The Cost of Empire
The defense bill represents only part of our military spending. The appropriations bill moving through Congress governing veterans affairs, military construction and other agencies totals $133 billion, while the massive Department of Homeland Security budget weighs in at $42.8 billion. This comprises the visible balance of what Americans spend on our national security, loosely defined. Then there is the approximately $16 billion tucked away in the Energy Department’s budget, money dedicated to the care and maintenance of the country’s huge nuclear arsenal.
All told, every man, woman and child in the United States will spend more than $2,700 on these programs and agencies next year. By way of comparison, the average Japanese spends less than $330; the average German about $520; China’s per capita spending is less than $100.
And don’t forget that national security spending also contributes to our growing budget deficits. In Fiscal Year 2009, the United States spent approximately $383 billion on interest payments to service the debt (by way of comparison, that’s about 7.5 times NASA’s budget). As we continue to allow national security spending to go unchecked, those numbers are only going to get worse.
The amount of money being poured into national security spending is completely irresponsible and unsustainable. We can’t afford it. As we (hopefully) wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to take a real hard look at our foreign policy–particularly why we feel the need to spend more on defense than the rest of the world does combined. There’s no reason why we can’t adopt a more restrained policy and still keep the United States secure. I mean, let’s put this in perspective. We could cut DOD appropriations in half, today, and we’d be spending more on defense than all of the EU nations combined.
We need to move to a more responsible course.
(cross posted to Heretical Ideas)
Update: Just to be clear, I wouldn’t advocate cutting the defense budget in half today. I merely wanted to illustrate that cutting DOD appropriatons in half from $680 billion to $340 billion would still result in the U.S. spending more than the EU on the military. I do think that a 50% cut from current levels is feasible, but it would have to be phased in long term–15 years or so–to be at all workable.