Bullets or Deficits?

22 Apr

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll demonstrates how “the american people™” want to address the deficit.

Cut Medicare?  Support: 21% Oppose:  78%

Cut Medicaid?  Support: 30% Oppose:  69%

Raise taxes on incomes of $250K and higher?  Support: 72% Oppose: 27%

Cut military spending?  Support: 42% Oppose: 56%

These figures are in line with traditional polling results, yet the entire national discussion about deficit reduction is built on privatizing Medicare, drastic cuts in Medicaid, and another 10% tax cut for the wealthy.

One way to look at those numbers is that when given a choice to cut one of the three biggest costs centers in the American Government, the people pick the military over their government healthcare by a wide margin.  And why shouldn’t they?  Our defense budget is absolutely out of control.  The USA is responsible for 46.5 per cent of the world total of defense expenditures, distantly followed by China (6.6% of world share), France (4.2%), UK (3.8%), and Russia (3.5%):

Current basing numbers and force deployments are hard to come by, so we’ll go with Wikipedia for the sake of a roundabout number.

As of 31 March 2008, U.S. Armed Forces were stationed at more than 820 installations in at least 135 countries. Some of the largest contingents are the 50,000 military personnel deployed in Iraq, the 71,000 (101,000 as of 3/2011) in Afghanistan, the 52,440 in Germany, the 35,688 in Japan (USFJ), the 28,500 in Republic of Korea (USFK), and the 9,660 in Italy and the 9,015 in the United Kingdom respectively. These numbers change frequently due to the regular recall and deployment of units.

So, why are we not having a national discussion about drawing down those numbers, bringing our troops home and cutting off development for useless Pentagon projects like the F-22 or Osprey?  Why are we so focused on making sure old people have to use coupons for healthcare rather than demanding a drawdown of deployed military forces?  Once upon a time a retiring Republican President warned us about this.


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. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed – Dwight D. Eisenhower

If only we had listened…

7 Responses to “Bullets or Deficits?”

  1. Chris April 22, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    As someone who works in a defense field, I can say I absolutely concur with the need to cut DoD. (I think in half would be a good “final” number.) I have my own ideas on how to do it, but I can basically agree with Rand Paul (R-KY) when he says everything needs to be on the (moving everyone home, moving Army assets to ARNG and USAR, etc.) table. The Republicans swept 2010 by winning old people’s votes because of Obamacare. When it comes down to it, these entitlements will be the most difficult to cut and everything else will need to come first. Just waiting for the leadership of one party to admit that (Hint: I’ll be waiting a long time for that).

  2. Bruce Beyer, member of the WNY Peace Center April 22, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    It continues to amaze me that all discussions taking place today regarding our “fiscal crisis”, are taking place outside the framework of three wars. Take, for example, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) the most common wound in these wars. The VA predicts that disability claims from veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan will not peak until the year 2040, assuming the wars end now. We’re still paying for Vietnam war injuries. $13.6 billion in 2010 alone. $42.2 billion over the next ten years. Of course, these figures pale in the face of day to day costs of Bush’s and now Obama’s wars.

    Veterans for Peace want to know, “HOW’S THE WAR ECONOMY WORKING FOR YOU?”

  3. Bruce Beyer, member of the WNY Peace Center April 22, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    Chris, thank you for this fine article but until masses of people demand an end to these phony wars, nothing will change.

  4. Jesse April 22, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    1. Ending stupid “wars” in stupid lands should be primary.  Why the hell hasn’t Obama done what he said he’d do?

    2. Why are we paying to defend our rich allies, like S Korea?  They aren’t able to spend their own damned money defending themselves?

    3. Good luck breaking down the M-I complex.  Dulles would declare war on the rest of the USA and it won’t be pretty.  But what the hell, let’s do it already.

    Chris – would you support cutting all spending?  Because from here, it appears you guys (Democrats) just use the “cut the military!” line as a defense against cutting anything…

  5. Chris Smith April 22, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    1. During the 2008 campaign, Obama said he would increase the troop the levels in Afghanistan as that was the “right” war and Iraq was the “wrong” war. We’re down to 50K troops in Iraq and that seems to be where it’s going to stay. Empire needs to be fed, ya know. I’d like to know if Obama still thinks Afghanistan is the right war and if he could clearly define for us our strategic mission and objectives. It seems utterly pointless and is now the longest war in this nation’s history.

    2. Empire demands stability and predictability, so we stay in these countries to protect our interests and secure economic stability. At what cost? Can we honestly afford to maintain these troop levels at this point?

    No, I don’t support cuts in “all” spending. I think solving our deficit gets done by allowing the Obama/Bush tax cuts to expire, beginning a massive drawdown of deployed troops in Iraq/Afghanistan, significant cuts in the defense budget and weapons development plans, reduction in overseas basing, closing loopholes in the tax code for corporations, etc.

    This tool is overly simplistic in many ways, but it gives you an idea of where to start when you’re talking about spending cuts and revenue enhancements.


  6. Mike In WNY April 22, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    The vast majority of Americans have neither the understanding, nor taken the time to learn, about the economic ramifications of all types of government spending. Yes, military spending needs to be cut, and cut dramatically. Medicare and Medicaid need to be radically changed. However, the changes to those programs need to coincide with real changes in the myriad regulations currently driving up the cost of healthcare. Privatizing can be very beneficial as long as individuals are enabled to make the choices necessary to leverage the power of competition and cost accountability.

  7. jimd April 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Until we as a society decide to stop gaming the system and act for the common good, this argument is moot. Hmm, how would I prefer to be screwed, by a private insurance company or an unaccountable government program?

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