I worked for three years in Congress, and while that was a long time ago, even then they played that game of charades for political purposes, and we've almost lost count now, but, perhaps this exercise in political brinkmanship has occurred 78 times over the past half a century. While this masquerade is just another sign that our government must be broken, odd that only Denmark and the USA adhere to this practice, with the Danish wisely keeping their ceiling so high that it is never an issue. Let's face it, this time the underlying reason for this drama was that the Republicans are trying to take over the White House by weakening President Barack Obama for the 2012 presidential election.
The primary problem reverts to voters and their total misunderstanding of economic reality. The public thinks our Federal debt is like their personal debt. My HuffPost blog, "The Simplest Solution for Our National Debt... is to Increase It," explains all this. In short, the Tea Party has jumped on this illusion, and, not unsurprisingly, their strategy has worked!
One positive to this nonsense is that it is appearing that the cherished untouchable defense budget became part of the eventual compromise package. Conservatives have historically been protectors of national security, waving the freedom flag, for this also appeals to the masses. It's not only that these mostly Republican members of Congress are also highly supported by the Military-Industrial Complex to maximize defense expenditures, for votes are won using this strategy.
My very first Huffington Post article was on this subject, and a couple more followed. But the idea is now getting contagious, for you keep hearing that even some Republicans have, apparently, accepted this possibility to reduce the deficit. No doubt this shift in attitude contributed to the ceiling agreement. About time, but the American people more and more now want our Federal government to focus on domestic over international affairs.
First, some background, to appreciate the enormity of the problem and, thus, the grand opportunity. To quote from Forbes:
Not counting the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Defense budget is expected to be $553 billion in 2012, up from $549 billion in 2011. That outlay currently represents 19% of the entire federal budget and over 50% of U.S. discretionary spending...
That Middle East war, of course, adds another $120 billion, so now we are way over 50% of so called discretionary (everything minus Social Security, Medicare, etc., and interest on the national debt) spending. On the surface, the Department of Defense dominance is alarming.
The truth of the matter is that it is even worse, for the real expenditure is nearly nearly twice what is frequently quoted as the DOD budget. Thus, the military swallows about two-thirds of non-entitlement money to run our entire government. During those Cold War days when there was a real threat of the Soviet Union, we were spending far less, percentage-wise. Today, with a rag-tag bunch (say, maybe 1000 really bad) terrorists, with the world order not at all threatened, we are misappropriating much more.
We have, for example, eleven Navy task forces (and, therefore, eleven active aircraft carriers -- more than the entire world combined -- China has none, Russia has a relic more than a quarter century old and the UK all of one), and each reportedly costs $4.5 billion to annually operate. Thus, there is an opportunity to reduce the budget by $50 billion/year if we sensibly decommission most of them.
A recent blog posting of mine suggests another annual $50 billion savings by bringing our 516,273 troops in 150 countries back home to do some useful work on our basic infrastructure and energy problems. Did you know we still have 54,000 American military just in Germany? We won that war 66 years ago. You might say that the only war we ever lost was a kind of blessing, because the only domino that fell was the Soviet Union, and we have zero presence in Vietnam.
Yet, with no worries about a nuclear winter, we are building a new fleet of super carriers -- the first once called the Gerald Ford, and, now, America -- now in construction, will cost $14 billion. Why? Especially as an aircraft carrier is today obsolete. Okay, finish this last one (for posturing is a big part of wars today), and mothball (actually, as it will cost about a billion dollars to decommission each battle group, maybe try to sell them to China and Russia -- and if this scares you, then, maybe Saudi Arabia, Japan, Singapore, etc.) at least nine of the twelve.
Just one more, please. The cost of our "next" fighter is projected to be $385 billion, and maybe a trillion over the eventual lifetime. Who are they going to fight?
I have only provided three possible targets of diminution. Clearly, as faith in religion develops from upbringing, defense spending has become holy because the Military-Industrial Complex (watch President Eisenhower's -- he was a general, too -- warning of half a century ago) has effectively indoctrinated us, while, too, of course, largely controlling Congress and any Republican house, Congress or white. You can't effectively argue against freedom.
But it's more than that, as every state has some military presence. Just hint at closing a navy task force base, and see what happens. We, the people, are largely the problem here. Thus, this debt ceiling charade might just be the spark needed to bring us to our better senses, initiating the beginning of my 10% solution for peace.