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Dec 18 2013

‘Defense’ Budget Remains Untouchable

The new budget deal struck by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray leaves one part of the budget untouched by the knife, what we absurdly call the “defense” budget. While social spending is slashed, the military will still be getting far more money than they should have.

But now, the Pentagon has once more gotten a reprieve from the budget ax: Under Murray and Ryan’s congressional budget deal, the Pentagon will get an additional $32 billion, or 4.4 percent, in 2014, leaving its base budget at a higher level than in 2005 and 2006. (The Department of Defense expects its total 2014 budget, including supplemental war funding, to be more than $600 billion.)

Before the budget deal, some critics of defense spending had been ready to accept sequestration as the blunt, imperfect tool that might force the military to shed some of the bulk it acquired while fighting two of the longest and most expensive wars in our history. Even with the sequester in place, the Pentagon’s base budget was set to remain well above pre-9/11 levels for the next decade, and the military would have taken a far smaller haircut than it did after Vietnam and the Cold War wound down.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost $1.5 trillion, about twice the cost of the Vietnam War when adjusted for inflation. Those funds came entirely from borrowing, contributing nearly 20 percent to the national debt accrued between 2001 and 2012. And that’s just the “supplemental” military spending passed by Congress for the wars—the regular Pentagon budget also grew nearly 45 percent between 2001 and 2010.

We spend nearly half of all the money spent on military matters in the entire world. There is no country that is conceivably a threat to our security or would even consider mounting an attack against us that we could not repel easily. Yet the defense budget remains untouchable.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    Olav

    Of course you already know the answer to this. The US military is not there to defend the country, but the empire. Hegemony must be maintained and expanded.

  2. 2
    cry4turtles

    They won’t skimp at the Pentagon; they’re simply cutting benefits to vets (see Daily Kos).

  3. 3
    Marcus Ranum

    I don’t understand how anyone can talk about being fiscally conservative when the country spends more on “defense” than the rest of the world, combined.

    Even if you look at it as corporate stimulus to the bomb-and-missile-making boffins, it’s simply absurd. If a family is having trouble making its mortgage and credit card payments, you do not go to the gunshow and load up on expensive new shiny weapons that you haven’t even got a plan for, yet!

  4. 4
    Modusoperandi

    We spend nearly half of all the money spent on military matters in the entire world. There is no country that is conceivably a threat to our security or would even consider mounting an attack against us that we could not repel easily.

    Exactly. We spend more than anybody else and nobody else can take us over. Cut even a penny and the country of Al Qaeda will invade us in a heartbeat!

  5. 5
    steve84

    And any sensible proposal is immediately met with a wall of whining.

    For example there is no reason for the DoD to run supermarkets in most the continental US. Those were originally meant to deliver supplies to posts that didn’t have a local economy. Today, they aren’t needed in most places. Overseas bases are something else. They do provide discounts, but instead people could simply be paid more.

    Or the ridiculous retirement system where people can collect a pension in their 40s. Something that doesn’t exist in any other job. And that despite the fact that nobody actually retires in their 40s. They all leave the military for other jobs. It would be no problem to defer payout until people are in their early 60s. But you propose that and immediately the whining starts.

  6. 6
    colnago80

    Hey, there’s a price to be paid when the US is the world’s self appointed policeman.

  7. 7
    Nick Gotts

    They do provide discounts, but instead people could simply be paid more. – steve84

    But then they’d have to mix with the locals! They might go native!!!

  8. 8
    felidae

    $600 billion a year works out to $1.65 billion per day, $70 million per hour 365/7/24, or about $10 mill in the time it takes for a General to take a shit or 1 Solyndra per eight hours and we have to cut wasteful social programs because we cant afford them so we can take care of General Dynamics, LockheedMartin, BAE, Raytheon and the like

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    They do provide discounts, but instead people could simply be paid more.

    Because nothing wins “hearts and minds” better than capturing the money so it doesn’t go into the local economy. Of course, the whole objective of the military, at this point, is just a humongous project for moving money from the public sector to (selected) parts of the corporate oligarchy. So of course you’ll get deals where Pizza Hut or whoever can open a subsidized outlet in some base in Afghanistan or wherever – that way Pizza Hut makes more money! And everyone that matters is happy. The US military serves as the cutting edge of the whole cultural imperial conquest that ends with starbucks and mcdonalds and walmart out-competing local businesses because the playing field has been carefully un-levelled.

  10. 10
    alwayscurious

    If a family is having trouble making its mortgage and credit card payments, you do not go to the gunshow and load up on expensive new shiny weapons that you haven’t even got a plan for, yet!

    Has this been tried yet? Maybe a shotgun IS the answer to bank foreclosure. Those landmines in the yard? Just part of the Extended Security System Plus plan.

  11. 11
    magistramarla

    Ok guys, I’m a long-time military spouse, so here’s my take on this.

    “For example there is no reason for the DoD to run supermarkets in most the continental US”.

    I disagree with this wholeheartedly. The commissary and BX are a couple of benefits that families make a great deal of use of and it encourages many to stay in the military. Many military families, especially the enlisted ones, really, truly need the discounts available there to survive, especially if they are stationed in a high cost-of-living area.
    I support my commissary and BX because I know that some of the money that I spend there is being used to support social well-being programs for military families. We can’t count on Congress to fund those programs, so our own spending goes to support them.
    How do you think the government is able to provide high-quality food and other goods for low prices at bases all over the world? By buying in bulk and by buying surplus. If the majority of the outlets were closed, what do you think would happen to the prices at the commissaries in overseas bases, where their existence is crucial?
    One small note that we truly enjoy. We live in a stupid southern state that does not allow the sale of liquor on Sunday. I truly enjoy thumbing my nose at them, since I’m able to stop at the Class VI store after I go to the commissary on Sunday to stock up on liquors. Not a necessity, but it sure is nice!

    “Or the ridiculous retirement system where people can collect a pension in their 40s.”

    I don’t really disagree here, but the military makes sure that the vast majority of people never make it to the twenty year mark. We’ve known many good officers and enlisted men who were somehow gotten rid of after serving 17 or 18 years.
    My hubby had served on active duty for 11 years when there was a draw-down. He was told that he only had a 5% chance of being promoted and was offered a job as a civilian doing the same thing that he was doing as an officer. He cried, signed the papers and we moved our family to Texas for the job.
    As a civilian, he can’t retire until he’s 65, so the government can get a lot more years of work from him for less pay and without paying all of the benefits.
    There was an opening for a reserve officer in his field, so he took that. That meant that for 17 years, rather than using his paid vacation days for, say, a vacation, he was working. It gave us back those commissary and BX privileges and brought his pay back to closer to what it was as an active duty officer, which meant a lot when raising five kids.
    He retired from the reserves, but he won’t see any retirement pay from that until he’s 62. It also means that when he reaches Medicare age, we’ll be able to use Tricare as a supplemental insurance – NOT free medical care, but at least at a decent price. We need that, since I’m disabled.
    We’re hoping that they don’t change the retirement system for government workers or find a way to fire him before he reaches 65. That is usually the way it works. We’re counting on that, along with the much smaller amounts from the reserve job and SS to survive our so-called golden years.
    I have no retirement and didn’t pay into SS since Texas schools “opted out” of SS, so I can’t even apply for disability. Oh, and we spouses can’t really work anywhere long enough to retire from a job since we have to move so often – another reason that we need to offer military families a few perks.
    So that’s my rant. I hope that it helps people to realize that the families of military members and government workers are not privileged characters. We’re barely hanging on to middle class ranking and we’ve made lots of sacrifices to do so.

  12. 12
    velociraptor

    @5

    “Or the ridiculous retirement system where people can collect a pension in their 40s. Something that doesn’t exist in any other job. And that despite the fact that nobody actually retires in their 40s. They all leave the military for other jobs. It would be no problem to defer payout until people are in their early 60s. But you propose that and immediately the whining starts.”

    I won’t be as nice as Marla, so on behalf of myself and military retirees, fuck you, Steve. Walk a mile in my shoes, er, boots. Do 18 years (and retiring in two for 20), two tours in Iraq (WIA 2007), and one in Afghanistan, along with massive time away from family due to training and TDY and come talk to me about how bad it is that I can retire in my 40s (late, in my case). My body in my 40s will be akin to that of someone in their 50s or 60s. And 50% of my base pay isn’t all that much.

    Learn something before runnning your mouth.

  13. 13
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    The US defence budget is $600 billion!? That is so far beyond unnecissary it’s almost unthinkable.

  14. 14
    steve84

    @velociraptor
    Fuck you too

    Most people who retire from the military continue to work. Officers do so in very lucrative jobs.

  15. 15
    Nihilismus

    I wouldn’t mind the defense budget if we used it as a backdoor to creating other public jobs and lowering the cost of living for even non-service members. Expand commissaries to the point where they can compete against Walmart, allow non-service members to shop there, reinvest the profits toward technology and infrastructure that will lower the cost of delivering commissary products, and lower the cost of the products for consumers accordingly.

    Hell, use defense spending to create a separate public means of production of all products and services essential to a healthy body and mind, and pay any employees hired a wage that will allow them to afford those essential products and services. Any surplus profit goes right back toward research and development, so that the cost of living continues to go down.

    We can essentially create a public jobs stimulus program that the Republicans might actually support, because it would be under the “Department of Defense”.

  16. 16
    scienceavenger

    Just a reminder, this Ryan guy deciding how much our military budget should be is the same guy who thought the way to measure our naval strength was to compare the number of ships we have to those we had during WWI.

    Given that, we’re lucky it isn’t larger, due to a frantic rebuild of our Battleship contingent.

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