Contrary to popular opinion, the enormous national debt crisis we find ourselves in is not due to an escalation in military spending, but is a direct result in the steady increase in entitlement spending. The disagreement over the cause of the debt exists not only between the Democrats and Republicans, but it also creates a painful and unnecessary rift between conservatives and our libertarian friends.
The Heritage Foundation has research that shows that this problem isn’t even just a factor of the last administration, but in fact entitlement spending has been increasing steadily as a percentage of GDP while at the same time defense spending has gone down since 1965 despite the fact that the United States has been involved in three wars. (This author includes the support of the conflict in Libya.) In fact, defense spending spiked shortly after the start of the Viet Nam war and has been steadily going down, while entitlements have ballooned out of control.
The President’s budget for 2012 and beyond further cuts the military budget to a dangerously low 3.4% of GDP, making many nervous about the ability of the US military to defend the nation against threats around the world.
The author of this report notes that the high point coming after 1965 is not even the high overall. The highest ratio of military spending to GDP came after World War II at the beginning of the Cold War when spending on defense was 25 percent!
It should be noted that when Ronald Reagan came into office in the 1980s, he licked the Soviets without firing a shot, increasing defense spending to 6.2 percent, which is above the 45-year average of 5.2 percent. Reagan showed proof positive that the enemies of America will back down if you show them a shiny sword, rattling it in front of their faces. He did this without any major deployments and without any major loss of life, effectively winning the Cold War and breaking the back of the Soviet Union.
Following Reagan, defense spending went drastically down, allowing extremists around the world to believe, in my opinion, that the United States is an inviting target. Notice that defense spending it at its lowest just before the attacks on 9/11.
Heritage Foundation author Baker Spring has the nut graph of the story brilliantly illustrating the point I’m trying to make in his report dated from April of 2011, quoting Defense Secretary Bob Gates:
“Defense is not like other discretionary spending. This is something we’ve got to do and that we have a responsibility to do. And so the two shouldn’t be equated. They have not been equated in the past. I mean, that’s why they call it non-defense discretionary spending and so on.
…I got it that we’ve got a $1.6 trillion deficit. But defense is not a significant part of that problem. If you took a 10 percent cut in defense, which would be catastrophic in terms of capabilities, that would be $50 billion on a $1.6 trillion deficit.”
See the report in its entirety at https://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/04/the-fy-2012-defense-budget-proposal-looking-for-cuts-in-all-the-wrong-places?utm_source=Chartbook&utm_medium=researchpaper&utm_campaign=budgetchartbook
Pay special attention, if you will, to Mr. Spring’s conclusion. He is much more eloquent than I.
In the final analysis, decreases in military funding would do very little to decreasing the overall debt we’ve accumulated. The answer is that the president and congress has to sharply decrease spending to keep pace with the revenue it takes in. To do that, they have to take aim at the biggest target, discretionary and entitlement spending.
Conservatives and Libertarians are often butting heads over different points of view on this issue, which is why I bring it up. Here is a short clip from the debates that illustrates differences between libertarian and conservative points of view.
Notice the discussion that takes place between minute 1:27and 6:15.