Of all the debates and all the name calling, not once has there been a mention of the biggest elephant in the room. A fifth of the budget each year in this country and therefore a fifth of all the debt is generated not from old or poor people but from the defense department. The US defense budget has actually more than doubled since Bush took office; reminds me of the famous quote from Ike – “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. ”
So what has this got to do with the debt ceiling; the interest on the debt related purely to defense expenses is almost 300b each year. Just the interest payments on defense related debt is a trillion dollars over three years. And Obama is sweating about reducing the debt by 2 trillion over ten years by cutting everything else.
So when spending cuts are floated, immediately numbers are thrown about how many hundreds of billions we can cut from medicare and how many billions we can raid from the social security trust fund (which by the way is fully solvent for at least twenty more years). So the cuts that have been celebrated by Obama and Defense Secretary Gates – $40b over ten years, are really a cruel joke or a cynical symbol of reality. If there was a single congressman out there that informed the public about this, he would be the true epitome of the righteous politician.
So how much spending is appropriate for the military – maybe double of what China spends. It’s somewhat hard for a self-professed geek like me to disparage defense spending because of the plethora of technologies (say, arpanet->internet) that have come out of this spending. But seriously, there is a difference between spending on DARPA and NASA and spending on wars and private contractors. And honestly I don’t believe that the US will come back to anywhere near its glory days unless it pulls back its occupation in so many countries and end the wars immediately. So I do agree with the Tea Party morons, spending is out of control indeed; but if only they would agree on which part of the spending.