50 Years Of Government Spending, In 1 Graph

Peace Does Not Begin With A Larger Military

One of the big difference between President Obama and Governor Romney (that has stayed different during these strange changes in Governor Romney’s political stands during the presidential debates) has been about what are our military and defense spending means for our nation and the world.

Romney believes that by having a larger defense, we will be able to create more peace. Might makes right. But does it?

On a smaller scale, I think of neighbors and fences. The higher I make my fence and the more barking dogs I have behind it, the less likely my neighbors are going to believe I want to talk to them or listen to them or not attack them. Yes, they may stay out of my yard. Yes, they may smile at me. But they won’t trust me.

Of course, countries aren’t people although they are run by people and overthrown occasionally by people. And if we want to grow peace and democracy, which both candidates espouse, we need to build trust even from people we don’t like.

In a less touchy-feely sense, our defense budget is already huge.

50 Years Of Government Spending, In 1 Graph
Source: Office of Management and Budget
Credit: Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

Defense spending has shrunk in the last 50 years, but it continues to be the largest single component of our spending although clearly Social Security is not far behind. However, it is a bad thing to have a country that focuses more of it’s income to take care of our elderly instead of building up a military for the theory that might brings peace? And when compared to other countries, we are overspending on defense as though we are very afraid.

Defence Budgets and Expenditures
Comparative Defense Statistics – Defense Budgets and Expenditures from IISS.org with a detailed explanation here.

Why is it not enough?

Our government is constantly being chastised by conservatives (and rightly so at times) for not using money wisely and well, yet the Pentagon spent $11 million dollars to investigate the use of psychics until 1995 when it was deemed a failure after 20 years, or $238 billion on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which are experiencing severe technological problems because they were rushed into production, not to mention we already had the best fighter planes in the world plus, unmanned aircraft are taking more missions.

I don’t understand the disconnect between a scaled-back government and military spending, which seems like one of the worst offenders. The Department of Defense should learn how to use money wisely, too. The sequestration (i.e., automatic budget cuts explained here) is going to be learning to turn the lights off when they walk out of the Pentagon with the amount of money this department throws away as well as with the ending of two wars. Yet, Romney believes the military needs more money, we all need tax cuts, and to balance the budget, we should cut the programs that help our elderly and poor because that’s the kind of country that seems to have great priorities.

Priority debates aside, what am I missing with his budget plan on defense? ┬áBecause┬áthe overall picture of Romney’s defense plan seems to be: The United States Department of Defense is allowed to spend money on things we don’t need or plan to ever use because in the end all this might is really to bring peace to the world, which we are saying out loud, but will still work against our enemies.

While the some people like defense contractors may want the world to work this way, it doesn’t. Peace does not begin with guns, controlling the government spending does not begin with having more money to spend, and prioritizing building new ships over the veterans, who once manned the retiring ones, is not an ideal of the country I love.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

6 thoughts to “Peace Does Not Begin With A Larger Military”

  1. The massive disconnect continues when they claim that government spending on the military creates or saves jobs, but government spending on anything else doesn’t create jobs. My question is, where would you rather have the money spent, on military programs that the military brass admits they don’t want or need; or on things like roads, bridges, schools, and high speed rail?

  2. It’s bigger in large part because it has to be. The United States has more global commitments than any other nation, and that dates back to the end of WWII. You can debate and speculate for ages about the value and need of American influence on geopolitical relations, and whether or not the world would be a Better Place without US long-term commitments. But those commitments and treaties are there, and the US has to spend the money to meet them.

      1. You’re right about the bloated part…there definitely are cases of wasteful spending (sometimes intentional, sometimes just because of holdover ideas or failure to modernize some relatively “normal” things like how paperwork is handled), so there are areas to cut.

        But cutting waste isn’t the same as cutting capacity or just keeping things we’ve got. You can’t keep a well-trained military force without inducing wear (sometimes significant wear) on hardware, and if you don’t put the money and effort into, say, both properly maintaining aircraft and planning for replacement, then pilots die. I’m not being melodramatic. Metal fatigue can lead to an aircraft going to pieces in flight (there’s a case, for example, of an F-15 experiencing structural failure in supersonic flight over the Gulf of Mexico).

        Side note: maintaining a standing military is, if I’m not mistaken, one of the specifically defined duties of the United States in the Constitution…it’s not apportioned to the states. And it’s one of the only things that states can’t really do on their own without federal support.

  3. I agree with you 100%. I think any realistic budget changes need to look at cutting Defense spending. I love that Obama seems to “get” that. I do NOT like the fear/war mongering and calls for bigger military that I hear coming from Romney. We don’t need more weapons, wars or involvement overseas.

    The argument for more “might” (weapons/military) always makes me think of Dr. Seuss’s “Butter Battle” book, essentially outlining the Cold War. We build more weapons “to keep us safe” and our neighbors feel more nervous, so THEY build more weapons to “keep them safe,” and so it goes.

    I also never understand the fearful outrage that’s expressed regarding other countries (like Iran) building nuclear weapons, when we seem to think it’s perfectly OK for the US to have them. It really seems like the ultimate in hypocrisy. And you have to wonder what that looks like to other nations.

    Great post. Now how ’bout that other one? *wink*

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