Democrats & Liberals Archives

Trimming Defense Overspending

The Democrats, in order to have a chance at regime change in 2004, must find non-tax ways of coming up with funds to back new social programs for which the American public will sign up if given a chance.

It seems to me that defense spending, which looks a bit like a sacred cow in the face of terrorist threats, is in fact a ground ripe for deep cuts from which we can redirect America’s priorities toward domestic policies that will make long-term sense both politically and from the perspective of what Americans will find in their best interests.

Let’s look first at why I think the defense budget should be cut, then at why I believe it can be cut.

First, why do I believe the Democrats should back reductions in defense spending as a matter of good public policy. My basic reasons are as follows:

  1. It is not necessary for America to play the world's policeman. A strengthened and wiser European Union (EU) can successfully partner with us in this endeavor.
  2. The "new threat" is terrorism. Much of what the American military has in place is useless against such a threat. There is no other superpower to threaten us in a way that the majority of our vast arsenal would be effective in stopping. In short, we need to revamp our defense forces to be better prepared to deal with the real threats we face.
  3. Even the military has expressed embarrassment at some of the larger expenditure items for which the Pentagon did not ask and has no real use. (See previous point.) This pork barrel legislation was only passed because of mass-induced paranoia on the part of the American public post 911.

So what is my evidence that the defense budget is bloated? Here are some facts, gleaned from government sources:

  • In 2002, US defense spending accounted for more than 40 percent of the global total, and it is rising rapidly in both absolute and relative terms.
  • In 2004, if allowed to continue as planned, US defense spending will exceed the combined spending of the EU, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea.
  • The United States has stationed forces in more than 700 installations around the globe. We have 120,000 soldiers in Europe, 90,000 in East Asia and the Pacific, nearly 200,000 in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Clearly there is fat. Clearly there is over-commitment. Simply withdrawing American forces from a EU that is perfectly capable of taking care of its own needs would result in massive savings that could be put to better use in this country even if we didn't cut a single weapons program.

So when the Republicans scoff at plans like Dennis Kucinich's proposal for universal health care and ask, "Where's the money going to come from?" Demos ought to be quick to point to the defense budget bloat and to the horrible foreign policy decisions we make as a result of having that excessive force in place.

Posted by insiter at June 15, 2003 10:25 PM