize the world, and investing in that defense helps ensure peace.  I would prefer that the editors question the rush to pour billions down the drain on health care, yet there will still be millions left uninsured.  Unfortunately, they are still trapped fighting Ronald Reagan and pushing for nuclear disarmament.  Please join the rest of us in the 21st Century.

E.Patrick Mosman | 1/9/2010 - 8:06am

Your post #13

I understand the editors authority however question the subjectivity. I am poster #2.

My first response was to rebut poster # 5's "the second writer hasn’t noticed, but the U.S. has been living the unfettered “free market dream” for the last thirty years. As a result, we are reaping the rewards of “Reaganomics”, “free trade”, and militarism: our infrastructure is crumbling; our technology base has declined; industry has left the U.S. for China and other nations to maximize profits; our nation has been “raped” by the financial sector; we have spent trillions of dollars to defend the investments of multinational companies abroad.  To continue the same unproductive policies and expect a different result is truly “insanity.”


My second reponse was to comment on poster #5's reference to Jesus's message
"remember, “love your neighbor”)"  Both were as on message, the editorial was on increased social spending at the expense of defense spending,  as was #5's.

Frank Nette | 1/9/2010 - 1:44am

If Radical Islam is not a threat?  Tell that to the Christians in Lebanon, the Copts in Egypt, Christians in Sudan, Christians of Somilia, the people of Iraq, the Buddist in Thailand, the Hindus in India, what little remains of the Christian community in Bethlahem, or the people of Israel.  See what they tell you.  You are next.  We get a big bang for the buck on defense.  It's true we can't always be there with American Forces.  However we wouldn't have to use force if we push to expand religious freedom and foster a positive interfaith rapport demanding that the same religious freedom enjoyed by Muslims in the West should be granted to Christian minorities in the Islamic world.  Catholics in Saudi Arabia are mostly migrant workers. And the restrictions on any outward manifestation of their religious beliefs have been particularly severe. The celebration of non-Muslim holidays is forbidden, as is the wearing of crucifixes and other religious symbols.  Why does the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI stand alone on pushing on these issues in the Islamic world, when we as a nation, that was founded on Religious Freedom should be standing beside the Vatican on Religious Freedom?  We as a nation do need to stop spending, and start producing.  But, as I previously mentioned Defense while fighting two wars at the same time is a small percentange of GDP.  And certainly a lot of things we take for granted in our every day lives came out of development from American Defense...Internet, Microwave Oven, Cell Phones, GPS, Cable & Satelite TV, Telemedicine, Serums & Vaccines, Food Preservation, etc...

 

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

 

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

 

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

 

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

 

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

 

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

 

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Poem by Charles M. Province


Tom Maher | 1/8/2010 - 7:08pm
As a nation we have a basic and very wholesome political requirement as defined in the constitution to maintain a high level of defense and secuirty.

Theologies or sentiments to the contrary are not credible, reasoned, realistic and ignore the perils of a very dangerous world where every type of weapon of mass destruction may be used at any time.

As the political aftermath of the attempted Christmas plane bombing shows the United States lapsed again in being prepared to maintain basic flight security.

Lapses in security are not acceptable to most citizens. The Obama admisistration quickly recognized the immeadiate political demand for more security and is now vigorously correcting this problem, thank goodness.

How foolish would it be to allow a 9/11 like event to occure again due to the lack of dilegence or funding?
E.Patrick Mosman | 1/8/2010 - 5:29pm

For the record, three of my posts have been deleted having failed to meet some unknown criteria.

TM Lutas | 1/8/2010 - 4:10pm

Our out of control entitlement spending is being financed largely from the PRC. Why do they do it? In no small part because we keep the straits and the gulfs open and that they don't have to because of it. That buys the US an extraordinary amount of indulgence because, contrary to the editorial's implication, the US is not an empire but still a republic. That empire talk is a politically convenient flight of fancy. 

No aspect of the US government budget should go unexamined. The bottom 5% of the Pentagon is just as wasteful as the bottom 5% of HHS and the bottom 5% of any of the rest of the budgets. Imagine what we could do if we did away with the bottom 5% of spending and tried living less profligately as a government. We might even have a bit left over to improve things. 

Our current profligacy is unsustainable and when the music stops, those with no safe haven will be overwhelmingly the poor and otherwise vulnerable. It would be much better to live within our means and increase our wealth so that we can take good care of the vulnerable without cheating by doing it with other people's money. 

Mike Evans | 1/8/2010 - 4:03pm

I cannot believe the excuses that are made for our bellicose approach to living in this complex and diverse world. The sabre-rattling mindset that sees us a the bully of the world and punisher of all evil-doers is simply insane. By now we could have purchased both Iraq and Afghanistan outright and given their people far more joy than airstrikes and camo patrols ever will or can. We are spending huge sums to wantonly kill and maim and destroy. No wonder the rest of the world distrusts and disrespects America and its aims. We are not fighting for American freedom but for American power and prestige. We will in the end fail to win at any cost.

LEONARD VILLA | 1/8/2010 - 2:46pm

Why would you cut defense spending in time of war?  Even President Obama finally admitted we are at war with militant Islam after the "pants-bomber" fiasco although his decisions don't fully reflect this.  Defending the country from foreign enemies is one of the sure roles of central government.  What is not a sure role of the central government is being the answer to every social problem real or imagined. The Catholic teaching of subsidiarity presumes solutions presumes a response that is the closest to the situation to be addressed. Will you scrutanize entitlements and the colossal waste and mismanagement government has made of addressing social problems?  Combine all entitlement spending and compare that to the defense budget. Your argument is basically that defense is interfering with greater statism.  I don't see that as Catholic teaching.

Richard Lohkamp | 1/8/2010 - 1:52pm
I have often wondered what might have happened if George W. Bush had reacted to the Osama Bin Laden-perpetrated 9/11 attack by using the world-wide means of communication to say to the world (including the Muslim world) something like: "We Americans don't believe that that is the way to get your point across. In response to the attack on us, we are going to support efforts like those described in "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time" by Greg Mortenson and David Relin. We think that there are better things for young people to get involved in.

Not a very realistic idea - but also, perhaps, not unlike the dream Jesus had of the Kingdom of God.
Frank Nette | 1/8/2010 - 1:47pm

Downturns in manufacturing, retail trade, and finance and insurance industries were the leading contributors to the slowdown in U.S. economic growth.  Slower growth in the value added prices for professional and business services and agriculture industries contributed most to the slowdown in the GDP.  For FY 2010, Department of Defense spending amounts to 4.7% of GDP.  This is historically low for the United States since it peaked in 1944 at 37.8% of GDP.  Even during the peak of the Vietnam War the percentage reached a high of 9.4% in 1968.  A reduction in defense spending this year would unnerve American allies and undercut efforts to gain greater cooperation. There is already a sense around the world...that the United States is in terminal decline.  U.S. health care spending at approximately 16% of GDP, second only to East Timor.  More money per person is spent on health care in the United States than in any other nation in the world,and a greater percentage of total income in the nation is spent on health care in the U.S. than in any United Nations member state except for East Timor.  Despite the fact that not all citizens are covered, the United States has the third highest public healthcare expenditure per capita. Medical debt is the principal cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States. African Christians killed in the 20th century, 60 million by Islam.  India gives an estimate of 80 million Hindus killed in the total jihad against India.  Let's close our ears and pretend it had nothing to do with the political and ethno-cultural tensions.  The Quran does teach its followers to kill unbelievers, especially Jews and Christians.  We Are At War!
Islam is the most dangerous Theo-political-legal system in the world. We didn't ask for this war.  Radicals have been at war with us since November 4th 1979.  We found out about it September 11, 2001...Radical Islam seeks to convert or destroy the entire world. Just ask our brethren who have to worshop in secret in many place where we currently have American Forces opposing those who want to restrict Freedom Of Religion...i.e. Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia...and many place where we don't have forces...If we cut defense, as small of a slice of the pie of GDP that it is...a whole lot of other things will need to be cut as well.  And that would rock the apple cart.

JOSEPH D'ANNA | 1/8/2010 - 1:26pm

Thank you once again for your thoughtful editorials.  I can’t say the same for the first two comments.  Apparently, the second writer hasn’t noticed, but the U.S. has been living the unfettered “free market dream” for the last thirty years.  As a result, we are reaping the rewards of “Reaganomics”, “free trade”, and militarism: our infrastructure is crumbling; our technology base has declined; industry has left the U.S. for China and other nations to maximize profits; our nation has been “raped” by the financial sector; we have spent trillions of dollars to defend the investments of multinational companies abroad.  To continue the same unproductive policies and expect a different result is truly “insanity”.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees personal liberty, but our nation cannot survive without responsible citizenship (remember, “love your neighbor”), an educated populous, and a thriving economy.   A nation with a failed economy - e.g., The Soviet Union - cannot be a “superpower” or, even, defend its citizens.

G SIMON HARAK SJ REV | 1/8/2010 - 12:44pm

The editorial is good in its attention to the truly sinful amount of spending on the Pentagon. However I believe there are two (interrelated) weaknesses. The first is to fall for the rhetorical trick of calling our spending "defense" spending. The second it to call the aspirations of Islam "maximalist." Any honest evaluation (read Chalmers Johnson) of US policy, with its 1,000+ military bases in 130 foreign countries, would admit that it is US policy that is maximalist, even imperialist, not "defensive." And that US attacks on Muslim countries and peoples far outnumber and outweigh any attacks by Muslims on the US. The point is, that any country that is 5% of the world's people, consuming 25% of the world's resources, must enforce that unjust distribution by the use of a huge military.

C Walter Mattingly | 1/8/2010 - 12:42pm

When Eisenhower was president and made his famous comment about the military-industrial complex, when the US was healthy and prosperous, defense spending was about 52% of discretionary spending and entitlements about 26%, about half the budget for defense. Half a century later, defense spending was about 22% of discretionary spending and entitlements 61%, over twice the defense budget.

These numbers suggest the crux of the problem is not the huge reduction in defense spending relative to the discretionary budget, but the huge increase in entitlement spending, all of which represents monies we don't have, borrow against the future, and, like abortion, do violence to the future generations.

E.Patrick Mosman | 1/8/2010 - 12:37pm

The Constitution of the United States sets forth the duties of the federal governemnt in Article I Section 8 and Article II Section 2 to provide the military needed for the defense of the country and protection of all Americans. There is no place in the Constitution to substitute "But defense spending sets severe limits on what the government can and cannot do: in terms of saving failing states, paying down the national debt, creating employment, patching our social safety net, making creative investments in human capital and bankrolling infrastructure maintenance and expansion." since there is no constitutional requirement for the federal government to provide such services, particularly to 'save failing states' that went on profligate spending sprees or to 'create employment', a job for the private sector, or 'investment in human capital(whatever that means). Every communist or socialist nation that has operated under centralized state command and control, e.g., USSR and Maoist China, were total failures. The tax and spend programs(Obamacare,Cap and Trade, EPA mandates, repealing the Bush tax cuts) already underway will, whether intended or not, replace hard working private sector jobs with government bureaucrats and mark the beginning of the end of the free market economy that made the USA the leading and most creative country in the world.

Patrick Eicker | 1/8/2010 - 11:24am
I'm of two minds about this: First, let's reduce defense spending by 1/2 to 3/4 - or even more. Second, your ideas of how to spend the money "saved" are the same old hackneyed leftist mishmash that's gotten us nowhere beginning with LBJ's so-called Great Society.

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