Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Progressives and the Defense Budget

Yesterday I noted that Chris Bowers was acting rational. Today I'm not so sure. He's got a post up today that endorses an extremist view of fiscal policy and budgetary authority:

War Resisters

The most important appointment decision Obama will make during the transition, bar none, is who becomes, or remains, Secretary of Defense. As I have noted in the past, the Department of Defense oversees the expenditure of 52% of all discretionary spending, rendering it literally impossible for any other cabinet Secretary to oversee as much federal money. Further, keeping Gates on would only worsen Democratic image problems on national security, as he would be the second consecutive non-Democratic Secretary of Defense nominated by a Democratic President. The message would be clear: even Democrats agree that Democrats can't run the military ....

Secretary of Defense is the big enchilada. Arguably, due to the vast percentage of federal spending it receives, it is more important than all other cabinet secretaries combined. The President may be Commander in Chief, but it is the Secretary of Defense who is decides how most federal revenue is spent. We need change in the Department of Defense, and keeping Gates along with his entire team of advisors and assistants doesn't fit the bill.
Reading this, perhaps we can understand why Obama's strongly resisting the pressures from the netroots.

The Secretary of Defense decides how MOST federal revenue is spent? That's a new one.

The truth is that defense expenditures account for roughly 20 percent of federal expentitures. The biggest proportion of spending is consumed by PAYMENTS TO INDIVIDUALS, and particularly income security expenditures. These outlays include programs for the elderly, the poor, the disabled, and funding healthcare beneficiaries - that is, social programs.

Naturally, as a progressive, Bowers wouldn't think about including social programs in the types of programs where money is "spent." Those are are essentially untouchable from a far left-wing perspective. Bowers, frankly, is advocating the fiscal logic of the anti-imperialist left, seen for example in this page from the socialist War Resisters League, "
Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes." The pie chart above suggests what federal expenditures look like without including entitlements and automatic social outlays.

If we really want to think about who controls fiscal power in the federal government,
think Thomas Daschle, the recently named nominee-designate as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Daschle, as "health czar," is expected to have tremendous power in reforming the deliverery and access to healthcare in this country. Perhaps more importantly, Dashcle will oversee Social Security and Medicare, the most expensive entitlement programs in the nation. If these two granddaddies of the welfare state aren't reformed, they will consume the entire federal budget within a few decades.

If we're going to start talking about real budgetary choices, think social policy and entitlement reforms. Right now though, the incoming Obama administration is ramping up spending plans, and not on defense. The direction of federal budget expenditures will be one of the most important policy legacies the Obama administration will leave. Unfortunately, the left's antiwar crowd isn't talking about that.


Tom the Redhunter said...

Yes, I saw those percentages on that pie chart and thought they looked wrong. 20% is about what I recall. We're also at about 3.9% military spending as a % of GDP, also.

What's most interesting is how that those numbers represent a post-Korean War low. Throughout most of the Cold war we spent at 8% of GDP and at times 50% of the federal budget!

I encourage everyone to follow Donalds links to the "Openleft" blog. The comments are precious. Full of "military-industrial complex" stuff.

For the good of the country I hope Obama keeps Gates on as SecDef. It'll also let me watch the nutroots howl with anger!

AmPowerBlog said...

Thanks Tom!

I read some of the comments too - the MIC, whoa!

Anonymous said...

You ever consider that if the United States didn't seek to control the world militarily it could allocate much of its trillions of dollars in "offense" budget and put it to good use?

I am sure you'd find a way to justify spending trillions of dollars on building bombs, fighter jets and whatever else is used to kill people.

Rich Casebolt said...

Purplehaze -- you ever consider that if we did NOT spend that money, there would be a lot more dead people as the enemies of life and liberty run unopposed ... and/or as we attempt to interdict those enemies with old-fashioned, non-precision weapons?

You imply that it is America alone that is perpetrating the killing in places like Iraq ... when in fact the vast majority of casualties are the result of the enemy either targeting innocents, or using them as defilade. When we ACT to stop the enemy in these places, we SAVE LIVES.

Did you ever consider that it is the INACTION over the years that was so well-promoted by people like you, that let those enemies grow to the threats they are today? Had we acted decisively against them in previous years, neither Iran, Iraq nor al Quada would have been a problem ... but the "realists" told us that we were incapable of pulling that off, and the Leftists told us we would be imperialists for doing so.

Funny thing ... whenever our leaders stopped listening to the Leftists and realists and acted with resolve, we saw millions liberated, arms stockpiles reduced in REAL terms, and tensions reduced.

And did you ever consider that a lot of social spending (existing and proposed) is a fool's errand when executed by an entity that historically has been structurally incapable of effectively and efficiently resolving social problems?

Operating our military forces and protecting life and liberty is a job that our government is capable of doing (when not tied down by Gulliver by those who think like you).

Trying to resolve the social challenges of individuals, when effectively limited to only the carrot of money and the stick of law, is beyond its capability ... and to give it any more tools beyond those two to do so would threaten civil liberties far more than Gitmo, the PATRIOT Act, or your worst nightmares about President Bush.